Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2nd assignment, despite floods

In “Panopticism” Foucault describes the mechanisms of power in modern society in terms of Bantham's idea for an efficient mode of incarceration. The structure of the panopticon allows for an authority to exert power without spending the energy (or capital) to actually put every inmate (or patient, student etc.) under constant surveillance. This mode relies on “disciplinary analysis” which is associated with the rise of the “human sciences” as well as binary modes of exclusion or confinement:

Treat 'lepers' as 'plague victims', project the subtle segmentations of discipline into the confused space of internment, combine it with the methods of analytical distribution proper to power, individualize the excluded, but use procedures of individualization to mark exclusion (199).”

In this way the panopticon mirrors modern society in that subjects of the state are forced to discipline themselves internally out of fear of surveillance, not its constant and guaranteed presence. Foucault's argument uses the example of how life was organized by authority in reaction to the Plague. He contrasts this method of organization with that of panopticism (both literally and socially) in arguing that the way power is exercised in modern times is “visible and unverifiable (201).” One fundamental aspect of this new form of power is the window, which enables the mere threat of surveillance to be enough. The windows in the panopticon allow for a one way power relationship in which, the inmate “is seen but he does not seen; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication (200).” Windows in the cell of the panopticon allow for the inmate to always be subject to surveillance, while the windows in the center block the guards from any glimpse from inmates. In much the same way, people in society are subjected to forces which propel them to internalize the disciplinary power held over them. In American society, we are always subject to surveillance, either in reality and ever more so in our virtual spaces.

Time Code is a work that exemplifies the panopticism in today's society, although the physical space aspect of the authority-”inmate” relationship is extrapolated liberally when talking about film, the actors, all seen simultaneously are trapped in the same one way method of observation:

The arrangement of his room, opposite the central tower, imposes on him an axial visibility; but the divisions of the ring, those separated, imply lateral invisibility (200).”

There is an axial visibility from the film screen, which acts like a window from which the viewer can watch the film actors without the risk of being spotted, to the film's audience. Furthermore, the distinct four-way split in the film operates like the windowless walls between cells in the panopticon, which restrict inter-inmate contact. Although Foucault piece discussed simple machines, when discussing the “machinery” of the panopticon, the the machinery of cinema certainly “that assures dissymmetry, disequilibrium, difference,” by its rhetorical, formal character, “Consequently it does not matter who exercises power (202).“

"Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce the inmate into a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assure the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if its discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should ted to render its actual exercise unnecessary (201).

Thus, regardless of who watches the film, and even in the case that it plays with no audience, the simultaneous performance will be the stay the same, as the in the film, the one instance of camera “surveillance” ensured a lifetime or identical reproduction and (re)presentation of the same performance “permanent in its effects, even if its discontinuous in its action.” Thus, despite the film being invented after the panopticon and its social triggers, it proves to be “still caught up in disciplinary technology (227)”

Monday, March 29, 2010

2nd Assignment

Assignment #2, Question 2

Second Life is sold as a game that renders us the extent of freedom that real life cannot give us. Like every other video games, it allows users to indulge in the pleasurable experience of controling what happens in the virtual world. Second Life seemingly enables us to engage with the environment freely. In fact, we are engaging with the environment according to the design of the game. It enables us to “go anywhere”, but actually we are going nowhere: the places are set for us. We cannot go beyond the coding and technology. We are not set free, but rather imprisoned by the game. It’s the promise of freedom that imprisons us.

Second Life not only features its immersive experience, but most importantly, boasts its ability to allow users to design their own avatars, build their own buildings, choose their life style etc. with the extent of freedom that other video games do not allow. For example, Second Life objects are solids called prims. “Prims can assume any shape you want.” “And you can make prims look any wan you want by applying selected textures to their surfaces.” (Second life: the Official Guide, Michael Rymaszewski, Wagner James Au, MarkWallace, Catherine Winters)

However, we must notice that every single user manipulation is based on the frame of the interface that is designed by the architect of the virtual world. Indeed, the user is allowed to copy/paste, shift, zoom the window, drag the icon, but only to the extent that the system allows. It seems that the user is manipulating the system according to his will, but he is in fact only operating on top of the fixed coding that comes with the interface, and therefore, is subject to the control of technical guru. “The window into a fictional world of a cinematic narrative has become a window into a datascape.” (Manovich, 101) Everything can be reduced down to software and codes. Users are therefore necessarily subject to control of the designer/architect of the virtual world. SL creates a phenomenal world that engages us in interacting with it, so that we never wonder what the intrinsic mechanism is. The underlying coding process is hidden, and the user is shown with the surface.

Second Life has imposed a lot of its conventions and behavioral habituations on the user. It renders spatial constraint insignificant by allowing teleport between places. “And just like a mythological god, you’re able to fly, and teleport wherever you like in an instant.” As Monovich points out in the Language of New Media, each interface imposes its own logic on media, with a significant example of the “cut and paste” operation under GUI that blurs the traditional distinction between spatial and temporal media.

Technical control comes in the form of a culture. As Manovich points out, HCI also presents us and allows us to interact with cultural data, creating the concept of “cultural interface. (Manovich, 70) SL promotes user’s ability to control their life, “from your point of view, SL works as if you were a god in real life.” (Second life: the Official Guide) However the truth is, there are strict constraints and limits of the events that can happen in second life. Everything happens according to a certain type of routine. We are only choosing from types of activities to engage in. It seems that we are free because we have the options, but rather we are prisoners who are satisfied with the constrained situation.

In other words, the users of Second Life are freer only in the sense that they are provided more options. This is exactly the value that is promoted by SL: choosing, consuming, and owning. The achievement of technology constrains humans’ ability to fulfill their desires, and therefore define their desires. Technologies not only limit humans in pursuing their desires, but also create false desires that are socially constructed. SL imposes a certain value onto the user --- the commercialized life style of owning and consumption, of course with the commercial purpose of promoting the technological characteristics of the game. “Living a life means making choices, and you’ll be making plenty from the moment you log onto Second Life for the first time.” (Official Guide Chapter 2) The users are provided with a rich variety of objects, and their life in the game is about how much they own. Their life is reduced into their fake properties in the game. Even though Second Life is a virtual world, it’s still all about material. The interface of SL is able to affect our value system through this imposition.

We cannot separate interface from media, because interface “functions to filter, to screen out, to take over” (Manovich, 70) information as it presents the media. Since Second Life is based on this user interface technology, it incorporates its traditions and limitations as well. The user who attempts to dominate the world is trapped by the apparatus himself. This is the nature of this kind of games: it gives you the illusion of freedom by allowing choices; however, choices are not freedom. Giving slaves the freedom to choose their masters does not liberate them.

The user is incorporated into the system, becoming part of the game. We are not consuming the game; the game is consuming us. What’s more, when we are so committed in this “game”, Second Life will become our “first life”, and our only life. The Matrix may predict the ultimate stage of human-computer interface: a game so indulging that we are willing to live in it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Michela's Assignment # 2

Friday section post

Haraway defines social reality as “lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction.” I find the term “world-changing fiction” especially interesting. A fiction, by definition, is a existence different from reality that has no impact on the reality. However, here, the fiction can be “world-changing”, which makes it no longer a fiction --- it becomes reality (social reality). The division of labor and the invention of machines and assembly categorize people into different “divisions” with labels that are constraining and exploiting: gender roles, alienation labor, structure of class etc. All is translated into a certain form of order. All activities have certain kind of boundaries. “Simulation” replaces “Representation”; “subsystem” replaces “small group”; “replication” replaces “reproduction”; “stress management” replaces “hygiene”. (Haraway) All is but a control strategy. Individuals become “utility-maximization machines” (Haraway), slaves that serve the machines, instead of owners that are in control. Human beings of the modern industrialized society are constantly being exploited by the seemingly liberating machines and technologies, and we are often unconscious of our situation, which makes us willing slaves of the society.

