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Digital Art and Philosophy Intro - English

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Digital Art and Philosophy Intro - English

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Contact: TechnologyPhilosopher@gmail.com


Introduction to Digital Art and Philosophy


Hello everyone – welcome to another episode of the Technology Philosopher! I’m Melanie Swan. Today I’m giving an Introduction to the Digital Art and Philosophy class I teach. The class provides an overview of contemporary topics in digital art and related philosophical issues that arise.


The first thing we might want to know is ‘What is digital art?’ I like to have a nice big definition of digital art that includes anything related to computers and art. This could be art made with technology, art displayed with technology, or art whose content is technology. Digital art is anything involving technology and art. In some cases, digital art is thought of as gallery installations that depend on spectator-participants to co-create the art or the experience by interacting with technologized objects. The art is created through viewer participation and therefore is ever-changing and ephemeral, and not present if spectator-participants are not creating it. 


The Digital Art and Philosophy course is divided into five modules, first looking at well-known examples of digital art, its history and different uses, including as a tactical medium for political commentary and electronic civil disobedience. We have a philosophical look at the interactivity property of digital art, and see how interactivity gives more direct access to perception. The second session covers big data and information visualization where an important issue is representing the unrepresented since we cannot actually see the totality of big data. The third session is about play, performance, and virtual reality: understanding a multiplicity of realities, and examining the existence ontologies of digital artworks, and digital personae as an analog to conceptual personae. The fourth module covers natural aesthetics, the intersection of art, technology, and biology, to understand how we are using biology as a creative medium and engaging in de novo aesthetisized design in synthetic biology and molecular design. The fifth section covers portable ArtTech: wearable electronics, identity, and the future where we see how our tech gadgetry and continuous information climates blur the traditional distinctions between subjects and objects and give us a novel fourth-person perspective on life.


Three overall themes emerge from the Digital Art and Philosophy course material. First is the increasing impossibility of knowing how certain objects we encounter were made: in the case of an image of a cell for example, is it natural, synthetically-derived, or computer-generated? This seems to matter more in some contexts like human representation. Second is the theme of repticity, representation authenticity, how can we verify the validity of a representation in cases like information visualization where we are representing the unrepresented and synthetic biology where we are creating de novo representation for things that have not existed previously. Third is the theme of inter-disciplinarity and portability: different disciplines using the medium and practices of other disciplines, artists using biology, scientists and engineers using biology and art, artists, scientists, and laypersons using data.


In conclusion, the overall result of the Digital Art and Philosophy class was finding that not just can we look at different topics from the lens of each other (art, technology, and philosophy), but by doing this we see their fundamental connectedness in ways we could not have anticipated. It is impossible to separate form and function, subject and object, and the individual and society since much of our contemporary activity is technologized, aesthetically-designed, and conceptually meaningful, a notion I call complete experience.


Thank you, see you next time!

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