Category Archives: Week 3

AO- Week 3: Maintaining A Consistent Brand

In her CCT thesis project “Mediating the Museum: Investigating Institutional Goals in Physical and Digital Space” (2012), Alicia M. Dillon examines how three major museums have approached the internet as a tool for expanding their missions: The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and Malraux’s and Crimp’s commentaries on contemporary museums, Dillon asserts that – compared with physical spaces – “the museum website is an equally potent space for communicating a museum’s message” (9). Citing Bolter and Grusin’s theory on remediation, Dillon’s research takes “a close look at both the walls of the museum, the online space, as well as their shared object (the work of art) to highlight the complications of the art museum’s dual architecture in the 21st century” (10). Ultimately, Dillon argues that “understanding the [physical and virtual] spaces as equal but distinct is imperative for art museum’s ability to maximize their public image” (10).

The case study of the Hirshhorn Museum was most interesting to my research because the museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Although the Hirshhorn has not yet elected to participate in the Google Art Project, several other museums within the Smithsonian have contributed to the project (The American Art Museum, and The Freer and Sackler Galleries). As Dillon points out in her thesis:

“The Hirshhorn is assigned symbolic power through both the Smithsonian Institution as well as its location on the National Mall. This is extended to its online URL through the <.si> extension. Its <.edu> extension signifies the institution’s primarily educational narrative.” (115)

The messages communicated by the architecture of the museum’s virtual space complement the architecture of the museum’s physical space to create seamless brand-continuity. A similar statement could be made about The American Art Museum and The Freer and Sackler Galleries. I am intrigued by the impact participation in the Google Art Project might have on each museum’s brand. Art objects shared with audiences through the project no longer reside in an <.si.edu> extension, but rather at a <.com> – owned by one of the world’s largest corporations, no less. What are the implications of this structural shift on the message being communicated? Does the Google Art Project have a mission of its own? If so, how does the project’s mission confirm or complicate the mission of each partnering institution? Does partnering with Google impact the museum’s brand? What does the museum sacrifice by using the Google Art Project rather than creating its own platform to share its art objects with global audiences? What benefits to partnering museums receive? These are all questions to be revisited in my final project.

 

Graphic novels and timing

I’m starting to read through a few different pieces by Johanna Drucker, and in What is Graphic about Graphic Novels? she explores graphic novels and how their structure differs from literature or cinema, which are the two mediums she thinks they most resemble. Drucker says graphic novels “synthesize the language of cinema, the sensibilities of contemporary literature, and the appeal of mass media” (39). Drucker echoes some of McCloud’s theories on the role of the audience to impart messaging with graphic novels. She says that “We know that a lot of slippage occurs between the telling and the told. Not only is there not a one-to-one relation of signifier to signified in any sight system…but much of what occurs within the materiality of graphic works cannot be simply perceived as a mechanical device for unfolding a story” (40). Continued, “One of the striking features of graphic novels is their investment in the materially replete visual presentation on the page.” I think that this draws back to McCloud’s notions that by making drawings more simplistic, it allows the reader to project more of themselves onto the characters. This has me thinking even more about McLuhan’s ideas of hot versus cold media. The different levels of necessary audience participation is something I’ve never considered, and it’s starting to become more clear which mediums might persuade the audience to participate more. So far, it’s seeming that literature, comics, and graphic novels are known to produce participation and have audience perceptions as a large part of the experience. I’m still working through where TV falls on this spectrum because it seems that film is less participatory.

Drucker argues that the “graphic-ness” results in the idea of the fabula, or “life-world imagined as the scene of the tale”. Fabula is something I’ve seen in earlier readings on narratives, but this is a more workable definition for me.

As a side note, there was a section about expectations that I thought was interesting. Drucker said, “Production, distribution, audience and reader expectations, as well as differences of cultural positioning, all help give graphic novels their identity” (41).  Are reader expectations different depending on the medium of narrative itself? Are hero stories, for example, perceived differently depending on the medium? Also the idea of cultural positioning is interesting, as well. How does cultural positioning affect the expectations of narrative structure? Or does it at all? This has me thinking about Game of Thrones again because this week a huge event happened on the TV show that readers have been expecting for years. But it’s interesting to consider if the kind of violent, game changing event would be subverting expectations differently from the book to TV. My first inclination is that the subversion was more to the hero narrative itself as opposed to the medium, but I wonder if it was more shocking within the book or from the TV show if at all. That’s tough to calculate, though.

