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Feb 19, 2007

I4: Interactivity / Information / Interfaces / Immersion



From Networked Performance


I4: Interactivity / Information / Interfaces / Immersion: International Research Conference, J W Goethe University, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology: Organized by the Research Network for Media Anthropology / FAME, Frankfurt: October 24-26, 2007.

Even before the emergence of social software, web logs and wikis, it was clear that digital communication technologies are, in essence, complex social software programs with the power to change people's perception, the way people experience their environment, their ability to abstract, their rules of trust, and much more besides. Whereas the 1980s and 1990s were marked by "quasi-social" connections between people that occurred en passant, by strategies of urban artistic "repurposing" (Digital Amsterdam), by a conspiracy of Internet-using consumers, and by a user-based cyber society, the situation has now changed fundamentally.

There has been a shift from technology-driven systems to media-driven systems and then to user/project-generated content. As the empiricism of the artificial becomes a global given, social, cultural, economic and political frames of reference are shifting. Countless new and unparalleled means of modeling social factors are emerging within a mesh of agencies around the world. Digital natives - those who have grown up with computer and internet applications - have spawned a societal and cultural paradigm shift. Societal and cultural geography is being extended by a global scenography of cultural artifacts. However, this raises important issues concerning the logic of the continuity of interaction, of a reliable and sustained presence, of adaptive learning and abstraction - issues that have become social markers in the programming, utilization, and onward development of applications, platforms and environments.

Increasingly, today's designs and programs for digital worlds face the challenge of delivering complex, multisensory, transcultural, and global interaction capabilities in a robust technology-based environment. The changes are creating a need for the explicit modeling of human collaboration and cultural interaction which, increasingly, is causing software production to move out of the high-tech niche of computer science and media design into the realm of cultural and social anthropology. At the same time, there is a growing need to know more about the logic of construction (v. Glaserfeld) of culture and to be able to apply that knowledge. The need for explicit and programmable cultural concepts is moving closer to the science of the artificial as proposed by Herbert A. Simon and echoes Norbert Elias's call for the scientific presentation of a developmental theory of abstraction.

Clearly, it would be wrong to assume that explicit, programmed models for collaboration, the creation of cultures, abstraction and artificial environments can eradicate the complexities of chance relationships, interaction, imagination, fiction, routine, or forgetfulness. Nonetheless, the possibilities they offer will be changed fundamentally by the emergence of programmed worlds and environments. All over the globe, artificial cybernetic spaces are something now taken for granted. Computer technology is designed to be ubiquitous, and the direct control of computers by means of brain waves is supplanting control by means of a pointing device or the human eye. Presence and telepresence, key concepts in earlier research, are receding into the background with the advent of computer technologies which can be inserted under the skin, into clothing, and into the eyes and ears or can generate realities in their own right without which the frames of reference of today's and tomorrow's realities will become meaningless. Ten years ago, S. Jones asked, "Where are we when we are online?" and J. Meyrowitz noted "being elsewhere." Electronic games, e-sports, and around a billion people working in countless local area networks all exist in a vireality (M. Klein). What are the living, communication and working circumstances in these virealities? How should virtual spaces be designed in order to provide sufficiently complex environments for perception, design, decision-making, routine, trust, etc.? 

The > I4 

We assume that all human sensory and mental capabilities and the ability to abstract, conceive and implement things are, and have been, involved in the development of human ability to use media.

The concept of media encompasses perception, abstraction, storage, rules for the retention of information - of texts and holytexts, the great sagas, manifestations of cultural memory - and progression beyond existing knowledge paradigms. It is impossible to determine how perception and interaction will impact on media, either qualitatively or quantitatively. If the notion of a uniting organization is seen as a selection method or principle, the weight of these ideas becomes clear. They show that every form of interactive reciprocity is a selector and that the uniting force of interactivity lies in the definition of selection, distribution and retention criteria. This applies to methods of hearing, reading, writing, tasting, thinking, making music, and much more besides.

Increasingly, we expect and demand more from media - more information, more breadth of choice, more freedom of choice, more world, more closeness, more entertainment, more biography, more community: We want media to address us, entertain us, inform us. This is about more than consuming media. Our sense of reality has long since been subsumed into a sense of media; our sense of reality is embodied in our sense of media. We take the world presented through media seriously, we recognize the reality of information; we trust the information and the rules that make it credible.

The conference will be devoted to questions surrounding digital environments and the technology-based generation of cultural patterns in four areas: Interactivity / Information / Interfaces / Immersion.

We invite submissions which explore these issues and offer answers to such questions as:

What connections can we currently identify between software development and cultural evolution? What significance can be attached to co-evolutionary processes in perception, abstraction, forms of virtualization, digital technologies and communication capabilities? What kinds of virtual spaces are developing? How are digital communication spaces influencing urbanization processes and the architecture of buildings? What significance does game software have in creating new social and cultural contexts? What kinds of cooperative and collaborative processes are developing? What are the defining properties of an explicit model of social constructs in a technology-based media environment? How are means of digital communication influencing children's and adults' living spaces and interior architecture? How can a transition from the idiocy of the masses and the knowledge of the crowd into a knowledge-generating virtual community be explained? Can we see signs of an emerging virtual civilization? How will network-integrated community building be important in the future? How are learning and the structure and legitimation of knowledge changing?

Please submit ideas for topics and papers (500 words max.) by March 31, 2007

Initiators and contacts:

Prof. Manfred Faßler
FAME - Frankfurt/ Research Network for Media Anthropology, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology J W. Goethe University fasslermanfred[at]aol.com

Dr. Mark Mattingley-Scott
Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
J W. Goethe University

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