About Beat

Beat is a magazine dedicated to exploring developments in Art and Culture in the networked age. Our aim is to deliver exciting and progressive content using all the tools currently available, reflecting the changes in cultural production that access to new technologies brings.

As such contributions may vary in their form; You may find an essay of in-depth analysis, alongside a short album review; a photo-essay of an exhibition or a video performance; a meme, a series of hyperlinks or a music file. We want to explore what a magazine is and can be, who contributes and how, to blur the lines between who is ‘in or out’ of the magazine process.

Themes
Each issue is broadly themed, tying together the various forms contributions may take.

A theme should be seen as an inspirational starting point, a provocation and not as a perscriptive cage, they may take the form of a word or a sentence, a piece of music or a video.


Contributions
We want reviews, interviews, essays, pictures, snippets or soundbites- touching on every aspect of cultural and artistic life- from pop culture to critical theory, from the mainstream to the marginal.

If you would like to contribute to Beat Please contact us using the links below.

Recent tweets

Traitors In The Digital Revolution

by Dan Eastmond

Ok, so the digital revolution isn’t exactly new, but the arts and culture sector seems to have gone particularly crazy for all things virtual of late. The culture sector officially likes digital, it fans it, follows it, shares it, blogs it and is generally mad for it. From the Arts Council’s ‘Building Digital Capacity’ to the European Commission’s digital access programmes, the ubiquitous hashtag at every conference (whether there’s wifi or not!) and the multitude of small, independent initiatives all around the culture sector. You can see why us culture folk like the digital environment. It’s new and growing, it’s the most rapidly adopted technology in recent history, it’s potential is global and – hooray! – it’s cheap.

The publicly funded culture sector in particular is pushing heavily into the digital environment because, whilst it delivers personal and cultural value, it is also very much a numbers game. In our number-centric, value obsessed world it’s very hard to measure joy, insight and epiphany, but we can put a concrete figure on audiences and participants. Since the sector (unfortunately) often relies on this sort of objective data to justify its subsidy, digital programmes are a blessing. With a snippet of video and a hashtag you can turn an event audience of 50 into an endless global audience in one fell swoop. Kerching!

But are we really using the digital age to push into a new cultural future, or are we squandering the opportunity with rehashes of known formulas and the pretence of engagement? I’ve been working with technology and enthusiastically exploiting technological innovation for over 20 years, tapping on the keys of a computer since 1981, but lately a nagging uncertainty has begun to taunt me.

As an individual lucky enough to have been schooled on BBC computers, learnt a little Basic;
10 PRINT “Dan is cool!”
20 GOTO 10
and even know what PC stands for (think that’s no big deal? Ask anyone under 23!), I’m well versed in digital merits. I remember the early internet days, with Heath Bunting showing me the server in his wardrobe, Josh Portway spending hours making digital mosquitos, Laurie Anderson streaming stuttering live images of a New York performance and Res Rocket Surfer establishing global live midi jams. It wasn’t the information age then, it was the new creative frontier, populated by pioneers and renegades. We traded in ideas and possibilities, nobody cared about information.

But digital technology and in particular the world wide web – to give it it’s baby name – has grown up fast, it was always going to and like all grown ups it’s lost a little of its reckless passion and picked up some baggage. Where there was once an open door of digital possibilities there is now a defined, contextualised and marketable commodity, eventually moulded to serve the same old ideas. We did the same thing to cinema last century, betraying the youthfull creativity of film to the dominance of theatre.

The loosely tied together network of independent servers and individual characters has been overrun by a slick facade that offers us prepackaged concepts – search, social networks, blogs and profiles. Good stuff has come from our new super fast and super cost efficient creation, but there is a growing danger of a Frankenstein effect as we pile our physical age notions of culture into the new digital age pipelines. By this I mean that if we continue to use digital distribution tools to platform cultural products that were not made for a digital age, there is a very real danger that our collective psyche will adapt to accept the representation as the real, the transcript as the communication and the record as the event itself. Like ordering a steak and being served biltong, our new remote audiences are likely to be disappointed and our hopeful outreach could have the opposite effect to what we intended.

You could argue that we should be transmitting our cultural offerings to as wide an audience as possible, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but we are in uncharted territory now and to feed our newbies on a gluttonous feast of mirages without first pausing to consider the likely consequences is reckless at the very least. To adopt a McLuhansian line, as the digital age extends the reach of culture, we must take care not to amputate our ability to engage with it.

