Fin de Siècle
What is media change? This is as open a question as ‘what is art’, I think.
When I first began digital illustration six years ago, many people were confused. “So what do you use?”
"A pen," I’d say.
They’d scrunch up their faces, having never heard of a wacom tablet before. Many didn’t believe it was as ‘real’ art as that which could be done with a pencil or paintbrush. They thought that any artist could be a digital artist - which generally, they can, but it does take time to adjust to a digital pen.
Digital art is still not an accepted form in many competitions, where the mediums are strictly traditional or photography
So when commercial 3D printers came onto the scene recently, I was surprised at the number of digitally printed sculptures that not only were on display at the PowerHouse’s Love Lace exhibition, but one had won.
But perhaps we’ve grown comfortable with the intersection between technology and art. But have we down the same with media and art?
Looking at Sydney’s Vivid Festival it’s clear that some of the most engaging art is those installations which encourage interaction with audiences. And audiences today know and like to interact - we’ve seen it with the social media, web 2.0 revolution.
If it’s comfortable, is it classed as change?
I may be full of questions this week, but that’s essentially the nature of change. It brings up questions and uncertainties. Media theorists seem to be catching up, confidently using terms like ‘web 2.0’ and ‘new media’. But this desire to define that which is morphing is perhaps not the best way to look at media.
So what is media change? It is neither here nor there. It is both technological and beautiful, organic and made from polymer as Jahn’s sculpture was.
This week’s word was generative. It’s always uh, interesting, trying to figure out how Murphie’s words apply to course content, but here goes: generative is about reproduction and creation. When looking at the future of the media, or even the future in general, looking at what is generative and what is going to disappear is very important.
One thing from the reading I found most interesting was the idea of ubiquitous computing. Essentially, computerisation has become a part of the fabric of life. Not even ten years ago, the idea of having a smartphone on your person seemed ludicrous. These days, many people claim they would go into spasms of fear without their beloved android or iPhone. When you think about it, your everyday arsenal - phone, wallet and keys, has at least two pieces of ubiquitous computing. The phone is the most obvious, but if you have a credit card, a loyalty card, a passkey to a door, a passport, these are all able to communicate with the outside world details about your whereabouts, your finances and more. We shiver at the thought of Big Brother, but we’ve got him kissing our arse in our back pocket!
One thing that is certainly generative for the future of media is communication. I’m probably not the first to say this, but the growing myriad ways of communicating with other human beings could very well change the structure of our brain. The problem with much of new media, especially social media is replacing real interaction. While virtual interaction is not necessarily bad for you, the act of internalising - reading, ‘hearing’ the words in your own mind voice has been proven to be a struggle for our brains and harmful to our health. This actually comes from a reading I did last year in Andrew Murphie’s second year course. I think it applies to advanced media because as I see it, people have two options: fall into a pit of self-induced misery, or our brains are going to change. The only reason many of us put up with social media is the dopamine hits we get from a new friend, like or ‘poke’, so maybe our brains will learn from this response to move from face-to-face to onscreen communication. I’ll admit it makes me nervous, but if humans do supposedly adapt, then perhaps they won’t be.
ARTS3091 Week 7- Transversally
I’m a very visual person, so have decided to show my thought processes on with weeks topic as a mind map. I first was stumped by the word “transversally” (which I believe should be spelt transversely, but any who). Its meaning boils down to “situated across”. The options for this weeks tute (which we didn’t have due to ANZAC day) was to think transversely about either music or journalism. I chose journalism because I am a
conceited passionate journalism student.
I then examined how I perceived media for journalists at the moment: the issues of change. This got me into a funk about the state of my industry, so I perked myself up with looking not at how journalism is no longer how it used to be, but by looking at what journalism is today. Surprisingly, I went from a conviction that journalism is ‘dying’ to its ‘growing’. These mind maps literally show how I was able to think transversally about how journalism exists in today’s media and perhaps where it is headed.
