The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 02.20.04
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 21:18:46 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: February 20, 2004


1. Jessica Ivins: org. subscription announcement
2. Jim Andrews: Alexandre Venera (Brazil) on empyre
3. Randall Packer: E.A.T. on the Net
4. Peter Ride: conference: 'Impact and Legacy' 6th March 2004

5. VIPER Basel: VIPER Basel | Competition 2004 - Call for entries

6. Nathaniel Stern: Near-Digital SA: Interventionist Influence (an
e-interview with Carine Zaayman) -- nathaniel stern
7. Gloria Sutton: Cyber_Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era

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Date: 2.20.04
From: Jessica Ivins (jessica AT
Subject: org. subscription announcement

To the Rhizome Community:

My name is Jessica Ivins, and I am currently working with Rachel Greene as
an intern for I am assisting Rachel with the new outreach
program for Organizational Subscriptions.

Organizational Subscriptions to Rhizome are bulk memberships purchased at
the institutional level. Members/Participants of subscribing institutions
have access to Rhizome's services through email subscriptions or IP
addresses, without having to purchase individual memberships. The aim of
this program is to expand the ranks of who uses Rhizome and to earn money,
relieving our organization's dependence on foundations in the United

I am writing seeking any information on institutions (both in the United
States and international) that could benefit from an organizational
subscription to If you are affiliated with any
colleges/universities, libraries, or centers that may be interested in
purchasing, please send me a name and contact information and I will be in
touch with them. Also, please let me know whether or not I can mention
your name to the contact person at that institution so that they will know
that they have colleagues who use and value Rhizome.

In addition, we are offering discounted or free memberships to
institutions in disadvantaged and poor communities. Email me for more
information if your institution is in a poor or excluded community.

Please feel free to contact me at Jessica AT with any information
or questions you may have. You can also contact Rachel Greene, Executive
Director, at Rachel AT Further information about organizational
subscriptions is also available on our website at

Thank you for your help. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jessica Ivins
New Museum of Contemporary Art
583 Broadway, NYC, NY 10012

tel. 212.219.1288 X 208
fax. 212.431.5328
ema. jessica AT

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Date: 2.16.04
From: Jim Andrews (jim AT
Subject: Alexandre Venera (Brazil) on empyre

Alexandre Venera has some fine work at ,
his site. The sound in MANTRASH is
important, as it is in much of his work. This is an international piece.
Venera is from Brazil and worked with Clemente Padin on PAN PAZ imagine
at . This is another
international piece in which the sound and interface is important. This
one is far more interactive. And the piece reachable from called 8/80 PIXELS is interesting also.
Alexandre apparently made this one after his computer crashed; it is
something of a data or art reclamation project, though you wouldn't
necessarily know that to look at it. Highly interactive and enjoyably
so. There are other interesting works more oriented to written poetry on
his site that you may also enjoy (via clicking the aLe signature
characters from the homepage). In fact all
the urls of his i've sited are thereby reachable, except 8/80 PIXELS,
perhaps, which also is reachable from the home page.

Keep an eye out for the literary dimensions. Concrete, in the late
fifties, became one of the first international forms of poetry in part
from South America to achieve widespread influence in English and other
languages. And its influence in Brazilian letters has been strong. This
is, for the most part, a benificent influence, though it is of course up
to the artists to move beyond it in their own ways. Venera, I feel, has
done this beautifully without renouncing concrete, but by moving in some
ways parallel with its aims and, in other ways, his work bears little
resemblence to concrete. The work has a multiplicity and complexity
rarely seen in concrete. Yet the sense of language, and the joy in
playing with the material of language in various media is fully present.
Also, concrete went for a kind of simplicity that is sometimes
unremarkable (simple mimesis between the meaning and look of the
words/letters), but the underlying goals ranged from international
comprehension to political statement that all could understand and find
a range of emotions and positions in. Venera's work is explicable
internationally and it has both a strong political and poetical content
to it. Related but different is the spiritual aspect of aLe's work,
which is humourously presented in MANTRASH but is resoundingly real.

