By Jared Christensen
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Composer and multimedia artist Paul D. Miller, who goes by the name “DJ Spooky,” spoke to a crowd of 75 people at Towson University Friday and shared insight on how data and apps have become the vernacular of our time.
“At this point in the evolution of digital media, a song is basically a lot of zero’s and ones. So is an app,” Miller said. “Data is the glue that holds our society together.”
His performances reflect the intersection of art, science and technology.
“DJ culture is a different type of story telling,” he said during his lecture, which was held at Towson’s Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall. “There isn’t anything you can’t imagine right now.The beauty of our time is that another world is possible.”
In 2011, Miller visited Antarctica to study the effects of climate change, which he documented in a book he wrote called, “The Book of Ice.”
In it, he used equations from the geometry of ice as mathematical expressions in nature to create music.
“Similar to a ‘Like’ on Facebook or Amazon, it’s driven by algorithms,” Miller said.
Apps inherited the same sensibility as music, Miller said, because graphics are how humans navigate data. When there is art on an album cover or app icon, that image is how the data can be visualized and interpreted before it is ever heard or seen, he said.
Miller refers to himself as a symphonic thinker, using data and information from patterns in nature and culture to create symphonies.
“I try to use the idea of music as a reflection of science,” Miller said.
Using the imagination is a key proponent of Miller’s work as an artist. Miller uses data and information to break free of the constrictions of economically driven software.
“Imagination pushes you to the edge of what you know and tells you to go further,” Miller said. “Software could and should be free.”
Apps, Miller said, are tensions between ideologies and how people look at art depends on their culture. They are shortcuts that guarantee direct and immediate access to what we need beyond the screen.
“Art is always on the edge of how we make technology,” Miller said. “If you can think it you can make it.”
Digital media, Miller said, is the vocabulary of how people communicate. We live in a data driven society.
“Science is an unfolding process, giving people a sense of place through mobile media,” Miller said. “For example, using data to track pollution problems and other issues of climate change.”
In Miller’s book “The Imaginary App,” he explains how people live in the hope that ubiquitous computing will help us maintain our public and private lives, relationships, work and leisure.
“Apps promise to make computation even more seamless and the media environment even more subliminal,” Miller said. “If anything, apps reveal how much we depend on this promise when we imagine our being with each other as being with technology.”