Creativity After New Media

Dr Sarah Kember and Dr Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths, University of London) presenting Creative Mediation at CRASSH, Cambridge. They address the question of ‘creativity’ and its application under the umbrella of ‘creative industries’; they consider the links often made with originality, genius or chance and offer an alternative reading that draws on work by Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze among others.

(CRASSH, 17 May 2010. Part of the Intermedia Research Group.)

Towards a New Mode of Address

“We have attempted to distinguish between media and mediation in order to understand, more fully the relation between them. This relation correlates with that of space and time, states and process, matter and life. For Bergson, time, life, or the process of creative evolution is manifest in the ‘invention of forms ever new.’ In this concluding session we’ll consider the implications of mediation for the ways we study, write about and make media. Following Bergson’s method, mediation implies a return of intuition and the intellect, or, as Braidotti frames it, a return of creativity and critique. This session will also introduce the work of Goldsmiths’ Creative Media Forum, which works to evolve modes of address that are inventive, if not wholly new, and that try to ‘make a difference’ (Haraway) in an otherwise, inevitably, conservative media ecology. Our premise is not that theory and practice interact, but that they intra-act. Theory is already a practice, and vice versa.”

Kember, S. and Zylinska, J. (2009) ‘Creative Media: performance, invention, critique’, in M. Chatzichristodoulou, J. Jefferies and R. Zerihan (eds) Interfaces of Performance, Ashgate

After New Media: A Liquid Reader

This is a ‘liquid reader’ for the non-assessed, online and open access course ‘After New Media’ from Goldsmiths, University of London. Each section relates to a lecture on the After New Media course, with links highlighted in bold representing key reading.  This reader will provide links to additional learning resources including key texts, videos and podcast lectures.  As with the After New Media course this reader experiments with its own mediation as a form of pedagogy and seeks to intervene in and problematise the increasingly hegemonic, branded and top-down model of the MOOC (or massive open online course).  This reader is therefore open access and collaborative and actively encourages students to rework, edit and add to its content throughout the course.  In order to contribute to the reader please register for a Liquid Books account, including a few details about yourself in the message box.  You are encouraged to link to your own material – podcasts, videos, photography, blog posts etc – or to already available, open access research.  Any take-down requests should be directed to ben.craggs@gold.ac.uk.

About After New Media

This course builds on, and challenges, existing approaches to media by tracing the transition from debates on new and social media to debates on mediation. ‘Mediation’ takes us from a more spatial, black-boxed approach to separate media, and separate aspects of the media (production, content, reception) towards a more temporal approach which is often invoked but rarely developed.

The course will ask what it means to study ‘the media’ as a complex process which is simultaneously economic, social, cultural, psychological and technical. It will trace the origins of this question in debates on remediation that are critical of media teleology (and its links to capital), and it will trace the evolution of this question through a range of philosophical and contextual approaches which will frame the concept of mediation in relation to creativity, conservatism, change and continuity.

In the context of specific media events such as the LHC project at CERN (Big Crunch?), the global financial crisis (Credit Crunch), the world’s first face transplant, the ongoing quest for life on Mars and the emergence of intelligent or smart media, the course will investigate the relation between the event and its mediation. Would it be more accurate to say that rather than being represented by the media, these events are performed through mediation? If events are performative, then how should we respond to them in our critiques?

Session 1: After New Media

This introductory session recaps and reviews the main definitions and characterisations of new media, contrasting the work of Lev Manovich with that of Lister et. al. Where Manovich conflates media and technology and erases the specificities of historical media, Lister et. al. do not. They emphasise the dynamic relation between old and new media and open out the question of the relation between biological and technological things. We’ll consider why it’s important to do this, and we’ll also look at the centrality of the concept of remediation to an effective understanding of new media.

 

Bolter, J.D. and Grusin, R. (2000) ‘Introduction: The Double Logic of Remediation’, Remediation. Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The MIT Press

 

Lister, M. Dovey, J. Giddings, S. Grant, I. and Kelly, K. (eds) (2009) ‘1. New Media and New Technologies’ especially 1.1 New media: do we know what they are? And 1.2 The characteristics of new media: some defining concepts, New Media. A Critical Introduction. Second Edition, London and New York: Routledge

Session 2: False Problems – Convergence and Interactivity

This session introduces the idea of false problems and divisions in philosophy, and applies it to existing debates on new media. It proposes that key concepts in new media studies, such as convergence and interactivity, present false problems. What do we mean by convergence and interactivity? Have they happened? Will they happen, or are they essentially non-events? Is convergence just another name for remediation, and might we more usefully consider the concept of ‘intra-action’ (Barad) which proposes a much more complex view of agency?

