Day 3, Stream 5


Histories and Futures of Electronic Art


Wim van der Plas


Wim van der Plas: ISEA International, Netherlands

Vicki Sowry: ANAT, Australia

Anne Nigten: Art Academy Minerva, Hanze University and The Patching Zone, Netherlands

Ernest Edmonds: De Montford University, UK

Bonnie Mitchell: Digital Arts, Bowling Green State University, US

Peter Anders: ISEA International, Netherlands


The Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts Revived?

by Wim van der Plas

introduction to the panel session  june 13/1-2.30 pm/room 106



The panel proposal is followed by a historic overview of ISEA, which is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. Before presenting the viewpoints of the panel members, I will try to give some of those viewpoints an historic context and add to that some insights from personal experience. In that way I hope to lay the foundation for a more or less structured discussion, for which the audience is explicitly invited.



The original aim of ISEA was to connect all organisations that are active in the field of the electronic (or emergent) arts. Thus ISEA would become a meta-organisation.

The first ISEA Symposium was not organised with the goal to make it a series, but with the aim to establish the meta-organisation. The symposium, held in 1988 in Utrecht, The Netherlands, was the reason for creating a gathering where the plan for this association of organisations could be discussed and endorsed. This is exactly what happened and the association, called Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (ISEA) was founded 2 years later in the city of Groningen (The Netherlands), prior to the Second ISEA symposium, in the same city. The continuation of the symposia, thus making it a series, was another result of the historic meeting in Utrecht.

Quite possibly the goal was too ambitious and the founding fathers too much ahead of their times. When a panel meeting was organised on the stage of the second symposium, with representatives of SIGGRAPH, the Computer Music Association, Ars Electronica, ISAST/Leonardo, ANAT, Languages of Design and others, there was quite a civilised discussion on stage, but behind the curtains tempers flared because nobody wanted to lose autonomy.

Looking at ISEA2013’s theme and sub-themes, this is the time to put co-operation on the table! To quote from the ISEA2013 site:

Resistance is Futile: Electronic Art now lies embedded in the heart of our contemporary cultures.

Histories and Futures of Electronic Art:  ISEA2013 offers a platform to explore where electronic art has come from, where it is going and what it might become.

Creation, Collaboration and Consumption: ISEA2013 encourages debate, provocations and engagement in the global nets of participation.



The idea to start ISEA was conceived by Theo Hesper, currently a resident of Indonesia. Theo was founder and board member of the Dutch Foundation for Creative Computer Applications (SCCA) of which I was the director. The SCCA partnered with the Utrecht Art School and together they organised the first ISEA symposium in Utrecht. The Utrecht Art School made a commitment during the first symposium to organise the next one too, in two years time.

However, less than a year later the next symposium was due to happen, I received an e-mail message from Roger Malina, who had participated in the historic meeting in Utrecht. He informed me that the Utrecht Art School had told him they were not going to be able to pull of the second symposium and he asked me if I saw any other possibilities. I worked for the computer animation department of Groningen University of Applied Sciences (then called Polytechnic), that boasted a famous art school (Minerva) and a Music Conservatory with an electronic music department. The school agreed to host the symposium and sprung into action quickly and organised a quite successful second ISEA in 1990. Nearly 500 proposals were received and approximately 250 international and 250 Dutch participants attended.

Both in Utrecht and (especially) in Groningen, there was an enthusiastic group of Australians that insisted on organising the third symposium in 1992 in Sydney. That symposium was of a larger scale, involving major musea and galleries. The following symposia held in Minneapolis and Helsinki (1993 and 1994) were rather modest, yet the ISEA symposium held in Montreal (1995) was quite large.

Before the second symposium, Theo Hesper and I founded the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (with the same abbreviation as the symposium) thus fulfilling the goals expressed at the historic Utrecht meeting. The name was coined by Roger Malina. It was an association and it’s members were supposed to be institutes and organisations. However, because we had no funding whatsoever, we decided individuals could become members too. We managed to get about 100, later 200 members, many of them non-paying. Only a few (5-10) of the members were institutions. Many were students, paying a reduced fee. The association was run by a number of volunteers–Dirk Boon and Rene Paré in the Netherlands and among others we had Yoshiyuki Abe in Japan and Rejane Spitz in Brasil. However, none of the volunteers could work for ISEA as part of their paid professional job.