Drucker explains that the typeface of dialogue in graphic novels is different from literature since it’s usually in the author’s handwriting, which makes it more like the author’s voice than a standard typeface would. As Drucker explains, it is more spoken from the artist as opposed to a subject of mediation or standardization like tyeface would be. This is something that’s obviously unique to graphic novels or comics, but other readings thus far have talked about how dialogue changes the narrator in some cases. Dialogue jumps out differently from exposition in literature. I wonder if this is perceived differently when reading because, again, it requires audience participation to almost feel like the character speaking. Whereas in film, most action is through dialogue and has a character’s face associated with the words, which would offer much less audience projection.

She brings up the idea of narrative chunking, as well, which seems like it’s mostly just the division of units similar to comics. She says that graphic novels share aspects of lots of other kinds of storytelling mediums: story and plot like narrative media, composition and production techniques of visual media, and duration and development like other “time-based” or spatial media. However, then she compares two different graphic novels that seem to be completely different in narrative structure, with one sort of meandering and building a sense of place and time more than being driven by plot. The other is more moving from scene to scene to achieve plot points. For the graphic novel Maus, she compares its narrative conventions with cinematic editing since the story has changes of venue and character in a way that “time-based” media utilizes. (Interestingly, she also says that theater can’t pull off scale, time, and space as well as cinema, which is just a whole other can of worms I haven’t thought about yet. Where does theater fit in?)

Drucker’s basic levels of narrative organization in a graphic novel: page (discourse enunciation), story (comments and reflection), embedded narrative (shown and depicted in the panels). (47).

McCloud and Drucker both brought up that the illustrations in comics and graphic novels are not (always) merely illustration of the action already described by the words, but they are the story itself in some cases. She describes McCloud’s idea that there is the difference between what a reader is seeing (depiction) versus what mental image or concept the mind produces from the story (representation). I think this is the clearest way I’ve seen this idea described, which a lot of this narrative theory has been dancing around. However, Drucker thinks that this blurs what she calls the fabula (life world created by the story) and the suzjet (story as it unfolds) (53). Her example is Ware’s work, one of the graphic novels she uses as an example, who wants the reader to dwell as opposed to constantly finding narrative closure. In this respect, it seems like graphic novels shouldn’t be all described as the same storytelling genre, though, and this is where I start to disagree with Drucker. It seems difficult to lump all of these mediums together by themselves to compare against other mediums. Aren’t there specific narrative structures that differ from others? There is a huge library of graphic novels and they can’t all be telling stories in the same way. This doesn’t seem like a medium question so much as the kind of story the particular authors she chose wanted to tell.

Defining Remix: Part 2

In a previous post, I stated:

For the purposes of this course, I will take Lessig’s broader interpretation of a remix to be true.  I believe something is a remix if the original’s aura is still recognizable, yet there has been a distinguishable change.  I think these changes can best be understood using Navas’ extended remix, selective remix, reflexive remix, or regenerative remix. If the item I am studying does not fall into one of these four categories, then it shall not be considered a remix.

While this is the basis for a definition of remix, it is still rather vague, much like most other definitions of remix.

First, I will delve further into Benjamin’s concept of aura.  I stated the aura should still be recognizable, but also contain a distinguishable change.  To clarify, this means the archive should be recognizable as the archive is the basis for the remix.  One should also be able to determine what changes have been made to the remix.  It should not be a mere copy of the archive, as this is not a remix. I do not doubt Benjamin would argue that the aura is changed markedly by the reproduction, but I do not find this change elicits the label of remix.

In Professor Irvine’s abstract, “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A model for Generative Cominatoriality,” he writes of placing ideas into the “combinatorial conceptual software.”  While he specifically cites music in his example, it makes me question what would happen if I were to place Shakespeare’s works into the same model.  Professor Irvine writes, “The meaning of a remix emerges from the symbolic (re)uses of the quotational units in a new context of meanings, not from their prior disquotational function in other expression.”  How could this be used in context to Shakespeare?

Using a cut-and-paste style remix, which I have previously completed, I will attempt to view Shakespeare’s Macbeth through the aforementioned lens.

