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DAI : the Digitally Augmented Identity

Identity, digitalisation and Art from modern to post-modern and beyond



Digital Artist. President of “Les Algoristes”

Paris, France



Abstract—Digitalization allows people, across the years, to “augment” their identity, and art contributes strongly in this move. In the “modern” stage, there are “great narrative” frame within the global space and time of  World history. In the “post-modern” stage, networks and “data bases” continue to augment identities but with a risk of narcissism and tribalism. In the stage we are now entering, ecological limits and new interaction technologies will force us to find new augmentation dimensions.

Keywords- digital; identity;art; modern; post-modern;Algorists; DAI



A.    Pixelization and vectorization, the two ways of digitalization


Digitalisation properly speaking is a comparatively recent concept, emblematic of modern technologies. Actually, digitalization has two complementary sides, a development which can be traced far back in art history as pixelization and vectorization. We could call the former “material digitalization”, and the second “formal digitalization”.


      TheodoraSeurat_Chahut_ ducrocq

Digitalization of images 1. Pixelization. From left to right (extracts)  : Byzantine mosaic in Ravenna (6th century), pointillist painting, “Le chahut”, by Seurat (1889-90), and  “La fillette électronique”, by Albert Ducrocq with his machine Calliope (around 1950). 


Pixelization: Byzantine mosaics deliberately use a sort of pixel, tesserae, to create a specific stylistic effect [1]. The impressionism, and even more neo-impressionist pointillism have scientific roots. Computer bitmaps emerged in the 1970’s, with forerunners such as Albert Ducrocq [2], handmade paintings generated by his machine Calliope (a random generation electronic device using algorithms for binary translation to text or image). 


      Picasso_Guitar  Klee1  Schillinger3_

Digitalization of images. 2. Vectorization. From left to right: Guitar player, by Picasso ,1910, Klee tutorial 1921, Schillinger graphomaton, around 1935.


Vectorization is a more indirect digitalization, since it creates images from elementary forms, as well as from texts, grammars, and the particular kind of text that is an algorithm. Here also, roots go deep into art history. An important impetus was given by cubism. The Bauhaus tried hard on this way, see for instance Itten [3] for color and Klee [4] for patterns. A first explicit vision of vector automatic image generation was given by Schillinger [5]. Incidentally, Schillinger was mainly a music composer and compostion teacher, and of course, digitization and music went along similar ways.


The two ways of evolution have merged in binarisation in the 1950-60’s, as stated in the seminal paper of Von Neumann et al. [6], “We feel strongly in favor of the binary system”, for three reasons :

- hardware implementation (accuracy, costs),

- “the greater simplicity and speed with which the elementary operations can be performed” (arithmetic part),

- “logic, being a yes-no system, is fundamentally binary, therefore a binary arrangement… contributes very significantly towards producing a more homogeneous machine, which can be better integrated and is more efficient”.


In this fusion, the bit is the basically undividable atom   of both matter (limit of pixelization) and form (logical Yes or No pair). The model, indeed, applies not only to electronic computers but to any “intelligent” device, including living beings. It applies also to communication lines, about which Shannon [7] elaborated his important contribution to information theory, and this at nearly the same time that Watson and Crick discovered the basically digital nature of life itself.


But the decade from 1950 to 1960 are only a landmark In this digitalization process that started  a very long ago :

- some four billions of years for life, some millions of years for the first tools, typically cutting tools (somehow, then a digital tool also),

- some thousands of  years for writing and computing,

- some hundreds for the symbolic revolution of Cartesian analysis and modern algebra [8],

- some fifty for the full fledged “electronic” computer and telecommunications,

 and hence a regularly exponential growth of digital objects of any kind, based on Moore’s law and a massive diffusion of digital products.


A.    No identity without digits


Literature about identity, for instance Kaufman [9], Halpern [10] or Wikipedia never refer to technologies, and certainly not digital technologies. Even Keucheyan [11], who devotes a chapter to “the social construction of identity”, and another one to the “community of Matrix fans on Internet” never digs down to their digital base. Nonetheless  identity, even before it is psychological or social, is digital from start, since it is built around a   personal digital code, a number written in base 4, our DNA. Then, as soon as we acquire a social identity, through family and registration, it is no less digital, since written in first and second names, another string of digits, and present in more and more digital information systems. 


Nowhere is this digital basis of humanity more strongly asserted than in the first chapters of the Bible. First, the importance of genetic species : “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind” (Genesis. I,24), then the role of man in applying names to species “The Lord God formed every beast.. and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them” (Genesis II, 19). Saint John will endow language with the highest status, in his famed Gospel preamble: “In the beginning was the Word” (John I, 1).


