Art and Peripheral Digital Activity

Meyer, Jon. 2019. Art and Peripheral Digital Activity. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Art and Peripheral Digital Activity)
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Abstract or Description

As digital technologies have become more pervasive, this thesis argues, there has been an accompanying expansion of a phenomenon here called ‘peripheral digital activity.’ This activity includes unplanned and unexpected events that arise in conjunction with digital technologies and that are poorly classified using conventional notions of ‘interaction,’ ‘user experience,’ or purposeful ‘use.’ To ground this idea, the thesis looks to artistic strategies that might critically investigate the concept of peripheral digital activity, in this case arguing that Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy of organism, with its emphasis on whole-part relations, holds special relevance. The thesis proposes an original Whitehead-centred analysis of art as a manner or ‘mode’ of decision procedure. Developing this analysis via Whitehead’s notion of actual entities and through a discussion of digital function, the thesis examines the practice of contemporary artist Tino Sehgal. Reading through theories of social and participatory art, the thesis arrives at Sehgal’s proposition of ‘cleaner conceptualism.’ Outlining a systems-based interpretation of cleaner conceptualism, Sehgal’s constructed situations are contrasted with the idea of art as a decision procedure proposed by Sol LeWitt. Whereas LeWitt organizes his idea of decision procedures as a dualist critique of instrumental rationalism, Sehgal creates a new mode of monist decision procedure. Using this monist strategy, Sehgal mobilises participants, collectors, and curators in a way that is entangled with and presupposes digital function even as his practice foregrounds non-technological body-to-body human engagement. The thesis claims that Sehgal’s practice is one strategy for critically investigating the effects of peripheral digital activity. Proposing directions for future research, the thesis ends with a Coda that provides a preliminary analysis of the paintings Laura Owens as a diagnostic tool for investigating digital functional augmentation.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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This is an edited version of the thesis, with third-party copyright images removed.


Contemporary art, Metaphysics, Postinternet art, Conceptual art, Digital technologies, user experience, interactivity

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31 May 2019

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Date Deposited:

17 Jun 2019 13:49

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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