Barad, K. (2003) ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter,’ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 28, no. 3

Deleuze, G. (2002) ‘1 Intuition as Method’, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Zone Books

Session 3: False Divisions – Determinism and Constructionism, Technology and Use

This session carries on examining some of the philosophical problems underlying debates on new media. A number of false divisions have been in play since the inception of this field in the mid 1980s. They include: virtual and real; information and materiality; determinism and constructionism and technology and use. We will explore these divisions and the extent to which they have, or have not been resolved. Arguably, too much emphasis on the real versus the virtual, and on the humanist aspects of use, has effectively elided the question of technology – which is simultaneously the question of biology.

Lister, M. Dovey, J. Giddings, S. Grant, I. and Kelly, K. (eds) (2009) ‘1.6 New media: determining or determined?’ New Media. A Critical Introduction. Second Edition, London and New York: Routledge, p77

Session 4: Media, Space and Liveness 

 

This session applies Bergson’s critique of intellectual knowledge to our conventional, spatial, or black-boxed approaches to the media. By separating one medium from another or one aspect of the media (production, organisation, technology, use) from the others, we may succeed in producing useful knowledge, but it is at best partial, and at worst ‘false’. We will further explore this ‘falseness’ in our representations of media, and media representations of the world, through the alignment between contemporary ‘teletechnologies’ (Derrida and Stiegler) and the manifestation of liveness. Since liveness is most affiliated with catastrophe, we will use the Credit Crunch as our main example.

Derrida, J. and Stiegler, B. (2002) ‘Right of Inspection,’Echographies of Television, trans. Jennifer Bajorek, Cambridge: Polity Press

Session 5: Mediation, Time and Life Itself

This session applies Bergson’s method of intuition to an understanding of mediation as time, duration, creative evolution or life itself. Mediation is indivisible, unrepresentable and dis/continuous with media. Here, we take mediation as our central problem, and seek to establish its difference in kind from media. Using Bergson’s approach, we separate them analytically in order to understand more fully the relation between them. Though more aligned with performativity and process, we will try to avoid creating a false division between performativity and representation, process and stasis. We will also question Bergson’s divisions between life and matter, time and space through examining a particular or ‘precise’ event: the LHC project at CERN in Switzerland. This is an experiment in particle physics that stresses the continguous nature of space-time at the origin of life, the universe and everything. Is this the definitive event by means of which we might effectively intuit the process of mediation, or the existence of life after new media?

Kember, S. (2012) ‘The Large Hadron Collider Project: Mediating Life, the Universe and Everything‘ in After New Media: A Liquid Reader

Self, W. (2015) Self Orbits CERN [Podcast] BBC.  January 2015.
– A rather enjoyable podcast series from the BBC in which writer Will Self undertakes a walking tour of CERN’s super collider.

TED Talks (2008) Brian Cox: CERN’s Supercollider

Session 6: Non/Visual Mediation 

This session explores the idea that the mediated event is in(di)visible – it cannot be represented. We’ll examine some of the critiques of representation, including those of Bergson, Butler and Barad, all of which employ some notion of performativity in its place. However, we’ll avoid creating another false division between representation and performativity and instead, through an extended understanding of photographies (including those that help to constitute the LHC Project), we’ll look at how the distinction between events and their mediation become blurred and how, even so, we might speak of realism without representation.

Sontag, S. (2004) ‘Regarding the torture of others,’ New York Times, May 23

Kember, S. (2008) ‘The Virtual Life of Photography’, photographies, vol 1, issue 2, September

Documentary – Standard Operating Procedure

Session 7: Intelligent Mediation

This session will contrast the LHC Project’s science-fictional visions of the in(di)visible universe with the viewing point of the home. How might we reconcile these sublime, unintelligible, real/imaginary events with the circumstances of our everyday lives? Inherent in the de-territorialisations of contemporary teletechnologies, are equally powerful processes of re-territorialisation. Mediations are movements both home and away. These movements are consistent with those of the allegedly de-humanising, de-naturalising technosciences, such as Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life – which are in a process of remediation with communication technologies. Our homes then, like our bodies, are (as they always have been) ‘intelligent’ media. They stress location and identity as a counterforce to dislocation and differentiation. We’ll look at how the discourse of intelligent media, which centres on the ‘smart’ home, is consistent with individualism and neo-liberalism.