Assignment #2 Windows and Second Life

Keenan attaches the concept of the window to light. Window and light are inseparable. A Window is a means through which we receive light, and therefore it is a means through which we make ourselves visible as well as allow ourselves to see.. Keenan then poses a number of questions: What do we need a window for; for light or for gazing? Is the window a means to look out or to look in? And most importantly, how do we define public and private in relation to the window? Keenan suggests that due to the permeability of the window, the public is present within the subject and therefore the subject does not ever exist in the private. I would like to illustrate this point using Second Life.
The window of an Internet browser is the window through which we access Second Life. It is important to note the power dynamic that is attached to the window, and attached to the dynamic of private/public. The window is a means through which we look and are looked at. When one is able to see and not be seen, one is in a position of power. Keenan asks “what arrives with light?” (Keenan 125). With light comes visibility and thus vulnerability. When we exist in relation to a window we are visible to the other and therefore we are unprotected. A window also has the ability to “tear-s- open the protection that is the human subject” (127) by blurring the lines between private and public. Keenan says that “the subject’s variable status as public or private individual is defined by its position relative to this window” (Keenan 132). “Behind it, in the privacy of home or office, the subject observes that public framed from it by the window’s rectangle, looks out and understands prior to passing across the line it marks- the window is this possibility of permeability- into the public. Behind it, the individual is a knowing-that is, seeing, theorizing-subject. In front of it, on the street for instance the subject assumes public rights and responsibilities, appears, acts, intervenes, in the sphere it shares with other subjects” (132). Keenan says that “the public is in me (him), but it is all that is not me in me” (Keenan 133). Keenan is saying that ‘public’ is anywhere where we interact with the other. “The public is not the realm of the subject, but of others, of all that is other –and in- the subject itself” (Keenan 133). The public is thus “where we encounter what we are not”.
In Second Life the subject is entering a window through which he/she is setting up a second self (what he/she “is not”) that is then placed in the public realm where this self is interacting with the other. The subject on the other hand is in a position where he/she can assume privacy (as the subject is in the comfort of his/her own home gazing through the window at the ‘public’ realm that has been virtually created). The subject assumes a persona which then becomes the subject’s virtual self, in the sense that it is the self that others perceive the subject (with which ever name he/she is using) to be. The subject is then occupying two separate selves: one that assumes privacy and the other that assumes publicity. The problem is that the two selves overlap but are yet separate. This means that the subject can identify in his/her avatar the characteristics that he/she does not possess and therefore can identify the other in his/herself. This now poses a problem for the separation of private and public. The subject has brought the other into his/herself by virtually assuming the qualities of the other and contrasting them with the ‘true’ qualities of his/herself. The identification with the virtual self in second life completely blurs the line between public and private for the subject because they begin to identify the actions, physical qualities, and ideas expressed by their avatar as a reflection of themselves. This creates a space in which the privacy of the palpable actual body of the subject is mute.
One can then say that programs such as Second Life are a more visual understanding of Keenan’s idea of the public sphere. Keenan understand the public to be within him because the other is within him. In Second Life, the subject internalizes the other by creating the other virtually through the window of a browser and assuming it to be his/herself. In Second Life the window is a means through which the subject can see and identify with the other that is a different version of him/herself. The privacy of the subject (their actual true self) becomes a non-issue as he/she is identifying him/herself with the character he/she is assuming in Second Life. Therefore there is no private for the subject. The subject exists in the public because the other exists within the subject and the subject exists within the other that exists within a virtual window that is the window to the public sphere.

Interface In Guitar Hero

This assignment is about Guitar Hero, a popular music video game.

Assignment 2, Question 2
DJ Hero, Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, Band Hero, Elite Beat Agents—the video game market today is saturated with music games. One can hardly look at a month's release calendar without seeing a “Hero” game or Rock Band expansion ready for launch. This was not always the case though. The popularity of music games exploded in 2005 with the release of Guitar Hero (the first in a long line of Guitar Hero's). By analyzing Lev Manovich's chapter The Interface, one can see that much of Guitar Hero's success (and limitations) can be attributed to its [at the time] unique interface which eschews traditional video game notions of navigable space and instead focuses on using a plastic guitar peripheral to develop a convincing illusion of making real music.

When creating a video game interface, it is widely accepted that they should immerse the player rather than distract him. Guitar Hero plays on this notion heavily by centering its gameplay mechanics around rhythm and coordination instead of memorization of button combos and commands. This is achieved primarily through the aspect of Guitar Hero's interface that Lev Manovich would refer to as its “tool” (The Interface 66). The vast majority of Guitar Hero discs shipped with a plastic guitar shaped controller with five colored buttons, a strum bar, and a handful of other less important input devices. To play, users hold down the colored “frets” as matching colors scroll towards a target zone and then strum either up or down when the on screen notes reach the target. Players initially assumed that the interface for playing felt natural because the colors onscreen coincide with the colors on the peripheral. Ironically, though, a unique game mechanic reveals that this is not actually the case. What actually makes the interface logical to the players' brain is the arrangement of buttons (both on screen and on controller). That is, the notes are arranged horizontally, and the leftmost note seen by the player corresponds to the leftmost button, and so on. “Lefty flip” proves this to be true when it disorients players in “duel” sections by temporarily mirroring the onscreen note arrangement over a central vertical axis. The colors merely assist the players' brains in sorting notes because horizontal perspective only stops being warped briefly before the notes hit their targets. Collectively, the guitar peripheral can be said to be the single most important aspect of Guitar Hero's interface and the component that creates the game's “unique user experience” (Manovich 67).

However, Manovich iterates that “to change the interface even slightly is to change the work dramatically” (67). Guitar Hero serves as a powerful, albeit unfortunate testament to that statement. One will recall that “most” copies of the game shipped with the unique peripheral. For consumers who did not want to spend around $40 more than the standard retail price of a video game, they were given the option to buy the game on its own. As a result, it would have to be played with a traditional controller. This change renders both onscreen color and horizontal note arrangement irrelevant, as each note corresponds to a seemingly random shoulder or face button of the controller. This change in interface, in turn, forces Guitar Hero to become a tedious and confusing game of timing rather than an intuitive means of fulfilling players' “rock and roll fantasies.”

Manovich also discusses the process by which interface has become “culture encoded in digital form” (70). This has been true of the Guitar Hero franchise from its release. The game takes audio, which traditionally has been an afterthought to video games, and makes it significant, compelling, and interactive. The soundtrack, rather than being “background noise,” is what the players actually play with their guitar peripheral. The onscreen notes discussed earlier are arranged to make the player feel like he is producing the music a variety of popular songs. In this sense, music is a game, not just a distraction. It seems as if the player is playing the guitar solo in Freebird, or the bass in Killing in the Name Of. Upon further inspection, though, it is obvious that Guitar Hero's interface is adept at creating an illusion, not a simulation. The controller's five notes cannot possibly replicate a real guitar accurately, nor can the single, clicky digital strum bar replace strings. The illusion of the interface is pealed back when a player makes an error. If he fails to play the correct note at the correct time, an error sound is played (much like a string being awkwardly plucked by a baby). It becomes obvious that the player has no freedom in creating his own music, and instead is being led to correctly input a series of buttons to allow the in game track to continue to play. This is further illustrated by the fact that Guitar Hero lacks any “free play” mode to speak of. No where in the game can a player create a solo by just playing notes as he sees fit, because the “notes” are actually just buttons that the game tricks players into believing have musical value.

