Trans-action: an actor-network approach to interactivity in the visual arts

Mark Cypher

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In mapping the generative effects of interactive artworks, this dissertation delineates interactivity according to its distributive actions, cognition and embodiment. These distributive effects are explained in terms of Actor-Network Theory. The dissertation examines historical notions of participation and interaction in the visual arts and considers the Systems and Cybernetics art movements of the 1960s to be important precursors to a continuum model, and thus actor-network description, of interaction. Contemporary notions of interactivity in the visual arts are also questioned, particularly in relation to how the discourses of art theory, sociology, computer science and human computer interaction have generally articulated interactivity as socially constructed, made of separate bounded components, intrinsically linked to technology, primarily immaterial and with inputs and outputs that do little to explain the actual interaction. An actor-network approach is used to investigate how subjects and objects in participatory and/or interactive artworks actually interact. The description that follows implies that 'interaction' in artworks is a complex form of trans-action. This is a collective action that requires intimate exchange and reciprocal adjustments, and connotes a complex set of mediations implied by an actor-network description. Trans-action, therefore, places the emphasis on the vast array of entities that stretch across variations in space, time, materials, actors, distributed agencies, cognitive abilities and embodied qualities – not just the technology. As such, the notion of trans-action is used to describe the collective effect of the exchange and reciprocal action of actors of all kinds embodied in interactive artworks.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


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