a comment from Dragan Espenschied with response
at end from rick
On Jul 31, 2014, at 12:37 AM, Dragan Espenschied wrote:
Dear Rick and dear Jon,
reading your book has been a very pleasant experience. There are many
interesting lines of thought in there, and it shows that you took care
to refine terms and create meaningful potentials from all the ideas
you have been writing about for such a long time already. To a degree
that I am applying some things in the Artbase's new design to see how
that will go.
There are just two chapters where I have a hard time connecting.
The first is about the Open Museum. To me this sounds like a kind of
outdated utopia, one that has moved further away into the future
instead of coming closer. I believe this is an indicator that there is
something wrong with the idea or an important step in between has been
Your base agitation in the book is that museums kind of get in front
of the game. Their traditional role is being behind the game and
seeing that as an asset. Even the VA's new rapid response collection
policy is behind the game, because when faced with the challenge of
conserving performance/activity, they will still collect a stand-in
object, a symbol or indexical symbol. I think museums cannot simply be
asked to copy what is 'happening' at large, but they have to rethink
their roles in a new environment.
When I have seen 'museum' and 'open' be combined, it brought out the
worst in both in some cases. Meaning that for example the creator of a
purely digital artwork would not sell two editions for $25'000 each,
or 500 editions for $500 each, but 25'000 editions for $0 each. :) Or
museums using 'open' art as a driver for funny and exciting events,
but through their power and process in fact offering the involved
artists the next step only as move into traditional art forms -- and
artists gladly taking up on this offer. (There is so much of this
around it is scary.)
Anyway, I believe that not only artists and museums or galleries or
archives have to change their ways of doing things, but the value of
digital art has to be recognized by another force before.
The second chapter that doesn't work for me is about biology. I feel
this was simply not ripe for the book, you're oscillating between
biology as a metaphor or biology as actual digital memory ... and the
examples kind of make no sense to me. So, for instance, if this girl
that wants to know if a plant is poison ivy has all the knowledge of
humankind stored in her hair ... why would the smartphone she needs to
read this info not come with some random hair built-in and already
indexed? Every hair would be as good as any other. Or the idea to have
algorithms create versions of environments to enable digital artifacts
to perform, or have algorithms applied to the artifact itself so it
might be able to perform in a contemporary (or rather arbitrary)
environment ... this won't work. The metaphor of guided evolution
applied to algorithms requires rules that need to be described for
weeding out useless mutations, and rules for mutation. While simple,
constrained goals, like keeping a certain identifier 'alive' via
copying, or moving in a simulated 3d world, or winning at tictactoe
can be formulated as a test for the algorithms -- in the form of an
algorithm -- this cannot be formulated for an effect on the human
consciousness. Hence, all the mutations would need to be checked by
humans for 'fitness', which again means absolutely no stellar
evolutionary speed gain or self-replicating system. Then, software
works on so many levels of abstraction, and these genetic algorithms
are usually locked to one layer or scenario. To make meaningful
mutations that span several abstraction layers, the systems have to be
deeply conceptualized and the mutations be restrained. Otherwise some
evolutionary program might try for 50 years to guess the right ABI
call of its host system for displaying a letter on the screen. And
once a system is so deeply known as to formulate these rules, it is
much simpler to just create what is required than to wait for it to
come up by itself. So, I dunno, this chapter just feels far out. :)
But maybe I am totally not getting something here?
The problem is real and tangible though.
In the bwFLA Emulation as a Service research project, we constantly
try to make artifacts perform with the least possible knowledge on the
side of the user, and also the archivist. There is a minimal set of
knowledge required about a system, and the artifact. Maybe the
challenge is to make this knowledge cargo-cultable, so that some
actions can be performed with minimal understanding, but at the sime
time these actions could provide the maximum required context.
To stay inside the oral history metaphor, not the digital artifacts
themselves should be encoded in a dance, but how to use them should.
Alright, had to tell somebody! :)
I've been holding off the Yasmin list for this.
In the end, I want to emphasize again how valuable your work is and
how accessible it is written. Thanks!!
With only the best greetings,
From: Jon Ippolito <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 8:06 AM
I want to thank you, for buying the book in the first place :) but
also reading it so thoughtfully AND taking the time to give the
authors your candid feedback (that almost never happens!) and your
discretion at sending your critique to us first before the world. Much
I'm not speaking for Jon here, but I'm totally cool with you sending
your critique to Yasmin, et al. Why write a semi-academic book if not
to invite debate? In fact, I believe one of our final chapter
recommendations is for academics and historians and everyone to debate
all of these issues and thus refine them into practice. Anyway, if you
choose to post; I'll follow up, naturally, with a defense of my
pie-eyed open-museum utopianism :)
Seriously, though, you open up a lot of good questions, not just for
the book as an artifact, but for how we approach the larger problems.
Thanks and onward!
Samek Art Museum
Lewisburg, PA, 17837
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