Dan S. Wang on Thu, 17 Feb 2005 14:49:20 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Introducing Daria: An autonomous software artist

Hi Brian,
> It's a good question why Daria is a "she"? The short answer is that it follows
> > a long line of precedence of men naming and referring to their machines as
> female. To a certain extent, this female-biased gender association is less
> apparent in computers (particularly large networks), in which computers are
> named for cities, stars, mountains, or people. It is possible though, that the
> moment we anthropomorphize the computer, we associate a gender, but I
> don'thave data one way or the other to back up such a claim.
> Software on the computer is a different story. For an autonomous software
> system that by design is to be anthropomorphized, it seemed prudent to impart
> a gender to the system. Hence, I chose to follow the precedence I was familiar
> with.
> With regards to the work she creates, the female form has often been used and
> interpreted within works of art, far more often than the male body. It makes
> sense to maintain this convention, considering the point/concept of the work
> (creating and releasing Daria) is to explore the possibilities of autonomous
> systems interacting with humans and integrating into their society, as opposed
> to the gender bias of her work. I'm not suggesting that it isn't a valid
> question, because it is. However, I think that the first issue needs to be
> raised (can autonomous systems integrate into human society? can we consider
> autonomous software agents as artists?) prior to questioning the validity of
> their work. If not, then we have already accepted the software as being a
> valid artist without going through the process of debate.
I'm not sure I agree with the way you've prioritized the questions.
Consider: if not enough people donate money and the project fails to support
itself and so gets evicted by its webhost, was that because an autonomous
system couldn't be integrated into human society, as you say, or was it
because Daria's product sucked and nobody liked Daria's art enough to care
that it be around? 

If the question that concerns you primarily is "can autonomous systems
integrate into human society? can we consider autonomous software agents as
artists?" then I wonder why you bother anthropomorphizing at all. Once you
deliberately anthropomorphize, integration is no longer the intent; you're
now trying to assimilate, and that is a different thing. Assimilation is a
losing proposition because it invariably heightens difference while
attempting to suppress the same. If Daria is supposed to be comparable
somehow to human artists, at least more so than other things that are just
tools, then all the ways in which Daria is like or unlike artists beg for
scrutiny. Among them, the patterns in image choice exercised by Daria, which
in her/its case are sexist in an utterly banal way.

I'm not saying that the anthropomorphosis kills the project, only that
without it I might have been less disappointed by Daria's product. Because
once you tell me Daria is an artist, I can only wonder, "good artist or bad
artist, an artist who makes work that excites, entertains, and edifies, or
an artist whose work wastes the time of the viewer?" Really, even if we
allow that Daria can be an artist, how good an artist can Daria be? If I
find the answer to be the negative, then it's a Pyrrhic victory for the
assimilationists, no?

> Where I veer from convention is by creating a solid delineation between Daria
> and me. Other artists create machines that create art and the question has
> been raised whether it is the machine or the creator that creates the art? The
> resounding answer has been that it is ultimately the creator of the machine
> that creates the art. But what if that isn't the case? I think it raises a
> number of important questions about identity, ownership, and society that will
> become increasingly more important as fields such as artificial intelligence
> and biotechnology continue to advance.
I agree that these are important questions. What I suggest is that by so
casually relying on those cultural/social conventions as you do at the
formative level of Daria's "personality," you've conceded the questioning of
*those* conventions in ways that may subtly undermine the asking of the

Dan w.

> Regards, Brian
> Quoting "Dan S. Wang" <danwang@mindspring.com>:
>> What makes Daria a "she?" Does it have something to do with all the collaged
>> naked female breasts in her art works? Could we say that her governing
>> algorithm is gendered?
>> dsw

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