If you know concrete, you see this work has as much (perhaps more) in
common with contemporary digital art from around the world as with
concrete. 8/80 PIXELS, for instance, has more relation with the
rectilinearities of data art than with concrete. But, of course, the
rectilinearities of data art share with concrete a focus on the
constituents and materials of the art, or the ability to zoom in and out
of the micro and macro. I admire the sort of culture in Brazil where
visual poetry is strong in the weave. It is part of where aLe comes
from, but he has worked through it into his own work admirably.

And, again, these are international pieces, for the most part, so the
language must be simple but rich and explicable among different tongues.

aLe is one of four featured guests on empyre in March. The others are
Regina Célia Pinto, Ana Maria Uribe, and Jorge Luiz Antonio. More about
each of them as February proceeds. The title of March on empyre is The
Phenomenological and Fantastic in South American New Media. It should be
a lot of fun. I hope you'll join us for discussion of the work of these
four exciting artists/critics.


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Date: 2.19.04
From: Randall Packer (rpacker AT
Subject: E.A.T. on the Net

Announcing E.A.T. NET

We are announcing the launch of E.A.T. NET, designed to reach everyone
interested in the activities of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and
Technology). E.A.T. was formed in the 1960s by Billy Kluver, Robert
Rauschenberg, Fred Waldhauer, and Robert Whitman, out of the
collaborative effort between artists, engineers and sponsors. Today,
E.A.T. NET contains information about the purpose and function of
E.A.T., a portal to online resources about E.A.T., and current news on
E.A.T. related events, projects and exhibitions.

A project of E.A.T. and Zakros InterArts


Zakros InterArts

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Date: 2.20.04
From: Peter Ride (peter AT
Subject: conference: 'Impact and Legacy' 6th March 2004

))apologies for any duplications - also, this is not an automated
))list, please reply to me if you wish to be removed from any future

Impact & Legacy
- a one day conference addressing collaborations in arts, science and
Saturday 6th March 2004

Organised by The Centre for Arts Research, Technology and Education
(CARTE), University of Westminster, in conjunction with 'Wonderful'

After several decades of high-profile collaborations between artists,
technologists and scientists how are their impact and influence
measured? Have they really lived up to expectations and demonstrated new
and unique areas of practice? And how approaches to science, technology
and information changed?

'Impact & Legacy' addresses issues of collaboration in art from the
breakthrough experiments that took place with arts and technology in the
60s to the arts and science collaborations of recent years.

The speakers include pioneers from the field who will assess their early
work in the field, evaluating its impact at the time it was first made,
and its legacy. Plus a new generation artists will consider their work
and ask if it responds to the legacy of previous practitioners.

Steina & Woody Vasulka. (Keynote presentation)
Pioneering artists & co-founders of The Kitchen, New York experimenting
with the electronic nature of video and sound. In 1974 Woody turned his
attention to the Rutt/Etra Scan Processor, and the Digital Image
Articulator while Steina experimented with the camera as an autonomous
imaging instrument. Chaired by Malcolm Le Grice.

Robert Whitman
A leading exponent of performance art in the 60s and 70s, in 1966 he
co-founded Experiments in Art & Technology (E.A.T.) with scientists Fred
Waldhauer and Billy Kl=FCver and artist Robert Rauschenberg, E.A.T. was
a loose-knit association that organised collaborations between artists
and scientists. His work has been described as "correspondence between
nature and technology, connecting ritual and the rational, seeing
computers that look like stars"

Peter Fend
Fend addresses large-scale problems, and works to spark discussion and
action among policy-makers, corporations and individuals. Founder, in
1980, of the Ocean Earth Construction and Development Corporation, Fend
works with other artists, architects and scientists to research, develop
and promote alternative energy sources, using satellite imaging to
monitor and analyze global ecological and geopolitical hot-spots

Annik Bureaud
Director of the Leonardo Observatory for the Arts & the Techno-Sciences.
New media art critic and Co-organiser of events such as Artmedia VIII:
)From Aesthetics of Communication to Net art and Visibility - Legibility
of Space Art. Art and Zero Gravity. Bureaud lives and works in Paris,

Francis Wells
Leading Cardiothoracic surgeon, Wells is also known for proposing
Leonardo da Vinci as a paradigm for modern clinical research. He
believes that "taking the time to reflect upon this great mans' work may
allow us to think again about our own approach to science and research".

