Rory RowanLike Real Life, But Better

I‘ve been compiling fantasy ‘top ten’ lists for years in the hope that someone might ask me to provide one, but now that the opportunity presents itself I feel I should shape my selection according to some more worthy criteria than whatever happens to be my favourite thing ever right now.

Given that others have greater expertise with which to discuss digital art, I decided it was best to work from the perspective of my interests and examine how these might bear upon ‘digital cultures’ more broadly (although a few artists relevant to this do appear).

A key question that emerged in thinking about this was the importance of mediation, something that the rise of digital culture is making an increasingly inescapable aspect of almost every domain of life (and indeed of ‘life’ itself). More specifically, I’m interested in thinking about how different forms of mediation are bound up with modes of subjectification and forms of power; forms of power that facilitate and structure domination whilst at the same time producing new platforms and new capacities for potential emancipation, both individual and collective, whether following vectors of differentiation or universalisation.

For many it is likely a truism that mediation shapes not just what we know but how we know it, yet the manner in which different forms of mediation structure our differing sense of who ‘we’ are – of what we can and should be, of what we can and should do – is much more contested ground. I’m particularly interested in how the relationship between conceptions of space, conceptions of history and conceptions of self are shaped by different forms of mediation, in both spectacularly blunt and insidiously subtle ways, and how changes in one domain might impact upon the others.

‘Digital cultures’, like other forms of cultural production, not only reflect – and reflect upon – wider social changes, but also play a part in driving them, whether those changes are trivial and fleeting, or consequential and wide. I’ve tried to assemble items that might be considered to do both, straddling the spectrum between the profound and the frivolous and capturing something of the ‘contemporary moment’ but locating it in wider contextual trajectories.

I did really want to talk about cryptocurrencies, Second Life and Oculus Rift but I realised I didn’t know enough about them and the NSA are bored reading about themselves.