Excerpts from the book Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology

Stephen Wilson   (Segments focused on information structures)

Compiled by Stephen Wilson, Professor, CIA Program , Art Dept, San Francisco State University
###Note these links are part of the research for Wilson's  book Informati on Arts (MIT Press,2002). Please see the book for more details about the artists, organizations, and texts listed in these links and for extended analysis of the relationship of art and research.  Feel free to use these resources but please attribute source. Copyright, 1999-2002 Stephen Wilson, MIT Press

For links to artists, texts, organizations etc see Artists' Work


Chapter 7.7 Information and Surveillance

Information Management, Visualization, and Commerce; Surveillance One of the main applications of digital technology is the acquisition, storage, classification, manipulation, and retrieval of information. Digital systems afford unprecedented speed, efficiency, and reach in these operations. In benign applications such as research, information systems allow individuals to be aware of much more potentially relevant resources than ever before. Information visualization provides new tools for comprehending complex bodies of information. New sensors allow access to once unavailable parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the darker vision, information systems open the door to wide spread, panoptical surveillance and control and manipulation by corporate, governmental, and military agencies.

Some analysts elevate information to the highest medium of power and control. This era is seen as the information age. More people are employed in information work than in production of physical goods. Corporate wealth is determined more by information than real estate. Scientific method and technological development's main value is seen in their creation and tracking of information. Intellectual property is more important than physical property. Some visions propose to use ID technologies such as bar codes to track products from raw material through consumer product to ultimate disposal. They also propose to track persons from birth to death.

The analysis of these claims is complex and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this book. Many sections address elements of the analysis. Information is a slippery term. For example, almost all art could be considered information. Some artists, however, explicitly claim to be addressing issues of surveillance and information systems in contemporary society. This chapter reviews their work.

The modern multi-national corporation is a prime exemplar of the institutions created by the information age. Many artists are exploring the form of these organizations with their convergence of research, technology, telecommunication, marketing, and media. They are creating alternative art organizations as comments on the form and as competitors in mind space. Others are trying to cultivate free access to databases as information becomes property. This chapter reviews artists who comment on our culture's focus on information systems.

Databases, Research Processes

Natalie Jeremijenko

Natalie Jeremijenko creates art installations that comment on the conceptual structures that underlay large databases. She has background as both artist and engineer. She is concerned about the bases of categorization and the nature of representation imposed by computer mediated databases and data acquisition systems. She established the "Bureau of Inverse Technologies" as a fictional organization which highlights some of these concerns by initiating information projects.

Fig 7.7.5 Natalie Jeremijenko. Bureau of Inverse Technologies. Suicide Box project proposes to keep systematic live action records on suicide attempts at Golden Gate Bridge.

Natalie Jeremijenko- http://www.tech90s.net/nj/index-nj.html

She explains her desire to make visible the not so obvious meanings implicit in the design of databases and technological information acquisition systems. She asserts that no systems are neutral even though rhetoric often promotes that view.

I begin with the assertion that technologies are tangible social relations. That said, technologies can therefore be used to make social relations tangible. Technologies create the material conditions within which we work, and imagine ourselves and our identities. I am concerned with how technology is developed within a context where overarching priority is given to formal systems over content, and where the complicating and politicizing projects of postmodernity are marginalized.

I am interested in the epistemological work of current technologies. This includes what gets technological attention and what does not, what gets counted, and what gets left out. What is the political fabric of the information age? And what interventions can be made in a place where economics gets equated with politics, where diversity is rendered in homogeneous database fields, and where consumption forms identity?