Ryan Sammartino

Assignment #2: Symphony of a Capture

In Philip Agre’s text “Surveillance and Capture,” Agre argues that a shift from surveillance technologies to a mode of capture based on tracking human activity has altered the ontological basis and representation of the subject. In Liz Canner’s project, Symphony of a City, the medium of representation used, video, would seem fall on the side of surveillance, as a mechanism that relies on visual metaphors rather than linguistic ones. However, perhaps this is precisely where pressure should be applied to Agre’s argument as one thinks through both projects and the questioning of representation and ontology, two areas that Agre sees as marking a fundamental shift in these mechanisms of control.
If human activity as a kind of language is fundamental to Agre’s argument concerning mechanisms of capture, then how can we (re)figure capture if the visual or rather, the image, is a unit of language? In what ways does Agre begin to privilege language, and furthermore not take into account something like filmic language? Can capture be both grammars of actions and modes of seeing and how can we see this functioning in Canner’s project? Although Agre is clearly making the move away from the privileging of the visual in mechanisms of power and control, how can both modes inform and complicate one another? What space is created in the interstices of surveillance and capture? Finally, in what ways can we think of Canner’s work as doing both and more broadly speaking as the medium of film and video as always performing a kind of capture?
In Liz Canner’s Symphony of a City, Canner’s project relies on a self-surveillance, where participants, whose lives are connected through public issues such as community building and the housing crisis, disclose their private lives and actions. The camera, which is attached to their heads, functions as a “see-what-they-see” experience, the eye of the camera and the eye of the subject collapse into a unified perception. What are interesting here are the correlations between Canner’s project and Agre’s model of capture. If, in the capture model, “a system can only track what it can capture, and it can only capture information that can be expressed within a grammar of action that has been imposed upon the activity,” then can we see the subjects in Canner’s cyberart documentary as also tracking their days through visual capture (750)? And through this system of capture, Agre further describes, these technologies track objects as stand-ins for people, such as GPS technology or barcodes, devices that are linked to and inscribed upon the individual. Symphony seems to make use of this element as well, the camera becoming a way of tracking activities outside of the individual, but which are nevertheless inscribed onto the subject.
Returning to Agre’s central claim that human activity functions as a kind of language in technologies of capture, this practice, he claims, formalizes the object of inquiry based on ontological categories, imposed through machinery and a grammar of action that guarantees their compliance. Agre writes,

“The resulting ‘technology’ of tracking is not a simple matter of machinery: it also includes the empirical project of analysis, the ontological project of articulation, and the social project of imposition” (749).

Although Agre notes that the information technology is not synonymous with the capture model, he also seems to be gesturing toward an argument that the capture model can specifically be seen as synonymous or emerging from information technology. However, if we look at the ontological articulation that Symphony makes through its existing practices, then we can see the mediation of computer-mediated tools versus a mediation of image-based tools as bearing some similarities. For example, if we reframe Canner’s project from one that attempts to explore the viewpoints and build bridges of understanding between diverse people affected by a single issue in different ways to a project that already assumes a position for each subject a priori, each subject position already inscribed with certain assumptions.
If this is the case, then maybe we can begin to see this text functioning like a sample, bringing together segments of space and rituals of exclusion, in order to individualize those who are excluded such as the experiences of the homeless man and landlord.
Systems of subjectivity in Canner’s project, if we keep our framing, can then be seen as a set of individuals who are structured around data accounted to them. Each of these subjects occupies a different position mediated by separations like class, gender, and race and privacy. Here, Agre sees another difference between the two modes of control:

“The surveillance model is concerned to mark off a ‘private’ region by means of territorial metaphors of ‘invasion’ and the like; the capture model portrays captured activities as being constructed in real-time from a set of institutionally standardized parts specified by the capture ontology” (756).

However, as mentioned previously, the ways in which the documentary articulate its subjects cannot be easily defined in a surveillance model or capture model and can moreover be seen as being constructed by both. Instead of merely (re)presenting, a reading of Canner’s project can be one that is not simply qualitative or quantifiable. While there remains a willing invasion of the camera into the lives of the documentary’s subject, the grammars of action that have been placed on the project through the subject positions that the project places them in, produces a type of reading where representation becomes one of data. If this tension leads to a rethinking of the capture model, then it would also provoke a possible rethinking of the mechanisms of video and visual capture, both in an artistic space and when used by the state and its actors. Agre ends by looking outward toward  “various counter-traditions of design and their associated counter-visions of human activity,” calling for a more critical look at design and its implications, perhaps pointing to the very tension between the two modes of control – the visual and the nonvisible (757).

 Monica Garcia

Assignment #2: In a Room Without Windows, We Are Not Alone

To Thomas Keenan, a window is a breach in the wall between the public and private spheres through which “light” and the “gaze” of the “other” enter. While light allows one to see and discern, forming a sense of self by differentiating oneself from what one is not, too much light is blinding and causes one to lose one’s position. Humans have a psychological need to have a visual connection to the world, but electronic orifices are increasingly replacing actual architectural windows. Television acts as a “window to the world”, but also “opens onto a false day,” no longer showing the actual outside world, but a representation. While the televised media can create a false image of the world and implant it into every home, this is nothing compared to the possibilities opened by the implementation of the CAVE. As Keenan states, the window “has been “shattered” by our ability to enter a “virtual place,” (130). Just as the “public” is not an external space, but rather something found in the subject, the question is no longer one of observation versus hyperreal representation, but one of representation versus illusory immersion.

“What if the opening of the aperture that allows sight were to become uncontrollable, the regulated light that makes
seeing possible were to overexpose the interior- which it opens- to the exterior against which it defines itself?” (124). As his title Windows: of vulnerability suggests, Keenan is directly concerned with the “violence” of light and the imposition of the other onto the subject. This is particularly apparent in his juxtaposition of the etymology of the word “vulnerable” with the definition of the word “Window”. “Vulnerable…from Latin…vulnus, wound…. Window… an opening in a wall or a side of a building… ‘The wounds that we quietly suffer to pierce our breasts, would open you Windows to our hearts,’” (125). In Keenan’s view, windows are literal holes in the armor one builds to create a sense of self. Furthermore, the distinction between public and private is somewhat misleading as, “the public is “in” me, but it is all that is not me in me, not reducible to or containable within “me”, all that tears me from myself, opens me to the ways I differ from myself and exposes me to that alterity in others,” (133). As Keenan states, “the “public sphere” cannot simply be a street or square… some other place out into which I go to “intervene” or “act”,” because it is something that each individual carries inside, (133). It is something other than human. It is the mirror against which one constantly checks oneself and reaffirms one’s existence.

When the light of the other becomes overwhelming, as in the case of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, this delicate balance of distinction begins to crumble, and the subject shifts under the gaze’s weight. “The more light, the less sight, and the less there is in the interior that allows “man” to find comfort and protection, to find a ground from which to look,” (127). Keenan himself admits that, “the subject’s variable status as public or private individual is defined by its position relative to the window,” (132). When one is behind the window, one is the observer, “seeing, theorizing”, but when one is in front of the window, “the subject assumes public rights and responsibilities,” (132). In the Panopticon, each prisoner is placed in front of a window behind which a guard may always be seated. The prisoner is never able to tell when the guards are watching, and as result assumes that they are always being watched. This creates a sense of “a gaze which… each individual, feeling it weigh on him, will end by interiorizing to the point of observing himself, each individual thus exercising this surveillance over, and against, himself,” (129). This paranoia causes the subject to internalize the oppressive gaze, in essence controlling his own behavior and becoming a model prisoner out of fear.

Keenan brings up various terms for television, such as “the window to the world”, and “the Third Window”. These phrases contain an inherent duality, as windows work in both directions. While television offers a view of sights impossible to see from one’s actual window, it also pushes the “other” into the privacy of one’s home. In the words of John Baldessari, “The world constructed by the media seems to be a valid surrogate for ‘real life’ whatever that is,” (130). Television light fulfills the human need for contact with the outside world without any promise of its objectivity. It instead offers a view that goes “beyond the perceptive horizon”, to “the placeless place of others,” (135). While Keenan conceives of this in political terms, citing Alexander Kluge’s conviction that television is “a power [able] to convince millions,” tying in the earlier discussion of the panopticon, the window’s ability to coerce and convince the subject forces a reevaluation of the private sphere, (132). In the words of psychologist William James, “Each of us literally chooses…. what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.” If a self exists independently, internalized violence entering through windows (eyes included) molds it. Alternatively, this could be its origin.