Human life can actually be described as a long search to make these two ends meet, the innate base (the biological code) and the social project  (the civil status), aiming to make our identity really our own. “Become who you are”, says Nietzsche (after Pindar and Seneca). A difficult task even for God, as again says John “… the World was made by him (the Word), and the World knew him not” (John I, 10).


B.    A purely digital model of identity ?


It would be exciting and probably useful to build a purely digital model of identity and its augmentation, around some ideas as :

- the evaluation of the “strength of identity” of a being, based on the (digital) complexity and the specificity of its features, hence its “recognisability” in a digital space;

- paradoxical aspects of identity, as says for instance Lévy-Strauss [12] : “One of the paradoxes of personal identity is that it expresses oneself by adhesion to groups and crossing of collective identities”. This could be modeled with networks of sufficiently sophisticated automata;

- the fundamentally recursive nature of identity, with mirroring effects as seen for example in the master-slave Hegelian dialectics [13], the Lacan’s “mirror stage”, the Cartesian “I think, therefore I am” or even the scholastic proofs of God’s existence and identity (aseity) ; a formal (mathematical/logical) approach could be particulary promising, since reflexive deductions (diagonalization) are basic for the Gödelian “undecidability” principle and…  computer structure itself [14].  


Let us now focus on recent decades and the DAI progress up to now, from the modern views dominating in the 50’s to the postmodern explosion giving it a name and global perception since the 1970’s.  The dimension of a conference paper, of course, allows space only for a broad brush approach To begin with, our neat parting between the two successive stages must more properly be seen as the dialectic relation of two mental and social “paradigms” that have more or less co-existed from start, even if or course, the prefix “post” assumes that one followed the other. We shall conclude with some views about the future, as far as it is predictable.





A. Modern identity


I was born and educated in a “modern” family and society. It was modern in the sense we give the word today, based on a grand narrative combining Christian history and national glory. My identity matured in the rather cocooning consensus that Roosevelt, Yalta and, closer to me, De Gaulle managed to impose after the horrors of WW2, and which permitted the economic and social development of the “30 glorious years”.


In the 50’s, when I started to study philosophy, the success of the great modern narrative could seem rather close at hand. Of course, a lot of problems had to be solved.  Decolonization,  cold war, the starvation of  billions in  Asia…  but our hopes were well expressed by Teilhard de Chardin , who foretold a convergence, not only of faith and reason, in the line of Condorcet [15] to make it short, but even of Jesus and Marx. And a regular walk towards a fascinating Omega point. Even mathematics were converging in the glorious synthesis of “modern mathematics” driven in France mainly to Nicolas Bourbaki in the lines laid down by Hilbert.  


Identity, admittedly, raised contradictions and paradoxes. In such a coherent and convergent world, identity was at the same time stressed and called upon to disappear from the global narrative. Identity is central for a christian believer since his main duty is to “save his soul”. But, at the same time, the self must recede in face of God : “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." writes Paul (Galatians 2:20b). But these difficulties were rather marginal issues in the global thrust towards a bright future. And it was rather easy, in this context, to know who I was, and to build my life along well beaconed ways: get diplomas, get a job, get a wife, and make children… in a stability which would take me to a reasonably easy retirement. 


B. Digital expansion of identity


Digitalization played its part in the general convergence. Of course, not the PC  as a personal tool in the 60-70s. At that time, the computer was the “mainframe”, available only to corporations and public agencies. It accorded well with the realization of the “great narrative”. Buzzwords were MIS (Management Integrated Systems) of corporations; PPBS (Planning Programming Budgeting Systems) at government level, or Gosplan in the Soviet Union.  Globally, all digital devices were deemed to converge into global networks and networked applications. That was called “telematics” in a (then) famed French report [16]. These views were no so new, as I discovered later, since Jules Verne for instance had foretold them some 80 years before ! [17]


In this global move, the identity of human beings was regularly enhanced. Let us give some examples.


Customer identity. In insurance companies, the management systems were built upon two series of records: the contract (policy) and the claim. The customer as such was not operationally present ; even if he had several contracts, and some pending claims, he was not dealt with globally by the information system. Then, the growth in computer power allowed all these operations to be progressively coordinated and records to be merged   into databases. It thus became possible to sell multi-risk policies, and to pay special attention to the global performance of each customer. Similar evolutions have been observed in banks, retail, transportation, etc.  The ultimate concept is  “one to one” marketing, with pro-active processes. Amazon, typically, builds your profile and suggest to you related new books. In retail shops, you are “profiled” and encouraged to let yourself be tracked using fidelity cards… so having a really augmented identity in the corporation system.  



brouard_livret_ vitale !ci1

Numerical identity in France, from the “numéro matricule” (around 1850) to the NIR and ID number of today.


