Speculative Engineering: The architecture, philosophy and Internet art of a hybridized reality - Elliott Mickleburgh
At the end of the 20th century, humanity had a curious strategy for regarding the techno-spaces unfolding with the advancement of digital technology. The newly arrived non-spaces of the World Wide Web had generated a cultural atmosphere of cognitive dissonance bordering on paranoia, a mindset of deep hysteria that had to be sedated with the creation of a new mythology of space. The technological networks facilitating accelerated access to information across the globe were re-conceptualized under this mythology as architectures of bits and pixels, a virtual space completely distinct from the actual reality composed of atoms and matter that we naturally inhabit. Entrance to cyberspace was analogous to religious transcendence, flesh and bone abandoned as mind and spirit entered an immaterial universe of information.
As we move beyond the threshold of the millennia, this mythology evaporates. The worlds of the actual and the virtual have collapsed inwards. Matter and data now collide in a new hybridized reality system in which the spatial distinctions upheld by the mythology of cyberspace have given in to the realization that both worlds are at all times mutually influencing one another. The fantasy of the Internet existing as a utopian destination free of the prejudices, cruelty, and violence of the real world, has crumbled. Humanity has arrived at the cold awareness that causality is not hindered by the barrier that separates the online and the offline.
In terms of aesthetics, the composite reality that has succeeded the last century’s spatial techno-mythologies has already been partially subsumed into the discourse of postmodernism. To this end, the integration of the actual and the virtual becomes the final measure in the eradication of medium specificity. As the limit between matter and information approaches zero, the image finds itself fully released from the restrictive equivocation of medium and message described by Marshall McLuhan in a bygone era of media culture. Postmodern new media artists thus celebrate hybridized reality as a fluid structure that allows aesthetic content to proliferate across a spectrum of material and immaterial forms, continuing the epistemological erosion that Jean-François Lyotard described as the postmodern condition itself.