Animal, vegetable, digital : experiments in new media by Elizabeth Swanstrom

By Elizabeth Swanstrom

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature

In Animal, Vegetable, Digital, Elizabeth Swanstrom makes a convinced and lively argument for using electronic artwork in aid of ameliorating human engagement with the surroundings and indicates a four-part framework for examining and discussing such applications.
 
via shut readings of a panoply of texts, works of art, and cultural artifacts, Swanstrom demonstrates that the department pop culture has for many years saw among nature and know-how is synthetic. not just is electronic know-how now not unavoidably a brick within the highway to a dystopian way forward for environmental catastrophe, yet electronic artwork kinds could be a revivifying bridge that returns humans to a extra quick courting to nature in addition to their very own embodied selves.
 
to research and comprehend the intersection of electronic paintings and nature, Animal, Vegetable, Digital explores 4 aesthetic thoughts: coding, collapsing, corresponding, and maintaining. “Coding” denotes the best way artists use operational machine code to blur differences among the reader and textual content, and, accordingly, the realm. Inviting a fluid notion of the boundary among human and expertise, “collapsing” voids simplistic assumptions concerning the human body’s innate perimeter. the method of translation among usual and human-readable symptoms that allows verbal exchange is defined as “corresponding.” “Conserving” is the applying of electronic paintings via artists to democratize huge- and small-scale maintenance efforts.
 
a desirable synthesis of literary feedback, communications and journalism, technology and know-how, and rhetoric that attracts on such disparate phenomena as simulated environments, games, and pop culture, Animal, Vegetable, Digital posits that partnerships among electronic aesthetics and environmental feedback are attainable that reconnect humankind to nature and reaffirm its kinship with different residing and nonliving things.

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The user dons a “body sensor vest” programmed to respond to the user’s bodily movements and breathing patterns: “In to rise, out to fall, while leaning gently to change direction” (Davies, Osmose). By emulating the movement of scuba divers, each breath and tilt of the body aids in navigation and helps to naturalize the user to the space. By the time the user gets to the deepest layer, naturalized to “Code,” she has entered into a fully immersive experience. In fact, “immersant” is the name Davies gives to the user: “I wanted to integrate ‘code’ as a visible element into Osmose in order to draw attention to the technological means by which the work was made.

The code here is visible, tangible, and as such pushes beyond the purely operational. At the same time that it points to the computational processes that have gone into the creation of the art installation, it signals organicism and conveys a sense of ecological holism. Code is the same generative script that creates natural and artificial realms. 12 Created in 1995, Osmose is the work of Char Davies, a Canadian artist who specializes in using digital technology to create immersive environments.

Yet as crucial as computer code is, we seldom see it. Unlike Neo in the Matrix, code remains hidden to most of us, obscured by its output or masked by its interface. In spite of this invisibility (which is not an inevitable precondition of its existence but is still something more than mere convention), code is a real and material language with the purpose of communicating commands to microprocessors in a computer. ). Recently, however, instances of code have emerged from the obscurity of their source files and made their appearance on screens both large and small.

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