Sunday, January 27, 2008

More on the trip

After my talk at De Geuzen, I wandered around downtown a bit and then had dinner with Florian at a cheap but good Roti place near Piet Zwart's new location in the Kareldormanhoff. We are still trying to think about how to do a joint MA, but it's proving much tougher than I originally expected. I think we (the CSUStan group) will have to get our MA going, and maybe first try some simple exchanges for course credit. Also, the the CSU is under threat of major budget cuts, and so any new projects will be harder if we are all tightening our belts.

I was still really jet-lagged, so after dinner I went back to the flat and tried to answer email or read, or something, but while I had trouble sleeping I also couldn't think very well. So annoying. I should have drunk more at dinner. ;-)

Wednesday I had another interview scheduled with Hajo Doorn, director at Worm, and thanks to my jet-lag I woke up barely in time to dress and race over there. This time we talked less about Worm itself and more about how Hajo sees the Dutch new media scene and his own role in it. I was impressed at how ambivalent he felt. I say impressed because Worm seems to be doing very well and Hajo himself has gained some influence, including serving on some kind of committee or board that awards grant money for projects. I'm not sure how many people in this position would question what it meant, whether it was right, so I am impressed that Hajo does.

He made several striking comments in this vein. First, and this seems to be a shift since last summer, he thinks Worm is in a way forced to be too big now that they are successful and receive funding themselves. They have to employ a lot of people in order to comply with the requirement of receiving funding, and maybe its good that all these people have jobs, but a lot of money is now not spent directly on projects. Also, he's not even sure that their projects are always the most deserving or successful--that goes back to our earlier discussion of how success is measured. Also, based on his comments on certain other groups, I think Hajo worries that he will become disconnected from real innovative work, because he's so wrapped up in administrivia. Finally, he's not sure the project he is involved in evaluating are always so great, but who knows, maybe that's not so important either, maybe the experiment is worthwhile. I haven't met anyone else willing to be this forthright and I admire that like hell, because of course it's a risk, both personally and professionally.

We also talked about what kinds of work is most interesting right now, and what is overrated. Hajo is completely fed up with what passes for interactivity, and I agree with his critique. He gave the example of an art piece in which people step onto a platform with sensors that measure their feet and if their feet are one size, a light this color glows, and if they are that size, a different color light appears. So what? Unfortunately a lot of interactive pieces do seem to remain at this really basic level and so they very quickly become really boring. I further agree that for real, interesting interaction we would probably do better with artificial intelligence.

When I think about, for example, the web sites that are interesting, they are those that facilitate interaction with others--whether we speak of something like FaceBook, World of Warcraft, old-school MOOs, or what have you. And compare this to static texts like novels, paintings, movies. Though these don't change, they represent (I think) a density of the creator's/s' thoughts that readers or viewers can interact with over time. So, interactive new media, to succeed, has to either connect us to other people, or in someway recreate the experience of a conversation with another intelligence.

I'll have more on the conversation with Hajo later on, but I have to to catch up on other stuff--I am so behind on my entries!

No comments: