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Learn the new language of art

A glossary of new terms and technologies you'll find reading the Experience ‘Art’ stories

By Schuyler Velasco

Art innovates, breaks rules, and prompts us to see the world differently. As our fall stories about the future of art show, artists can shift paradigms not just by creating revolutionary new artworks, but also by changing the tools they use to create and share art. A car outfitted with artificial intelligence can write a novel (not a great one, but a novel nonetheless). TikTok, the Gen-Z social-media platform, can be a showcase — and community — for painters and ceramicists. Video games host live music shows. Vast sculptural installations can be planned and executed in step with city skyscrapers. All of these breakthroughs require a new vocabulary to describe them. Click on a word below to read the article in which it appears.

Biophilic design
An interior design style that takes nature as its inspiration. It puts plants and greenery center stage and often incorporates visuals, sounds, smells, changes in humidity, and fresh airflow into indoor spaces.

Bristlecone pine tree
A term that covers three species of pine trees, one of which, Pinus longaeva, is one of the longest-living complex organisms on Earth. Known for their hardiness, bristlecone pines often grow at high altitudes and in harsh, cold conditions.

Charli D’Amelio (@charlidamelio)
A 16-year-old dancer from Connecticut and the most popular user on TikTok, with 86.7 million followers and a cumulative 6.6 billion likes on her video posts since she joined the app in 2019

Colony collapse disorder
An abnormal phenomenon in honey bee colonies. It occurs when most of the worker bees disappear, leaving behind the queen, food, and a handful of nurse bees to take care of the colony’s immature bees. CCD can cause significant losses in honey production and other crops that rely on pollination. The main cause is unknown, although pesticides, disease, and loss of habitat have been suggested.

Commodore 64
An 8-bit home computer first released in 1982. Outselling models from Apple, Atari, and IBM, the computer dominated the low-end home-processor market in the 1980s. Between 10 million and 17 million Commodore 64 units were sold before the model was discontinued in 1994.

Daguerreotype
The earliest publicly available form of a photograph, used widely during the 1840s and 1850s. Daguerreotypes were made via a time-consuming, expensive process that involved reflecting light onto a mirror-like silver surface.

Electroencephalogram
EEG for short. A test that detects electrical activity in the brain using small, metal discs — called electrodes — attached to the scalp. It is used to diagnose and treat many neurological conditions, including epilepsy, brain tumors, head injuries, strokes, and sleep disorders.

Flickr
A U.S.-owned high-resolution photo and video hosting service launched in 2004.

Foursquare
A location data-sharing platform. Released in 2009, Foursquare initially powered Facebook’s location-sharing services by way of a popular “check in” feature, which allowed users to post their comings and goings and offered location-based recommendations.

Fyre Festival
A failed luxury music festival scheduled for spring 2017 in the Bahamas to promote a music-booking app. Attendees bought tickets for A-list musical acts, luxury accommodations, and gourmet food; those that showed up got FEMA tents, cheese sandwiches, and no musical performances. Heavily promoted — and later pilloried — on social media, the fiasco landed its chief promoter in jail for fraud. The subject of two popular documentaries, it has become a subject of fascination and an extreme example of the disconnect between social media and reality.

Generative art
Artwork created with autonomous, non-human systems.

GPT-3
Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, an AI language generator that uses machine learning to create human-like text. Engineered by the artificial intelligence research laboratory OpenAI. The most sophisticated natural language processor created to date, GPT-3 has penned entire op-eds and recently posed, undetected, as a user on Reddit for over a week.

Gregorian
The type of calendar used in Western culture and most of the world.

Holocene Epoch
The current period of geologic time, which started approximately 11,650 years ago at the end of the last global ice age.

Infinite Canvas
A concept for how comics might work on the web, posited in the 2000 book Reinventing Comics by cartoonist and comics theorist Scott McCloud. He predicted that online, as long as artists still placed one panel next to the other, they could take their stories in any direction they wanted — left, right, up, down, and diagonally, through time and space. It took time, but McCloud’s concept has come to fruition over the past few years.

Infinite Jest 
A 1996 novel by David Foster Wallace known for its prodigious length, unconventional narrative structure, and unfettered use of footnotes and endnotes. Taking place in a future North America, the novel follows four interconnected plot lines, including one set at an elite tennis academy.

Kintsugi
An ancient Japanese method of repairing pottery with gold resin. The art form highlights the cracks and flaws in a piece of art instead of hiding them.

Lidar
A surveying method used for calculating distances by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor.

Memories of Passersby
A video-based art installation powered by artificial intelligence, which creates a flow of original, never-before-seen images in real time. Created by programmer Mario Klingemann, it’s the first piece of AI art to sell at a traditional auction.

Neural networks
Sets of algorithms loosely modeled after the brain that can recognize patterns and, when fed the proper data, can be trained to “think” for themselves and produce original imagery and sounds.

Polytetrafluoroethylene
Also known as Teflon. A synthetic polymer with a number of practical applications in housewares, industrial construction materials, and even clothing.

Rationalism
A philosophical view that upholds reason as the chief source and test of knowledge; the belief that reality has an intrinsically logical structure. Famed practitioners include René Descartes (of “I think, therefore I am” fame) and Baruch Spinoza.

Sandbox games
A wildly popular, immersive video-game genre in which players can meet online and compete, work together on missions, and build new worlds. Examples include Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, and the Sims and Grand Theft Auto series.

TikTok
A Chinese-owned social-media platform on which users post and share short videos. Launched in 2016, TikTok has exploded in popularity, amassing more than 100 million active users across the globe.

Ulysses
A landmark modernist novel by James Joyce, published in 1922. Chronicling the parallel experiences of its central character, Leopold Bloom, and Homer’s Odysseus, the novel is an early example of stream-of-consciousness narrative and considered one of the most important works in the English language.

WEBTOON
A Korean platform for web comics that launched its English language service in 2014. The site has featured 100,000 series in the past six years and now attracts 10 million monthly readers. 

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Schuyler Velasco is Experience's Senior Editor.

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