Vision Beneath Light

Sono lieto e orgoglioso di pubblicare su questo blog l’interessante e, com’è costume del professor Tom Sherman, provocatorio saggio sul futuro dell’arte. Ringrazio Tom per avermi concesso di proporre il suo scritto agli amici di FP.

VISION BENEATH LIGHT

by Tom Sherman

In 1995 I began writing a text called “Thoughts from the Antechamber” (on the future of art). It was a controversial, polarizing text among private readers and was eventually rejected by a couple of hard copy magazines for its politically incorrect observations and for a series of other perhaps unavoidable misunderstandings. Its only public exposure came when it was adopted as a “curatorial statement” for a show, Temple of the Third Millennium, organized by Graham Crawford for Urban Exile in Sydney, Australia, and was published on their now defunct web-site in January 1996. I begin the substance of this muse by quoting from the last endnote of this earlier text:

“Art will appear to become more and more like itself in the 21st Century. The traditions and conventions imposed by Art history will pigeonhole artists into a realm of very limited behavior. The Art pigeonhole is already surrounded by Managerial Science, pan- capitalism’s ultimate instrument of control. Artists may choose to exist in this anachronistic Art conservation area, as an endangered species, or they may evolve strategies for escaping the pigeonhole. Perceptual and conceptual strategies, the underlying code of all advanced art in the 20th Century, offer multi-sensory and non-retinal paths into underdeveloped art territories in the 21st Century and beyond:

The Multi-Sensory Path: digital multi-media has potential as a return to perceptualism, as a multi-sensory, immediate, interactive rejection of the conceptual and theoretical path. Ultimately digital multi-media is going to run parallel to analogical perceptualism (post-literate or post- conceptual awareness). Virtual reality, as the potential zenith of digital multi-media, will amount to the detailed construction of a realistic second nature.

The Non-Retinal Approach: conceptual paths are tied to fading print literacy and theory, perhaps a domain of an elite holding onto an abstract, arcane concept of privacy with accompanying sensory deprivation. Non-retinal art, whether alphanumeric, oral or acoustic, is a denial of visual sensuality and as such it offers a clear option to the self-imposed limitations and vulnerabilities of visual Art, that Art looking more and more like Art everyday in the Art pigeonhole.”


This endnote was designed to open a window, an escape hatch, permitting artists to evade the pigeonhole of Art (the art of historical reference–that art which is unquestionably art in a conventional, traditional, historical sense). For clarity, let me repeat and expand these two paths of departure:

Option 1: the Multi-Sensory Path. Digital multi-media has potential as a return to perceptualism, as a multi-sensory, immediate, interactive rejection of the conceptual and theoretical path. This is the sensual approach. The strategy is to seduce the viewer/listener with the richness of how things look, sound and feel, preferably simultaneously. If the audience is challenged with complex sensory information in high fidelity, ideas or concepts are superfluous and unnecessary. Ultimately digital multi-media will run parallel to and in sync with the phenomenon of analogical perceptualism (the post-print-literate or post-conceptual awareness prevalent in young audiences today). Virtual reality, as the potential zenith of digital multi-media will amount to the detailed construction of a realistic second nature. VR promises to eventually deliver an environment of total perceptual seduction.

Option 2: the Non-Retinal Approach. This is perhaps the ’shortsighted’ approach, as younger audiences demonstrate a complete rejection of art or information forms lacking high levels of sensual stimulation (high degrees of retinal or tympanic stimulation). It is obvious that conceptual paths are tied to fading print literacy and ideas (theory), perhaps a domain of print-literate elite holding onto an abstract, arcane concept of self, exclusiveness and privacy. From an opposing sensualist’s perspective, any reduction or self limitation in volume or fidelity of sensory complexity is an incomprehensible move towards sensory deprivation. Non-retinal art, whether alphanumeric, oral or acoustic, is a denial of visual sensuality and as such it offers a clear option to the self-imposed limitations and vulnerabilities of visual Art, that Art looking more and more like Art everyday in the Art pigeonhole.

