As a collective, we humans really like to categorize things. Ourselves, our political leanings, other cultures, types of media and sub categories of the media. Not only are categories and excellent way to sort through tons of stuff, but also in removing a lot of preamble in day to day conversations. While labels like feminist or liberal brings a ton of baggage it gives an indication of what kind of person you are talking too. Sporting pins or other icons representing your chosen category acts like a filter. I would naturally steer away from people sporting a MAGA hat or a Pepe/FBI t-shirt. This saves both me and the other person a lot of grief. Categories and labels has always been an important part of representing yourself. The whole “are games art?” debate and social justice stance that labels regarding self-identity and how its best left up to the person being labelled, show’s us the influence of categories.
Which is why I’ve had so much fun in reading my fellow student’s blogs. In their words you can see a certain uncertainty in what extent this and that falls under the umbrella of digital culture and digital art. You can see this too in the structure of the course. It’s split in three parts, digital art, games and electronic literature. Does that mean that games and e-lit is not digital art? I can see breaking digital art into different facets, but when it’s split into its own category what does that mean.
When it comes to defining digital art in the first place I naturally went to Wikipedia. Siting Wikipedia is as always seen as a great sin, but since anyone can be an editor it also works as a good way to find the median understanding of more ethereal concepts. This hivemind of the masses produced the following definition:
“Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as an essential part of the creative or presentation process. Since the 1970s, various names have been used to describe the process, including computer art and multimedia art. Digital art is itself placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.”
While this is a serviceable start point it’s important to try to flesh it out. This is where the course curriculum comes in handy. Incidentally we have the book Digital art by Christiane Paul. Firstly, she brings a really good point around definition and why defining digital art is a pain:
“Definitions and categories can be dangerous in setting up predefined limits for approaching and understanding an art form, particularly when it’s constantly evolving, as is the case of digital art.”
I don’t envy anyone forced into a position where you must define art. By setting a limit you will always end up excluding innovative pieces that push the boundaries. Digital art is a relatively new notion, born out of the desire to categorise the outlier to pre-computer art which makes defining it even harder as it’s constantly growing. But despite all this, Paul comes with a serviceable definition of digital art:
“…art that uses digital technologies as a tool for the creation of more traditional art objects – such as a photograph, print, or sculpture…”
And for new media:
“…digital-born, computable art that is created, stored, and distributed via digital technologies and employs their features as its very own medium.”
We can see that the definition offered by Wikipedia clashes with Paul’s. Paul defines new media and digital art as two separate entities while the wiki sees digital art as a sub category to new media. This poses a problem. Which classification should we follow? Categories and classifications are subjective in their nature and their truth is based not in some Boolean fact, but in usage. Even the most common definition of life could also apply to fire which requires oxygen, eats and procreates, but most people would not count fire when deciding what basic right a living thing is given.
My knee jerk reaction is to follow the academic definition presented by my curriculum and I’ll surely use is as my basis in any academic text written for the university. However, there is merit in the tiered setup presented by the masses of Wikipedia. Sub categories allows us to peek between our fingers and jumble ideas while still allowing us to well-fitting categories. Anyone who listens to metal music will be familiar with this approach (please don’t burn me at the stake if you disagree with the classification presented in the graph. I’m but a simple jazz enthusiast which know next to nothing about metal and only needed an example)
So why should we care about categories at all? If it excludes, muddles and is inherently subjective, what is the point? Well… outside of my earlier points about filtering etc, it helps in creation. Sitting in a blank room trying to dream up a new idea is damned difficult. Most, if not all, has run into option paralyzes during our life. The human mind is great at modifying existing thing or dreaming up solutions to problems, but that’s because of limitations. Given unlimited funds and time we tend to over analyse and design everything. This is where categories shine. Want to make music? What category? Immediately you have a framework. You can subvert expectations, but you’re building of off an existing framework. So, by having a category of art which is defined not only by the digital framework of it’s creation but also by it’s link to traditional art you give yourself plenty of room for innovation while also having a framework.
Finally, I want to shout out a few blogs from other students.
First of its Ane’s blog where she in a stroke of genius recreates the feeling of exiting digital art in Spore. She also links a new song to each blogpost (without auto playing them) which I heartily approve of. https://anelundo.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/art-of-the-week/
Next up is Roj with an insight into evolution of photography. He also sites a very interesting idea proposed by Flores which came up during our lecture. The idea that e-lit and literature will die out in the next half century. While I disagree with the notion I still find it an interesting topic to think about. https://thelifeofroj.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/one-step-closer-to-the-matrix/
Lastly from my study buddy John with his really good “Tweet or die” post. The outlining of the discomfort which comes from blending personas, here IRL and online persona, is something I’ve had on my mind ever since my short stint in sociology and first reading Goffman. https://tronkel.wordpress.com/