“Nonsynchronous Innovation: Periodizing the Digital” presented by Century


Presentation Title:

  • Nonsynchronous Innovation: Periodizing the Digital




  • While the digital transformation continues to outpace socio-institutional adaptation, the technological arts have moved on to vastly expand their temporal horizons. Timescapes of artistic research and creation now embrace the residual as much as the emergent; techno-diversity against digital solutionism; sympoietic rather than linear models of innovation. But nonsynchronous innovation is hardly unique to the current moment, as my recent book Northern Sparks reveals in its account of Canada’s early experimentation with digital media.

    Poised as a “counter-environment” to the great powers, in McLuhan’s phrase, Canada’s unique experience of the transitional decades into the information age was grounded in a technological ethos that emphasized sensorial immediacy, embodied interaction, and improvisatory expression. This alternative ethos was situated between a pair of distinct yet inextricably bound forces, one national-political and proper to Canada, the other techno-mediatic and global in scale.

    The unraveling of these forces by the late millennium reveals innovation itself as a complexly drawn process comprised of multiple layers with fluctuating degrees of synchronization. From a cross-media perspective, Northern Sparks also reveals how the differences between the arts with respect to improvisatory immediacy and discrete formalization make any neat chronological periodization of the digital problematic.