It seems that there is a need for an analytical stategy for new media
criticism, as this is a recurring theme I hear coming from many colleagues.
Although I hardly have any overarching thoughts on the subject, there are a
number of localized concerns that come to mind.
First, it seems that many of those analyzing technological art, or
attempting to do so are viewing these works through the mindset of previous
modes of expression, such as painting. Although you can refer to previous
art forms as departure points for a discussion of certain works, you just
cannot consider the works in equal terms. This is shocking to me, as the
same critic would probably tell you that you cannot consider sculpture and
video through the same sets of parameters.
There is a second component to this issue of a lack of articulation of a
rigorous new media critique in that historical/historiographical practic (at
least in the States and Europe) is currently inadequate to rising to the job
of analyzing these works. By and large teh common mode of approach is that
of the common tactic of 20th century historians- that is, technique as mode
of production. Yes, the mgihty brush stroke you hated to study in college
is alive and well, and trying yo be applied to new media. Such an analysis
is terribly limited, as it largely ignores the cultural context within which
such works emerge. It's as if the computer is the new brush, and the
important key in the analysis of the work is the specific technique used in
the mode of production.
My opinion is that a more comprehensive historiographical strategy would be
to also consider the cultural milieu of the technology and artist sot hat
they are not only an extension of their McLuhanist prosthesis. Of note in
the study of new media art are not only the mode of production, but the
sociocultural influences that frame the work. Considering current practices
of art history, I would pose that this would be a relatively avant-garde
shift in tactics, but not one that is all too radical in scope, as the
historians with whom I have been discussing this topic with are being held
hostage by the previous operational mindsets they have been working under.
I speak very loosely when I say this, but the brush stroke served the
analysis of painting (and remember I speak euphamistically here) but the
computer is not a brush. Also, and this is something I should have stressed
earlier in this missive, the staggering number of genres within the scope of
computer mediated art, and the larger genre of technological art defies such
generalization. Note that I emphasized that computer mediated art does not
encompass the whole of technological art, which I believe that the less
well-informed are want to do.
In closing, I wholly agree that a shift in strategy is sorely needed for the
analysis of new media art. Although I am sure that there are a number of
ways that could serve this cultural function, a broader contextual view, not
only encompassing modes of mediation and production, but also in terms of
the societal milieu surrounding the work could be an approach that would
serve as an alternative mode of discourse..