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Global Consciousness/Global Awareness

A major task in my exploration of participants experience of interactive environments and telematics is concerned about experiences of global consciousness or global awareness, guided by my interface, a large map of the world.

Alexander von Humboldt has, amongst others, written about this experience in his five volume work "Kosmos - Entwurf einer physischen Weltbeschreibung." published between 1845 and 1858.

Until recently, experiences of Global Awareness, a holistic overview of the planet, played only a marginal role in the arts, with a few exceptions. As some artists have discovered 'climate change' as a topic to engage with this has radically changed and now (02009) there are countless examples of recent work that achieve a global perspective, a global awareness experience. This notion may also be supported by a change of perspective created by mainstream media. While they create a rising awareness of globalisation and systems thinking (an interconnectedness of events in realtime news), new social media enable individuals to countless live streams of consciousness that reach us via youtube, twitter, facebook and other real time social media that permeate our lives on the go on our mobiles.

One of the earliest artists using the term 'global consciousness' was Roy Ascott in combination with telematic art. Ascott’s rarely defined term “global consciousness” emphasises communication and exchange and sees telematic technologies as “The very infrastructure for spiritual interchange that could lead to harmonization and creative development of the whole planet.” (Ascott, 2003, 75) For Ascott global consciousness is a stage superseding planetary awareness (Ascott, 2003, 217). At other occasions telematic arts are engaging with nature or natural processes and, for example raising an awareness for earthquakes or represent weather phenomena. Ingo Günther's "information art" uses globes as a medium to display quantitative data of different countries. Others have a focus on art that can be seen from space or include art taken to space.
Examples that create a true global awareness experience are often functional applications. Among these are interactive globes that augment statistical data (GIS) or screen-based applications such as Google Earth that allow to zoom in and out from a macro level to palpable geographical features, thus creating a vivid sense of global awareness, of scale, direction and proportion. One of the fascinating details is that they factually are a virtual 1:1 representation of the earth as a whole! A project trying to create a live global awareness experience was Al Gore’s Triana project in 1998. Gore had the idea to position a satellite in space sending a near-live picture of the planet to a dedicated HDTV television channel and the Internet (Campanella in Goldberg, 2001, 32). The Triana or DSCOVR satellite was built but the project was immediately stopped by the new conservative administration.

The distinct difference between McLuhan’s “global village” of the perceived shrinking of the world and Fuller’s “one-town world” which emphasises more a global perspective and interconnectedness. Peter Weibel (Weibel, 1990) distinguishes between two different experiences of global awareness: A global consciousness as a result of a growing awareness of the simultaneity of actions in the world as a result of the disappearance of distance, duration and global networking. Secondly, an orbital consciousness as the result of an orbital perspective of the world, a holistic overview of the planet Earth. This we see in art that is made to be seen from space down on earth, or art made in space to be seen from the earth’s surface. This reminds of the comment made by the astronaut Eugene Cernan “We went to explore the Moon, and in fact discovered the Earth.” (Krausse, 1998, "Bedienungsanleitung ...," p.270) It appears that inherently global consciousness has the potential to create an awareness, rediscovery and attachment for the physical world. When our attention is directed towards planet earth as a whole it becomes close and comprehensible, instead of being abstract and distant. In that sense the global awareness experience makes us aware of the immediate physical world surrounding us as part of the whole world we are now able to fathom through technical images such as satellite imagery that we can interact with. Philosopher Paul Virilio warns that our engagement with the world is more and more substituted by images that we take for the real world. Virilio describes that the visualisations created by television, surveillance cameras, microscope, telescope and satellite turn inside and outside around and that this resulted in the virtualisation and amplification of optical density of the real world (Virilio, 2000, 14). As a result we would see an “end of geography” (Virilio, 2000, 9) and warns that the monitor may become the new horizon of our world.

last update: 12/20/02009 17:44

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