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Digital Arts and Culture 2009 was the 8th in an international series of conferences begun in 1998. DAC is recognized as an interdisciplinary event of high intellectual caliber. This iteration of DAC dwelled on the specificities of embodiment and cultural, social and physical location with respect to digital technologies and networked communications. DAC09 was structured around themes, each theme being composed of panels. DAC09 was held in the Arts Plaza of the University of California Irvine. Simon Penny is director of DAC09.

Introduction and Acknowledgements � Simon Penny

Digital Arts and Culture 2009

There are 91 publications in this collection, published between 2009 and 2009.
Plenaries: After Media — Embodiment and Context (11)

Platform Studies: Frequently Questioned Answers

We describe six common misconceptions about platform studies, a family of approaches to digital media focused on the underlying computer systems that support creative work. We respond to these and clarify the platform studies concept.

The Performative Portrait: Iconic Embodiment in Ubiquitous Computing

The paper looks at the digital portrait used in the form of avatars in various online worlds and communication networks. It describes an ongoing modal shift from an ontological understanding of the portrait towards the portrait as performative act.

In accordance with the Western semiotic divide between representational fiction and material reality proper, the portrait avatar is often still described as a representation that depicts the subject on the basis of a segregation between the living subject and the portrait. But the avatar-portrait functions as embodiment, thereby fulfilling a mainly performative and not epistemic purpose. Surpassing even the concept of the extension, the user and her portrait-avatar can be seen, rather, as a performing and communicating unit.

The paper looks at Eastern iconology, where the portrait is an energetic transmitter in which the depiction and the depicted converge in the realness of the picture. Key concepts such as prototype, archetype, and inverse perspective are discussed and applied to the art piece Can you see me now? by Blast Theory.

From Machinic Intelligence to Digital Narrative Subjectivity: Electronic Literature and Intermediation as “form of life” Modification

The paper first examines some of the ways in which identification of human/machinic intelligence with subjectivity as a philosophical construct has often been contingent on a cultural disjunction involving objective and subjective model-making that has long distinguished the two fields of science and the humanities. The second part of the paper proposes a rethinking of the subject/object dichotomy for selected narrative-based digital productions in order to assess their role in reconfiguring our ‘language use’-instantiated “form of life,” in the sense expressed by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his late philosophy.

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After Mobile Media (7)

Designing Better Sociable Media

The goal of this paper is to investigate the effects of technologically mediated communication on face-to-face conversation, and to propose improvements to the design practices of future sociable media through small-scale media experiments. Currently, developing research on sociable media myopically takes an atomistic approach toward design. In this paper I propose an example of a form of sociable media which responds, not at an atomized, individual level, but at a cultural level.

Sentient City Survival Kit: Archaeology of the Near Future

In this paper, I discuss the Sentient City Survival Kit, a design research project that probes the social, cultural and political implications of ubiquitous computing for urban environments. Following a discussion of the philosophical and cultural problems of attributing sentience to non-human actors, I present a brief cross-section of historical and contemporary constructions of nonhuman sentient beings in the fields of science fiction literature, computer science research, and applied technology. The paper concludes by introducing the notion of an archaeology of the near future as a conceptual framework for designing and fabricating a series of artifacts, spaces and media for ‘survival’ in the near future ‘sentient’ city.

New Ways of Seeing: Artistic Usage of Locative Media

People living in urban areas have grown accustomed to the moving visual images surrounding them – displayed upon large screens attached to or integrated in the architecture of the city. In public squares, shopping streets or any other place where people gather, the moving image has become part of everyday public life. The growing ubiquity of mobile technologies in this environment has added another layer of moving image culture on top of the city. Different contexts and spaces, virtual and physical, are overlapping and changing all the time. Theorists and writers describe this development as a new augmented reality, responsive architecture or ambient experience design: a new environment that will lead to a different notion of public space, in turn creating new relationships between people and places. Without doubt the way that these media – from electronic sensors, urban screens and CCTV systems, to GPS and RFID tags – are experienced has significantly impacted the way people communicate as well as their practices of physical and affective orientation. But does this lead to the conclusion that public space is no longer determined by city planning and geographical boundaries? Throughout history artists have tried to reconsider, remap and re-appropriate the boundaries of the city, sometimes reviving older methods in order to cope with new technologies. This paper focuses on contemporary artistic practices that use mobile technologies either as platform or tool to reconsider people’s relationships to mobile technologies and place. If these technologies really are so influential in shaping one’s relation to the city, do such artistic projects succeed in creating a new affect of place?

