Stephanie Strickland responds in turn

Stephanie Strickland responds in turn

2004-11-05

Stephanie Strickland makes marks an intervention across the “I.”

Camille Utterback seems to share Bush’s view of the stenographer’s role, that “the main purpose of her toils” is to produce a marked tape, which is “a record of her work.” Surely we must ask whose work is captured by this tape. Only if the stenographer is a conscious saboteur, would I find the tape to represent “her” work. I would relocate “her” work, as reliable stenotypist, to the new condition of consciousness Bush aspires to, which she achieves, in order to make “his” tape.

This “interactive” consciousness includes what Rita Raley calls “movement between active apprehension and passive reception,” a very physically and mentally demanding series of constant movements, though the women who originated the stenotypist role made it look easy. This consciousness also includes positioning oneself into a social-informational-technological network, and it involves learning a code, or elaborating one, in order to do so. For the stenographer to do “her work,” she must concentrate and attend in a manner wholly different to the manner in which Bush the scholar absorbs print.

In electronic networks, path-picking is mark-making. I believe it is misleading to contrast “navigational” with “up out of her chair” movement. These are differences of scale. If I move my feet on an electronically triggered floor, my arms before a video camera, my finger on a mouse, or my eyelash at some newly-sensitive monitor, in all cases my response is moving in real time into a responding situation. I am inviting currents to move through me as I move: currents of information, of gravitational force, of electronic connection, and of a social situation are all always in play. What is most different, in new media, is that one cannot ignore any of these; there is no delimited single-channel “tower” to retreat to in order to attend.

“Reading” becomes reconfigured, yet again in its long history, and so does “writing,” without these two becoming the same. As Raley says, “the new media reader-user intermittently captures, processes, transmits, and even introduces data streams, all of which may themselves have different rhythms and tempos.” Utterback champions work where “introducing” data streams is at the forefront of interest - and I too am very interested in such work, be it games, role-play, or large-scale architectural projects. But I think the most critical differences in evolving interactivity are not located there, but in the ability to capture, process, transmit, and introduce at a satisfying oscillatory tempo, all the while maintaining what Utterback calls “human presence.” I, like Utterback, urge exploration of new interactive situations, beyond the keyboard/clicking that most people are limited to today. However, I believe that what people learn online, managing their e-networked lives, as they do their physically networked lives, will carry over into other kinds of physical computing situations.

Unanswered in any of these realms, if they be electronic, is how to preserve scuff marks and grease stains. Paper and cloth preserve these for a few hundred years, stone a few thousand. One can transiently impress one’s (reading/writing) history on an electronic network. Maybe where this quest leads is to an emergent (i.e. entirely different) kind of time-processing in the 25th century, at both the brain and social level.

I am grateful to Raley for pointing out that the “I” in my title “is not singular, encompassing as it does the reader, hypertext system, programmer, and network alike.” For me, the ethics of interactivity, the ethics for developing new interactive situations, depend upon discovering stances or points of view that can credibly represent all of the elements in a networked system. Otherwise, the play of forces we are familiar with is programmed into, engineered into, evolving scenes of interaction. To a degree, of course, this has already occurred. Can we intervene by taking up what has been called a “critical technical practice,” a critical technical artistic practice?

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