Saturday, February 04, 2006

Googling (Again)

In the digital arts, remixologists see Google as just a tool, like Photoshop, Blogger, Flickr, or even your new Mac G5. And the WWW is a vast reservoir of SOURCE MATERIAL ready for spontaneous, stylized tagging (artist bombing?).

As Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) says here
"Think of the semantic webs that hold together contemporary info culture, and of the disconnect between how we speak, and how the machines that process this culture speak to one another, thanks to our efforts to have anything and everything represented and available to anyone everywhere. It's that archive fervor that makes the info world go around, and as an artist you're only as good as your archive - it's that minimalist, and that simple. That's what makes it deeply complex."
If we want to really load you up with adjectives, we might call the feverishly archived WWW a vast reservoir of DIGITAL SOURCE MATERIAL (DSM).

And Google really is the perfect gateway to so much of the DSM we remixologists can't wait to get our hands on.

We are married to Google. Til death do us part. For contemporary remixologists, that means our future research and the DSM we must have access to in order to conduct our performances, will be intimately connected to our ability to Goo-Goo-Google all the live-long day. But this future world where our "search for meaning" is constructed around the behemoth engine of technocapitalism known as Google Inc., requires more than just an ability to put in all of the right search terms so that our lucky number (text, image, sound, code, message) comes up.

Reading Wendy Chun's prescient "Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics," I am reminded that the dystopian future, as seen through the eyes of William Gibson, is something of a literary invention. But then there is the more hopeful prism of Jean-Francois Lyotard's postmodern condition where "knowledge is not information but rather the ability to do creative things with information," and I try to imagine what role creativity can play in fighting the power.

Doing creative things with information. Stylizing the data. Experiential tagging. Meta/Data. A more hopeful future?

In Neuromancer, Gibson presents us with the term "cyberspace" and refers to it as a "consensual hallucination." I am also trying to develop a model of computer-supported collaboration where we, as intersubjective jammers, play an active role in the autopoietic environment we find ourselves shape-shifting in. I call this networked environment the "artificial intelligentsia" and suggest that one possible route toward artistic success (if that's the right term - Beckett would probably call it something like a "howling success made out of failure" - perhaps the better phrase is artistic survival) is to become a performative remixologist. Think of the remixologist as a pseudo-autobiographcal work-in-progress who surfs the network culture for useful bits of data (mutated codework), samples this data as possible digital source material, and who then manipulates that data so that it becomes integrated into their fluid Life Style Practice. Remixologists are a simultaneous and continuous fusion of the sensory-intellectual data they integrate into their creative acts of information processing. It takes awhile to be able to do this without thinking about it, i.e. to play at the edge of your Unconscious flow. But that's what "becoming an artist" is all about. I think this is what Miles Davis was hinting at when he said "[s]ometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself."

In the Grad seminar, I refer to some of my artist theories including "surf-sample-manipulate," "experiential tagging" and reconfiguring the artist as a "psuedo-autobiographical work-in-progress" (that is, a creative "plug-in" artist that finds innovative ways to inmix "truthiness" and fiction). The idea is to manipulate the data as if you were socially sculpting your own art research agenda. The contemporary remixologist, like an improvisational jazz musician, a jet-setting VJ, a quarterback breaking out of the pocket, or a stand-up comedian making it up as she goes along, has to keep practicing their evolving methodologies and trademark techniques as would any other professional. Even an outsider artist who has no formal training has to keep sketching a possible future if they expect to perform unconsciously in the present. Of course, this art research agenda that taps into the unconscious maneuverings of the art-mind, is part of an historical tradition. It's part of a continuous effort to devise creative strategies for investigating ways to develop a more interdisciplinary practice wherein we appropriate the history of the avant-garde as a liberal arts mode of research. As Greg Ulmer duly notes, ‘[t]he avant-garde has served until now as an object of study, although it has demonstrated from the beginning an alternative way to use theory as research.’

Theoretically speaking, artists need to make a habit of positioning themselves as the Unconscious Player in the ever-morphing field of composition.

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As we have already suggested in offline discussions, connectivity can be addictive. The need to feel linked to the NOW of network culture is a given for many. Think of the last time you were jonesin' for an email fix. Or when you felt you just had to write another entry to your blog. Blogger is so "user-friendly" - isn't it? But then again, so are many other kinds of paraphernalia available at your local head shop.

OK, so maybe you're hooked. It's not really dangerous, is it? Just because the U.S. Justice Department wants Google to turn over all of their archived search records does not mean that you personally are under surveillance, right? Do you even have enough information available to you right now to articulate a clear opinion on it?

Reading through Wendy Hui Kyong Chun'sfascinating new book, "Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics" (MIT Press), I come across a sentence:
"Inadequate information, combined with an obsession with meaning, drives paranoid behavior."
And yet, as per one of my recent blog entries, William Burroughs tells us
"A paranoiac is someone who has all of the facts at their disposal."
Actually, they are both saying the same thing, even though they may read as exact opposites. That's because Burroughs is playing the junky Satyr spinning his dark web of conspiratorial poetics, while Chun is filtering her writing through a stylized academic theory.

But back to the issue of the U.S. Justice Department wanting Google to turn over all of their archived records. I repeat: do we even have enough information available to us right now to articulate a clear opinion on it?

Whenever I want to find out what's going on in the world, and in this case, the world of civil liberties and my rights to privacy, freedom of speech, etc., my first instinct is to Google it, whatever IT is.

But if I am going to Google a search term like "Google"+"Justice Department"+"First Amendment" am I setting myself up for future interrogation with the Justice Department or is that just some low-grade paranoia creeping into my post-post-structuralist conspiracy theory?

What if I want to find out about the contemporary graffiti scene and the idea of artist bombing? I just did some random Googling on the phrase "artist bombing" and am wondering if the Fed somehow forced Google to hand over its records, would this mean that Attorney General Gonzales and his minions would use such a "search for meaning" as an excuse to keep a close watch on me? Would they share that information with the NSA who could then start wiretapping all of my overseas calls to artist friends who I speak to on the phone occasionally?

Is that just some more low-grade paranoia creeping into my post-post-structuralist conspiracy theory? I would like to think so.

OK: think about when you needed to know something, anything, immediately. Where, then, did you turn to? Google?

The Google Turn.

Google: churning out information faster than you can say "I Feel Lucky"?

(Or will that soon be changed to "I Feel Looked Upon"?)

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Monday, January 30, 2006


An interview with Stephen Colbert on comedy, improvisation, The Daily Show, and yes, truthiness:

"Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word. I don't know whether it's a new thing, but it's certainly a current thing, in that it doesn't seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything."

More here.

Update: This just in from NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman:

"How does one report the facts," asked Rob Corddry on "The Daily Show," "when the facts themselves are biased?" He explained to Jon Stewart, who played straight man, that "facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda," and therefore can't be reported.

Mr. Corddry's parody of journalists who believe they must be "balanced" even when the truth isn't balanced continues, alas, to ring true.

Is fake news more informative than so-called "real" news, and why is so much of the Daily Show's success tied to their ability to "go meta" with the data?

More here.

Another update: Is our Grad seminar dialogue contemporary, or what? Another NYtimes headline from today reads "How Oprahness Trumped Truthiness" which relates to the fake memoir (i.e. pseudo-autobiographical fiction) of James Frey. If you feel so inclined, follow the story here.

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