The global and unequally distributed proliferation of information, communication and experiential technologies has led to the development of a highly differentiated and structurally complicated media arts field. Even as the advent of some technologies is actively celebrated and their potential exploited by some, some others have barely come to grips with the possibilities of ‘long-obsolescent’ technologies.
Even as some struggle with the newness of certain technologies, others somewhat jaded with the determinative influence on their lives and creativity are consciously opting for “old” and “low” technologies. In such a globally differentiated situation, the very notions of “new” and “old” technologies though pandered as an issue of relative sophistication is revealed as an issue of relative access largely determined by historical, political, economic and cultural contexts. That such technologies have become important engines of economic development has made a critical evaluation of their complicities in and complex relationships to particular socio-cultural, economic and political ways of being especially difficult. That one can simultaneously critique technologies and yet enjoy the benefits and pleasures of some particular technologies might seem like a compromise and sell-out for some, but is a necessary aspect of one’s being in a world infused with such technologies to a point where opting out is both pragmatically impossible and ethically irresponsible.
In the art world, the problems of how one critically evaluates creative uses of technology are often confused with the questions of how one creatively enables the critical uses of technology. The themes for ISEA2008 Symposium have been selected to respond thus to the challenges of new and old technologies in creatively engaging the critical problems and possibilities of our age.