Monthly Archives: May 2008

Three Weekend Quickies

Two DKos diaries on

1) Myspace and the Law (Federal MySpace Indictment May Threaten Web “Anonymity”)

2) the social impact of blogging (Does blogging make a difference?)

And, this nifty little social networking/consumer power/green video, Carrotmob Makes It Rain (think flash mob, but with… carrots?). 

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

(Above link is for the long version, as WP won’t allow an embed.  Short YouTube version below.)

 
I dig it on the local commercial level, but I don’t know about helping GE become more energy efficient. They can afford to do it on their own…
 

Mozilla and the threat of proprietary media players

 

Mozilla warns of Flash and Silverlight ‘agenda’

By David Meyer ZDNet.co.uk, News.com 
Posted on ZDNet News: Apr 30, 2008 7:21:27 AM

Companies building websites should beware of proprietary rich-media technologies like Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight, the founder of Mozilla Europe has warned.

 

Speaking at the Internet World conference in London on Tuesday, Tristan Nitot claimed such applications threaten the open nature of the internet because the companies behind them could “have an agenda”. While he conceded that Flash was currently necessary for consistently displaying content such as video, he suggested that the upcoming revision of the HTML specification would make it unnecessary to use proprietary technology.

Flash is already used to display multimedia content on many websites. According to Nitot, the Adobe Flash Player is on 98 percent of all PCs in the world. Silverlight is a similar technology, launched by Microsoft last year.

Nitot was speaking on the subject of “the dangers of the proprietary web”. He described the nature of the web at the moment as open, but suggested that “proprietary solutions running on top of the web are trying to take over”. Referring specifically to Flash and Silverlight, he said that “people depend on the vendor to provide them with the runtime [browser plug-in that runs the code].”

“So far there has not been a problem,” Nitot said. “Both Adobe and Microsoft have been willing to give [Flash and Silverlight away] for free. But maybe they have an agenda. They’re not here for the glory; they’re here for the money.” Currently both Microsoft and Adobe make money from their respective web multimedia software by selling developer kits, but there are now a number of open-source projects for developing Flash and less mature, but still active, efforts to create open-source Silverlight development software.

Nitot gave two historical examples of Microsoft and Adobe withdrawing or withholding products from certain platforms: Microsoft’s discontinuation of Internet Explorer for Unix and Mac, and Adobe’s long-standing refusal to “provide a recent version of Flash for Linux users”. He suggested that web developers should be asking those companies whether they are “sure that Silverlight and Flash will always be available on all platforms [and] run decently on all platforms.”

“You’re producing content for your users and there’s someone in the middle deciding whether users should see your content,” Nitot said. “If Adobe or Microsoft decides to compete with you and you’re using their technology, you cannot compete.”

“If you consider proprietary technologies, think hard; are you really trading convenience in the short term with independence in the long term?” Nitot asked. He conceded that “if you want to have a commercially viable website, in most cases you need Flash,” but continued: “In HTML 5 there will be video and audio; you won’t need Flash for video and audio”. HTML 5 is currently a work in progress. Although the specification can be used in some cases now, it is not likely to reach completion until 2010 at the very earliest.

Talking to ZDNet.co.uk after his speech, Nitot said he had “nothing against Adobe”. “Flash… is a success, although I don’t think it is [compatible with] the open web,” he said. He added that Adobe should open source Flash and claimed that there was a possibility of this happening if Silverlight becomes a successful rival to it.

Nitot also claimed that Mozilla was “leading [open] web standards adoption” by gaining significant market share for its Firefox browser, thereby forcing competitors such as Microsoft to use web standards in their browsers.

ZDNet.co.uk approached Microsoft and Adobe for comment on Nitot’s speech but neither had responded at the time of writing. Continue reading

Virile-Reality: From Armageddon to Viagra

As you will no doubt see when my grand project is revealed, Armageddon and Viagra go hand in hand with viral video collage.  This article, however, turned out to be more about gendered digitality than apocalyptic fear. 

Quinby is quick to cut in the meme of internet Utopianism, anonymity of users and the optimistic empowerment supposedly inherent in the digital age.  In this sense, Quinby reminded me of Nakamura, especially with respects to Neoliberal notions of race and gender as related to the network (ie technology erases these problems.  Like Nakamura, Quinby argues that these problems are maintained by technology – and furthered by the surface assumption that these problems are erased.  Or:  “it is not the Internet per se that [Quinby is] criticizing but rather the ideological feature that currently pervades it” in 1999 (1082).  

