Author Archives: Weilin Wang

The Interpretation of the Usage of Technology in the Art Works of Nam June Paik

Pioneer of Video Art

Nam June Paik, an American Korean artist, is famous for his appropriating the analog television set as an art object. Becoming one of the first artists to establish video as a serious artistic medium in 1960s, he is regarded as a pioneer in this field and is given the name of “the father of video art”. He is also one of the first artists to break the barriers between art and technology.

Nam June Paik got involved in the Fluxus movement which is an international art movement in 1960s. Fluxus artists challenged the authority of museums and “high art” and wanted to bring art to the masses. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, their art often involved the viewer, used everyday objects, and contained an element of chance. So, when looking at Paik’s artworks, even though they are still installed in the museum like the traditional fine art, the broad use of one of the most popular everyday objects, which is also one of the most influential things in human life in those days, television, makes his works outstand from the serious statues of human body and the historical oil paintings hanging on the wall.

Just have a quick look at a list of some of his popular works that is directly named with TV.
TV Cello (1964)
Magnet TV (1965)
TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1968)
TV Buddha (1974)
TV Garden (1974)

To me. what is so impressive in his work actually is his idea of initiatively erasing the boundary between technology and art. In this research, we will try to interpret how Nam June Paik is applying technology in his art works and do such kind of collaboration work well in the museum and in other remediating platforms, or to say, institutions.

Semiotic Interpretation of the Art Works of Nam June Paik

To think about the role of technology in Nam Jun Paik’s works, one thing that need to be clarify is the definition of “medium” which we may use a lot in the following discussions but might feel noe so clear. Here by saying medium, we are defining this term as the physical substances an artist uses to create an artwork piece. Take oil painting as example, it is understandable that both the oil pigment that is used and the canvas to draw on are media, the plural for medium, of this painting. However, a gel medium like impasto which can “thicken a paint so the artist can apply it in textural techniques[1](Esaak, Shelley, 2018) is also regarded as the medium of art. (To know more about Impasto.)

In this section, a detailed case study on one of the most famous art works of Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii,1995, will be a core content going throughout the whole section. While at the time, several brief analysis on more of his interesting works will be applied in order to explain a specific idea better. In this section, instead of building up the institutions that remediate the artwork, or to say offering a “space” for audiences to get access to the art work, nor doing the reproduction works for the artwork, we will work on the technologies as the media that are relevant to the art work itself, becoming part of the interface of the symbolic system of the art work that join in the process of the creation of meanings. In order to study the video technology in a more direct way, we would basically focus more on the collaboration of installation art and video art in which the technologies are more physically reachable.

Briefly De-Blackboxing Electronic Superhighway Physically and Symbolically

[Pic Lost]

Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995

The Electronic Superhighway might be one of the most famous works of Nam June Paik. Due to the introduction from Smithsonian American Art Museum where this work is now being exhibited, it is an approximate 15 x 40 x 4 feet video installation. There are fifty-one channel videos installed and with one closed-circuit television feed. In each of the screen, there are video clips with both images and sound. The bright colorful lines are neon lights which are also customized by electronic. Steel and wood are also used in the construction of this art work.

By lining out the shape of United States and the boundary between neighboring states and set up televisions in groups based on the unit of state, we can see a fusion of politics and art. The boundary lines between two political area is a typical token in politics. Due to some crisis, it is even not only relevant to art, but also can associated with echoing the network of interstate “superhighways” that economically and culturally unified the continental U.S. in the 1950s.

Besides, these physical contours with same clips displaying on the screens in the same area can also be regarded as a separation of different culture inside America. The group television screens in each area are showing different clips of video which, at least from the perspective of Nam June Paik, can represent the most typical character or a most interesting thing of the state. For example, the state of Iowa, “where each presidential election cycle begins, plays old news footage of various candidates, while Kansas presents the Wizard of Oz.”[2]

The Electronic Superhighway actually is a meta-media installation as it also have sounds playing out with the videos. So in this such huge collaboration of mixed and dazzling images as well as sounds, we can see a reflection of the modern life filled with all kinds of images and sounds, information, led by the development of mass communication media, especially the development of television and the advancement of “information superhighway”. An announcement in advance of the explosion of information is presenting here isn’t it?

One more interesting information about clips shown on the TV monitors is that all of them are collected and edited by Nam June Paik himself. Actually, the video technology kept developing from 1960s to 1980s, which allowed the artists to edit moving images more quickly than recording them on films and then do more works on them. It required time to for negatives to be developed but with the new technology it is even possible to edit the images in “real-time”. In 1969, Paik even created his own video synthesizer with Japanese engineer Shuya Abe.[3]

One of his interesting works during this period is TV Garden(1974). It is a single-channel video installation with color television monitors and live plants. There are different images and sounds displaying on each monitor and in this way, in an enclosed space in the museum, a strange harmonious has been expressed.

[Pic Lost]

Nam June Paik, “TV Garden” (detail), 1974/2000, single-channel video installation with color television monitors and live plants; color, sound, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. (Copyright Nam June Paik Estate)

Watch a video to gain a better sense of this work.

Another attractive art work which is “more real-time” is the famous Good Morning, Mr. Orwell (1984) which is the first international satellite installation art work. It is seen as a rebuttal to George Orwell’s dystopian vision in his novel 1984. Linking WNET TV in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris live via satellite, a reading by Allen Ginsberg in New York was mixed live with a Beuys‘ action taking place in Paris. Even though there were still technology problems such as the connection of satellites between United States and France kept cutting out, Nam June Paik said that “the technical problems only enhanced the ‘‘live’ mood”[4], which from my perspective is a quite ANT (Actor Network Theory) style thought that we will talk about later.

The symbolic meaning of technology itself

The Electronic Superhighway itself is no doubt an interface to the culture meaning system and in this system, or to say network, functions as a node in the network of relations.[5] While to go one step further, to deconstruct this big token into many smaller tokens, the technology contained in some small tokens are not just physical constituent but also carry its own symbolic meaning that contributes to the meaning system.