The ISEA members also desired to get something in return for their membership dues. We negotiated a symposium fee reduction for ISEA members and produced a monthly newsletter that was distributed via snailmail. Over the years, more than 100 newsletters have been produced. The newsletter had an extensive event agenda, job opportunities, calls for participation, etc. Yoshiyuki and Rejane translated the newsletter into Japanese and Portugese, for Brasilians and we called them our Japanese and Brasilian branches. Our main job was to coordinate the continued occurrence of the symposia.

In Montreal in 1995, the symposium had been so successful that the organisers were able to get funding to take on the running of the association and bring ‘HQ’ as we called the secretariat, to their city. The organisation behind this initiative was the Société Des Arts Technologiques (SAT) and the sponsorship came from the Daniel Langois Foundation. Alain Mongeau (ISEA95 director) and Monique Savoie (SAT) were the main players.

The Canadians were able to bring physically together the international board of the Inter-Society plus several members of the advising committee in order to discuss the future of ISEA over several days of intensive meetings. They also organised a “General Assembly on New Media Art”, called Cartographies which took place from October 12-14, 1999. Its aim was to make progress “toward a definition of new media art”. Present were representatives of the Inter-Society, Montreal Festival of New Cinema & New Media, Banff, University of Quebec, McGill University, Daniel Langois Foundation (all Canadian), Ars Electronica (Austria), V2 (Netherlands), Art3000 (France), Muu (Finland), Mecad (Spain), DA2 (UK), Walker Art Center (USA) and others.

Taken from the flyer for this Assembly: The “works of today are polysemic, multi-sensoral, interactive, virtual. In search of an identity of their own, they demand new criteria of evaluation and understanding, as well as new sensibilities”. It is of course unthinkable that this 3-day summit would result in definitive answers to the questions on the table, but at least it was the beginning of a collaborative effort to solve common problems.

The question of funding dominated much of the presentations and discussions. As Valérie Lamontagne described it in the CIAC Magazine: “Certain initiatives did result from this discussion, mainly the desire to form a nation-wide media arts lobbying organization”. But her conclusion speaks for itself: “Media arts still remains an art practice fraught with contradictions in practice and philosophy”. (

The most distinct observation of Valérie was: “Cartographies focused on the one hand on a movement away from computer-based art practices towards interactive projects done in collaboration with the scientific and artistic community, and, on the other hand, on projects being done in an independent fashion which no longer necessitated “centers” and “distributors”. A dichotomy was formed between a populist approach to technology and more expensive and institution-driven media arts production.

All of this was clearly a very hopeful beginning of an Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts. However, around the year 2000 the Daniel Langois Foundation terminated its support and the Montreal HQ seized to exist. It had become apparent that funding a truly international (nomadic, even) organisation would be terribly difficult.

Around the year 2000, the ISEA headquarters once again was supported by volunteers only. In the Netherlands it became a project for a student team to maintain central communication. The team was succeeded by Angela Plohman who contributed tremendously, practically for free. Shortly afterwards two Dutch board members managed to receive a subsidy for building an online archive to store important ISEA documents. The project manager, Nadia Palliser, took it upon herself to direct the ISEA’s HQ during the duration of the project. The archive project culminated with a presentation of the results in Singapore, ISEA2008.

During that same year, the Inter-Society made two major decisions. The ISEA Board decided that the symposium host city would have to pay a fee to the ISEA headquarters so that it could fund the management of the organization. The second decision was made in consultation with the ISEA membership to become a foundation instead of an association. The Inter-Society went to sleep (it still exists, but is dormant) and ISEA INTERNATIONAL saw the light of day (in 2008).

The University of Brighton offered to host the international ISEA headquarters with Sue Gollifer as the Director. Until now we charged a fee of 10K € from the symposium hosts, of which 80% goes to the University of Brighton. It still does not give us enough room for development, so we raised the fee to 15K € recently.


The ISEA INTERNATIONAL foundation, contrary to the Inter-Society, has limited its goals to what it is able to reasonably accomplish. The Inter-Society had been too optimistic and too naïve. A volunteer organisation requires professionals to make it work effectively.

ISEA INTERNATIONAL has only 3 aims: make sure the series of symposia is continued, maintain a secretariat (HQ), and maintain the two websites (the general and online archive). With the conception of the foundation we decided we would endorse initiatives from individuals or institutes to create ISEA projects, but we would not take on initiatives ourselves because we lacked the capacity to carry out the project through to the end.

This opens the potential of TEDX-like mini events to take place under the ISEA umbrella as referenced by the panellists. We will especially be interested in events that aim at improving the symposia, like pre-symposium events, experiments with new formats, artist-scientist collaborations, etc. Interest in organizing ISEA-related events has been shown in the Netherlands already.