In "Slit" she presents an installation in which video monitors physically are moved to illustrate filmic conventions such as zoom, pan, and the like. Her intention was to deconstruct the illusions of film and comment on research projects underway to use these conventions to characterize video information for database access. The cameras are mechanically moved to reinact film conventions thus making obvious the usually invisible manipulations of sight. Visitors "move around and find the single privileged position from which we are accustomed to viewing film." She notes "I use this project to introduce the way that cultural tradition, in this case filmic convention, becomes technical imperative, and how a tradition of representation becomes operationalized, or commodified "

One of the Bureau of Inverse Technology's major projects is the "Suicide Box". This project is presented in the same language that would be used to present a serious engineering plan. Data from its trial run is presented with appropriate statistical aplomb. The box is designed to count the number of suicides attempted off a bridge such as the Golden Gate Bridge. by using a motion-detection trigger to capture video of anything that falls. In deadpan engineering text the report recounts "A recent trial period activation yielded 17 events in 100 days... a rate equivalent to 0.17 suicides per day. "

Considering the effects of low visibility, the event rate is 0.68 suicides per day. Data captured by the Suicide Box provide an increasingly accurate measure of a social phenomena not previously adequately quantified. Using this data the Bureau has developed a new economic indicator, the Despondency Index. Dynamically updated to the Down Jones Industrial at each bridge occurrence, the Despondency Index brings the BIT data in line with the micro-attention given to market indicators. Jeremijenko analyzes the Suicide Box project for what it reveals about the political nature of data abstraction. She warns about the information conventions taken for granted in technical fields such as computer science and engineering. The politics of information is invisible in its ubiquity, and yet it has radically transformed many diverse areas of knowledge, considering the transformation effected in and with information. technology in areas such as genetics, epidemiology, risk analysis, sociology....

Consider the slogan used to advertise a new database package, "information is power"...Truth of falsity of something is seen as a property of the information such that power is the distorting lens of the information camera. Power and information are presumed extrinsic to each other and somehow independent. Fundamentally, power is not seen to affect the truth of the information, and power is not seen to contribute constructively to information.

However the account of power and information which the Bureau's research demonstrates is one in which power does not simply impinge on information from without...The very technological attention to suicide is the critical element in its existence as information -- it simply did not exist in this form prior to the bureaucratic eye lent to it by the Bureau.

Stephen Wilson
I created a robotic public art installation called "Crimezyland" that explored issues in media representations of crime, information visualization, and public access to complex databases. It won the competition to be placed in San Francisco Art Commission's Exploration: City Site outdoor public art space across from San Francisco's City Hall. Crimezyland offered visitors a large outdoor map (12x 40 meters) of the city of San Francisco in which the 10 highest crime locations were indicated by tall poles. Kinetic clowns and toy police car sirens and lights would activate 24 hours a day at those precise times that the statistical database indicated a crime would be happening. Visitors could pick the type of crime and hear live police radio of current police actions. Internet visitors could also control the event, view current physical viewers, and speak their opinions of crime via a speech synthesizer. The web site describes the physical event and its conceptual focus.

Fig 7.7.6 Stephen Wilson. Crimezyland. Public art with kinetic clowns visualizing statistical levels of crime in real time.

STephen Wilson - http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson

CrimeZyland is an art installation, a "playland of crime" that transforms the City Site lot into a computer controlled living "map" that creates light, motion, and sound corresponding to the minute by minute statistical level of crimes committed in San Francisco districts, as indicated by the Police Department CABLE crime statistics. In what appears to be a carnival or theme park, viewers can experience the crime "pulse" of the city firsthand. Here is its artistic agenda:

1.Crime as Entertainment:: Using the strategy of absurd extension, this installation asks viewers to question the media circus created around crime. Are TV crime reports or this humorous "Disneyland of Crime" appropriate events?

2.Deconstructing Crime: What's a crime? Who defines it? What are our prejudices about crime? Are street crimes worthy of more attention than other crimes against the community such as poisoning the Bay or creation of dangerous products that kill or maim?

3.Information visualization and access: The installation will use the tools of public sculpture to give viewers intuitive access to this provocative information about urban life. What is an appropriate representation of the underlying information?

4.Real vs. Virtual Presence The installation asks viewers to think about the difference between physical and Internet participation in public events. Some analysts note that because of crime, urban dwellers increasingly engage in "cocooning" . This installation offers enhanced control options to those brave viewers who venture out to be physically present.

