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Pioneering the place of cybernetics and telematics in art, Roy Ascott has been working with issues of art, technology and consciousness since the 1960s.

He was born in Bath, England on 26 October 1934, and educated at the City of Bath Boys’ School. His National Service was spent as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force working with radar defence systems and fighter control at Northern Command. From 1955-59 he studied Fine Art at King’s College, University of Durham (now Newcastle University) under Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton, and Art History under Lawrence Gowing and Quentin Bell. On graduation he was appointed Studio Demonstrator (1959-61).

Roy Ascott has shown at the Venice Biennale, Electra Paris, Ars Electronica, V2 Institute for the Unstable Media [1], Milan Triennale, Biennale do Mercosul, Brazil, European Media Festival, and gr2000az at Graz, Austria. His first seminal telematic project was La Plissure du Texte (1983) [2], an online work of “distributed authorship” involving artists around the world in the construction of a non-linear narrative.

In his first one-man show (1964) at the Molton Gallery, London (Annely Juda) he exhibited Analogue Structures and Diagram Boxes , transformable works in wood, perspex and glass, involving the participation of the viewer, and informed by cybernetics. The art historian Frank Popper addresses the significance of this early work. In 1964 also Ascott published “Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision” in Cybernetica: journal of the International Association for Cybernetics (Namur). With Gordon Pask as his mentor, he was elected Associate Member of the Institution of Computer Science, London, in 1968. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1972.

Roy Ascott has shown at the Venice Biennale, Electra Paris, Ars Electronica, V2 Holland [1], Milan Triennale, Biennale do Mercosul, Brazil, European Media Festival, and gr2000az at Graz, Austria. His first seminal telematic project was La Plissure du Texte (1983) [2], an online work of “distributed authorship” involving artists around the world in the construction of a non-linear narrative.

Interactive Computer Art

Since the 1960s Roy Ascott has been one of Europe’s most active and outspoken practitioners of interactive computer art, and is internationally recognised as the pioneer of telematic art [3]. Ten years before the personal computer came into existence, Ascott saw that interactivity in computer-based forms of expression would be an emerging issue in the arts. Intrigued by the possibilities, he built a theoretical framework for approaching interactive artworks, which brought together certain characteristics of the avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, Happenings, and Pop Art in particular), with the science of cybernetics championed by Norbert Wiener.

Current Research

Ascott’s work involves the exploration of what he has identified as “cyberception”, “technoetics”, “moistmedia”, and syncretism in art, amongst many other influential concepts and theories that he has published in six books and over 170 articles and papers worldwide in the past three decades. His most recent (2006) publications include:

  • The Syncretic Imperative [4]
  • Syncretic Reality: art, process, and potentiality [5]
  • “Technoetic Pathways toward the Spiritual in Art: A Transdisciplinary Perspective on Connectedness, Coherence and Consciousness” [6]

Academic career

He is the founding president of the Planetary Collegium[7], an advanced research center based in the University of Plymouth, UK, with nodes in Zurich, Milan and Beijing. He has been Dean of San Francisco Art Institute, California, Professor for Communications Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and President of Ontario College of Art, Toronto. He has advised new media arts organisations in Brazil, Japan, Korea, Europe and North America, as well as UNESCO and the CEC, and since 2000 has been a Visiting Professor in Design|Media Art [8] at the UCLA School of the Arts. He is the founding editor of Technoetic Arts, journal of speculative research[9].


As a teacher Ascott has had many notable students e.g. Brian Eno, Paul Sermon[10], Pete Townsend, Stephen Willats[11]. As director of studies his doctoral graduates include Peter Anders, Jon Bedworth, Geoff Cox, Char Davies[12], Elisa Giaccardi, Dew Harrison, Pamela Jennings[13], Eduardo Kac, Joseph Nechvatal, Miroslaw Rogala, Gretchen Schiller, Jill Scott, Bill Seaman, Christa Sommerer, Victoria Vesna[14].

He has published over 150 articles and academic papers in the journals and magazines of many countries.