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Cognition and Creativity (12)

The Emotions (after Charles Darwin)

Rapid changes in science, technology and new media will lead to more sophisticated ideas about what it means to be human, in thought, body, emotional response and artistic expression. New relationships will form between humans, machines and animals with the human functioning as a networked resource that can be accessed globally over the internet.

This paper documents both the technical and theoretical development of the collaborative interactive new media video project “The Emotions (after Charles Darwin)” which explores some of the above concepts. “The Emotions” first tries to establish the existence of the universality of emotions at a biological level, as empirically measured and documented by the results of the control group (non-autistic subjects, as the goal is to document “normal”, i.e. universal emotional response) at the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland. Secondly, it suggests the potential for subsequent futuristic misuse through genetic and or technological modification (demonstrated by the observer’s ability to interactively modify or transform a given emotion’s video stream at will).

QuestBrowser: Making Quests Playable with Computer- Assisted Design

Good gameplay has been characterized as a series of interesting choices. Therefore, to have gameplay of any sort requires the player to be presented with decisions. Given this definition, many quests within computer role-playing games are not playable as they currently exist. Instead, quests are given to the player as a series of tasks to perform in a specific way in order to advance the story within the game. We look at making quests playable – adding choices for the player – and what a system that could support playable quests would look like. Finally, we address the impact playable quests would have on a designer and discuss QuestBrowser, the system we created to handle these concerns.

Writing with Complex Type

Writing practices that integrate dynamic and interactive strategies into the making and reading of digital texts are proliferating as more of our reading experiences are mediated through the screen. In this paper we argue that rarely do current approaches to creating digital texts operate at the basic textual level, that of the letterform itself. We argue further that such neglect is partially the result of the fact that current font technology is based on print paradigms that make it difficult to work programmatically at the level of individual letters. We then discuss work that has been made with software produced in our lab that suggests the creative possibilities in being able to easily specify behaviours at such a level. We conclude by proposing that writers, typographers and programmers start thinking beyond Postscript-like formats such as OpenType or TrueType to collaboratively develop a new ComplexType format (or formats) that is designed for the twentyfirst century as opposed to a simulation of the fifteenth.

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Embodiment and Performativity (10)

Taro(t)ception: Eliciting Embodied, Interoceptive Awareness through Interactive Art

This paper brings together multiple theories regarding the role of the senses in the construction of embodied experiences. Embodiment, we suggest, is not a visual or auditory phenomenon, but rather an ontological one, that is, one of being. Employing accounts from cognitive science, existential phenomenology, and interactive art, we argue that the inner senses have a special role in the construction of these ontological experiences.

We present an interactive artwork titled Taro(t)ception designed to elicit an embodied aesthetic experience and heighten awareness of inner states. As well as being an artwork, Taro(t)ception is an exploration: the system provides a tool through which we can explore proprioceptive illusions in order to develop methods for transforming viewers' experiences of their own bodies and their own movements.

Our approach attempts to bridge the gap between third-person investigations, which rarely take in to account the quality of experience, and first-person accounts, which are easily dismissed as anecdotal.

Coping and Choreography

In this paper, I study the choreographic process of Merce Cunningham in order to understand better how refined kinesthetic and proprioceptive responses come to constitute the expressive matter of dance. Employing first chance operations then a software program to generate unexpected sequences of movement, Cunningham strains the coping mechanisms of his dancers to the limit. His choreography requires dancers to become experts at adapting their own sensorimotor instrument to the situation at hand. When dancers are asked to imitate the movement sequences of a computer-generated avatar, their bodies can truly be said to be “co-constructed”; they evolve muscle memories and skills that correspond to the technology with which they interact.

