Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Art in the Information Age: Cybernetics, Software, Telematics, and the Conceptual Contributions of Art and Technology to Art History and Aesthetic Theory
Edward Allen Shanken
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Duke University
Thesis Supervisor
Hans Van Miegroet, WJT Mitchell
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Art History
Languages Familiar to Author
French, German, Spanish
URL where full thesis can be found
art, technology, software, information, conceptual, burnham, ascott, telematics, cybernetics, language, systems theory, information theory, robotics, telerobotics, kac
Abstract: 200-500 words
This dissertation argues that the artistic use of technology demands greater recognition. Scholarship on twentieth century art generally has ignored or disparaged the artistic current otherwise known as Art and Technology. Art History has failed to recognize and incorporate into its canons the rich historical and theoretical underpinnings of this tendency. This oversight is especially conspicuous in the literatures inability to grasp how the sciences and technologies particular to the Information Age have shaped the formal and conceptual development of art since 1945. The research presented here employs a synthetic method drawing on diverse disciplines, archival research, correspondence, and personal interviews. The work of British artist Roy Ascott and American art critic Jack Burnham furnish central practical and theoretical frameworks and are discussed in detail. Their contributions support the dissertations thesis that the cultural manifestations of the late twentieth century can be better understood by closely analyzing the scientific and technological developments that have played a central role in shaping society. This study does not privilege science and technology as the engines of discovery that drive subsequent cultural developments, but demonstrates how artists have integrated art with science and technology in a praxis that interrogates key aspects of western epistemology and aesthetics. The dissertation examines how this praxis seeks to challenge conventional models of communication, such as aesthetic exchanges in which an authorial message is embedded in an object by an artist and decoded by an audience. By contrast, many works of Art and Technology (and artists theories about them) explicitly propose that richer forms of meaning can arise from a multi-directional flow of information in discursive networks. Such works stress the processes of artistic creation and audience participation. They emphasize the dematerialized forms of ideation and collaboration rather than the materiality of concrete art objects. The dissertation problematizes these aesthetic theories, but maintains that artistic meaning in the Information Age is not embedded in objects or individuals so much as it is abstracted in the collective production, manipulation, and distribution of information.