  • Ascott, R. (ed). 2005. Engineering Nature. 2005.Bristiol UK:Intellect.
  • Ascott,R.2003. Telematic Embrace. {E.Shaken, ed.] Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Ascott, R. 2002. Technoetic Arts (Korean translation: YI, Won-Kon), (Media & Art Series no. 6, Institute of Media Art, Yonsei University). Yonsei: Yonsei University Press
  • Ascott, R. 1998. Art & Telematics: toward the Construction of New Aesthetics. (Japanese trans. E. Fujihara). A. Takada & Y. Yamashita eds. Tokyo: NTT Publishing Co.,Ltd.
  • Reframing Consciousness. Exeter: Intellect. 1999
  • Art Technology Consciousness. Exeter: Intellect. 2000


  • Packer, R. & Jordan, K. (eds). Multimedia: from Wagner to Virtual Reality, New York: Norton, 2001.
  • Amelia Jones (ed), The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Art since 1945 (London: Blackwell, 2005). pp562, 567-9
  • Pioneers
  • Factbites [15]


Selected Texts




Image and Narrative


Critical-mas tv




Blog references

Roy Ascott’s Cybernetic Vision

The Architecture Of Cyberception

Ascott and Blog-Art

The Syncretic Imperative

Technoetic Art in Korean – review

Cyberception and the Paranatural Mind

Embracing technology

Behavioural Art

La Web Chamantica

Family links

Partner: Josephine Coy

Son: Lincoln Ascott

Son: Justin Ascott

Daughter: Claudia Ascott

BaharaI wikied the writer Hassan Bahara, whose book Een verhaal uit de stad Damsko I used for writing my thesis. As I promised, I added a few internal and external links. It’s my first wiki ever, but I think I’ll write some more :)

Bruce Sterling, cyberpunk science fiction writer, asks what new media does for writers. He talks about the creative process of writing, the restrictions and politics, the uselessness of Microsoft Word and.. blogs! Apparently, comic book writers and stand-up comedians stand a better chance of being good bloggers, the short story format just wouldn’t work. The lecture is over an hour but worth it.
Link Via Boingboing

We've got blogWe’ve got Blog is a collection of thirty four articles about weblogs compiled and edited by John Rodzvilla. It was published in 2002 during which blogs had been around for three years. As well known blog essayist Rebecca Blood puts in the introduction ‘The articles in this collections are early reflections on the weblog phenomenon’. But the reflections are rather superficial and the subtitle ‘how weblogs are changing our culture’ doesn’t seem to get answered.


The Department Of Media Studies is proud to present
Dr. Patrick Crogan

wethemediaWe The Media (2004) is the book that launched Dan Gillmor’s career as an authority on journalism and blogging. In his first book Gillmor, once a former professional musician, lets us take a peek at the past, present and future of the two.

Starting off Gillmor sets the tone by reminding us of the roots of blogging. He traces it back to the days of Usenet, forums and Compuserve. But he doesn’t leave it at the companies and the media, he also traces back the audience who are now actually using the blogs. Radio talkshows, where listeners could phone in to let themselves be heard and participate in show, also stand at the roots of blogging.


In the book Profiling Machines, new media theorist Greg Elmer looks at how consumers are tracked and how their data is fed back to them, affecting change in the spaces they navigate. His examples include recommendation systems like those on Amazon and TiVo. On either, your behavior or ‘movement’ is recorded and analyzed along with that of every other user, generating various profiles and thereby  recommendations. I think that the key point is that these systems generate change in the user’s environment while promoting uniformity in users’ movement.
Below I wonder aloud, “What would be the effect of applying this model more generally?” (Note: 75% of readers ultimately choose Chuck Norris after viewing this item.)

PlatoWhile reading through Plato’s conversation with Socrates in his classic writings of the Republic, I noticed an almost utopian allegory in Book VIII in which they discuss the decline of the state. The decline discussed by the ancient Greek philosophers resembles the history of the web untill now very precisely. I will give you my view of how I see this -maybe unorthodox- allegory.