Embodiment and Instrumentality

This paper investigates the relation between embodiment and instrumentality in interactive new media art. It discusses three artworks that encourage embodied interaction within a completely abstract visual and/or auditory system. Whereas David Rokeby’s Very Nervous System invites visitors to engage with a soundmovement composition by means of embodied performance, Tmema’s Manual Input Workstation encourages them to manually explore the basic characteristics of sound and form. Sonia Cillari’s Se mi sei vicino, on the other hand, invites them to reflect on the effects and perceptions of touch and bodily proximity. All three works are not representational in the sense that the visitor contemplates a visual or auditory statement created by the artist. They are rather systems that enable the manipulation of processes that generate ever new outcomes. As such, they might seem comparable to (musical) instruments, but their complexity and unfamiliarity to the users characterise them more as apparatuses. This paper argues that their operators’ struggles with apparative resistance can be identified as creative exploration, which constitutes the core of the aesthetic experience of interactive art.

Furthermore, the works analysed challenge the dissociating effects of the apparatus by inviting different modes of bodily engagement, from the figurative via the subconscious to the emotional. As opposed to the operation of musical instruments, here the relation of bodily actions, apparatus and audiovisual configurations is not based on physically causal effects, but on settings determined by the artist. The exploration of these settings is characterized by an oscillation between playful immersion and moments of distanced reflection, guiding the aesthetic experience of the work.

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Environment / Sustainability / Climate Change (9)

Distracted: Poetic Interpretations of Climate Data

This paper introduces the creative work Distracted and discusses conceptual, aesthetic and technical aspects of the work. The work was conceived as a luminous, interactive, computational media installation informed by our interest in the Antarctica. Through the paper we focus on: how the work addresses the themes of climate change and sustainability; how we attempted to work with selected sets of scientific data to evoke the delicate yet extreme nature of the environment and the ways in which ice is a record of the earth’s geological history and recent human impacts; and how the process of making this artwork caused us to reconsider our practices and formulate strategies for redirecting our practice in a manner that addresses the challenges of sustainability.

The Sea As Sculptress—From Analog to Digital

In this paper I consider the potential of digital technology to raise ecological awareness and motivate change, focusing on my artwork, The Sea As Sculptress, a macrophotographic record of the marine life growing on sculptures I placed in the San Francisco Bay. Originally presented thirty years ago as a performative lecture with slide dissolves, I recently redesigned and updated the project as an extensive web site. Here, I present the initial context and intention of the project and then outline the strategies that I employed to translate and re-envision the work in light of both the development of new technologies and changing conceptions of art and ecology. I argue for the importance of collaboration between artists and scientists to develop and promulgate the values and policies necessary to address the many ecological challenges of our times.

‘Translating’ and ‘Retranslating’ Data: Tracing the Steps in Projects that Address Climate Change and Antarctic Science

In this paper I discuss the notion of translation as it relates to the practice and communication of science. While science is a creative translation of the natural world, it pretends to be a carbon copy of reality and therefore it eschews expressive and metaphorical use of language. I argue that the denial of subjectivity in the pursuit of science and in the scientific approach to language impedes communication with the general public. The use of digital data has exacerbated this ‘objective’ trend. Art can bridge the gap by retranslating this data into metaphors thereby making the information more sensually and emotionally accessible as well as intellectually comprehensible. I present two case studies of my collaborations with scientists centered on ocean acidification and ultraviolet radiation respectively, showing how digital data is retranslated into physical phenomena and inserted into a larger historical and cultural narrative that includes the history of Antarctic science.

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Interdisciplinary Pedagogy (5)

Echoes of Social Presence: A Case Study of A Cross- Disciplinary Pedagogical Experiment

This case study reviews the use of an ambient display system, dubbed Echo, for encouraging cross-disciplinary exchange about the design and role of technology systems. The study begins with a review of Echo: from the initial participatory interviews to the reflections and discussions generated by the installation. The second half of the case study analyzes why the experiment succeeded and where it fell short. To answer open questions about the experience, we look to the practice of dialogic aesthetics advanced by Grant Kester. We ask what it would mean to use the concept of the ‘character of exchange’ as a guide for the evaluation and design of cross-disciplinary exchanges.

The Loop ... Lifecycle: Empathy and Design for Complex Processes.

