Saturday, August 27, 2016

#dqcp - alice in wonderland ::: hypermedia ::: the cross-sensory house of mirrors

Yesterday I spent another hour and a half at the Duluth Quantum Computing Project @ 3 West, an informal setting designed to stir discussion and stimulate a deeper dive into the complex and mysterious realms of cyberspace and digital technology. The theme for this week's discussions and interactions is: alice in wonderland ::: hypermedia ::: the cross-sensory house of mirrors

Here's an excerpt from the project's discussion springboard:

How do we navigate this wild space? How do we map stories onto this web? We have the tools to move about in a geolocative context ... Our stories can be mapped to place ::: accessible through location ::: existing on a map. (one can't help but see maps then through a fictional lens ::: constructed boundaries ::: colored shapes and borderlands). What does time look like in this context? Is a story's temporal arc completely dependent on the "reader's" movement through a physical space?

Navigation ::: revealing all of the corners of a story becomes an explicit challenge for a writer in this context. Linearity dissolves into trees ::: into graphs ::: into the infinite canvas. The writer defines temporal, spatial, social relationships ::: the set of axes that describes the story space ::: the navigation ::: the compass. A reader has a new power ::: a new agency ::: they become another character. The reader becomes a game-player ::: a part of the action. What is their role? narrator ::: writer ::: geographer ::: cartographer ::: investigator ::: the boatman? The reader becomes an actor (first person? second person? third person ?) do they become a story layer for future readers to encounter? do they leave their trace?

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B&W by Adam McCauley, who will soon show at DAI
As I arrived Friday noon four employees from the ARI, a local tech firm, stopped in to catch a feel for what was happening in the space. Kathy McTavish, creator of the project, welcomed them and answered questions.

This was followed by the arrival of several people who were present for the previous evening's discussion about hypermedia. "It's beautiful but difficult to navigate that space," McTavish said.

Stacie Whaley: "We talked about how hyperlinks link, the beauty of that being how easy it is to connect one thought or idea to others. Everything can be connected very easily."

Another artist there, a retired teacher (RT) who now paints, explained: "Something that wasn't on my radar was the ability of the web designer to put indicators in the code that will make make their site more surgical."

Some of the discussion circled around the labyrinthian character of cyberspace.

SW: "We also talked about cross between art and commercial realms..."

RT:  "For me it's like getting into a mindset... The career you choose based on your passion vs. your career being determined by what you are able to tolerate."

This last statement brought to mind for me the exercises in Richard Bolles' classic What Color Is Your Parachute? Step one in choosing a career has to begin with a measure of self-understanding, or as Ms. Lenz put it, knowing "what you are able to tolerate."

What makes the duluth quantum computing project so rich is the extensive collection of reading lists and information McTavish has assembled.  You can find the fodder for this week's discussions here at this page on. You'll find a list of gallery organizations, challenges of working in the digital space and examples from the work of other artists in the space.

The #dqcp as a space is designed to create an opportunity for discussion as well as personal exploration. Each week is thematic, yet to some degree undefined. In a culture where everything has been pre-chewed and processed and presented in a manner that is effortless to receive, there may be challenges in knowing how to engage the work. However, paths have been laid out and the reading material provided is extensive. Your rewards from involvement will be directly proportional to the effort you put into engaging it.

The reading list for today's topic included a link for archivists and curators of and net.writing. Part of the impetus for the development of this project was the quest to help artists preserve their work in an ever-changing digital age.

People have asked, "Why aren't there any great works of digital art?" One of the problems art galleries have is that they don't have strong IT staff. Or there is art that was created that doesn't last because software changes. But McTavish shared how some galleries and artists are addressing this. For example, the art "work" includes the instructions for making the installation.

This can be best understood by the example of theater. Shakespeare lives forever because his plays are actually sets of instructions. In its essence, Shakespeare did not write a story. He wrote descriptions of scenes, instructions for the characters to enter and exit the set, and things the various characters were supposed to say. As a result when anyone replicates these instructions we, as an audience, can experience his plays which live and speak to us today.

In the same manner there are artists who produce work that includes instructions for installation. Sol Lewitt wrote directions for people. The act of installing becomes act of creation.

Not all work is designed to be permanent. Eva Hesse, for example, works in materials that degrade over time as opposed to creating permanent sculptures of marble or bronze.

As we explored this week's theme, I was directed to the article on Narrative Graph Models and the Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games.  This latter awakened in me some of my first enthusiasms with regard to the possibilities of hypermedia and the internet.

Before the existence of the WorldWideWeb a lot of computer geeks did file-sharing in which people created programs and circulated them to friends to experience and experiment with. One program I obtained was called HyperCard, for Mac platforms. It emulated a whole new way of organizing information, so that each page could be linked in a non-linear way to any or all of the other pages in a "document." The result was an experience like what we now have on the Internet. This blog post is a page, but it contains links to a variety of other pages which then can divert you to new territories you would never have found on your own.

When the WWW came along (The visual Internet is only its latest iteration; Internet preceded the visual format we experience since html, Mosaic and Netscape emerged in 1994) I was immediately attracted to the opportunities for storytelling that were opening up. My story An Unremembered History of the World incorporated hyperlinks to "asides" in a primitive way. I also conceived of a primitive Labyrinth which began at the bottom of this page on my first website. 

When all was said and done, the #dqcp stirred in me a desire to revisit these creative new forms of storytelling. This article especially prodded me thus: Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games.

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Meantime life, and art, goes on all around you. 00110100 1010001 010 10

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EdNote: Birthday shout out to Ann Klefstad who today touched the big Six-Oh. Widely read, a much valued asset in the Duluth arts community... There is much one can learn if one took the time to rummage inside her head. Thank you for your contributions to the arts.

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