Creative Tensions-Shira Feldman

“Within this area we can explore the most extreme perspectives that software can create of itself. It is its ability to put cognitive and affective modes of perception into creative tension with data structures and with each other, and to articulate the gap between the processing of data, social life, and sensory experience, that will allow visualization to reach its full potential, both as a scientific and as an artistic technique” (Richard Wight, 86). 

In Wright’s essay on data visualization, he discusses the transformation of digital material into a visual rendering. In this transformation, connections or disconnections are found between dataset attributes like amounts, classes, or intervals that were previously unknown, and therefore, visualization has less to do with diagram-like properties of retrieval, monitoring, or communication, and becomes more of an experimental technique. Wright tells us visualization is nonrepresentational as it is speculatively mapped from raw, unrelated, unconnected; “a visualization is not a representation but a means to a representation”.

This concept, exemplified by the quote above, of putting data and social life in tension with each other to create something creative, scientific, and affective directly addresses what I want my website to do. In exploring the affect of nostalgia received through a digital medium, I want to put into tension very modern, sleek interface structures of the site with vintage-y nostalgic design elements. I want the composition to be affective in that in invokes nostalgia, but have these design elements imbedded in almost futuristic looking infrastructure. For example, I want to add horizontal parallax scrolling for my homepage, with images being links through the navigation bar (where one picture clicks to gallery, another to assignments, etc.) With my site, I want to intensify the contradiction between nostalgia and technology in an affective way.

While this video isn’t exactly what I’m trying to achieve/talk about, it puts nostalgia and technology into harmony in a hilarious way that I think is also affective.



Kim Stringfellow’s piece on the Salton Sea discusses the agency and assemblages of both the natural environment and human action. The Salton sea is a “study of contrasts”, created out of natural flooding, edited and revised by economic and social motives; an organic body of water yet filled with bone fragments, barnacles, feathers, rotting remains, and pollution. Due to it’s contaminated contents, a major ecological crisis is at hand.

The contaminated contents however are not solely to blame for the threat facing the Salton Sea. Stringfellow uses the word ‘complex’ to describe the issue at hand; “the point is that our collective inability to grasp that our existing corporate, industrial, and agricultural practices, public works infrastructure, and urban planning decisions interact, interface, effect, and consequently forever alter natural resources and the environment. Perhaps a better understanding of these interconnected processes will allow us to make much more informed political decisions regarding the environmental and ecological concerns of today and those of the future” (34-35).

Endangered birds are perishing because they’re eating the fish infected by eutrophic conditions which are brought about by nutrient-rich agricultural runoff containing excess amount of nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer which is a problem because while the Salton Sea has no runoff, the Alamo and New Rivers send their urban and agricultural runoff into the Salton Sea.

The actants do not stop there, rather, they blossom out into greater interrelated hierarchies. For example, to have the runoff of the Alamo and New Rivers go into the Salton Sea was an economic and political decision. There is seemingly no end to the complexity of the situation, of the assemblage.

As Stringfellow described the biomagnification occurring, I began to think of it’s similarities to the Internet, specifically, Soren Pold’s essay on buttons. He writes, “when pushing buttons in an interface–that is, by movement of the mouse, directing the representation of one’s hand onto the representation of a button in the interface and activating a script by clicking or double-clicking–we somehow know we are in fact manipulating several layers of symbolic representation and, as such, interacting with a complex mediation of a functional expression” (33).

In a similar agential participatory fashion, when we click a button we are setting off numerous functions; when we purchase something we are somehow activating our credit card which in itself, is a multi-layered process.

The similarities between the Salton Sea and a technological button on an interface endorse Bennet’s point of vibrant matter–the idea that everything, everything both dead and alive, nonhuman and human, has agency.

Why is it that we consider it biomagnification in nature while we still refer to the internet as immaterial, abstract, and completely virtual?


~ by Shira on March 11, 2014.

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