The Original: Just the Lady Macbeth role before being cut-up

Yet here’s a spot.
Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,
then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?–Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him.
The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?–
What, will these hands ne’er be clean?–No more o’
that, my lord, no more o’ that: you mar all with
this starting.
Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!
Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so
pale.–I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he
cannot come out on’s grave.
To bed, to bed! there’s knocking at the gate:
come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s
done cannot be undone.–To bed, to bed, to bed!

My cut-up: The Ramblings of a Murderer

Cannot oh! Of all what’s to come?
Out done, there’s thought undone.
Bed, power damned.
Then, yet, more –fie!
Wife: my smell she have with is him.
Afeard?
You account?
Man: Your thane. Me blood pale.
Here’s still nightgown gate.
Arabia perfumes murky lord;
One: that need when knocking.
Tell Banquo’s hands the soldier come.
Your burried;
Come, this, no time can (will) do’t.
What o’ you will fear.
Who these spot!
To be old.
The… to again come… much Fife.
Give here’s to say!
Oh’s hand to bed!
–What?
We had spot.
Cannot clean?
Is grave ‘tis hands bed.
I knows put –no– Hell
A wash, why?
That: Fie this!
To bed!
Hand and not the blood.
Where call in a two:
Starting have of now?
Bed!
Would he sweeten lord?
Little out, it, so mar.
Your ne’er look on.
I–yet more come.
All on…
Who to not be?
–Yet of none out.
Oh, the at my –our–o’…
So, to the blood.

 

I chose this specific moment from the play because it contains one of the most iconic lines from the entire play, “Yet here’s a spot. Out damned spot! Out I say.” This new recombination of words gives them new meaning.  Some parts of this completely random remix did not pan out, but there were many parts which helped convey the breakdown Lady Macbeth was experiencing at the time.  People who are familiar with the Shakespeare and Macbeth archive should be able to recognize the importance of the scene, but it seems as if the importance of the scene (in the remixed version) is based around the concept of bed and possibly sleep, as opposed to the original which seems to primarily be based upon blood and cleanliness.  In line with Professor Irvine’s work, a new meaning is formed from the remix.

http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/articles/Irvine-Routledge-Remix-Abstract.pdf

Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth: Entire Play.” Macbeth: Entire Play. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2013.

 


Comments

This is interesting to have an example of remixed text. So now the question is, remixed into what form? genre? concept? purpose (rhetorical, performative?). What we recognized as a (new) remixed artefact always comes framed/packaged as some kind of genre, which can of course be very different from the source text(s). Is this still a quotational remix? The reader needs familiarity or prior disquotational text and its range of cultural symbolic meanings, functions, values, genres. Are those appropriated also?

The remix at the level of genre was recognized in Shakespeare’s day, as in the famous humorous lines in Hamlet (Act 2. Scene II):

LORD POLONIUS
The actors are come hither, my lord.

HAMLET
Buz, buz!

LORD POLONIUS
Upon mine honour,–

HAMLET
Then came each actor on his ass,–

LORD POLONIUS
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the
liberty, these are the only men.

Hierarchy of Patterns and Biological Hierarchies

By Eric Cruet

In William Gibson’s seventh novel, “Pattern Recognition”, the main character (Cayce Pollard) is a legend in the field of market research.  She is paid handsomely to recognize cultural and social patterns that corporations can turn into cash.  The truth, according to her friends, is that her sensitivity is closer to allergy, a morbid and sometimes violent reactivity to the symbols of the marketplace. Hired by Blue Ant, the world’s hippest ad agency, for the sort of high-corporate re-branding she’s known for, a more intriguing project emerges when the head of the firm asks her to determine who’s producing a mysterious series of video fragments that have gripped the imaginations of people around the world. The source of this footage, carefully concealed, has so far proven untraceable.  But what if the sense of purpose and meaning that she and others perceive in the footage is only an illusion — in other words, faulty pattern recognition? 

In Ray Kurzweil’s new book “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed”, Kurzweil argues that the underlying principles and neural networks that are responsible for higher-order thinking are actually relatively simple, consisting of hierarchies of pattern recognition modules which make up the neocortex.  He states that many machines running current AI (Artificial Intelligence) software perform these same functions using similar principles and imitating the same neuro-structures that are present in the human brain.

