Monday, August 31, 2009

Looking Farther for the Prelude to Digital Media

In Dr. Sherry Mayo's article, "The Prelude to the Millennium: The Backstory of Digital Aesthetics" on the early influences and foundations of digital culture, I was surprised to read that she traced the foundations to the 1960's. Living as we do in the age of Digital Convergence, perhaps some researchers choose to look no farther than mid-20th century or to narrowly define the underpinnings of digital culture to that which was "born digital". This approach omits Joseph Cornell, an self-taught artist who was working in the area of mixed media, visual cross referencing, film, and image appropriation, and who began showing his work at New York galleries and museums in the 1930's. Any serious discussion of image repurposing, visual metaphor in multimedia, or an art historical context for digital media would have to include Cornell. He was both a visual poet, and the artist as "a type of Merlin- a trickster magician" figure that she alludes to. The link provided is to an online exhibit presented by the Peabody Essex Museum and the Smithsonian Institute from the exquisite 2007 exhibition called "Joseph Cornell: Navigating The Imagination." I will never forget it.

Untitled (Cockatoo with Watch Faces), c. 1949
Box construction with inoperative music box
16 1/4 x 17 x 4 7/16 inches (41.3 x 43.2 x 11.3 cm)
The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection
Photograph by Michael Tropea, Chicago
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Maps of Our Time

In 1748, Giambattista Nolli, made one of the most accurate ichnographic (ground plan) maps of Rome, the Pianta Grande di Roma commonly known as the Nolli Map.

Pope Benedict XIV commissioned the map in order to survey Rome, and ever since then this map has been used for government planning as recently as 1970!

You can see an "interactive" Nolli map here.

“…And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much?” I inquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well…”

Lewis Carroll. The complete Sylvie and Bruno. 1893. San Francisco: Mercury House, c1991. pg. 265

In 2006, the SENSEable city lab at MIT created many Real-Time Rome maps as its contribution to the Venice Biennale

The map below shows the movement and concentration of mobile phone users during important events in the city of Rome. In this case the events happen to be the controversial Madonna concert and the World Cup final between Italy and France.

See a big version of this movie here where you can actually see the timeline.