In 1998 Ars Electronica declared "InfoWar" as its main theme. It identified the international network of technologically mediated information flow and control as a major feature of contemporary life. It featured art and theory that commented on the role of information in dominating commercial and military systems and the technological infrastructure. It invited contributions from artists working on resistance to this information domination. The information society - no longer a vague promise of a better future, but a reality and a central challenge of the here-and-now - is founded upon the three key technologies of electricity, telecommunications and computers: Technologies developed for the purposes, and out of the logic, of war, technologies of simultaneity and coherence, keeping our civilian society in a state of permanent mobilisation driven by the battle for markets, resources and spheres of influence. A battle for supremacy in processes of economic concentration, in which the fronts, no longer drawn up along national boundaries and between political systems, are defined by technical standards. A battle in which the power of knowledge is managed as a profitable monopoly of its distribution and dissemination.

[military attention focuses on] cyberwar, whose ultimate target is nothing less than the global information infrastructure itself: annihilation of the enemy's computer and communication systems, obliteration of his databases, destruction of his command and control systems....These new forms of post-territorial conflicts, however, have for some time now ceased to be preserve of governments and their ministers of war. NGOs, hackers, computer freaks in the service of organised crime, and terrorist organisations with high-tech expertise are now the chief actors in the cyberguerilla nightmares of national security services and defence ministries.

In response to this emphasis an independent jury established the "Information Weapon Contest" to invite artists to develop technologies that could work against the dominant information systems. The prize was offered "to the most outstanding information weapon with an accent on it's functionality, design and successfulness." The organizers claimed to be interested in the question "what could info weapons look like, if they are not simply e-mail bombs, spam or regular propaganda and disinformation campaigns on the 'content' level?"

Eric Paulos, a robotics and surveillance artist, described his conceptual approach to designing such an "information" weapon that would corrupt any electronic instruments within a "Technology Free Zone'.

The rapidly approaching ubiquity of technology and its inevitable but rarely discussed terroristic use demand for immediate exploration and development of technology disruption devices. In the ensuing world dominated by technology and information, the true culmination of power will rest not with the institution controlling the information but the organization, group, or individual capable of disabling, altering, or destroying the underlying support structure of information: electricity, telecommunications, and computers. Konrad Becker Becker is a "hyperreality researcher" and director of t0/ Institute for New Culture-Technologies in Austria. He creates media installations and writes extensively on issues in culture and technology. One major interest is surveillance and information war. In his essay "Synreal Systems" he analyzes the power of information systems and his fear for loss of individual autonomy.

Konrad Becker - http://netbase.t0.or.at/~konrad/

Information can be manipulated or faked at many levels. It is not only the message itself that can be tampered with. Initially, the source for an information item may be masked or relabeled; than, the routing and the placing of channels and media can be subject to manipulation; and, finally, access of the receiver may be restricted. Data-processing is the silent weapon in an undeclared war. Social engineering, the analysis and automatization of society is derived from military operations research, the methodology of tactics and logistics. The automatization of society works the same way as the automatization of a meat-factory. The freedom of the individual disappears as unspectacularly as a popular illusionist spectacularly made the Statue Of Liberty disappear from the New York harbor: she is miraculously out of the frame of vision. His article on Cyberwar provides a provocative set of references which stretch from philosophers and theorists to research documents from military research on subjects. Becker believes development of information warfare technology is not an esoteric subject of interest only to researchers but rather a central topic in understanding the evolution of culture. It is an appropriate and crucial concern for the arts. Here is a sample of info technology articles he references: " A Theory of Information Warfare", "Eavesdropping On the Electromagnetic Emanations of Digital Equipment", "Microwave Harassment and Mind-Control Experimentation." His "Infobody" interventions such as "Linguistic Infiltration Programs" (SLIP), "Telepresent Contagious Postures" (TCP) ironically comment on real world tendencies. Other Artists and Projects Karen O'Rourke and her colleagues organized the "ArtChivists" web site which reports on artists exploring databases as art. Judy Malloy created a series of works reflecting on corporate information and propaganda as art, for example, "OK Research, OK Engineering, Bad Information." The Museum of Juraissic Technology offers reflections on technoculture in a ironic commentary on museums. Foresight Exchange sets up a stock market like exchange of ideas about the future. Marcos Novack's TransArchitecture (see 6.3) explores ideas that physical and data architectures will merge into new hybrids in the future. The Scope conferences in Austria such as "Information vs. Meaning" draws together information researchers and conceptual artists to "focus on critical changes in how information is accessed and managerd."