Keeping the symposia ‘in the air’ has been the main concern of, first the Inter-Society (even though the official primary aim went beyond that) and then ISEA INTERNATIONAL. It is not enough to find a city or a university that wants to organise a symposium, it is the task of maintaining ISEA’s character that takes a major investment of time and energy. ISEA International does not want to duplicate what other organisations are doing. Ars Electronica for example existed before the ISEA symposium did. ISEA is primarily an ‘academic’ conference and not a festival like Ars Electronica is. Some of its other characteristics were not preconceived but grew naturally out of the original initiative: its nomadism, its ‘un-institutionalized’ appearance, and the feeling that the participants ‘own it’.

The board of the Inter-Society and then ISEA INTERNATIONAL have invested a lot of energy in developing guidelines for symposium hosts and a contract to ensure commitment to the ISEA symposium character. First thing some of the organisers tend to do, for example, is to announce ISEA as a ‘festival’. Another thing is that the ISEA board always needs assurance that participation in the symposium is not obstructed by financial thresholds. Currently we are revising the guidelines and contract once more to address these issues with the aid of a legal professional.

Improving the symposium is one of the major focal points of the board. This is not easy due to the fact that each symposium is run by a different group of people in another part of the world. Sometimes after signing the contract, the hosts throw away the guidelines and forget who we are. Maybe I exaggerate but I sometimes get the feeling that they see the ISEA International guidelines as a burden.  They have to pay us, put us up, put a General Meeting in the program, while they are doing all the work!

This is the major reason why it is hard to make progress in giving the series of symposia more direction. Since the nomadic character of ISEA is one of its major charms, changing the symposium is possibly one of the most difficult problems that ISEA faces. I would like to see a panel contribution that offers a possible solution.

On the other hand, the struggle to maintain a central contact point (HQ) and the problem of an ever-changing, over-sized board (which characterised the association, where by definition, the board was elected by the members), are past us and we are finally in a situation where we can think about the needed improvements in the symposium.

Regarding that direction, a major point stands out in the panellists’ statements: Some panellists suggest discussing the possibility of making the choice between a truly academic conference and a networking event where artists meet each other. Since the main motivation to start ISEA was the need for artists and scientists to meet and collaborate this would be an impossible choice. However, as Vicki Sowry rightly states: it is essential that research be undertaken to identify what is of value to which group of attendees and what the barriers/incentives to attend ISEA for each of these groups really are.

One of the things we can conclude even without the named research, is that the original academic pretentions are not met. Ernest Edmonds points to the fact that, even though the (paper) proposals for the symposium are double blind reviewed by a competent International Programming Committee, the final papers are not. This results in Proceedings that are not of the highest academic standards. The problem here is that ISEA, with its extended exhibition, concerts, performances, screenings and general event program, is a much larger organisational structure than a standard academic conference. Besides that there are strong objections, not only by the artistic community, to having people read their paper to an audience that might as well have stayed home and read the proceedings. Having final papers double reviewed and corrected would mean writing them far in advance of the symposium thus causing actuality and spontaneity to suffer. We could publish the proceedings after the symposium has ended when the papers have been double blind reviewed. This would enable us to re-establish the co-operation that we previously had with Leonardo, mentioned by Ernest Edmonds and Roger Malina below. I realise that this method would be rather unconventional, because the proceedings would hold modified versions of what was actually presented during the symposium.

A number of the panelists (Vicki Sowry, Roger Malina, among others) point to the funding problems that is often inherent in an international organisation. This also emerged as the most common problem when the organisations met at the Cartographies meeting in Montreal. If any organisation understands funding problems, it is ISEA.

Let us be practical and state that funding issues may be the primary motivation in encouraging emergent art organizations to come together and discuss co-operation with industry, education, government, social services, health care, etc.

Now that I have again used the word ‘emergent’ instead of ‘electronic’, and several panel members questioned the term ‘electronic’ in the name of the symposium (as have ISEA board members), I would like to say a few words on that subject. I think that changing a name that has a (hopefully) positive reputation is not wise. A new problem would arise: both the press and public would wonder what ”emergent art” is. Especially with the current intersection of electronic technology with the life sciences, ‘electronic art’ does not cover the whole spectrum of what we encompass. So, in practice, it will be a symposium on emergent art but possibly without a change in the name. The largest association in the Netherlands is called the General Dutch Bicyclists Association (ANWB). The membership consists of mainly motorists not cyclists. I also don’t think Linz will change the name of its famed festival to Ars Emergencia because of a shift in philosophy.




-Papers should be double blind reviewed, even when it means they will be published after the symposium. During the symposium a Book of Abstracts should be distributed. The published papers may help ISEA be taken seriously by academic institutions.