As a journalism student, I highly value data because its ever shifting yet important role to clear, objective journalism. At the media organisation where I work, data journalism is usually presented in data visualisations, which can be info graphics or interactive (theglobalmail.org). Kolodzy (2013) urged that “reporters who want to use every story telling device available need to think as graphics as part of their journalistic toolbox” and I think this sums up why data is so important. It is a tool. It can be used for good or evil, as we’ve seen from Wikileaks. But when held to ethics and laws, such as at the annual GovHack event and in data journalism, the power of archives and data becomes truly apparent.
That said, data in its pure form - often as numeralic values - is inaccessible to the common person. As data increases - wikipedia would cross a football field if it was a printed book, and I suspect that if we printed every webpage it would probably reach beyond the solar system - we need to come up with ways of managing it all. This is where issues such as ‘big data’ and ‘open data’ come into play. The theory goes a little like this: if you make data accessible, surely enough people will stumble across it to make sense of it. Otherwise, if you only have a limited number of people with access making analysis of the data, it could be skewed in its representation to the public through the media. I’m not sure if this is the answer. Firstly, some data is sensitive. Secondly, crowd wisdom is not always wise.
It is my personal goal to work at the Guardian AU, and if I had my pick it would be to learn data journalism skills from Nick Evershed.
One thing that strikes me when we talked about new media creating augmented realities, is the focus on the forms that alter our visual sense or perception of reality. Devices such as GoogleGlass, for example, would overlay our vision with additional visible information. Apps for smartphones, such as the IKEA app already allows users to do similar things, to visualise how furniture may appear in their home by overlaying an image of the piece of furniture into the frame on the phone’s camera of the room.
This made me wonder how other visual sense come into play. As I stepped off the bus this morning and walked amongst the crowd into the uni, my mp3 player shuffled to the Imperial March from Star Wars. Suddenly, with the aid of the music, I became aware that everyone’s stepping was in sync, and was filled with a sense of urgency and purpose by the music. But is this mere coincidence, or augmented reality?
First we have to think about what reality is. It is, after all, completely subjective, and anyone who has watched the Matrix or even Inception will tell you that trying to figure out what the ‘truth’ is is going to give you a headache. Reality, or at least how I understand, comes down to not what we see or hear, but what sense and meaning we make out of these signs. As we know from semiotics, signs only have meaning as long as a reasonable number of people agree roughly on the meaning. This is why people who are insane are seen as not perceiving ‘reality’; because they are alone in perceiving and making sense from signs. This might seem harsh to say, but when you think about it, the IKEA app only works because the #D models correlate to an actual piece of furniture in a warehouse in Rhodes or Tempe, and anyone who looks at that sofa will be able to say, “why yes, it is a sofa, and it does have four legs and is that parculiar shade of puce.” In the same way that googleGlass may tell you the time, a time which is probably right somewhere in this world.
As for the Imperial University March, I’m going to claim insanity. We weren’t all walking in sync, or at least not perfectly.
One of the ideas that has stuck with me from the concepts I was introduced to in ARTS1090 ‘Media, Culture and Everyday Life’ two years ago is that media shapes our experiences of the everyday, and I believe it is relevant to the advanced media issues explored this year in ARTS3091. When thinking about experience, I propose that there are layers to our experience.
There is primary experience, which comes directly from sensory stimuli such as what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Then there is temporal experience, which can occur when you remember something, are told a story, or imagine what might happen to you tomorrow - as Andrew Murphie said in todays lecture, for the brief moment you remember something, it is as if it is actually happening. For example, if you think of your favourite food, the pleasure and taste centres in your brain have increased activity- and for that moment, you ‘experience’ tasting that food even if it is not in your mouth at the time. Thirdly, there is what I shall call ‘secondary experience’, in the same way you might have secondary sources. This is experiencing something that you have not/are not/will not experience in your life, and is the most common experience of the media.