Karen O'Rourke, Artchivists - http/::www.univ-paris1.fr/CERAPLA/The__ArtChivist/index.html

Judy Malloy, Information Art - http://www.artswire.org/Artswire/infotour/infart.html

Museum of Jurassic Technology - http://www.mjt.org/index.html

Foresight exchange - http://www.ideosphere.com/docs/fx.html#Welcome

Museum of Jurassic Technology - http://www.mjt.org/index.html

Marcos Novack - http://www.aud.ucla.edu/~marcos/

Scope "Information vs Meaning "conference -http://www.scope.at

Information Visualization Not all see the new information systems as necessarily dark forces. Some artists are interested in the new capabilities to collect and represent information. They believe these new capacities might enhance life and enrich our understanding of the human and non-human world. Donna Cox Cox was an artist on a collaborative team of scientists and artists exploring the possibilities of scientific visualization at the National Supercomputing Center at the University of Illinois. She has written many papers analyzing the role of artists in visualizing complex data sets. The journal Leonardo offered this brief profile in awarding her an Award for Excellence.

Fig 7.7.7 Donna Cox and Robert Patterson. Visualization of Internet structure.

Donna Cox - http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/People/cox/

[Cox] is the artist contributor to a team exploring interdisciplinary research through supercomputing. Cox recounts her role as a member of the "Renaissance Team" discovering visual representations of multidimensional computations. Supercomputing is particularly valuable for complex simulations as its speed, vector environment and parallel processing enable many equations to be solved simultaneously. These experiments are valuable in distinguishing appropriate new tools to enable scientists to find correlations in data. Scientific simulations are further evidence of the shared quest of artists and scientists---to make visible the complex, yet invisible, structures of the universe. Rachel Strickland Strickland, who is a researcher with Interval Research and one of the collaborators in "Placeholder" (see 7.3), creates a variety of interactive media installations inspired by the perspectives of anthropology. One installation called "Portable Effects: An Installation For Interactive Anthropology " allows visitors to interactively explore what things people carry with them in their pocketbooks, backpacks, wallets, and pockets. The installation consists of 3 networked stations allowing for inspection and documentation of one's materials, sorting, and review of other people's records. Poeple and that which they are carrying are photographed and weighed. A game like review station allows visitors to try to guess which sets of belongings go which persons. Strickland sees this phenomenon as a window on concepts of portability and everyday design as well as a more general reflection on contemporary life. Some commentators noted that the installation also raises questions of surveillance and the danger of technology enabling every greater intrusions into personal lives. Another called it a "voyeuristic thrill."

Fig 7.7.8 Rachel Strickland, Colin Burns, Jonathan Cohen, Maribeth Back. Portable Effects. Installation to examine the personal effects that people carry with them every day.

Rachel Strickland - http://web.interval.com/projects/pfx/

Peoples selection and arrangement of the things they take with them in handbags, pockets, briefcases, backpacks, etc. form the context of the investigation. Between setting forth in the morning and returning home at night, each person lives nomadically for several hours a day. You cant take everything with you neither in your backpack nor in your head. Identifying essentials, figuring out how to contain, arrange and keep track of them as you go are instances of design thinking. Understanding the properties and consequences of portability is a way to grasp principles that underlie the transferability of knowledge from one domain to another....

Portable effects uses contemporary technology to offer new perspectives on the common everyday activity of carrying things around. The new insights themselves become the focus of the art. The installation also suggests possible dangers lurking in computer mediated intrusiveness.

