Thursday, May 29, 2008

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.


mike's spot said...

I thought the most interesting thing about 'A Human Document' was the author's intention to keep revising the piece so thoroughly. He intended to have a totally different story emerge from the original by one of the later editions, making me wonder how the works will fit together as a series. I wonder if their intention would be of a chronological nature, providing more back story or future events, or if he takes the same characters on different events, or even if the intention is to show yet unknown characters functioning in the same time.

Lance Strate said...

I think there is an interesting point raised about how the original artist or writer feels about having others come in and play with, revise, rework, or perhaps desecrate (from a point of view) their work. I imagine it could be quite a shock.

Mary said...

Just like P. Clark, I also am glad that some people have embraced the (admittedly, rapid fire and overwhelming) wave of technology. I personally love new media and the convenience and entertainment they provide, but even I am amazed by the seemingly endless advancements in technology. Take, for instance, the MP3 Player (once thought to be cutting-edge), which evolved into the “Ipod” which now undergoes a metamorphosis every six months or so in order to become even ridiculously smaller in size with every new generation.
But there are those people who choose, detrimentally, to willfully avoid acclimating to the new media that has irreversibly changed our world. Generally speaking, I’ve found that older men are the guilty as charged demographic. The defiance, it seems, is an effort to show that they do not need recent advancements; the old way of doing things was just fine. My father, 64, is certainly part of this demographic. The only thing he knows how to do on the Internet is to check his email. Of course the only reason he chooses to check his email is because he must do so for work.
However, this small demographic is neglecting the inevitable: new media is not just appearing as a complement to old media, it is replacing it in many cases. As an example, the average person is hard-pressed to find a typewriter these days without visiting either a public library or a law firm. So, while I applaud “Kaye” for “embracing swift technological changes,” as P. Clark noted in his post, very soon it seems that it will no longer be a lauded choice, but a necessity.