21.139 the day-job and the long haul

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 07:12:56 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 139.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 07:07:06 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: the day-job

At the end of his Deep Time of the Media (pp. 278-80), Siegfried
Zielinski draws a parallel between the alchemists' laboratories of
premodern Europe, paid for by the rich and powerful of the day, and
the media laboratories nowadays. Behind the modern research
facilities of today, he writes, lies the hope that the contemporary
sorcerers' apprentices, engineers, programmers and artists will
succeed turning the digital into gold. These facilities are set up to
provide "the future of the information society", but those in them
(i.e. people like us) are not content to do this. Hemmed in by
various expressions of the mandate to be "productive", to give "value
for money", our task, Zielinski writes, is to confront what is
possible with its own dimensions of impossibility, to render the
possible more vital and worthy of investment. The experiment cannot
really fail, though our coin is the impossible: as with the
alchemists, we humanists embark on projects of such significance that
there is honour in failure.

Earlier Zielinski quotes the Polish artist and writer, Bruno Schulz:
"If art is only supposed to confirm what has been determined for as
long as anyone can remember, then one doesn't need it. Its role is to
be a probe that is let down into the unknown. The artist is a device
that registers processes taking place in the depths where values are
created." The same could be said of us (though one would want to
check the original German, from Die Wirklichkeit ist Schatten des
Wortes, 1992, p. 92, which I promise to do as soon as the one-clicked
book arrives).

The places of work that we need require, Zielinski goes on to note,
not only the generous host or patron, as of old, but also the guest
for whom artistic praxis with and in media worlds is more than a
cleverly packaged affirmation of what we already know, the guest who
understands the invitation to experiment as a call to continue
working on the impossibility of the perfect interface (for which he
cites Empedocles' model of perception). "The willingness to engage in
wasteful activity oneself is the least this economy should demand of
its guests; such willingness is also the trick that makes it work."

"Artistic praxis on the Internet is superfluous", like the strange
phenomena of bioluminescence with which Deep Media of Time begins.
"Those who can afford this superfluity earn their living offline or
through a second nonartistic identity in the form of productive work
in the Net." What they do in the long haul that counts the most is what they
give away, with no expectation of reward (though one does hope from
time to time :-.).

"As a further seriously wasteful activity, artistic praxis on the Net
may have a brilliant future."



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 Thu Jun 28 2007 - 02:19:25 EDT

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