Unit 3 report

An ability to resolve work according to the objectives defined in your proposal

My initial proposal aims and objectives were as follows. I will speak about each one in turn:


To make a (very lateral) history of language and meaning using the word ‘all’ as my focus.
The focus has shifted here from history to documentary snapshot. The project is about people’s perception of the word’s history and present as opposed to the history itself. I am using the internet to help me get the viewer to be part of producing that snapshot.


Look at the emotional attachments developed in the process of etymology and semiotics.
In producing the questionnaire I’m proposing different avenues of exploration of these emotional attachments. I’m asking people to contribute to this process.

Discover more about Flash and other web software and scripting languages with a view to using them in a non-professional, art motivated context.
I’ve used PHP in building the questionnaire. I’ve given myself the tools to do more complex things in the future. Programming is a massive area to learn about. I must say I’m not a natural programmer. I learned Flash at the beginning of the course and realsied it’s great for selected things. It didn’t seem necessary in this project.

To investigate the art of immersive installations.
The process of looking at other people’s answers has tended to be an immersive one. I had originally intended immersion to mean immersion in a constructed space. It came to mean immersion in an intellectual process. The underlying interest remains quite similar. It’s about a mindset.

To gain and present an understanding of the dynamics of mythology and fairy tales.
I’ve read quite a bit of mythology for this project (Welsh and Norse). This hasn’t been a major factor in the questionnaire. On balance this was a thread that didn’t flow with the rest of the project when it became a questionnaire. The reading did make me think about why people have this hunger to poeticise big ideas. This has fed in to the project. You might say it’s at the project’s heart but not on the skin. It’s an interest that will most likely appear in future work at some point.

To refine my artistic practice so my often wildly improbable dreams and ideas can come closer to seeing the light of day instead of just sitting in my head. This objective is all about becoming more disciplined in making artistic decisions and maturing significantly in my practice as a result.
The big thing here has been my increasing interest in art theory (Theory is a toy – blog post), the internet and its wider implications for art. I’m now operating on a much more solid base and am investigating a developing framework for understanding the myriad lines of thought that are currently rioting in my head. This means that as an artist I’m building a set of concerns and pre-occupations. My next steps are going to be defined by that. Obviously this means that I feel like I’m at the beginning of the process not the end. The MA looks on the outside like you’re going to make a package, instead you end up opening one. Now figuratively speaking I’m left with a whole pile of toothpaste that won’t go back in the tube. Excellent.

I think there are areas of overlap for these two so I’m putting them together.
— An ability to analyse and reflect critically upon your own and others’ work in the context of current practice
— An ability to articulate and debate issues pertaining to digital representation and presentation in relation to audiences and professional contexts.

I’ve built the website www.humjam.com to debate the many issues surrounding art on the internet. It will also act as an online gallery for work that has been made specifically for the internet. For example, much of the work will involve online interaction (especially when made by me). This will be done with a view to examining what the different possibilities might be for online art and why the internet may in some cases be a superior method of art dissemination than the traditional gallery.

Walter Benjamin offers this great quote:

For the tasks which face the human apparatus of perception at the turning points of history cannot be solved by optical means, that is, by contemplation alone. They are mastered gradually by habit, under the guidance of tactile appropriation.

p233, Benjamin W, Illuminations, Pimlico

In the context of the present day this means we’ll only learn about the implications of the internet (amid other things) by playing with it. Humjam aims to find the borders of the internet through art and then play with them. In the process hopefully I and other site contributors will be part of making a map of sorts of where the internet could be headed.

I think the internet is reaching a new point of maturity. This maturity makes the aforementioned play possible. We are fast reaching a point where Allan Kaprow’s terse statement (albeit from 1974) that ‘until video is used as indifferently as the telephone it will remain a pretentious curiosity’ is irrelevant of internet art. The comfort with the internet is increasingly there but the art infrastructure is still being developed. Boundaries are changing and many things are quite open.

Practical skills in negotiation, organisation, promotion and realisation hosting of an online exhbitiion while working as a member of a team
I built the final show website working from and modifying the initial design done by Noel. In a process of discussion with different members of the group I experimented with and rejected several layouts and navigation plugins. While I did the build by myself for the most part (It’s easier to do it that way, I find as changes can be made more quickly) I was dependent on advice from David and Julian from the onliners and Simon, Noel and Tim as well. Simon and Noel taught me a few things about design generally. Everyone has claimed to be pleased with the website. Julian fixed the Flickr badge and made it fit more with the style of the site as a whole. I thought he and I combined pretty well for that, though he did all the javascript and programming with it. I just styled it and put it up after telling him what I wanted.

Regarding putting up the show, what’s been nice has been the way everyone has been involved. Tim and Simon took the lead with it with Simon in particular doing a lot of admin work in terms of sending out E-mails and so on while Tim seems to have given us all some impetus on a more practical scale. As time has gone on this has spread out though, I think. In putting things up we’ve all advised and helped each other. Noel was very patient in doing the flyer design and branding. Susana has made her depth of exhibition experience freely available. Kenji has always been on hand to co-ordinate different equipment issues. There have been smaller things too. I built and sanded Brian and Ayhan’s plinths with Simon and Chris’s help. Lots of people have helped me in countless small ways. There has been a lot of general good feeling toward one another, on the whole. The onliners who’ve come in for the set up have been part of this too. It’s been nice getting to know Jules, Ayhan and Brian. Generally, if people have been around then they’ve been really helpful. I like that, in an assessment context. We were all good. That includes me of course!