For example, when you watch the news, you have the primary experience of watching the television, of the seat underneath you. Then you have the secondary experience of whatever the news might be about (for example, the football game). Using your temporal experience, you are able to combine your sensory input (the images on the screen, the sounds) and your own experiences of being to a football game, or even a field near sports players, and you are able to create the secondary experience. For a moment, there is the layer of experience in which it is as if you are at the game. The more temporal experience (eg you are a football fan who has been to many games at the same stadium) and primary experiential input (eg a HD tv), the stronger the secondary experience will seem. For example, when watching a car race on the weekend, my boyfriends father commented that he could ‘smell the burning rubber’. All I could smell was the chicken in the oven, although I suppose, if his mother hadn’t been such a good cook, perhaps it would have smelt like burning rubber. But the point is, the combination of the visual and auditory input from the television and his previous experiences going to car races, my boyfriend’s father, for a moment, experienced a neurological echo that created this level to his experience.
Media allows a much stronger secondary experience than compared to if your friend told you a story of what happens to them when they got run over by a bus, or some such. They may be able to act it out, and do voices, but this is not as rich and accurate as when you see a camera phone video of the event. Hence media, especially news media, can create a whole other, rich layer of experience that shapes the way we live our lives.
If we look at other uses of the prefix ‘meta’ (as in meta fiction, metamorphosis) we can see, in essence, the compounding of the noun. So metafiction is fiction about fiction, or writing that draws attention to its own constructed nature. Metamorphosis is a change of change. So what of metacommunication? Is it communication about communication? Communication that draws attention to its communicative nature? These are difficult questions to answer.
Gregory Bateson (1951) used the term metacommunication to refer to “all exchanged cues and propositions about (a)codification and (b) relationship between the communicators”. And while the meaning may have changed in the past sixty years, looking at this definition helps me understand that:
Codifcation is how a message is packaged. It is media and medium. Cues, I take, are those which allow us to choose which code system to use. If I see text written in pinyin (the phonetic character system in Chinese) then that is a cue that the characters will represent Chinese words, and not using Chinese characters to phonetically recreate English words, which would normally be written in Latin characters (except in cases of translation and learning, perhaps).
From this, we can then understand that the relationship between communicators is based on this common understanding of the rules of codification. After all, imagine if a pair (of poly linguists, for this example to be possible!) who used character systems at random, using pinyin or hirugana, Arabic or any other phonetic/syllabary set of characters to represent the sounds of any language they chose - utter confusion would result! They would only understand each other easily by using the assumption that pinyin would represent Chinese, hiragana Japanese, Arabic for Arabic, Latin alphabet for Latin based languages and Cyrillic for languages such as Russian - an assumption made around the world. Metacommunication is just as important as communication itself, for a code can only be understood if it can be cracked.
Bateson, G. 1951 Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry, Ruesch and Bateson, p. 209
The term ‘machinic’, first coined by Deleuze and Guattri was used to describe the assemblages between humans and technology. As Peta Malins (2004, p84) described in applying this theory to drug use, “The body conceived of as a machinic assemblage becomes a body that is multiple. Its function or meaning no longer depends on an interior truth or identity, but on the particular assemblages it forms with other bodies” which is to say that machinic, as a description, described relationships and actions which may appear natural, but are not.
Contemporary changes in the technology of media have become a topic of public discourse because it alters the way humans live as humans. At the moment, even as we become used to different technologies and social structures, we are aware that it is not as it was before, that it is ‘unnatural’. Yet machinic life has always been so. I mentioned in last week’s tutorial that language is a technology, and arguably the first media technology. While using sound to express meaning, in the way a kitten might mewl to find its mother, is a trait common to most animals, the way humans use this has become much more complicated, and our palette and structure of the brain have adapted to accommodate the variety of sounds and grammar respectively, much like a bats use of echolation has changed their physiology and the entire way they live their lives. Thus we have become machinic.
Another way of looking at at the media intersection of technology and people is what John Johnston describes in his book The Allure of Machinic Life as “new forms of nascent life that emerge through technical interactions within human-constructed environments—”machinic life”—in the sciences of cybernetics, artificial life, and artificial intelligence.” As humans take on technology through media, we also bring media technologies closer to what we might identify as natural or ‘human’ for example autocorrect and google search suggestions, which seem to work on human logic in order to guess and supplywordsin the same way a friend might be able to finish your sentence for you.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “A Thousand Plateaus,” University of Minnesota Press, 1980, p. 409.
