Interactive digital media: an asset or liability for participatory practices?


Presentation Title:

  • Interactive digital media: an asset or liability for participatory practices?




  • Artist Statement

    This artist presentation proposes to initiate a discussion around strategies for assessing and critically evaluating the role that technology, and especially interactive digital media, plays in either enabling or limiting direct engagement with various communities within participatory projects developed by artists.
    As a visual and media artist, my practice over many years has involved the direct engagement and participation of members of various communities, including immigrant groups, grief groups, specific towns or cities, institutionally-initiated groups, and most recently a live streaming event that theoretically allowed for ‘anyone’ to engage.
    At this point in my practice, I notice that I veer wildly back and forth in my own relationship to the utilization of technology. One project evolves from a live performance event to a participatory web based project. Another project begins with a community dinner and ends up as a web project. Others begin as Internet-based streaming events, and end up as very local conversations involving relatives and friends (The Talking Project – a Durational Performance). For a recent community networking project Cross City Coffee, I returned to simple posters on telephone poles and the local media to reach a broad-based audience.
    Some of the questions that I struggle with include the fact of inclusion vs. exclusion when various technologies are utilized in the development of projects. For example, in working within inner-city core neighbourhoods, certain forms of technology serve to inhibit participation. In other cases, the use of web-based practices allow for a much broader engagement.
    I wish to challenge the often idealistic illusion that a web based participatory project is  necessarily more accessible. I propose to share some of the criteria that I have developed to consider the role that technology may play in specific projects, based on community needs and the aims of the desired interaction. What is the difference between face-to-face interaction and that on-line? What roles do activities that link geographically close communities perform as opposed to geographically dispersed but internationally unified groups? What roles do host organizations like galleries and other public institutions play in affecting the nature of the interaction available?
    In recent years, there has been an evolving critical re-evaluation of participatory practices. These critiques have mainly centred on the relationship between artist and the particular community that is involved. However, I would like to focus this discussion more specifically on the creative uses and misuses of technology in participatory practices.
    This talk will provide a framework for a discussion of crucial issues around the actual practice of different forms of participatory practice. In keeping with the content, I am proposing to enable audience members to both evaluate and contribute to the discussion, using as a point of dialogue, actual projects that I have recently developed. I see this as part of a participatory practice rather than an authoritative academic monologue.