Quinby outlines three power formations of technoculture: a patriarchal structure that utilizes seizure and punishment to control; one predicated on disciplinary control and surveillance compliance; “one that functions through virile-reality’s production of information, which, in keeping with millennialist impulse, tends to be legitimated through appeals to bio-perfection” (1083).  I’m interested in the latter two.  In my project I seek to create an multi-level environment of control (with a built-in disciplinary mechanism), as well as address these concepts through narrative.  As for the latter, I’m remixing the millennialism into a more abstract take on armageddon – fear – and attempting to dialogue with the viewer and participants/collaborators about the production of fact.

The Object of Post-Criticism

I’ve been fascinated with this article for awhile, but still battle to wrap my brain around it.  That’s the mark of quality, to me.  My interest lies in the combination of critical and creative that Ulmer urges.  This is especially pertinent to me, as I’m seeking a PhD in Creative Writing and this program seeks to meld the creative with the critical. My own thoughts are that these “fields” should be one and the same to produce fiction that is complex, original and resists homogenization.  And, as this essay comes from a book on collage, I find it useful to explore it wrt my project for this course.  

One of the merits to Ulmer’s argument is his citation questioning why we use pre-modern rhetorical structures to assess modern (and postmodern) objects.  He follows the argument I’ve previously elaborated upon by placing “post-criticism” as collage – a self-aware fabric of citation that “does not reproduce the real, but constructs an object” (386).  Like Duchamp (or Warhol or Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning), changing the context disrupts the order and provides opportunity for resistance.  As I’m using television as part of my collage, I also note the discussion of television as a “collage machine… producing simulacra of the life-world” and how it (television) enacts the “task of post-criticism”, which is to “think of the consequences for critical representation of the new mechanical means of reproduction’ (385, 392).  

Ulmer then wades into semiotics and Derrida, which where I really begin to get lost.  What I can gloss from this is that he sees Derrida as having two approaches to the productive means of written post-criticism.  Graft incorporates citations/examples in place of commentary or explanation, while mime mimics (shocker!) its subject in form.  I believe that I’m seeking to use this model for my project.

What Comes After Remix?

I’ve been wanting to read Lev Manovich since I had the pleasure of publishing (and interviewing) UWM MFA student A. Bill Miller.  He does some interesting (provoking, pretty) gridworks and 3D video/sculpture that have a lot to do with digitality, language and – ta da! – transcoding.  Check it out (and buy the new cream city review when it comes out in a week…)</endplug>.

Manovich’s Remix, however, turned out to be more of a brief history of the digital remix and its origins in mostly music, with a bit of film/photo thrown in.  If anything, this lineage confirmed my eliding of collage with mash-up video.  

If I were forced to guess – which I’m not, but I will – I’d assume that this was a keynote that he delivered.  There is brief mention of issues of copyright wrt the production of remix from published materials.  The most interesting aspect comes from the contrast between contemporary digital remix and its predecessors.  One of these elements is what Barthes (this time through LM) refers to as “clash” in modernist aesthetic collage, whereas digital music remix has the opportunity for “blend”.  The other is producers of digital remix art now understand that their work is likely to be sampled and remixed itself.  

I’m not sure if I believe in the binaristic “clash” v. “blend” debate.  I think that remix art can work on multiple levels; in my project, I’m looking for clash in delivery method and content (audio/visual, moving/static, fiction/nonfiction), but I’m also looking to blend these elements together, in the sense that I want the contrast to be nuanced and problematize expectations in a subversive, sneaky manner. 

The self-awareness to future remixing seems directed more at music (as much of the article is), but I wonder what the implication might be for writing.  I think looking to this format – the blog – might be germane.  I know that I can easily link and pull quotes form various source and compile them into a post.  (Or write a critical paper. Or review five articles and quote them.) Fiction, though is another story, potentially.  Perhaps the closest analogies I can think of involve appropriating characters from other writers or citing other fictions (fictitious fictions or not) in works of fiction.  I’m thinking of Borges here. 

Recombinant Theatre and Digital Resistance

I don’t remember what search criteria found this on JSTOR, but it was the right combination.  By far, my favorite article of the group (still waiting on that message board-to-scriptwriter article…), as it has a unique understanding of digitality, allowing that concept to be extrapolated into a rich and pertinent (for me) discussion of collaboration, performance spaces and interactivity in the production of art.  