Recent discoveries in neuroscience seem to confirm a subset of his Pattern Recognition Theory of the Mind or PRTM. Operating on pattern matching principles, it is hierarchical in nature for the processing of a particular input, such as the letters in a word.  It is also redundant, massively parallel to a hierarchy of concepts, for instance, when it processes the letters in the word “apple”, the differences in writing styles, the spoken word “apple”, variations in accents, different perspectives (on a tree, on a teacher’s desk), shadings, shapes, and varieties.

The human neocortex is capable of a very wide range of very complex abilities, yet the underlying structures and principles that are responsible for these abilities are very simple and straightforward, according to Dr. Kurzweil.  For example, he describes the architecture of the pattern recognition module and its operation.  Each module stores a “weight” for each input dendrite indicating how important that input is to the recognition.  But a good question would be: by what mechanism are these weights assigned?  In addition, he compares the successful recognition of a pattern by its corresponding module to the way NLP (Natural Language Processing) software encodes characteristics of time and space to recognize words with same letters but different pronunciation.  How does this work for the successful recognition of levels of attractiveness, joy, embarrassment (and the resulting blushing reflex)?

Although the book legitimately addresses brain processing functions that are similar computationally to state of the art AI mathematical modeling and learning, neuroscience and cognitive scientists need to think about the control and interface mechanisms between the neocortex and the other major brain components (thalamus, brainstem).  In closing, one key postulate from the text is the hierarchy of abstractions between the functional processing of the hierarchy of patterns by the pattern recognition modules to the biological hierarchy of cortical columns in the neocortex.

From a systems perspective, the task at hand presents itself as a large multivariate problem that probabilistically challenges whether a complete brain could ever be created to operate in the same way.  But it’s a hell of a start……

The fundamental uniformity of the neocortex (see above) was reconfirmed in a recent study using the latest in brain scanning technology (loc. 1199). The lead scientist in this study, Harvard neuroscientist and physicist Van J. Weeden, explains the findings thus: “‘using magnetic resonance imaging… what we found was that rather than being haphazardly arranged or independent pathways, we find that all of the pathways of the brain taken together fit together in a single exceedingly simple structure. They basically look like a cube. They basically run in three perpendicular directions, and in each one of those three directions the pathways are highly parallel to each other and arranged in arrays. So, instead of independent spaghettis, we see that the connectivity of the brain is, in a sense, a single coherent structure” (loc. 1212).

 

References:
Grinvald, A., & Hildesheim, R. (2004). VSDI: a new era in functional imaging of cortical dynamics. Nature Reviews Neuroscience5(11), 874-885.
Jackendoff, R. (2002). Foundations of language: Brain, meaning, grammar, evolution. Oxford University Press, USA. (2), 279-292.
Joseph, R. (2011). Neuroscience: Neuropsychology, Neuropsychiatry, Behavioral Neurology, Brain & Mind: Primer.
Kurzweil, R. (2012). How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. Viking Adult.

 

 

 

Aspects of gaming coming together

From the perspective of a programmer, author, and professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, Alexander Galloway looks at “gaming” as “the entire apparatus of the video game” (2). This includes the entirety of the hardware the game is played on, the software (or the data, the game itself), and the player, who he terms the “operator” (2). The first essay sets up games as an “action-based medium”, much like the computer as it was discussed in Lev Manovich’s book. Like a cybernetic organism, Galloway describes games through machine and user action. He adopts the term “diegetic” from literature and film for his analysis as well. He uses the term to discuss “gamic elements that are inside the total gamic apparatus yet outside the portion of the apparatus that constitutes a pretend world of character and story” (8-7). Galloway provides several examples of functions that fall under the diegetic umbrella as opposed to the non-diegetic. One function that is mentioned many times is the non-diegetic action of pausing a game. The action is external to anything in the virtual world, and is an action that can only be undertaken by the player. Other acts of configuration undertaken outside the world of the game, cheats, and hacks are also examples.

The author looked to many classic sources to describe games and play. I recognized all of them, but hadn’t synthesized some of them the way Galloway does. He contrasts Huizinga and Caillois’s definitions of “play”, highlighting the agreed upon points that “’It appears to be an activity that is (1) free, (2) separate, (3) uncertain, (4) unproductive, (5) regulated, and (6) fictive’” (20).  This ties in with his mention of Philip Agre’s grammars of action concept, which he succinctly describes as a way to “describe how human activities are coded for machinic parsing using linguistic and structural metaphors”, and claims that video games create their own grammars of action (4). He also brings in Deleuz’s “society of control” (84). Another idea I found fascinating was the claim that “Video games render social realities into playable form” (17). He further discusses this in the fourth essay, which I need to finish reading.

