NEW MEDIA CAUCUS – CAA 2014 CHICAGO PANEL
Exaptation and the Digital Now
Evolution is a dominant metaphor for thinking about and describing the processes of new technologies; we believe 'exaptation'
offers a more productive, nuanced approach to questions of adaptation and co-option that surround digital media. The term evolution necessarily evokes narratives of progress that cannot account for the ways technologies branch out, or are reused, misused and abused across communities and networks. ‘Exaptation’ offers a way to think about digital culture as not ever-newer, ever-faster, ever-more-seamless, but rather as something that must always negotiate its own noisy history. Yesterday’s incipient hardware becomes the ordering mechanism of today’s cultural affects: a complex renewal that calls into question established notions of utility, value and engendered experience. This panel will mix approaches of theory and practice to best reflect on the varied applications and articulations of digital exaptation. Papers will be organised around the following themes: holograms, art games, videogame hardware, and media time.
When an adaptation shaped by natural selection, or a character whose origin cannot be ascribed to the direct action of natural selection, is coopted for a novel use.
(Gould, S.J., & E.S. Vrba. “Exaptation; a Missing Term in the Science of Form.” Paleobiology 8, no. 1 (Jan 1, 1982): 4–15.)
Panelists and Paper Synopses
Zara Dinnen (Birkbeck, University of London)
Hollaback: holographic exaptation
At the 2012 Coachella festival, deceased rapper Tupac Shakur was resurrected; as a simulated hologram. Holograms are 3D images first conceived in 1947. Early holographic images were described in terms of ‘scientific progress’: ‘Holography evinced the future’ (Johnston 2008). Today, when immersive virtual environments and sophisticated 3D effects offer simulated 3D imagery at home, what is the relevance of holograms? Taking into account the Tupac appearance, and holograms in recent American fiction, this paper considers how a bygone scientific marvel might now function as a metaphorical gesture away from simulation, toward a strangely resistant optical matter.
Rob Gallagher (London Consortium)
Exaptation, Interpretation, PlayStation
The sequential numbering of successive PlayStation consoles suggests a narrative of quasi-regal succession and steady evolutionary progress. This way of understanding ‘the PlayStation family’, however, imposes false coherence and continuity onto what is, in reality, a complex web of relationships, resemblances, revisions, redundancies and repurposings, more amenable to being thought in terms of exaptation. This paper uses