[symposium] Paraflows .XI – Identity

The 18th of September I’ll contribute with a speech to the symposium “Perspektiven: Rekonstruktion des Selbst und Alternativen” which is part of “Paraflows – Festival für digitale Kunst und Kulturen” in Vienna.

My intervention will be about: “The Representation of Self in Digital Life: Digital ontology for digital identity”.



Envisioning a sort of translation of the self in electronic information, in the late 60’s Marshall McLuhan introduced a concept which acknowledged the existence of a mirrored identity in the informational realm. Following a similar approach, in 1995 Nicholas Negroponte, with his book “Being Digital”, predicted that anything can be potentially translated in digital information. According to his theories, the atoms that compose the physical reality, can be conceptually translated in digital bits. In this sense, Negroponte envisions a future in which all the forms of information made by atoms are destined to become digital. Since nowadays it is possible to recognize digital as an essential substance that constitutes the basis of our cultural production and virtual identity, it become necessary to question what digital is. Thus, it become necessary to research the ontology of digital.

The research presented here combines the idea of digital identity with digital ontology. Exposing issues like visual representation and materiality, it aims to provide the conceptual tools for an understanding of the digital nature. With a purely speculative method, this presentation account some artistic projects made by the author, as cases of study. The intent of these projects is exploring the ontology of digital, in some of them, exposing the hidden substance of computational photography. The digital image is here considered the best subject to investigate, since it can easily exemplify the discrepancy between the sensible (and represented) form of digital, and its mathematical essence.

A large discussion that involves digital image, concentrates its attention in the problematic about the lost of referent. This focus on the referentiality of the subject in digital visual representation, become particularly relevant in a metaphorical relation with digital identity, when the subject is a person. With conceptual approach, some of the artistic projects introduced in this presentation, questioning the idea of referent, they also interrogates the idea of person identity, translated in a digital representation. However, sharing the common topics of digital ontology, and representation, the projects here introduced are also related to topics like: intellectual property and copyright, in addition to ancient concept of shape and form.

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