Jordan Baseman
This UK artist will discuss his experiences of making Under The Blood: a
project which arose out of a residency at Papworth Hospital's Heart and
Lung Transplant Unit. Described as a scary and intense film, this piece
investigates belief, faith, trust, religion, god, power, responsibility,
authority, love, life, death and open heart surgery. Intimate footage of
the surgery is overlaid with a soundtrack based on an adapted sermon
from the evangelical minister Billy Graham.

Saturday 6th March 2004
9am to 5pm

Venue: University of Westminster
Old Cinema, 309 Regent St.

Bookings 020 7911 5000 Ext 2675
=A380 institutional =A340 individual =A325 concessions info AT

Held in conjunction with Wonderful (
Organised by The Centre for Arts Research, Technology and Education
(CARTE) and DA2. Supported by the Quintin Hogg Trust, NESTA, WELLCOME
and ACE


Peter Ride

Co-Director & Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Arts Research Technology and Education (CARTE)
University of Westminster


Artistic Director
DA2 Digital Arts Development Agency


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Date: 2.16.04
From: VIPER Basel (competition AT
Subject: VIPER Basel | Competition 2004 - Call for entries

Please distribute to anyone who might be interested - Thank you.

VIPER Basel | Competition 2004
Call for entries
VIPER Basel | International Festival for Film Video and New Media
18 - 22 November 2004

Submission: April 15, 2004 (date of the official postal stamp)
Works and projects which are not ready by the closing date for entries
can be entered in the form of indicative documentation material or as a
concept description. Acceptance decision: July 2004
Master Setting due: October 1, 2004
Festival dates: November 18 - 22, 2004

Entry is free of charge.
Regulations, registration form, and further information can be
downloaded from

VIPER Basel is one of the major European film, video and new media
festivals. It offers a highly-regarded platform for presenting
innovative works and projects, attracting Swiss and international
filmmakers and producers, artists, curators, critics and purveyors of
ideas from the media, research and politics. In addition, VIPER Basel's
International Forum provides annually an up-to-date podium for
presenting and discussing forward-looking positions, models and
scenarios - a Think-and-Do-Tank for 21st century media, culture and

VIPER Basel | Competition 2004

The VIPER Basel | Competition 2004 is an international competition. An
independent jury will nominate and award the works and projects
submitted in the categories [imagination | processing | transposition].

This category is open to works and projects dealing with traditional and
future forms of the moving image.
Possible submissions include analogue and digital films/videos,
experimental films (including sound/video), 2D and 3D animations,
extended forms of traditional cinema, linear and non-linear narrative
image sequences, mobile and innovative screen formats, split- and/or
multiple-screen arrangements. They may be complemented by modes of
individual and collective interaction if wished.

This category is open to works and projects that are characterised by
processes and live elements.
Installations or systems can be submitted that are devised to involve a
local situation and/or an audience actively, thus emphasising the
ability to interact and improvise when handling digital information
systems. This includes performances, immersive and hybrid (real/virtual)
environments, 'play- and social software' applications, 'smart objects',
intelligent and ambient systems as well as interface and interaction

This category is open to works and projects emphasising acting and
communicating within technologically defined networks.
Applications, prototypes and concepts can be submitted that use or
specifically apply network architecture that functions independently of
time and place. This includes for example location-related and
distributed systems (LAN/WAN/WIFI etc.), mobile computing, GPS
applications, infra-red and Bluetooth connections. The key feature in
each case is an unusual and/or experimental use of technologically
defined network topographies.

VIPER Basel | International Festival for Film Video and New Media
PO Box, CH - 4002 Basel
competition AT,

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For $65 annually, Rhizome members can put their sites on a Linux
server, with a whopping 350MB disk storage space, 1GB data transfer per
month, catch-all email forwarding, daily web traffic stats, 1 FTP
account, and the capability to host your own domain name (or use Details at:

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Date: 2.12.04
From: Nathaniel Stern (nathaniel AT
Subject: Near-Digital SA: Interventionist Influence (an e-interview with
Carine Zaayman) -- nathaniel stern

Near-Digital SA: Interventionist Influence
(an e-interview with Carine Zaayman)

nathaniel stern

My arrival in, and move to, South Africa was marked by a meeting with
Marcus Neustetter of The Trinity Session (see later Rhizome interview - ). At the time,
he was curating a show called 'online | offline,' an attempt to "display
digital works on and off the screen in order to illustrate the
relationship of more traditional art-making processes with contemporary
creative uses of new technology."

