Monday, 10 August 2009

Future Art, Beyond Traditional Concepts


Promises, By Starax Statosky - Image courtesy Sl-Art-News

I was inspired by this recent TED talk about "Art that looks back at you". It seems the potential for expression of art is limited only by our imagination.

Modern technology allows for new forms of art to be created, but by this I don't just mean different painting techniques using sophisticated software, but entirely new concepts. We can now use computers, robotics, and perhaps even biological manipulations to create new expressions and to represent profound ideas.

Where chemistry created the medium of fireworks, biology can now take us on previously unthinkable artistic journeys. Extreme body modification such as this seen in bmezine, shows identical twins who experiment with transplanting each other's limbs in the wrong places on each other's bodies. And you thought your tattoo made you "transhuman".

Imagine glowing implants, far more beautiful and colourful than any tatoo, animating through your skin. Or perhaps circuitry can be connected directly to your nerve endings, performing actions such as flashes or movements when fired by your brain? Why stop at replacing lost limbs when entirely new body parts can be added, not just for functionality, but for aesthetic appeal?

Body modifications and upgrades are just the beginning. Manipulating our cells and DNA can provide all sorts of potential, from reptile skin to the ability to spin spider silk.

However, despite seemingly unlimited potential for body upgrades, the possibilities fade in comparison to the artistic potential opened up by virtual reality. We've already seen body manipulation here, this is nothing new. What is really exciting about virtual reality is its potential to rewrite the very meaning of existence.

In virtual reality, art can be represented in a more interactive way than in reality. Creations that allow interaction can achieve artistic concepts with both their interactive configuration and their feedback. For example, a large virtual book can read out poetry and vary the tone according to the actions of the user.

Yet neither the interaction nor the feedback needs to be confined by the restraints of reality. The book can be replaced by a metaphor, as can the feedback, and even the interaction. Such concepts that we take for granted, such as time and space, need not even apply in virtual art.

In this technological world, a wonderland of possibilities exist to create a whole new paradigm of art.

Monday, 2 March 2009

How Social Data can Manipulate Society

What are the implications of storing a complete record of your life online?

More than likely, you'll be halfway towards this already. Facebook has your friends. Google has your search history, your emails and your documents. Microsoft has your chat history. Last.fm has your taste in music. Delicious has your interests. Twitter has your random thoughts. And all this is voluntary. Imagine what they may be doing with this data, when it's all brought together, what will it tell them about you? It's no surprise that Google is buying everything.

Of course it's worrying, but I suppose it's not the end of the world if some big corporation has your information. It's not even anything new, credit card companies have been doing it for decades.

The issue now though is that the information mined is more detailed and complete than it's ever been before. And it's all owned by American companies. Companies who, thanks to the patriot act, have to hand over any information the US government asks for.

However, the problem is not what they will do with one person's information. It's what they will do with all of it.

Social control is a relatively simple practice. It's been done for centuries, convincing societies to go to war, to do the bidding of the elite.

If a government or political entity knows enough about its society, it can play off its fears, play up to its desires, and essentially manipulate the populace with counter-information spread via media, both social and mainstream. It can drive sentiment, spread rumours, and shape the information people have access to.

This is not a new practice, but it has become a lot easier, a lot more specific. Now that various aspects of our personalities are recorded, it has become much easier to focus in on specific hopes and fears. It should not seem far fetched that this information could be used for very specific political purposes.

Monday, 1 December 2008

How Technology is Advancing too Fast For Art


Retro gaming is a bizarre phenomenon. Being a technology driven medium, games go through generations in just a few years. However, the differences between generations is more profound than technological advances. It seems that more advanced possibilities change the entire landscape of gaming culture.

Retro gaming is a growing trend, but it is becoming hard to define. There are so many generations of games now, all differing so significantly, that the definition of retro changes according to age, tastes, and personal nostalgia. It's not enough to simply say "Retro means old" any more.

The reason for this blurring of definition, is that games advanced so fast, that human creativity couldn't even keep up. To understand this, remember how old 8-Bit games had such primitive sound, yet the creators did what they could to make the sounds good. We still remember the old music with fondness, not as impressed by today's music that was created with no limitations.

It was the limitations that made the old games so good. It forced the creators to focus on gameplay, and on doing as much as they could with the little they had. Of course, as technology advanced so rapidly, game creators didn't need to do this for long. It's this limited time frame that seems to have inspired the retro-remake scene.

Just as there are some people who perform entire concerts using the original Game Boy, there are others who are remixing old music in a modern style, yet keeping the original feel. And now, the entire community of Street Fighter fans came together to make an updated, but still-true-to-its-original-form, version of Street Fighter 2.

What these ventures go to show, is that there is a lot of potential for art if we look back at opportunities missed. There is so much left unexplored because of the incredible acceleration of technology. There are so many possibilities that have passed us by, not just in art, but in culture, and in application of technology. A prime example of this would be the Nintendo Wii, it ignores the advances of technology and focuses on providing new experiences, new solutions.

So why not stop waiting for tomorrow, and take a look around? Why not try and do the best we can with what we have, embracing limitation for a moment before eradicating it?

Otherwise, the doors will be broken down before we've had a chance to explore the room.



Thursday, 20 November 2008

Turning VR Inside Out



This video shows how RFID can help improve control over stock inventory both in real world and virtual world situations. With the current state of virtual reality, it's unlikely that virtual supermarkets will take off. They're just too...clunky. However, one distinct possibility is a reversal. Computer controlled reality.

RFID will play a large part in this. The data it will provide will change the way we look at reality. By reporting and recording our locations and activities, it will digitise us - turning us into real life avatars.

In virtual reality, everything we do can be recorded. The software can record our every movement and interaction. This will soon be possible in real life, thanks to RFID and our interactions with computer interfaces.

Real life benefits will get us to adopt the data collection methods without question. Contact lenses or eventually brain modifications of some kind could provide us with a computer interface while in the real world. In the meantime, we'll have to make do with the iPhone. Right click a person on the street to see that person's shared details - subscribe to their Twitter feed or download their blog. Perhaps they could, from time to time, broadcast from their own eyes, allowing you to essentially inhabit their body. Extreme sports participants could make a fortune out of this, especially once physical sensations can be shared.

The information recorded about us will then take a similar shape to credit card records of the present, only far more in depth. This is not conspiracy paranoia, this is based purely on the corporations' desires (and our own) to record our data. Our purchases already provide a profile of us. In the future, our travel could be logged to provide "statistical data" for the authorities. Our work history and qualifications could be recorded in new and interesting ways. An extremely in-depth analysis of our health could be recorded on a continual basis and shared with our doctor. With enough information about enough of our actions, and the profile that is put together could eventually create some serious possibilities. What if our past could be mapped out so accurately that our future could be predicted?

Think about it; if you know the exact position, mass, and direction of every particle in the universe, in theory you should be able to predict their next moves, based on what is around them and the current laws of physics. Although chaos theory puts a dampener on this, human beings are far more predictable. With enough historical and psychological data on a person, which can be collected post hoc in a triple blind test method, we can provide immensely powerful speculation techniques. Prediction of entire populations needn't be far behind.

But you don't need me to tell you about this. Isaac Asimov's been talking about it for years. I just don't think he imagined we'd make it so easy.