[iDC] Theory Thread

Anna Munster A.Munster at unsw.edu.au
Tue Jul 11 20:43:43 EDT 2006

 Readers that are poles apart engage depending on
> language, style, humor, and tone.
> -Trebor

Absolutely! I find it amazing that I constantly come across bloggers (eg
Adrian Chan eg
who cite as their theoretical influences Deleuze, Luhmann etc...yet their
discursive style is completely blogolese (and clear for that matter!).

On the other hand their are numerous blogger/artists who I find completely
incomprehensible (eg jimpunk http://jimpunk.blogspot.com/) both
discursively and artistically.

For me, the theory question concerns enslavement vs. working through (I
mean that in both a processual and Freudian sense!). Does one remain
enslaved and therefore destined to repeat or gloss the paradigm or does
one come out of a particular theory with a new set of concepts that are
able to do some work somewhere else?

The key to this, for me, in relation to any kind of
media/art/discourse/practice ensemble is to maintain an ongoing engagement
with both theories and technologies. It's fairly obvious (but worth
stating) that if you're going to produce net theory or criticism you have
to be engaged with online formations and producing online (although I am
not making some statement about being a hard core open source developer
here). When you don't, you end up with the appalling kind of mush that is
a book like On the Internet (Dreyfuss).

But the other key is to be specific about one's borrowed concepts and
paradigms. I have borrowed a fair bit of Deleuze and Guattari over the
years but I certainly don't think of myself as Deleuzian...I'm more
interested in how one might use one concept (in my case I have taken the
fold to look at embodiment in new media arts practice over the last 15
years) and work this through a field, looking for resonances, for
similarities with the language other practioners might use that resonates
with the chosen concept and for limitations – for the ways in which
practices take the concept somewhere else and give it something it never
could have had in the realm of *pure* discourse

Additionally I'm also interested in the over-attribution of influence
within new media discourse to the work of say, Italian autonomists, D&G
etc. It's true that the idea of the rhizome spread around the new media
arts scene in the 1990s. But really new media discourse as a wider
phenomenon encompasing HCI design, network architecture, network theory,
software design and theory, quasi-cyberethnography etc is much more
influenced by design, computer science, social science and management
theories (and science fiction!). The idea of swarming that Grant
mentioned, for instance, developed out of AI not D&G. The concept of memes
which has also been very influential as a concept among new media artists
was a Richard Dawkins special (with some help from Susan Blackmore). I
think if we are going to be  careful with generalisations we need to be
careful not to generalise about spheres of influence,


Dr. Anna Munster
Senior Lecturer,
Postgraduate Co-ordinator
School of Art History and Theory
College of Fine Arts
University of New South Wales
P.O Box 259
NSW 2021
ph: 612 9385 0741
fx: 612 9385 0615

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