You can download it in a PDF here: Plato’s Republic: The decline of the state and the history of the World Wide Web. Or just press more to read in directly in the blog.


Just a reminder that the databodies event is in paradiso tonight. Also there are some short articles about databodies in the new issue of cut-up (including those written by fellow masters Esther, Jasper and myself), for those that just cannot get enough.

A few days ago I was having a conversation that is worth noting. The talk was with Marco, who was visiting The Netherlands as a tourist. Marco works for Telecom, the state owned telecom provider in Belgrade, Serbia. Marco has an Engineering degree in electro-technical science from Belgrade University. Currently he has a high level management position in the IT department.

I asked Marco about the present internet situation in Serbia. He answered that because of the geographical condition in Serbia there is an unequal spread in internet connection possibilities. It is very difficult in the mountain regions to even get access to a proper telephone line. In the urban areas internet is more common. Yet internet speeds that we have in The Netherlands are unusual. Most people use a dial-up connection, with a maximum speed of 56 kb/s. This, however, is still considered very fast (for a dial-up connection). When people want a faster access, they can get an ADSL connection. The cost is about 15 euros per month for a speed of 128 kb/s. The maximum speed available (via cable) is 2 mb/s and is only affordable by big companies, multi-nationals and the very rich.

Downloading films and music is not as ordinary in comparison to Western countries. Streaming videos via GoogleVideo or YouTube is also considered exceptional. Warez are available at almost every street corner in Belgrade. Illegal Dvd’s and Cd’s are big business. Most people in Serbia only use internet for checking their mail and to read through news sites. The average income in Serbia is currently about 500 dollars per month. For most people it is too expensive to get a 128 kb/s connection for 15 euro’s (19 dollars). Because the difference between a dial-up connection is relatively small, it is more common people make use of this type of internet access.

Developing the communication infrastructure in Serbia is very costly. Placing new cables to households takes high investments by the government. In a country that is still tormented by a civil war, Nato bombing, and a fraudious regime, it is difficult to imagine new media technology to be a priority. It is therefore to be expected that private companies supply and empower urban areas in Serbia with cable. However reality disagrees.


In addition to Alexander R. Galloway – Protocol, chapter I: Physical Media, here’s a nice animation:

Warriors of the Net

pigeon.jpgIn a time when everything is about blogging, vlogging and glogging it is necessary to highlight an old school tool used by researchers years before anyone had ever heard of blogs, the mailing list. There are thousands of mailing lists handling almost every subject imaginable and many of them could be of interest to the field of new media research.

I am currently subscribed to a couple of new media related mailing lists and find them of great value. The thing I don’t understand is why these mailing lists haven’t transformed themselves into a more modern and versatile form, like a blog. (more…)

The closing session of MyCreativity continued the previous session on dispatches from the city: Examples of the Creative Industry -or insert preffered term here- from around Europe. The first session covered Vienna, Dublin, Barcelona and Basel.

In this second session we’re venturing into London, Helsinki, Berlin and with Rotterdam we’re bringing MyCreativity back home to the Netherlands. What follows are my observations, thoughts and questions on the presentations. (more…)

Galloway’s Protocol addresses how control exists after decentralization, that is, in specific places where decentralization is done and gone and distribution has set in as the dominant network diagram. Galloway suggests protocol is an answer for that.

In part I of the book Galloway states that the protocols that underlie the Internet are not politically neutral. They regulate physical media, sculpt cultural formations, and exercise political control. In part III Galloway comes back to this point. He writes that if the network itself is political from the start, then any artistic practice within that network must engage political or feign ignorance.

So my question is, what is the dominant political ideology that is embedded in protocols that underlie the Internet?

I don’t know about you, but this makes me quite jealous…

Matt is a 29-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. He achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he’d saved to wander around the planet until it ran out. He made this site so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he is.

A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt the idea of dancing everywhere he went and recording it on his camera. This turned out to be a very good idea. Now Matt is quasi-famous as “That guy who dances on the internet. No, not that guy. The other one. No, not him either. I’ll send you the link. It’s funny.”

