Thursday, May 29, 2008

talking about Art as a medium. . .


Jamie Livingston took a photo of his life every day for 6,697 days until his death. that link is the collection of those photos.

Kinda weird to see a man's life summed up in Polaroids- but if you take the time to look through them you'll definitely get attached and feel some loss towards the end.

I point it out because if one were to view the work in reverse order, it would be a much happier story. though there are no words, a powerful picture of a life with highs and lows does develop.

here's a supporting blog:


Where Have all the Humans Gone

In the beginning of her graduate career, N. Katherine Hayles encounters another student who tells her, “‘the trouble with you is that you think you are solving problems’”(Hayles, 15). Although she agrees with the student about her behavior, her entire book seems more like a quest to find an answer and be right about the answer she finds as opposed to an exploration into the realm of writing. Although Hayles does go on a personal quest throughout different styles of writing, she hardly mentions the human agency present in what is being read. She does mention how context can effect the way you look at a picture; however, she does not delve into the context of ones own schemata and how that may effect the reading of a book whether it be in print or hypertext. Throughout the entirety of her book, I kept wishing that Hayles would push the envelope of her thinking as opposed to citing how well read and therefore intelligent and well read she is.
Hayles seems blinded by her want to find an answer that she does not address the questions that she sets forth. I am not convinced that literature is transforming itself. Similar to the video in which the man needed a help desk to teach him how to use a book, every human is relearning how to express themselves in different ways. The limitations present in expression exist because of the medium, the person crating them, and the person receiving the expression. It is impossible to control what a person receives from what you have created. After this drawn u rant, it is obvious to restate my obvious assertion that there is a world of agency that Hayles (maybe purposefully) does not examine thoroughly in her book.

-Ashley R.

Art is not Obsolete in the Twenty First Century: By P. Clark

Even though 'Kaye' experienced the transition from the typewriter to the computer at a much earlier stage than I, I can basically relate quite well with her enthusiasm of the medium shift. “At the Ivy League college where she served her academic apprenticeship, she encountered the equipment that before long would be called ‘dumb terminals,’ but at the time she found it thrilling to move from typewriters to this more flexible and powerful medium” (Hayles, 35).

I can remember quite clearly my first encounter with the new powerful medium. I was in fourth grade, 1994, and once a week the class was given fifty vocabulary words that we were assigned to look-up its definition in the biggest book I’ve ever seen; the dictionary. It was fairly tedious work, although it provided us with the knowledge of how to use a dictionary and sharpened our vocabulary skills. I remember discovering an amazing solution to cut-down the amount of time spent doing this tiresome word-hunting when my older brother taught me how to use the computer to look up these vocabulary words. It was like the heavens opened up for me and dropped down a digital savior, for I was completed with my fifty word hunt in half the amount of time spent looking these words up in a print dictionary and I still had time to bask in the sun. All I had to do was type in the vocabulary word and ‘magically’ the computer would look-up the definition for me and it would instantaneously provide the definition. The rest is history.

As Hayles points out in chapter two, both print and digital literary text can obtain hypertext formats, linking mechanisms that allow the reader to retrieve information from different pathways. The print encyclopedia and the World Wide Web encyclopedia are both hypertexts in the sense that they both store a great deal of information and can lead the reader toward different references. The World Wide Web incorporated aspects of the print encyclopedia into its electronic format and offered a great deal of options from sound to animation compared with its preceding print functions. “Media constantly engage in a RECURSIVE dynamic of imitating each other, incorporating aspects of competing media into themselves while simultaneously flaunting the advantages their own forms of mediation offer” (Hayles, 30).

It is interesting what the artist Tom Philips did with the Victorian novel “A Human Document” by William Hurrell Mallock. Pursuing an art project with the intentions of combining already published literature from Mallocks novel and creating collages over his printed text, leaving only shapes and figures of the original text emerging from the patchwork. The same characters appear from the original novel, but new characters and meaning materialize from the new work Philips created. “These strategies share a double impulse. On the one hand, they posit precursor text that embody a hypertextual proliferation of narratives, signified by a diversity of material forms and incomplete or erasable marks. On the other hand, the novel’s project is to suppress this unruly complexity, smoothing many conflicting paths into one coherent narrative” (Hayles, 79). Layers upon layers of chaotic background imagery laced with a narrative of symbolic poetry that was once Mallock’s pros. “Philips strategy of recovering and heightening the hypertextual profusion implicit in Mallock’s text extends to his own sense that every page offers multiple possibilities for treatment” (Hayles, 88). I wonder if William Mallock is rolling over in his grave.