Other Artists and Projects
Questioning the "rigid and artificial separation between information and aesthetics in scientific images", Felice Frankel, in her role as artist in residence at MIT collaborates with scientists to visually extract information from scientific research by exploiting visual potential of research techniques. (see 3.2) Dee Berger investigates the Scanning Electron Microscope as a tool for making visible the invisible. Trudy Myrrh Reagan creates collages based on scientific principles, conundra, and imagery. John Maeda and MIT's Aesthetics of Computing group in part focuses on integrating concepts of grahics and computation to develop "systems of visual relations that intuitively reveal qualitative information of varying degrees of relevance."

Dee Berger - http://ldeo.columbia.edu/micro/index.html

MIT Aesthetics and Computation - http://acg.media.mit.edu/

Information Organizations and Structures

Knowbotic Research

Knowbotic Research has won many awards for their investigations of the nature of information in the contemporary technology mediated world. This collaboration, which includes Christian Hubler, Alexander Tuchacek, Yvonne Wilhelm, and other scientists and artists, creates installations and projects which allow participants to enter dataspace to interact in unprecedented ways . Projects have focused on architecture, sound, urban experiences, and scientific research enterprises. The seek to understand the new realities developing from the collision of physical and network experience. Their "SMDK- SimulationSpaceMosaic of mobile Datasounds" allowed visitors to navigate a VR world composed of data. In "Non-Locations As Fields Of Action", they explain that they create media installations as research about possible configurations for the culture.

Knowboitics Research - http://www.t0.or.at/~krcf/

Knowbotic Research formulates its projects via the combination of information and knowledge structures with complex spheres of experience and action. A particular emphasis is placed on the performability and non-localisation of data and network supported environments. In loose co-operation with computer scientists, scientists in general and architects, the heterogeneous qualities of media events are probed and tested and made accessible within specific public spheres, (e.g. in real data-space installations, urban experiments etc. Knowbotics claims that contemporary techno-political systems do not allow the flexibility of conceptualization and action that are possible with the new technologies. They call these new structures "non-locations" and "mem_branes" in which people are not forced to "operate within hard and fast fields of options", in which technology helps people to "contnually jump from one system to another", and in which non-locations fucntion as "zones of difference which generate confrontation and point beyond the cross-communicated indexical exchange of information."

In "Non-Locations/Event: Under Construction" they explain that technology creates new possibilities. They are interested in structures that allow experimentation with those possibilities: confrontations between what "man deems possible and what machines offer him as makeable", productive new models such as "non-linearity, multi-dimensionality, acceleration, compression, multiple layers, poly-perspectives,multi-functionality", and new attitudes about interfaces which doesn't deal with "negotiating between realities, but acts in a field of effects where the human and the machinic can no longer be easily distinguished."

Fig 7.7.11 Knowboics non locations, membrand annoymous, I

The installation "Annoymous Muttering" presented visitors with a physical sound and light experience that is a manifestation of underlying information structures created locally and via net contributions. Knowbotics provided interfaces that let people inspect and manipulate that structure. The particular installation can be thought of as an experiential illustration of their understanding of possible configurations of the larger culture. It presented events "which are composed of fleeting, initialised and 'found' singular events. What happens cannot be traced back to references in real space. "

Knowbotics claims that the new synthesized physical/data spaces form an almost palpable meshwork that can be bent, folded, and manipulated. They describe this meshwork as "smoothened heterogeneity" and differentiate it both from architecture and electronic networks. It is fluid and bendable. "The value of this networked information lies not in the guarantee of its traceability, but in its immanent transformatory potential which invites interventions, like the deletion, addition, encryption or granulation of data.

Their web based project "IO_Dencies " (See 6.4) attempted to create network representations and interfaces for understanding the urban experiences of Sao Paulo and Tokyo. They believed new understandings and possibilities for action could be stimulated by unorthodox informational structures. It created a "topological cut through the heterogeneous assemblage of physical spaces, data environments, urban imaginations, connective agencies and individual experiences". They sought to create a new forms that "exploit the technical possibilities of the networks and that allow for new and creative forms of becoming present, becoming visible, becoming active, in short, of becoming-public."

