Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reading Response - Sack/Manovich

While both authors seek to explain the attempt of artists to investigate the proliferation of data and networking streams in todays current atmosphere, each has a slightly different approach as to how to analyze the motivation of such material. Both authors attempt to discern the strategies involved in computers visualizing large data sets and "computer programs to render data as images" Manovich takes a more literal deconstruction of how data visualization is performed/considered while Sack (with the benefit in the form of response) takes a pseudo cultural and historical investigation into data visualization.

Manovich makes the argument that data visualization is the opposite of the sublime, that is the optimized essence of what an entity is, a representation no more pure. Through strategies he terms "anti-sublime" artist dealing with the deluge of information try to give form to an incomprehensible mist, to map such phenomena into a representation whose scale is comparable to the scales of human perception and cognition.

Sack attempts to contend this stance through the citation of John Simon's Every Icon (1998) and Kant's notion of the sublime. Sack posits that this work is not a tool for understanding, but rather a mystification of an existential concept. I truly believe that both are addressing a concern from two different camps. One believes that to take a chaotic material and form it into a translation is the goal of the data visualizer. However is this project a tool or "an attempt at an aesthetic of the sublime." Both arguments could be made.

Personally I side with it is a literal tool for understanding the idea of number systems, probability, etc. For without physically written equations we could not represent the notions of certain mathematics. This project is organization in terms of order and comparison. As the counter moves up you can see the change in time as represented by the pixels, a demarcation. However when considering the system a feeling of infinity (or at least a time beyond the scale of self) becomes apparent. It is physically showing you the data in form.

I think Sack may just be beating a dead horse in response to Manovich's paper. He states in his analysis, "when you look at artistic projects that map out and visualize information, do not worry so much about whether they are pretty, beautiful…I ask that we shift our attention away from visual aesthetics and focus, instead, on an aesthetics of governance." I believe this was already address inherently (in so few words) in the Manovich article. The representation of data, when properly executed (he cites Liberskind's Jewish Mueseum as a failure) the subject matter of agency, power structures, social systems, are revealed. I think Sack is trying to reverse engineer what Manovich is discussing, that the interception of an artist in a data set and creating form, will reveal revelations of the status quo (artist can show the cracks and connections).

I found Manovich's citation and discussion of the work "Index 01" to be quite keen. His discussed an analog form of content-related connectedness and then relates it to the socio-digital venue of Flickr, Facebook, Google, that we are so akin to now. I believe he saw the trend (before it was apparent) that data as what is now called "Meta-data" can create a web of relations that bolster the entities it is connected to (i.e. this paper on suburbanism in post WWII informs me when I look at photographs of urban segregationist).

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