Taking one television monitor of the installation as a token, without considering the images nor sounds, it, as one of the medium of this art work, is not only a physical medium to display the video, but also carrying symbolic meanings which becomes crucial part of the symbolic system that makes this art work works.

From a macroscopic viewpoint, when “de-black-boxing” the human life in the 1990s in United States, there will certainly be a part for the node of video technology, here to be more specific, the development of television. As what has been said by John Law,“social and the technical are embed in each other”[6], this does not only mean that we cannot explore the human society without studying the “hows” of relational materiality, but also reminds us that when considering the technology elements in the art works, we shall put it into the specific social situation and time period. This one television monitor can be taken as a token of television technology in its period.

All the televisions in this art work are analog TV and this strictly corresponds to the social reality that the digital television had not become consumer product and put into mass producing until the late 1990s and the beginning of 21century. We can hardly find out another media which was so influential among the family unit in a specific period of time.

From a relatively micro perspective, the television monitor is the core part of the total art work as a complicated interface to its meaning system, for the audience to communicate with the art work and the idea that the artist wants to deliver through the installation.

Based on such definition, it seems that in the past, it is the physical characters that are made use of in the creation of art works. However, due to the idea of John Law, every material owns its social symbolic meanings be being a node in the network of the whole society. By apply these meanings which can trigger the spiritual resonate of those people who once experienced or is experiencing that kind of life style. In this way, the TV monitors, the material that is the representmen of video technology, became a power full unit interface to deliver the thoughts of Nam June Paik about the American life experience in the “shadow” of mass communication lead by television. From my perspective the symbolic meaning of a specific material, or to say technology, is part of nature property as when it was invited by human society, it gets involved in the social development and its connection and interaction with other agencies in the society give birth to its social meaning. From this stand point, in Nam June Paik’s art works, the medium are not simply physical material but the material carrying social meanings.

Fusion of Culture Elements

To talk about Nam June Paik’s works from a perspective of culture, in Nam June Paik’s art works, except for his pioneering thoughts on new modern life experience being influenced by mass media, especially by the video technology and “information superhighway”, another impressive character is the fusion of different culture elements in his art works.

Scientific Experiment and Installation Art

The first art work of Nam June Paik that I know was a not really famous one named TV Magnet.

[Pic Lost]

Nam June Paik, “Magnet TV,” 1965, television set and magnet, black and white, silent, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

What actually is happening here is that when we put a magnet in the top of an analog television and then energize the television, there will be moving images like what can be seen in the picture. Nam June Paik installed such kind of an interesting phenomenon in the museum and made it a piece of art work. Isn’t it just more like a scientific experiment instead of installation art?
By looking at a video of this art piece, the movement of the lines, or to say color blocks, might help gain the sense better.

Actually, even though being without an academic background of science or engineering, many of Nam June Paik’s works shows a lot of scientific and engineering elements. This is closely relevant to a trend in the field of art started from 1960s that being inspired by the new technologies and having a lot of thoughts on these technologies associating with new modern life, many artists would cooperate with engineers to create their art works and in this way, these artists do not just focus on the traditional defined “art creation”, but also join in the engineered works. Just as what has been mentioned before when talking about

East and West

Nam June Paik is an American Korean. He was born in Korea and have studied in Japan for a long time. While he created most of his amazing works in the field of video art after joining the western artists community. Such kind of remixed culture background makes many of his works having a Eastern aroma with totally western generated technologies like television, video editing and projection. With a Eastern culture background, I got very interested in these works.

Ommah is a “one-channel video installation on 19-inch LCD monitor”[7] with silk robe. he name of this work “Ommah” is a Korean word means mother. A television displaying images of Korean people is covered by a traditional Korean style coat. Watching television is regarded as a family activity and the importance of mother in a family is apparent. Such kind of culture crush really makes sense, especially to the Korean people.

Another really famous art work of him is the series of Buddha.

[Pic Lost] 1974, closed circuit video installation, bronze sculpture

[Pic Lost] 1982, closed circuit video installation, bronze sculpture

[Pic Lost] 1989, closed circuit video installation, bronze sculpture

[Pic Lost] 1997, closed circuit video, stone sculpture,soil

There are four different versions in this series, each created in 1974, 1982, 1989 and 1997. Although the layout of the real-time projectors and the statues of Buddha are different, the concept of combing Western Technology and the Eastern religious thoughts is ever lasted. Through such kind of combinations, Paik established a “connection between Budhish beliefs concerning the reincarnation of all living being and the electronic reproduction of what is always the same”[8].

There are also some classic culture remixes that many artists, from past to nowadays, would like to show in their art works that also have been shown in Nam June Paik’s works. For example, in the Electronic Superhighway, we can see a collaboration of politics and culture. In the TV Garden, there is a collaboration of the ideas of nature and human society.

Technology and the Mediating Institution

When looking at the Fluxus movement, from my perspective, there are two key points in the process of letting “high art” going down to the mass. The first way is to move the art works out of the museum which is a name that born with high art in 1980s. As Malraux said, “Museums and schools are the main mediators of, and interfaces to, art history and to the knowledge of the cultural category of “art” itself. Here by saying art, I think it more refers to “high art”[9].

In this way, I would like to conclude this first way as working on the mediating institutions. The second way refers to the use of “mass material” like the televisions, projections or other new technologies. The second way here can be regarded as working on the interface of an art piece itself. As we have talked about the material which refers to the second way above, in this section, I would like to briefly discover the mediating institutions work on Nam June Paik’s works.

Malraux also knew that the modern — and postmodern — museum inherited a cultural motive for collecting works from diverse cultures and histories, and then presenting collections as a coexisting totality or unity with an underlying idealized history.