There is a mirage of engagement brewing, multiplied by the hidden hand at work that mediates all of our digital encounters. Whether its the software architect at Facebook who sets the parameters of how our “friendships” work, the coder who designs the ‘feel’ of our apps or the technician who sets the colour balance on our monitors, an army of people are making decisions on our behalf that affect the culture we ultimately consume. No big deal, but what makes these mediations darker than they may at first sound, is that it is the current trend, since the invention of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) to hide them.

Consider “smudging” an image in Photoshop – as we smudge away at our image we are – of course – not actually smudging anything, but instead triggering the preprogrammed loops of code and behaviours that generate somebody else’s notion of “smudging”. That may not be a problem for the end result, but my smudge and your smudge are now the same and our individual mark is gone. Maybe this alone is not such a problem, considering the societal significance of smudging, but translate the phenomenon into chat, image galleries, feedback forums and social games and what we champion as a closer engagement with each other and our cultural residue is in fact a multiple set of small steps away. The world may be shrinking, but the distance between us is increasing as a result.

We put ingredients and warnings on our food packaging, we should also be aware of the growing distance in our engagements. Under each online image in the Google Art Project there should be a note that reads “This reproduction is displayed at 102ppi with only a million colours. It will give you some idea of what Gary Hume does, but it’s bollocks compared to the original”. We could also note the other way “This artwork was made for consumption in the digital realm. This is the real deal”.

Maybe this is redundant in the digital age, maybe ultimate control of a finished product is obsolete and consumption is being democratised by the process. Maybe, but before we give away all of our responsibility for consumption in the name of progress, we should remember that control is part of the creative process, elitism is the (guilty) home of the progressive artist and leadership is the responsibility of every arts organisation. Watch X Factor and consider if the marauding tools of democracy have a positive impact on culture.

The danger of shoehorning established cultural marks into this new communications dimension , is that the digital environment is being forced to speak the language of its predecessor, rather than our learning the new cultural language of this age. In our laziness the seductiveness of digital technologies and the convenience of devices is replacing – or at the least latching on to – meaningful aesthetic engagements and our artistic endeavours are increasingly platformed by, reliant on and often in the service of multinationals.

In our digital present music makers are struggling to communicate dead concepts in a market where music is consumed piecemeal and visual artists are floundering as they attempt to disseminate an archaic profound to a browsing audience. Looking to the future, if our highest cultural achievements are being consumed like screensavers and ringtones, and if we don’t awaken our making to the new era, then ultimately screen savers and ringtones will be our highest cultural achievements.

Dan Eastmond is MD of Firestation Arts & Culture and blogs regularly here

Ok, so the digital revolution isn’t exactly new, but the arts and culture sector seems to have gone particularly crazy for all things virtual of late. The culture sector officially likes digital, it fans it, follows it, shares it, blogs it and is generally mad for it. From the Arts Council’s ‘Building Digital Capacity’ to the European Commission’s digital access programmes, the ubiquitous hashtag at every conference (whether there’s wifi or not!) and the multitude of small, independent initiatives all around the culture sector. You can see why us culture folk like the digital environment. It’s new and growing, it’s the most rapidly adopted technology in recent history, it’s potential is global and – hooray! – it’s cheap.

The publicly funded culture sector in particular is pushing heavily into the digital environment because, whilst it delivers personal and cultural value, it is also very much a numbers game. In our number-centric, value obsessed world it’s very hard to measure joy, insight and epiphany, but we can put a concrete figure on audiences and participants. Since the sector (unfortunately) often relies on this sort of objective data to justify its subsidy, digital programmes are a blessing. With a snippet of video and a hashtag you can turn an event audience of 50 into an endless global audience in one fell swoop. Kerching!

But are we really using the digital age to push into a new cultural future, or are we squandering the opportunity with rehashes of known formulas and the pretence of engagement? I’ve been working with technology and enthusiastically exploiting technological innovation for over 20 years, tapping on the keys of a computer since 1981, but lately a nagging uncertainty has begun to taunt me.

As an individual lucky enough to have been schooled on BBC computers, learnt a little Basic;
10 PRINT “Dan is cool!”
20 GOTO 10
and even know what PC stands for (think that’s no big deal? Ask anyone under 23!), I’m well versed in digital merits. I remember the early internet days, with Heath Bunting showing me the server in his wardrobe, Josh Portway spending hours making digital mosquitos, Laurie Anderson streaming stuttering live images of a New York performance and Res Rocket Surfer establishing global live midi jams. It wasn’t the information age then, it was the new creative frontier, populated by pioneers and renegades. We traded in ideas and possibilities, nobody cared about information.

