Second Realm

Eric P. Rhodes, Artist

Reflecting on My Return to Rutgers After 27 years.


As I reflect on my journey back to college to complete my bachelor’s degree, I am struck by the unexpected ways my studies have intertwined with my professional life and personal growth.

The decision to pursue labor studies was initially driven by its interdisciplinary approach, encompassing history, psychology, economics, law, anthropology, technology and more. This diversity of subjects appealed to me deeply, as I have always been drawn to understanding the complexities of human experience from multiple angles since I was a teenager.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was how profoundly relevant this field of study would become in understanding the current technological shifts underway, particularly with artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology. Looking at these modern advances from the perspective of the 20th century’s struggles with technological advancements gives me a unique historical insight that helps to shape how I see today’s digital world.

One of the most interesting things I’ve come across in my studies is the Jacquard loom. This machine, used in textile manufacturing, represents an early intersection of technology and manual labor. It introduced the use of punched cards, setting the stage for the development of computing and digital art. This connection between the Jacquard loom and my own work in Web3 as an artist has been a revelation.

I’ve also been diving into the study of emotional intelligence, focusing on the crucial roles of emotional vocabulary and literacy. This exploration has significantly impacted my approach to digital art, allowing me to create works that not only express complex emotional states but also reflect broader societal themes. By integrating concepts of emotional intelligence into my art, I aim to foster a deeper connection and understanding among viewers, bridging the gap between personal experiences and collective human struggles.

This blend of labor studies, computing history, emotional intelligence, and my art practice has led me to a profound synthesis of ideas and inspirations. I see my role as a digital artist not just in terms of creating artwork that people find visually appealing, but as someone who can contribute meaningful commentary on the nature of society, technology, and human emotion. My academic pursuits have enriched my creative expression, allowing me to explore the intersections of labor, technology, and emotion with a more informed and nuanced perspective.

As I continue on this path after graduation, I am eager to further explore these connections and see where they lead. The journey from the impact of technology on society to emotional intelligence in the context of digital art is not just an academic exercise; it is a personal exploration of how we navigate and understand the evolving world around us. Through my art and studies, I hope to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about our collective future in this rapidly changing digital era.

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