I am glad there are people like 'Kaye' who are not afraid to embrace swift technological changes and learn as much as they can about their configurations with preceding mediums. I thought the book was an overall decent read and had an interesting layout that did not bother me so much as it did make me question what options one has when writing an intellectual book.

Work Cited:
Hayles, Katherine, N. Writing Machines. 2002: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Use of Narrative

Despite the egotistical tone of Haleys, the use of her personal story was effective. Like any good homiletic, a great tool to draw-in an audience to receive a message is the use of narrative. It compliments the theory so well. It notably shows the progression of her discoveries from a personal view point. I'm not sure she would have grabbed my attention without the use of narrative. Though I found the theory portion rather interesting, I noticed within myself waiting for her next autobiographical chapter to flesh out the dense and tedious theory. (Especially when she ranted on about artist books I am very unfamiliar with.) Therefore, I found her story to be not only relevant to her message but necessary.

Check out this short speech by RFK.

Take note of his personal story about his brother, John.

That's all.

Hayles- Writing Machines

In an effort to emulate Hayles' writing style, I'm going to make this post as interactive as I possibly can. Be prepared though, as my 'HTML-foo' and my Java-te are not strong.

Hayles - the Good Stuff

Hayles' interpretation of Material Media as a message unto itself was a fantastic, and accurate recognition of an element used in communication not often realized. Hayles' assessment that previously, written text was considered a 'transparent' element that needed to be rethought was a real treat to hear.

I propose though, that all creation by people is strictly subject to its material creation and delivery. Not unlike McLuhan's mantra, 'The Medium is the Message' all things in our lives are strictly influenced by their delivery.

Example 1 is an .OGG file of a full harmonic orchestral rendition of 'Ode to Joy' musically arranged by Beethoven.

Example 2 is the same piece, but now performed on a simple keyboard- not unlike a MIDI format that was used on older, lower processing power computers that could not handle the complexities of fuller sounds.

Though the 'message', the actual piece of music, is performed the same- both are interpretations. The former, being more inline with the original performance as conducted by Beethoven, the later a more simplistic rendition. Each person must decide which is more pleasing their own tastes- and neither is more correct than the other. However, it is irrefutable that despite similar content, the packaging surrounding each package differs so greatly as to influence the content to be less like twin messages and more like an object as displayed in a fun house mirror; recognizable as related to the original, but with a new twist that could not have been conceived previously.

This concept, as first illustrated musically, and prior to that as illustrated by Hayles' textually, converts into the visual world as well.

here we have the original Mona Lisa- as painted by Da Vinci

here we have the artistic interpretation of the Mona Lisa by Duchamp

at first glance, the Duchamp interpretation appears to be the original with the addition of facial hair, however a closer analysis brings the viewer into the Lore of the Mona Lisa- questioning if it was in fact a self portrait of Da Vinci in drag, Duchamp actually has inserted himself into the work just as Da Vinci may or may not have inserted himself into the original.

article 1 supporting theory

article 2 supporting theory

Hayles - The Bad Stuff

Not all that Hayles writes is golden. Her 'quasi- autobiographical' stylized approach comes off as pompous and holier-than-thou. It seems like she's giving herself all the compliments about being intelligent she didn't receive enough as a child.

The one stylized impression she did make in the work was on page 121-122- where she inserted text as though it were written on a clear window. flipping the page showed the same text, but totally reversed, as if you were standing behind a translucent piece of paper. I thought this illustrated her point well about the interpretation of some of the artists' books she mentioned previously that have multiple reading paths. Probably one of her more subtle, and effective ploys throughout the entire work.

So what do I think of Hayles?

