Digital Media and Experience

March 22, 2011

Digital Media and Experience

I participated in judging submissions for a wonderful digital media festival held at LSU this year. As well run as the festival was, I was a little taken aback by the lack of support for the type of digital media that I engage in. I'm beginning to think that it's time to stop saying that what I do is "innovative" and "experimental" and start portraying it as a fairly well trodden approach to using media. Interactive and responsive art has been around for a while now and should be moving into the era of masterworks as opposed to glitzy glam and oddities.

After reflecting on this a bit, I think I've found where some trouble lies.

In this festival, "interactive multimedia presentations" was the only reference to live digital media experience - e.g. installation art, laptop performance, vj/dj works, interactive music, augmented reality experiences, and so on. All of these approaches use digital media to create an experience. Right now, many festivals, competitions and shows, solidly portray digital media as a consumable - a file that you can download and look at, usually the artifact of your work. I don't see our approach to digital media staying in this paradigm and I think we should expand our view to reflect that. Digital media is being used in so many ways to augment the physical experience. It's not the media that is the important part per se, but how the media influences an experience that makes it engaging. Shouldn't we be examining digital media in this light?

There are a number of festivals that take this into consideration: Prix Ars Electronica has categories for Interactive Art, Hybrid Art, and Digital Communities, Transmediale looks for cross cutting art experiences as well. These groups are headed in the right direction -- not strict video or audio or even mixtures of media types, but looking at how digital media and interacting with that media is used to augment or create an engaging experience.

Experience as art. I think that's been a staple of art for centuries and in it lies the future of digital media.