His discussion of social realism in games also relates to my more specific research interest in virtual worlds. Galloway’s “congruence requirement” is particularly interesting, because it makes it clear that the game does not push realism out, but pulls a gamer in by offering an imagined extension of their own social experience. The author claims that, as opposed to a realist filmmaker, “if one is a realist game designer, the challenge is not only to capture the social realities of the disenfranchised but also to inject the game back into the correct social milieu of available players where it rings true” (84). What I began to get from this book was the depth of the connection between the machine, the software, and the player. I look forward to further analyzing this idea in conjunction with the Manovich reading I posted on earlier this week.

AO-Week 3: Understanding the Contemporary Museum as an Industry

 

Hans Haacke considers the contemporary art museum as belonging to the “consciousness industry,” emphasizing the shift in museum practices to more closely resemble the industrial model of production, distribution, and consumption. In his article “Museums: Managers of Consciousness”, Haacke describes how museums are increasingly shifting their model of operation to more closely mirror the corporate model. Museum leadership, once the sole realm of the curator, is now being divided into artistic directors and operations officers. Marketing and development departments are emerging and expanding, indicating the extent to which contemporary museums feel pressured to bring in larger audiences and greater financial support from individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors in order to balance their operating budget. The artistic staff is not exempt from the strain of the bottom-line; as curators decide which works of art to include in an exhibition, they must keep in mind what artists and artworks will attract the largest crowds and which ones might offend or deter board members, donors, and corporate sponsors. “Museums are now on the slippery road to becoming public relations agents for the interests of big business and its ideological allies… rather than sponsoring intelligent, critical awareness, museums thus tend to foster appeasement” (Preziosi and Farago, 411).

Haacke views the corporate-driven museum as a potentially dangerous political instrument. The author draws on Marx’s theory that “consciousness is a social product.” This product “reflects particular value systems, aspirations, and goals,”within a society, however it is not necessarily inclusive of or universally accepted by everyone within that society (Preziosi and Farago, 404). Haacke sees art as a communication tool, sharing the artist’s point of view with audiences. As the reach of an artwork grows, through methods of reproduction and remediation, “it inevitable participates in public discourse, advances a particular system of beliefs, and has reverberations in the social arena” (Preziosi and Farago, 405). As the museum becomes increasingly subject to corporate influence, it is likely that the consciousness created by museums through programs and exhibitions will confirm rather than challenge the dominant ideology within our culture; this could mean the continued exclusion of racial minorities, the perpetuation of cultural stereotypes and gender roles, and the objectification of women as sexualized commodities.

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly Contemporary Arts Center of Virginia)

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly Contemporary Arts Center of Virginia)

In my own undergraduate research, I studied the implications of corporate sponsorship on the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia (now the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I interviewed both the curator of the museum and the director of development to discover their experiences working with corporate sponsors. Additionally, I analyzed the museum’s promotional media as well as the physical spaces (galleries, lobby, gift shop) to better understand the messages being communicated to museum audiences. Finally, I surveyed museum visitors to inquire about their awareness of and opinions toward corporate sponsorship. Using these methods, I found that the language that museums use to attract corporate sponsors mirrors that of advertising sales managers. For example, the value of sponsorship is measured in the number of impressions yielded by the inclusion of the corporate logo on museum promotional materials. The presence of the names and logos of corporate sponsors invaded the physical space of the museum as well, appearing on the wall plaques at the entrance to the gallery. Through my analysis of the artworks on display, I found very little to challenge the dominant ideologies surrounding race, gender roles, and the objectification of women; there were hardly any racial minority figures displayed, men were portrayed as wise and knowledgeable in business, and women were shown as sexual objects (nude, red lipstick, mouths open). The audience survey responses revealed that most museum visitors were not aware that the exhibitions on display were supported by corporate sponsors. My conclusions echoed Haacke, finding that the Contemporary Arts Center of Virginia, while maintaining it’s mission to provide the public with educational opportunities in the Arts, had adopted a secondary mission of promoting the branded images of its corporate sponsors. The lack of alternative voices communicated through the exhibitions as well as the lack of awareness among audiences about corporate sponsorship provides evidence that the consciousness being produced by museums can be easily influenced by its sponsors and distributed to a consumer audience.

