Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WS Screens and the POST-

In Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media, Manovich discusses the changing role of the screen and as a result, the ways in which each medium or interface address and relate to their subjects. Tracing digital media’s influences in such apparatuses as film and television, as well as military technologies, Manovich argues that while the position of the spectator (as in the cinematic apparatus), is one docility and identification with the camera. In the televisual apparatus, the position is as a viewer with a type of freedom, whose ability to channel surf offers a changed relation to the image and screen. Interface, as Manovich argues, positions the individual as a user, the subject assuming a role of freedom and interaction with the medium previously unimaginable with the two previously mentioned modes of representation.

In Manovich’s assertions, however, I would like to question the unproblematic positioning and process of identification that Manovich assumes:

"In cinema viewing, the viewer is asked to merge completely with the screen's space" (96).

It is not only the space in which the viewer is situated that remains unproblematic for Manovich, but also the ease with which such identifications are made that I see as a potential shortcoming of Manovich’s argument. This is assuming that all spectators are positioned in the same way and occupy the same spaces -- that all processes of identification are the same. In what ways has this not been the case? I bring this up because it seems relevant to the relationship between interface and the user. If Manovich parallels the two modes of identification, then in what ways do such addresses not have the intended address? How does interface address its subjects?

Going further in his argument, on the next page, Manovich writes:

“Or, more precisely, we can say that the two spaces -- the real, physical space and the virtual, simulated space -- coincide. The virtual space, previously confined to a painting or movie screen, now completely encompasses the real space. Frontality, rectangular surface, difference in scale are all gone. The screen has vanished" (Manovich 97).

This passage is particularly provocative. Manovich makes the jump from a multiplicity of screen to their disappearance. In section, it would be interesting to discuss the status of the screen and what is at stake in such a disappearance. For Manovich, this disappearance would seem to be a part of ever-present, inescapable technologies of surveillance and modes of control. However, to what extent have those technologies been paramount to the development of the cinematic apparatus itself (and perhaps not merely to public entertainment, as Manovich would believe)? What would be the distinction (if there is one) between the screen and modes of perception (the materiality of the screen and perception) according to Manovich?

These questions lead me to the shift that both Friedberg and Manovich seem to make -- the “post-cinematic”. With this, digital media and interface are also positioned as post-televisual and even “postperspectival” (Friedberg 94). Similar to the question posed earlier, but more broadly speaking, what is at stake in the post- ? In its shift, what else is it also getting rid of? The way in which these posts- are grouped, are all of the posts- the same?

Monica G.

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