Mat Van Den Art's Blog

3.2 Digital Communication

Posted in MDes Dissertation by matvandenart on August 11, 2010

When in 1833 the Parliament of the United Kingdom abolished slavery throughout most of the British Empire it meant the end to the 25 year long struggle in which two lobby groups fought mercilessly for the favourable result of their cause. Imagine what would happen if the modern communication technologies would have been available at the time. How faster the problem could have been shared and interpreted throughout the wide society ending the barbaric trade practices.

I can see parallel between recent evolution in digital technologies and year 1836 when Samuel F. B. Morse and Alfred Vail invented electric telegraph as the answer to the limits in communication. Morse’s failure as a painter was bound up with the changing conditions in the United States as a result of industrialization and democratization, in which the monarchical and aristocratic system of academic painting no longer operated effectively as an appropriate means of representation or as an agent of communication. Morse’s invention of electric telegraph can be understood as an attempt to develop means of communication more appropriate to the changing conditions.

Is it then necessary, to change our understanding of communication with the evolution of digital technology to overcome similar limitations Samuel Morse was facing in 19th century and which urged him to seek new solution of passing information between sender and the receiver / problem and the audience?

Following diagram describes the communication problem we faces today where sender and receiver of most of our daily information meet through the medium of mass media, advertising or lobbying all operating on the one-to-many or one-to-one principle.

Present-day possibilities of complex interactions in digital communication go far beyond the simple ‘pointing and clicking’ that offers nothing more than a sophisticated form of looking at a work or the type of interactivity where a user’s act triggers one specific response. Far more fundamental changes take place with virtual art objects that are open-ended ‘information narratives’ with a fluctuating structure, logic, and closure, where control over content, context, and time is shifted to the respective recipient through interaction.26

Modern communication technologies and artistic approaches are able to spark new revolution of thinking where no more people will have to wait for their government to speak for themselves, but instead the organized global movement of individuals could inflict pressure on the oppressors, by simple application of well-informed consumer behaviour.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video 13 )

The Web is the strongest transforming force of the modern era; it gave all of us the chance to take back the power from governments and multinationals. It made the world a totally transparent place, now lobbies will have to come to terms with the Internet if they want to keep manipulating and exploiting both citizens and consumers. 27

I would like to expand on the notion of Internet acting as an agent of transparency and equality in the following diagram.

The diagram attempts to describe the trickle down process of communication between the source of information and the decision. The diagram also explores an idea that Internet and/or social networks are able to influence our consumer behaviour by enabling an enquiry into social, environmental, economic and others aspects of a product’s life. This data flow is marked by orange coloured arrows using the benefit of wide-spread communication hardware technologies (laptop, pc, telephone and others) acting as communication medium. Orange arrows mapping the topology of information flow indicate the benefit of using Internet as an open platform where information from all stages of a product’s life cycle are collected and can be freely accessed and evaluated by consumer.

In technophile circles, the idea that networks and network effects will inherently provide for better decision making is an understood, a truism widely agreed.28

By contrast, black arrows follow a product’s life and accompanied information flow where all individual production phase segments are interconnected but the final decision/purchase is influenced only through the medium of economic, social or historical qualities we are ad-washed or individually decide to associate with the product on the basis of trust.

With the advent of digital communication technologies, an enormous quantity of information can be stored and transferred. This incredible communication potential of integrated Internet networking has created new opportunities for data/information to be generated, shared, transferred and new knowledge to be generated.

According to MarketingProfs server; “Of consumers who read product reviews online, more than eight in 10 (82 percent) say purchase decisions have been directly influenced by the reviews, either influencing them to buy a different product than the one they had originally been thinking about purchasing, or confirming the original purchase intention.”29

MarketingProfs indicate that consumer behaviour can quickly change according to the information source resonance, information volume and validity to the subject of an enquiry. I believe the answer to the limited communication flow guiding our consumer behaviour is what James Surowiecki calls ‘the wisdom of crowds’ placed within the realm of Internet communication.

James Surowiecki argues that a diverse collection of independently-deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than individuals or even experts. Aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group.30

Audio 1 )

Surowiecki in his research expands on this notion and identifies following 4 conditions as predetermining factors for a crowd to be collectively wise:

1) Diversity of Opinion
2) Independence
3) Decentralization
4) Aggregation

During the great ideological struggles of past, technology often lacked behind the ideology resulting in prolonged struggles for justice which in modern era could be matter of moments. I believe we are in unique moment in history when technology is equal to our challenges. Our current goal has to be to recognize proper use of the widely available technologies to conquer our economic, social and environmental problems.



26) Christiane Paul. Digital Art: Digital Technologies as a Medium. Second Edition. New York (NY): Thames & Hudson; 2008. p. 68

27) David Rowan, editor of Wired UK. The Internet for Peace campaign [document on the Internet]. WIRED UK; 2009 Nov 19 [cited 2010 July 6]. Available from:

28) James Surowieki. Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds [document on the Internet]. Conversations Network; 2005 Mar 16 [cited 2010 July 6]. Available from:

29) Deloitte consumer review. Online Reviews Influence Purchasing Decisions. [document on the Internet]. 2007[updated 2007 May 7; cited 2010 August 1]. Available from:

30) James Surowiecki. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. New York (NY): Random House Large Print Publishing; 2004.

Video 13 ) Tim Berners-Lee . Internet inventor. Digital Revolution [podcast on the Internet]. Open University; 2009 Nov[cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:

Audio 1 ) James Surowieki. Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds [podcast on the Internet]. Conversations Network; 2005 Mar 16 [cited 2010 July 6]. Available from:


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  1. Content « Mat Van Den Art's Blog said, on August 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    […] 3.2     Virtual Communication […]

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