Gardner, P. and Wray, B. (2013) ‘From Lab to Living Room: Transhumanist Imaginaries of Consumer Brain Wave Monitors‘ Ada New Media, Issue 3.

Suchman.  L (2009) Agencies at the Interface: Colloquium with Lucy Suchman [Online Lecture]

Session 8: Self-Mediation 

In this session we move on from Bolter and Grusin’s outline of the remediated self, to consider the implications of Braidotti’s question: ‘What if the subject is ‘trans’, or in transit, that is to say no longer one, whole, unified and in control, but rather fluid, in process and hybrid?’ We’ll reflect this question back onto some of the events we’ve considered before, and also introduce another one, namely, the development of face transplant surgery beginning with the case of Isabelle Dinoire in November 2005. One of the key interests in this highly mediated case, was in the emergence of a third, or hybrid face which did not correspond to the identity of either the donor or recipient. This session is underlined by the argument, commonly heard in feminist technoscience and philosophy, that biotechnologies, in combination with information and communication technologies, constitute ‘one of the major social manifestations of the current status of subjects’ (Braidotti).

Braidotti, R. (2006) ‘Prologue. Transformations,’ Transpositions, Cambridge: Polity Press

Bolter, J.D. and Grusin, R. (2000) ‘Self,’ Remediation. Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The MIT Press

Gauntlet, D. (1997) ‘Foucault and “Technologies of the Self”,’ Theory.org [Online] [Accessed 1st February 2015]

Session 9: Ethical Mediation 

This session pursues, with Braidotti and other philosophers, the ethical implications of the observation that ‘nobody and no particle of matter is independent and self-propelled, in nature as in the social’. For Barad, subjects, like objects, are ‘entangled’. They are relational entities that strive, nevertheless, as Suchman points out, for autonomy. What then, if any, are the alternatives to de- and then re-territorialisation; de- and then re-humanisation? Or, as Derrida put it, how can we remain hospitable whilst at home? Derrida cautions us against the seductions of process without singularity, on the basis that the singular is always multiple, the thing is always its other. At the same time, this other is not necessarily the human subject, but rather, the experience or eventness of other as other. This session will consider the entanglement of humans, animals, machines and aliens.

Derrida, J. (2002) ‘Artifactualties’ in Derrida, J. and Stiegler, B. Echographies of Television, trans. Jennifer Bajorek, Cambridge: Polity Press
Kember, S. (2011) ‘No Humans Allowed? The alien in/as feminist theory’, Feminist Theory 12 (2) 2011, pp183-201
Kember, S. (2006) ‘Creative Evolution? The quest for life (on Mars)’, Culture Machine, Interzone, March 2006
Kember, S. (2011) Astrobiology and the Search for Life on Mars

Session 10: Conclusion: Towards a New Mode of Address

We have attempted to distinguish between media and mediation in order to understand, more fully the relation between them. This relation correlates with that of space and time, states and process, matter and life. For Bergson, time, life, or the process of creative evolution is manifest in the ‘invention of forms ever new.’ In this concluding session we’ll consider the implications of mediation for the ways we study, write about and make media. Following Bergson’s method, mediation implies a return of intuition and the intellect, or, as Braidotti frames it, a return of creativity and critique. This session will also introduce the work of Goldsmiths’ Creative Media Forum, which works to evolve modes of address that are inventive, if not wholly new, and that try to ‘make a difference’ (Haraway) in an otherwise, inevitably, conservative media ecology. Our premise is not that theory and practice interact, but that they intra-act. Theory is already a practice, and vice versa.

Kember, S. and Zylinska, J. (2009) ‘Creative Media: performance, invention, critique’, in M. Chatzichristodoulou, J. Jefferies and R. Zerihan (eds) Interfaces of Performance, Ashgate

Still from If It Reads, It Bleeds (2010) by Joanna Zylinska

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