Problems of Disconnection in Digital Connection

Problems of Disconnection in Digital Connection

Problems of Disconnection in Digital Connection


A major factor in what defines us nowadays, it seems, is whether we’re an Apple Mac user or Microsoft Windows user, rather than our human characteristics and opinions. What does this say about modern society and how is the art world reacting to the seemingly or potentially superficial medium of digital?

Through social apps like Facebook and Twitter, it is increasingly easy to connect with friends and build networks; it also faces the challenge in disconnecting us with our physical environment. In making us apparently more connected with one another, is the advancement in the digital actually making an unsociable, less connected world? In loosing ourselves to a digital domain of electronic devices, we are less aware of the happenings around us and less likely to engage with others, as we appear to have a growing intimacy with electronics. When lost in our personal digital world it’s now becoming an unnatural concept for a stranger to interact with us, something usually met with startling confusion.

In the digital realm, communication is easily accessible and tasks can be made more convenient, for example managing bills, networking, and socialising can all take place online. Though as a consequence, this means that a large portion of our functioning world takes place in a virtual, intangible world; does this mean we face the danger of being less capable of physical interaction?

There is a heavy wall of defence when we hide behind our smart phones, iPod’s, laptops and e-reader’s, where it can be questioned whether it is something making a generation of more impolite individuals as we often become distracted and more engaged by our phones than the people sat in front of us.

The popularly used term, ‘Tube Face’ assigned to the attitude of people on London’s Underground provides here a prime example of our ever-growing refusal to interact. The concern is not only that we’re detached from those around us, but also when faced with a time where we have to operate without a device for a few hours or days, it seems to cause an air of anxiety and distress, as it means we will be alone.

Making recognition of these strange habits we’re developing, the 2009 exhibition titled, ‘Decode: Digital design sensation’ at the V&A, saw artists Rachel Perry Welty and An Xiao make social media based artworks where they each sat in the gallery space and corresponded with their audience via Twitter and Skype. In using social media to comment on the digital they created distance to make us self-aware of our drastic change in communication.

We are always somehow connected to a series of virtual networks, so even when we’re not physically with people we are virtually in one another’s presence, leading many of us to feel discomfort when we don’t have the reliance of a device to connect us to the world. This of course leads to people who perhaps prefer their online identity, and where it aids as a distraction from real life problems, rather than overcoming and working through an issue. Wetly and Xiao were able to touch on these issues in an attempt to comprehend a new, somewhat isolated social etiquette for conversation.

Of course the invention of digital, offers another, and developing medium for the artist. In turn there seems to be a new established discourse regarding the digital versus analogue within the arts, and it is something continuously reflected on. Where some artist’s continue to adopt traditional techniques, for example, artist Tacita Dean uses analogue film, where most film artists now use digital. In interviews her loyalty to the medium is often questioned, as she is labelled as nostalgic. Yet she simply reminds us of the magic of the medium and provides a sharp contrast amongst her contemporaries. She also signifies the success capable in remaining true to your medium as in 2011 she was part of the Unliver series at Tate’s Turbine hall which is certainly a highlight of her career.
Within painting, which is considered to be an analogue medium, the effects and influence of digital are ever growing. As seen by the works of artists such as Chuck Close, Fiona Rae, and Glenn Brown, each, either make reference to or in a minor way, use the digital within their work whilst remaining rooted in an analogue medium. Thus displaying the positive way we can incorporate and intertwine the digital and analogue.

Regardless of the on-going discussion between the digital and analogue, where it can be difficult to see at present what will be remembered as the iconic items of design, I think a worthy piece of work, whether it be painting, music, design or architecture, will always stand the test of time.


Written by Tara Palmer

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