21.132 dramaturgies of difference

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 07:43:01 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 132.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 12:38:59 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: dramaturgies of difference

In the conclusion to an important book from which I quoted recently,
Deep Time of the Media, Siegfried Zielinski argues that "Cultivating
dramaturgies of difference is an effective remedy against the
increasing ergonomization of the technical media world that is taking
place under the banner of ostensible linear progress" (p. 259). In
the 1990s, he notes, the aim was to make the human-machine boundary
invisible, so that one would be unaware of the computing involved --
unaware of the fact of the algorithms behind the virtual reality of
images and sounds; unaware of the transition from actual to virtual;
unaware that one is dealing with a prestructured, calculated
construction. Zielinsky extends Berthold Brecht's argument in his
Short Organum for the Theatre (1948) that we require a dramatic art
which does not invite its audience to illusion and catharsis but to
continue thinking during the pleasure of theatrical experience.
Senses and reason are not opposites by this view but forces engaged
with each other in producing art. Zielinski's plea is for a
comparable Organum of the Interface. (His first attempt is an essay
with Nils Roeller, "On the difficulty to think twofold in one", in
Sciences of the Interface, ed. Diebner, Druckery and Weibel, Genista
Verlag, Tuebingen, http://genista.de/shop/i26.html.)

  From the world of contemporary art he pulls Perry Hoberman's
Cathartic User Interface, an installation in which the audience is
invited to throw balls at computer keyboards, as one would throw
balls at tin cans or some such thing at a fairground sideshow. But
Hoberman's installation rewards the successful throw not with a prize
outside the game but with a technical image showing the keyboard,
error messages, satirical distortions of interface graphics, faces of
computer industry agents. No catharsis, rather frustration. Zielinski
concludes: "The only effective form of intervention in this world is
to learn its laws of operation and try to undermine or overrun them.
One has to give up being a player at a fairground sideshow and become
an operator within the technical world where one can work on
developing alternatives." Or as I say, throw off the straitjacket of
the end-user and become and end-maker!

The dramaturgy of computational difference is what I've called
"modelling", with the difference that the yearning is not back toward
some object of study but is itself a work of art. Not only a
born-digital work but a digitally awakened and aware work.



Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
http://staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/. Et sic in infinitum (Fludd 1617, p. 26).
Received on Tue Jun 26 2007 - 02:56:51 EDT

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