-We need to research what the barriers/incentives are to attending ISEA, not only of the current attendees (participants and community members), but also of potential attendees (especially scientists). This research could radically affect the format of the symposium.

-We need to formulate the long-term goal of ISEA. I propose it should be ‘the structured approach of the potentials of electronic (or emergent) art‘. See Peter Beyls’ formulation, below. For that we need cooperation on as large as possible a scale.

-If we aim at getting emergent art institutes to cooperate and meet what would be the best strategic plan? I think the suggestions by Roger Malina, Anne Nigten and Peter Anders, below, are most useful.  Peter Anders’ also suggested that we re-start a membership association, which would be a literal revival of the Inter-Society.  Maybe we should instead look at new possible models of creating cooperation.



Bringing closer together the different organisations under one roof of a Meta ISEA is worth to be discussed.

Wolfgang Schneider, GeK, Germany/ISEA participant from the very beginning.

(Unfortunately Wolfgang is not able to participate in ISEA2013).


Mini Manifesto for a Meta Organisation for the Emergent Arts

Wim van der Plas, ISEA INTERNATIONAL board member/co-founder of ISEA/former ISEA organiser/ former ISEA director

1. We live in a world that is governed by economic laws.

The economy in charge is mainly based on profit maximisation by individual enterprises (individual as opposed to collective initiatives).

2. Meanwhile, history is being governed by expansion of human knowledge, both encompassing insight and imagination, or science and art, together known as culture.

3. The development of science and its practical application, technology, is extremely fast, providing for rapid changes in production, medicine, social life etc.

The economic motor requires to consider every technological advance as a potential source of profit.

4. This obscures our vision of future well-being on a global scale.

The only counterweight at our disposition is art, the other side of the cultural moon.

5. In such a serious context, it is of essential importance that all art initiatives that consciously aim at grasping the implications of technological development, put their heads together and co-operate.

6. The aim should be to structurally and systematically (in other words: scientifically) approach the artistic potentials of our new age.


ISEA’s responsibility is a social one

Peter Beyls, Artist/Researcher/Board Member of the Inter-Society in the nineties. (Unfortunately Peter is not able to participate in ISEA2013)

A rigorous meta-organisation should offer support that any of its substituent members cannot obtain in isolation. This has to do with emergent functionality; the synthesis of both material means and knowledge to foster the creative contribution to (electronic) culture in a global networked society. Consequently, ISEA’s responsibility is primarily a social one; the creation of a platform to stimulate international interdisciplinary collaboration. However, in times of international economic crisis, such intentions face substantial challenges.

Given the tentative role of ISEA as an emergent supportive structure, the questions arises of (1) how ISEA could develop as a coordinating agency, positively feeding back to a myriad of cultural players worldwide and (2) integrate strategic expertise from a number of major cultural sister-organisations.

Indeed, the notion of ‘meta-organisation’ should be addressed in public debate in order to optimise ISEA’s mission in all instrumental dimensions.


ISEA the primary place to meet

Ernest Edmonds, Leonardo/University of Technology, Sydney/De Montfort University, UK/ISEA Participant of the first hour

ISEA has provided the primary international meeting place for artists, curators and others working in the electronic arts since its inception 25 years ago. In that time interest and activity in the area has grown very significantly. However, although it is no longer the very special and different event that it was in 1988 it remains the primary place to meet.

20 years before ISEA began the Leonardo Journal was founded. It also has grown and retained its leading role. The Leonardo organisation (The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology: ISAST) is now the primary publishing and electronic discussion forum for art and science, including the electronic arts.

We have an active and successful international society and an active and successful conference/event organisation. In this sense we are in a good place, but could it be better?

From an ISEA perspective, the whole point of taking part is the meeting of all the others that come: the exchange and update. So what could be better?

Organisationally there are a few things, for example let ISEA talk more with ISAST. One has the event programme and the other has the electronic community and publishing programme. That sounds as if some accommodation should be possible. This year ISEA is back-to-back with the ACM SIGCHI Creativity and Cognition conference, which has a high academic standing. There is some co-operation but can’t we strengthen this? What about linking with the other growing set of specialist meetings in the area? ISEA could take a meta-conference role if it so chose and help the community by solidifying links.

What else might ISEA do? Well, although the exhibitions and performances are very important, it is the conference element that actually brings people together. How could the conference do this better? Make it easier for people to come.

