DIGITAL POWER: ACTIVISM, ADVOCACY AND THE INFLUENCE OF WOMEN ONLINE
The Digital Power exhibition is the eleventh online exhibition organized by the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community. When I became the Chair of the Digital Arts Community in 2016, my experience of the arts at SIGGRAPH was focused on events associated with the annual conference. I had chaired the Art Gallery and Art Papers for various annual conferences, and had served on numerous juries and on-site committees. These experiences were valuable and important, and gave me the opportunity to mix and mingle with a diverse community of artists and technologists through intensive, immersive experiences that continued to feed my imagination after the shows had closed and we had all returned to our everyday lives.
These annual SIGGRAPH conference events were durational experiences, with a lifecycle that meant that we would come together for intense bursts of activity, and then move on to the next thing. Being involved with the year-round ACM SIGGRAPH committee dedicated to Digital Arts has been different. It represents an ongoing commitment to the cause over the long haul. I honor and appreciate the Digital Arts Community Committee for the ways in which they continue foster community, make space for generations of digital arts practitioners within their ranks, and work throughout the year to ensure those of us working at the intersection of arts, computer graphics, and interactive techniques stay informed and connected. The DAC Committee members are an accomplished, dedicated, and diverse group of artists, scholars, technologists, and activists. We are a continuous presence, knitting together the year to year activities taking place at the conferences, and providing a longer view on where the field is going, a perspective reflected in our ambitious and continually growing SIGGRAPH Art Show Archives project, and in our online exhibitions.
Our online exhibitions, which well precede my tenure as Chair, epitomize the values of the Digital Arts Community. During the last decade they have provided a space for our community to explore emerging themes in the digital arts world, to share up-and-coming work, and also to create a retrospective appreciation of where we have come from. With the 2020 exhibition Digital Power, we have taken another new step, and one not without controversy. It is about women in particular, and women online. This show is less about the affordances of digital media and emerging technologies pe se, and more about how women working online can shape and transform the world. It is a return to origins in the sense that online access itself can be hugely transformative and empowering for action. It is the zeal of the pioneers coupled with the awareness of decades of evolution and transformation. That is not say that the works in the exhibition lack technological novelty or virtuously. We see both in the wide range of projects represented. However, the motive force behind the exhibition is about women, power, and influence in the many forms they can be understood, appreciated, and shared online.
At a moment when we are all struggling to reinvent our home, work, and school lives online due to the COVID-19 crisis, and where social justice demands are bringing us to the streets nonetheless – potentially to our peril – the online environment, our virtual community, is an essential meeting place for activism, advocacy, and influence of all kinds. The focus on women’s power in this exhibition, especially within the context of a computer graphics world that remains disproportionately led by men, highlights some major strands in the conversation. It is an important perspective to highlight and reflect upon as we head into the second half of 2020, where our everyday life will continue to be highly and necessarily computer-mediated, where our lives, our bodies, and our experiences will be shaped from without and within by technologies of care, of surveillance, of communication, representation, and control. What comes after the crises of the moment will depend, in part, upon the brave work women are doing online.
Chair, ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community