Out of the dichotomy: a coexisting ambivalence
Yoona Yang

[Figure 1] Salt deposits at the Jiajika lithium mine in Tagong township in China’s western Sichuan province. Local herders have protested against the mine, which polluted the Liqi River and killed fish and yaks downstream. (Denyer 2016)

[Figure 2] A spot where the Matsutake was discovered in Nuuksio forest

As media technology advances, an ambivalence emerges compared to Utopia and Dystopia. The ambivalence-diametrical features of the world where we humans live- can be beneficial or detrimental to our lives. If the characteristics exist while balancing each other, they can eventually coexist and perform valuable functions. Then, in the Anthropocene, how can the media's ambivalence toward humanity achieve a more advantageous coexistence out of the dichotomy?

In recent years, the dystopian view of media technologies that machine intelligence will ultimately dominate or destroy humans has changed radically (Crawford 2021, 214). This change is a reactionary attitude stemming from the environmental problems of the mining town destroyed by the production of lithium, an essential material for digital devices. The dehumanization of mankind in modern society's tendency to blindly pursue capital and invest in media technology is another stimulus to the dystopian attitude. On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence in digital media devices is regarded as a universal solution to all the problems we humans face in modern society. There is also a view that wishes for a utopia life. Since Utopia is also a social vision for a better world, the modern Anthropocene also tends to struggle to develop media technologies that will make it a utopia (Fuchs 2020, 149). What if such dichotomous attitudes for the world only lead toward opposite ends apart from each other? If then, it will be unable to find the concept of coexistence in the relationship between media technology, the environment, and human beings.

As an artist who creates artworks, and a design researcher based on media technology, I am inspired by nature and create artifacts using digital technology. Because I reside at a crossroads between nature and digital media, I am constantly exposed to both optimistic and pessimistic aspects of media technology. What practices can I start to reflect these conflicting features more beneficially in mankind? Concerning the solutions to this internal question, the story of Matsukate that I heard while walking back to nature gave me a hint. Matsutake is a rare mushroom, especially discovered in human-damaged and abandoned forests. To survive in the wilderness, Matsutake does not see the devastation of the environment as adversity. It makes no distinction between negative and positive aspects of its surroundings. It even forms a mycelium where all harmonize, including other living things. Matsutake's objective view of its surroundings reminded me of the necessity of stepping back and observing the characteristic itself rather than focusing on one side of the ambivalence. Likewise, even in the relationship between media technology and we human beings, attempting to move away from the battle of dichotomous thoughts and looking at the ambivalent nature itself would be a small practice that I could begin for humanity.

Furthermore, the concept of ambivalence can be found everywhere, including within myself. Therefore, observing this characteristic itself is a small practice that I can continue in my daily life, and it will be the starting point of a new artistic practice as a media artist. If I repeat to look at each of the negative and positive aspects of everyday life from my own objective standpoint, the dichotomous distinction between ambivalences will become hazy at some point, and I would discover a balanced myself in a state of coexistence. I imagine that media artworks expressed in my small practices inspire others to ponder over a coexisting ambivalence rather than a dichotomous ambivalence.


[1] Denyer, Simon. 2016. Tibetans in Anguish as Chinese Mines Pollute Their Sacred Grasslands. The Washington Post. Edited by Simon Denyer. https://www.washington- post.com/world/asia_pacific/tibet- ans-in-anguish-as-chinese-mines-pollut e-their-sacred-grasslands/2016/12/25/ bb6aad06-63bc-11e6-b4d8-33e931b5a 26d_story.html.

[2] Crawford, Kate. 2021. The Atlas of AI Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. Yale University Press.

[3] Fuchs, Christian. “The Utopian Internet, Computing, Communication, and Concrete Utopias: Reading William Morris, Peter Kropotkin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and P.M. in the Light of Digital Socialism.” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 18, no.1 (2020): 146-186. https://doi.org/10.31269/tri- plec.v18i1.1143.