Two practical things stand out. We need to make it even cheaper for artists and we need to make it higher quality to enable others to gain support to attend. The papers should be in two classes: full and short papers. The short papers can be reviewed as now (just double blind reviewing of the abstract) and can be used to enable artists to talk about their work, for example. The full papers should be fully blind reviewed before acceptance and published at the time of the conference. This full paper publication should be through a well recognised international society or publisher. Does not have to be ISAST, of-course.

Not very grand suggestions perhaps, but I hope they are both practical and realistic.


Networks arise through interest and need

Vicki Sowry, Director Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT)/ISEA2013 Organising Committee

At the grand age of 25 it is timely for ISEA to make a considered and strategic set of decisions as to what it does and for whom and how. Until this happens it is premature to try and identify a suitable structure for the future. Rather than putting the cart before the horse, we need to spend some time discussing – and hopefully agreeing – where we want the horse to go!

Networks arise and grow through demonstrated, not assumed, interest and need.

Challenges facing the (re)establishment of an International Society of organisations active in Electronic Arts today:

- The ubiquity of the ‘electronic’ in arts practice today – is there any value in carving out a separate space for ‘electronic art’ as distinct from media arts or digital arts or emerging arts?

- Don’t duplicate. When it started, ISEA was one of the first kids on the block. Today, many organisations are now doing similar things; what is ISEA’s point of difference? What does the sector really need? What do individual artists need?

- Align. Once we determine its focus, ISEA then needs to create and maintain meaningful partnerships with aligned organisations in the field: ie. Ernest’s suggestions re the relative activities of ISAST and ISEA; Ars Electronica; SIGGRAPH; VIDA, the many and varied media art and contemporary art biennales etc.

- Network member expectations and priorities. Even a relatively small network – for example, an international network established to facilitate exchange and support between organisations directly involved in presenting art/science residency opportunities – faces a challenge in staying relevant and active. Particular hurdles to overcome include a perceived lack of benefit/value; a lack of leadership; minimal resources; and philosophical differences between network members. All or any of these can lead to the stagnation and demise of the best-intentioned network.

- International remit/nationalised financing models (whether government or philanthropic). Difficulty securing support from national governments or nationally-focused philanthropy for activities that are international in scope. Charging subscriber/membership fees can often lead to perceived differences in benefit and value according to geographical contexts.

Unlike most of the others on this panel, I go to ISEA for program research: to see who is doing what, where and how. For this reason, the public programs and exhibition program are very important to me.

But lets assume that I am in the minority and that a highly-respected academic conference remains at the core of the Symposium. In this case the core constituents for ISEA are academics, supported to attend by their employing institutions so as to achieve and retain the university’s research profile. Further, if these are the core constituents, then there is no real need to make the conference ‘more accessible to artists’ or to ‘independent curators’ or indeed to anyone else outside of academia.

But if, instead, the intent is to offer a range of different Symposium experiences for different cohorts of attendees, then it is essential that research be undertaken to identify what is of value to which group of attendees and what the barriers/incentives to attend ISEA for each of these groups really are.


We don’t want a federation

Roger Malina, professor of Arts and Humanities and prof of Physics, University of Texas, Dallas/ executive editor Leonardo publications MIT Press. (Unfortunately Roger is not able to participate in ISEA2013).

I think Vicki Sowry’s embedding of the Inter-Society goal within a clear vision of what ISEA is and wants to be in the coming years seems to be essential.

As Vicki points out there are now dozens of conferences equivalent to ISEA -and ISEA may not be the best networking hub- and certainly, as she points out, if the Inter-Society goal were to extend beyond academia.

It is not at all clear to me what the right networking model is to use for an Inter-Society. Clearly we don’t want a 19th or 20th century model of ‘federation’.

And as Vicky points out: network hubs emerge. We worked very hard for a while on the Artsactive network between organisations that hosted art/science residence programs, but the network is basically dormant because there wasn’t a driving need except publicity. We had hoped to exhange best practices etc- but international funding is indeed hard to find.

Perhaps a modest goal is needed; a bit like the ‘birds of a feather’ meetings that are hosted at SIGGRAPH. If ISEA regularly hosted the meeting that it always has been doing at SIGGRAPH, this time between representatives of organisations that happen to be there, then maybe coming out of these discussions some joint activity could emerge.

I was heavily involved in ISEA – and Leonardo did publications and other projects, but these have disappeared because ISEA doesn’t seem interested in partnerships.

And to be honest I now go to ISEA maybe once every three years and indeed, as Vicki raises, its not a clear to me now that the electronic arts are a useful common denominator or vocabulary.  I tend to go to a variety of different conferences- for instance next year I will organise things at the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts and this year at the Hybrid City conference in Greece.

