Archive for the 'NOTES' Category

From a flat world to an inverted world - part 1

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

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world map from SAS in-flight magazine, Fall 2007

If you were to ask in 2000, in what cities did I get most intelligent and challenging questions after a lecture, my answer would be London and Berlin. This was to be expected. But then things started to change - rather quickly. The intellectual pyramid of the world started to get flat. If were to ask me again the same question in 2004, my answer would be Hong Kong. I was there for 2 weeks in September of 2004 giving a number of my lectures, and the questions i got after every lecture were simply amazing. I had a feeling that people understood my ideas better than I understood them myself, and every question would send into a delightful terror. Terror - because I did not how to answer them. Delightful - because I was seeing in action how globalization and internet has shifted the relationship between a handful of old modern centers of cultural power and every other place.

Equally strong were questions I got after my lecture done via teleconferencing in Columbia in November 2004.

Today is March 26, 2008. I am Mexico City for a Computer Art Congress 2008. I just got back to my hotel after a full conference day and a two hour car drive back (well, Mexico is the largest megacity at the moment, so this part was not unexpected) with two undergraduate students. They study at a new program in digital art and animation at Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Estado de México. During the long car ride I had one of the best intellectual conversations of my life. Of course, students did not know everything - but they intuitively understood what were the key cultural issues facing digital culture today. When I would explain things, they understood me before I would finish a sentence.

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Fernando, a media artist and curator from Mexico City showing his works on his iPhone

Compare this to my reception during lectures in London and New York last year where the audiences at some of the most well-known educational institutions (which I would not name) had real difficulty understanding what my talks were about (and consequently, none of the questions really got into the meat of my talk).London was particularly shocking: almost every question from faculty members involved Walter Benjamin. Why did not I quote or referred to Benjamin? I replied that while I have lots of admiration for Benjamin’s work, I don’t think he can help us to understand the some of the particular details of cultural changes now: such as the relationship between the interface of After Effects software and visual aesthetics of moving images created with its help. Although I don’t remember the literal text of the comment which followed, it was along the following lines: maybe I should dig deeper into Benjamin because somewhere he certainly says something which will help us address such current topics…