Space/Time Perception Through Digital Media: The Cubinator Project

On: March 27, 2010
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About Marta Colpani
I was born in Piacenza, a little city in the North of Italy. I grew up with five brothers and sisters and various adopted and hosted children who temporary lived with my family. In 2005 I moved on my own to Pisa to study Film, Music and Theater and later (2006) I moved to Haarlem to study Information Science in Amsterdam. I graduated in August 2009 and then started the post-graduated program New Media, at the same university (UvA). Simultaneously I'm studying fine arts at the Rietveld Academy and running a stage at Technische Unie in the Product information & eBusiness department.


Screen shot 2010-03-27 at 9.00.55 PMVirtualization of our daily tasks, as well as of communication processes, social activity, production, economics, media consumption, etc. probably have more impact on our temporal and special awareness and sensorial processes than we normally realize. Sarah and I came to this conclusion during the research that we decided to undertake for the seminar Scopic Regimes of Vituality.  Our final project for this seminar attempts to focus on our altered perception of space and time, as a consequence of our frequent use of new (digital) media. Expanding on Munster’s book (2006), in particular on her chapter on digitality, where she discuss the idea of a “global digital time” and refers to the 24 hours economy, we aim to realize a work of performance to expose multiple layers of our distorted perception of time and space, which are produced by our use of digital media.

We want to argue that this new distorted perception of the space and time of production, and relative changes in our idea of “location”, “presence” and “distance”, alienate us from the physical space and time in various ways, some more subtle than others. First of all, we are barely aware of the technical infrastructure that is needed to support our daily virtual activities and the costs of its maintenance (in money, energy power, physical space for servers, employment in developing countries). We tend then to lose sight on the impact that our virtual activities have on economics and on the environment.

On another level, increase of virtual activities have great impact on our private lives as well. Our exploration of reality becomes increasingly mediated, abstracted from physical space, confined to few actual locations and simultaneously multiplied in new experiences we gain virtual access to. This results in a “colonization” of our time by activities whose relevance and value are arguable (Virilio, 1997) (surfing the web, jumping from one website to another, from one chat or SNS to another, literally sucked into a vortex of connectivity).

The Cubinator Project

Our project consists of two parts: one is mainly theoretical and the second part will result in a practical component that aims to expose the clash between space and time that we virtually experience while using digital media, and the real space and time of production and interaction that we tend to devalue more and more. Also the concepts of “location” and “distance” are hence involved.

The idea of time and space are profoundly intertwined in the new media experience. Anna Munster observes how speed more or less consciously becomes our new unit of measure for distance in the virtual realm. We tend to experience closeness when response (from a machine or another person using the medium) is very fast. Consequently, lag in response creates the effect of remoteness. In the globalized 24 hours economy, strongly supported by digital media, we are also prompted to believe that everyone or everything is always working and available for use or contact. Our interaction with a computational device somehow erases human constraints (our biological rhythms, our physical distances) in our imagination.

With our work (performance) we aim to expose the regimes of perception that virtuality engraves in our sensorial system. After exploring bodily perception, the relation between bodily perceived space (and time) and new digitally created space/ time parameters with a theory study, and analyzing other works of art that have been dealing with the same topics, we will try to produce a direct experience of these collisions between the physical and virtually perceived space.

Realization of the work (live online performance)

Our work will consist of an online performance in 24 hours. Therefore, we will need to design the following elements: web interface (where the audience can easily interact with us), the real physical space (room) where the action will take place, the action that will be produced as a result of the interaction, and how to exhibit, if so, the end product afterwards.

Our performance will take place in a room, where we will build some pointless structure with small origami paper boxes, according to the instructions of the participants. The participants can follow us for 24 hours straight, live on webcam on the webpage and they can “order” us to make a box and put it in the structure through a simple button on the same webpage. Likely, the performance will produce a paper construction that will be destroyed afterwards, with absolutely no utility. If only few people will participate, the paper structure will be smaller, while the larger the number, the performance will be even more exhausting for us.

With the performance, we aim to produce commentary to the actual time, space, and labor that occurs on the Internet, symbolically materialized in ourselves, as well as on the use of time online, oscillating between the illusion of productivity and voyeurism. There will be a clear, almost literal reference to the 24 hour economy visualized in our 24 hour performance. This is also a commentary to crowdsourcing, democratization, and amateurization of the web where anyone can make something, build something, and is present in the work, which questions creativity and democratization in produsage.

The performance will take place on the 17th of April, at 19:00. You are kindly invited to participate!


Munster, A. Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics. 2006 (Digitality)

Virilio, P. The Vision Machine. 1994

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