A dynamic pedagogical shift in CCA’s interdisciplinary studio curricula is exemplified by the class: Lifecycle: Empathy and Design for Complex Processes. Within this hybrid design studio environment, the complex interaction between an object and our material and digital environments is addressed through a life-cycle assessment. This was formulated through an analysis of traceable inventories, archives of (i/o) inputs and outputs of industrial, socio-economic and cultural processes that occurs within the life cycle of a selected object. The lifecycle of any object, the path it takes from concept, production, distribution, use, potential reuse, and ultimately as a collectible, e-waste, or landfill is critically demanding by its very nature.

Tinkering with the Archive: Pathways to Conceptual Thought and Digital Practice

Our aim in nurturing cross-pollination between the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art and the Tinker Factory is to move between the creative and research worlds in new media arts, and to continue to forge innovative, groundbreaking initiatives that will expand our notion of the archive itself and the range of relational artistic interventions in its midst. Parallels between Sound Culture and Connections lays the future conceptual groundwork for cross-disciplinary international ventures where the value of conceptual tinkering with technical and physical tinkering opens the possibilities of inventive research in new media.

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The Present and Future of Humanist Inquiry in the Digital Field (9)

Mobile Media Poetics

This paper explores literary uses of mobile media, with a particular emphasis on poetics. Its primary examples include SMS poetry contests sponsored by entities such as The Guardian, RMIT, and Onesixty and SMS-enabled public performances such as City Speak, TXTual Healing, and SimpleTEXT. The paper articulates some of the paradigmatic qualities of mobile media poetics, with a particular emphasis on liveness and ephemerality and commentary on mobility and location as signifying elements. It also suggests that some of the literary and socio-political potential of mobile media poetics can be seen in the shift from the single desktop to the mobile screens of large-scale public interaction. This investigation of mobile media poetics is situated as a partial redress to the seemingly ubiquitous worries over the decline of reading.

Seriality, the Literary and Database in Homestar Runner: Some Old Issues in New Media

At the intersection between concepts of the literary and emergent forms of database aesthetics lies a contemporary model for theorizing serial production. This paper investigates the underexamined concept of seriality and the way it has been reconfigured in digital media. Using Homestar Runner as the central case study, I provide a survey of these issues surrounding the literary, database and seriality and the way they figure in this Flash website. I will then trace the propensity of electronic literature for what has been described as a technologically conditioned melancholia and relate this to the serial constructs within Homestar Runner.

Towards an Ecology of Excess

In this paper, I discuss three experimental projects by Peruvian artist Rolando Sanchez Ponte: a videogame installation, a biorobot performance, and an electronic sculpture. These works are discussed in relation to their formal conceptualization as forms of electronic waste recycling underscored by a poetic engagement with excess that carries broader suggestions toward thinking the relationship between difference and sustainability.

6 more worksshow all
Sex and Sexuality (7)

Islam, Sexuality, and the Internet: A Historical Reflection of the Shifting Sexual Self in Turkey

From the mid-1990s onward, the internet has stimulated the unprecedented development and growing tension between cultural values and identity. This is evidenced in the relationship between the dissemination of cultural values and the formation of identities on national and individual levels. The growing tension in this relationship is most particularly overt in societies that have a history of well-developed moral mechanisms of cultural protectionism.

This paper looks at the effects of internet culture on Turkish sexual identities, and its role in changing socially acceptable sexual codes and norms. It explores the developmental process of Turkish internet culture through a comparative analysis between two distinct framings of sexual identify: 1) as a product of historical and religious suppression and, 2) as a reflection of cultural rendering in electronic environments. When vectors of sexual behaviour, both explicit and implicit, are translated across cultural boundaries they begin to alter the conglomerate of religious values and socially experiential knowledge of participants. This is particularly apparent within the terrain of new media with its instant and widely available access, and its impact on the cognitive and emotional experiences it supports. This change in values manifests itself in dissonant sexual codes which form a new system of sexual awareness. In most Western societies, expanding perspectives of human sexuality emerged in the 60’s and 70’s evidencing a change in social values linked to the prosperity of modernity. In the case of the Muslim world, and in particular Turkey, this process was largely triggered with the appearance of the internet. The electronic environment provided an instant access to an open source of sexual perspectives which played upon stigmatized ethics and sexual taboos. The focus of this paper is to examine this particular breaking of sexually related religious stereotypes after the appearance of new media in Turkey and the changes it caused that resulted in new sexual self-definitions.

