Estuary (guest talk)
Internet Age Media Weekend, Barcelona
2018

I was invited to give a talk at the 2018 Internet Age Media weekend in Barcelona, and I decided to share some of my thoughts about where we are at with all this technology and the Internet. Here is an augmented transcript of the presentation, my introduction to what I refer to as the estuary.

April 27, 2018

Hihi everyone, it is really special to join all of you here at Internet Age Media. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for a more fitting place to hang out. I hope you are all doing well, and that you’re enjoying your time out here.

As you’re probably noticing right now, I am not physically present. I wish that it were easier for us to interface between these spaces, but I know that it will be different, in time. Maybe i’ll meet you in here next time, in a different way.

My chat room, Eternity Chat, is open for access via Discord. You’re welcome to join me if you have any questions.Before I get started I’ll share a brief background about myself.

So a lot of my peers (and myself included) have this issue about describing their processes. I think this applies to most people now, as we look at the interdisciplinary nature of making and doing.

“New Media” is such a common descriptor, but it is still a really ambiguous one. It is sort of a pat on the back to say “new” media every time, but these things aren’t, and won’t always be new. As much as I can, I try to stay away from declaring the medium.

Instead, I think about things like this: I don’t have an orderly word cloud for my work. mine is more turbulence – changing things. Like a bunch of bumps during a meatspace flight.

My process is constantly colliding, bouncing off, avoiding, or remaking parts of itself. I had the pleasure of listening to Martine Syms give a presentation recently, and I really bonded with her idea of “versioning”. Patches, updates, remasters, edits. I like that a lot.

Today I am going to be focusing less on my specific practice and more about my reflections on the current ecosystem of the internet right now. some of my hopes for what lies ahead, and what we can do to plan accordingly.

My work often focuses on locations, virtual environments. Club Rothko. A labyrinth of nightclub rooms, chambers, corridors. Frontier Study. A view of the harness. the control and hyper-study that technology has placed on the physical world. I often hold a mirror to my virtual self, looking at how and what I will become as this technology continues to develop.

Out here in this landscape, I’ve actually grown quite fond of nature. Both aesthetically and conceptually. As Alan Warburton described very well, people have begun to look beyond the Uncanny Valley. Hi Alan, I hope you’re having a nice time there.

 

I believe that this is an important moment right now. a migration from our former place with technology. leaving the valley, in search of new spaces. following the streams of data, that we have collected over many centuries.

 

It still surprises me every day, how people have yet to take a firm position about their personal data. I will say it again, and again. Your data is more valuable than the services you give it to. Your data is more valuable than the services that you give it to.

 

It is this information that constructs what is over the horizon. Data, the prima materia.

 

Besides being a terribly common cliche tattoo, or a melodramatic statement of grandeur, I think that this symbol has very practical reflections of this moment. Infinity, sure. I like to think of it as a reflexive view of how the next stages of our development can take place.

As two vectors, in exchange with one another. The left: our past and present. Data and technology. Centuries of labor, work, and development. lol it is amazing to think how much has changed just in the past several decades.

The right: the future, and simulated outcomes. If not the future we take, the future that we simulate through various fictions, hypotheses, and experiments.

I am interested in the middle part. The exchanging space. Where our efforts move forward into the future, and where the future returns us something, built from our records of time, and history.

 

I refer to this as the estuary. a tidal intersection, of temporal media. historical records, literature, and archived information, meeting with machine learning, procedural generation, and immersive entertainment.

 

For now, we contribute. The hyper collection of data. Packing up our things, graphing all things. Plotting every map. Documenting every detail. Building the best dataset.

 

We have seen time and time again, the works of science fiction becoming the framework for our realities. Devices, aesthetics, personalities, waiting in time with their potential to be rendered. Formerly this has been applied mostly to things like computers, interfaces, things that emerge out of nostalgia. utopian dreams and fandom.

If you played any video games in the 90s and early 2000s, you got a pretty good preview of technology for the next few decades. Minimaps and waypoints, heads-up displays. Character modeling, face and body motion capture. Between game studios and major motion pictures, so much of today’s technology was simply beta tested within simulations.

It is only a matter of time until these same tools make their way down from the privileged few, and create opportunities for us in the general public to make use of them. Already, tools like Unity, Unreal Engine, and other rendering engines have made significant leaps in how we materialize our thoughts, art, products and experiments.

As it goes, better resources make a better palette. Passing to the other side of the estuary, to a future or simulated environment, we can dream a bit, about what tools may become available. Just as we looked at gaming from the past few decades, we can look ahead in the same way.

Following a rational series of developments, let’s fast forward. Even today, a 3D scan of a figure can be animated quite easily. Soon enough, consumer motion capture will permit accurate 3D file-making of individuals. Advanced photogrammetry techniques will permit extreme level of detail when surveying cities, landscapes, homes, and other spaces. Advanced game engines will likely no longer be called, “game engines” and will become practical renderers for this sort of media. Procedural scripting will learn to improve itself, and in turn provide dynamic assistance in handling all of these different parts.

Cinema, gaming, social media, performance, narrative, many of the things I shared in my word cloud wind tunnel will merge. Content containers, instead of content creators.

The celebrity, as we know it now, burns brightly and quickly in the eyes of the public. However, as we wander into these new spaces of the estuary, their longevity may begin to take a new shape.

 

The simulated candle in the wind never extinguishes.

 

A life’s work, becoming a second life’s work. A later version might someday take the stage or screen again, carrying their data toward the estuary. The work of a future simulator to resume.

Just as any ventures into the wild have gone before, there are many perils that come with new terrain. There will be misuses, hacks, deletions, cyber-scandals and stratifications. Semi-posthumous and defunct pop stars, falling into third party auction houses. The wealthy collecting and in turn directing the wills of their favorite content containers. Large social networks allowing third parties to absorb personal data and use it for their own political purposes.

Well, the last part is already true.

What we can do, before we create a round of virtual colonialism, is emphasize the importance of maintaining discourse. Hold accountable, the industries and legislation that demarcate our access. The open internet is, and will always need to be, a human right. No matter how unexpected our futures may be, we cannot allow the formation of these sorts of walls.

Gatherings like these, whether they occur in the space of your devices, or in conversation with those in the room with you, these are what can define this estuary space. It is how we choose to converge these streams, perspectives, feeds, timelines, family trees, chat transcripts, archives, entire concerts filmed on cellphones. All this data belongs to us, and it may be what remains of us, when we are here no longer.

I encourage you to go for a surf tonight, download some high resolution images from Google image search. Join an Omegle chat room and talk to some strangers for a while. Have a long walk with the Wayback Machine. Find your angsty teen pics inside of your Photobucket. Do you still have a Livejournal? go 3D scan your family, record a podcast with them. Save your files. back up your files.

We may not know the seas quite yet, or what greater body exists on the distant side of my tidal hypothesis, though I can already imagine our later selves, looking back at these early thoughts. Maybe I’ll see you there, on the shores of something else.

Again, many thanks to Internet Age Media, for this opportunity to join you all. It is an honor to get to join you, in the ways that I can. My name is LaTurbo Avedon, and I’ll be here, online. Thank you.