I was most interested not only in his exhibition of work, but also in
his creation of a space where South African viewers were asked to
challenge their notions of 'how to look at' art. In a place where
access to technology and the comfort level around it is still fairly
limited, we now have artist-curators using new media and new media
influenced strategies to provoke explorations of identity,
translocality, globalization, historicity, public dialogue, and art in

This month, ArtThrob ( ) - a webzine
dedicated to contemporary art in South Africa - formally announced their
newly appointed new media editor, Carine Zaayman. The site was founded
by SA artist Sue Williamson in 1997, and has been growing with
contributors and recognition ever since. Sean O'Toole, who took over as
editor-in-chief in 2002, is working towards more diverse coverage, using
the existing ArtThrob template. His hope is that Carine will
"facilitate debate and steer critical thought on new media in South

Carine and I emailed about the state of digital art in South Africa

NS: I think of this inclusion as a signifier of potentially big changes
in the art scene in SA. First, we saw the biggest art awards here (the
Brett Kebble Art Awards - BKAA AT ) start its new
media category; now, we have one of the biggest/best publications
creating a job around the coverage of new media. What are your

CZ: I think you are right. There seems to be some major shifts under
way. This is evident in the move towards less object-based art, more
non-gallery art etc., a strong sense of events-as-art (ala YDEsire - ), audio art and so on. I would
like to see new media as part of this move, as being not so much only a
set of "media," but that its relatively recent rise in the art world
suggests an "opening up" of our notions of the kinds of roles that art
can play. Here I am thinking of more socio-culturally-engaged art. Some
of the work The Trinity Session (
) has done, in which new media plays a role, is an example. What is at
issue is the fact that new media gives us alternative avenues of
presentation, i.e. the web and other technological public spaces.

But this is why I am not really happy with the glib positioning of new
media as another "category" in competitions such as the BKAA. Having the
category does not mean that the medium is really recognised. With
painting and the like, having objects/images made by one person and
exhibiting those in a specific location is not uncommon. The
dissemination of information and discussion around these objects is also
relatively well established. The problem with new media is that it does
not fit into the category of object/exhibition easily, and though some
works might, new media as such is much more fluid, and competitions
cannot really provide adequate space for the collaborative and ephemeral
aspects of new media.

I also believe that once you say that there might be big changes under
way in the SA art scene, you also have to accept that the people working
at these changes will be young "trailblazers". The new media scene is
very much a nascent one. I remember that when I was studying most of the
more established artists around saw the web as simply a new means of
promoting their "real" work. I also remember the furore in some circles
when Kathryn Smith won the new signatures competition with a video work.
Seeing that video art is hardly really new media, I think we have come a
long way, but this has not happened because the establishment changed
their collective mind. No, it is through the consistent work of the
younger generation in the utilising of new media, and pushing the
notions of collective art making, the importance of curators, creating
alternative spaces for work and so on that the potential of new media is
starting to become realised here.

My "vision" for my contribution to ArtThrob includes creating awareness
of the ways in which new media is reshaping our sense of artistic
practice, and our understanding of the notion of locale globally. I want
to focus on the ability of new media to enable exchange and public
forums. An angle that I try to take is to give a short analysis of the
contents of certain projects, and place them in contexts that address
issues within new media discussion. In other words, if new media is able
to facilitate dialogue between any number of people dispersed around the
globe, where is the work that shows us how this is done? Then, I try to
draw a relation to a South African example as well, to give voice to
those kinds of projects that can easily be overlooked by the established
channels of dissemination. Hopefully, artists can then embark on such
projects more confidently in the knowledge that there is an audience,
and some reflection on their work, and they do not need to compromise.

NS: Who are some of the predominant SA artists working in new media?
What about collectives, institutions or schools working with/in new

As I said above, these are young ones. Internationally established
artist, Minnette Vari, works in video, and it is evident that she works
with the technology of video to some extent....