I’ve also been helping Zai and Simon in setting up websites for the end of year show and have said I’d be happy to assist anyone else in this area.

An ability to evaluate and summarise your overall progress and formulate a constructive plan for continuing professional development

The most frustrating thing about this unit have been the technical frustrations. They’ve eaten up a lot of my time at critical points. I barely blogged at the start of the year because I was scratching my head looking at PHP. I’m now beginning to get a hold on the language. This is important as it will open a lot of doors in terms of what I can be capable of.

Frustration blog post in which |reflect on some of the brighter points about having these difficulties. They make you question the necessity to the wider project of the thing you’re trying to make. In fact, the tag cloud script I did find I have taken off because I found myself questioning it. It was a distraction. The focus soon shifted to the tag cloud more than the questions.

My progress has been much more rapid in general terms when thinking about the internet. When building the show website I used a few new techniques I saw via RSS. RSS has blown my mind a little and is excellent for wider context on the internet.

One thing I’m pleased about with the MA is that I’m slowly developing an informed world view about digital art theory. This is something I definitely plan to develop. One way in which I will do this is by attempting to publish some writing in an academic journal at some point in the next year or so. I’ll be using humjam to make a context from which to sell myself in this regard.

I had at one point been planning on putting my questionnaire on a website called all-questionnaire.com. This would have been boring. There would have been no context for the questionnaire. Because there would have been no other reason to come to the site the chances of people just stumbling across it would have been slim. Placed in this broader structure the questionnaire has a shelf life for as long as the website is live.

First blog about humjam.

I’ll be using the website to promote myself and others. The internet favours groups. It’s built on the architecture of the hyperlink. The more people are linked together the better. Four websites seen by search engines as a group is better than four independent websites. I have asked several people about contributing to the site. Tim (both as himself and with Nicola as part of Genetic Moo), Simon and Zai have expressed a fairly clear interest in putting work on it. Between those artists alone there is a good variety of potential for interesting work to be shown. I’m planning on writing an article a month for it and getting someone else in to write an article a month. So the written side of it will be updated fortnightly.

The other advantage of the site is the fact that it gives me a degree of control over my work that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It will be a superb tool in making applications for residencies and other things. I talk about this a little in this post pondering what success means for a digital artist.

I also like the idea of keeping in touch with people (networking!) and this is a good excuse.

Regarding the rest of my professional development, I plan on applying for web design jobs in which I will sponge knowledge from my colleagues.

An ability to produce work that reflects the course of study and current research in digital arts
The simple nature of my questionnaire has largely come down to two things: one is a taste for simplicity and generally feeling that my questionnaire is more about the questions themselves than anything else. The other is technical frustration in learning web programming languages.

For me, the area where the questionnaire comes to life is in writing the answers and reading other people’s answers. This has been the case in the original paper version and in watching people doing the online version. I also had a strong sense of the pleasure of this when I did all of the inputting for the paper questionnaires. I’d forgotten how many different answers there were to some of the questions. It was nice to read those as I typed them.

I had originally intended to use more data visualisation but the more I read the different data visualisation blogs the more I felt that all too often these projects serve aesthetics more than the information. The contemplation I’m asking for is really very abstract so I’ve chosen to keep the decoration for the questionnaire to a minimum.

  • Here are a couple of blog posts documenting my developing feelings about this and the way I feel that much of the time these things can be seen as toys, which is great but not for this project:
  • data visualisation

I don’t like the closed questionnaire. i have left it in there because it offers people a choice of doing something more simple. The kind of interaction I’m looking for is much more about typing than pushing buttons, though. I would have liked to prove my point more in tests for this but unfortunately the poll system broke for the few days when I would have done it. I think the statement holds up though. People will think less about a question with a yes/no answer. There is also much more charm in offering people the chance to use their own words and also to read the more eccentric offerings of others. I do quite like the fact that the AJAX gives a graph back immediately.

  • Blog post about buttons and interaction.
  • The possibility of using tools generally available on the internet to further the aims of the project.
  • . I haven’t been able to implement the text captcha as of yet but have a back up plan (reCAPTCHA) if the questionnaire does start getting deluged with spam.

The piece in the show comes partially from a desire for another opportunity to look at what happens to the same thing in a gallery context so I can compare the two directly. It’s all very well making these things to test but it’s better to see it in a real exhibition environment.

To conclude, while it has been suggested that I should use more off key interaction and visualisation methods I have chosen to use the old fashioned ones. The real interaction is happening mentally, much as it was when people looked at art fifty years ago. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it offers a ‘monument’ as Nicholas Bourriaud might say. People’s answers will still be there tomorrow and next year.

  • Summary
  • Humjam.com is the young seedling fruit of my thinking about digital art theory and the internet
  • I like simplicity, for this project at least. It is about questions and answers. A purist approach.

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