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On Networking Editorial The recent convergence of computers and telecommunications systems-ttelematics-offers an extraordinary opportunity to the artist. The new technology offers videotex, telefacsimile, laser disc, slowscan TV, computer animation and simulation, teleconferencing, text exchange, telemetry and remote sensing, and interactive structures and environments. The scale of these interactive systems may be as small as that of a lap-top computer or as extensive as that of a planetary network, and through the process of digitalisation all of these systems can interconnect (eventually through fully integrated services digital networks (ISDN) involving satellite, cable and telephone), allowing us to circulate, storeand transform images, texts and sounds. But these are more than new tools, they invite new relationships between people in the creative process, and they imply new visual language. Telematic interactivity has the effect of erasing the old dichotomies-artisthiewer, producer/ consumer-by offering the means of collaboration in the creation of images and text, involving not simply the exchange of ideas between people but the direct involvement of many individuals in the creation of meaning. The ‘viewer’becomes a participant in the creativesystem either by making choices between a number of alternatives provided by the artist, by affectingthe configuration of environments or sounds by his or her presence or by actually interacting with others in the creation of a flow of images and text. This suggests new responsibilities for both artist and viewer, as well as new possibilities of creative activity, and it certainly means that the relationship between artist and public has changed, and that the boundaries between them are diffused. In telematic networking, authorshipof images can be dispersed throughout the system. At the same time, the zone of reception and encounterwith these images is enormously extended, with the effect of decentralising and destabilising the idea of gallery or museum space. The art employing these interactive processes challenges ideas about the ownership and origin of images and text and raises questions about the way meaning is created. But if this sounds in a certain sense like ‘the death of the author’, we would be quite wrong to imagine that it leads to some kind of anonymous, totalising collectivity of minds, endlessly recycling data, in which individual visions and aspirations are subsumed and diminished. Instead, this telematic interactivityoffers the possibility of the amplijkation of individual thought and imagination, by linking up minds with minds, person to person, and so widening our creative frames of reference, opening up new horizons and contexts of work, and diversifying the connections between aspects of different cultures and individual realities. Telematic interactivity is likely to lead to a heightening of the process of individuation in our society. But it is not simply the process of interactivity which is important here; it is the mediation of such processes by the computer which suggests a paradigmatic change in the nature of art. Since the computer can be accessed from virtually any part of the world, and its vastly capacious memory can store huge amounts of data-digitally encoded images and texts, for example-the participant in a creative exchange can become involved at any time of day or night, asynchronically and regardless of distance and location. Thus ‘inputs’ from a variety of sources can be retrieved at whatever moment or in whatever context a collaborator may choose-to be acted upon, modified, played with, deconstructed, inverted, twisted, stretched and eventually re-circulated throughout the network according to each individual desire. Separate realities can be woven into new cultural tissues. In its capacity to accommodate, layer and transform a great diversity of cultural and personal material, telematic networking is the perfect vehicle of post-modern culture. Similarly, it supports a more comprehensive approach to knowledgeand leads the artist to embrace otherdisciplines and fields of knowing. Science and technology have often been seen to be the enemiesof art,or at least to stand in opposition to artistic practice. They have claimed a closerplace to truth and reality,just asphilosophy, in the past, has claimed privilege over poetry in this regard. But our current thinking holds them all to be essentially metaphoric, coping as best each can with a contingent universe. Uncertainty and indeterminacy are seen to be the...


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pp. 231-232
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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