Sensuous Extimacy: Sexuation and Virtual Reality. Taking on a Gender Identity in Second Life

When people meet they apologize for their bodies: their bodies are never perfect, never adequate, and never quite behave exactly how people want them to. Today it seems that the virtual reality of cyberspace offers itself as an effective medium that can transport its users into a different universe, freed from the burden of the body and from the necessity of any such apology. The quickly growing number of the networking users demonstrates the rising demand for a new kind of symbolic realm, whether it be in the form of the user-friendly layout of a website or the appealing architecture of a simulated space, where one can easily inscribe oneself by obtaining a two-dimensional profile or a threedimensional digital body.

This paper addresses one of today’s myths about cyberspace that pictures it as a realm where users can discover their “true selves” or acquire new identities (and especially sexual identities), and by performing them, users may eventually become what they have created on-line. Today we inquire about the role of digital media in shaping and channeling sexual desires, dynamics and identifications attached to encounters with and through media technologies. I use Jacques Lacan’s theory of a subject and his theory of the three orders of the imaginary, symbolic and real to interpret the logic of sexuation (or taking on a gender identity regardless of biological sex) in virtual reality. Drawing on Lacan’s concept of “extimacy” that helps to escape a bipartition between interior and exterior, my paper focuses on a series of displacements occurring in and through cyberspace, exploring the dynamics of sexuation as it occurs in the 3D world of Second Life (

Is There Life on Adult FriendFinder? Sex and Logic with the Happy Dictator

This paper investigates web users and their sexual behaviors and pornographic self-representations as observed on the sex and dating site The website is a social network and encourages members to find real-life partners for sex whether it be casual sex affairs between singles, swinging couples, or polyamorous extra-marital affairs between “aba” (“attached but available”) individuals and their lovers. The analysis is based on theories of ethnography and social networking and analyzes the effects of corporate networks and homogenizing “sex scripts” on sex lives and Internet culture in Hong Kong.

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Software / Platform Studies (10)

Disrupting Heteronormative Codes: When Cylons in Slash Goggles Ogle AnnaKournikova

In this paper, I outline the heteronormative characteristics of computer code using a Critical Code Studies approach. First, I introduce Zach Blas’ transCoder: Queer Programming Antilanguage. With this scripting bible, I interpret Julie Levin Russo’s Slash Goggles algorithm, fictional software for exploring variant romantic pair possibilities and sexual subtexts (or slashtexts) on the remake of the television program “Battlestar Gallactica.” Out of these tools, I develop a framework for viewing the heteronormative code in other functioning algorithms. Applying the tools to 2000-2001 AnnaKournikova Visual Basic Script worm, I interrogate the viral qualities of heterosocial norms. This paper also includes discussions of encryption, fan culture, and Cylons.

Scholarly Civilization: Utilizing 4X Gaming as a Framework for Humanities Digital Media

While much attention has been given to first-person shooters and puzzle games in academic scholarship, large-scale Civilization style games (known colloquially as 4X games) have received comparatively scant attention. The map-based nature of these games, with an emphasis on socio-political, socio-environmental, cultural and military activity, is particularly well-suited as a medium to express historical knowledge. However, to adapt a medium designed to entertain players to a scholarly medium for the analysis of historical processes requires a thorough understanding of the structure of 4X games and the manner in which historical processes are represented in a map-based space. This paper analyzes the spatial and processual systems in FreeCiv and the Civilization series of games —specifically, an examination of the use of container-oriented, tile-based maps contrasted with modern historical GIS based on point and polygon data reveals best practices from the entertainment gaming community that may prove highly suitable for adoption in the digital humanities. The creation of tiled maps using defined environmental and social terrain and unit types may also provide accessibility to non-coding scholars to academic commons-based peer collaborative creation of new humanities digital media. The defined interaction between game objects, such as cities, irrigated farmland and military units, provides a second entry point for scholars, who through critique of existing game dynamics can define a more historically accurate system subject to peer-review. As a digital humanities medium, such a system would also prove suitable for the integration of multi-paradigm modeling techniques.

Software Studies in action: Open Source and Free Software in Brazil

This article tells the singular story of the growth of Free Software and Open Source in Brazil - encouraged by the government, opposed by the world's largest software enterprise – throughout the experiments of a country in search of its democratic and independent identity.