In my final essay for this course, I am interested to explore the implications of Google as the corporate sponsor for this Art Project.

 


Comments

This is a really good survey of issues, problems, and questions. The theory sources you cite are from the earlier Marxian school of thought, and those questions yield much more interesting and complex descriptions in Pierre Bourdieu’s and other recent socio-economic-cultural studies. The older models are too reductive–“these art representations and institutions reduce to this…” , and we know culture is more open and complex. More recent 2nd-3rd wave feminist work also avoids the old binary (“this is a sexist representation of a woman, and this is an affirmative hetero-normative representation of a man, etc.”) because representations in art can be very complex symbolically. You want to avoid the kind of theory that sets up thought policing and has reductive or deterministic procedures. You need theory that is heuristic, able to open up new discoveries. The newer models are more network and systems theoric, looking at complexity and distributed agency. The institutional function is a great case to study. Theorists like Bourdieu, Debray, and Latour are good at repositioning the questions in institutional and symbolic value contexts.

It’s great that you can incorporate your experience at the Virginia Museum. You have the start of an inside view of the challenges museum professional face when dealing with these macro cultural and institutional problems. Keep going, good work so far!  –MI

Geeking out a bit.

I just finished Scott McCloud’s excellent Understanding Comics and am feeling the urge to take up comic book reading even more so than our last in-person class discussion. There’s so much about comics in general that he covers, but also about storytelling that I feel like it’s going to come out in bits and pieces as I continue through the summer.

However, my initial impression did actually have to do with his explanations of how time and space are depicted in comics. To start, McCloud shows how with comics, any frame the eye lands on is the ‘present’ frame, with the ‘past’ and ‘future’ being obvious because they are laid out in sequential order. The eye can see the past and future clearly while looking at the present. Unlike in a film or television show, the past isn’t reliant on audience memory; it’s right there on the page (104). The frames of comic books can show time either from frame to frame or within a frame. He showed some examples of different ways that a lengthy pause could be explained, either from repeated the same frame multiple times or by increasing the amount of space between the two frames. Another way was to make that frame itself spatially bigger and longer than the others to denote the passage of time. The use of dialogue can also be used to denote time as the words insert sound, in a way, into the story and the lines tend to go in order. The amount of time you would imagine it would take to say those words would denote the time passage of that frame.

However, a big part of understanding the timing within the story depends on the reader, and “closure”, which is what happens when the reader extrapolates what happens in the gutter, or the space between the frames. While this happens in film, and Bordwell talked a bit about this when considering events that are referred to or implied that happened offscreen, it’s a more continuous process in comics. He describes six different kinds of transition: moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, scene-to-scene, aspect-to-aspect, and non-sequitur (72). The final two are more abstract, the first is so slow that it doesn’t happen often. The most common are those with action, subject, and scene, with the notable exception being the prevalance of aspect transitions in Japanese comics. Japanese comics have a few differences, however, which was fascinating as it relates to how they tell stories in their own way across mediums, as well, in a more deliberate, place-building way.

McCloud talks a lot about how important the audience is to comic reading, which is something that I’ve thought about when it comes to different storytelling forms. He mentions McLuhan, and it follows with the McLuhan that I read last semester on hot and cold media. McCloud says that Mcluhan’s only examples of cold media were comics and television; cold media meaning media that required audience participation. I’m still working out what this exactly means within television, a medium that I love to study, but with comics it makes a lot of sense. McCloud makes it easy to see how much of comic reading includes the reader filling things in or assuming things to be a certain way. One example he gave was of one frame with someone raising a knife, I think, or in some way threatening someone, and the next frame was basically just wording of a scream of some sort. The reader is supposed to know that the person was killed, but how they were killed was left up to them. I often think about storytelling and how much of stories are understood in the way that a creator intended it to be, and McCloud addresses that head on by saying that most people you ask would say, maybe 20%. Some of this he deems from being good at the craft, which is something all artists continue to work on. But I’m sure a big part comes from the places where readers have to fill things in for themselves. Everyone thinks about things in different ways and puts stories together in their own personal way that makes sense for them.