In recent years a number of artists have chosen to take Option 2, the Non-Retinal Approach. Visual and media artists have migrated into radio, the internet, the World Wide Web, and any number of immaterial and physical public spaces…the cultural hinterlands… Even television has this potential (as it continues to disintegrate into more and more specialized channels). Artists disperse from the traditional art zones and seek the resources and more importantly the new contexts they need to survive and prosper. History is spatial and psychological and this evasion of the pigeonhole of Art has been occurring for some time now.

When artists find themselves in these wide-open territories, they meet musicians, composers, theoreticians, writers, performers, disenfranchised bureaucrats, independent curators and audiences with fewer preconceptions and far less restrictive cultural filters.


MAKING THINGS SIMPLE (AND PERSONAL)

But rather than attempt to control the story scores of artists and musicians, composers and theorists were authoring collectively in Vienna during Kunstradio’s Recycling the Future, IV, let me focus on things more personal… I offer a few questions and will spend the rest of this text trying to answer them:

Why do visual artists and visually-biased media artists find the medium of radio so attractive? In this era when advertising executives affectionately refer to audiences as numerical sets of ‘eyeballs’, in the visual and media arts we see filmmakers, video artists and computer animators migrating into predominantly or even exclusively sonic zones of operation. What are the benefits of this auto-amputation of sight and abandonment of visual representation?

This story, for me, begins back in 1974, when I was a young artist living and working in Toronto. I was conducting an investigation into mid-20th century research into sensory and perceptual deprivation. Sensory and perceptual deprivation research was all the rage back in the fifties and sixties. It was a combination of a paranoid, cold war fascination with brainwashing following WWII and the Korean War and the energized period of time surrounding the development of perceptual psychology. This period marked the time when a scientific, behaviourist approach was taken towards understanding new media and their effects.

My personal investigation was driven by a very simple problem. I had taught myself to write by writing explicit, visually descriptive prose. I wrote hundreds of short texts, all characterizing absolutely silent acts of visual perception. The silence inherent in this visually-biased work made me realize that for me there was no connection between writing and speaking. I had no sense of my voice when I wrote. I sat in the dark and listened–and there was nothing. I could not write with my inner ear. Writing for me was entirely a visual experience.

This realization led me to experiment with ear plugs and sound-proof ear-muffs. But there was still not the faintest whisper. Nothing worked until I started experimenting with a Ganzfeld. A Ganzfeld is an even, monochromatic field of light. If you take an ordinary ping-pong ball and cut it in half and place these two halves over the eyes, and then look into a bright source of light, from a lamp or window, you load your visual perceptual system with an even source of white light. There are no objects to be seen. There are no figure/ground relationships. Light pours into eyes unable to ’see’ in conventional terms. In this state I was able to first imagine the weakest presence of my inner voice. I may have just imagined it at first. But after several attempts I found my voice and I could finally hear my thoughts come to life. I remember how I felt whole, for the first time.

STRATEGIES FOR RECOVERY

In this age of digital multimedia, human perception is often challenged by dense, multi-layered audio/visual/data information displays often more perceptually demanding than the two predominant media environments of our time, cinema and television. This is certainly true of Option 1: Multisensory strategies for making art. The density and power of simultaneous, multi-sensory messages is complicated further by demands for interaction and strategies for environmental integration (installation). In other words, the Option 1: Multisensory approach seeks to fill (or overload) the human perceptual apparatus while integrating the audience with the work (interactivity) and in connecting the work (and audience) with the immediate environment (installation).

My research into sensory or perceptual deprivation was of course a reductive approach, more akin to the Option 2: Non-Retinal approach to art making. By reducing stimuli or closing off much of what I normally perceive of the world–or more specifically by letting light without external images into my eyes and listening to silence–I was able to hear just a whisper of my inner voice, of my commentary, my thoughts, my ideas.