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A Space-time of Ubiquity and Embeddedness (9)

Fusing Bodies: A Consideration of Techno-Spliced Gestures in Interactive Installations

How might our logic be changing as ubiquitous computing links our gestural acts to those of distant, yet virtually present bodies? Neurological researchers along with theorists of embodiment will be drawn into a consideration of the negotiation of moving bodies though sensor-mined environments, exploring the impact such negotiations have on the generation of meaning. The body will be considered as a complex system of transducers, actuated by diverse powers in collaborative environments. Interactive sound installations created by the author will be analyzed as triggers to a consideration of techno-spliced gestures in mixed reality.

Computational materials: Embedding Computation into the Everyday

This paper presents research into material design merging the structural logics of surface tectonics with computation. The research asks how the understanding and design of interactive systems changes as computation becomes an integrated part of our material surroundings. Rather than thinking the ubiquitous system as something that is embedded into the existing context of the built environment, this paper speculates on the design of bespoke materials specified and designed in respect to both their structural as well as their computational performance. The paper asks: what are the design practices that allow us to think of material as extending both in space (structure) and over time (actuation)? How can we imagine our surrounding environment as actively sensing and responding to our presences? How would it be to inhabit a live space?

Re:Cycle - a Generative Ambient Video Engine

Re:Cycle is a generative ambient video art piece based on nature imagery captured in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Ambient video is designed to play in the background of our lives. An ambient video work is difficult to create - it can never require our attention, but must always rewards attention when offered. A central aesthetic challenge for this form is that it must also support repeated viewing. Re:Cycle relies on a generative recombinant strategy for ongoing variability, and therefore a higher replayability factor. It does so through the use of two randomaccess databases: one database of video clips, and another of video transition effects. The piece will run indefinitely, joining clips and transitions from the two databases in randomly varied combinations.

Generative ambient video is an art form that draws upon the continuing proliferation and increased sophistication of technology as a supporting condition. Ambient video benefits from the ongoing distribution of ever-larger and improved video screens. Generative ambient video is more easily realized within a culture where computation, like the large video screen, is also becoming more ubiquitous.

A series of related creative decisions gave Re:Cycle its final shape. The decisions all wrestled with variations on a single problem: how to find an appropriate balance between aesthetic control on the one hand, and variability/re-playability on the other. The paper concludes with a description of future work to be done on the project, including the use of metadata to improve video flow and sequencing coherence.

6 more worksshow all
Associated Events (2)

Art and Artificial Life – a Primer

It was not until the late 1980s that the term ‘Artificial Life’ arose as a descriptor of a range of (mostly) computer based research practices which sought alternatives to conventional Artificial Intelligence methods as a source of (quasi-) intelligent behavior in technological systems and artifacts. These practices included reactive and bottom-up robotics, computational systems which simulated evolutionary and genetic processes, and are range of other activities informed by biology and complexity theory. A general desire was to capture, harness or simulate the generative and ‘emergent’ qualities of ‘nature’ - of evolution, co-evolution and adaptation. ‘Emergence’ was a keyword in the discourse. Two decades later, the discourses of Artificial Life continues to have intellectual force, mystique and generative quality within the ‘computers and art’ community. This essay is an attempt to contextualise Artificial Life Art by providing an historical overview, and by providing background in the ideas which helped to form the Artificial Life movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This essay is prompted by the exhibition Emergence –Art and Artificial Life (Beall Center for Art and Technology, UCI, December 2009) which is a testament to the enduring and inspirational intellectual significance of ideas associated with Artificial Life.

Digital Literary Arts Extravaganza

To complement the panels of DAC and to emphasize the centrality of the Arts at this conference, we have organized the DAC Literary Arts Extravaganza, featuring exciting and dramatic works from the world of electronic literature. Conference guests were invited to see, hear, and engage in the performance of digital-born literary art works that embody the innovative ideas in this year’s panels and that will no doubt be the subject of panels in future DAC conferences. Genres include: live video sculpture, locative media narratives, networked fiction, Flash poetry, and works that words only cannot yet describe. Below are the artists’ descriptions of the works and related links.

Related Research Centers & Groups