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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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

Cover page of Platform Studies: Frequently Questioned Answers

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.

Cover page of From Control Society to Parliament of Things: Designing Object Relations with an Internet of Things

From Control Society to Parliament of Things: Designing Object Relations with an Internet of Things


This article discusses ways of framing Locative Media through critical theories of new media, particularly Giles Deleuze’s “control society hypothesis” and Bruno Latour’s “parliament of things”. It considers artistic practices that combine data visualization and location-awareness in order to represent public space. If Locative Media largely reworked the Situationist practice of psychogeography, in which the city was the primary site of contestation, the article looks at practices which contest ideas about Nature, in order to create “structures of participation” to address a “crisis in political agency” (Jeremijenko). The conclusion shifts Latour’s discourse on networks of non-human agency to the cognitive level in order to consider the potential impact of ubiquitous technology in terms of being.

Cover page of The Construction of Locative Situations: Locative Media and the Situationist International, Recuperation or Redux?

The Construction of Locative Situations: Locative Media and the Situationist International, Recuperation or Redux?


This paper will address the trend within locative media art of invoking the practices of the Situationist International (SI) as an art historical and theoretical background to contemporary practices. It is claimed that locative media seeks to re-enchant urban space though the application of locative technologies to develop novel and experimental methods for navigating, exploring and experiencing the city. To this end SI concepts such as psychogeography and the techniques of detournement and the dérive (drift) have exerted considerable influence on locative media practices but questions arise as to whether this constitutes a valid contemporary appropriation or a recuperative co-option, serving to neutralize their inherent oppositional qualities.

The paper will argue that there is an identifiable strand of locative art works which through their contingent re appropriation of Situationist techniques can be thought of as being involved in the 'construction of locative situations' and that these (re)applications of the SI practices point to future directions for locative media's artistic engagement with the accelerating ubiquity of locative technologies.

Cover page of The Performative Portrait: Iconic Embodiment in Ubiquitous Computing

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.

Commitment to Meaning: A Reframing of Agency in Games


This paper examines the concept of agency within games and proposes a shift from the notion of agency as representing choice or freedom to one of agency as representing commitment to meaning. This conception of agency is aimed at understanding the pleasures of engaging with narratively rich games, and helps to address the tension between player choice and authorial intent. We draw on what speech act theory says about how trust, meaning and communication are achieved in human conversation, applying these notions to interactive storytelling. This new perspective on agency provides us with a better analytical tool for understanding the relationship between interaction and narrative pleasure, and provides a useful metric for designers of story-rich games.

Cover page of Locative Life: Geocaching, Mobile Gaming, and Embodiment

Locative Life: Geocaching, Mobile Gaming, and Embodiment


This paper analyzes a worldwide GPS treasure hunt game that is played in over 200 countries with game pieces that travel the globe and are tracked online. The game players hide geocache containers in public areas, marking them with GPS coordinates. Players use their mobile devices (from GPS receivers to iPhones) to track down the container, sign the log, and leave tradable and trackable items in the cache. This mobile game offers the perfect example of the blending of material and virtual interfaces, notions of presence and absence, visible and invisible, and utilitarian and playful purposes of everyday objects. Embodied subjectivity in Geocaching is gaining through a correspondence between the user’s location gained through GPS coordinates, the finding of a material object hidden in everyday space, and the signing of the logbook in the container. The act of physically signing the logbook as a way to prove embodied “presence” in material space is highly dependent on the screen space of the GPS receiver. Thus, I argue for a cohesive sense of embodiment gained through a “proprioceptive-semiotic” convening of bodies, technologies, and socially constructed spaces.

Cover page of Cold Culture: Polar Media and the Nazi Occult

Cold Culture: Polar Media and the Nazi Occult


The inaccessibility of the North and South Pole makes them a crucible for persistent questions of access and data visualization that characterize the information age. Arctic and Antarctic have become increasingly topical in popular cinema as well as in media arts. As representations of polar regions grapple with the fictions that mark representations of science, they illustrate the perils and perks of polar travel in the age of digital media. This essay sets out to trace representations of the Arctic and Antarctic in media history. To this day, the attraction of South Pole and North Pole remains one of heroic detection: they have been discovered, inspired myth, literature, science, and art, yet the polar regions remain unrepresentable - there to be found and rediscovered. This is true for the kind of art history that hews to patterns of the detective novel, reconstructing from traces a grammar of objects and authorship; and it applies also to film and media art in the age of eco-tourism, where discovery remains the motive, following snow-blown trails into nothingness, even and especially after the preceding discoverers had imprinted the landscape with their names and deaths. Polar media raise complex issues of mapping cultural space from colonialism to post-industrial globalization. One trajectory of what one ought to be able to excavate as the historical logic of polar media indicates a shift, in the 19th century, from a pronounced emphasis on race to a growing concern with environmental factors, with weather, and with the global metereological consequences of melting polar ice caps in the course of the 20th and into the 21st century.

Cover page of Methodologies of Reuse in the Media Arts: Exploring Black Boxes, Tactics and Archaeologies

Methodologies of Reuse in the Media Arts: Exploring Black Boxes, Tactics and Archaeologies


This paper discusses three methodological themes that contemporary media artists employ while reusing obsolete information technology hardware as materials in their work. Methodologies include the exploration of the hidden “blackboxed” layer of technology by circuit bending artists like Reed Ghazala, the tactical use of technologies to bring social change by artists like Natalie Jeremijenko, and the archaeological use of outdated technologies to intervene in history by artists like Tom Jennings. These themes are presented as useful tools to construct a language of reuse which serves a valuable function in a culture increasingly confronted by electronic waste, and assists in critiquing assumptions of new media, obsolescence, and technological progress.

Cover page of Post Human-Centered Design Approach for Ubiquity

Post Human-Centered Design Approach for Ubiquity


In this paper we ask if contemporary and design theory for ubiquitous computing and internet of things is not outdated and irrelevant in view of some contemporary theories of agency.

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

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.