Who’s More Psychedelic: Artists Or Technologists?

Some interesting ideas for discussion raised by Douglas Rushkoff, relating to computers, technology, programming, psychedelics, art and artists:


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6 Comments on "Who’s More Psychedelic: Artists Or Technologists?"

    • Liam_McGonagle | May 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |

      I may be inclined to agree–if your post is intended to emphasize the timeless character of the themes and archetypes that seem to create some kind of pre-technological mental framework for the human mind.

      But I think Rushkoff may be more emphasizing the powerful new level of interactivity introduced by technologists.  Rushkoff’s a pretty amazing thinker, and I often have a hard time drawing out the full implications of his ideas, so I’m going to take personal responsibility for my interpretation, and not try to reduce or distort his ideas here to a gross simplicity.

      I think Rushkoff’s saying that technologizing art radically expands its impact by enhancing the level of identification experienced by the audience.  When the user is given carte blanche to manipulate the artefact toward his or her own chosen purposes, to accomplish some practical end outside of mere aesthetic contemplation, it has a multiplicative effect on the user’s engagement.

      Traditional arts can do this to some extent if they are able to carefully straddle the space between provocation and thoughtfulness.  But it will always be much more difficult, because the appeals of such essentially passive media are much narrower, demanding a lot more sophistication and initiative from the audience.  You might say, accordingly, that the engagement/energy expended ratio is not optimal in comparison to technologized art.

      • anechoic | May 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

        Some thoughts:
        I think he presents a false dichotomy to a certain extent since the space for programming is quickly being closed off at the hands of Apple. People are rapidly losing the opportunity to program since corporations are quickly reducing most ‘personal computing’ to pushing buttons, swiping amoebic shapes around a screen on a tablet or asking Siri about the weather. These sorts of technologies do not promote mastery or critical thinking.The path computing is taking these days is the smartphone/iPad/Fisher-Price i.e. dumbed down device interface where there are no filesystems, everything is walled off in a safe gated community where the user is kept from accessing anything dangerous or complicated under the hood and UI’s borrow freely from video games. I have been involved with programming & electronics in one way or another since 1977 and have seen the arts ride along side and utilize many different stages of technology. What we are being fed now are candy coated devices where the user is shut out of the process of molding, shaping, customizing or really engaging with their environment (& why I use Linux), and most of the so-called engagement you refer to is nothing more than stealth corporate manipulation of ‘directed attention’ which is predetermined by a marketing dept somewhere driven by focus groups and accountants.I have come to the conclusion after 30 years of being an electronic/computer music composer that much of what the digital art you see and hear online these days are artifacts made by attention-starved people trying desperately to ape their peers for the accumulation of online social capital…to wit: peruse Soundcloud where you’ll find entire buildings stuffed with hard drives bursting with mediocre me-too content.

        Technology is great but it is merely a tool – like a printing press or a paint brush or a camera – but most people have been hoodwinked into the marketing hype that they too can be creative and if they buy Apple’s newest gewgaw they too will become an ‘artist’, a member of the ‘creative class’ (hipster) without having to struggle on the aesthetic plane or spend years and years of work learning to use a tool to actualize their active imagination and not merely crank out gigabytes of disposable me-too content. 

        It seems to me that digital technology has morphed into an advertising platform for social networking. A friend of mine once quipped: ‘Every piece of music made with Ableton Live is merely a advertisement/jingle for the company.’

        To remix McLuhan: ‘the medium is no longer the message. The tool has become the message.’So in one way Mr Rushkoff is spot-on with his clarion call of ‘program or be programmed’ (and yes I’ve read the book) but I think he needs to be include in his futurist vision the current iPadification of personal computing.

        Within my own work as an artist I’m attempting to develop a more Gebserian integral consciousness.

        • Now this argument here is an argument I have with myself alot. I have to say I don’t think I like the side of it you’ve chosen to stand on (right now anyway, tomorrow I’ll probably feel more than ever the burning resentment I normally feel of the ‘popular kids’ in music). It’s like you’re putting yourself on this superior pedestal amongst all those pathetic fools that even attempt the creative process, and on most days I’d say you’re right, fuck those assholes because they have no idea what it’s like to  -suffer- for art, not like you and me. But today, I think most people have the ability to create and express inspiration, but these… elitist I suppose…. distinctions are what dissuade people from even trying. “Well you know… it’s not like I’m ever gonna be a musician.” “I suck at maths, but fuck it, it’s not like I’m ever gonna be a mathematician.” Self-fulfilling prophecy much? And it’s not like the majority of people around you don’t reinforce that.

          I hate this commercialism of music too though… I pains me to see sweet mother harmony and potent father rhythm whored for vulgar profit, but I take the opposite stance that something awesome happened with that – more people picking up this truly amazing and enriching art form. Nirvana, although I was never too much of a fan, was one of the first steps towards this, giving guitars back to people who were born without a wealthy family and classical music education. Think of the kid who has to live through total, utter crap but can come home to ableton cos some mate gave them a pirate copy of ableton or fruityloops and make some beats for an hour or two to help them forget about the shitty fucking world they have to endure every day, or come home and strum out some power chords, whatever. I mean, look at rap… from what I’ve read came about as a means of self-expression that can be done, anywhere, anytime, with no expensive instrument and can pretty much be intuitively self-taught. I think that’s a beautiful thing.

          And who defines ‘good’ music and ‘mediocre’ music anyway? Is it not more our own self-loathing that defines these terms for us? I hate myself for writing crap music all the time… it’s easy to turn that on everyone else.

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