BY ELIMINATING VISUAL IMAGE I ELUDED THE POINT-TO-POINT LOGIC OF A TIGHTLY-BOUND RATIONAL CONSTRUCTED SPACE AND FOUND NEW OPEN-ENDED PERSPECTIVES IN THE ASSOCIATIVE, ANALOGIC, TRANS-RATIONAL TERRITORY OF AUDITORY SPACE

Within this unusual perceptual state (VISION ABSENT/SOUND ABSENT) things were fresh and new and they were quite naturally horizontal or lateral, clearly emphasizing the possibilities at the periphery. One thought drifted into another and I was surprised by the lack of order, direction or logic. It was as if the voice that translated my thoughts into sound was being fueled by the energy of the neutral light. As I searched for form in the spatial void of the Ganzfeld, and my idling visual system was oscillating with futile attempts to establish figure-ground stability, I simply noticed that I was thinking differently, not being governed by the point-to-point order of my normal sight.

Basically I was escaping from my visual bias. I had been perceiving the world as the human equivalent of the visual art gallery or museum. I was sick, or perhaps more fairly, perceptually malformed, the way these visual art spaces are perverse with their clinical white walls and their deafening silence. People whisper when they look at the visual art, like they are in church. Radio is the antithesis of the silent visual art space, it is a strange zone where there are no pictures, no visuals. Of course we mix our radio with life, when we listen in our kitchens or when we are driving to work or later while we listen at work. Galleries and museums rarely mix life with their silence. If you want a demonstration of what I’m spelling out, just take your favourite radio program into a gallery with a boom-box-a-blaring and see how people react!

Somehow I had become like the human equivalent of an art gallery or a museum. My Ganzfeld experiments made me realize my perceptual apparatus was seriously unbalanced. It was time to tilt my world the other way, towards my sense of hearing.

Before you decide that my return to this period of rather eccentric personal research is ’senseless’, let me outline some of the research I barely touched on in 1974. While this early, mid-20th century, perceptual/behaviourist research is clearly treating people like rats, almost humourously so, I’m reinvesting in this obsessively clinical scientific literature because of its now almost refreshing biophysical bias. Humans were looked at as animals back then. Animals that were bioelectrical receivers of symbols, signals and noise.

THE HUMAN BEING AS A PRIMARY TARGET FOR THE RECEPTION AND STORAGE OF INFORMATION

In the past fifty years psychology seems to have evolved from a study of rats to a study of computers! But let’s pretend that the human mind has always been and remains central to the study of psychology. And to help make this fantasy vibrant in 1997/98, I’m looking back, viewing this mid-century clinical research as the rough sketches of a schematic diagram of the human being as a primary target for the reception and storage of information. In any case, I found the literature far richer than I had remembered it to be …

THE RESEARCH ITSELF

From “Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research”, edited by John P. Zubek, Appleton-Century Crofts (New York, 1969):

Fantasies were about four times as frequently reported in conditions of ‘vision absent/sound present’ (versus ‘vision present/sound absent’). (Zubek, p. 52)

In these studies ‘vision absent’ was accomplished with Ganzfeld goggles (providing invariate visual stimulus); ’sound present’ conditions were created with headphones issuing white noise with varying drumbeats mixed in. ‘Sound absent’ conditions were an even flow of white noise. ‘Vision present’ conditions were simply goggles with clear lenses, permitting sight of the immediate environment.

In other words, tipping the sensory balance towards the ear will likely stimulate ‘fantasies’. Where I did find I could easily induce vivid daydreaming within the silent state of my Ganzfeld, the greater gain (in retrospect) was finding a sense of inner voice and a connection between thinking and speaking and forming an analogous, lateral, non- linear, para-logical, post-rational state of consciousness.

Once my inner voice became stronger (fully audible) I added instrumental music, improvisational jazz and all manner of experimental variate auditory input to my Ganzfeld.

WERE CREATIVE PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE FANTASIES?

