A homecoming festival : the application of the dialogic concepts of addressivity and the awareness of participation to an aesthetics of computer-mediated textual art
The recent history of computer-mediated textual art has witnessed a controversy surrounding the aesthetics of these texts. The practice-based research described by this thesis responds to this controversy by posing the question - Is there an aesthetic of computer-mediated textual art that can be used as the basis for a positive evaluation of contemporary practice? In exploring answers to this question, it poses three further questions that investigate the role played by materiality, participation and earlier claims for emancipation in the formation of an evaluation. This thesis develops its answer to these questions by turning first to the work of Bakhtin and the Bakhtin Circle to provide a generalised, architectonic model of meaning-making which serves as a conceptual framework for understanding computer-mediated textual art. This model describes meaning-making as a participative event between particularised individuals, which is defined, in part, by the addressivity oftheir shared utterance. This thesis then draws on the work of Ken Hirschkop to argue that the addressivity of print-mediated utterances contributed to the obscuring of participation of the reader-participant in the event of meaning-making during the period ofthe national culture of print. It also argues that this obscuring of participation had an effect on the development of democratic consciousness during this period. This thesis extends the concepts of the utterance and addressivity to describe computer-mediated textual art. It describes the historical context and the variety of aesthetic interests underpinning contemporary practice. It then argues that a sub-set of these texts exhibit a mode of addressivity that is different from the norms of the national culture of print. It draws on these differences to develop the original contribution ofthis thesis by describing an axiology (a theory of value) of computer-mediated textual art predicated on role played by their addressivity in raising awareness ofthe participation of the reader-participant in meaning-making. This thesis then illustrates the theoretical assessments derived from these questions through practice. It details the methodology employed in this research programme. It then describes the motivations for this research, the course of study, the preparatory practice and provides a social evaluation ofthe technology deployed. It argues for a 'contingent' model of practice in which the design process is framed as a reflective experiment. It then provides an analysis ofthe design process of the computer-mediated textual art work 'Homecoming' to illustrate the arguments made in thesis. This thesis concludes by placing the new axiology into the wider cultural context by arguing that it provides a valuable but non-exhaustive, nonexclusive evaluation ofthese works.