Brown University's Center for Advanced Scientific Computation and Visualization houses a new sort of opening into the private sphere. Aptly taking its name from Plato’s allegory, the CAVE immerses the subject in a 3-dimensional, interactive virtual environment. Anyone versed in the program can create a sensory simulation. 3D glasses provide a sense of depth and a magnet in the glasses’ frame updates the projectors for the various screens on the viewer’s position, allowing them to compensate for subtle shifts in the subject’s gaze. Directional sound further prefects the realism. However, the CAVE is not a window. By nature of it's design, unlike television which can be experienced with the same effect by a large group of people, this new portal is a single user experience- the projector's can only track one pair of glasses at a time. Rather than allowing the other/ the media’s hyperreal representation of the world into the private sphere of the home through the television window, the CAVE instead “transports” the user into the project of a single mind. The CAVE is intensely private in that it allows for no “true” light to enter- just projection. Unlike a window, it is not permeable in two directions. The operator of the CAVE remains at his computer terminal behind a black curtain. There is no “other” looking in at us. Instead of being presented with a view of the outside world (no matter how biased), or allowing the light that exerts violence into the space, we are shown another’s unique gaze from their perspective. Just as the cinematographer shows the audience what he sees through his lens, CAVE writing provides unmatched insight into how an author perceives the world. The CAVE is a one-way mirror into its artist’s imagination. It signals a new possibility for interpersonal relations, both of which rely heavily on projection. As Keenan writes, “In Public… this other light opens me not by freeing me, but by exposing me, to all that is different in and beyond me,” (136). While the "other" is not able to look back in at the CAVE user, the user automatically internalizes what he is being shown. Though this can provide for a more perfect experience of artistic intent, to another degree this blurs the line further between public and private, because it fully engages the subject- who can see nothing without being changed. In this sense the public really is something the subject carries with them, because even alone in the CAVE experience, it is something internally palpable. Keenan's views, exemplified by the example of the CAVE suggest that there is no true distinction between public and private, or self and other, it is only a matter of where one chooses to build the walls that provide a sense of comfort.


Error 404: File Not Found

The ambiguity of this message is what concerns me the most. Like the majority of commands and messages emitted by the computer, it leaves a cloudy sense of doubt, as well as a certain level of tension with the user. Viewing the Web as perishable is not something that comes naturally to anyone who is familiar with the internet, so Gitelman believes that the larger issue at stake is the evolution of a shared sense of sustained publication - one free from error or misunderstanding.

Publication, revision, and editing all pose a problem to the internet and its content. The lack of understanding and distinction between "The true and the false, the important and the trivial, the enduring and the ephemeral" is one of the internet's greatest challenges. Gitelman is most effective and bringing this to mind, and reminding us how error messages and the uses (and misuses) of the Web point to a shared assumption among users as the search for knowing and understanding continues to grow at such a rapid pace.

Assignment #2: Turning off the breach

In ”Windows: of Vulnerability,” Thomas Keenan asserts that windows function as “the more violent opening of the distinction between inside and outside, private and public, self and other” (124). He goes on to argue that the window is the “possibility of permeability” and is the “breach” of the dichotomy between the public and private. It would initially seem that Liz Canner’s project, Symphony of a City, blurs the public and the private and the other aforementioned binaries when she elects eight dynamic community members to wear video cameras on their heads and document their lives for twenty-four hours. Yet the inclusion of the off-switch on these devices seems to provide participants agency to circumvent these breaches. Interestingly, Keenan neglects to provide any provision for those with the power to literally and/or figuratively close the curtain on the public and make interiors private.

To begin with, Keenan’s main question that fuels his discussion is: what is at stake with the duality of a window that may “give light, or let the gaze pass through” (127)? In other words, Keenan explores the idea of the “light” as providing knowledge on a subject on the interior to the extreme of being “overexposed” (127); or on other hand, the gaze out of the window such as the ability to know and dominate. He asks, “But what would ‘too much’ light do, beyond the reassuring symmetries of self and other, human and transcendence, inside and outside? How might such light disturb these topologies? Where does the light come from, and what can we do about it?” (126-127). To apply these ideas to Canner’s piece, the questions might be transformed slightly to: Is the point of the Symphony of a City to see Boston differently or to illuminate the participants, the persons behind the window? And to what extent is one’s personhood compromised by watching Symphony of a City?

By looking out from the subject’s eyes, the spectator is never able to see the performer, save for the beginning of the day with brushing the teeth in the mirror (and really, any time spent in front of a mirror). This aperture depicts the participant’s experience on a certain day -- human interactions, personal activities, and navigations through various internal and external spaces within the city. Consequently, the spectator transforms, at least partially, to become the unseen actor. Thus, in a sense, the viewer becomes the ones speaking those words, making those actions, or navigating through various spaces within Boston. Canner manipulates this media form by destroying the boundary between the self and the other through this art piece. By the intentional exclusion of the actor’s appearance or mode of expression, viewers are rendered unable to illuminate the unseen and thereby are coerced into becoming the unseen themselves. Accordingly, this virtual window created by Canner confuses the “self” and the “other” via the erasure of the depiction of the central subject. Thus our personhood is compromised not by our thoughts but rather by “our” interactions and “our”(1*) navigations dictated by the unseen.

Keenan claims later on that “the erosion of the security of the private sphere figured by the opening of the window” (135) in which blurs the historically diametrically opposites: public and private. He writes, “The public is not a collection of private individuals experiencing their commonality, nor the view organized for and by the human of what might gather it together. The public is the experience, if we can call it that, of the interruption or the intrusion of all that is radically irreducible to the order of the individual human subject, the unavoidable entrance of alterity into the everyday life of the “one” who would be human” (133). In other words, the public is within a person, all that is not within that person and is always changing but also “defined by its resistance to being made present” (135). Symphony of a City does exemplify this theoretical concept as it creates and projects eight windows that radically irreducible experiences of the daily lives of eight subjects onto Boston City Hall. And although Keenan gestures at the complication of the inclusion of an off-switch or a curtain when he writes, “the subject’s variable status as public or private individual is defined by its position relative to this window,” (132) he does not provide an adequate discourse about those persons or those technologies that allow subjects to instantly privatize the once public (2*).

Finally, when Canner gave the presentation to the class she spoke about the difficulties and surprises that arose by the inclusion of the off-switch. First, the homeless man who always navigated through various public spaces rarely utilized the off-switch; whereas, Alan D. Solomon, the CEO of Solomont Bailis Ventures, navigated through various private spaces frequently utilized the off-switch to ensure certain interiors of his life were kept privatized. So when Keenan writes, “the public […] belongs to others, and to no one in particular” (133) the Symphony of a City project by Liz Canner clearly complicates this by those who uses the off-switch and how frequently (3*). Despite Keenan’s theoretical framework finely mapping out the breach between the self and the other in Canner’s work, Keenan does not provide an adequate discussion about those subjects who can utilize certain technologies to circumvent and subvert the public while keeping their own interiors private.

1. Here I am using “our” to refer to the breach of the viewer and the participant with the digital camera.
2. I just believe that Keenan should not only focus subject’s position to the window, but also his/her ability to control or inhibit the functions of the window (i.e. to light, and/or to let gaze pass through)
3. Remember that every participant is given the off-switch as an option on the physical device.

Assignment #2: Understanding [Virtual] Exchange Through Cybersex

After section in Second Life, I transported my avatar, JHow, accidentally into the seedy underworld of the erotic sections of Second Life. JHow instantly caught the attention of another avatar who after a short chat, realized that I was a ‘newbie’ and a cybersex virgin. I had yet to become a subject in the totality of Second Life; I had yet to surrender myself to the virtual/physical existence of JHow and me. Through cybersex in the erotic space of Second Life, one becomes a subject: an avatar that has managed to shorten the gap “between the virtual and the real” (Dibbell 16). Cybersex, an exchange, allows one to cognitively map the economy of Second Life.

For Dibbell a newbie (a term which stands in for user/Avatar), becomes a fully formed subject through cybersex: the “first taste of MUD sex is often also the first time he or she surrenders wholly to the quirky terms of MUD ontology” (17). What’s at stake in cybersex is “the suppression of distance” (Jameson 351). The newbie becomes cognizant of the interconnectedness of the mental space and the virtual space; sexual arousal and emotions in the physical world occur as result of a virtual sexual act. Cybersex becomes “the imaginary representation of the subject’s relationship to his or her real conditions of existence” with the real conditions being sexual and emotional arousal. The avatar begins to represent something that is not quite real but not quite virtual.

