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Title: Beyond Visualization: Geneologies of Unmapped Complexity in Media Art and Technology
Authors: Hamilton, Kevin
Keywords: Visualization
Issue Date: 17-Oct-2017
Abstract: In his 2012 essay, “Are Some Things Unrepresentable,” theorist Alexander Galloway wondered whether an understanding of the control society required a skepticism toward the mapping of systems, given the prominent role of such maps in the very conduct and power of those systems. His calls instead for a poetics of representing complex systems call to mind other parallel critiques of visualization in media art and design, from Catherine D’Ignazio’s explorations of feminist data visualization to skepticism of maps among decolonial theorists and makers. We need not receive such cautions as merely responsive, however, following a predictable pattern of critique as a push against mass practice. Rather, contemporary searches for less systematic approaches to representing systems call to mind an often obscured thread of suspicion toward not only images as pictures of complexity, but of representation itself. This paper will trace a historical tension in cybernetics between faith and skepticism toward representation, situating it as well within ambivalences toward pictorial truth amidst 20th century artists and art theorists. From Burnham to Beer or Bateson and Mead, Maturana and Von Foerster to Sekula, students of systems continually wrestled with whether representation of such systems was possible. At stake in these struggles were not only the communicability of research, but the very role of sensation in the life of a system-based society, and therefore the role of humans in these systems. Understanding these rich geneologies is crucial to establishing humane, lively, and situated information visualization in our current liberal and post-liberal orders.
Appears in Collections:1. Re:Trace Conference - Keynotes, Papers & Posters

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