Another favorite part for me was when he related comics to written work. He said that “closure in comics fosters an intimacy surpassed only by the written word, a silent, secret contract between creator and audience. How the creator honors that contract is a matter of both art and craft” (69). Though comics are visual, he spends a lot of time explaining how cartoon images are useful for stories more about ideas or to get readers to think more about themselves as characters. McCloud says that the more detailed a character’s drawing is the less it becomes personally identifiable as a reader. So though comics are visual, some still use simple drawings to showcase ideas or feelings, which I could see leading to more audience imagination, much like reading, and unlike more continuous visual mediums like film or television.

And then, of course, was the concluding sections about the six steps any artist in any medium would follow to create, which was more just personally interesting.

Culturonomics – Think Outside the Box

by Eric Cruet

In 2011, a group of scientists — mostly in mathematics and evolutionary psychology — published an article in Science titled “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books”.  The authors’ technique, called “culturomics,” would, “extend the boundaries of rigorous quantitative inquiry to a wide array of new phenomena spanning the social sciences and the humanities.” The authors employed a “corpus” of more than 5 million books — 500 billion words — that have been scanned by Google as part of the Google Books project.  These books, the authors assert, represent about 4 percent of all the books ever published, and will allow the kind of statistically significant analysis common to many sciences.

Their main method of analysis is to count the number of times a particular word or phrase (referred to as an n-gram) occurs over time in the corpus (Try your own hand at n-grams here).  A ‘one-gram’ plots the frequency of a single word such as “chided” over time; a ‘two-gram’ shows the frequency of a contiguous phrase, such as ‘touch base’ (see‘Think outside the box’).

Their full data set includes over 2 billion such “culturomic trajectories”.  One of the examples the authors give is to trace the usage of the year “1865”.  They note that “1865” was not discussed much before the actual year 1865, that it appeared a lot in 1865, and that its usage dropped off after 1865.  They call this evidence of collective memory.  Below is another example.

Google unveiled the tool on 16 December 2010.  One of the first notable discoveries was made by two Harvard postdocs, Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, also members of the team that published the original paper in Nature.  When comparing German and English texts from the first half of the twentieth century they discovered that the Nazi regime suppressed mention of the Jewish artist Marc Chagall, and that the n-grams tool could be used to identify artists, writers or activists whose suppression had hitherto been unknown.  They called their approach culturomics, a reference to the genomics-like scale of the literary corpus.  The term has evolved as a new scientific discipline of the digital humanities—the use of computer algorithms to search for meaning in large databases of text and media.

In the first 24 hours after its launch, the n-grams viewer (ngrams.googlelabs.com) received more than one million hits.  Dan Cohen, director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, calls the tool a “gateway drug” for the digital humanities, a field that has been gaining pace and funding in the past few years (see ‘A discipline goes digital’).  The name is an umbrella term for approaches that include not just the assembly of large-scale databases of media and other cultural data, but also the willingness of humanities scholars to develop the algorithms to engage with them.  

However, some scholars have deep reservations about the digital humanities movement as a whole — especially if it will come at the expense of traditional approaches.  Also, humanities researchers from traditional camps complain that their field can never be encapsulated by the frequency charts of words and phrases produced by an n-grams tool.  Comparing the contribution that books provide in the context of the cultural encyclopedia to the corresponding DNA strands of human experience is a dangerous proposition….or just a cultural posthumanist one?

Culturonomics 2.0 at TedX

 

References:
Michel, J. B., Shen, Y. K., Aiden, A. P., Veres, A., Gray, M. K., Pickett, J. P., … & Aiden, E. L. (2011). Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books. science331(6014), 176-182.
Lin, Y., Michel, J. B., Aiden, E. L., Orwant, J., Brockman, W., & Petrov, S. (2012, July). Syntactic annotations for the google books ngram corpus. In Proceedings of the ACL 2012 System Demonstrations (pp. 169-174). Association for Computational Linguistics.
Aiden, L. (2011). Google Books, Wikipedia, and the future of culturomics.