The point for me is not so much artists working only in new media, but
artists who employ the potential of new media for public and social
engagement in their practice. From this perspective I think that the
work of The Trinity Session and Marcus Neustetter are examples. Your own
contribution is already felt. Abrie Fourie's new space in Pretoria
(Outlet) is not exclusively for new media, but he is willing to assist
artists who use technology. His own practice also includes some new
media work. Matthew Hindley, who has worked with new media related
things for a while, was recently awarded the Cape Town public sculpture
commission. For this sculpture he proposes to have microphones placed in
strategic places around Government Avenue. These microphones will then
pick up pieces of conversation and send the information of these sounds
to the LED screen on the front of the National Gallery where they will
be displayed.

I also think that projects are starting to be shaped around new media.
'52weeks52works' is a great example of this. Organised by James Webb and
Thomas Cartwright, this project involves artists making one work every
week - not necessarily new media - in a public space and sending in the
documentation, which is then published on the [pending] website. Again,
it is clearly not a "let's - get - together - and - see - what - flashy
- digital - stuff - we - can - make" exercise.

A crucial point here is that we are not only talking about artists
making work when we want to understand the impact of new media. Many
musicians, curators, designers etc. are also becoming agents in the new
media field. The conference held at WITS in 2000, entitled "Urban
Futures", made this very clear, especially in the curatorial
contributions of James Sey and Kathryn Smith, and Rory Bester.

The kind of work done by Andries Odendaal from Wireframe studios in Cape
Town ( ) can also not be overlooked.
Odendaal is a designer/programmer who has received many accolades for
his work in flash, but at the same time he has also helped to establish
the freefall network in Cape Town ( ), which is
an informal group of artists / designers / musos / teachers, that work
digitally and in new media, who meet and exchange ideas etc.

Then, of course, there are a number of other art fields also using new
media, especially theatre. I am not an expert in these as such, but I
can mention the work of Mark Fleishman and Magnet Theatre ( ). My point is that because new media is
a physical reality in many people's lives, it cannot be considered only
as the domain of art. This forces artists to be more open to public
dynamics, other art forms and the challenges these put to their

A (very) recent new media highlight for me was James Webb and James
Sey's radio broadcast 'A Compendium of Imaginary Wavelengths' (2
February 2004 Bush Radio). This was a half-hour radio piece, with audio
(sounds, interviews etc.) mixed live on Webb's laptop during the
broadcast. Webb and Sey "invented" an imaginary author, and provided a
kind of "sound-scape" synopsis of 15 of this author's books. Quite a bit
of the audio was created digitally, and obviously everything captured

All of the major art departments in the country have recently shifted
some of their focus onto new media. Sections in art schools that attempt
to teach new media as a stream, just like painting or sculpture, have
sprung up in the last three years or so.... The shift from using the
computer as a tool for design to a medium/space for art-making, is an
enormous signifier of things to come. This shift is not easy, and many
new media teachers find themselves coming up against age-old systems and
prejudices. As a teacher, I am often astounded at the inability of some
very good, long-standing professors to understand the nature of new
media. When one is dealing with students who are not consummate
practitioners, this becomes an issue. Still, it is the role of the
teachers and the students to change the situation and create an audience
for themselves. This will happen. The creation of postgraduate degrees
in new media is a good step towards it. The Institute for Film and New
Media or IFNM (where I work) at UCT ( ), and
the WITS School of Arts MA programmes in digital art ( ) are the primary
movers in this regard.

Perhaps it is important to say at this point that I am emphasising 'the
positive' by pointing out all that is being done. I believe that this is
a more productive position than lamenting the small size and minute
history of new media art in South Africa. It has not been going on for
very long, and it is still small and humble. But things are changing, as
I hope I have indicated.

NS: What are you hoping to see more of in the new media art scene here?

CZ: I think more of the kinds of things I have mentioned above.
Obviously there are other kinds of work being done in the field, but I
have chosen to highlight the ones I think are most pertinent or
interesting. Aside from that, I would just like to see the reception of
new media work change. I would like to see more variety - thus not only
websites or video, but some more of the kinds of things that happen at
places like ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program - ). I would like to see artists utilising public
space and addressing political issues more directly. I'd also like to
see more serious theoretical writing on new media that is actually in
touch with what is happening on the ground, rather than carrying on
about virtual realities and space-time continuums in a hackneyed

NS: How are you seeing new media influence the more traditional art
scene here?

