Dewey and Brun

Consider Dewey’s ideas about artistic practice, and Brun’s ideas about composition.

How does an artist’s engagement with digital or new media differ from “old” media? Does understanding the material form of a media help you to understand the nature of its mediation?

Where do meaning and aesthetic value come from in these views?

Dewey seems to have many requirements of what constitutes art or an “act of expression.” The experience that creates an act of expression has to begin with an “impulsion” not an impulse. These impulsions are driven by need. Like the impulsion of a child to cry may be driven by the need for food.

But, not all impulsions create acts of expressions. Acts of expression have to have meaning. These acts are conditioned by the environment and outside influences to create art. I think. And Dewey feels there cannot be art without emotion. The emotion has to be spent “indirectly” on the art and has an effect on all the components of the art piece like hue, shade, tone, unity, etc.

Brun talks about a “rational relationship” that creates music or a “work of art.” There exists a limitless universe of audible phenomena and they are meshed with a “defined image” to create a limited sub-system which is the music. But, is it still considered a work of art to use this system on a computer? Or is a new definition needed to create the definition of a work of art produced on a computer? He argues that music is supposed to create different ideas and “circuits in the listener’s mind,” so if computer production allows for this, I suppose it is considered a work of art or music.

Brun says that if we know what music is, than we won’t have any. We know what music “was” because we have studied it. But, if you ask a composer was music “is” then they tell you it “is to be.” Following this logic, I feel like computer-produced music constitutes music.

I dunno.

Authenticity and Aesthetics

Benjamin seems very concerned with the concept of “authenticity” in the age of mechanical reproduction, while Ranciere is concerned with the political implications of aesthetics.

Given what they argue, how should we understand aesthetic experiences? How should we understand authorship?

Benjamin questions the authenticity of art that is reproduced. He argues that reproductions of art will always lack the “here and now” of a piece of artwork that creates the piece’s uniqueness and authenticity. Factors such as the history of the artwork and the change in ownership add more to the artwork. Reproductions, especially technological reproductions, are different. “The whole sphere of authenticity eludes technological – and of course not only technological – reproduction,” states Benjamin (21).

Technological reproduction is different from reproduction by hand for a couple of reasons. First, technological reproductions tend to be very independent of the original piece. Many alterations can be made to the piece that it can vary vastly – like transforming an original photo in Photoshop. Second, reproductions lose the context and environment the original was created in that creates authenticity. Paintings can be moved to museums and lose the feel of the situation the art was created in.

Ranciere discussed art as a political function. Art can function autonomously or heteronomously. Autonomous art is self-contained, self-sufficient and is created by the “mode of experience” – autonomy of the experience, not the work of art. This was exemplified by the Greek statue Juno Ludovisi. Heteronomous art is influenced by outsider facts and politics. The politics of aesthetics is broken down into three ideas: art can become life, life can become art, and art and life can exchange their properties. The first is a “form of self-education” and an expression of life. The second is coined the “spirit of forms” and is the basis of museums. It is taking an art piece away from its historical context and putting it in a museum with nothing around it, drawing the focus to piece instead of the surroundings. The third is a re-actualization of the two and “permeability of the borders of art.”

“Everything is a Remix” had me questioning the authenticity and authorship of works. Everything we create seems to be a reproduction of something that we have seen before but in a different context. According to Benjamin, taking a piece away from its history and context causes the piece to lose its authenticity. So are all remixes unauthentic and not legitimate authorship?

I also thought about what it takes for any piece of artwork to be “original.” Where or how do you find the original idea of something if everything seems to be a remix? Since the basic elements of creativity and remixing involve copying, transforming and combining old content, I feel like nothing is original. We’re just altering old material to create “new” material. Even innovative ideas like Apple’s Macintosh was just a combination of existing parts. Or the iconic Kill Bill was just mashup of shots and themes from older movies. NOTHING IS REAL.

Immediacy-Hypermediacy-Remediacy

Describe three interesting new media technologies that are examples of “immediacy,” “hypermediacy,” and “remediacy.” Can any of your examples be viewed as more than one of these?

How does understanding the material form of your examples help you to understand the nature of their mediation?

 

Hypermediacy is different than immediacy because it is seen as a heterogenous space as opposed to a unified space. Another point is that “hypermediacy makes us aware of the medium or media and reminds us of our desire for immediacy” (18). Hypermediacy comes from interactive media with “random access” – no physical beginning, middle or end. Smart TVs came to mind while thinking of new media and hypermediacy. On a Smart TV, you can bounce around from TV channels, to Netflix, or browse the web or use the interactive applications on the Smart TV. Each application creates multiplicity and homogeneity within the device and allows each window to create its own point-of-view, instead of creating a unified space. While using a Smart TV, the user is aware of the interface, as well.