“The results suggest that creativity is strongly related to information drive in high-creative subjects, but does so only after a considerably longer period in low-creative subjects, whose ‘chronic’ level of information drive in the extra experimental environment is presumably at a correspondingly lower level.” (Zubek, p. 192)

Put another way, more highly creative people have a greater “information drive” and get into spontaneous, internal image and sound generation (fantasy) more quickly than less creative types. It was then stipulated that “chronic” information drive was flattened by decreasing levels of stimulus variation. (Zubek, p. 199)

It is also stated that there was neurophysiological evidence that the nervous system is in constant activity and not passively waiting for arousal by stimuli. The activity of the brain itself constitutes the “drive” of behaviour. (Zubek, p. 408)

MORE ABOUT THE “INFORMATION DRIVE”

The ultimate value of sensory deprivation research is found in its contributions to behavioural theories. The motivational theories of the 1930’s placed a relatively great importance on specific physiological drives such as hunger, thirst, sex and pain avoidance. In this context, the idea of an “information drive” seems only natural.

The information drive seems to be governed by what researchers called “cross-modality effects” (Zubek, p. 200). Heavy doses of visual information may reduce the need for auditory stimulation and vice- versa. And a balance in visual/auditory information drive may be achieved through cross-modal stimulation. “There is strong evidence that the information drive in humans mediates a homeostasis of information transmission, and that the homeostasis, once disturbed by extreme values of stimulus information in a particular modality, may be reinstated, at least in part, by compensatory adjustments of the information value of stimulation in another modality.” (Zubek, p. 201)

But there are also conflicting messages in the interpretation of this research. Perceptual and sensory deprivation research was based on eliminating environmental stimulus as a means of observing the psychophysical functionality of the human subject. Balancing or shifting sensory bias, or refreshing the human information drive through strategic, additive means is a whole other story. These researchers did not attempt to formulate the cultural effects of actively alternating or weighting the modality of visual/auditory stimulus or changing the frequency and volume of same. This additive, cross-modal research was left to advertising agencies, politicians, artists, musicians and the entertainment industry.

Generally, sensory/perceptual/information deprivation researchers believed that the effects of visual auditory information satiation on information drive were complex and varied greatly from individual to individual. Most of the time visual information satiation would lead to an increased information drive for auditory stimulus and vice versa. It was generally believed that visual and/or auditory information satiation, if the stimulus was invariate (unchanging), would result in a suppression of the information drive. (Zubek, pp. 200, 201, 408)

COULD THIS CLINICAL RESEARCH BE USEFUL IN GAINING A CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE ON A CONTEMPORARY INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT IMPOVERISHED DUE TO ITS INVARIATE PHYSICAL AND SYMBOLIC NATURE?

The literature I am describing is from the arid world of mid-century clinical psychology. The authors are researchers probably best depicted in white lab coats. The symbolic nature of information during this period is best epitomized as the green squiggly electronic line representing the vibrations of speech on an oscilloscope. Television back then was exclusively black and white. Typically there were only three channels of talking heads, a constant flow of cigarette and beer commercials, automobiles with fins, tiny cowboys riding from one side of the screen to the other and the occasional fantasy about outer space. We had not yet walked on the moon. The whole Western culture was so minimal and uncluttered. Compared with today’s vibrant, densely layered, fully loaded hyper-culture, the 1950’s and early 1960’s were like one huge sensory deprivation experiment. So where’s the connection between this literature and today’s reality?

Perhaps the key to making this jump is the abstract and highly portable idea of invariate stimulus, regardless of its physical or cultural dimensions. Sure we have jettisoned the old fuzzy black and white world as we have adopted the wrap-around full-fidelity frenzy of today’s electronic culture–the pulsing, throbbing, shrieking barrage of constantly refreshed streams of symbolic code. Today, everything is always NEW, always changing, and paradoxically always the SAME. Everything is bright and shiny and jarring. As creatures who feed on information, a diet of the hyper-same makes us all poorer for our efforts–bloated but empty.

COULD CONFINEMENT IN AN IMPOVERISHED MEDIA ENVIRONMENT GENERATE BOREDOM AND MONOTONY?