 

Software Implications

Lev Manovich’s book, Software Takes Command, examines the often taken for granted software that has become inextricably linked to our culture. There is a lack of documentation on the evolution of software, and the author has stepped in to make some previously unexplored connections between development ideas from the 60’s and 70’s and software that is widely used today. He states his personal perspective on the issue as “determined by my own history of engagement with computers as a programmer, computer animator and designer, media artist, and as a teacher” (20). The more general perspective is “software studies”, a distinct field that has overlapping interests with game studies, code studies, computer science, and several others. In the author’s words, “software studies has to investigate the role of software in contemporary culture, and the cultural and social forces that are shaping the development of software itself” (11). He narrows the focus of the book by discussing the commercial applications of software because the audience tends to be broader, and he used motion graphics as a central case study throughout the book (249). This perspective focuses on the interface of the program as well as its usability.

What interested me most were the cultural implications of the software discussed. In his discussion of cultural software, as he calls it, Manovich states that “at the end of the twentieth century humans have added a fundamentally new dimension to everything that counts as ‘culture.’ This dimension is software in general, and application software for creating and accessing content in particular” (32). I began to make connections to my interest in virtual worlds around this point in the introduction. Of course virtual worlds are created and maintained by code (software), but there is a social aspect to my interest as well that this begins to address. One example the author quotes from Wikipedia is a reference to Web 2.0, as follows; “’A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community…’” (37).  This is primarily in reference to Facebook, blogs, wikis, and other types of social media, but it applies to the social aspect of virtual worlds as well.

Another idea that was highly focused on was that computers do not represent a new medium in their own right, but are a “metamedium”. One way this is described is that “It can represent most other media while augmenting them with many new properties”, thus offering a conversation between the user and the machine (101). There are many properties of the metamedium mentioned by the author, but he states that “the most important from the point of view of media history is that the computer metamedium is simultaneously a set of different media and a system for generating new media tools and new types of media” (102). He follows up with this statement in the conclusion, saying that “computers have been used to invent a number of new types of media that are not simulations of prior physical media”, meaning simulation video games (329). I would not have thought to look into the software implications of virtual worlds, but this introduction has been quite fascinating.

Shakespeare, Postmodernism & Postmodernity

In Ihab Hassan’s Postmodernism to Postmodernity, Hassan differentiates between the two.  He refers to postmodernism as “the cultural sphere, especially literature, philosophy, and the various arts, including architecture.  He goes on to explain postmodernity as “geopolitical scheme, less order than disorder, which has emerged in the last decades.”

 

He further explains that postmodernism is essentially a “cultural phenomenon” which is best applied toward consumers who spend substantial amounts of money.  He says that postmodernity is “the inclusive geopolitical process,” meaning the conflicts of the world play out online.  Postmodernism is much more familiar in Western countries like the United States and Japan.  Important to remember is that postmodernism is not monochronological in nature, rather it is polychronological.  It works as a category.

 

Hassan claims that postmodernism turns into postmodernity.  On this topic, he sees a somewhat bleak future.  He does think there is a way to avoid such a bleak outlook.  Hassan states, “But I do think that, instead of wishing or talking the distinction away, we can make it more conscious of itself in our lives. This requires absolute candor, the courage to speak the truth to ourselves and not only to others.”

 

As a part of my project, I have claimed that remixes of Shakespeare may be used as a great resource for teaching Shakespeare’s works.  I have stated that remixing Shakespeare can make the language and ideas much easier to understand for students.  In “Teaching Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Postmodern Computer-Mediated Approach,” Edwin Creely makes a similar statement.

 

In Creely’s research, he uses the internet as a platform for students to approach Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although his research is a bit outdated, the same concepts still apply.  Ideas which are part of our everyday life are only conceptualized in Creely’s research.  His assumptions, for the most part, are accurate.  He speaks of the possibility of a community via website, which is very similar to what I have already created.

 

How is this a postmodern version of Shakespeare?  It is Shakespeare mediated in a different way.  As a high school student, the entirety of my Shakespeare experience took place in book and on paper with pencil, with the rare exception of typing a paper in word processor. There was not a community built around Shakespeare.  The transition of postmodernism to postmodernity did not take place.  By using a website to create a shared space where people can create their own communities, this transition is possible.

 

References

Creely, Edwin. “TEACHING SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH: A POSTMODERN COMPUTER-MEDIATED APPROACH | Edwin Creely – Academia.edu.”TEACHING SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH: A POSTMODERN COMPUTER-MEDIATED APPROACH | Edwin Creely – Academia.edu. N.p., June 1996. Web. 30 May 2013.

 

Hassan, Ihab. “From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context.” From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.