In Smithsonian Art Museum where the Electronic Superhighway is on exhibition, there are also many other brilliant artworks on shown, for example the American Indian Portrait, postmodern style statues and a wall with a collection of license plates in United States hanging on. Each artwork is interacting with others and all the works are being remediated in the museum.
A relatively closed space was build up for our case study installation, but if people have just visited the relatively serious portrait shows or the statues before, a more striking feeling might be generated. Take myself as example, even though I know little about the 20th century American life, the moment when I stand in front of these TV collections and light-emitting diodes, being surrounded by different moving images and sounds from the installation, I feel like having gotten involved in a specific context. The images and sounds might not be familiar to me as a foreigner but how they are organized in the unit of states of USA

The wall in the background of the installation is not a really modern style but a quite classic western architecture design. When looking at the art work, it’s hard for me to ignore the walls and pillars with arabesquitics of western styles in 20th century and even earlier.

One interesting experience I would like to mention here is that when I am standing in this dazzling area, a father stood next to me was talking about the clips that were playing on the screens of Virginia to his daughter. I can imagine with the “real experience” on the wall, the visit would be much more movable.

The museum is like a huge mediating machine in which different art works are being remediated and also interacting with each other. Once entering the machine, a person would get involved in the process of remediating. With different life experience and different modes of interpreting the works, each one receives different information from the same artwork and also different ways to arrange the location of each artwork and all the visitors around when people are watching the specific work might also “edit” the interpretation.

In general, based on my personal experience, different culture background of the subject (the audience), different time, different people around, different neighboring artworks around the object can all be variables to the mediating process and the meaning interpretation.

While, what about watching the Electronic Superhighway at home?

There are photos of not only Electronic Superhighway but also many other Nam June Paik’s art pieces all over the Internet, but by looking at these digitalized images, the collections of pixels on the screen of your electronic devices, can we know enough about the real works? I was shocked by the sounds that was generated by the installation when I arrived at the real Electronic Superhighway. People would gain better sense of the start of the explosion of information triggered by the expansion of mass media in daily life and the “information superhighway” (Nam Jun, Paik, 1965) when standing in that area with mixed and disordered sounds coming into the ear from all directions.

How about watching the video of it on Youtube? Watch these two videos taken by different people.

 

I have to admit that for people who have not or do not have the chance to reach the real installation in Smithsonian, they do work on offering a sense of what this installation is about and most of the basic characters of it, the settings, the light and sounds, are all shown. But two me, it is still different from an in-person experience of standing in the area. Except for all the “noises” generated by the remediating process, the chromatic aberration, the poor sound effect and so on, the Electronic Superhighway presents in these videos actually has already been edited by the one who took the videos.

While, to think about it more, though haven’t been generated, will a VR tour works better? I guess yes. But will it be able to take place a real museum experience, I myself vote for a no.

Based on all the online mediating institutions that I know, the initiative of the audience and how real the effect is shown are all still limited by analog technology. To what extent can we analog a real experience in the museum? However, a further, or to say more foundational question, why the real museum experience matters? Are the digital analog technologies trying to imitate a museum experience or just trying out the best way to mediate the artworks and for audience to get access and experience? We have to admit that there are some relatively new genre of art, such as digital art, that are generated by and created based on the new digital technologies and for these works, the dialogic process best works on the electronic screens and have no possibility or need to be taken to the real physical area.

Except for the technology affairs, the collective mind on traditional museum experience will also block the acceptance of people to the digital mediating institutions as to most of the people, the real museum locates there itself means something in the field of art.

To me, on the topic of Nam June Paik’s works, as most of his artworks are still with touchable and hearable physical body, the limited analog technologies still cannot gain their advantages on the production of the dialogic context that is generated by museums.

Citations

[1] Esaak, Shelley. “What Is the Definition of ‘Medium’ in Art?” ThoughtCo, Mar. 23, 2018, thoughtco.com/medium-definition-in-art-182447.

[2] “Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii.” Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/global-contemporary/a/paik-electronic-superhighway.

[3]“TateShots: Nam June Paik.” Tate, www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/tateshots-nam-june-paik.

[4] Media Art Net. “Media Art Net | Paik, Nam June: Good Morning, Mr. Orwell.” Medien Kunst Netz, Media Art Net, 3 May 2018, www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/goog-morning/.

[5] Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics: The Basics. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon;New York, NY;, 2017.

[6] Turner, Bryan S. The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom; Malden, MA, USA, 2009: P141-158

[7] “Ommah.” Art Object Page, www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.150881.html.

[8] Dieter Daniels in : Heinrich Klotz (ed.), Contemporary Art, exhib. cat, Museum for Contemporary Art/ Center of Art and Media, Karsruhe, 1997, P.204

[9] Irvine, Martin, Malraux and the Musée Imaginaire: (Meta)Mediation, Representation, and Mediating Institutions

More References

Daniel Chandler, Semiotics: The Basics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge, 2007.

Martin Irvine, “Introduction to Signs, Symbolic Cognition, and Semiotics: Part I.”

Martin Irvine, “Applying Semiotic Concepts, Models, and Methods.”

Martin Irvine, “The Museum and Artworks as Interfaces: Metamedia Interfaces from Velásquez to the Google Art Project”

Useful Websites

http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/s

https://www.artsy.net/artist/nam-june-paik

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/post/father-of-video-art-nam-june-paik-gets-american-art-museum-exhibit-photos/2012/12/12/c16fa980-448b-11e2-8e70-e1993528222d_blog.html?utm_term=.5125696eb7cc

 

Virtual Tour Experience on Google Art

When exploring the British Museum in Google Art Project, to me, there are two types of different experiences.

The first is the traditional “reading” version. I can see the high-quality photographs of those exhibits on the screen just like I can see them in a printed exhibits album book. These pictures being shown on the screen is quite similar to the reproduction process of shooting a specific painting and reprint the photographic plate for numerous times, in which, to Benjamin, the original painting is art but the reproducing images are not. I’m going to talk about it later in the second type of experience.

