“Mixed-realities: opening the Beijing Olympics” presented by Gwilt and McArthur


Session Title:

  • Positioning local and global transactions

Presentation Title:

  • Mixed-realities: opening the Beijing Olympics




  • Abstract

    “The digital yearns for the organic with the same passion with which text yearns for the reade”.     _Sean Cubitt (1998: 35)

    Not since the science fiction film Tron (1982) have we seen such a conspicuously visual attempt at creating a hybrid juxtaposition between computer-based aesthetics and physical artefacts in an entertainment medium. However, whereas the 1980s futuristic movie attempted encapsulation of the physical real in the digital virtual, in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony we see a perceptual shift occurring through the extension of the digital virtual – out into the material real. A key tenet to this notion of mapping the digital into a material space is the idea that there is a distinguishable computer (or digital) aesthetic. How this aesthetic has become culturally recognisable – to the extent that it was utilised so effectively and comprehensively in the opening ceremony – will be examined in the following 3 steps:

    1. through the definition of what makes up the idea of a computer aesthetic;
    2. how this aesthetic has achieved cultural traction, in particular around notions of Chinese societal norms and
    3. how this recognition allowed for the emergent configurations seen in the opening ceremony, where properties of computer technologies were combined with material artefacts to engender social spectacle.

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