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(Computers and the history of art series 1) Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Trish Cashen,

Hazel Gardiner-Digital art history_ a subject in transition. Volume 1-Intellect


Towards a Yet Newer Laocoon. Or,

What We Can Learn from Interacting
with Computer Games
Michael Hammel
There is, arguably, a lot to learn from playing games. This is not, of course, a new
insight into sociologically-oriented studies, where notable scholars such as Johan
Huizinga, Victor Turner and Erving Goffman studied the different modes of play
and social interaction within culture as a means of learning the rules that govern
society. You learn to handle the game actions, solve the puzzles and survive.
you learn to live by the rules of the game. You are the player, embedded in the
and responsible for the action at least for your protagonists actions and for not
getting killed or thrown out of the game. 59

As far as the graphics of the computer game are concerned, you will notice that
some artefacts are highlighted or display an aureole when you move your hand
(the cursor) towards them. This effect makes some artefacts special and others,
which do not get highlighted, less important. Other minor changes occur in the
graphics in reaction to your cursor/hand. I call these minor but detectable
in the appearance of objects (you will also find them in mouse-over events on
web) interactmen: the smallest unit of interactive language. They could also be
called interactive widgets. They can be considered as micro narratives or signs
announce a possibly greater narrative triggered by your reactions to the received
impulse while you follow the path it promises. 60

A third position, much ignored by art critics and art historians, is also possible.
This position puts the viewers experience in the context of the artwork. When
work your path through the maze of an artwork (on the web) you might be the
one to choose that path. Your experience will be unique and based on your
choices and interests. So the position of the Kantian aesthete is no longer valid:
cause the work and co-produce it with the artist(s); and when artificial
is involved, the artwork becomes autonomous. 63

My suggestion, therefore, is that you include yourself and the circumstances for
viewing situation in your description of the artwork. Tell the story of the how and
the what of your encounter. As the artwork becomes increasingly complex and
might become artificially intelligent there will be no truth beyond your
description. It is important that you are in the story. This has, rather
been made one of the main methods of ethnography and social anthropology,
seems to be the only way to discuss artworks that are explored through physical
quasi-social interactions. 63

This must be considered as the methodological foundation for the study of

interactive art. From there on you can go where the action is and participate and
bring knowledge of your interaction to the
understanding of the artwork. 63- 64

What we are looking at in interactive artwork is the evolving visual narrative that
includes the users actions. This results in a new and unique personal narrative
created by the co-operation between the user and the creator of the artwork.
the artwork becomes co-created by the user and the artist. We should also look
the structure and the role which the user is supposed to play in order to get an
of the creators aims. The artwork consists after all, of rules laid out by the artist
for the player/user to follow. If the user/player fails to obey the rules he is thrown
out of the game 64

I hope I have made clear that with interactive artwork we must look at how the
tells its story by demanding a specific action from the users; this demand is
embedded in the story created by the player in order to bring meaning to the
action. 64

I stress the importance of looking at the way viewers and players are
included in the narrative of the artwork, as well as the narratives created in the
minds of the players and users by interacting with the artwork. 64

Every story includes a predefined user yourself. 64

Digital Arts On (the) Line
Dew Harrison and Suzette Worden
Project 4: Net_Working (www.dshed.net/networking):
Online Exhibition and Curation
Through the AHRB (Art and Humanities Research Board) funded Digital Art
Curation and Practice research project the Research Fellow curated the Exchange
Online exhibition, 27 October 3 November 2000, to accompany the Exchange
2000 conference facilitating research in art, media and design at the Watershed
Media Centre, 2-3 November 2000.6 This virtual gallery of online work was the
large screening of online digital art work held at the Digital Caf. 69

Few net-artists are well-known in the art

world, with the possible exceptions of JODI, Mongrel, Craighead and Atkinson and
a handful of others. They are not so personality driven as artists using more
traditional media, preferring instead the anonymity of the Web and the
ephemeral status of work on the net. (Although this is beginning to change as
art gains more of a foothold in the art scene). 72

From previous events it

was evident that our exhibition viewer would be interested in the type of work,
whether documentary or animation etc., where it originated from, which country
and culture and who created it, whether is was by an individual or an
they would also like some indication into what a piece is about, its content,
narrative and context. 73

Interactive works of art pose special problems. An interactive artwork can only be
interpreted through interaction, either first-person or as a bystander. It is obvious
that the experience differs between the two positions: one acts and the other
watches the acting. The question is whether it is possible to extract the artwork
from the interaction with it, let alone differentiate between two kinds of
interaction: the beholders interaction with the artwork and the interaction taking
place between the beholders. 116