Vol. 9 No. 1 (2020) – Aesthetic Intersections 3
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Morana Alač, Yelena Gluzman, Tiffany Aflatoun, Adil Bari, Buhang Jing, and German Mozqueda
Talking to a Toaster: How Everyday Interactions with Digital Voice Assistants Resist a Return to the Individual (pp. 3-53)
Discussions of the problematic relationship between AI and society have recently only heightened. These discussions, nevertheless, remain partial until they take into account how we live with AI technologies in the unremarkable circumstances of our everyday affairs. In arguing for the importance of such a “noticing,” this article centers on the internet of things and associated digital voice assistants (DVAs). These commercial social robots, designed as conversation-oriented devices, manifest their incompleteness in their need for other voices. Paying attention to that relationality at an embodied scale of analysis brings up our involvement in situated interactional production, while also manifesting its reciprocal character. This not only puts into question the conviction of DVA designers that these gadgets will generate effects of presence in relation to an intentional mind, but also gives us the resources to resist a parallel return to the individual that more often transpires in the discussions of the problematic relationship between AI and society. We practice this resistance by evoking efforts in distributed cognition and the extended mind hypothesis, but we also go beyond the instrumentalist reasoning that primarily recognizes the world as carved into convenient tools that can extend our cognition. To do so we focus on the achieved quality of bodies and environments—two constitutive elements of DVA technology—thereby pointing out how the self in the context of the voiced AI importantly derives from the openness between humans and machines in the interactional scenes of which they are a part.
This Collision discusses the cyanotypes produced by photographer Meghann Riepenhoff, in particular those in the Littoral Drift project; these cyanotypes are direct positive prints produced from the action of seawater washing over photo-sensitive paper placed at shorelines in the United States. I discuss these images and the cyanotype process Riepenhoff uses to produce these. I then discuss philosopher Fred Evans’s concept of “voice” and its contemporary extension to nonhuman others. Arguing that an intermediate aesthetic intervention would assist Evans’s affordance of voice to nonhuman others, I position Riepenhoff as a facilitator of the sounding of wind, water, salt, sand, and chemicals expressed in the cyanotype process. I conclude by linking the Littoral Drift series and Riepenhoff’s prospective position of facilitator to recent aesthetic and ontological meditations on the Anthropocene, that epoch of geologic time in which human activity is the primary shaping force on the earth; I situate Riepenhoff’s work in conversation with insights from Joanna Zylinska’s account of nonhuman photography and Jane Bennett’s vital materialism.
Moniza Rizzini Ansari
This article examines the so-called “digital inclusion” of favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. By investigating the proliferation of information and digital media technologies in informal settlements, I highlight their ambiguous role in constructing a socio-spatial dynamic and argue that these technologies contribute to the formation of renewed regimes of visuality that shape ways of seeing poverty in the urban space. Drawing from a range of scholarship, including aesthetics, critical geography and digital humanities, this article suggests that the framework of digital inclusion mobilizes a scopic process through which favelas are framed by an external gaze: the spectator outside. This process is explored through the ways in which digital technologies provide new immersive experiences into territories of poverty, thereby feeding the outsider’s gaze of “fascination with the poor.” The article proposes a reflection about the implications of such a gaze to populations identified as “the poor” and territories identified as “marginal.”
Nick Deakin and James Dyer
In this brief Collision, we explore a tension between the contemporary graphic designer David Carson and the 1960s artist Jacques Villeglé, an artist Carson has never heard of. We claim that Villeglé’s work celebrates the irregularities of what could be considered mundane ad hoc street performances. In contrast, Carson more or less detaches his work from that seamy reality of the banal by reducing the inherent complexity of the everyday into ideal assemblages of image-and-text. By highlighting this awkward difference between an ideal designerly intention and a grubbier everyday reality, we stimulate appetites for more realist-inspired discourses of graphic design.