we are constantly reminded that we are living in a networked world that has reshaped the way we think and we interact with people. we are said that this structure is new and comes from the rise of digital networks and the internet, globalization and global travels. however,is this really a new living paradigm? is it something that came out of the blue? is it not something that has been going on in nature for millennia?
These were some of the questions that circulated among the participants at the beginning of the festival. But it is not all. while in her initial address OCAD president Sara Diamond managed to cover a number of other issues arising from this complex topic, more questions emerged during these intense 3 days of presentations, demonstrations, performances and exhibitions.
According to Diamond, one of the first issues that come to mind is stemming from the interdisciplinary nature of the term “networks”. spelled in the plural, (network-s, not network) this word indicates the presence of many grids or clusters of intersecting worlds (and not just the digital network, or the traffic network, or the academic or artistic network). We share interests in topics as scientists and engineers…but we don’t speak the same language, and even when the language is the same we give different meanings to each of the words we utter. how do we understand each other? or do we really have to understand each other?
Also, we all have very different ways of understanding things. Diamond quoted Flusser as an example of a scholar who dared to see (and talk about) the world in a hybrid way. what happens when we appropriate diverse jargon and mix apparently incompatible languages in unconventional ways?
the notion of “boundary object” here becomes crucial. networks are classic examples of boundary objects that create bridges between geographical locations, virtual locations and practices.
how do artists construct meaning by using boundary objects to reach to each other? how are artists and engineers involved in constructing meaning by combining and intersecting their work and share it with artists and engineers?
as it is always the case in these meetings, one major issue arising when trying to link together such diverse bodies of work concerns the practice and the methods employed. Diamond reminded the audience the major differences existing between disciplinary approaches: often scientists work with certainty while other practitioners in other fields tend to approach problems from the opposite angle. how do we cope with this? and then, is this an issue?
one thing that did strike me about the opening speech was the need to re-affirm the importance of constructing meaning. tools somehow become necessary to covey such meaning, not an end in itself.
the latter is something that came out several times during the conference and was reiterated again by the last presentation.
…but let’s not jump ahead…first things first.