John Johnston ‘The Allure of Machinic Life’ http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/allure-machinic-life
Malins, P. (2004) Machinic Assemblages: Deleuze, Guattari and an ethico-aesthetics of drug use, Janus Head, 7:1, pp. 84–104.
Posts before this are from other courses at unsw! From now on posts will be for ARTS3091
‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’
—-Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian newspaper
List of References:
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Platforms. Scoop.it is obsessed with social media platforms (it’s the way of the future it would seem they believe).
Obviously, social media platforms are not the only publishing platform in the world. There is paper, and its part in newspapers, brochures, magazines, books, pamphlets, letters, posters, billboards, tickets - and then there is television, radio, Cassettes, CDs, MP3s, VHS, DVDS, Bluray, film. Walk into a theatre, come across a dancing troupe, give the finger to that guy that just cut you off, the way your wife purses her lips when you tell her “it’s only a few drinks”, the text message from that hottie you meet at the bar that night, the call from your wife telling you to come home, the email to your solicitor, the clothes you wear to court, the Jeep you drive home, the iPad you use to change your relationship status to “single”. All of this is publishing, and from faces to body language to speech to transmission of sound and words and pictures and video on hundreds of platforms squared… well it would take all of tumblr to really cover it all.
And yet academic data and scholarly research on this isn’t in the public’s faces. Oh, Scoop.it does a good job of analysing a ‘genre’ of platforms (social media) through blog posts and info graphics.
The point I want to make today is that while social media is, in a way, hyper niching its content due to smarter aggregation (for example, your ex now blocks you on Facebook - she has chosen not to aggregate your content). Yes, it can pull stuff from almost anywhere. But that doesn’t mean you can get almost anything in ‘your feed’.
So if we’re all such fans of this hyper-niche, why do so many of us have google accounts, hotmail accounts, youtube, Facebook, iCloud, a bazillion devices? I’m kind of embarrassed to show this but I’ve gone around and listed every platform of publishing in my house including ones that don’t belong to me. While the books and old stuff stand out, if you look beyond that, there is a LOT of digital media. But I know myself, that while I might have a Bob Marley CD (and vinyl somewhere) I also have copies on my computer, my iPod, my phone. His music was once just sound waves in the air: and now it is multi platformed.
remote image upload
I think my little scenario before of the man cheating on his wife (did you get that?) shows why we also need many platforms. Because ‘niching’ is our way of telling a ‘story’. A story that transcends Facebook or a text message. A story is simply an idea; and ideas can adapt and be told many ways, and become multi platform.
Visual Media is a mixed bunch
Really, just the fact that I had to use this visual -moving mind map proves that when it comes to visual even ‘a little bit’ amounts to much more information richness compared to any other sense which may be used in media. I made this purposely devoid of sound/taste/smell/touch to prove that we can learn a lot from just seeing (well, if you can smell something, I promise it’s you!).
I understand that ‘visual media’ can be misinterpreted. In fact, I kinda did it on purpose, pointing out things like writing are also visual media, not just pictures and videos. While everyone might be focusing on the strengths of visual media:
People might forget that at least the writing is a step up from ideas - a step up from the ice melting before anyone published a picture of it!
In fact I’m beginning to think there’s a sort of hierarchy to visual media. Cue picture time!
An interactive way to learn about information graphics
While I have chosen to present my debate topic this week instead of the blog topic ‘piracy’, I would like to point out this topical court case concerning copyright infringement (piracy) of movies via peer-to-peer (p2p) methods, namely BitTorrent. It is very long (I am currently 112 /219 pages through it). This court case brings up many issues, such as the difficulty of interpreting ‘Electronically transmit’ a substantial part of the film to the public’ (page 86-91, or paragraphs 301- 318), which is broken up into the three issues. The Court’s decisions on what constitutes a public (near the end of the section I recommended) is particularly interesting in regards to online piracy.