Worker identity.  Armies have raced forward first in the development of digital technologies. This is reflected in the way they deal with soldiers’ identity. The Middle Ages soldier was not much more than an anonymous bow or spade bearer. In France, soldiers found an identity in the middle of the 19th century, under the basic form of their “numéro matricule” written in their “livret militaire”. During WWII, a major step was also made under the Vichy government, by René Carmille [18] and his team. He intended to make a census of men to be mobilized in case a new French army could be built up. For that he made a massive use of punched cards, and created what would become the French NIR (Numéro identifiant au repertoire, also known as social security number, or Insee number); bearing information by itself, this number was associated with a rather detailed profile of the person concerned. Later, “les trois jours” aimed to build an extensive profile of new recruits, in order to optimize the assignment according to the needs of the forces. In other public agencies and commercial corporations, similar moves have taken place, from basic payroll systems to integrated human resources management applications.


Family identity.  This is a personal example, but is becoming common today.  Digitalization allowed me to extend considerably my genealogical tree. First, in the 80’s thanks to the Minitel (the basis of French telematics) I could reach a distant cousin, whose branch in the tree had radically parted from mine around 1860, due to business and marriage disagreements.  Then, in 2009, with the digitalization of civil archives, this cousin was able to link us to a very ancient noble family, hence extending our descent back to Charlemagne and his Gallic ancestors in the sixth century, with an uninterrupted series of some 45 generations. By contrast, a lot of my genealogical data are irremediably lost since the Paris city hall was burned in 1871 together with all the civil status files that it stored. Today (at least I hope), the city hall of Paris could be obliterated  without  the loss of a single bit of genealogical data. And a lot of people will be able to do similar extensions, since mathematics proves that, actually, nearly every French citizen has Charlemagne as one of his ancestors, as well as practically all the inhabitants of “France” or “Europe” of that time.


So, in the modern stage, the DAI makes constant progress, due as well to better integration of global information systems as well as to the considerable growth of data about individuals, allowing him/her to be approached with more and more customized products and services.


Symmetrically, thanks to higher living standards, more leisure time, more computer and networking tools, and richer web contents, the individual person is able to augment his/her identity and personality. He can go shopping and choose  personally from a wider and wider range of goods, services and activities. Recent developments on the web and the mobile devices push this augmentation even further.


But, as we know only too well, this beautiful digital cathedral is also a threat to identity : privacy intrusion, inequalities between sides of the “digital divide”.


C. Modern art, split apart by technology


When the digital technologies became really available, modern art disappeared into a Contemporary Art, which is fundamentally post-modern. Hence a deep divide between a popular and despised modern and technological art, of which Disney is emblematic, and the grand “monde de l’art”, which dominates the international market.


Yet, in “Le Musée imaginaire” [1], André Malraux celebrated the new spaces opened to works of art thanks to photography and low cost printing. McLuhan chanted the “global village”[19]. But, rather soon, their voices were drowned out by the pessimistic views of Benjamin[20] and Adorno [21] among many others, echoing the visceral hate of 19th art critics such as Baudelaire and Zola. The latter does not mention modern technologies in “L’oeuvre”, his main piece of fictional writing about art, but says a great deal against steam and social machines in “La bête humaine”.


What about identity augmentation ? Art by definition calls for an artist, a beholder and a work. All three have more or less strong identities.


Modern art augmented artist identity. Antiques and Middle-Age works of art were mostly anonymous (with some brilliant exceptions). Then, the identity of artists   progressively took over the foreground, with a “sacralisation” of Art: the artist became a sort of spiritual medium, showing transcendent things that could not be expressed by ordinary means and languages (Speculative theory of Art, see J.M. Schaeffer [22] for instance). Once an employee of princely or ecclesiastical courts, the artist progressively acquired financial autonomy, which in turn forced him to valorize his signature. This trend reached a peak with some 20th century artists, whose signature could give value to everything, including the Fountain of Duchamp, the IKB blue of Klein, or the suprematist works of Malevich. Signature and attribution to a well known artist is a major factor in the market price of works, and attribution of works to artists makes use of sophisticated techniques and well paid experts to guarantee that “identity”.



The artists in the Project structures of game design (according to Phil Co [23]).


At the same time, industrial cinema and games crush artists’ identities into large hierarchical structures where artists are working anonymously (or nearly so) in teams of hundreds, creating games or films, as shown above. Even at a high level, the SF novel “Plowing the dark” [24] shows the pressures on all participants and the risk of clashes between group demands and strong identities. In any case, the sociologist Menger [25] as well as the economist Robertson [26] explain how, on the art market, the labour on offer strongly outnumbers  demand. Hence, a large majority of artists cannot live the “romantic artist” ideal and solitary way, unless he has personal assets… or is retired.


