Walter Sack, software designer and media theorist, explores online public space and discourse theories and designs. He is Chair of the Digital Arts & New Media MFA Program and Associate Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of Santa Cruz. He has an S.M. and PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory.
Here Sack takes issue with Lev Manovich’s (2002) characterization of digital visualization as “antisublime,” privileging user-friendliness and utilitarianism over aesthetic beauty. However, Sack says, there already are examples of the sublime (e.g. John Simon’s “Every Icon” ) and the uncanny (e.g. Alex Galloway’s packet sniffer “Carnivore” ), and proposes we regard information visualization’s artistic contributions not in terms of visual, but conceptual arts. This is a particularly salient approach, if we take conceptual art’s history of reiterating industrial and bureaucratic modes to engage with and critique them.