The symptoms of our information feeding disorders are beginning to define a culture of human inadequacy. Strangely enough, there were signs of our inherent weaknesses in some of those research papers back in the 1950’s…

In “Sensory Restriction: Effects on Behavior”, by Duane P. Schultz, Academic Press (New York, London), 1965, Schultz reports that in 1957 a scientist named Cohen was working with a colored Ganzfeld that “utilized two intersecting spheres, both illuminated by a highly saturated red light. On first looking into the apparatus the subject sees a poorly saturated red fog. Shortly this color begins to fade and appears achromatic in about three minutes. This disappearance of color in a Ganzfeld demonstrates the vital role played by spatial inhomogeneity and temporal change in perception. (Schultz, p. 84)

“In another study restricting stimulus input to homogeneous visual stimulation, Cohen (1958) demonstrated the “white out” phenomenon (cessation of vision) under both monocular and binocular conditions… The “white out” phenomenon tended to be suppressed by factors which introduced sensory change such as blinking and eye movement and the presence of an object in the visual field.” (Schultz, p. 84)

COULD THIS BE A PRECURSOR OF SNOW CRASH OR BLANKING?

From “The Brain Benders: A Study of the Effects of Isolation”, Charles A. Brownfield, Exposition Press (New York, 1972/Note: this is a second, enlarged edition, originally published as “Isolation: Clinical and Experimental Approaches”, 1965):

There are “four general categories of isolation: confinement, separation, removal, and monotonizing of stimulation.” (Brownfield, pp. 10-11)

“Social isolation entails only the elimination or reduction of communication through the senses of one individual or group with other individuals or groups.” (Brownfield, p. 70)

“At this point it should be apparent that human beings are individually, socially, and physiologically dependent not only upon stimulation per se, but upon a continually varied and changing sensory stimulation in order to maintain normal, intelligent co-ordinated, adaptive behavior and mental functioning.” (Brownfield, p. 74)

In re-reading Brownfield’s research findings it is difficult not to form the broadest analogies about how individuals are affected by invariate stimuli and monotony. Just substitute a 1990’s cultural environment, overloaded with amplitude and density (but underloaded in terms of invariate messages), for the tightly controlled clinically impoverished environments of mid-century sensory and perceptual deprivation. Is it possible that we have accomplished the same levels of environmental impoverishment and isolation by additive rather than reductive means? Could we be witnessing widespread feelings of isolation and human inadequacy due to our loud, dense, largely repetitive, redundant, machine-induced electronic cultures?

YOUTH ARGUE FOR MORE NOISE

Today’s youth would argue for more noise and greater and greater perceptual challenges characterized by density and complexity. This is of course the traditional position of all youth now and in the past. The need for and tolerance of optimum levels of stimulation peak in adolescence. (Zubek, p. 430) High school (14-18 year olds) and traditional college-aged students (18-23) exhibit chronically low information drives, often appearing comatose during school hours, or when receiving information in single sensory modes (monotone lectures without audio-VISUAL aids = ‘vision absent/sound absent’). Their perceptual systems need quite a kick to stimulate optimum performance. This is also the case with adolescent and post-adolescent youth who drop out of school, taking minimum wage jobs or joining the ranks of the unemployed. It can be argued that these drop-outs inherently have extremely low information drives and crave even higher volume and density from cultural sources, when their perceptual systems come alive.

Typically adolescents awaken slowly (morning classes are not productive) and conduct their entire school days in states of low arousal. In the evenings they pass through their optimal performance periods immersed in multi-sensory stimulation (sometimes doing homework with their music or television in the foreground) until they experience overload and perceptual disorganization resulting in emotional disturbance. Finally they crash. Their sleep, an escape from exhaustion, appears to be deep, but is typified by high frequency/low voltage brain waves…it is a sleep without real rest. If they achieve delta sleep at all, sleep characterized by low frequency/high voltage brain activity, it is just as their alarm clocks go off. It is time to enter the numbing fog of another school or work day.

If adolescents need and can tolerate a culture of high sensory impact, younger children and adults need and seek protection from the same. A three-year old cries in terror when his or her balloon breaks. Recently in the dark spaces of a Bill Viola retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, I noticed that many children (4 to 8 years old) were completely intimidated by Viola’s video installations. The ‘fun house’ environments (dark rooms, loud audio, big bright video projections) were simply too much, they were too frightening for these kids.