Nevertheless, the modern stage leads  to a strong identification of the works of art as such – at  least of the major ones.  Antique sculpture and architecture (probably also paintings) were frequently copied. Up to the 18th century, great artists (Chardin for instance) produced several copies of their own works. The Greek temple, the Tanagra figurines or the Dürer engravings were not excluded from “art”. But modern times have stressed the “aura” of the work taking part somehow of the general sacralization of art. The identitity of a work reinforces  the artists identity.


As for the beholders, art has always been used to reinforce the fame of its owners. Even today, public and private collectors draw fame from the riches of their collections of paintings and sculptures, along with their private estates, public museums, and architecture in general.


Indeed, post-modern art was a forerunner of post-modern philosophy in general precisely because modern art was over-used by the fascist regimes, in particular the “soviet realism” in USSR and the Futurists in Italy (See Keucheyan [11]). Too much identity may lead to “personality cult”…



A. Post-modern identity


The modern “great narrative” foundation had been undermined for a long time, if not from its very laying.   But, in the 1960’s, or in May 1966 for a French mind, the whole construction began to loose its appeal to the general public. The French school in philosophy, the weak compromise of Vatican II, an emerging knowledge of Gödelian critics, a better perception of relativity in physics, the failures of MIS and PPBS for information systems (PPBS was an emblem for McNamara, associated with the Vietnam rout), even the revolution of PC’s against mainframes… all that came in the foreground and progressively marginalized the great narratives of the past and the frame they offered to DAI progress.  


The consequences for lay people are best described by   Japanese post-modernist thinkers. Far from the theoretical pathos of the French school (Derrida, Deleuze-Guattari, Lyotard…), which they know very well, they talk a rather easy language and offer pragmatic views, including technological and economic aspects. Strongly Japanese at the beginning, this school of thought was born as a reaction not against “modernism” generally speaking, but rather against Americanism, in the peculiar socio-psychological context of the post-WW2 decades. But they have reached to day a level of generality which make them interesting  in every country.  Building upon the “otaku” culture (manga, anime and computer games addicts), the most important of these thinkers, Hiroki Azuma [27] draws the figure below :



From modern to post-modern according to Hiroki Azuma.


The top time line shows the transition from modernity (近代 the shaded section) to the post-modern (ポストモダンthe unshaded white section). The bottom time line shows the decline of grand narratives (大きな物難 shaded section). The period from 1945 to 1970 is labeled “era of ideals”, and fits with what we call here “modern”. In this period, even when the grand narratives are criticized, or  have even dramatically ended (like the Meiji period in Japan ending with the general capitulation), the grand narratives are still considered as true history and valuable ideals. The period from 1970 to 1995 is labeled “era of fiction”. Here, the great narratives are no longer considered as true, but they still offer a frame for life and identity as accepted fictions. The last period, beginning in 2000 is labeled “era of animals” (a concept taken from Kojeve).


Recently, Lagrandie,  a professor of philosophy in the terminal year of French high-school said (Dec. 18/2009, on France Culture)  : “The word that makes my students smile, each time I say it, is “doesitmatterism” (aquoibonisme). They understand immediately and freely what I have in mind. They are not future oriented, they see no reason to design projects. For them, their death will be the World’s end. They don’t seek perpetuation in a World, a Civilization”. 


In this phase, identity is not built in reference to global mankind and universal Kantian values, but within smaller groups where identity develops itself in comparatively short mirroring circuits. Michel Maffesoli (in his preface to the French translation of Azuma) forges the expression “tribal narcissism”. Continuing the same line of thought, communautarism can be seen as a variant of post-modernism, including a denial of of the possibility of criticising a shared narrative, sometimes ultra-modern and even post-humanist, more frequently a fundamentalist version of the classical religions, mythologies or “national histories”.


B. Digital explosion of identity


The post-modern digital era really started with the personal computer and Internet, both operational at the end of the 70s, but taking off with the general public after 1990. A new stage was reached in the 2000’s with the rapid worldwide expansion of the cellular telephone and its extension to a wide range of mobile devices.  The consequences for identity are brightly expressed by Azuma in his “data base consumption” model.



The traditional mode of cultural consumption seen by Azuma.


The traditional, modern, way of cultural consumption is based on the “great narrative” (on the left of the picture), which the “I” () looks through a “superficial layer” of “small narratives” ().Comment: “I am determined by the narratives”.


Creation Last_supper Doomsday

From Creation to Last Supper and Doomsday, the finger (latin “digitus”) of God, according to Michelangelo and Poussin/


In Christian culturural terms, the Bible is the great narrative, the The Last Supper is a small narrative taken out of it or inspired by it (iconography), and Christian destiny is framed, if not determined, by the all encompassing biblical narrative, from Creation to Doomsday.



