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”Train yourself to let go of all the thing you fear to lose”. ‘


Fear of mortality can be found across every culture and every era; pyramids in ancient Egipt, jade burial suits in China, a panacea in middle ages Europe, cryonics facilities in 1960’s USA, were all created as a ”solutions” to the problem of human impermanence. Western societies become so accustomed to excesses choice of information (Collins, 1995) and sensation that vision of not participating and not experiencing anymore is becoming not only frightful but also unacceptable. According to Marshall McLuhan (1994) “… after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.” We want to believe that even if we cannot stop the process of dying, our existance can become somehow pemament. Articles in pseudoscientific publication fuel these assumptions boldly claiming among the other that ”Humans will achieve IMMORTALITY using AI and genetic engineering by 2050.”(Daily Mail).

Tokyo’s High-Tech Cemetery

This idea also is broadly investigated in many different forms by popular culture production. To mention some of the most widely recognised examples, we can remind Transcendence (2014) or Be Right Back (Black Mirror, 2013). In both of those examples, a dead lover is ”reincarnated” through an online avatar, which is possessing memories of its ”previous life”. Many scientists (Hauskeller, 2012)(Choe, Kwon, Chung, 2012) have been speculating about the possibility of mind uploading in the face of fast developing scan technology and cheaper hardware. However, as the present day, this technology is only existing in science fiction novels, which by no means restricts the creativity of enterprises.

Transcendence (2014)

We can already access a wide range of more conventional post-mortem digital services. From companies like Last Pass providing safekeeping of multiple passwords and nominating online power of attorney, through My Goodbye Message sending final personalised messages to earlier designated contacts, to Safe Beyond recordings videos celebrating important moments after our departure.

The more controversial approach is presented by companies like Eterni.me, which are trying to not only preserve but, also recreate the dead person. In order to do that posts and social media activity is collected to creat a sample of deceased’s personality that is then loaded onto an online software trying to emulate their behaviours. As described by Marius Ursache, co-founder of, Eterni.me

”The service’s defining feature is a 3-D digital avatar, designed to look and sound like you […] A user will be encouraged to “train” its avatar, through daily interactions, in order to improve its vocabulary and conversational skills.”

It is easy to notice that there is plenty to unpack in this concept; ”training” oneself avatar is a disturbing way of curating our legacy (Bellamy et al, 2013). The act of creating an online avatar is almost like the embalming process, where the aim is to preserve the dead person for all cost. It is based on the false idea that, as a society, we can somehow defeat death and decay. It is deeply rooted in our fear of entropy, a conviction that lack of control is evidence of failure. However, it would be profoundly misleading to blame individuals for such a situation. Sanitised and beautified society of the western world do not prepare to accept the inevitable mortality of all living organisms (Kellehear, 1984), dead members of the community are ignored and quickly forgotten. Families are postponing their grief using digital space instead of embracing the gruelling experience.

The idea of online immortality raises the broad problem of ownership of oneself. When technology is allowing us to recreate not only somebody’s image but emulate behaviours, voice and body movements, we can ”resurrect person” for commercial use. We can ”force” them to participate in projects that they would not support while being alive, include them in another episode of never-ending franchises (Paul Walker in Furious 7, 2015) and profit of the latest merchandise appropriating their imagery. This thought leads us to multiple controversial issues of monetarizing on deceased people imagery, power attorney of online avatars, right to be forgotten, and many more.

Digital avatar of Roman Mazurenko

To better understand the benefits and disadvantages of ”ressurected avatars” technology I chose to interact with a digital memorial of Roman Mazurenko. It was quite an engaging experience for a brief time creating a mimetic impression. Nonetheless, “It’s still a shadow of a person” as addmits bot creator Eugenia Kuyda, I have to agree that after a while limitations of the machine were becoming painfully obvious. As a present day, software programs are lacking creativity and self-awareness; all their actions are an outcome of their algorithms. Thus, Roman’s avatar is only what his friends wanted him to be. It is just a mere memory ”of a startup founder, cultural entrepreneur, dreamer, son and friend” but not a Roman himself.

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/70264888 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transcendence-Johnny-Depp/dp/B01DY1U6SC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=Q1OIT8JKAOEZ&keywords=transcendence+film&qid=1554842339&s=gateway&sprefix=transcendence+f%2Cstripbooks%2C134&sr=8-1 https://www.theverge.com/a/luka-artificial-intelligence-memorial-roman-mazurenko-bot https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/health/29grief.html https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5408425/Human-beings-achieve-immortality-2050.html

