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Image, Text & Sound 2002: Beyond the Revolution - Conference 2002
“Our private and corporate lives have become information processes just because we have put our central nervous systems outside us in electric technology.”
Marshall McLuhan, 1964
"For Paul the photograph was a lens concentrating the unforgettableness of one English spring morning. It was a very ordinary snapshot, so modest in its three or four elements that at any moment afterwards he could assemble the pieces together in his memory. "
Stephen Spender, 1988
This conference looks into the present and examines the contemporary practice of creative media: image, text and sound. These forms of communication have always had alliances, crossovers and hierarchies. Sacred and secular ceremonies, public celebrations and private occasions, can all be sensibly understood as multimedia events in some form.
The truth is we have been digital for decades and the increase in the speed, and spread of, information has been occurring over centuries. It is the digital acceleration of these last years that have propelled the possibilities of cultural events – like Punch & Judy, Grand Opera and the penny peep show – beyond all expectation.
The popular experience now is the realisation of that relentless progression; what has happened, and perhaps, what has not. Nonetheless, this is a time of over statement, over selling and overlooking essential forces that will not stop. McLuhan pointed to the process long ago, but he was disregarded as a fast talking Pop prophet, an excessive self-promoter of the sixties.
If only we had been listening.
Indeed the question is, as with many great social changes, who are the people that will be left behind? (In 1956 America had more TVs than homes with running water.) And who will be the winners? I would suggest that we are past the ‘emergent’ period, the booming e-commerce period or even the consolidating stages of educational practices.
More precisely we are at the retail end of the digital revolution.
Perhaps this will be known as the Harvey Norman era, the time when global capitalism – with its mass sales, promises of ever useful products and services, degrees and accreditation – has reached a point of choking on its own propaganda.
Within Spender’s quote above are the profound realities of communication: content and the conduit of that content, in this case words, implicitly bound together. You can hear and see the English morning in the words and yet it is an ordinary snapshot. McLuhan is known mostly for his insistence that we cannot separate meaning from the conduit, the media that carries the meaning.
Musicians often expressed a reservation for the early digital perfection of recordings that covered the gesture and presence of performance. Those considerations have long passed with the maturating of recording techniques.
Make no mistake, this is not a reactionary position rather an observation on the nature of contemporary work. The emphasis now is on the integration of quality of content, hybrid practice and the vast possibilities of ‘convergence’.
So perhaps, beyond the hype of retail academics, the selling strategies of software manufacturers, the posturing of cutting edge artists, computer producers and merchants, in short: the great evangelists of a coming age that had passed by some time ago.
Dr John Storey Associate Professor – School of Creative Media.
Note: All refereed papers in these proceedings underwent blind peer review and comply with DEST Higher Education Data Collection Specifications, section 4.7 Conference Publications.