In the post-modern scheme, the user (at right) says : “I read into the narratives”. These are short stories, but now built by combinations of components drawn out of the database (the “deep layer” (-, at left). The term “data base” used by Azuma may be error prone, since the components in the base are not properly “data” as in a classical data base, but graphical and semantic, if not material (body and clothes accessories), components. To translate into Christian culture practice, we see today a lot of young pious and active catholic people going to mass and taking part in the great Papal world meetings, while at the same time using birth control means and living together without being married.


Identity may be strongly enhanced in this model, since it is no longer determined by the large narrative. But, eventually, identity will be sought mainly within small groups sharing the same kind of “small narratives”. Far from plunging everybody into the McLuhan “global village”, satellite TV antennas, Internet and mobiles make easy the birth and life of small groups. Distance is no longer an obstacle to a worldwide existence, and at low cost. That may be a new way of domination of the strong over the weak within the limits of family, gangs or ideological groupings. It may be a plague (terrorism, fundamentalism) as well as a blessing (democratic action under authoritarian regimes). 



C. Post-modern art


As we have said, the whole “contemporary art” may be considered as post-modern insofar as it has long taken, since the “avant-garde” at least, a mainly “anti modern” stance. The life of some artists in the 20th century may even be described as a conversion from modern to post-modern well before the emergence of the word in the 70’s.


Picasso, for instance, may be said to have pushed into modern lines in the first phases of cubism, taken as a technically advanced way of dealing with 3-dimensional

representation on a 2D canvas. But the rest of his career comes down to more personal and free expressions, drawing freely in the vast “database” of patterns and composition modes available to him (including his own). 


As for the work identity, the “data base” structure, building on a large base of “components” has been used by a lot of contemporary artists, from the Cubists and Dadaist collages to Max Ernst, Tinguely, Moholy-Nagy, Oulipo and Oupeinpo, Rauschenberg, Pop Art and, more recently, DJing  et VJing (see for instance the really surprising [28].


   God_drops young_saints KKR wedding

Three examples of Japanese “remix” works: God drops, Young Saints, KKR hotel in Tokyo. 


Japanese culture is particularly gifted in such generalized remixing. It are not hampered by our social respect for sacred values, and in particular for the monotheist “great narrations”. Then, like it or not, Japanese artists play freely with every kind of symbol. We show above some typical and recent examples. The “God drops” manga is an sort of initiation to oenology, mixing technical and epicurean remarks with religious themes and psychologically complex characters. “The young saints” manga series stages Jesus and Buddha in ordinary life situations (for instance a public swimming pool), with farcical effects. In a more real and material stand, the KKR (Kireina Kawai Romantic or Brilliant, Cute, Romantic) hotel in Tokyo includes a large chapel for weddings.


The identity of the post-modern artist tends to dissolve itself in the tribal way of life. Azuma, about the Di Gi Charat character, is even more precise : “The design erases every singularity, which would allow, for instance, to attribute its paternity to such or such author”. In literature and theoretical essays, post-modernism has rather favored the personality of the writers, famous from Tokyo to New-York. On the other hand, extreme post-modernism may lead to anonymity, as for example the French  “invisible committee” [29].


As for the identity of the beholder, these views may be seen as optimistic, with a consumer of Art more self-driven than in the modern world where the grand narrative is rather deterministic and indifferent to individuals. Actually, as the term of “animalization” suggests (forged by Kojeve, a famed commentator on Hegel and a basic writer in post-modernism), the new consumer is also more an addict than a free actor. And the “data base”, without a “real basis”, lets way to the “doesitmatterism” of Lagrandie.


As in modernism, post-modernism may take to violence. In France, even if the links of the “autonomes” with railway sabotage or the riots in Poitiers (October 10, 2009) are not established, the mere tone of “The coming insurrection” [29] calls for anonymous violence. In spite of looking like an opposite nature, great narratives make a sort of post-modern come back as religious or nationalist fundamentalisms, another form of “narcissal tribalism”.


IV. 2  integrate (soft) or die (hard)

A. Matter/reality strikes back, how to face it ?


Violence set apart, all would be fine, modern or post-modern, if the Earth were limitless, or outer space accessible to masses, so large that any otaku everywhere in the world could expand his own world without constraints. Unfortunately, recent events, meetings or general trends have brought us back to the “reality principle”, be it security checks or ecological “walls”.


We, as computer scientists and artists, sharing in Laval the responsibilities of cutting edge technologies, can we do anything about that? Well, we can at least try to offer some new models for thinking about and developing the world to come. What we need is a sort of soft integration.  Borrowing from the vocabulary of graphic computing, we can talk of “compositing”, with its double connotation of voluntary design and of realistic use of available resources, we can try to “composite” several recent pertinent concepts. 