The middle-aged and elderly are not frightened, but typically are plainly irritated by high amplitude and multi-sensory density and complexity characterized by today’s ‘youth culture’. Noise ordinances are designed to protect adults and young children from the excesses of youth culture and of course from the assault of general, all pervasive noise pollution. Multi-sensory art, Option 1, often occupies the territory between youth culture and levels of noise typical of urban or industrial disturbances. I must add that the middle-aged and elderly are commonly annoyed by high frequencies of image change and clearly assaultive or violent images, fearing that this amusingly reactionary muse may be interpreted as a rant against strictly auditory attacks on the human perceptual system. It is more important to recognize that most of our entertainment culture is operating on the fundamental idea that it is good to ‘fill up’ and overload the senses–to give the consumer their money’s worth! The multi-sensory approach to making art, Option 1, often takes this ‘fill them up’ and ‘overload them’ tact. While adolescent audiences never seem to get enough, young children, the middle-aged and elderly quickly suffer from overload.

COPING WITHIN MACHINE-BASED CULTURES

If it can be argued that invariate cultural environments can cause boredom through monotony and that “information drive” in a wide spectrum of society is suppressed by the same conditions, is digital multi-media with its promise of full immersion and engaging interaction really the answer? Amplification, density, supranatural fidelity and complexity may arouse for brief periods, but of course these aspects of machine-based culture and art will continue to numb down the last organic components in our home entertainment systems: namely us.

The advance of machine-based cultures is not isolated or strictly segregated from more organic cultural phenomena. Machine culture is carried into the world via portable systems, be they traditional like audio systems in automobiles, or more recent developments like boom-boxes, walkmen and disc-men, or video camcorders with LCD screens and external speakers, and all manner of wireless telecommunications devices and wearable computing … This intrusive superimposition of artificial, supranaturally loud, dense and complex electronic culture over the ‘natural’ environment is a spillover both contaminating our streets and again creating an addiction to noise. Increased levels of amplitude, complexity and control are necessary for sufficient perceptual arousal.

Whether you are harassed by the piercing electro-acoustic assault on the street or you are blissfully experiencing the cinematic-like reality induced by a discman’s clean sound in a set of full-cup headphones, both the harassed and seduced eventually share a sense of exhaustion. The cost of the unwanted or desired hyper-perceptual arousal is pretty much the same at the end of the day. We break down and experience a feeling of human inadequacy. For the harassed it is anger and fatigue in response to the assault (”I can’t take it any longer”…”I can’t think straight”).
From the position of the seduced, those deriving pleasure from an immersion in their own electronic polyphony, things are different, but strangely similar in emotional tone (”I can’t get enough”…”I can’t pay attention to anything anymore”).

To double back to the beginning of this text, I stated there were two primary, polarized, antithetical strategies for making contemporary art within machine cultures: Option 1: the Multi-Sensory Path, digital multi- media, the additive approach of filling up the senses; and Option 2: the Non-Retinal Approach, the reductionist path of eliminating sensuality by limiting the multi-sensory spectrum of the work. I have struck such a stark and elementary dichotomous model for a reason. In reality our machine cultures are so dense and disorderly in structure they are almost impossible to comprehend. The real hybrid currents of culture and art are oscillating wildly back and forth between the sensual and reductionist poles of this model. In fact an analysis of contemporary cultures and art will demonstrate permutations and hybridization galore, as reductionist positions are surrendered to sensuality and vice versa, ad infinitum. In this electronic or digital era, so much of this frenzy of hybridization is dictated by machines with their unprecedented potential for manipulation and control, new levels of fidelity in representation and fabrication, and the power of unfettered network distribution.

