- Screen Ecologies: Art, Media, and the Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region by Larissa Hjorth et al.
by Larissa Hjorth, Sarah Pink, Kristen Sharp, and Linda Williams. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2016. Leonardo Book Series, Roger E. Malina, Editor. 224 pp., illus. Trade. ISBN: 978-0262034562.
The Introduction is a topography to this very complex field of study, where artists, enthusiasts, inventors, activists, technologists, hackers, ecologists and scientists are all simultaneously responding to the climate changes of the technology industries and the environmental marketplace of human interactions. For some, this section will be sufficient. The complexities hinted at are unraveled in eight chapters, taking cuts through the data and enabling the reader to experience from the inside the magnitude of our mediated effect on each other and the planet we call home.
Although the interesting notion of SCOT (Social Construction of Technology) is introduced, realistically we know the world is otherwise, that the biodiversity of which we are a part is directly affected by the abstract notions of "growth" and "profit." Equally the core of that biodiversity remains unseen, at the micro level and in the sense of experiencing what the environment is, as opposed to our representations of it, real and imagined. Mediated idealism of the natural world across the Asia-Pacific regions affect attitudes: to what is actually happening; to established cultural tradition from a time of regard for the land; to the incursion of globalized culture and to alternatives now past the use-by date, such as bush walks and city farms as sampling activities in danger of skirting the issues. Investigations of ecological matters are here less about the physical and organic world, concentrating fundamentally on an ecology of practices now in the past and already becoming replaced.
The authors describe the context of unchecked neoliberal, neocolonial corporate expansion at multiple levels, often destroying traumatized communities needing to reconnect with each other, with the natural world, with common interest groups, by using both traditional and contemporary means of communication. Technology and art practice at a social level is central to the manifesto; incubation of projects within communities of interest and communities of expertise as "mobile publics" are a part of the principle.
Although it is the work of four authors (faculty members in the same institution in Melbourne, an omniscient "we"), who have been published individually over the last decade, the writing style and presentation is curiously homogenized. Collaborations with other writers within the region are evidenced, but not directly in this volume. Australian [End Page 205] new media artists were extremely active into the 2000s and so do not receive favored attention from the mid-decade onward covered here; the authors have traveled widely in the southeast Asian region and mainly reference the artists they encountered, local and visiting. The multidisciplinary practices evidenced are a valuable record of the energy and vigor of groups and individuals working with often limited resources. Mobility is key to images and messages circulated on phone networks, including those of disasters engendered by humans and delivered by the elements.
Several optimistic ways forward from the contradictions of technology usage and the impasse in the politics of climate are suggested as discussion points within media studies. The substantial gathering of material from the regions encompassing often conflicting histories and traditions illuminate directions taken by artists in experiencing global impacts of various kinds. The necessarily rhetorical tone gently implicates media artists, cultural producers and consumers in general in the exacerbation of changes in global climate patterns. Given a supportive context in the seminar room and the laboratory, the identifying or creating of new directions, sites of practice and emergences will be aided by this evenly balanced volume.
Electronic gaming environments on various platforms are central to several of the discussions, including an amusing account of the Tokyo gamer who was deeply immersed in a digital earthquake when the real one happened all around him. Maintaining the present moment is a problem for studies in media of the kind encompassed here, and perhaps a hypertext version would deliver more effectively by being linked directly to the studios...