At the individual level, a lot of authors consider identity as a construction, a sort of composition.  The sociologist Jean-Claude  Kaufmann, whose one book is titled “L’invention de soi” [9], the neuroscientist [30], who sees consciousness as the expression of neuronal competing coalitions…



At the social and political level, [Rosanvallon] pleads for soft combinations of independent institutions at various levels;  last but not least, at a very general level, the long chapters of Peter Slotedik’s Sphären trilogy [32] draw lines for a soft architecture of social relations.



B. Digital ways.  Connect and/or hierarchize


Technically speaking, we must take into account not only the technologies of today, but several innovations that will soon emerge from R&D and fundamentally change our lives  ([33]).


   brain-compute  muscle

Brain-to-computer-to-brain (Adam Wilson), and Muscle-computer-muscle communication


Our skin will no longer offer an “information tight” barrier (as it is “watertight”). Implants are and will more and more be, inserted, in theory at first to compensate for disabilities, or for defense motives. Then, unless legally prohibited, to enhance performance of any kind for whoever asks for it.  But even if implant grafting is strictly regulated, the skin will become more and more permeable, due to brain-computer both ways communication and more specific links (for instance, muscle-computer links). Deprived of this bodily limit, identity will have to compensate by new coordination and integration means.


McMullen OpenCV UmassAmherst

Vision (McMullen, OpenCV [34], UmassAmherst). It will really change our everyday life.


Even more “softly”, vision software using powerful GPUs will make computer vision a constantly used communication channel. The future GUIs, I think, will integrate these kind of functions which at present are only offered on cameras. Even dynamic remote controls (those of the WII for instance) will no longer be necessary. Here also, the constant presence of these “voyeurs” may be a problem, not only for privacy but for day-to-day self perception. But we can also appreciate the good side of it: our personal computer as well as the public systems, will recognize us, treat us according to our DAI… and dispense us from the need to have a wallet with cash, credit cards and identity documents.


Astro_boy WallE haraway

Friendly robots Astroboy and WallE, and the cyborg integration advocated by the feminist philosopher Dona Haraway.


At the same time, more and more “AI”s will “live” more or less independently of us, not only in games but in the real world. Some of them will the of the “humanoid” robot type (expensive, bulky and uncanny) but a lot more will develop under different lines, offering help as well as creating new threats. These AI, at least the most powerful, will have and develop a real identity of their own.



The three components of a social robot and its identity : hardware, software and content (According toJapan Miti)


There are fears that these AI, including our avatars and clones,  will multiply instantly and get out of  control, as for examples in the Matrix and I Robot films. We can argue, on the contrary, that complexity and communication will ensure identity to the high level artifacts.  Since, as soon as the “coalition” begins to live, be it human or not, it feels and feeds differently for a least three categories of reasons, summarized in this slide presented in Siggraph Asia 2009.


Materially, from the hardware standpoint, as soon as they are used, transported from one place or other, sophisticated objects change and are not subject to the same physical influence. OK, that is rather marginal at the start. But experience here is conclusive: if you have several computers at home or at your office, are they all the same? On the contrary, in any organization, it is a permanent concern to ensure that the computer inventory stays within manageable diversity. Note that this material dimension is a major point also in genetics and embryology: from the relatively homogeneous cytoplasm of the mother cell, differentiation of the cell is driven not only by the DNA code but by the physical position of each cell in the embryo body.


From a software standpoint, the limits are still more evident. I would bet that no two of your computers have exactly the same version of the operating system, and a fortiori not exactly the same set of installed software. That applies also to “virtual humans” [35.] Last not  least, contents are eminently variable between agents, and the more so as they are reach out to the external world by high resolution sensors and high band-pass communication channels.


In short, from a technical standpoint, if we look for a sustainable and enjoyable world, we must have designs of hardware, software and contents architectures sufficiently safe and soft to save and augment our DAIs as compositions of multiple elements (natural as well as artificial),  as well inside as outside of us. Jun Rekimoto, a human computer interaction specialist, says for instance that HCI “human computer interaction” should now be read “human computer integration”. Few authors will readily accept such a motto. A more positive but equally radical view has been given by the American feminist Dona Haraway, in her “Cyborg Manifesto” [36], which concludes : “It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualism in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. . . . It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”


C. Art ; create new type of  coalition-identities


How can art contribute to build identities, new coalitions in the world of to day and tomorrow?


For the artists, there will always remain “romantic” creators, with enough faith in their own genius to accept a nearly starving condition and keep on their track, customers or no customers. At the other extreme, in art as in a lot of professions, people can develop their identity in their family or hobbies, accepting a low recognition job if the pay is up to their needs.


Let me mention here another kind of “artist identity” : the Roxame software which I have developed intends to be an artist by herself, from pattern, color combinations and camera acquisition of pictures to compositing and rendering and, not the least, ranking the results. One thing is sure: for the major part of her work, the style of Roxame is recognizable. Hence her “identity” as an artist cannot be denied, and is certainly very different from the identity of its creator. As for cloning her, I have experimented concretely with the hardware, software and content difficulties mentioned above.