What is key to understanding how the formation of the cyber subject through cybersex leads to cognitive mapping of the space of Second Life is exchange. Dibbell draws on Foucault’s assessment of exchange through sexual acts when he suggests that “the body in question is not the physical one at all but its psychic double” (17); in all sexual acts, the body that is most acted upon is the mental image that one has of oneself. The exchange that occurs is not only that of bodily fluids but of emotions. Sex at its core is not about the corporal but about the mental and imagined. Because the body at stake in sex is not the physical but a mental concept of body, “sex is an exchange of signs” (17).

Exchange through cybersex most adequately is described as the exchange of social capital since there is no money involved (although an avatar can prostitute oneself for the exchange of Lindens, virtual dollars, which are purchased with U.S dollars). What one newbie gains through cybersex is becoming an avatar subject; one becomes a combination of the physical and digital. Cybersex causes the formation of a real/digital subject, the goal of the economic totality of Second Life. “What exactly is an avatar in Second Life?...An avatar is a digital persona...It’s you-only in 3-D” (“What”, Cybersex, an exchange, comes to represent the totality of Second Life, the creation of a [second] life through digital social exchange. Cybersex becomes a way to cognitively map the economic totality of Second Life.

What is typically inherent in Jameson’s assessment of cognitive mapping is that the need for a part to stand for the whole is caused by a “gap between the local positioning of the individual subject and the totality of class structures in which he or she is situated” (353). Because of this gap, the part allows the subject to imagine the totality. However, in the situation of the avatar grappling with the Second Life economic exchange through cybersex, the avatar embodies the exchange through cybersex. The avatar becomes a subject that is not quite physical and not quite virtual representing the purpose of Second Life, the creation of a [second] life. The distance between the subject and the reality of the totality is shortened because the avatar embodies the economic exchange.

Cybersex becomes the exchange that suppresses distance in two ways. The distance between the virtual avatar and physical self becomes shortened because cybersex involved real life emotions in the virtual. The distance between the subject and the totality is suppressed because the avatar embodies the economic and social reality of Second Life. The avatar fully becomes part of the totality of exchange, complicating Jameson’s concept that there is distance between the social reality and subject. The avatar becomes a part of the economic totality as much as it represents this totality.

Cave posting

The experience with Cave allows me to not only experience virtual reality but also interact with it. Even though the technology right now reveals the virtual world in a similar manner with 3D movies, we can imagine the future of virtual reality as one that involves the experience of five senses and that resembles the reality so much that we cannot differentiate between the two. Virtual reality can be applied in not only the entertainment field, but also other practical ways. For example, the traffic problem can be solved by stuffing people in a train like a can, while immersing them in the virtual reality that they are actually driving their limousines on the highway. The ultimate stage for the development of virtual reality might reach a level that allows people to live in the virtual world, while maintaining their physical functions through the help of robots in the physical world. This kind of envisioning raises the interesting philosophical question of whether virtual reality is ontologically parallel with the physical reality.

Sorry about the extremely late posting.

The idea of the cyborg conjoins the dichotamies between object/ subject, control/controlled, nature and culture, which are largely discussed in feminist theory and are also a product of capitalist society. haraway uses the metaphor of the cyborg to bridge the distances and repair these tensions. The cyborg is part man and part machine, just as she seems to argue, the feminist body is part organism and part machine, a body controlled, appropriated and even manufactured in present day society. "We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs" Her idea of cyborg also bridges an important fisure in feminist theory: between essentialist and naturalist camps.

I found Haraways discussion of coalition creating particularly interesting. She suggests that instead of using blinket termonolgy to express feminist sentiments and label groups, that perhaps "affinity" terminology such as "women of color" would be more effective in political discourse. alligning across specific groups creates an "oppositional consciousness" that is more in line with the hybridity of cyborg politcs. As a woman of color i agree that acknowleging nuances in affinity groups are important to express not only problems pertaining to women but the maryiad of experiences racial, socioeconomic that society's othering creates.

I also thought the piece was interesting to look at the oppression of political capitalist culture. which relates to kelly dobsons work with cybernetics and human body..... her machines respond and interact with humans and at an ideological level attempt to relieve feelings, and sensations, such as the scream body, which are repressed by society's norms. The machines that responds to human interaction seem also to symbolize an ideal which attempts to humanization capitalist culture and its machines. Perhaps in doing so it reclaims its agency .

S03. Cybernetic Samsara

Reading over Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, several recurrent themes made me reconsider the article’s primary focus, and see the cyborg for what it truly is: a liberation from archaic, alienating ideology. In a comparison to Frankenstein’s Monster, Haraway notes that the cyborg does not attempt to restore the “garden”, a reference both to the Garden of Eden and the Western idea of original sin. From the beginning man is set apart from other animals, in that he was given paradise and lost it. Eden is a hyperreal, in that it represents a space of perfection that can never be regained, creating the sense that nothing mankind achieves can ever match it. The creation of a cyborg: a new cybernetic, hybrid organism, is no longer the attempt to stitch together a new man from the pieces of the dead, but instead a move forward. It represents a leap from humanism to transhumanism. The Manifesto establishes that there is no need for man to stand apart from animals or machines, calling for a reevalutation of the traditional notions of identity. When one engages the interface of a computer: clicking through windows; files; etc. it seems there is a “life” present in the machine. Shutting off the screen and looking at the bare components however, we see only various circuits and drives. Similarly, upon dissection, a human body contains x-number of organs, but the component referred to as the “self”, that which makes this body “unique” is illusory. The cyborg offers the opportunity to upgrade the human interface. Note the way in which Haraway discusses gender, and her emphasis that the cyborg is genderless. Focusing less on the biological implications of the term, masculinity and femininity here refer to the assertion of control (man’s pursuit of dominance as a form of “misogyny”) and the focus on natural order, respectively. The cyborg is genderless in that it allows technology and nature to combine into a single entity. It represents freedom in that this avoids the “Star Wars” apocalypse scenario Haraway suggests our society is headed for (Note her use of the female body image). By surrendering this sense of self that has entrapped us; by blurring the line between men and women, humans and animals and machines, we create a possibility of life unplagued by such problematic distinctions. Note the parallels present between this reading and the Buddhist conception of the wheel of Samsara, the cycle of psychological causality that is the root of suffering. The first of the twelve links in the wheel is Ignorance, i.e. the ignorance that there is no self. The second is action based off of this misconception. Buddha’s ultimate realization was that the nature of the human condition is eternal suffering unless we stop the chain of causality. Rather than seeking to exert external change as a means to achieve “happiness”, the Cyborg Manifesto (like Eastern philosophy), turns the focus inward toward the removal of illusion- in this case, that we are anything more than a machine to begin with.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

S03 - Error

"Error 404 proliferates on the Web becaue the Web is constantly changing; pages are moved or deleted and links go out of date" (Gitelman 132).

I would like to address the question Anna posed in her lecture on Monday, which was how having one's websurfing interrupted is different than having a film's continuity ruined by a misplaced object. I was also interested in Gitelman's discussion of time and the present of the web. Gitelman writes about the fascinating fact that the editors of Thel F, in outlining the preferred citation format for the William Blake archive content, did not include the date of Blake's original printing, nor the date on which the links were established. What they did want included in the citation was the date on which the content was accessed. While MLA-style citation of websites should include the electronic publication date, I often feel that these dates are not as important as the access date. Moreover, since the publication dates are not always available, I remember often hearing my high school teachers tell us that we should at least have the access date. I never really thought much of this; I just assumed that having some kind of date was important. After reading the Gitelman, though, and thinking about access dates and 404 errors, I realize the importance of access date in citing a source that is constantly changing, constantly being updated and rearranged. The webpage you accessed to write your essay on May 12, 2004, may no longer exist in July 2010. The citation is in fact both a record and a warning: it is a record of the page's existence at that moment in time, and a warning that some six years have passed and most of us with a sense of the rate of change of the Web (Gitelman writes that the average life span of a Web page in 2006 is 100 days) won't be surprised if we come up with an Error 404.

I think that this awareness of this constant change actually causes quite a bit of anxiety. I remember working on the starring of a text assignment and thinking constantly about whether the content I was linking to would still be there a couple weeks later. I also checked my links obsessively, making sure that each one worked. I used screenshots and often hosted images on the blog itself rather than hyperlinking because I didn't want to lose them to the passage of time. I knew that someone clicking through my project wouldn't see the same search results on Twitter, YouTube, or Goggle unless I captured it at that exact moment in time. As I worked, I constantly thought ahead to the future.

