Toward a B-Society Model: The Digital Media Art Experience

Toward a B-Society Model: The Digital Media Art Experience

Pedro Alves da Veiga (Universidade Aberta, Portugal & University of Algarve, Portugal), Mirian Tavares (University of Algarve, Portugal) and Heitor Alvelos (University of Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2826-5.ch010


This chapter seeks to legitimize the biological ecosystem concept as an expanded analogy for representing relationships between agents of the social, cultural and artistic systems involved in the creation, research, exhibition, enjoyment, experimentation and education of digital media art, including organisational, participatory and socio-economic integration aspects. It also aims at demonstrating the virtual/material dichotomy anachronism, proposing as an alternative the blended reality concept. By exploring the mechanisms of individual artistic and intellectual emancipation of the digital media art universe, it seeks to demonstrate how the relationships between the various ecosystem agents are becoming increasingly blended, leading to the creation of b-ecosystems, in short, a b-society.
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Digital media has become interwoven into all areas of modern day developed societies, and art is no exception. The first forms of computational art are at the origin of digital media art, though still produced with analog computers, and carried out by scientists, who called their laboratory experiments art, as the Dadaists had done before with the readymade concept. Such is the case, for example, of mathematician Ben Laposky (1969) and his Oscillons (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Oscillon 45, Ben Laposky

Artefacts that, until then, had never been raised to such a level claimed the status of art. The boundaries between science and art grew thinner, creating a fertile ground at their intersection, and the artist/scientist re-emerged, like Leonardo in the Renaissance. At present digital media art has spread beyond the science laboratories and covers genres and categories as vast and diverse as generative art, electronic music, web art, live coding, glitch art or video mapping, among many others. It presents a unique set of challenges to traditional ideas of collection, presentation, distribution, documentation and preservation.

The artist thrives at the core of a complex agents’ network – or ecosystem – where technology, science, art, society, entertainment, politics and economy play intricate and interdependent roles. It is an open system, that establishes relations with the external environment, and where internal balance is as important as external, as the adaptation for the ecosystem survival can be caused by the (dis-)appearance of agents, changes in the environment or uncontrolled factors. This ecosystem is analysed fluidly in the different relations between the various agents, whether physical or virtual, and it is precisely the increasing feedback loop in all relationships between the different agents, between virtuality and materiality, activism and entertainment, experience and ownership that is at the heart of the blending concept presented by the authors.

The relevance of such ecosystems for the entrepreneurial world can be stressed on two different levels: at the core of the cultural industries – whether as an agency, production, communication, marketing, curating or infrastructure management company – but also at the technological, creativity and innovation transfer level (from art to industry and back), lead by many hybrid art-science fields, such as genetics, robotics, biology, biochemistry, particle physics or information systems, only to name a few.

The goal of this chapter is to use the digital media art ecosystem as a means to analyse how the individual needs have become the main economic and social mass-fuel of our time, and how three concepts are leading up to a(n increasingly more) blended-society model – concepts that were once presented as opposites: material and virtual, entertainment and activism, and (permanent) ownership and (transient) experience. These concepts are becoming intertwined and complementary, as well as ubiquitous, instead of opposites. All these apparent paradoxes are a consequence of neoliberalism, particularly through some of its recent evolutions, such as the experience economy, and their rationale will hopefully bring to light premises and foundations of (potentially more) successful entrepreneurial initiatives in the relevant areas.

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