In an interview with Andreas Broeckmann for the V2, Knowbotics explains their idea that contemporary realities are based on neither physical or electronic space alone. They see common notions of "networking" as oversimplified. Urban topology is made of elements which "can be economic, political, technological or tectonic processes, as well as acts of communication and articulation, or symbolic and expressive acts....the city features not as a representation, but as an interface which has to be made and remade all the time"

Fig 7.7.10 Knowbotic Research. Dialogue with the Knowbotic South. I nvestigation of the nature of simulation in scientific and artistic research.

In "Dialogue with the Knowbotic South" Knowbotics investigated the nature of simulation in scientific and artistic research and the possibilities of communication between the arts and sciences. They chose research on Antarctica because its compelling presence of physical nature provided an interesting counterpoint to virtual constructions of knowledge. The project provided windows into scientific visual and textual discourse about the Antarctic and ultimately questioned how we know what we know. In an interview with Paolo Atzori for Ctheory they described their agenda.

From an artistic point of view, our project formalizes the problem of a missing language.... For the first time, scientists not only prove the laws of nature, they also formulate conditions of possible systems. In our project we treat an actual state of nature corresponding to our information culture We want to create a field of discourse freed from the rules of the specialists' disciplines. It is a field not only for natural scientists but also for scholars and philosophers who are discussing current ideas of reality....

Our world view is based on what we see in the future, a worldwide data space induced by the communication technologies, filled with tons of information coming from all different disciplines of knowledge. I think it is very important to create models which focus on the needs and possibilities of the person who tries to receive this information....Our work is also a liberation from science. We create an environment where, initially, we fabricate actual phenomena of scientific thinking. But we emancipate these phenomena from their reference (science) by a self-organization model.

As part of the project the artists created knowbots, semi-autonomous software agents, who could locate, manipulate, and present information related to Antarctic research. They made the knowbots somewhat interactive so that viewers' actions could have effects on the information they saw. The main problem for the knowledge robots is that we are dealing with two bigger entities, the so called reference nature that is still very powerful in the Antarctic, one of the few almost intact ecological systems, and the related scientific institutions. The knowbots act with completely different kinds of inputs, originating a tension so you can't bring these two worlds really together. This produces an aesthetic field for artists...

The interesting thing is that we deal with processes you can't see in reality. Hidden processes, sometimes extremely small or extremely big, and very complex....Actually, for the scientists it no longer makes sense to work directly in contact with nature. They need data, intelligent data for their terminals in the institutes.....sensors are directly connected to computers. They ex-territorialize their nature in the networks. Maybe our artistic work is a kind of re-territorialization.

The artists reflect that the world will be inundated with information. Artists have an important role in decoding this immensity of data, but they must be willing to enter inside the data structures. Countervailing against developments such as the ecological destruction of the Antarctic requires intervention at the realm of information acquisition, visualization, and communication. The important point is not to discuss the meaning of measures, but rather how can we visualize and handle this complexity of information. That's a problem for the scientists too. There are so many data: how can we turn it into information and knowledge, how can we handle this with the knowledge we have?

It is necessary to define a strategy about order and the generation of new things. With computers we analyze fragments of the reality and at the same time we build and initiate complex processes. This is what the work is about.

We are inside a technological system whose direction and speed are defined by industry and science. Politics and arts have to follow and it is nearly impossible to do anything without being inside. It is a confrontation which can't work if you play with the traditional ways of art.....It's an old artist's strategy to make politics and scientists aware of the consequences of their concepts of reality.