I found Hayles work to be very reminiscent of her scientific background. It was obvious of the influences that she had absorbed throughout her life, and her interpretation of text as a mutli-layer approach could not help but remind me of this:

to see the whole video go here: CLICKY CLICK

The whole idea of multiple layers of meaning trapped within the confines of one work just drips of inter-dimensional interpretation, which obviously brings into play the limitations of the reader.

This is my biggest gripe with Hayles- which is why I saved it for my knock out punch here (some knock out. . .not)

Hayles is so focused on the medium and sensory perception of the works she is trying to interpret as having deeper meaning she is totally overlooking the fact that all senses are not created equal to all viewers.

Her statement saying that Literature analysts must create deeper meaning as not to run out of finite resources hinges on the thought that all literary critics have the same pool of perceptions to draw from. She does nothing with the interpretations of literary works for the blind, the deaf, or any of a multitude of other perception distorters.

How do these great literary works translate in braille? do they have the same impact? Does Moby Dick offer the same insight when felt, rather then seen?

This was a topic left completely untouched by Hayles, and for a person who tooted her own horn so loudly, it would appear to me so overlooked a huge part of perception on the whole. How can we begin to understand anything in its entirety without first understanding the tools that may or may not be available to the viewer for use?

thats my rant folks.


*apologies for the format- if the font is going screwy at the end its because blogger is giving me fits*

The Power of the Social Network

Here's an interesting article of how Twitter freed a Grad student from an Egyptian jail. Overall it shows the power of social networking and how one individual's social network on Twitter led other's to tap into their own in order to help the student out. It'll be interesting to see if this type of technology continues to develop as a way to communicate during times of crisis.

Interesting Review of "Writing Machines"

Hi Everyone,

I found an interesting review of Writing Machines this morning. What do you think?

Do you all think she effectively made her case? Or atleast began by asking the right questions?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


CMGA 6300 Summer 2008

Public Communication in Digital Environments

Dr. Lance Strate
Faculty Memorial Hall, Room 434A
Office Hours: Tues. & Thurs. 5:30-6:00 or by appointment

Required Texts:

Jay David Bolter & Diane Gromala, Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital
Art, and the Myth of Transparency.

David Brin, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between
Privacy and Freedom?

N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines.

Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media.

Lance Strate, Ron L. Jacobson, & Stephanie B. Gibson, Communication and
Cyberspace: Social Interaction in an Electronic Environment (Second Edition).

Additional readings will be provided during the semester.


1. Regular attendance.
2. Relevant and sensible class participation and online interaction.
3. Careful reading of assigned texts.
4. Postings on the class blog at least twice a week related to readings, class discussion, and analysis of digital environments.
5. A term paper in the form of a scholarly article, essay, or research report. The paper should follow an accepted style guide (e.g., APA, MLA) and should be thoroughly proofread. Term papers will be due on June 26. Late papers may result in a grade of incomplete.
6. An oral presentation based on your term paper.


This course is devoted to the exploration of the computer as a medium of communication, and to the related technologies that make computer-mediated communication possible. This includes those communication technologies known as new media, the Internet, online communications, and concepts such as cyberspace, virtual reality, hypermedia, networking, social media, and of course digital media. The goal of this course is not, however, to study the technological workings of computer technology in all its detail, but rather to gain a general understanding of how these media work, and work us over. In other words, the main concern is with how we communicate in our new media environments, and how that communication differs from the way that we have interacted previously; how we think, feel, and behave in virtual worlds; how we form our sense of self and identity online (and off); how we form our sense of community online (and off). No special skill in computing is needed for this class, but it is assumed that students have access to and are familiar with e-mail and the Web.

Tentative Schedule:

May 27 Introduction to the Class

May 29 Writing Machines

June 3 The Transparent Society

June 5 Communication & Cyberspace

June 10 Communication & Cyberspace continued

June 12 The Language of New Media

June 17 The Language of New Media continued

June 19 No Class Meeting (but read Windows and Mirrors)

June 24 Windows and Mirrors

June 26 Windows and Mirrors continued/Oral Presentations

For Starters

Here we are setting up our blog for our Public Media in Digital Environments class. How about that?