The second style of experience is the virtual tour inside the space of the museum. Associating with the idea of Benjamin, with a DVD of The Matrix, I feel that I own this art work of Wachowski, while in the context of a virtual tour, I do not gain the sense of possessing the art works. I think this is what makes the virtual museum tour meaningful, which is that they are not aiming to offering the information of art works in the museum, but offering the experience of walking in a museum. To me, as a consumer, as a visitor, by choosing the virtual tour, I am longing for an experience of visiting a museum by personally because it is clear that if I want to know about the detailed literal and image formation of Rosetta Stone, I will just print its name in Wekipedia.

So, can the museum experience be digitalized? Can the museum function be re-mediated on digital media platform?

To think about this, what I’d like to make sure firstly is that are the things that I see art? Here, by art, I am applying the traditional definition of art that we see in a real gallery or museum from Benjamin with the character of Echtheit? The first thing to clarify is that all that has been shown to us on the screen are the images captured by the lens and are digitalized in the platform. To apply that idea, are digital images of artworks reproductions of artworks? If yes, due to Benjamin, these digital images are not art, aren’t they?

When being in the real British Museum, it is certainly that what we see are “real art” — the original exhibits. While in the virtual tour on Google, all that has been sent to us are digital pixels. To think about it further, take a specific painting as example, do the digitalized painting as an interface to meaning system, as a token of symbols still manage to convey the totally same thing as the original painting hanging on the wall of a gallery?

Besides, in virtual tour, what is controlling the movement trail is our hands. However, in real world, we walk with feet. Even the mode of human perception changes in the long history together with the mode of existence, I myself have not changed that much. Also, limited by technology, the operation in such a virtual tour is not perfectly smooth and easy to deal with.

Postmodern problem led by metamedia

From “0s” and “1s” to literal commands and till several years before, the graphic user interface revolutionized the use of computer. Basing on a symbolic system (human collective mind), computer and other electronic devices becomes better interaction medium for human to communicate with program. When looking at the two classic guidelines on graphic interface design, we can see that the user(human) always takes the initiative, which is coordinated with the computing thinking idea.

With the development of digital technology, the electronic devices we use every day like computers and smart phones are becoming more and more powerful metamedia, being able to present and transform other media more efficiently and with better quality.

Certainly, we are not stop on the graphic user interaction, more ways and higher level of senses hybridity of interaction based on human body and social collective mind are being developed and all these meta media are working more and more powerful? So is it possible for us to build up a sophisticated enough meta media system that interacts perfectly with human?

From my perspective, the idea of HCI and the technology development in the field of metamedia and HCI accelerates  the generation of “simulacrum” (Jean Baudrillard, 1988). Just as what has been done to human society by Disneyland, “it is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real ” To me, the HCI technology and the changing idea on computer makes this postmodern problem that is cited by Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulations more ‘touchable’ and ‘reachable’. Remember what’s happening in The Matrix, when the computer is being able to generate a whole word and get people involved in it without being realized of getting involved in, how would people react to this world? What shall we(as real human) do when we don’t know whether we are communicate with a program or a real human mind?

Still remember how you feel the moment you leave Disneyland? Lost?Sense of alienation? In this way, it might be reasonable for me to speculate that even being conscious of getting trapped in Matrix, some of us might choose to stay in this data world. What has been true in the human society is that even without the fabulous VR technology, millions of people had gotten addicted to the traditional video games and just cannot get themselves out and back to the real world.

References

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. vol. 5;5.;, Bloomsbury, London;New York;, 2013.

Irvine, Martin. “Key Concepts in Technology: Week 8: Computers from Information Processors to Metamedia.”

YouTube, YouTube, 18 Oct. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Ug-bSd_gk&feature=youtu.be.

Wilson, Stephen. “The Aesthetics and Practice of Designing Interactive Computer Events.” The Aesthetics and Practice of Designing Interactive Computer Events, userwww.sfsu.edu/swilson/papers/interactive2.html.

Baudrillard, Jean, and Mark Poster. Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings: Chapter8 Simulacra and Simulations. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif, 1988.

Intro Ideas for Computing and Programming Language

From the changing history of definitions on the term of computation and computers, I can see a development on the understanding of computing. Human applies computing to different but associating fields taking it as different roles. To me the most amazing thing in computer science is that idea to convert human mind to 1 and 0, on and off. Such idea leads me to the understanding that computing system becomes “the extension of man”, more to say, the extension of human mind.The programming language as a medium enables such kind of extension

“ If programming is the act of teaching a computer to have a conversation with a user, it would be most useful to first teach the computer how to speak.”

For long time, as programming has always been a subject in the school, in the programming class,  I feel like that students (human) are being taught to have a conversation with a computer. In this way, human are somehow standing in a passive position. However this first sentence at the very beginning of the Python Codecademy Program seems to be so different. We are not trying to adapt to the computer, but make the computer to adapt human language. It shows an idea about how we as human consider our relationship with computer and what actually does computing mean to us.

As I have never know about the language of Python before, with really few basic knowledge about C++ and Java, I was amazed by how “human” the Python language is. To explain what does “human” mean here in a non-profession way, I would like to applying how much I can understand when reading these lines without any Python backgrounds. To understand Python better, I talked with several friends who are doing programming jobs.  As I am not an expert in neither Java, C++ nor Python, from my perspective, Python is more like to be designed for human, here I mean that it is more readable and understandable to human. While the C++ is more  like to be designed for machines. The comparisons between programming languages are always hot topics in the field. Except for the personal preferences, actually different programming language do have some different characteristic that lead them to be the best choice in some situation.

For example, Java is a mainstream choice in the development of not only applications in Android and IOS system but also video games, desktop UI and some softwares. While Python is often used in the WordPress pug-in or web design. Python with its human language characteristics is easier to start with but Java with its flourish details gains better extendibility. Working on WordPress for 506 this semester, I manage to gain a incomplete sense that WordPress lead by Python has the similar characteristics of “being human”. This seems to sow that the characters of programming language might be reflected on the production, or to say system it is working in.

