Powering Up / Powering Down 1/30/04-2/1/04
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Fox Harrell

“Skin of Wind, Skin of Streams, Skin of Shadows, Skin of Vapor:The Algebra of Identity” (paper)

“Algebra may be considered, in its most general form, as the science which treats of the combinations of arbitrary signs and symbols eans of defined though arbitrary laws.”-- George Peacock, A Treatise on Algebra, 1830.

“She was a barbarian, like you, Udrog. But her skin was burned so brown she already looked like a freeman, and the overcast seemed to leave it and the iron at her neck one hue below straw colored hair.” -- Samuel R. Delany, a description of a slave about to be freed, The Bridge of Lost Desire, 1987.

Algebra deals with the rules for how things can generally be combined. Since we often work using this framework, these days we are sensitive to blending in many domains. The composition of any concept is contingent and fleeting. The national obsession of the U.S.A., identity, is no exception. One obvious breakdown in traditional notions of identity is creation of new ethnic identities by merging. More subtle shifts occur when the classifications themselves are reblended. Identity also occurs in peculiar ways in different contexts, for example in a market economy it is treated often as a commodity. It is important and crucial to topple inequitable power structures. One way to do so is through understanding identity as a contingent network as opposed to a system of binary relations. The challenge is to do so within a social context based upon the binary relation of standard/other. I shall present a new paper addressing these issues. In it I discuss exposing identity as a delicate web in the context of recent research on blending as a basis for dynamic multimedia storytelling using the computational medium.


Fox Harrell is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on developing new improvisational narrative forms. He earned an M.P.S. in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and both a B.F.A. in Art and a B.S. in Logic and Computation at Carnegie Mellon University. He has worked as a game designer and animation producer in New York City. He recently completed his first novel, “Milk Pudding Flavored with Rose Water, Blood Pudding Flavored by the Sea.”

“Powering Up/Powering Down” is sponsored in part by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), and the UC San Diego Department of Music in connection with the departments of Visual Arts, Music, and Literature at UCSD along with the UC Riverside and Los Angeles campuses.