Remediacy is the representation of one medium in another medium. Bolter and Grusin referred to Marshall McLuhan’s “Medium is the Message” to reference the incorporation of different mediums into each other, like the medium of speech being the basis of the medium of writing. Remediacy strives for transparency by trying to create the same feeling for a viewer from both an old medium and a new medium. For example, if a person is viewing an old Polaroid in their hand, remedially tries to create the same feeling if the person is viewing that same photo digitized on a computer. I feel like Pandora Radio is a good example of this. Pandora digitized the radio by making it an application available on many devices including computers and phones. The basic principles of radio are still there, but they are being used on a different medium.

Immediacy seems to be about creating an “interfaceless” interface and dissolving the barrier between the user and the medium. Immediacy emphasizes the idea of creating a unified space. The authors talked about the immersive experience that virtual reality creates as a form of immediacy because the user should be unaware of the interface or the barrier between themselves and the video game. Historically, early forms of immediacy can be seen in photography. The authors used the term “automatic reproduction,” where taking a picture automatically reproduced the image in front of the camera. Although music isn’t a new media or considered automatic reproduction, I feel like it could be considered a form of immediacy. If a user is listening to music from their iPod or phone through quality over-the-ear headphones with their eyes closed, they can become immersed in the music and become unaware of where they are presently. They will also be unaware of the interface between them and the music.

By understanding the material form of a new media, it is easier to understand which type of mediation they will fall under. For example, interface-heavy interactive media will tend to fall under hypermediacy while virtual reality will mostly fall under immediacy.

Immersion and Embedding

Lahti’s article recognizes our propensity to get “sucked in” to video games, and the immersive experience that they provide to our senses.

Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto also proposes that we acknowledge our embeddeness within circuits of information and material technology, but sees this as a political opportunity.

Are immersion and embeddedness related? How so or how not?

How does Haraway hope to reclaim the technologies and theories of Cold-war technology and militarism and use them for progressive theories? How is this different from utopian approaches to technology?

Video games transgress the boundaries and borders between technology and humans. Gibson saw players being “subsumed” by the games and this immersion creates a cyborg. As Scott Bukatman put it, there is “complete symbiosis…between human and computer.” Accordingly, Lahti mainly argued that video games “anchor our experience and subjectivity firmly in the body or in an ambiguous boundary between the body and technology.”

Ted Friedman was the one who claimed people were being “sucked” in to video games and “melding” with the technology. This immersion became deeper with the invention of three-dimensional video games. When games were only two-dimensional, the video game seemed limited. You could see the boundaries and borders of the game – like in PacMan or Space Invader, for example. Three-dimensional games created an endless, more immersive world by not being able to see the limits. There was more to the video game world than what was just on the screen. There were objects ad events happening beyond the players point-of-view. More factors like the extension of a hand or gun onto the screen created continuation and further immersion. Bodily sensations such as the player grunting when being shot or the screen flashing red, made the experience real. These bodily sensations are feedback from the computer/technology, “encompassing” the body and creating a “cybernetic” feedback loop. Lauren Robinovitz thought video games made the player feel like they were in two places at once – next to the screen and in the game – because the game reacts to our decisions and because there is real corporeality.

Haraway seems to suggest that cyborgs can help with societal constraints in terms of class, sex and race. She says, “Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historica experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.” Haraway feels that cyborgs won’t be held to these current standards and they can progress through this oppression. Cyborgs can assist in the creation of a post-gender world. If a society moves past divisions and issues regarding gender, class and race, than a sense of unity can be created.

I think embedding and immersion are similar in the sense they both dissolve barriers. In Lahti’s case, it is the dissolution of the boundaries between the human and technology in the form of video games. In Haraway’s case, it’s breaking down gender and race barriers and social  and labor relations with cyborgs and transforming bodies. I think.

Cold-war technology and militarism can be used to craft and transform bodies. The boundaries and barriers of gender and race can be erased using technology. I think. It’s similar to a utopian idea by eliminating the negative aspects of a society, but only in social and labor relations.

Communication and Behavior

What does Hayles mean when she argues that Wiener sees “communication as a relation”?

What are the advantages of thinking about humans and technology as part of an integrated system? Does this preclude human agency? Can everything be reduced to systems theory?

Herman Wiener felt that the individual and portions of the individual comprised the community. He thought “the community consists of individuals with shifting relationships in space and time and no permanent, unbreakable physical connections” (Wiener 156). All the individuals intercommunicate to create a group. Although individuals come together to create the community, not all individual information is translated into communal information. Individual information can be communal or racial information if the individual can behave in a way or communicate it to other members of the race so that they can pick up that behavior. There may be little or a lot of community information depending on how much of the individual information is behaved and picked up by others in the group.