References

  1. Denning, P. J. (2010). Great principles of computing. American Scientist.Evans, D. (2009).
  2. https://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Film Industry

A UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is defined as a “powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload”. Such definition passes information about the observable structures, unobservable technical & physical operations as well as unobservable system dependencies.

Focusing on the UAV we studied, the observable structures usually contain the vehicle (the aircraft itself contains the body, sensors, power supply, actuators), the payload ( here in our topic is the camera set on it) and a remoter. Each of the three is a second-class black box that can be studied.

In the unobservable technical and physical operations, fundamentally, it is an analog-digital-conversion, ADC,  system which transmit the photographer’s human behavior on the remote control layer into digital signals containing the information of the command to the aircraft. Compared to the manned craft, such radio-transmitted digital commands replace the physical cockpit controls.

When thinking of the unobservable system dependencies, different design principles and regulations based on the functions the UAVs fall into come to me firstly. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles was originally developed for training the military personnel in United States and later were used in a variety of spheres. They are not only important tools in military reconnaissance and scientific investigation, but also playing vital roles in film industry and even shutterbugs daily life(they are toys to some people). However, for different types of UAV, there are certainly different regulations on the designing, producing and even the selling and usage of them. There are a lot of things that need to be limited such as flying height, controlling precision and flying area.  When put it into this specific period of history, the civilization of the UAV is led by the relatively peaceful social relationship all around the world, the popularization of computing technology and many other social elements.

All these elements, or to say systems are certainly shaping the development of the civilian UAV while at the same time the civilian usage of UAV is also shaping the human society. As a UAV falling into different function may bring some different social effect, to stick to our topic, in the following parts, I’d like to focus on the usage of it in the film industry

Lower Cost in Traditional Aerial Shot

(Beginning, 2:59, 3:18 By the way, I’m not really into the storyline of this video even though I’m a fan of BTS. But there are some really beautiful and magnificent shots in it. Visually, it seems not to be a “cheap” music video like the mainstream style of k-pop mv.  )

Such shots can only be seen in those films with great amount of investment or the BBC documentary. However, nowadays,  even such a poor entertainment company who runs only one group of artists is able to give such beautiful images.

Before the extensive usage of UAV filming, photographers manage such aerial shot by sitting in a helicopter and record by themselves. However, it was expensive, long-time-taking and, which is the most serious problem, dangerous. There were even reports about helicopters wrecked during filming. In 2002, two team members of Cameron died because of the wrecked during the film making. Of course, the UAV itself is not a hundred percent safe-guaranteed. When I worked with a photography crew in Thailand, the UAV we are using rushed to one of our photographers and hurt his head because of a wrong operation of the person who controls the craft.

Low altitude shooting and continuous shots

( 0:15)

In The Expendables 3, the first several shots with fierce gunfight,the rushing trains and the hovering helicopter are finished with just one UAV in ten days. In the past, in order to finish them, the whole team might need to be carefully organized and use a helicopter to capture the image with more than thirty days.

Many of the low altitude shots are not able to be finished by cooperating with helicopters especially when the object is moving in high speed. But with a UAV, when the object, like a train or a car, and the UAV carrying proper camera are well operated to rush to each other both in very high speed, incredibly amazing shots can be filmed, conveying a great visual effect.

However, as UAV is used more and more in the film industry, what come to my mind is that when CGI develops good enough, is it possible for this technology to take place the usage of UAV which means that all those brilliant shots are made instead of filmed? If that happens, then what makes a film be film, instead of a CGI visual show?

 

P.S The Six Functional Categories of UAVs

  • Target and decoy – providing ground and aerial gunnery a target that simulates an enemy aircraft or missile
  • Reconnaissance – providing battlefield intelligence
  • Combat – providing attack capability for high-risk missions
  • Logistics – delivering cargo
  • Research and development – improve UAV technologies
  • Civil and commercial UAVs – agriculture, aerial photography, data collection

Learn the Theory Through Key Words

In the MIT Press Edition of Understanding Media, Lewis H· Lapham lists the key words of the culture developed from Printing media and Digital media by concluding McLuhan’s work and his personal understanding. Such word tables reminds me of another famous table makes by Hassan. In Hassan’s work of “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism”, he gives a table of key words of modernism and postmodernism draws on the idea of many different fields.

It is understandable to find some correlation between these two tables as Lapham defines the printing media being part of modern culture while the digital media is put into the postmodernism  part. Even though I am a hundred percent agree with neither the idea of McLuhan and Latham or the idea of Hassan, I can still see some relations here that deserves digging into, which may help me understand both the media and the postmodernism content.

A question I would like to cite here is that, if the grand narrative is breaking up, does the development of media work on the deconstruction? As the society and technology interacts with each other and shapes each other,electrical media being “discontinues” and “contracted” and the innocence of people being involved in the electrical media seem to be account for that deconstruction. However, shouldn’t the group therapy, the chorus of electrical media culture help building up the grand narrative?

From modernism (Phallic) to postmodernism (polymorphous/ androgynous), from printing (heterosexual) to electric (polymorphous), such a parallel, from my perspective, has once explained by Joshua Meyrowitz in his work, No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior. Electrical media blur the boundary of male and female, the sense of gender is somehow weaken which enables a tendency of androgynous.

One of a typical postmodern process is the development of mass art, the popular art which from my perspective, is certainly boosted by the development of new electrical media.

It is a pity that I am still not expertise neither in the field of modernism and postmodernism nor in the field of media theory. There are still a lot of key words contained in the tables work nonsense to me. But I think make full us of the table and analyze them together can be really good way for me to get into both of the two subject.

From Information to Information

As is written in Shannon’s famous paper, “The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point.”[1]

Traditionally, at least as for me, when trying to deliver a piece of information to another as accurate as possible, what I would try to do is do add as more description and post scrips as possible. However what Shannon had done is somehow totally the opposite.

