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Towards a performative aesthetics of interactivity

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Abstract

As I write this, at the end of 2010, it is sobering to reflect on the fact that over a couple of decades of explosive development in new media art (or ‘digital multimedia’ as it used to be called), in screen based as well as ‘embodied’ and gesture based interaction, the aesthetics of interaction doesn’t seem to have advanced much. At the same time, interaction schemes and dynamics which were once only known in obscure corners of the world of media art research/creation have found their way into commodities from 3D TV and game platforms (Wii, Kinect) to sophisticated phones (iPhone, Android). While increasingly sophisticated theoretical analyses (from Manovich, 2002 to Chun, 2008 to Hansen, 2006, more recently Stern, 2011 and others) have brought diverse perspectives to bear, I am troubled by the fact that we appear to have advanced little in our ability to qualitatively discuss the characteristics of aesthetically rich interaction and interactivity and the complexities of designing interaction as artistic practice; in ways which can function as a guide to production as well as theoretical discourse. This essay is an attempt at such a conversation.

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