This is the basis of Wiener’s observational and behaviorist approach to communication. Wiener was interested in object’s relation to one another and noticing patterns in those relations. He was not concerned with the “embodied material” or “essence” of a person or machine. This approach for behaviorists was called the “black box.” A person can’t see the inside or materials within the black box, but one can pick up information about the box by observing it’s actions, patterns and outside behavior. With this idea, one can study machines and humans equally. Teleology was also an area of interest. Teleology is behavior controlled by negative feedback, so it assumes the behavior has a goal, and if you judge machines by teleology, than they have a goal.

Wiener liked to use analogies in his research. He thought that “analogy was communication and communication was analogy” (Hayles 101). Wiener would create analogies between mathematics and emotions, frequently. The analogy created a boundary between two objects and represented a relation between two things, which resonated with his ideas on communication.

Humans and machines are already apart of an integrated system, but will we use cybernetics to “compensate for deficiency” or “enhance normal functioning” (Hayles 86)? Hayles used the example of a man using a cane to ponder if machines and humans are apart of the same system or separate. The man can become detached from the cane, but while he is using the cane, it is transmitting information to the man about his environment.

 

Classification and Representation

Individuals are constantly being classified into groups, and then they are represented according to the groups they are placed in. As Herman Grey observed, in black TV shows throughout the 20th century, black people were portrayed according to the stereotypes at the time. For example, in the 1950s, blacks were cast as servants, nannies, deatbeats or criminals on black TV shows. In the 1980s, they were represented as entertainment and jokes for a white audience as well as workers for a “white domesticity”.

This classification and representation of groups by the media is further seen in polling. The Onion’s satirical look at polling data for specific groups is entertaining because there is truth to it. Certain groups are given different weight in public opinion and are targeted differently. “Curdoroy-wearing homosexuals” in that sketch could be the equivalent of “Latino voters ages 18-24” in real life. This was further shown by the New York Times articles where one African-American man’s poll vote was weighted so much that he drastically altered the poll results. Just because he represented a small demographic while being polled, he altered the results. The poll was found to divide people into to snall of groups instead of using standard groupings, but it still showed the effect of representation in public polling.

The scientific study took an interesting look at public polling. It used the idea of public polling and sampling as means of legitimizing social sciences because it could create phenomena. Sampling is also used in many other fields whether it be a doctor taking a blood sample to represent all the blood of a patient or an engineer testing small amounts of materials to use on a large-scale later. The opinion poll was started by George Gallup in 1935 and he felt Democracy needed public opinion to function. Others, like Lippman, felt public opinion was a threat to democracy because governing was forming public opinion.

The Persuaders video was a bit unsettling. It showed how the company “Axciom” gathered information about large number of people to categorize them so they could be easily targeted with specific information for politicians or marketers. They would gather information regarding things so obscure such as if you were a dog or cat person. Perhaps all this categorizing isnt bad though. Maybe people are in control because advertisers and politicans are catering the message to them according to their interests and information. Perhaps we are telling the advertisers what we need instead of advertisers telling consumers what we need.

Panopticon

How is it possible that media are able to control people’s behavior, and how is this related to the way Foucault argues that prisons function to control people’s behavior (even when they are not prisoners)?

Does the panopticon function primarily as a material/architectural technology, as a psychological device, or as some hybrid of these? Is this a useful distinction to make?

 

Media can control people’s behavior by agenda-setting and propaganda. The media tells us what is important and what we need to think about that day. They control the material. The media can be seen as the structure in the middle in the panopticon and the consumers are the people in the cells. They attempt to have political power over us by dividing us into small cubicles and taking away our communication and ability to share ideas. If we share ideas, we can congregate and create an offensive against the media (middle structure). The media wants to be the only one to give us material and maintain their hierarchy over us.

The panopticon is an interesting hierarchy strategy. The panopticon functions as a hybrid of architecture and psychological device to establish power. The architecture portion comes from the authoritative structure being in the middle of all the individual cubicles the tower watches over. In this position, the authoritative structure has a constant view of all the individuals enforcing the hierarchy of power. The power, in this sense, comes from the structure itself, not the person in the tower. The psychological device comes from the concepts of “visible” and “unverifiable.” The structure watching over them is clearly “visible,” but it is “unverifiable” if they are actually being watched. It reminded me of a two-way mirror in an interrogation room. The detainee usually knows there is a two-way mirror where they can be watched, but are they being watched? This influences the individuals behavior. The individual cells/cubicles are also divided by walls. If they are inmates, they cannot communicate to plot. If they are sick patients, contagion can’t spread. If they are school children, they cannot cheat or copy. Instead of a mass of multiple exchanges, they are just separate individuals.