It seems that he deals with the information by abandoning the pragmatics elements, here from my perspective not only pragmatics but also semantics. The technical design in Shannon’s theory is focusing on how to deal with the interpretable part of the whole information, the”type” or to say the “pattern”,  so that it can be put into the “semiotic envelope”[2] and together being delivered to the destination as accurately as possible. It seems that Shannon considered little about the “envelope” but payed full attention on how to encode and represent the “letter”. So what happens to the semiotic functions when the part of the whole information that is able to be represented by 0 and 1 are going through the physical architecture?

This reminds me of a really interesting conversation last week. The conversation happens in Wechat, a Chinese SNS application which allows free chat between friends.

This is how the dialogue goes in text.

Friend: “Which do you prefer, Sumsung or Apple?”

Me: “Apple.”

Friend: “Why?”

ME: “IOS works better than Android.”

Friend: “But Sumsung has better appearance.”

Me: “It is even forbidden in the airplane.” (P.S Because of too much exploding reports, a specific series of Sumsung smart phone, NOTE 7,is forbidden to take into the plane in several Asian countries including China and Japan)

Friend: “Apple is a bit more expensive.”

Me: “It may work longer.”

Friend: “But I love Jing Boran.” (P.S Jing Boran is an actor who is the new spokesman of SumSung  )

Me: “Well it seems that you have already made your mind.”

This is a really normal daily dialogue but after learning the information theory, it becomes a bit different to me. All the Chinese characters, punctuations and even the blanks in the sentences are the representable and translatable part of the information that can be encoded into bits and delivered through the movement of electricity.

Firstly, the most important question, what does the conversation talk about? Actually, the background story is that my friend wanted to buy a new smart phone and was struggling between the latest iPhone and the lastest Sumsung product. This background story is not the information that my friend hoped to deliver to me through the electricity this time but unconsciously becomes part of the “semiotic envelope” without which I will not get what she is asking. The same with the background story, who is Jing Boran and why he is relevant to our conversation here are all the collective knowledge, at least the collective knowledge between the two of us.

However, even with these pre-existing knowledge, when purely watching these words shown on the screen, what can we get? There are still a lot more semiotic logics goes without which the whole information will still not be gotten exactly. Here I would like to talk about Sumsung and Apple. They are actually the name of two brands but clearly my friend is not thinking of purchasing the whole company (this is also part of the collective mind). From my perspective, there is actually an unprcisely employment here in our conversation which is led by a really “semiotic” thing—brand. Neither of the two company only sells the cellphone that my friend is struggling with. Each of them are sells different series of smartphones and other electronic devices, such as pads and laptops, simultaneously. In our conversation, these two words are actually working as different tokens even when they are shown in the same way on the screen. Sometimes, they separately represent the specific series of smartphone that my friend is interested in, sometimes they represent all the smartphones that are being sold in that brand and sometimes they are the brand, the company, themselves.

There are still a lot to dig into when considering how complex it is for my friend and I to go through the conversation smoothly.  However the more this process is complex, the more amazing the idea of Shannon is to me. It is not only about how the idea enables the information to be delivered in human society, but more fundamentally, how talented Shannon is to come up with the idea that somehow separate the symbolic system from the whole information and use mathematical model to represent the specific part of that information.

I do not think that I have perfectly understand the information theory idea but the manipulation in mind that translate the information in general context  to the information in technical system really stroke me and somehow influenced how I think of the media.

[1] Shannon, C. “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” ACM SIGMOBILE Mobile Computing and Communications Review, vol. 5, no. 1, 2001, pp. 3-55.

[2] Irvine, M. “Introduction to the Technical Theory of Information” 

 

Levi’s jeans 501 Origin

Jeans never fade. Jeans are never outdated. From when they were designed in 1853, they were simply the uniforms of miners and cowboys. However, jeans were embedded in the history of fashion and human rights. Women wore jeans to showcase their power, hip-hop men wore jeans to demonstrate their swags, and jeans became increasingly popular and transcended their original meanings. In this case, we are going to apply Pierce’s theories to explain the roles of jeans in meaning-making systems which mainly consists of three parts: symbolic mode, iconic mode, and indexical mode. To better illustrate our points of views, we picked Levi’s 501 series as an example. 501 is the most classical series in Levi’s and it was developed with Levi’s in its early history. Nowadays, 501 has over 100 kinds of jeans among which 501 jeans for women are what we target at.

According to Saussure, “Indexical mode refers to a mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary but is directly connected in some way to the signified.” In other words, signifier and signified share some substantial connections mutually even without the foundation social agreement or learning. Let’s take Levi’s jeans 501 origin on the official website of Levi’s as an example to illustrate that.

First of all, the invention of jeans is closely connected to its applications originally, which is largely depended on its texture. Jeans were created in 1853 with Levis Strauss founded a wholesale business in San Francisco. At that time, 501 series of jeans were designed for western workers, miners, and cowboys, because jeans were made of canvas at first and were more sustainable and firmer than common pants. Its texture determined that it was perfect for people who took part in manual labor. Years later, canvas were replaced by Denim which was a sturdy cotton warp-face textile and firm as well. Hence, it makes sense when we trace back to the original uses of jeans from the perspective of their physical characteristics.

In terms of the shape of jeans, jeans can be divided into various categories, such as super skinny to straight considering their fitness with legs, high rise to low rise considering their positions with waists, capris-pants to short pants considering their length, let alone countless decorative pattern and fashionable elements. It is almost impossible to classify how many genres of jeans in the world due to different standards. However, each and every pair of jeans somehow can be classified into a certain category because of its direct impression on people. The process of classification is exactly the process of making index. People extract the most distinguished elements from jeans and organize similar ones together and entitle them. Therefore, whenever people see a specific pair of jeans, they may hold a basic impression and description on it, which under most occasions, is the very categories of jeans. Take our 501 as an example. It is easy to tell it belongs to women jeans and has boyfriend style from its look.