So I think the Inter-Society goal is necessarily embedded in the larger question of the future of ISEA and its relevance

Clear vision of what ISEA is and wants to be in the coming years seems to be essential.


ISEA+: An Emergent Model

Peter Anders, Chair ISEA INTERNATIONAL board

Roy Ascott has said that, rather than electronic, the E in ISEA should stand for emergent to reflect initiatives and trends embodied by ISEA.  This is the key to ISEA’s continuing relevance to arts/science research. Since going to an annual format the attendance at our symposia have increased considerably. New science-art organizations enter the conference/art fair market every year. How can we provide leadership in the face of these developments?

One possibility is to re-assert ISEA’s intention to become an umbrella for like-minded organizations. It was a good idea early on but now, with their rapid proliferation, it may be difficult to do. Another possibility is to see ISEA as an ever-emergent source of innovation. Our symposia should be where paradigm shifts are first recognized and welcomed. Aside from providing leadership this would keep our symposia fresh and open to new ideas. But is it possible to both systematize disruption and maintain the brand identity of ISEA?

Clayton Christiansen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, proposes that companies incorporate disruptive change into start-ups outside the shadow of the mother organization. Apple provides an example in which special “secret” skunk works are set up independent of its main operations. These cells developed the cutting edge products that have changed not only Apple, but revolutionized other industries.

A more direct model for ISEA would be ACM, which has several SIGs to handle the culture/technology dialog. New SIG topics develop as needs arise. Alternatively TED licenses TED-X to independent organizations in a series of distributed micro-conferences around the world. Their popularity validates ISEA’s dialog between technology and culture and provides a way for TED to remain continually relevant.

These sub-systems of self-renewal provide models for ISEA’s future. Among them would be:

• Special projects sponsored by ISEA International

ISEA could sponsor selected art-science projects proposed and developed by volunteer teams outside our symposia. These could include exhibitions, mini-conferences, lecture series, performances, and educational initiatives under the ISEA brand.

• SIGs within ISEA symposia

Currently ISEA symposia offer panel discussions on diverse themes each year. SIGs would provide a focus for a recurring and/or transient audience that could operate beyond the duration of one symposium. This expands the model provided by the Latin American and Educational sessions already present at our symposia. These new SIGs would focus on the content and themes of art/science collaboration.

• New Topics Sessions

Featuring groundbreaking papers, presentations or performances that symposium hosts consider novel, with themes beyond ISEA’s conventional range. This would be a recurring feature of symposia, spotlighting paradigmatic shifts in art, science and technology.

• Speakers from the Sciences and Technologies

For ISEA to have a true dialog between arts and science we need more representation at our symposia from the sciences and technology. Speakers from these fields would be a good start as well as participation from technology and industry.

• Publication of dialog between arts and technology

In addition to ISEA’s annual proceedings, other forms of publication could document innovations in science/art. This would promote ISEA’s brand as well as new developments in the field.

All these proposals could be executed within the present format of the symposia and ISEA International Foundation. However on-going, self-renewal requires a committed, long-term constituency. One way for ISEA to accomplish this would be to re-establish its membership organization. Its rejuvenated constituency would drive the change ISEA needs to remain topical and relevant for its next 25 years.


Become a learning organisation

Anne Nigten, Director, The Patching Zone/Lector at Minerva Art School, Groningen NL/Inter-Society board member in the 2000′s

After the annual ISEA format seems to be successful, I fully agree with the initiator of this panel to look at additional structure or formulas to safeguard the ISEA continuity and to be able to build on previous debates as (from a visitors viewpoint) the nomadic ISEA structure brings along a risk of unfinished strands of theory and disjointed debates.

This, however, could become a negative aspect of todays’ organizational structure unless there is a learning back-office, or a learning structure that connects the diversity of all these intellectual sources. If ISEA could manage to install this, it would pay tribute to all creative intelligence that is and was included in the annual editions in a more sustainable manner.

Therefore I interpret the topic of this panel as a debate that should facilitate the nomadic structure to become a learning organization (though this might be an internal issue first – it will lead to a more externally oriented, accessible and open structure afterwards). For this long term learning phase of the organization we should, of course, study other successful initiatives that deal with comparable issues or have developed relevant solutions (both software repositories as well as events).  ISEA might even consider to have partner events that ensures compatibility and information exchange with its partners, especially those from science and technology fields.

Other issues that might come along could include how to facilitate (partly embedded in the annual editions and partly new) a learning organization. In a general sense I would opt for a light-weight, a task oriented team of specialists.