SENSUALITY VERSUS DEPRIVATION

Where I have obviously benefitted personally from research and experimentation within the reductionist or Non-Retinal Approach–I’ve found my voice and managed to establish a new freedom in how I think and make art–I have also pointed out that the Multi-Sensory Path is considered by most to be sexier and will likely hold the upper hand from here on out for good reason. To get any real attention in machine cultures you have to be more overtly demanding and aggressively manipulative than everyone else. That means amplitude, frequency, intensity and of course inescapable interaction and full immersion. In the noisy cultural context I have been elaborating in most of this text, stripping things down and “going quiet” or arcanely incomplete (alphanumeric codes: text, ideas, concepts, sound without image, the naked voice) seems shortsighted and ultimately futile. Reducing direct sensuality makes things symbolic and indirect.

To be perfectly blunt, taking the reductionist position will be akin to depriving one’s audience of ‘normal’ or healthy levels of sensory arousal. The reductionist strategy will be labelled “deprivationism”, and criticized as such.

Perhaps to the disappointment of all I am going to conclude with the thought that just like in life, nothing is simply black and white–and neither of these polarized strategies will yield very satisfying results in the short or long term (25- to a hundred years into the future). In fact, I infer that additive and reductive approaches will yield strangely similar results as long as the primary target for the reception and storage of information, culture or art, is the human mind (machine culture and art may be more constructively aimed at machines, not people!). As humans we are simply too physically and culturally exhausted at the end of the 20th century to express our preferences or reactions very clearly.

MACHINE CULTURES ARE INCREASINGLY DESIGNED TO ENGAGE ADOLESCENT PERCEPTUAL SYSTEMS

I link physical exhaustion with cultural concerns because it seems clear that we are creating machine cultures that treat whole populations as adolescents. Machine cultures are designed to stimulate those with chronically low information drives and like all good technological solutions, they compound the problems they are designed to fix. Injecting more noise and intensity into an audience that cannot respond due to fatigue and inadequacy is guaranteed to induce exhaustion, confusion and self doubt. There will be more and more gaps or implosions of reality where consciousness and meaning break down and disintegrate. The human perceptual system will progressively fail to negotiate the extreme, post-human realities dictated by machine-based cultures.

As punchy as we are as a species, both overload and underload will lead necessarily to anxiety, emotional disturbances, perceptual disorganization and disorientation. In short, only one thing is certain– we will increasingly experience feelings of human inadequacy as our machine-cultures continue to advance.


ADDENDUM: Trouble signs

BLANKING (OVERLOAD) Increasingly we ‘blank’ as we try to negotiate environments where multiple sources of information are mixed or blended. Multi-plexing or multi-tasking are machine traits we wholeheartedly embrace with mixed results. We love to extend ourselves but are certain to crash.

SPACING OUT (UNDERLOAD) Our attention or focus drifts when we encounter thin or low impact information environments, such as music without images, people just talking in their inherent monotones, or alphanumerically encoded information such as math and literature.

PUMPED BUT CAPPED (INFORMATION TOXICITY) In cultures where expression is limited to those with access to the skills and tools of production and means of potentially dialogic distribution (networks), active creative input is tragically blocked, and people simply clog-up and shut down if they survive at all.

PUMPED DRY (INPUTTING INTO A VACUUM) In machine-based cultures, those with the skills and means to produce and distribute cultural information often pump themselves dry, burning themselves out trying to match the scale and potential of machine-driven opportunities with their organically limited energy and efficiency.

EMPTY LANGUAGE YIELDS EMPTY EXPERIENCE Words like information, which may be the most significantly empty word ever to find widespread use, diminish the descriptive power of language and in effect reduce our understanding of the world. The expanding blank space of ‘information’ in our language is not only increasingly without shape and meaning in abstract terms, but as such empty words are applied to sub-language realities they clearly serve to eradicate the defining characteristics of our experiences in the flesh.

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Un pensiero su “Vision Beneath Light

  1. I would like to offer myself as a subject of the work you speak of above. I also believe that such states can and will add to the human experience. I have done some work myself in these avenues of experience. So should you have any interest in a subject for your project. Please drop me a line and we can talk.
    Thank you
    Clay M Harris

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