Eventually, Roxame herself has felt (or let me feel, to be honest) the need to cooperate. Actually, programming is a rather long task, and the ways of developing Roxame are multiple. Hence, with Alain Lioret, who was also invested in “living beings” [37] we created the association Les Algoristes [38] with as main object the cooperation in cooperative projects such as Primeval, Alkwarel and today La Glu.


The works also have their own identity. Even in the “database” model of creating and consuming digital works, part of the compositions will of course remain purely local. That does not prevent the best ones from  take their full identity and life in the World. After all, the music community, at the time of J.S. Bach worked on rather similar basis, the composers and Bach himself routinely borrowing and reusing material from the   collections of melodies and works available at that time. That did not prevent John Sebastian and his great works to become the strongly identified works that we play and hear three hundred years later.


What about the identity of the beholder, the user? The world of games, in particular the “massively multiplayer” games favor the “user content development [39]. The collective development of open source software is another example of nonprofit cooperation.  Japan has seen for long the emergence and expansion of its “comiket” system, where amateur authors of mangas (and also some professionals) sell personal or low budget productions (see Azuma). Self production of mangas using the computer is encouraged by DIY books like [40]. The book implies the use of Photoshop and contains a CD-Rom with bodies, accessories, backgrounds and manga-like page setups. Note that the book itself is collectively signed  by the Yshan studio  (with an internal mention of Andrew James as editor). No similar books exist (as far as I know) in the European “bande dessinée” community! More generally, blogs, social internet groups such as Facebook, or virtual shared worlds open large avenues to DAI building and sharing. 


But, immersed in this immense ocean of data, components (including the mass of the components related to his identity), no longer even safe inside his own skin, is the individual doomed to drown? Actually, every new generation of tools and media has triggered apocalyptic views as well optimistic ones. But the human mind, has after all, proved its high adaptability, its capacity to sort and hierarchize data, whether it be with by use of the machine itself, much as Google proves every day.


To conclude on personal lines, I remain a “modern”. For me [41], the grand narrative is the progression of the digital from the Big Bang to our days and a future for which we are responsible, within limits. Neither nature nor technology nor human will determine it. What we can undertake is development, a word that translates poorly the French “aménagement”. Moore’s law is the right example here. To its regular continuation throughout some four decades is due the combination of technology determinism, costs, market considerations and cooperation at the industry highest level (SIA, Semi-conductor industry association).


Growth is a fundamental need of human beings, as God said to Abraham. A good growth is exponential,   like Moore’s law, but at something like a 1,025 per year ratio, when Moore is around 2 every two years.  Facing the ecological limits of the planet, the dematerialization, hence the digitalization of our activities, if not someday of our bodies themselves, is the only solution to a continued growth of mankind in a limited Earth. A proper DAI development has to be based on a sensible but also creative management of the relations between these two exponential functions.


Unless, after all, identity happens not to be such a good and perennial a concept as we think. It brought the World a lot of good things, along with bad ones. As Levy-Strauss [12] (our free translation) writes “Identity may be no more than a reflection of a state of civilization, which duration will have been limited to some centuries… the identity crisis which is at present a buzzword.. is perhaps only a cute and childish sign that our little persons are nearing the point where each one of them must cease to take itself for the essence of the world”.




My thanks to Marie-Thérèse Berger for her assistance with art history topics.


[1] A. Malraux,  Les voix du silence.  Paris : Gallimard, 1951.  (includes Le Musée imaginaire).

[2] A. Ducrocq,  L’Ère des robots. Paris : Julliard, 1953.

[3] J. Itten, Art de la couleur. Paris : Dessain et Tolra 2004 . German original 1921-1961.

[4] P. Klee,  Cours du Bauhaus,  Weimar 1921-22,  Contribution à la théorie de la forme picturale. Strasbourg : Musées de Strasbourg 2004.

[5] J. Schillinger, The mathematical basis of the arts. New York : Philosophical library, 1948.

[6] A. Burks, H. Goldstine and J. von Neumann, Preliminary discussion of the logical design of an electronic computing instrument. Datamation vol. 8, September and October 1962). The quotations are here extracted from a book of lectures reprinting these articles (G. Bell and A. Newell, Computer structures : readings and examples. New-York : McGrawHill, 1971).

[7] W. Weaver and C. Shannon, Théorie mathématique de la communication. Paris : CEPL, 1975. (original 1949).

[8] M. Serfati. La révolution symbolique. La constitution de l’écriture symbolique mathématique. Paris : Editions Petra,  2005.

[9]J.C. Kaufmann, Ego. Pour une sociologie de l'individu. Paris: Nathan, 2001, and J.C. Kaufmann, L’invention de soi, une théorie de l’identité. Paris :Armand Colin, 2004.