Beyond that, Levi’s, as the first brand to invent jeans and a representative symbol of popular culture and swag, creates a few unique characteristics that makes customers to distinguish itself from numerous other jeans. According to Levis Strauss Museum, there are a few characteristics of Levi’s, such as their orange or yellow thread, their signature arched back pocket stitching, and their famous coin pocket. These different elements help customers to remember Levi’s and separate Levi’s from other brands easily and efficiently, which established its unique brand image. When they see these elements on a pair of jeans, they can reflect automatically and unconsciously that it belongs to Levi’s. That’s way it is not hard to find that on these characteristics are also applied to Levi’s 501 origin even today.

(Group member: Shuqi Liu)

Iconic Mode

When trying to explain the iconic mode in semiotics, Peirce holds the idea that every picture (however conventional its method) is an icon. (ibid., 2.279 )

 

Pictures are received information which means that we need no formal education to get the message. The message is instantaneous. What comes to my mind at the first glance of the picture is that this is a picture of a jeans for Women, or, due to Peirce, we can say it is an icon of a jeans. Without the instructions below, me as a non-professional, cannot recognize whether this is a 501® or other types.

While after having done some researches and try to analyze this picture more seriously, it is not just a simple icon of a pair of jeans any more. It is a complex mixture of different layers of symbols.

From the perspective of iconic mode, there are several things that deserve discussing.

1)Personal Identification

In the preview picture of this jeans in the selling page, the face of the model, which contains clear clues about race, disappears.

Actually, not only about the race, the face contains most information for personal visual identification. All that is shown in the preview picture is a nice body wearing the 501® jeans. Personal identification, here, like what has been mentioned in Understanding Comics (Scott McCloud, 1993), is something about the audience involvement. It make sense that in order to embrace the potential consumers all around the world, Levis choose such kind of pictures in order to offer better personal identification to the consumers so that they would believe that these jeans might also look good on them.

However, in the opposite way, after clicking the preview picture for more details, the picture with model’s face come out?

So what actually leads to a change on the showing, or we may say, selling strategy here? Is this picture still attractive to consumers?

2)To Be Iconic 

“To be ‘iconic’ typically means that something would be expected to be instantly recognized as famous by any fully fledged member of a particular culture or subculture” (Daniel Chandler, 2002)

There is such a paragraph in the brand story of Levis in the official website.

In the brand story of Levis that is shown in its official website, Hippies patched and painted them. Rocker girls shredded and studded them. From Skinnies to Boyfriends to the iconic 501® Jean, women everywhere have made Levi’s® jeans their own.

It is quite understandable that people being involved in the fashion industry knows about 501 series as a really famous series of Levis. However, what somehow confuses me is that they put the 501® in parallel with skinnies, boyfriends, which are typical jeans types. By searching 501® in its official website, Skinnies and boyfriends are popular pants types, or to say models, but what does 501® mean?

Basing on my personal research, originally, 501 is also a classic jean’s type (model) designed by Levis with the characters of medium rise, straight tube and metal signatured buttons. The classic designing of 501 is a collection of several specific typical characters of jeans. Nowadays, every season, new design of 501 will come out with the basic classic designing characters as well as the specific fashion trends in that season, for example, different washing, grinding and worn-out effects.

However, what confuses me is that when looking at the official website, not all the products belong to 501 gains the basic characters — medium rise, straight tube and metal buttons. My explanation here is that as can be seen, the 501 appears with an ® which tells us that it has already been registered as a brand. I this way I guess the 501® is actually a different symbol from the 501 Levis jeans we (non-professionals) acknowledge. With this change, what is the really iconic symbol? The classic design of 501 Levis jeans or the 501® brand? To me, my answer is the design.

(Group member: Weilin Wang)

Symbolic Mode

On the symbolic level, Levi’s 501 jeans represent the pursuit of free spirit and confidence. In the depression era, the 501 jeans was produced and introduced to people who live on the East Coast and opted to the so-called style of “Western Chic” resembling that of cowboys. Levi’s 501 jeans, as partially an iconic symbol, embodies the societal meditation of quintessential characteristics of jeans. Affordable and historic as a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans is, it makes a lot of people feel confident, carefree and included according to an interview conducted by Solomen. Hence the dialogic nature of Levi’s 501 jeans can be seen as a ledge for people to engage in a large-scale conversation about sharing impersonalized responses and endorsement to the Western culture and American spirit. Alternatively, Levi’s 501 jeans can be seen the symbol and dialogic representation of America along with other iconic symbols such as Coca-cola and Harley Davidson, forming a cultural encyclopedia together.

Meanwhile, the object and interpretant level of the symbol of Levi’s 501 jeans are evolving over time as well. In the past, the Levi’s 501 jeans almost exclusively represented the manly chic, a masculine notion of fashion. Women who were enthusiastic demonstrator of denim and jeans style could sometimes be deemed as rough, reckless and treacherous. However, over the course of social changes and feminist movements, a possibility of generating myriad of new interpretant arises in re-defining women’s fashion as well as jeans. Jeans have already become a new fashion symbol able to afford more girlish style under the illustration of designers and bloggers. More and more boutiques try to feature jeans in their seasonal lookbooks, and more and more designers are willing to explore on the infinite attire combinatoriality of jeans. Thus, Levi’s gradually lose its influence in the fashion world, appearing more as a frugal and heritage choice for jeans. This serves potentially as an example of how sociocultural or socioeconomic conditions could reconstruct and recompose myriad of meanings, and how iconic symbol can lose its power of utterance over the time and decrease its likeliness to relegate the whole spectrum of cultural type or scheme.

(Group member: Shujun Wei)

Reference:

Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics: The Basics. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon;New York, NY;, 2017.

McCloud, Scott, 1960. Understanding Comics. William Morrow/HarperCollins, New York;Place of publication not identified;, 2008.

http://levi-strauss-museum.de/en/levi-und-die-jeans/

http://www.levi.com/US/en_US/category/men/jeans

https://www.cs.indiana.edu/~port/teach/103/sign.symbol.short.html

Fashion Look in Semiotic System

This week, I would like to try to briefly analyze a look of Heaven Gaia RTW Spring 2017 in Paris Fashion Week. The designer is Chinese whose name is Xiong Ying.

