[iDC] Re: Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

Kevin Hamilton kham at uiuc.edu
Wed Aug 23 01:57:49 EDT 2006

Picking some threads through the thread-

Sometimes the need for participation and involvement seems obvious - of 
course we need more people acting as citizens in the city and not just 
consumers (to paraphrase Mirjam), and of course we need to "build an 
audience" for work that facilitates understanding of technology's impact 
and influence, origin (to liberally paraphrase Steve.) New maps, 
collectively authored, must inevitably be more dynamic, rightfully 
contested, and relevant than those provided by empowered authors of 
canon. (paraphrasing Alison Sant?)

Thus the hope for locative media over net art at the end of the paper 
from Tuters and Varnelis, and decisions by organizers of ISEA to include 
things like an open wiki during symposium proceedings, or pervasive art 
happenings in the streets.

Yet based on this thread and other discussions, the less "open" or 
apparently discursive components of ISEA/ZeroOne ended up reading as the 
most responsible, inclusive, intentional, embedded (forgive the military 
metaphor), and critical. These included the curated exhibitions at the 
SJ Museum of Art; the more ambitiously sited public projects that 
required lengthy interaction with SJ workers and residents; the keynote 
speakers of the symposium.

One implication of this disparity is that, with more time, projects that 
seemed less sited and inclusive, discursive might eventually reach a 
more weighty state. (I'm reminded of a much earlier post from Grant 
Kester, where he lamented the impatience of many short-term 
participatory projects.) I'm thinking of kanarinka's story of the man 
who couldn't drift because he had to go to work - and of Mark's response 
that such an encounter might best represent the situationist site of 
action. Perhaps if the Drift Relay happened often enough, a space for 
discussion about the decision to not blow off work (or the meaning of 
asking someone else to do so) would arise.

But I'm not sure time is enough here - Molly's last points are 
especially important in this regard. What, in the end, does each project 
invite people to participate in? Why is participation valued? I think it 
can be OK to figure this out as one goes - that is, to pose one's 
practice in a way that values participation as it also creates a space 
for interrogation of the ideal. But such questions need to be 
acknowledged somewhere. Maybe it's even enough for them to happen after 
the fact, as long as we learn from them and try again. That's one of the 
things I appreciated about Mirjam's presentation at the symposium - as 
in her post here, Mirjam acknowledges that in projects and ideals like 
these, it's important to understand why a project didn't work, to 
examine the catalysts that fizzled, initiated negative reaction, or even 

To pick an almost peripheral and low-stakes example from San Jose-

I imagine, for example, how a strategy like the "vote for your favorite 
ZeroOne artwork by phone" option might have worked better to promote 
involvement and a more discursive space. (Admittedly, I didn't actually 
try it myself.) Based on comments from Steve and Joel here and 
elsewhere, I surmise that the voting exercise was a way to invite the 
more "general audience" to take interest and participate. But to really 
promote discourse at the same time, perhaps the effort would have needed 
a bit of (non-alienating) disturbance. Imagine calling up to vote for a 
project and instead being presented with options to "Vote for what the 
majority have voted for," "Vote for the second most voted piece," "Vote 
for a random project," or "Vote for the favorite project of the author 
of your favorite project..." Something to problematize the premise a 
little - I'm thinking of Alys' phone project for the Wadsworth (or 
Aldrich?) a few years back. Admittedly, I probably wouldn't have called 
it anyway - I'm likely not the intended audience for that exercise - but 
perhaps I would have after having heard about it through word of mouth.

To some of Molly's questions: Left undisturbed, the phone-vote seems to 
invite participation solely as evidence of participation - American 
Idol's winners are winners because we all won, because the people 
"voted." It's too circular, spectacular somehow, to be discursive and 

This thread has already taken us to some places other than a critique of 
ISEA/ZeroOne. The questions raised here, even spurred by that ambitious 
effort, relate to a great deal of other situations discussed on IDC. 
That is, a discussion of the successful and failed attempts at discourse 
in San Jose is relevant to critiques of participation in a lot of other 
media, forms and instances. So I don't think the criticisms voiced here 
have to be understood as an evaluation of the efforts of the ISEA 
organizers. As kanarinka originally proposed this thread, she was 
curious to think through her own practice using San Jose as an example.

What is the role of criticism? Barring actual violence, does a less 
inclusive or truly participatory space continue and improve through 
lively critique after the fact? If small-scale and/or long-term efforts 
are better at supporting involvement, collective production, critique, 
then what do we do with the impatient sites of spectacle and high 
capital? Just leave them alone? I hope not.