Collective Challenges: Moving Forward Together or Alone

Bonnie Mitchell, Bowling Green State University/new ISEA INTERNATIONAL board member/formerly active in SIGGRAPH.

Mutual bonds between organizations often strengthen causes and open pathways to overcoming obstacles. Ideally partners in such unions share common ideologies, strategies, and goals. When discussing the development of a meta-organization to encompass collectives that focus on art and technology, one must first consider the overall mission and target audience of each entity involved. Historically the ISEA symposia and organization have embraced innovation and trans-disciplinary thinking at the risk of pushing boundaries beyond comfortable zones.

If one looks at organizations such as ACM SIGGRAPH, risk-taking has been minimized progressively in the past decade in an effort to create consistency and garner predicable profits. The TED Talks community aims to share ideas year-round to the general public whereas ISEA symposia often target artists, technologists, scientists and academics in an annual multi-day/week event. As we begin to consider the goals of art and technology organizations and collectives such as Ars Electronica, ANAT (Australian Network for Art & Technology), Zero1 – San Jose, ATNE (Art Technology New England), IDMAA (International Digital Media and Arts Association), Leonardo, and many more, we begin to realize how diverse ideologies could complicate a merger.

If convergent principles were possible, an important question remains, “Do the advantages of being part of a meta-organization out-weight the challenges of structural complexities?”. The formal authority and hierarchies inherent in organizational entities often clash with open-source community approaches to decision-making. Do partners risk becoming homogeneous sub-species of a parent organization or can they maintain their individual strength and prosper? Who really benefits from the collective actions of a mega entity?

The Apple iTunes Store does not produce the music or apps it sells yet it profits from them. By providing an outlet for the distribution of creative artifacts, Apple has also provided an opportunity for individuals to profit. This reciprocal relationship exemplifies a mutually beneficial bond between provider and producer. Can or should ISEA provide such a service to other organizations?

Art, science and technology have become interwoven into the fabric of life. Twenty years ago, the challenge was to convince a weary audience that this merger of disparate fields could produce ever-emergent sources of innovation. Today, we no longer need to justify the use of digital technology to create art. Mission accomplished. Where to next?

Currently many art and technology organizations claim to be defining the future while actually clinging to the past. As ISEA moves forward, it not only needs to be very aware of current trends, but it also needs to steer the outcomes of the merger of art, science and technology in a positive direction. If we can overcome the obstacles, collectively, art and technology organizations together can help to raise awareness and incite action to deal with pressing global issues that would be very difficult to solve alone.



This panel consists of representants of organisations that are active in the field of the electronic or emergent arts who will discuss the original aim of ISEA with the room.

The original aim of ISEA was to connect all organisations that are active in the field of the electronic or emergent arts. Thus ISEA would become a meta-organisation. The first ISEA Symposium was not just organised with the aim to make it a series, but with the aim to found the meta-organisation. The symposium, in 1988 in Utrecht, The Netherlands, was the method for creating a gathering where the plan for this association of organisations could be discussed and endorsed. This is exactly what happened and the association, called Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (ISEA) was founded 2 years later in the city of Groningen (The Netherlands), prior to the Second ISEA symposium, in the same city. The continuation of the symposia, thus making it a series, was another result of the historic meeting in Utrecht.

Probably, the goal was set too early and the founding fathers too much ahead of their times. When a panel meeting was organised on the stage of the second symposium, with representants of Siggraph, the Computer Music Association, Ars Electronica, ISAST/Leonardo, ANAT, Languages of Design and others, there may have been quite a civilised discussion on stage, but behind the curtains it became a (verbal) fight – because nobody wanted to lose autonomy.

Looking at ISEA2013’s theme and sub-themes, this is the time to put co-operation on the table!


Peter Anders is an architect, educator, and information design theorist. He has published widely on the architecture of cyberspace and is the author of “Envisioning Cyberspace”, published by McGraw Hill, which presents design principles for on-line spatial environments.

Anders received his degrees from the University of Michigan (B.S.1976) and Columbia University (M.A.1982) and the University of Plymouth Planetary Collegium (Ph.D. 2004). He was a principal in Kiss, Cathcart, Anders, an architectural firm in New York City which designed facilities for the production of photovoltaic panels. He has received numerous design awards for his work and has taught graduate level design studios and computer-aided design at universities including the New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of Detroit-Mercy, and the University of Michigan. He is presently the chair of ISEA International. He is also principal of Kayvala PLC, an architectural practice specializing in media/information environments.