CZ: ... just as digital technology has become indispensable in our daily
lives, so it has become indispensable for many artists who do not
consider themselves new media artists. In this way, digital technology
makes many things easier for artists working in a more traditional

What I think is more important though, is the fact that a general shift
(as you suggested earlier) is taking place across disciplines. New media
is one player in this shift; it vastly contributes to the direction and
developments. This is, perhaps, more where I would like to locate the
influence, as it is far more radical and positive.

NS: What are some current goings-on that may shift the art scene in
different directions in the near future?

CZ: New media in South Africa is very young and still under-developed,
and the projects that I have listed here signify some great strides that
have been taken to establish viable channels of production, discussion
and recognition. These developments will continue, I believe. From The
Trinity Session to the IFNM, we have a stage set now. I think the coming
five years will probably see youngsters taking over more of the field.

NS: What are some projects you, yourself, are working on now?

I am currently trying to raise funding for a collaborative project
between artists in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The project will focus on
finding ways of translating the private lived experience of their cities
into digital material. I see this project as involving an online
exchange between artists, public interventions, and a catalogue of some

There are two aspects here: the one is to investigate the specificities
of the different cities, the second is the notion that one's life in,
and in connection with, the city is impossible to fully communicate to
anyone else. The metaphor of encoding and translating is crucial. I am
also taking part in the 52weeks project, and making a couple of pieces
here and there for other venues.

I am writing a number of articles about artists working with digital
media in South Africa for academic journals, and a chapter on the ways
in which digital media is shaping sub-cultural expression. Then, I see
my teaching as a project as well. As a new media lecturer at Michaelis
and the IFNM, I think that stimulating discussion and production of work
in the field is essential. Also involved here is developing the role of
new media within an institutional context. This means articulating some
of the inherent concerns and possible directions of new media as an
artistic practice, and setting up links with other departments such as
computer science, music, drama, education, African studies and the
school of languages.

Look for more from Carine at

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Date: 2.18.04
From: Gloria Sutton (suttong AT
Subject: Cyber_Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era

Cyber_Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era
Edited by Neil Spiller
Fall 2002
Phaidon Press

Prefiguring Cyberculture: An Intellectual History
Edited by Darren Tofts, Annemarie Jonson and Alessio Cavallaro
March 2003
MIT Press

When the Culture Industry Goes Cyber-A Look at Two Anthologies

The growing number of anthologies-issued by academic and art publishers
alike-documenting the emergence of new media is yet another indication
that new media-related art practices have become fully integrated within
the culture industry. Many of these anthologies are derived from the
fluid discussions that transpire via online digests (such as this one)
or conferences which are periodically frozen and reprinted in hardcover,
becoming required reading for the recently minted new media art courses
cropping up nationwide. While interesting reads such as Interaction:
Artistic Practice in the Network (2001) published by Eyebeam
Atelier/D.A.P. and the BALTIC's Curating New Media (2002) capture the
essence of real-time conversations, they do very little in the way of
framing new media art debates within the wider intellectual history of
media technology, communication theory and art history.

Two noteworthy additions, Phaidon's Cyber_Reader and Prefiguring
Cyberculture published by MIT Press set out to establish the textual
foundation for this much needed framework. For both books, the nebulous
term "cyberspace" functions as a unifying force drawing in a wide range
of articles and essays touching on everything from philosophy and
metaphysics to sexual politics, art and architecture all under one
cover. Within this context, the hollow ring of the prefix "cyber" allows
unrelated texts like Norbert Wiener's pivotal thesis on feedback,
("Organization of the Message,"1950) and Mark Dery's lamentation of the
future in "Robocopulation: Sex Times Technology Equals the Future"
(1996) to be packaged together. Overall, the essays published in each
book attempt to analyze the vast social apparatus of the computer
network. And more specifically, the collected works reflect the various
ways digital networks have transformed almost every aspect of
contemporary western culture in the past fifty years. While these two
books cover similar historical ground and favor many of the same voices
in the field, they offer radically different methodologies for scripting
the genealogy of new media.

