People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Sally Jane Norman
Abstract: The Infocultural Superhighway Anachronism

Although networking by its very nature lends itself to rhizomic as opposed to hierarchical evolution, many current tendencies in IT development and cultural politics perversely counter this kind of growth: top-down and trickle-down thinking prevails amongst industrial and institutional giants reluctant to concede the logic of a bottom-up approach to networks. Consequently, whereas networked art forms withhold considerable potential in the public sphere, much emerging work is being channelled into prestigious infocultural superhighways, i.e. high-end platforms which are the prerogative of major cultural institutions and the privileged few equipped to access them.

This anachronistic approach sadly fails to recognise the unique dynamics of small, localised, coordinated, complementary sites – in other words, the nodes that form real live networks. Over recent years in Europe, highly committed individuals and groups have nevertheless proved the dynamics of such nodes. These often (too) modest sites form effective relays, hosting activities which better reflect and nurture the singularities of networked electronic arts than those ensured by their top-heavy counterparts. Clearly, associations of motivated individuals are more likely to weave new cultural webs than massive stand-alone structures fired by a museum mentality. The latter institutions have a key role to play as facilitators in the invention of a novel cultural dynamics; at the same time, policy-makers and IT developers seeking to promote cultural infocommunications through improved network access might reconsider this goal by posing an obvious question : what is a (human) network and how does it grow best ?

Biography: Sally Jane Norman is a cultural theorist/practitioner; holder of a Doctorat de IIIe cycle and a Doctorat d'Etat (Universite de Paris III), she has published and lectured widely on art and technology. Director of the International Symposium on New Images and Museology at the Louvre (1993), and of technology-focussed performance workshops at the International Institute of Puppetry (IIM), Charleville-Mezieres; Centre Interculturel de Pratiques, Recherches et Echanges Transdisciplinaires (CYPRES), Aix-en-Provence; Zentrum fuer Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsruhe. ZKM collaborator on European ESPRIT i3 projects; IIM research coordinator; co-organiser of the TOUCH festival at STEIM (Studio for Electro Instrumental Music), Amsterdam, in December 1998; artistic adviser to "Avignonumerique", a cultural event scheduled in Avignon for the year 2000.
Selected publications: Norman, Sally Jane, "Transdisciplinarite et genese de nouvelles formes artistiques", Ministere de la culture, France, 1997

Norman, Sally Jane, "Culture and New Media Technologies" working paper for the Unesco Stockholm Cultural Conference (1998)

Other texts at

Institution: Sally Jane Norman is currently employed by several permanent and temporary structures : as ZKM collaborator on two ESPRIT research projects (erena and escape i3 projects); as research coordinator at the International Institute of Puppetry; as artistic advisor to Louis Bec for preparation of the year 2000 event, "Avignonumérique"; as STEIM collaborator for the organisation of future cross-disciplinary activities, starting with the TOUCH event (December 1998). In addition to these functions, she regularly publishes and lectures on a free-lance basis.
International Institute of Puppetry
panel 2 debate 3