As part of their strategy Knowbotics set up a research center called Mem_brane in collaboration with the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne which attempts to integrate technical and cultural capabilities and perspectives without commercial pressures. Mem_brane is a laboratory for artistic oriented projects which concentrate on network and electronic information systems. The works that are realized focus upon unconventional development using the aesthetics of culture and technology, as a critical reflection of digital communication in and outside of data worlds. The enhanced growth of technological infrastructure in the present information society, must be evaluated across its daily applications, where questions are raised with relevance to media culture, economics and politics. In reflecting on the work of Knowbotics, theorist Tim Druckrey notes that the dominant culture tries to colonize cyberspace in accordance with old models that marginalize deviant and chaotic elements. Groups like Knowbotics demonstrate critical alternatives. The traditional humanistic world view is thus re- conceptualized in the sense of being re-duplicated. In such outlines uninhabited outer regions are negated, sub- or cybversive forms of existence are ignored (i.e., ghettoized), microstructures are overlooked, chaotic behaviour and uncertainty are curbed, etc. These defects reflect a lingering continuation of an economic and ideological 'missionary' approach, as well as elements of a colonial attitude. This type of virtual culture draws its reality-constituting factors from the "use" of prefabricated structures; the user elements are algorithmized components of our city culture. Makrolab Makrolab was developed by a collaboration of Slovenian artists who are creating a new kind of information organization. Their organization presents itself both conceptually and physically as an advanced scientific outpost using the latest technological tools to monitor happenings and create events contextualized as art. Makrolab artists feel it is essential to monitor as many channels of information as possible and thus their systems include radio, GPS, computer, and internet technologies. Metaphorically they see their activities as an attempt to enter into the "big organism", the "ur-animal" The makrolab web site explains why it was created and their activities at Documenta.

Makrolab - http://makrolab.ljudmila.org/

the exhibited object, the makrolab-console represents the external, fragmentary view on the makrolab - research station, which is set on the hill lutterberg....makrolab is designed as an autonomous, modular communications and living environment, which is powered by sustainable sources of energy (solar and wind power). it is designed for a long existence in an isolated environment and can withstand extreme natural conditions.

it has it's own research and experience goal. the station is built as a combination of various scientific and technological logistics systems. makrolab makes use of scientific and technological tools, knowledge and systems, but it projects them in the social domain of art. we, the authors and crew make use of the system of art for the shaping and representation of an integral empirical and creative experience....the electromagnetic spectrum is a part of the global socio-political space, which is invisible and immaterial on one hand but presents a productive factor of general living and social conditions on the other. it can be sensed only by the means of suitable interfaces and specialized knowledge.

In a lecture given in connection with its presence at Documenta, Markrolab presented some its rationale. It attempted to create a somewhat isolated entity that could reflect on trends in the larger culture using the tools of technological and cultural research and corporational activities. Fields of research include "acoustics, atmosphere, communications, dreams, inner life, linguistics, low energy systems, psycho acoustics, solar power systems, social evolution systems and strategies, wind power systems, weather and war strategies". [ its goals are ] to transform abstract and intangible qualities and properties present in the world, such as radio waves, atmospheric events or psychic movements into material, three dimensional structures, documents, objects through a de-abstractization process or if you want a process of materialisation....

Makrolab is a declarative position outside of the spectacle, also outside of society ...The thesis is that individuals in a restricted, intensive isolation can produce more evolutionary code than large social movements of great geographical and political extent.

Joel Slayton and C5
Slayton and his collaborators have created a corporation/research organization dedicated to pursuit of new developments in technology, theory, and art. C5 presents the full regalia of corporate structure including financial, governance, marketing, and research elements. Visitors can read corporate reports, inspect research reports, buy stock, and so on. Slayton explains the rationale on the C5 website.

C5 - http://c5.sjsu.edu/index.html

Advances resulting from intra-theoretic reductionism have resulted in the exploration of unique models in which cascading and parallel considerations of hyper-structuralism and contextuality are significant. Indeterminate information systems (brains and computers) are impetus for research and exemplification of fundamental principles which can be used for tactical surveillance and strategic analysis involving new forms of knowledge representation. The complex phenomena of self-organization, diffusion, cues, presence, richness, ambiguity, uncertainty, complexity, evolution, inferencing and entanglement are common themes for experimentation at C5.