In a recent post on my personal blog about Linux compatibility, I wasn’t that surprised that some things just don’t work under Linux. In my case I was unable to connect with the UvA network since Cisco did not provide some essential driver updates for Linux/Kubuntu. But with Windows XP now installed again and with Mozilla Thunderbird for my e-mail, I really didn’t expect anything to be incompatible.


TagcloudTag clouds are a nice way to visualize the content tags of a website. Flickr started this trend when they displayed a “All-time most popular tags” tag cloud on their front page. The size of the tags in the tag cloud is usually relative (more frequently used tags are displayed in a larger font). In this way you can quickly see what is hot and what is not on a webpage.


Molotov Alva

SubmarineChannel presents the first documentary, entirely shot online within Second Life:

Several documentaries have been made about Second Life, but now there’s a film that actually takes place insíde this popular virtual world. In the film ‘My Second Life’ the main character sets out on a journey and the viewer tags along.As more people are spending more time in virtual worlds – for entertainment, friendship, work – these worlds are becoming the field of work for documentary filmmakers.

In ‘My Second Life’, director Douglas Gayeton examines what it means to lead a virtual life, and in the process uncovers some of the mysteries that still exist about our contemporary day and age.


Today Joseph DeLappe, Associate Professor of Art at the University of Nevada, Reno and the head of the Digital Media area and Chair of the Department of Art, gave us an overview of his work. One of his current projects is Dead-in-Iraq, a performance piece with a deceptively simple concept:

I enter the online US Army recruiting game, “America’s Army”, in order to manually type the name, age, service branch and date of death of each service person who has died to date in Iraq. The work is essentially a fleeting, online memorial to those military personnel who have been killed in this ongoing conflict. My actions are also intended as a cautionary gesture.

DeLappe says he is uneasy about calling this art, given the highly charged political context and the reaction such a description has generated so far, i.e. condescension and further anger from those who were already against it. To put it lightly, the symbolic insertion of dead U.S. soldiers into the army’s prize recruitment strategy tends to provoke – apparently the politics of war are unwanted in war’s virtual form. Delappe has opted to give his piece the qualifier ‘protest’.

At the moment I am writing a paper for the tutorial “current themes in new media”. In this paper I am analyzing whether Fraps, a real-time video/ screen capture software program, is an appropriate tool to use to collect data for game research. In this paper it is my objective to see if new methods can be found in the field of game research that can replace old methods for data gathering in the humanities department.

As many game researchers have argued, for example Aarseth and Yee, that in the past games have been researched through various disciplines. Psychologists research if children behave aggressively in real life after playing a violent game and economists research the influence of ingame economies on real-life economies, etc.. Game studies are a very young discipline, so it needs its own methodologies, claims Espen Aarseth. Ian Bogost does a wonderful job in his book “Unit Operations. (A great review of this book can be found here). Bogost comes up with an excellent new way of researching games, by mixing computation, literary studies and philosophy.

I would like to step away from methodology and have a look at method. Since games are digital and interactive, other methods may be more suitable for data gathering where the interaction of a player with the selected game is being researched, than qualitative methods such as observation and interviews.


spamming in the city

A while ago I found this flyer tied to my bike with a rubber band. First I was astonished, then it made me laugh. I have grown up in a small town in the Netherlands and of course quite often I have found flyers at the windscreen of my car, but this analog spamming phenomenon in Amsterdam was new to me. Most people in Amsterdam do not have a car, because it is impossible to park your car anywhere in the city. Therefore (small) companies have found new ways to reach their target group (in this case students and/ or people in their twenties, because the flyer is a advertisement for a party).

The trouble with science is that it wants to find the truth that is valid in all cases. These speakers, it can be argued, believe that idea is not only useless, but damaging. Context is king: every culture has it’s own interpretative framework, it’s own focus points. These should be respected. In short: it’s the “culture variable” that is missing from current network theory. With video