[10] C. Halpern (ed.): Identité(s). L’individu, le groupe, la société. Paris : Sciences humaines éditions, 2009.

[11] R. Keucheyan,  Le constructivisme, des origines à nos jours. Paris : Hermann, 2007.

[12] Quoted by Halpen, op. cit.

[13] For a comparatively easy presentation, see for instance A. Kojeve: Introduction à la lecture de Hegel. Paris : Gallimard 1947. This text is particularly pertinent here, since i twas one of the roots of philosohical post-modernism, including the Japanese one.

[14] See a concise (but formal) presentation C.H. Smith, A recursive introduction to the theory of computation. Berlin: Springer Verlag 1994.

[15] J-A. N. Caritat, marquis de Condorcet, Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain. Paris: 1795.  Recent edition, Paris, Editions sociales, 1966.

[16] S. Nora and A. Minc, L'informatisation de la société. Paris:  La documentation française, 1978.

[17] J. Verne, In the year 2889. New-York: The Forum, 1889.

[18] R. Carmille, La mécanographie dans les administrations. Paris : Sirey. Première édition 1936. Deuxième édition 1941. The second edition is more interesting because it includes the acquisition form and then the content of the intended files, in particular the « jew or not » mention. A critical appraisal of this interesting episode has been made in J.P. Azema, R. Lévy_Bruhl and B. Touchelay, Mission d'analyse historique sur le système de statistique français de 1940 à 1945. Paris: Insee, 1998.

[19] M. McLuhan and Q. Fiore, War and peace in the global village. New-York: Bantam, 1968.

[20] W. Benjamin, L'œuvre d'art à l'ère de sa reproductibilité technique. in Essais. Paris : Denoël-Gonthier, 1971.

[21] T. Adorno, Aesthetic theory. London: Continuum 2002 (Original 1977).

[22] J.M. Schaeffer, L’art de l’âge moderne. L’esthétique et la philosophie de l’art du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours. Paris : Gallimard, 1992.

[23] Phil O, Level design for games. Creating compelling game experiences. Berkeley,  New Riders, 2006.

[24] R. Powers, Plowing the dark. London: Vintage, 2002.

[25] P.M. Menger, Le travail créateur. S’accomplir dans l’incertain. Paris: Gallimard/Le Seuil 2009

[26] I. Robertson (ed.),  Understanding international art markets and management. London:  Routledge, 2005

[27] H. Azuma, Génération Otaku. Les enfants de la post-modernité. Paris, Hachette, 2008. (Japanese original 2001). Since 2001, Azuma has written or contributed into several books, but they still have not been translated in English. These themes are studied in depth by the yearly review Mechademia, edited by Frenchy Lunning, University of Minnesota Press, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). An extensive bibliography (24 pages) is included in M.W. MacWilliams, Japanese visual culture. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2008.

[28] M. Amerika, Meta/data, a digital Poetics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

[29] The invisible committee, The coming insurrection. Cambridge : MIT Press,  2009. Original, L’insurrection qui vient. Paris: La Fabrique éditions, 2007. 

[30] C. Koch, The quest for consciousness. A neurobiological approach. Englewood (CO) : Robert and company, 2004.

[31] P. Rosanvallon, La légitimité démocratique. Impartialité, réflexivité, proximité. Paris : Seuil, 2008. 

[32] Peter Sloterdijk. Sphères. 1. Bulles 2.  Globes 3. Ecumes.  Paris-Frankfurt Main : Fayard/Maren Sell. 1998-2002.

[33] J. Berger and P. Berger,  Prospective et entreprise, 2028.  in Entreprise 2018. Paris : Conseil Supérieur de l’Ordre des Experts Comptables, 2008.                

[34] G.Bradsky and A. Kaehler, Learning OpenCV. Computer vision with the  OpenCV library. Sebastpol (CA):  O’Reilly 2008

[35] N. Magnenat-Thalmann and D. Thalmann,  Handbook of virtual humans. Chichester (UK):  Wiley and sons, 2004..

[36] D. Haraway,  Manifeste cyborg et autres essais. Sciences - Fictions - Féminismes, Anthologie établie par Laurence Allard, Delphine Gardey et Nathalie Magnan. Paris : Editions Exils, 2007.

[37] A. Lioret, Emergences de nouvelles esthétiques du mouvement. Paris, L’Harmattan, 2004.


[39] C. Ondrejka, Power by the people : user-creation in online games. In T. Alexander (ed.),  Massively multiplayer game development 2. Boston: Charles River, 2005.

[40] Yishan Studio and A. James, Créez votre BD shojo sur ordinateur. Paris : Pika edition/Dunod, 2009.

[41] P. Berger, L'informatique libère l'humain. Paris : L'Harmattan, 1999.