Friday 11am, Matt G

The idea of technology acting as an information storing aid is very interesting. Using today's available technologies we can store written documents, movies, and music all within the confines of out desktop computer or zip drive. While some argue that computers are making actual mental memory superfluous, our current technology can only do a fraction (two fifths) of what our minds can do. Technology can store memory that is a product of two of the five senses, sight and sound. Today's computers have no access memory regarding taste, touch, or smell. For example, while I can film myself eating a slice of pizza, and store that video on my computer, the .mov file will not be able to communicate or remember all of the mental memories that I acquire from eating the pizza. The file will not contain the feeling of the hot cheese touching my tongue, nor the smell of sauce, nor the texture of the crust. Will it is unclear how many of these memories, if any, technology will be able to store in the future, under today's technological limitations- the mind is still a very important and unique bank of information.

Fri 11AM sections- Xplug and forgetting

This week, before the lecture by Kelly Dobson, Anna (and the readings) discussed the notion of remembering and forgetting: a question that has been brought up again and again in relation to new media. Interestingly enough, I also read an article for my French class discussing the same subject. Thus, it is clear that the phenomenon is widespread- there is no need to remember information anymore. Anna’s example of a USB drive, a flash drive simply the size of our thumb, being able to hold such vast information is important to the discussion of forgetting. If you put all of your important files on your flash drive, you don’t need to remember where they are stored on your computer or what you did with the hard copy. Furthermore, the Internet clearly helps us remember things and forget everything from small bits of trivial information to the biggest ideas in history (everything is basically on Wikipedia).
I want to discuss the XPlug and how it exemplified the idea of forgetting. Looking through the XPlay, I saw many things I have seen before in a wide variety of courses. This was a simple program that I could look through and draw information on film, history, art, poetry, war, and others. I had already learned many of the things covered by the program in school, but the program made me think about if I actually needed to remember them. I could simple stick that program on a flash drive and have the information in front of me almost momentarily. This made me think about modern learning as a whole. I won’t be in section tomorrow, but I think it would be interesting to discuss how new media changes or should change the way we learn. With information so available and accessible, is it necessary to learn vast amounts of facts? Or, is it simply enough to learn the best way to access information when you need it?

Modifications, Machines, and Music

What Anna said in lecture about how new media makes change and update somewhat compulsory really resonated with me. Whenever I open Firefox it asks me if I want to update to the newest version (which provides negligible advantages), and the same happens with iTunes and my iPod. I usually click “ask me later,” out of fear that if I say “don’t ask me again” I’ll find out that they were necessary updates, or the program won’t function properly now, or some other problem will arise. The worst by far, though, is the HP and Windows updates. My computer tells me it needs an update almost every other day, and I usually just say no. But then sometimes I’ll wake up a few days later and discover it installed them anyway! And of course since the computer had to restart in order to complete the installation, all the Internet tabs, documents, etc. that I had open were closed. It’s times like these that I think my computer has a mind of its own, or just likes to frustrate me.

So what is the deal with this frantic update schedule? Are there really so many problems and shortcomings with every current version of software that they need to be constantly modified? I think that it is partially playing on the boredom of this generation of American consumers. It’s the old story of really wanting something, and then once you have it you don’t want it anymore. You want the newer, better version that will inevitably be released soon. If people go too long without updating, they feel that they are “falling behind the times” or that they must be missing out on the “next big new thing.” Apple is a huge proliferator of this mindset. New iPods and computers are always being developed, so that even though you just got what seems to be the latest and greatest technologically advanced item, it feels old. If this whole culture of needing new-ness weren’t so prevalent, perhaps companies would work on making products better the first time around. But then people would probably just wonder why it was taking them so long to come out with a new version. Admittedly, this does relate to a large part of the market that most of these companies are targeting: youths and adolescents. Since they are always changing, growing, never feeling like they belong, and trying to better themselves, maybe the idea driving these modifications is something like “the technology grows and changes with you.” Maybe they are trying to make the technology seem human, or at least connect human experiences with the machines. Maybe these electronics companies aren’t as dumb as I thought (this is a joke).

Speaking of humans connecting with machines, Kelly Dobson’s work on communicating more intimately with machines intrigued me. All objects make vibrations that cause sounds at specific frequencies, even if humans can’t hear them. Music and sound is all around us, and I think trying to tap into that and understand it is really great, especially since machines have become such an integral part of human life. A really incredible application of her ideas would be to create some sort of piano or other instrument that could listen to a person playing music and respond with its own music that would fit in and complement the original. They would be improvisational duets and pieces. If you could teach the instrument (robot, machine, etc.) to recognize different musical cues, motifs, and theories and create its own companion piece to what it hears, we could move from the level of just trying to “talk” with machines to actually interacting with them at a level that has often been though of as deeply human- the desire and ability to make and enjoy music. It’s not ridiculous to feel a personal link to inanimate objects- what Dobson is doing with machines that comfort and have therapeutic uses is no different from how people hug stuffed animals to relax and distress (they are just more cuddly).

(Friday Section 11 AM)

Jordan - Weekly Blog

So this week I'm posting a section of assignment 2, along with questions gained while reading Agre since we had no section last week.

The notions of ontology in Manovitch and phenomenology in Agre suggest to me that it is the question of what space is in relation to what necessarily constitutes human existence that is at the root of this substantial shift in how, on a very fundamental level, it is that we are now connected to space beyond our physical bodies; and thus, relate to and navigate within space differently. It seems that although manovitch argues that the concept of prostranstvennaya sreda--an environment in which objects are embedded and the effect of these objects on each other--is missing from computer space in the sense of medium, he overlooks a much more incredible phenomenon that is transpiring in the 'real' world; in that, our computer systems, our information systems, our databases and websites are embedding human existence in space ontologically and epistemologically. In agre, I will interpret capture as the transformation of action into knowledge, and knowledge into space through the use of computers and algorithmic interpretation. It seems that these information technologies mediate a demand for a representation of the relationship between knowledge and space that arises from the continuous human questioning of existence; in turn, it is the interaction between knowledge and existence that demands, or possibly it only entertains the tantalizing idea, of control over the space in which we exist.

Questions from Agre:

How is the trajectory that we select as we navigate through space determined in part by the technology within the space, or not within the space?

Why do most people conceive of space only as physical space, would you agree with me that space unfolds within the mind? There is a mental space and I believe that deserves to be mapped somehow.

How do we change our behaviors for the benefit of the technologies that we use, own, and depend on?

Will increased forms of surveillance/capturing change individual behavior on a macro scale? What is the social impact?

How do we balance capturing, privacy, and transparency in order to improve the systems that we depend on?

Do we want to become space?

Specify a question in the comments that intrigues you, answer it if you want, or ask for a clarification or explanation. These blogs are very un-interactive.


Friday, 11AM

In this weeks lab session I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, and upon leaving the multimedia lab I wasn't entirely sure what had happened. I kept thinking about the different experiences I had with the medium (?) and kept thinking about Shelley Jackson Patchwork Girl, and various other ideas that we discussed: like history, and forgetting. And though I could go on and on about the luxury that new media gives us to forget, the importance of history, and the impositions it has on the education of future generations... these really aren't the things that spoke to me and subsequently they are not the things I'm going to talk about in this post. What did stand out to me were the sections of Photography and The Museum (for the record I do like the archival effect of the photograph and the museum, their perseverance to keep the past as intact as possible and specifically in the case of the photograph to capture the moment. To, in a way, keep time still.).
In the photography section of immemory, as in other sections, there were sections of speech; now I can't tell you what everything said, though I do remember stories about phis uncle and travels, but the only thing that wouldn't/won't leave me is a single line: "When one prays in a foreign cemetery one risks bringing home foreign souls." Of course, I didn't take it for the literal-though that would be interesting- but the idea that wherever you go or whatever you do, those experiences will always stay with you, they will become a part of you. I applied this to new media and the internet, no matter what site is visited, no matter how often, and even no matter how many times you clear your history, that site will always be there and there will always be a trace of you being there, even if its just in your memory. This brings me to my next topic: the museum.
There was a handprint, a single handprint with the words: "What does this mean? Halt? Hello? Or I was here one day?" This brought me to my same idea that you always leave a mark behind, a handprint, something... you always leave a trace of yourself, literally and metaphorically. I guess I'm still not entirely sure what I was exposed to in immemory, and I'm certain that even if I wanted to I couldn't discuss everything I gleaned from it or all the philosophical implications it imposes, but I can say that the experience left a handprint on my memory.