His work has been featured in professional journals and he has presented his research on the architecture of cyberspace in several international venues including The New York Architectural League, Xerox PARC, ISEA, CAiiA, Cyberconf, ACADIA, AEC, ACM-Multimedia, InterSymp, SEGD and the World Future Society.


Peter Beyls is a Belgian born artist/composer working with computer media since the Seventies. He explores computer programming as a medium for artistic expression and develops generative systems in music, the visual arts and hybrid formats. He studied at the Royal Music Conservatory Brussels, EMS Stockholm, Ghent University and the Slade School of Art, University College London. Beyls published extensively on various aspects of digital media, in particular, on the application of Artificial Intelligence for artistic purposes. He pioneered the use of cellular automata in the field of computer music while at Brussels University AI-Lab. He was awarded a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Plymouth, UK for his research in evolutionary computing applied to real-time interactive music systems. His work was widely exhibited and performed at conferences like Siggraph, ICMC, Imagina, ISCM, Generative Arts and ISEA. Beyls was visiting professor in the USA, Canada, China and Japan. He currently teaches Theory and History of Media Art at the School of Arts, University College Ghent, coordinates research at the KASK Interaction Lab and lectures on Sound Art and Generative Systems at the LUCA School of Arts Brussels.


Ernest Edmonds is a pioneering digital artist. He has exhibited computer-based and systems art around the world since 1970 and supervised many practice-based digital art PhDs since 1976. He has published extensively about his digital and systems art and about the emerging role of research in such art practice. He contributes to art research through two part-time positions, Professor of Computation and Creative Media in the University of Technology, Sydney and Professor of Computational Art at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Transactions, fast track, section of the MIT Press journal Leonardo.

Bonnie Mitchell is currently a Professor at Bowling Green State University in Digital Arts, in Bowling Green, Ohio, USA. Ms. Mitchell has been actively involved in the ACM SIGGRAPH organization since 1990. In 2006, she was the SIGGRAPH Art Show: Intersections, chair and coordinated two new venues, the Beyond Boundaries, Charles Csuri, 1963-present Retrospective and the Electronically Mediated Performances. Mitchell was on the Board of Directors of the organization in the early 1990s, and a member of the Animation Festival Jury, Emerging Technologies Jury, Art Show committee, Communications Committee, and Education Committee at various times over 20 years. She has developed numerous projects for SIGGRAPH including the Art Show Gallery online, the first SIGGRAPH graphical Web site, the Education Directory online and animated promotion tapes for the conferences. As a participant in SIGGRAPH, Bonnie has exhibited her work in the Art Gallery and Emerging Technology venue many times. She has also presented courses and participated on panels and presentations. Presenly she is a board member of ISEA International.

Bonnie Mitchell’s research and creative interests include electronic interactive installation art, 3D particle systems and dynamics, mobile web app development, experimental animation, and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Ms. Mitchell’s artworks explore spatial and experiential relationships to our physical, social, cultural and psychological environment through interaction.


Anne Nigten is the initiator and director of The Patching Zone, a transdisciplinary  media laboratory and professor Popular culture, Sustainability and Innovation at the Minerva Academy, Hanze University of Applied Art in Groningen (NL). Prior to her current position, she was the manager of V2_Lab, the aRt&D department of V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam and project manager at the Utrecht School of the Arts, at the department of Art, Media & Technology in Hilversum and chair of the Dutch Media Art Association, in the Netherlands. She is lecturing on research and development in the interdisciplinary field from an art perspective. She is adviser for several media art and science initiatives in the Netherlands and Europe. She completed her PhD at  Smartlab, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UK), and frequently publishes papers on (social) innovation as the outcome from collaboration between art, engineering and (computer) science.


For over twenty years Vicki Sowry has established and delivered professional programs for artists and filmmakers in partnership with industry. She has worked at Metro Screen, the Australian Film Commission, ABC Television and the Media Resource Centre and has held governance roles with organisations including dLux Media Arts, the SA Arts Industry Council, the South Australian Film Corporation, Screen Development Australia and colab NZ. In 2007 she joined ANAT to manage its Art Science program and, in September 2012, was appointed Director.


Wim van der Plas is a sociologist specialised in the relationship between technology and culture and a propagandist of the complementarity of art and science. He was co-initiator of the first ISEA symposium (1988) and co-founder of the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (1990). He organised the first two and the seventh ISEA symposium. He was director, subsequently board member of the Inter-Society and its successor, ISEA International. Wim worked for several Dutch art schools and universities, among others in the fields of computer animation, media technology and the creative industries. Currently Wim is treasurer of ISEA International, the coordinating body for the ISEA symposia.