P a p e r F o c u s|
Refracting the View from Nowhere - Porosity and the Portable Device.
This paper will examine the spatiotemporal assumptions that underlie the technology of GPS. A central concern will be an examination of GPS as a means of privileging space at the expense of time. I will argue that through this mediation our spatiotemporal experience is artificially atomised. We are left with highly fictionalised collections of data - a literal stretching - or relaxing - of the truth.
My main objective will be to foreground the history of atomistic thinking as it applies to spatiotemporal phenomena and to illustrate its close affinity with technology in general. I will focus primarily upon locative media.
There are a number of aesthetic reactions to the atomised experience. These can be framed in terms of the 'immanent' and the 'transcendent' response. The transcendent response seeks holism - the completion of data via some external source or quality. The immanent response is concerned with the celebration of data in itself.
With its implicit quantification of space and time, GPS technology serves as a poignant stimulus for eliciting each of these reactions. The transcendent response is perhaps best illustrated by locative work with strongly narrative tendencies. In contrast, works informed by immanence concern themselves primarily with the visualisation of data and process.
There are various degrees of permeability in the framing of both 'place' and 'the instant'. There is a highly porous view of time and space present in much artistic thinking. Contra this we have the strict privation of the moment that is bound up both with rejecting the past and with lauding the 'new' - another not altogether unusual artistic strategy.
Global positioning seems particularly interesting with respect to this territory. On the one hand the cellular satellite system employed by GPS has a kind of permeability - with a vocabulary of 'stretching' and 'overlapping' cells. On the other hand, the chosen aesthetic of representation is that of the clean, authoritative and atomised line.
Much of my discussion will be informed by the philosophy of Henri Bergson. My aim is to illustrate how GPS has revived a set of early 20th century concerns whilst at the same time giving them a predominately practical focus. An obsession with measurement and practicality has resulted in a new kind of reflexivity. The GPS is a portable device - its purpose, to document its own portability.