S03 Memory and Updating

"Everything happens all at once. But digital media are not just agents of postmodernism in such accounts, they are equally its expressions: 'What could not be mapped cognitively in the world of modernism now slowly brightens into the very circuits of the new transnational cybernetic' (701. This is particularly bleak view that underscores the present importance of questions like the ones framed here. Is the history of media--or indeed, the history of anything--possible amid the synchronous postmodern glare?" Gitelman 129

Is it possible to maintain track of history in a medium such as the internet when this medium is know for its temporality? While the internet has a vast amount of space, we continue to update it at an alarming rate. Spotted At Brown got about 3 pages of posts concerning BCA tickets the morning they were sold. This is from a school of 6,000 undergraduates. Now imagine how much information is actually making its way into the internet.

This was a topic that was very present in my mind at the beginning of the year. Is hypertext permanent or not? With Patchwork Girl I questioned whether not having something mapped out clearly in front of me allowed me to locate it. With no sense of its location, do we know if it exists? If history is being placed into the internet and constantly being updated, will we begin to lose what was initially there because we lose track of where it is? Like I had mentioned in that prior post, we are more likely to notice a room full of history books missing than if the information on the internet were to go missing. Perhaps I'm saying this because I am more of a user of the internet rather than a producer of what is to be found online. Perhaps if I produce it, I will be able to know if it goes missing.

11am friday

I was not particularly interested in the the immemory. I visited first the traveling section and that wasn’t so bad, it was interesting at first to see the photos from different places around the world. I kept clicking through the pictures and eventually got to the end without realizing any particularly interesting conclusions .Maybe I did not get it, but when I went to the cinema section I was at first intrigued because I figured that since I was interested in movies I would somehow make more sense of this section. The first two films I clicked on went fine but then I got to vertigo. I was particularly baffled that there would be a “slide,” if you will, as a precursor warning me that if I did not know enough about vertigo it wasn’t worth my time continuing. Since I wasn’t familiar with vertigo and at this point I was already a little bit confused by immemory, I acted on the message, maybe a little too literally, and stopped with my exploration of immemory.

11am friday

I was not particularly interested in the the immemory. I visited first the traveling section and that wasn’t so bad, it was interesting at first to see the photos from different places around the world. I kept clicking through the pictures and eventually got to the end without realizing any particularly interesting conclusions .Maybe I did not get it, but when I went to the cinema section I was at first intrigued because I figured that since I was interested in movies I would somehow make more sense of this section. The first two films I clicked on went fine but then I got to vertigo. I was particularly baffled that there would be a “slide,” if you will, as a precursor warning me that if I did not know enough about vertigo it wasn’t worth my time continuing. Since I wasn’t familiar with vertigo and at this point I was already a little bit confused by immemory, I acted on the message, maybe a little too literally, and stopped with my exploration of immemory.

Assignment 2, Question 4

What is at stake in calling for that which “does not exist,” that which has net yet achieved in cultural, political, or social forms a “representational” analogue? These are exactly the grounds on which postmodern Marxist theorist Fredrich Jameson treads in his paper “Cognitive Mapping.” Not only does Jameson exceed that which has previously been theorized, his theorization takes the form as a “description of a new aesthetic, or the call for it” (347). In such a move Jameson both questions and reinvigorates the relationship of art and its complicated position in an (postmodern)age of expanded capitalism to a socialist politic(s).
To describe this expanded notion of capitalism and the function of capital Jameson addresses the organization of space of which he states,

I have tried to suggest that the three historical stages of capital have each generated a type of space unique to it, even though these three stages of capitalist space are obviously far more profoundly interrelated than are the spaces of other modes of production. The three types of space I have in mind are all the result of discontinuous expansions or quantum leaps in the enlargement of capital, in the latter's penetration and colonization of hitherto uncommodified areas. (348).

The constant expansion of “capital” throughout local and global as well as political and social spaces results in a fundamental influence on how space might be experienced or represented. The first of these stages/spaces is that “of classical market capitalism in terms of a logic of the grid...a space of infinite equivalence” (349). From this early capitalist stage Jameson notes a transition into a stage of “monopoly capital, or what Lenin called the 'stage of imperialism'” where one finds “a growing contradiction between lived experience and structure” (349). Unlike the first stage of capitalism, which saw its spatial organization as “grid” or an organization through abstraction into equivalence, the second stage of “monopoly” capitalism or “imperialism” results in a space that is fractured, divided, and extremely complicated. This complication and fractured quality is the result of an increasingly global and interconnected/fragmented1 conditions of production.
The final stage, which may or may not be totally separate from Jameson's second stage, is that of “late capitalism” which corresponds to the space and cultural situation known as postmodernism. Jameson comments on the bizarre quality of this new (and current) space stating,

Briefly, I want to suggest that the new space involves the suppression of distance (in the sense of Benjamin's aura) and the relentless saturation of any remaining voids and empty places, to the point where the postmodern body--whether wandering through a postmodern hotel, locked into rock sound by means of headphones, or undergoing the multiple shocks and bombardments of the Vietnam War as Michael Herr conveys it to us--is now exposed to a perceptual barrage of immediacy from which all sheltering layers and intervening mediations have been removed. (351).

This space in which “distance” is increasingly “suppressed” adding to an increased sense of immediacy that takes the violent forms of “shocks and bombardments” interestingly in Jameson's view presents a social and political formation that prevents any conception of a totality. Totality is essential for Jameson, a strict Marxist, who would see a properly imagined social(-totality) as the means and space for a working socialist politics.
Interestingly, Jameson's solution as he suggest in the first lines of his paper is a “new aesthetic,” that of the “cognitive map.” The “cognitive map” is borrowed from Kevin Lynch's “spatial analysis” where Jameson envisions it as an aesthetic to expand “to the realm of social structure” (353). Here we can question the relationship between an aesthetics and a politics and analyze in what ways a particular media object, Mike Figgis' experimental video/film “Time Code,” offers an example of what the aesthetic of the “cognitive map” might look like. Prior to returning to the relationship of aesthetics and politics I would like to offer a brief reading of the form of “Time Code.” Figgis' film was shot using 4 separate video cameras that took one continuous 97 minute take. These takes included a variety of cast members that were a part of a complex and interrelated plot involving a Hollywood production studio and the paranoid situation in which we find its members. Each of the takes plays simultaneously in the film as the visual frame is divided into four equal and smaller frames. As situations unfold it generally becomes understood that the simultaneity at which one views the frame is also representative of the simultaneity of the situations and actions that each frame depicts suggesting a complete and unitary diegetic “time.” The soundtrack of the film sometimes consists of the sound of multiple or a single frame interestingly inviting the spectators focus while also never controlling it. As a result of this the spectator is left to view the film through their own choice, suggesting an agency previously denied by this medium.

While the content of the film is not nearly as experimental or critical as its form, the “paranoid” plot structure and characterization. (including a numerous set of characters who fetishize cocaine and sadistic a sadistic lover who spies on her partner) reflects the formal experimentation. Jameson speaks to the “omnipresence of the theme of paranoia” noting that “conspiracy, one is tempted to say, is the poor person's cognitive mapping in the postmodern age” (356). While the film does not map a “global social totality,” it does gesture towards the conspiracy or “poor” cognitive map with its intersubjective representation of multiple persons and situations as one totality. Here we see that the film is politicized with an example of the aesthetic of the cognitive map. As Benjamin suggested2 the goal is to politicize art, not to aestheticize politics which would lead not to a useful political conception of totality but rather totalitarianism.

1. Here we can read this "/" as "and yet."
2. I would like to return to Benjamin in order to suggest the relationship between an (socialist) aesthetics and (socialist) politics. Like Jameson's call on Benjamin's description of the suppression of distance, this notion also comes from Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility."

