Where do you locate your interests along this spectrum?
I see my interests and creations more aligned with the category of “last word art”. My design works are mainly created with tools and rules that are already set up by previous designers, and my digital media creations are also based on the established form of creative coding environments and forms of expressions.
What are some ways in which new technologies shape culture? What are some ways in which culture shapes technological development?
In my view technology and culture affect each other and develop depending on the influences that they receive from each other. Technology developments in fields including entertainment, daily workspaces, living environment, all have helped shape how the culture is like in the digital age. Similarly, feedback and preferences from people as users decide what types of technology would continue to live on for further developments.
We might aspire to make stuff of lasting importance, but when our work is technologically novel, it doesn’t always age well.
To me “doesn’t age well” might be either the technology that was once novel became familiar (or much more widely used) so the work is no longer novel in contemporary view, or the novel technology went discontinued and became obsolete. For the first scenario, all works should be viewed within its context. Even if the technology is no longer new, the work could still represent a turning point or important experimentation within the history of digital technology. For technology that became obsolete, it still preserve a part of the digital history and a possible direction that technology might have taken.
I think my interests and tastes are a combination of both “first word art” and “last word art”. In high school, I studied classical music and primarily made realistic looking drawings and paintings, which made me comfortable with creating “last word art”. Both first word art and last word art have the potential to be impersonal, and when they become that way that are less interesting to me. When I took Concept studio for the first time, I realized that sometimes first word art becomes almost pretentiously inaccessible.
I think that new technologies shape human behavior, which then adapts the way people look at art. New technologies expose me to a vast amount of information and media in a short amount of time. My perspective when I look at visual content is not the same as it was years ago because I am used to fast paced, visually flashy content. When I look at art online, I rarely take the time to slow down and spend time on a single piece like I would if I were looking at art in person.
I know this is late, bear with me.
My interests are broad but most of them are art forms where “last word” works” have been produced. I love japanese anime and manga, which reached its hey day in 1980s where movies like Papirika came up with original and experimental ideas and characterful animation. (Papirika was a forerunner for Inception). Other interests, like drawing people, reached their “last word” phase with cave drawings eons ago. I can’t make a dent in those artforms. Instead I must try and live up to the body of work produced.
What are some ways in which new technologies shape culture? What are some ways in which culture shapes technological development?
Present day tech has reached a point where it manufactures homogenous culture on a global scale. Algorithmic decision making combined with innovative marketing can export cultures such as marvel films to billions. When users try to find their own community online the algorithm is working in their favor. Watching and predicting, in the hopes that if it can predict the user’s next move it can keep them engaged. Our culture shapes the direction of new tech. Investment into neural networks and related areas are to create as close to the perfect algorithmic predictor as possible.
We might aspire to make stuff of lasting importance, but when our work is technologically novel, it doesn’t always age well. Discuss.
Replicating rudimentary exploratory works in tech is not going to gain traction as viewers have seen it before. The original artist who produces these works are gaining exposure through the novelty of the work and the story of the creation process. Looking at their work and making similar quality rudimentary work won’t cut it. The effort required to create experimental work when a medium is semi-explored isn’t worth the potential traction. At that point, the obvious exploratory paths for the medium are well explored and the less interesting and more difficult paths are left untouched. The middle phase of a new medium’s introduction feels like a hard to manage slump.
Michael Naimark proses the idea of first word art (“First word art is groundbreaking and exploratory”), and last word art ( “Last word art is virtuosity after the rules have been fixed” and has to withstand the test of time).
When a work is technologically novel, then it has to eventually face the challenge of new technologies. The old Doom game was considered a peak in its graphical performance, or the old FF7 adding 3D graphics and was considered as a technological jump. The two examples above are both “first word” works from a technological point of view. But what made them withstand the test of time was their content, and not their graphics.
New technology can bring new additions, new experiences to the work. It’s hard mark what’s a “last word” art on a certain technology. Technology is constantly evolving, and certain aspects that maybe considered “last work” at the time– because that’s the best the technology had enabled them to do– will no longer be considered so when the technology evolves(good example is graphics). Thus the novelty of work, if wished to withstand the test of time– should not merely be the technology, but how you use it, and what you’re creating with it.
In the article “First Word Art /Last Word Art,” Naimark distills the contrasting reception between work that pioneers new technology and work is more developed by building upon its predecessors. I found myself nodding at every sentence while reading it, as I had had this dilemma for quite a while as a Design student at CMU. I’ve always been fascinated by projects that deal with emerging technologies, but became easily frustrated with the low level of fidelity those technologies offer when trying to design around it. On the flip side, the more traditional mediums have allowed me to “perfect” the design to its fullest potential, but the perfection felt undeserving, knowing that it wasn’t anything very novel.
I think I am continuing to mediate between the two ends of the spectrum. While I am fascinated by technologies that bubble up tons of different ideas for design and application, I have become more cautious in going head over heels, as I know that many of the pathways in my head would not be very successful upon trial and error. Not only that, the implications of new technology are a double-edged sword. Paving the right, ethical pathways is a heavy and often not a ‘fun’ task, as the “novel and exciting” opportunities can yield too many consequences. As such, understanding why certain artifacts transcend over time seems to be crucial when approaching new technology, such that we can minimize the irrevocable mistakes that are so easy to make when diving into novel tech.
