Paul Groot

Reality Engineering and the Computer (en)

Better Than Fantasy

31 Aug 2001
2 Sep 2001

At the end of August 2001, Mediamatic organised in cooperation with The Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University a symposium

The symposium Reality Engineering and the Computer provided a glimpse into the past and the future of the computer-assisted construction of reality.^^

See, for instance, Paul Edwards' book The closed world, a study of the birth of the computer from the perspective of the Cold War of the '50s and '60s. Mediamatic will be devoting special attention to this in a later symposium.^^ It was considering different aspects of the provocative and lively exchange between fantasy and reality, concentrating particularly on the role of computers and computer networks.

One could, for instance, see computers as waystations on a track running from idea, to design, to experience (from the imagination of things to their representation) and back again. The symposium covered three days, each of which concentrated on a separate theme: Net, Trip and Sound.


On the first day, Net, the symposium examined the 'protocols' with which reality is 'engineered'. How did Mercedes Bunz, essayist and editor of the German cult magazine de:Bug, and Jodi Dean, author of Aliens in America, see the information politics of the World Wide Web? In discussions with other speakers chaired by Arie Altena and Noortje Marres, they tackled questions such as: How are specific realities coordinated on Internet? How do protocols enable other kinds of knowledge? and What are the micro-politics of ICT?


people at the bar during Symposium Reality Engineering and the Computer -


The second day, Trip, looked at various aspects of reality engineering as promulgated in the books and works of George Dyson and Bert Mulder as ‘science faction'. Dirk van Weelden guided us through the cool language of the computer, the gentle world of drugs, and the unbounded environment of outer space. George Dyson, renowned for his study of the origins of the computer, Darwin among the Machines, lets us in on a secret 1957s American plan to build a space-ship powered by nuclear bombs. Bert Mulder explored, in his own inimitable way, the space between fact and fiction.


The third day was given over to Sound. Under the direction of Paul Groot and Roland Spekle, science fiction, music and the plastic arts were reviewed as products of the computer. Guest of honour were Miltos Manetas, the Los Angeles-based artist whose site embodies his own, particularly personal, reality and Kim Cascone.


Diagram in Felix Meritis - 1 september 2001 Jans Possel

A glance at

Cascone has a long history involving electronic music and released more than 15 albums. Other artists, composers and musicians for whom electronic fields are means to artistic ends like Scanner and Netochka Nezvanova also presented their work.