S0.3 Cyborgs' Escape from Ideology

"Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction" (Haraway 149). A cyborg is "a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality" (150). Althusser defines ideology in a similar fashion: "the imaginary representation of the subject's relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence" (Jameson 353). Just as ideology is an imaginary representation of one's social circumstances a cyborg is a fiction that discusses one's social reality. Does this mean that cyborg=ideology?

In a later paragraph, Haraway discusses that the cyborg was born out of a world of dichotomies, politics, social conditions etc. : "[cyborgs] are illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism" (151); cyborgs are born out of ideology(ies). However, cyborgs "are exceedingly unfaithful to their origins" because they embody all of the dichotomies of a world based on ideology; Cyborgs are both machine and organism, social reality and fiction, etc. It seems that Haraway is trying to make an argument that cyborgs escape/revolt against ideology because it embodies all opposites (based in a world of ideology). Yet, it was also born out of ideology and maps "our social and bodily reality"?

My general question is what is the relationship between cyborgs and Althusser's ideology? How is the embodiment of dichotomies a way to escape ideology? Can ideology even be escaped?

Keenan's Windows (Assignment 2)

In “Windows: Of Vulnerability,” Thomas Keenan examines the role of windows in society and in the face of new media. Windows (or at least the metaphor of windows) are found frequently in modern technology; pages on the Internet, TV screens, and webcams and global news streams all make use of the “window.” Keenan discusses the architectural functions and aesthetics of windows in order to relate the physical window to the figurative window. Windows are two-way ports that act as both boundaries and openings between different domains (such as public and private) while also being both viewpoints to the outside and gateways to the inside.

When thinking about windows, most people only consider them as apertures for looking outside. They forget about the important function of a window that is to let light in so that vision is even possible. This is one of the ways in which windows allow for communication between two parties. Information, or “light,” enters from one side and lets the other side “see” their partner’s (or opponent’s) point of view or message, then in return they can “illuminate” the opposite side. This idea of connection via the window is important as our society becomes less about face-to-face and more about screen-to-screen (examples being Skype, text-messaging, and AIM).

Keenan argues that one of the main functions of windows is “the more violent opening of the distinction between inside and outside, private and public, self and other” (124). Windows are the breaches between different spheres in society, like the "self" and the "other". By opening a window, you are putting yourself at risk by exposing what you understand to be the essential uniqueness of you to the outside, the different. But it is through this interaction with others that people reaffirm their humanity and who they are. Although the window “tears a hole in…the protective covering of the private person” (126), it is also how people come to see themselves in relation to others and better envision their place in the world (this is the driving force behind social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace).

The other two societal distinctions that are brought together because of windows are the public and the private. The traditional image of “public” is that which is outside, open, and shared amongst everyone, while “private” is inside, closed, secret, and hidden. Windows represent the “erosion of the security of the private sphere” (135). The “windows” presented by new media completely mix the two by making what were once personal knowledge and feelings available to basically anyone who looks for it. Very little information is sacred anymore due to the expansion of windows, both digital and actual, in our culture. These windows are both access points for viewing the outside and intrusions into the privacy of the home; they are “facilitating the arrival of the image and the other,” (130) or in other words, allowing the public to invade the private and the two to irrevocably mix. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The greater sharing of ideas and data relates to a more democratic system of exchange and could be indicative of a democratic shift in our society.

Keenan’s theory about windows and politics is that depending on your position relative to the window, you change from being a public subject to a private one. He says, “Behind [the window], in the privacy of the home or office…the individual is a knowing- that is, seeing, theorizing- subject. In front if it, the subject assumes public rights and responsibilities, appears, acts, intervenes in the sphere it shares with other subjects” (132). In Liz Canner’s “Symphony of a City,” one of the subjects that wears her camera is a prominent businessman and politician, Alan D. Solomontis. His experience with her project is much different than say, the homeless man’s experience. Solomontis is someone whose character and life are probably presented to the public in a very specific way, to create a certain image of him in the eyes of consumers and voters. He is used to the separation of private and public. The sudden opening of this window onto his world is a frightening thing, because now he is much more exposed to the public than he had ever been, even though he must be accustomed to being on display and addressing large groups of people. This project breaks down the barriers between Keenan’s behind the window/in front of the window dichotomy and destroys the “variable status as public or private individual” (132).

While “Symphony of a City” is ambitious in sharing the everyday lives of people with the public, the windows it provides are not as complete as Keenan’s windows of vulnerability. Since the camera shows basically what the person is looking at, certain aspects are lost. The viewer never sees the actual person (except maybe in a mirror) so the person’s appearance, facial expressions, body language, etc. aren’t factored into the picture of his/her daily life. These are important features that help illuminate other’s opinion of the “self” and supply a link into the person’s private thoughts. That is another thing missing, the interior of the person’s mind, which is something we can catch a glimpse of from his/her words but can’t really see like you could from blogs and social networking sites. The “exposure to the light” that Liz Canner intends for these people is really only the revelation of their sight.

To conclude, this painting by Rene Magritte sums up the questions of Keenan’s argument.

Is a window inside or outside? What boundaries does it break/create? Does what it shows reflect reality? Can we be sure?

Blog #7: Immemory [S03]

The entire concept of the “Immemory” program spoke to a close relationship between media and memory. Chris Marker constructs memories for his users/viewers – often his own memories but sometimes broader cultural memories –through a variety of aesthetics and media including photographs, digital imaging, cinema and text. What I found particularly interesting was the presence of this last medium, text, as a crucial part of constructing and contextualizing these other media memories.

There is a brief section in “Immemory” about the “madeleine,” an involuntary trigger of memory that seems to mostly involve the senses – a sight, a sound, a smell, etc., can all serve as these “madeleines.” What I found particularly interesting was that “Immemory” could not really find a way to fully commit to the madeleine – almost every memory it propounded required some sort of contextualization. As Walter Benjamin says in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” “Will not captions become the essential component of pictures?” I thought “Immemory” did an excellent job of presenting a wide array of provocative images, some of which did (for me) serve as madeleines [e.g. the “Vertigo” segment], but at the same time, the constant use of text to gloss and contextualize these media struck me as undermining the intriguing possibility of media as not only individual memories, but also as collective, cultural memories that are not necessarily specific to a particular individual. I left the lab on Tuesday wondering, what is it about the text, in any form, that allows it to present information in ways that other media seemingly cannot?

Friday 11 am Section

I was intrigued by Anna's guest lecture on Gitelman's essay and its unpacking. I was interested in his concept on history and how it "invokes the limited sense in which doing history means putting together narratives about events... based on interpreting the 'indexical survivals or inscriptions that form a fragmentary record of the past" (Pg. 129) This notion of how we perceive history is a very important concern because all of our culture and our past as a race depends on understanding it and avoiding negative repetitions.

I think that going through Chris Marker's Immemory was a good way of comparing how we learn history today vs a more hypertexual way. I found it frustrating because I could not understand that much of it. It was only when I came across a subject that I was well versed in (The European Art Section of 'Museum') that I was able to enjoy, learn and make speculations about. However, the only reason I was able to follow along with that section is because I had learned about it in my high school, in no way pertaining to new media, 'weird documents,' file organizers, etc.

Although I found Immemory to be confusing and frustrating, to some degree, I appreciated what Marker was trying to convey. He gave us, the user, all of himself through the digitalization of his memories. Although I had never met him before, I felt that we had a connection through the European artwork that did not exist with people I actually knew. When I went back to my dorm I tried to explain the Fransisco Franco image in correspondence to the Gurnica eye ball/light bulb and they could not understand it. It was amazing and refreshing to look at someone's memories and feel that connection through space and time. It made me think of an ancient Chinese concept called xien. Xien believes that all people want to find their soul mate, regardless of gender, race, etc and that through poetry, they can achieve that. Reading Marker's memories and poetry allowed me to make that connection and understand him in a way I would never be able to understand even some of my closest friends.

When I first started to write this blog I was going to rant and rave about how much I dissliked Immemory... but now, looking back on it, I find I really enjoyed it and would like the opportunity to delve deeper into Chris Marker's mind.