Bellamy, C. Michael, A., Martin R. Gibbs, R. M., Nansen, B., Kohn, T. (2013) Life beyond the timeline: creating and curating a digital legacy. In: CIRN Prato Community Informatics Conference, Oct 28-30 2013, Monash Centre, Prato Italy Belshaw, C. (1993) Asymmetry and non-existence. In: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 70, Issue 1, pp 103–116
Choe,Y., Kwon, J., Chung J. R. (2012) Time, Consciousness, and Mind Uploading. In: International Journal of Machine Consciousness,Vol. 04, pp. 257-274 Collins, J (1995) Architectures of Excess: Cultural Life in the Information Age, 1st edition, Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge Doughty, C. (2017) From here to eternity, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Hauskeller, M. (2012) My brain, my mind, and I: Some philosophical assumptions of mind-uploading. International Journal of Machine Consciousness, Vol. 04, pp. 187-200
Kellehear, A. (1984) Are we a ‘death-denying’ society? In: Social Science & Medicine,Vol. 18, Issue 9, pp. 713-721 Mcluhan, M., Lapham, L. H. (1994) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man The
Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press
Moreman, C., Lewis, D. (2014) Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age
Santa Barbara, California: Praeger

Welcome to the New Normal

A few years ago we entered the new millennium with great fears and even bigger hopes. When our electronic devices managed to survive ”attack” of millennial bug (1999/2000), we started celebrating yet another era of reason and discovery. Internet was presented as a pure embodiment of the neoliberal values, providing freedom of communication, trade and services (Curran, Fenton, Freedman, 2012) creating a global network available for everyone wealthy enough and lucky enough to live in the place reached by said globalisation. What is left from those bold claims of creating a new utopian world for future generations?

Not much. Georges Orwell’s’ ”Nineteen eighty-four” is frequently topping book sales charts after every reveal of a significant violation of privacy or proof of ubiquitous surveillance (2013, 2017). Whistleblowers, political activist and hackers regularly provide us with the new evidence of “alternative facts” used by governments, companies storing and sealing our data, and entrepreneurs creating false economic investments online. Not to mention substantial political controversy connected to the last presidential election held in the United States and potential interference of Russian state founded hackers in their outcome. (2016)
Global village on the edge of the second decade of the new millennium is a very confusing place to be, ”[…] a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.” (McLuhan, 1977) . We changed the tangible threat of nuclear mushroom clouds to omnipresent peace and prosperity of silver clouds of information. Dynamic of geopolitical powers radically changed zones of influence, creating new borders and new ”internet nation”. Those changes are not necessarily obvious even for some of the world leaders. Google CEO Sundar Pichai during last year’s congressional hearing was answering questions such as: ”So, it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out we’re going to show to the users?” or explaining that”[…]iPhone is made by a different company”.

Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9622942o) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election Facebook Privacy Scandal Congress, Washington, USA – 10 Apr 2018

The public is not significantly different, as pointed by Malevich (2002), we are often illiterate in the language of new media and new technology. Many of older generations struggle with quite a fundamental aspect of the digitality, so even mainstream technology is not using technical vocabulary to do not confuse its users. Many surveys are presenting similar results proving that the large part of the public is not aware of internet physicality.

This creates an alarming situation. If the majority of people perceive the internet as a purely non-physical, almost organic thing, they also think it is impossible to control it. ”Society is experiencing the illusion of inclusion.” (Teneyuca, 2011). Therefore, they tend to undermine potential danger and influence of digital on reality (Jonathan Albright’s research). To visualise that problem we can come back to the cloud metaphor; we can predict clouds and their movement, but we can not create or influence them. They are a structure, which is out of reach, cannot be easily altered to fulfil one’s expectation. However, it can be accurately argued that meteorological metaphor may not be the best way to describe complicated network… or that we already possessed the technology not only to create clouds, but we can also ”command them” to rain spreading false informations.

Jonathan Albright’s “Micro-propaganda” network of 117 “fake news,” viral, anti-science, hoax, and misinformation websites.

The technical dictionary has an interesting correlation with the water: the flow of information, leaks of data, frozen software or mentioned earlier clouds. However, this bond is creating a lot of misunderstanding. If we want to think about the internet as a cloud, we should visualise the storm cloud at the end of drought rather than a small cloud on a sunny day. Our monsoon cloud of information is a massive force with the equal potential to create and nurture, as well as, cause damage and chaos. Chun (2017) rightly pointed out that technology of freedom is has become a new form of control and one of the biggest challenges of scholars and educators is presenting, the gravity of decisions concerning new media regulations. We need to understand that”our media matter most not when they seem not to matter at all” (Chun, 2017). When our habits replace concerns and caution, automatic and unconscious action can lead us into all sorts of traps.