Basing on the model of dialogic, generative visual semiotics in artworks, I rearrange the model a bit to make it more fit to my case study. A question I would like to list here is that ss it reasonable to have all the compositional semantic values activated?

+ combinatorial composition on a rectangular surface as a general formal feature of apparel design

     + composition as arrangement of discrete elements

This dress is obviously a composition of discrete elements. When criticizing a costume     design, we usually do the analysis from three basic perspectives which are the structure, fashion elements and the texture. In this way, this dress can be regarded as the composition of dip-dyed silk (texture and fashion elements), Mandarin collars and covered button fastenings (fashion elements),hand-painted motifs (fashion elements), blue and white porcelain tiles (texture and fashion element) to create a chain-mail-style dress (structure), typical Chinese cheongsam outline (structure).

Is it necessary analyze this part in separate perspective or just put them together? Can the co-working of the three perspectives itself be regarded as a combination?

+ surface of the costume as combination/assemblage of images and marks

    + illusionistic picture plane, no depth, only surfaces and material forms

The use of silk and the blue and white porcelain are the two key points of Ying’s design, also two typical Chinese style elements which can also be regarded as symbol of traditional Chinese culture.

  + traditional formal laws of arrangement (here refers to the typical structure of a specific type of dress)

Yes, the structure (outline) of the dress follows the design of Chinese cheongsam.

+ reuse already made images, objectified

The patterns on the porcelains are typical elements in traditional Chinese ink and wash paintings, while the designer did not mention if the imaged on the dress were rubbingged from several specific traditional Chinese ink and wash paintings or did she paint these patterns herself.

+ marks and images made by hand and already machine made

Information relevant to this part are insufficient. The losing information here are about whether the dyed-silk and porcelain pieces are hand-made or produced by machine and whether the images on the porcelain are handcraft or digital printing are not clearly given.

-“original” images made by hand of artist

As the upper-class title of the line is surface of the costume as combination/assemblage of images and marks, when looking at the design of the dress, I do not see any totally new structure, elements or textures that do not exist before.

However, what I would like to add is that the whole design of this dress is a complete personal creating process, the way that the designer arrange the structure, the fashion elements and texture together basing on the existing correlations, the ground of the collective understanding to specific fashion elements and the basic law of costume designing, is “original”.

+ invoke representational question: the relation of the painting/art object to the world outside the object

– cancel representational form and indexical/referential potential of the dress

    + embed real objects and photographs as things, not representations of thing

Audience who went to the Paris Opera will be able to see the real artifact of this dress while now, we can only see the videos of the show and photos of each look in the show.

+ composition imitating irrational states of objects (Dada), randomized placement [?]

More things that I think should be put into consideration in this part is that

1) the model who shows the dress.

2) the concept of the whole series

3) the site setting and background music of the show

4) a comparison between the run way look and the products actually on sale in the same series.

The left problem here is that I’m still confused about how to relate them with the existing model, to analyze them in a more symbolic way instead of what just like a fashion critique.

In order to getting familiar with the correlation in the field and do the analysis better, more works should be done on the field of fashion and China chic.

 

Information about the dress

 

Detailed look of the dress and the whole series.

http://wwd.com/fashion-news/shows-reviews/gallery/heaven-gaia-rtw-spring-10655686/#!2/heaven-gaia-rtw-spring-2017-2

Blue-and-white pottery

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Cheongsam

The stylish and often tight-fitting cheongsam or qipao (chipao) that is best known today was created in the 1920s in Shanghai and made fashionable by socialites and upper class women.

Chinese ink and wash painting

 

 

Personal Notes pt1 for Semiotics

General Idea about Semiotics

Based on the introduction part of The Grammar of Meaning Systems (Martin Irvine, 2018), I made myself a diagram, reminding me several key concepts and the relationships between them. There are still a lot to add into the diagram but I want to perfect it after gaining clearer and more complete ideas about the discipline.

 

Symbol & Sign & Icon?

During working on the first diagram, the difference of these three words, especially the two of symbol and sign are not that way of clear. With the explanation in Semiotics: the basics (Daniel Chandler, 2007), it seems to make more sense to me. So I would like to answer my personal question about the three words here somehow with a rearrangement of the material in the book.

Due to Peirce, a symbol is “a sign which refers to the object that it denotes by virtue of a law, usually an association of general ideas, which operates to cause the symbol to be interpreted as referring to that object” (Peirce 1931-58, 2.249). We interpret the symbols according to “a rule’ which can be regarded as part of the conventional association, as Peirce held the idea that symbols are based purely on conventional association.

A sign is an icon “insofar as it is like that thing and used as a sign of it.” (???) An iconic sign represents its object mainly by the similarity.Icons have the qualities which resemble the objects they represent and excite analogous sensations in the mind.We can see several key words about icon, which are like, similarity, resemble and analogous sensations.

Here, it can be easier to understand if we have a look at Saussurean terms signifier and signifies. There are three modes here which are 1)Symbol/ symbolic; 2)Icon/ iconic; 3) Index/ indexical. In the mode of Symbol, signifiers do not resemble the signified, but can be interpreted based on the collective mind (or to say, conventional association). The Icon mode is where the signifier can be recognized through human sense organ as resembling or imitating the signified. The difference between Symbol mode and Index mode is that, the key words of the former one is fundamentally arbitrary while in the mode of Index, the signifier is not arbitrary but directly connected to the signified. A set of examples that help me distinguish the Symbol and Index is that the traffic light is symbol and the phone ringing is index. What somehow confuse me is the distinguish between icon and index here, especially when it “recordings” are regarded as index because from my perspective, the “recordings” to some extents also fit the definition of icon mode. Is the difference here relevant to imitating and directly recording?

Even though there are still questions left to the three modes of Saussurea, with the explanation of the modes, at least we can understand the difference between symbol and icon better.