Reading Response – July 27th: Soke Dinkla

Soke Dinkla | Intimacy and Self-Organization in Hybrid Public Spheres

I found Dinkla’s article deeply problematic, in a number of ways. Firstly, the article strongly emphasizes the merit of breaking away from depictions of “virtual space” or a “digital plane,” but at the same time casually talks about the immateriality of digital artworks. These two positions directly contradict one another. If there is no such thing as a digital plane, (which objectively there is not) then any digital entity (whether it’s a work of art, application, media file, etc.) has a material component. The fact that this material component is largely inaccessible to the user/viewer is responsible for the idea of virtual spaces in the first place; and any work of art which plays off of this inaccessibility without also problematizing it, is feeding into such notions, as is Dinkla.

I also found it highly problematic how easily she accepted and then utilized Baudrillard’s term of “hyperreal.” This term describes imagery (and/or sound) which is “neither representational nor abstract,” and has no “referential being or…substance.” Dinkla does not sufficiently (nor even vaguely) justify her acceptance of these statements in regards to digital artworks, except to imply that they are a natural conclusion. There is absolutely nothing self-evident about this. All digital entities are based upon code, which is a form of human language, and therefore has all of the limitations associated with that. Included in this is the questionable ability of humans to do anything which is “non-representational,” which has been the subject of many as-yet inconclusive discourses, all of which are far too long to delve into here.

Dinkla also makes sweeping statements about the “depersonalized structural fabric” of modern society, and the loss of interpersonal connection, again without any attempt to justify this standpoint. Based upon the combination of the issues I’ve highlighted so far, it is my personal impression that Dinkla is quite happy to accept broad, commonly held assumptions about digital technologies. This would be problematic at the best of times, but is especially so when writing an article about artworks which are supposedly challenging such assumptions.

There is also a point near the end of the article in which she puts the word “art” into quotation marks, suggesting that because of its digital (and so-called “generative”) nature that it is not actually art by any normal definition, because it does not operate the same way that a painting or sculpture would. The tone of this statement suggests that Dinkla herself is being progressive by accepting such things as properly being artworks. Since the abandonment of such traditional definitions took place long ago, (new media was tackling these kinds of preconceptions in the late-80s/early-90s, and performance art decades earlier) I have to question how qualified her understanding is. My skepticism in this regard is heightened by the fact that Dinkla would talk about Locative Art as a new form of discourse in an article published in 2013. Locative Art as a movement (there were individual examples some time earlier) was born out of ubiquitous GPS and satellite imaging technologies from 2008, and was thoroughly discussed until about 2010, at which point it was already considered somewhat regressive by most respected journals and websites dedicated to new media and web art. While this certainly doesn’t negate its value in this, or any other conversation, to not mention this aspect of it makes Dinkla seem ill-informed about her subject matter.

All-in-all, I found that the article obscured rather than clarified, and reinforced rather than challenged.

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