But digital technology and in particular the world wide web – to give it it’s baby name – has grown up fast, it was always going to and like all grown ups it’s lost a little of its reckless passion and picked up some baggage. Where there was once an open door of digital possibilities there is now a defined, contextualised and marketable commodity, eventually moulded to serve the same old ideas. We did the same thing to cinema last century, betraying the youthfull creativity of film to the dominance of theatre.

The loosely tied together network of independent servers and individual characters has been overrun by a slick facade that offers us prepackaged concepts – search, social networks, blogs and profiles. Good stuff has come from our new super fast and super cost efficient creation, but there is a growing danger of a Frankenstein effect as we pile our physical age notions of culture into the new digital age pipelines. By this I mean that if we continue to use digital distribution tools to platform cultural products that were not made for a digital age, there is a very real danger that our collective psyche will adapt to accept the representation as the real, the transcript as the communication and the record as the event itself. Like ordering a steak and being served biltong, our new remote audiences are likely to be disappointed and our hopeful outreach could have the opposite effect to what we intended.

You could argue that we should be transmitting our cultural offerings to as wide an audience as possible, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but we are in uncharted territory now and to feed our newbies on a gluttonous feast of mirages without first pausing to consider the likely consequences is reckless at the very least. To adopt a McLuhansian line, as the digital age extends the reach of culture, we must take care not to amputate our ability to engage with it.

There is a mirage of engagement brewing, multiplied by the hidden hand at work that mediates all of our digital encounters. Whether its the software architect at Facebook who sets the parameters of how our “friendships” work, the coder who designs the ‘feel’ of our apps or the technician who sets the colour balance on our monitors, an army of people are making decisions on our behalf that affect the culture we ultimately consume. No big deal, but what makes these mediations darker than they may at first sound, is that it is the current trend, since the invention of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) to hide them.

Consider “smudging” an image in Photoshop – as we smudge away at our image we are – of course – not actually smudging anything, but instead triggering the preprogrammed loops of code and behaviours that generate somebody else’s notion of “smudging”. That may not be a problem for the end result, but my smudge and your smudge are now the same and our individual mark is gone. Maybe this alone is not such a problem, considering the societal significance of smudging, but translate the phenomenon into chat, image galleries, feedback forums and social games and what we champion as a closer engagement with each other and our cultural residue is in fact a multiple set of small steps away. The world may be shrinking, but the distance between us is increasing as a result.

We put ingredients and warnings on our food packaging, we should also be aware of the growing distance in our engagements. Under each online image in the Google Art Project there should be a note that reads “This reproduction is displayed at 102ppi with only a million colours. It will give you some idea of what Gary Hume does, but it’s bollocks compared to the original”. We could also note the other way “This artwork was made for consumption in the digital realm. This is the real deal”.

Maybe this is redundant in the digital age, maybe ultimate control of a finished product is obsolete and consumption is being democratised by the process. Maybe, but before we give away all of our responsibility for consumption in the name of progress, we should remember that control is part of the creative process, elitism is the (guilty) home of the progressive artist and leadership is the responsibility of every arts organisation. Watch X Factor and consider if the marauding tools of democracy have a positive impact on culture.

The danger of shoehorning established cultural marks into this new communications dimension , is that the digital environment is being forced to speak the language of its predecessor, rather than our learning the new cultural language of this age. In our laziness the seductiveness of digital technologies and the convenience of devices is replacing – or at the least latching on to – meaningful aesthetic engagements and our artistic endeavours are increasingly platformed by, reliant on and often in the service of multinationals.

In our digital present music makers are struggling to communicate dead concepts in a market where music is consumed piecemeal and visual artists are floundering as they attempt to disseminate an archaic profound to a browsing audience. Looking to the future, if our highest cultural achievements are being consumed like screensavers and ringtones, and if we don’t awaken our making to the new era, then ultimately screen savers and ringtones will be our highest cultural achievements.

Dan Eastmond is MD of Firestation Arts & Culture and blogs regularly here

Posted on Friday, February 24th 2012, by Fireythings

Tags culture digital arts media ACE The Space