First-word art vs. Last Word art: One is about exploration and the unexpected, the other is about accepting what has been done and respecting such through practice. I think of the first-word art as a practice that requires acceptance of risk, experimenting, problem-seeking, while the last-word art requires discipline, knowledge-seeking, and respect to culture and legacy.
In my practice, I find it important to be exploring in both ways by experimenting constantly whether it be through concepts or materials, and also find it important that I know where these ideas may have originated and understood the culture and past usages of the materials I am interested in. The main point that stuck with me in Naimark’s article, “First Word/Last Word Art” is the struggle of finding the permanent in-between with these two spectrums especially in the qualities of real-time. There is no doubt that technology is constantly evolving and as creators, we become very aware of how it affects the durability or importance of the things we make as time passes by.
If I’m using Naimark’s framework, I guess I do often find myself thinking in terms of first word art. I admire the art I admire usually because it pushes into some new territory. I would say that isn’t by my own volition. At an institution which poses itself as cutting edge and groundbreaking or whatever words the Carnegie Mellon marketing team adopts, the narratives will always center these kinds of groundbreaking works. It’s no surprise that the school of art does the same.
Of course new territory isn’t homogeneous. In the past year, I’ve been focusing on art that pushes conceptually and pushes away from performance as this thing that goes on in some amount of time. I’m not sure why I haven’t focused as much on new technological territory—perhaps I subconsciously feel that’s a BCSA major’s place and not mine. I think to some extent “nostalgia” has been imposed on my work because I’ve refused to engage with even the current non-first-word state of technology in any real way. These are points to reflect on for me and things I see necessary to change for myself.
I would locate myself as more of the first word art artist, at least as for now, because I’m still experimenting with different tools and ideas to see what I like & suits me the most. A year in college has already greatly expanded my understanding of the field art+tech; In specific, I now know that media art isn’t limited to filmmaking/3D animation/ games, and that there are thousands of machines, algorithms, and codes that we can implement to create art. Since I haven’t tried out the majority of the implementations in my practice, I’m currently located at the front of the spectrum, at least in my perspective of media art.
I find the development of industries be the main factor that shapes media art tools and practices. For example, media art and www based art were initialized when the devices began to generalize. Drawing on the canvas that cannot be physically seen or touched without a help of a device probably felt weird and hard to understand to people back in the 20th century. The new technologies shaped our culture in such way that visualization of an idea became easier and clearer to deliver to others, helping the artists to express themselves better with fewer hindrance.
At the same time, I find those development in culture and artistic practices to shape the technological developments; The more people begin to use the new technologies as their tool of expression, the more people find and realize the limitations of these technologies. Hence, it is the thirsty one that digs the well, i.e. these artists begin to develop their own customized softwares that can help them visualize their ideas.
“First Word Art / Last Word Art” by Michael Naimark identifies two types of art first word art – exploratory experimental art, and last word art – art that strives to achieve peak excellence within its defined genre. After this reading, I realize I often strive to create Last Word art. This probably stems from my foundations in traditional media. However, as I work create work using digital tools, I can’t help but feel like I’m automatically creating First Word Art since these digital tools are all relatively new and so the rules of its medium are relatively new or undefined. However, I feel like the lack of rules and definitions for First Word art lead to the rules of other forms art being applied to the new form of art being created.
The idea of technology shaping culture makes me think about how music streaming platforms have changed the way artists create music and release albums as they strive to create content that will be promoted by the algorithm as well as take advantage of the platforms structure. The most notable examples of this is how shorter songs are favored and songs that introduce the chorus early. The introduction of this new technology changing what can end up as Last Word art since the music most paid attention to will be the art immortalized the public mind.
“First Word Art/ Last Word Art”, by Michael Naimark, highlights an interesting concept that categorizes and separates art into either newfound and original artwork (First Word Art) or mastery and skillful artwork that has been seen before(Last Word Art). This idea that art can be invented and reinvented allows for the world of artists to create and invent new and fresh art, while having other artists develop and expand off those discoveries at the same time.
The development in art that we see in the world today is like a cycle, where old artwork (last word art) cannot exist without new artwork (first word art), and new work similarly cannot exist without old-work. When looking at art movements from hundreds of years in the past, we see how necessary “last word art” is in the development of great classics, where artists needed to learn from each other in their traditional fashions to create masterful and impressive art. Artists had to learn traditional ways of creating artwork, such as sketching and painting to develop and master skills so they can create quality and impressive art. This is where “last word art” becomes important, where artists learn from previous works and improve the medium of art through their own iterations and creative processes.
Since art is forever evolving and changing, “first word art” has its purpose in expanding and redefining what art can be. While newfound artwork and trends may be considered “original”, the idea of originality doesn’t exist, as artists and humans in general create the idea of originality through combining elements and morphing ideas together to create something new. The ability to create art that is considered original depends on collective knowledge and experiences.
I think that in today’s society, we put a higher emphasis on originality and ultimately “first word art”, where creating original and fresh renditions of art is more important than creating impressive artwork that has already been seen or done. However, artwork that have been deemed worthy and so tremendous turn into classics, that will remain as classics for generations. In a sense, most of the greatest art classics that still remain famous and renowned today are “first word art” that achieved such a high level of mastery and appreciation that it will never be able to be recreated or comparable.