Notime: Identity and Collaboration






  • Although communication networks offer the possibility of a distributed community that can collaborate and exchange vital information, there is little time for these collaborations and exchanges to occur. Ironically, the same technology that makes distributed community a possibility and promises to save us time prevents us from actually having time to build community. Distributed presence inevitably moves us towards group consciousness, which shifts our perception of time and even productivity. This essay uses a large collaborative networked art piece, “notime,” as an example of how the creative process shifts when working on the networks. The project attempts to rethink the idea of the avatar as a physical representation and compares it to that of energetic bodies carrying information and evolving with the time people devote to participating, onsite and online. “notime” is conceived to raise questions about our perception of time and identity as we extend our personal networks through technology.


  • Notes
    1. Hayles, K. (1999). How we became posthuman: Virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 47.
    2. For instance, the year 2000, anticipated with great fear in the West, was year 6236 according to the first Egyptian calendar, SJ 19 according to the current Mayan Great Cycle, 2753 according to the old Roman calendar, 2749 according to the ancient Babylonian calendar, 2544 according to the Buddhist calendar, 1997 according to Christ’s actual birth (circa 4 B.C.), 1716 according to the Coptic calendar, I378 according to the Persian calendar, 208 according to the French Revolutionary calendar, and the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese calendar.
    3. Poulsen, K. (1998). The 2YK solution: Run for your life! Wired Magazine, August, 6.08:168.
    4. The term was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book The selfish gene. Dawkins speculated that human beings have an adaptive mechanism that other species don’t have. In addition to genetic inheritance with its possibilities and limitations, humans, said Dawkins, can pass their ideas from one generation to another, rather than through the longer process of genetic adaptation and selec­tion. Examples ofmemes might include the idea of God, the importance of the individual as opposed to group importance, the belief that the environment can to some extent be controlled, or the idea that technologies can create an elec­tronically interconnected world community. Today, the word is sometimes applied ironically to ideas deemed to be of passing value. Dawkins himself described such short-lived ideas as memes that would have a short life in the meme pool.
    5. Bak, P. and K. Chen. (1991), 46.
    6. In 1990, Glenn A. Held and his colleagues at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center devised an ingenious experiment with sand piles that put this theory to the test. They constructed an apparatus that added one grain of sand at a time to a pile of sand. The balance had a precision of .000 I gram and a capacity of 100 grams. Each grain of sand weighed about .0006 gram; a sand pile whose base was four centimeters in diameter weighed approximately 15 grams. The group used a personal computer co control the motor and to moni­tor the balance. Held and his group ran the experiment for two weeks, dropping more than 35,000 grains of sand on the four-centimeter plate. They observed avalanches in a range of sizes (Held et al., 1990, 1120-1123).
    7. Haraway, D. (1998). Deanimations: Maps and portraits of life itself. In Picturing science, producing art. A. Jones and P. Galison, eds. New York: Routledge.
    8. Wave mechanics is the version of quantum physics that was developed initially by Erwin Schrodinger in 1926. The idea came from the work of Louis de Broglie via Albert Einstein. De Broglie pointed the way to wave mechanics with his idea chat electron waves “in orbit” around an atomic nucleus had to fit a whole number of wavelengths into each orbit, so chat the wave neatly bit its own tail, like the alchemical symbol of the worm Ouroboros (Gribbin, J., 1999, 427).
    9. Goldstein, (1993), 115-16.
    10. Hayles, K.
    11. Wiener, Norbert (1954). The human use of human beings: Cybernetics and society. New York: Doubleday, 103.
    12. Stelarc’s work can be seen at:
    13. Langong, C. (1989).
    14. Coyne, R. (1995). Designing info,mation technology in the postmodern age. Boston: MIT Press, 80.
    15. Haraway, D. (1998), 186.
    16. In addition to being a professor in pathology and a member of the bioengineer­ing faculty at MIT, Donald Ingber is the founder of Molecular Geodesics, Inc., a company that creates advanced materials with biologically inspired proper­ties.
    17. Ingber, D. (1998). Scientific America11, 30.
    18. Ibid., 32.
    19. Ibid., 30-39.
    20. Edmonson, C. Amy (1987). A Fuller explanation: The synergetic geometry
    of R. Buckminster Fu/le,; 257.
    21. Ibid., 239.
    22. Associated Press. (1982).
    23. Varela, F. et. al. (1991). The embodied mind. Cambridge: MIT Press, 94.
    24. Cyber Geography can be accessed at:
    25. Claude Shannon, along with Warren Weaver, laid the foundation of modern information theory. See Shannon, Claude, and Warren Weaver. The Mathematical Theory of Communication, 1949. Foreward by Richard E. Blahut and Bruce Hajek. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.
    26. Fuller, R.B. (1962). Syne,getics Dictio11a1y. Citing Oregon Lecture #9, July 12, 326.05.
    27. Synergestics shows how we may measure our experiences geometrically and topologically, and how we may employ geometry and topology to coordinate all information regarding our experiences, both metaphysical and physical. Information can be either conceptually metaphysical or quantitatively special­case physical experiencing, or it can be both. The quantized physical case is entropic, while the metaphysical generalized conceptioning induced by the generalized content of the information is syn tropic. The resulting mind-appre­ciated syntropy evolves to anticipatorily terminate the entropically accelerated disorder (Fuller, Synergiscics Dictionary, 200.06).
    28. We were joined by Ruth West, a graduate student in Design I Media Arts who was a geneticist for eight years before starting her graduate studies; lngo
    Tributh, a student in information studies in economics from Germany; and Burt Peng, a student from the film department at UCLA.
    29. Edmundson.
    30. Dyson, F. (1992). Fom Eros to Gaia. New York: Pantheon, 341.
    31. Telematic Connections: the Virtual Embrace is curated by Steve Dietz.
    32. “Notime” is commissioned by the Walker Art Center and sponsored by the Independent Curators International and the UCLA Academic Senate.

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