I'd be curious to talk to Lu Shie of the Long March project (still the 
outstanding part of my short ISEA experience) about the difference 
between that project's life on the road in China, working with remote 
audiences on specific challenging and implanted projects, and its life 
on the international art biennial circuit. How do those two spheres 
relate, compare? Does the success of the latter now support more of the 
former? How aware is one of the other? Of course, even sustainability 
isn't always a good thing.

And I owe John a response to his considered answers to my last question. 
But not tonight. I've got to finish a syllabus yet for tomorrow.



mollybh at netspace.net.au wrote:

> Dear list -  
> If this thread is still going now...i would like to make another response 
> having spent the afternoon reading through the  posts in the archive and 
> finding many quite challenging, particularly those which 
> call into question the contemporary overlaying of urban space with so-
> called "situationist" notions of the derive and so called "play". Given 
> that the SI practiced in a particular historical context and in relation to 
> the global electronic media of their time, namely: television and advertising 
> Technological context is different now. Diffuse and complex. We have the added 
> layers of mobile technologies and "networked culture" on our palette 
> of socially managed mediations. 
> I appreciated Marc Shepard's post on this subject and the way in 
> which he brought the derive into close approximation to space 
> and time, its commodification and reification. To open the imagination is the 
> goal...(but, this was about sponteniety, not performance art)
> To this end, I appreciate very much, in particular, Steve Dietz' closing 
> comments in his long, explanatory response, regarding the duration of effect, 
> or the delayed effect of the festival, on the city of San Jose (which is 
> clearly standing to gain economically) and the exposure of the SJ public to 
> the festival's extraordinary events as, conceivably, a kind of imaginative 
> intervention into urban life. 
> I appreciate these remarks on two levels: one, as a sensibility of time-delay 
> factors in making or doing anything; how ideas have half-lives and capacity to 
> leap over boundaries of so-called participation and immediacy, into the realm 
> of history, memory, and perhaps, carry with them transformative cultural 
> power. Two, I appreciate the sensibilities of his remarks from the standpoint 
> of the trajectory of my own visit and role as participant on some level, which 
> allowed me to "derive" in a sense, to intersect, as audience, with a variety 
> of new ideas and experience. (a new city, a new festival, my first ISEA)
> This brings me to the points which Anna Munster made about festivals. It was  
> the official, architectural character of the festival, which seemed to 
> separate audience, rather than draw it into a collaborative and festive mood. 
> Perhaps in the individual artwork, such as SPECFLICs there was an erasure of 
> these boundaries.  
> Festivals in many respects, especially the very very large ones, and 
> Zero/One/ISEA was huge - are often grafted on to places, for economic reasons, 
> without much interest in local contexts and certainly not grown from "the 
> inside". To this I would like to add some perceptive comments made by Jenny 
> Marketou, who's 99 Red Balloons did go up with some participation; formations 
> of bodies on the ground could be seen from the *aerial video pictures* on a 
> screen at the tech museum - about the relevance of community making and how 
> we "should not kid ourselves" that "these communities we are making at the 
> festival" are very "temporary". More importantly, for her, perhaps for the 
> future of the Zero/one festival,were the connections and inroads she made with 
> the city, city officials, organizations, etc to get her project up. (from 
> informal f2f interview)
> What I want to comment on is the pyramidal structure and economic agendas of 
> of the festival, assumptions, perhaps, about how *we* interact with it, as an 
> entity, as audience, why, and how; what is to be gained. Roles for audience 
> participation:
> administration
> participating artist
> non-participating artist, member of ISEA
> non-participating artist, not a member of ISEA (vendor?/payee?)
> press
> Steve Dietz wrote:
> "that more people didn't just show up and participate - or counter-
> participate. Ideas/criticisms as to why it didn't
> happen more? Suggestions as to how it might happen more?"
> If a festival is going to have this category then it is 
> something which needs to be creatively evaluated; why a festival wants it or 
> needs it; what critical role participation plays, can play, could play and it 
> needs to be carefully and effectivley designed *into* the festival: as 
> process, theoretical positionings, critique, social interaction, and 
> specifically as networked culture...into the *form* of the festival.  
> Without this, the "general public" has no familiar or comfortable means with 
> which to engage; no web-based infrastructure on which to make its mark; no 
> reliable data visuals communicating something comprehensive; no articulation 
> of the unfoldings of issues. We become voyeurs, consumers, outsiders or, 
> maybe, *guinea pigs* in agendas we know nothing about. It's interesting to 
> consider, as Marc Pesce said of his and John Tonkin's bluetooth data 
> work, "96,000 entries...what to do with all that data?"
> Free 3G camera cell phones for all, to time out after 7 days!
> Affectionately,  
> Molly Hankwitz Cox
> Faculty - Interior Design
> The Art Institute of California
> PhD candidate
> Creative Industries/Queensland University of Technology
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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