C5 is the corporation of acculturation. The sciences of the artificial are stimuli redefining the nature of group formations and operations management resident in technology enterprise. Systems analysis and information mapping are the contemporary substance of data perception, of which the artifact is interface. C5 solutions are informed by collaborative expertise including implementations of artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, public relations, liquid computing, emergent behavioral systems, bio-metrics, virtuality, cognitive psychology, semiotics, anthropology, literary criticism, military studies, library science and art. Theory is product.

C5 includes subsidaries in "Simulation, Heuristics, Complexity, Identity, and Ubiquity". C5 comments on the linkage between serious research and new tech corporate economics by offering a presentation that hovers somewhere between corporate gibberish, theoretical excess, and cutting edge research.

Specific research projects include "Radio Controlled Surveillance Probes (RCSP), Mining Research, and Data Mining/Knowledge Representation". The Data Mining project explains the focus on information.

We believe that a deconstruction of heuristic and expert strategies forces the conceptual rectification of notions such as belief networks, adaptive learning and knowledge consensus. In systems where uncertainty is high and specific goals not defined, new approaches to emerging knowledge are required. Fig 7.7.11 J Joel Slayton, C5. Artist organization exploring the sturcture and forms of corporate information systems including datamining from movements of toy car event.

C5 is at its best in its trade show presentations. At Siggraph98 C5 researchers clad in official corporate uniforms had a booth that demonstrated the latest research in RCSP. Very serious presenters controlled a fleet of radio controlled radio cars moving in choreographed movements while a computer systematically collected this important data and transmitted to a distant server for data analysis, and ultimate display on the booth's computers.

Etoy Etoy is a pseudo corporation created by an artist group. The undertake actions throughout the world commenting on corporate structures and worldwide communication and information systems. They are the artistic version of a multi-national corporation. They have developed "office" modules (sometimes made out of shipping containers), maintain an active web site, sell stock, wear distinctive uniforms, and otherwise act like a strange corporate entity. The Internet has been essential to their operations. They won the top prize in 1996 Ars Electronica Net competition.

Fig 7.7.12 Etoy. Etoy time zone screen from artist organization exploring coporate forms.

Etoy - http://www.etoy.com

In one action called "Tme Zone" they declared all international operations would use their own unique time zone synchronized to the Internet. The explanation of the project also conveys the corporate ambiance the group creates.

the etoy.CREW established their own time zone. All etoy.SERVERS and etoy.TANKS run a virtual time system: etoy.TIMEZONE is oriented on UNIX seconds ....To save money and time trough more efficient coordination and parallel working. To offer perfect customer service and faster R&D. It unifies the etoy.BRANCHES around the world and covers a minimum spare time for employees. The etoy website describes some of their operating principles and their attempt to use artistic methods to study the state of the culture. etoy operates somewhere between productions of overdrive communications and a redefinition of content and message in the electronic age....etoy uses artistic means to demonstrate what happens when communication is stretched to its outermost limits and emits both emotional and intellectual impulses.

why? the world is changing radically - one cannot compare digital structures and procedures with mechanical processes. etoy explores and programs search engines, global databases, EDP services, automated processes and virtual environments, all of which are concerned exclusively and emphatically with themselves....

a production within that super-charged zone between fake and truth, between showmanship and functionality, between outside and inside, between content and shape.

Summary: Being Formed by Information
Has the information explosion made the world clearer or more obscure? Like so many of the fruits of research, there is no simple answer. Potentially each of us has access to information that would have been inconceivable a few years ago. Optimists suggest that this access could usher in higher levels of understanding about the universe and humanity. For example, Roy Ascott, (see 6.1), suggests that the expansion of information networks has done much more than just increased the number of factoids we can consider. Rather it has opened a possibility of transformed consciousness, the ability to see the big picture including kinds of knowledge outside of the scientific/technological world view.

Pessimists suggest that the information access is an illusion. Much of the so called information is based on faulty assumptions and categories that serve other purposes besides enlightenment. Rather than enhanced subjects many of us are being turned into data objects, reduced to data points in the master databases used for control and exploitation. Some even hold that the information is really mush -- mediated signs without real referents. It is fitting as information comes to be the cultural and economic heart of life that artists should enter into the debate.