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Assignment 11, Phong

Deck, Andy C. (1999) “In Search of Meaningful Events: Curatorial Algorithms and Malleable Aesthetics.” In D. Bearman & J. Trant (Eds.), Museums and the Web 1999, Archives & Museum Informatics, Pittsburgh, PA, available at:

1. what did you find (articulate the answers in your own words)

1.1. interesting about the article? I like the main point that the internet can be used to break or reinforce barriers. See question 4.

1.2. not interesting about the article? I didn't like the dense writing at the expense of clarity of argument. Look to Donna Haraway (, for example, for clear writing coupled with intellectually rigorous arguments about postmodern conditions.

2. what does the author mean by curatorial algorithms? Curatorial algorithm refers to politicized criteria to judge "good" art being built into software such that most viewers are not aware that a choice has already been made. In this instance, the ability to exercise power, expressed as the power to make choices for some else, is invisible because viewers are not aware of what has been excised. In the case of art, what has been excised are art that do not meet the museum's limited vision of good art.

3. what does the author mean by malleable aesthetics? Artifacts, and process, that change via interaction with those who view, or interact with them, apart from those who originally created them. Thus, the categories of artist and public becomes blurred as the "public" becomes creators.

4. what do you consider the main message of the article? The main messages is that the internet offers possibility for egalitarianism as well as continued exploitation of the masses. With its ability for reciprocal communications, the internet may be able to break the one-way broadcast models used by corporations to ensure the generation false needs (i.e. get people continually to buy to fuel capitalism's expansion) at the expense of folks' social, political, and emotional development. Museums, and other institutions of culture, have a choice. They can either continue to feature arts that does not engage people, and limit their participation, on web sites that present canned programming. Or they can create interactive, bi-directional, websites that embraces the concept of viewer as co-creators.

5. Please comment on the following claim: “As an artist using the Internet, the question of how to involve people in meaningful events is paramount. Inspiring participation in something useful or fun, or enlightening is okay. But better still is orchestrating contributions to something good that lasts longer the event itself…”.

5.1. agree / disagree? Broadly I would agree. An artist would want to create works that speaks to the human condition. The artists that I like create art that is not only beautiful to look at (from my perspective), but the work also engage me intellectually and emotionally on issues that all of us face (such as life and death or what it means to have a good life). Examples of artists in these categories for me are Goya (and his black paintings) and Joan Miro, Personally, I believe that an artist – regardless of the medium that he/she works in – should strive to challenge people to consider these issues because they are uniquely positioned to enable us to close the gap between intellectual and emotional assessment of many questions that we face.

5.2. which are the personal consequences which you draw from this statement? Personally, I think it would be great to make a long lasting contribution. But the likelihood of doing that is low. I'd like to aim to make a great contribution but I would be satisfied with being able to enable folks to participate in something useful, fun, or enlightening.

5.3. are the educational programs you are involved addressing this claim? I think some classes are challenging students to make a difference. But I think this is the exception rather than the rule.

6. Please comment on the following claim: “Due to the manipulative capacity of interactive systems, designs should be open to revision and debate… The term “malleable aesthetics” as I mean it refers to the ability to accumulate not only statements, or data, but also the structural changes brought by users of the system. Incompatible with forced enclosure, the purest forms of this category of production are licensed to assure that programming code remains in the public domain”.

6.1. agree / disagree? I agree. In general designs should be open to revision and debate because design function well only in context. Good design stands the test of time; however, it may need to changes at the edges to accommodate present conditions. The US Constitution, while some may argue that it embodied the interests of those who wrote it, has good elements of design, and it allows adaptation through the amendment process.

6.2. which are the personal consequences which you draw from this statement? Create good bones with mechanisms for adaptation in the things you create and it has a chance to last.

6.3. are the educational programs you are involved addressing this claim? Yes, in the CS department some classes are starting to work with open source software, either as users or contributors. But as an institution of learning perhaps we should have a technical service learning component (like the Peace Corp or Americorp). The CS Department does have the Technology for Community course which sounds like a great start.

7. Do you feel that the “Design, Learning, and Collaboration” course addresses these two claims? Yes, in the sense the DLC is getting us to read articles that exposes us to these thoughts and getting us to consider and talk about these issues.

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