Considering that should we start to believe all radical articles and tv news about digital technology or can we still treat them as a fearmongering? According to the research of Hans Rosling, Swedish academic and statistician, people generally do not know global long term trends and are likely to see a world more pessimistically than truth. Many of the information presented in mainstream media is also distorted to support publishing company agenda or create the biggest number of views and likes, championing the most shocking style of reporting. Therefore, we should probably try to look for middle ground, between completely cutting off yourself from the technology and accepting every possible price of digital presence. We can Future of digital is neither optimistic nor pessimistic; it is what we, users and creators, will decide to do with it.

https://www.nytimes.com/news-event/russian-election-hacking https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-new-normal-isnt-normal-at-all/2018/11/20/a3907cc8-ecff-11e8-96d4-0d23f2aaad09_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0c2894bc8b17 https://www.amazon.com/1984-George-Orwell-ebook/dp/B06ZYFD3XG

Chun, W. (2017) Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press
Freedman, D., Curran, J., Fenton, N. (2012) Misunderstanding the Internet, London: Routledge                                                                                                                               Manovich, L. (2002) The Language of New Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press Powers, S. M., Jablonski, M. (2015) The Real Cyber War: The Political Economy of Internet Freedom, 1st ed. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press
Rosling, H., Rosling Rönnlund, A., Rosling O. (2018) Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, New York: Flatiron Books                                                                                                                                  Schmidt, E., Cohen, J. (2013) The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, London: John Murray

Collaboration with the computer

Original artwork generated by AI developed at the Rutgers’ Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Interested by the possible outcome of databending, and deeply disturbed by researching AI generated imagery, I decided to experiment with a few photographs of my previous work. I hoped to investigate how the accidental manipulation of an image, caused by various software trying to adopt this same information, will influence my perception of the said image. Hence, placing myself merely in the position of ”step in the production process” of artwork, testing how similar are processes executed by my bain, and by the machine. Figures presented below are documenting some of those efforts.

This small test made me think about the connection between creativity and modern digital tools. It is very reminiscent of Ingold’s argument “that creativity emerges from within an ongoing, improvisational process between makers, materials and other non-human things such as tools and the physical environment. [Therefore] These non-human play an active role in influencing the thought processes of the maker and vice-versa’’. We can interpret the circle of creation as a self-fueling process of making more sophisticated tools to shape more sophisticated ideas.

Does it mean that similar tests can potentially lead us to sci-fi like future, where technology is usurping equal status as a human artist? If art is always at least partly a subjective interpretation of the reality (Sontag, 1966) influenced by multiple factors; how can we judge which representation is better? Especially bearing in mind that in a post-Duchamp era every object can be considered as an art and artist is no longer required to acquire specific skills or social position. Thus, maybe an artist is no longer obliged to be human or even posses physical presence?

Discoveries of the XX century radically changed our technology created a brand-new environment for visual art, ”Our Fine Arts were developed …, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours.”(Valéry, 1928). Currently, we yet again observing how technology is changing consumers of visual art. Younger generations generally present shorter attention span and hyper-reading of digital materials (Hayles, 2012) what pressures artist to create new content continually. It is also creating ”new canon” for visual art: brighter, more saturated, the high definition images created in the hope of being more ”instagrammable” than their predecessors. Does this lead us to place art as a tool of digital technology or we can feel safe that digital technology will always be only a tool of the art?
Speculating on those issues, I realised that some of the classical art technics and their processes are working quite well as a visual metaphor of new digital procedures. For example, monochromatic ink sketches can explain data transmission created by the binary system presenting information as patterns of positive and negative spaces, similar to the presence and absence of electrical current (0 and 1). Subsequently, multilayer oil painting has a comparable structure to most of the modern software (interface, code), where only the top layer is visible and understandable for the majority of spectators. However, all of the layers are necessary to create coherent functioning work.

It is clear that form, content and delivery of culture are continuously evolving. However bigger idea of cultivating our traditions, entertainments and rituals is still powerfully present whether the artist chose to use their real or virtual digits. Instead of seeing art and technology rivals we can see them as somehow symbiotic organisms, sharing and shaping the field of culture. We should forget ”The philistine notion of “art” in all its overweening obtuseness, a stranger to all technical considerations, which feels that its end is nigh with the alarming appearance of the new technology’ and embrace new realm of possibilities. We should get inspired by Malevich (2002) description of Jacquard loom ”[…], a programmed machine (which) was already synthesising images even before it was put to process numbers.” This example is showing a natural connection, established very early on, between art and technology; suggesting that art and technology can mutually reinvent themselves, recycling thoughts and processes placing them in a new context.

https://medium.com/artists-and-machine-intelligence https://mashable.com/video/ai-art-exhibit-nyc/?europe=true#2ZOsxEAkrZq3

Benjamin, W. (2008) Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press Ingold, T. (2013) Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, London: Routledge Hayles, N. K. (2012) How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis Chicago: University of Chicago Press Manovich, L. (2002) The Language of New Media, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press
Sontag, S. (1966) Against Interpretation, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Valéry, P. (1928) The Conquest of Ubiquity – https://mtyka.github.io/make/2015/09/12/the-conquest-of-ubiquity.html