Neil Spiller, editor of Phaidon's Cyber_Reader, takes a chronological
approach to organizing the 43 selected essays and offers a preface to
each selection that contextualizes the author and as well as the
argument advanced by the essay. Spiller's introductions are well honed
and manage to encapsulate complex ideas in direct, engaging terms. A
clear sign that the texts are packaged for quick consumption is that
they are unapologetically abridged without explaining why certain
passages are emphasized over others. For example, why excerpt only the
biological definition of the rhizome advanced by Deleuze and Guattari's
A Thousand Plateaus and leave out the political implication they argue
is inherent in a rhizome's non-hierarchical structure, which is detailed
in the same chapter?

While Spiller starts with Babbage's 1854 "Analytical Machine," the
structuring logic of Cyber_Reader is steeped in the rhetoric of dot com
1990s. Spiller's introduction and the choice in essays proliferate the
myth that lower costs in bandwidth and exponentially growing
computational power opened the world to free speech and other luxuries.
"Cyberspace is opening up the ways for us to see deep, far, close and
wide," he exclaims. Spiller never mentions that access always resides
with a connection, technical and social, but above all, economic.

It is precisely this type of clarity that editors Darren Tofts,
Annemarie Jonson and Alessio Cavallaro bring to the discussion of
cyberspace in Pre-figuring Cyberculture published by MIT Press. Rather
than deploying the term for novelty's sake, they take up the very issue
of technological trends in their astute investigation of the term
"cyberculture," asserting that this book is preciously about technology
and change or what they call "mutability," the very tendency towards
change and alteration. The strength of this collection of essays is the
strategic and informed way in which they are organized. Instead of being
open to any and every definition of the term, the editors argue for a
very specific reading of cyberculture and lay their rationale out in
transparent terms in the introduction. Even if you disagree with their
take, their well-argued stance increases the historical specificity of
"cyberspace" and adds a rigorously developed theoretical dimension to
the field of new media.

The most pressing difference between the two books is each editor's
level of self-reflexivity (or lack thereof) concerning the efficacy of
adding "cyber" as a prefix to a category of art, literature, or
philosophy. Spiller, states that the Cyber_Reader "rejoices in the
varied interpretations, ideas, aspirations and contradictions of
cyberspace, expressed by the various texts and their authors. To provide
a compact and definitive description of the phenomenon that is
cyberspace is an impossible task." While I agree with the difficulty of
the charge, a sound bite definition of "cyberspace" is not necessarily a
desirable goal. But one would think that by 2002 the qualifier "cyber"
would have developed a more historically informed meaning. Tacking the
term on as a prefix does not provide any formal unity or criteria to
help structure our thinking about culture, science or fiction.

The essays gathered in Pre-figuring work toward developing a more
historically informed definition of cyberspace and are grouped into four
well-articulated sections: cyborgs, webworlds, artists' statements, and
postmillennial speculations. The book takes as its premise the notion
that the end of the 20th century ushered in a new conception of human
life referred to as posthuman, cyborg, or infomatic. The choice of N.
Katherine Hayles to contribute the forward would seem to favor the
"posthuman." Each of the essays explores particular historical traces of
technological change from the vantage point of the 21st century. So we
get Elizabeth Wilson on Alan Turing's "computing machinery and
intelligence," and John Potts on Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto. And
rather than letting each essay speak for itself, the editors have penned
poignant introductions that delicately complicate the narratives to

This approach gives the book a curated feel in that the choice of
material was selected to advance a larger argument. And like most
exhibitions, the artists usually bristle at having their work read
through flimsy themes. However, the section devoted to artists'
statements allows the artists' own descriptions and concerns to surface
which breaks up the historical tone of the book. For example,
Heidegger's warning about the instrumental quality of technology takes a
more relevant tone when evoked by Char Davies in her description of her
1995 virtual reality installation, Osmose.

I have set these two anthologies up in the very old art historical
fashion of the compare and contrast, but ideally these two volumes would
be used in tandem. For example, it would be interesting hear the views
of William Gibson's protagonist, Case, as reprinted in Cyber_Reader
before having it described to us by Scott McQuire in his essay on
Neuromancer and architecture in "Space for Rent in the Last Suburb." Or
as Deleuze and Guattari would have argued, it would be great to have the
"and" rather than the "either or." But of course Spiller left that
section out of the excerpt from A Thousand Plateaus.

-Gloria Sutton

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Feisal Ahmad (feisal AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 9, number 8. Article submissions to list AT
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