September 28th, 2008
Cross-posted at Brooklyn is Watching.
This week, the Brooklyn is Watching podcast focused on a number of works, including Selavy Oh’s conceptual “Attractive Art.” smARThistory’s video podcast (see below) took up that work (literally a tractor beam pulling us to an underwater corner of the sim), and expanded the discussion a bit more, tying it to issues Jay raised about attention at Brooklyn is Watching — an un-curated space where all the art left there by its creators vies for our attention both in Second Life, and in an art gallery (Jack the Pelican Presents) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Selavy Oh’s work also seems to comment on the “attention economy.” New questions arise like, what, if any, differences arise in the “attention economy” inside virtual worlds?
Oh, and of course Selavy Oh’s name recalls Duchamp’s female alter-ego, Rose Selavy.
The economy of attention not only looks back on an ancient pre-history, it also has a long industrial history. It was pre-industrial as long as publication technologies were either of the handicraft type or, respectively, had not yet permeated the entire economy. Attention economy reached its early industrial phase when the first, relatively simple information and communication technologies developed. The technology of printing, radio broadcasting and sound film for the first time assembled critical amounts of anonymously donated attention, turning the star cult into a mass phenomenon. It was then that the business of attraction became professionalised, that deliberate eye-catching became industrial in advertising. We may speak of a phase of full industrialisation since the advent of television. There, the secondary, i.e. the viewers’ aspect of reality specially created to attract attention, is beginning to compete with the primary aspect, directly perceived reality. During this last phase, most of the freely disposable, i.e. consuming attention passes through the various media; popularisation, i.e. mass production of prominence, arises. And during this phase there are also first indications that attention income is beginning to have greater weight than money income.
For attentive beings like us, only that which retains our attention is real. This in turn does not mean that everything we imagine or think of is real for us. We are very well able to distinguish between perception, recollection and imagination. But we are not as easily able to stop some recollection acting like a real event, or to prevent an idea from exerting real power.
There is nothing more real than images which stick to the mind. Nothing exerts greater power over us than that which forces us to take attentive note. Everything to which we inadvertently pay attention, inadvertently exerts some effect on us. And everything that captures our attention is real to a higher degree than the background. To be sure, there is little in the media which sticks to the mind. Luckily, there is no obligation to pay attention, either. But there is enough which attracts, which caters to laziness, which may be taken in on the side. And everything in which attention gets entangled becomes, first of all, real in a subjective sense.
Herbert Simon was perhaps the first person to articulate the concept of attention economics when he wrote:
…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it” (Simon 1971, p. 40-41).
Is there also some homage here (in Selavy Oh’s small cube at the end of the tractor beam which says “Look at This”) to the famous imperative “Drink Me” in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? And should we be worried, as Alice was?:
There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she went back to the table, half hoping she might find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: this time she found a little bottle on it, (`which certainly was not here before,’ said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words `DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say `Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do THAT in a hurry. `No, I’ll look first,’ she said, `and see whether it’s marked “poison” or not’; for she had read several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they WOULD not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if your hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger VERY deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked `poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.
September 21st, 2008
We had been following Brooklyn is Watching with great interest for some time now. So, we were thrilled when Jay van Buren left us a comment here, and then graciously invited us to guest podcast with some Brooklyn is Watching regulars. We had a GREAT time talking about SL art with Boris Kizelshteyn, Shirley Marquez and Jay. We found their differing perspectives created a tremendously exciting prism of ideas. We also realized that by bringing together this group to grapple with the art that is brought to Brooklyn is Watching, Jay has, in effect, created a post-modern salon.
Salons have historically been most successful when culture is at a point of radical disjunction when traditional modes of meaning formation are strained. Salons provide an ongoing discussion where new and radical ideas can be viewed, assessed, and eventually understood. Is it possible that Jay has undertaken just such a effort? While we have only spent a short time with Jay and his group, it was clear to us that the underlying impulse the other night was not one of familiar ideas being comfortably rehashed, rather there was a subtle sense of urgency, that we were all seeking each others assistance as we, together, sought to understand what art in Second Life could be and what makes it important.
What we have done here is to create another podcast–with video–using snippets of our podcast with the BiW folks. It seems to us that BiW is approaching the art of Second Life very much the way we have looked at art here on smARThistory, by exploring it through conversation.
To listen to Jay’s entire unedited hour-long podcast, go to Brooklyn is Watching.
To listen to our podcast, click below:
September 3rd, 2008
An enhanced podcast about Jean (Hans) Arp’s Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance), 1916-17 (MoMA)
September 1st, 2008
An enhanced podcast about Giacometti’s The Palace at 4am, 1932 (MoMA).