To start with, I find it highly appropriate that the article is written by Critical Art Ensemble, a collective author.  No where are the groups constituents listed.  They begin with a brief course through capitalist-influenced modes of production, from the analog (easily-controllable, due to its limited access, difficultly in reproduction, and top-down power structure) to the digital (Fordism, Taylorism, Mass Media).  Thus, CAE isn’t out to simply laud the digital for being more easily reproduced and disseminated; rather, they see the potential for resistance within the “process of copying – a process that offers dominant culture minimal material for recuperation by recycling the same images, actions, and sounds into radical discourse” (152).  To me, this is a powerful and useful definition of digital, practical for resistance through the (re)production of art.  Another aspect of their definition of digital is that, in the digital, “order comes from order” (153).  This is opposed to the analogic model of order-from-chaos (think Enlightenment models of science and [probably] Classical models of metaphysics).  I don’t claim to fully rap my head around “order from order” – to me, once potential understanding is that “things” (art in this case) can be formed from pre-existing “things” rather than from raw materials.  Granted, this works conveniently with my project of remix/collage.  

One of the implications of the article (and supported by my understanding of their definition) involves concepts of authorship and the line between author and audience.  That digitality does not rely on the assemblage of order from chaos means, to an extent, that digital theatre does not rely on a single creator.  Having read some Barthes and Foucault on the Authorship recently, it may be that I’m simply hot on this topic.  CAE’s discussion of Duchamp (the “avatar of digital aesthetics”) as appropriating objects and placing them in a new context, however, supports my interests, I think (155).  He didn’t make the urinal, but he did place it into a new space to create a conversation.  

Similarly, CAE moves theatre from the stage and into the streets.  They avoid a simple exchange of venue by decentralizing authorship.  For instance, in Sheffield, UK, CAE “performed” a work titled The International Campaign for Free Alcohol and Tobacco for the Unemployed, in which they displayed signs and gave away free beer and cigarettes in a public space outside a public transportation center.  Without a script or plan of action, the theory of this performance was to re-appropriate a public space as public, encouraging folks to mill about drinking and smoking and to “reveal some of the hidden structures of domination in everyday life” (159).  They did observe women tended to remain at the boundary of the assembled crowd, to observe rather than act.  But, this method can fail in this respect, too.  It is one thing for CAE to note the structures – but another to use the performance as pedagogy.  Also, the problem of bridging the local with the global is evident in ICFATU.  Failure (or lack of unity, in some instances), though, is a necessary consequence of the departure from the Author.  

Lessig at Netroots Nation

Per Netroots Nation at Daily Kos:

Lawrence Lessig to Deliver Netroots Nation Keynote

Great news! Netroots Nation is proud to announce Lawrence Lessig as 
one of our keynote speakers for this year’s conference.

Professor Lessig, who has been called one of the “leading minds in 
tech” and open-source democracy by the American Prospect, is the 
founder of Creative Commons, and spent years working to make sure that 
as the rules of the Internet got written, they were written in a way 
that put power in the hands of regular people. He advanced his ideas 
through numerous books, articles and blog posts. Respected worldwide, 
he is one of the true luminaries of the Internet.

Lessig’s work knows no labels. In 2007, he successfully worked with 
numerous members of the progressive Netroots, right-of-center blogs 
like RedState and others to get CNN, NBC and ABC to liberate their 
presidential debate videos so that anyone could post clips on YouTube 
legally.

And last year, Lessig announced that his future work would take a new 
direction: using technology to empower citizens against government 
corruption.

We knew we had to get Professor Lessig to come to Netroots Nation. So we did.

We are thrilled that Professor Lessig will give a keynote presentation 
to the Netroots Nation convention about his his non-partisan reform 
initiative to fight corruption. We couldn’t be more excited to have 
such a true technology pioneer join us to address one of the 
prevailing political issues of our time.

The conference is July 17-20 in Austin, TX. So if you haven’t 
registered, now’s the time!

See you in Austin!

 

Sculpting in Time and Space: Interactive Work

Sculpting Time and Space is a self-review of the interactive video installations of artist Nina Sobell and her collaborations with Emily Hartzell.  The particularly intriguing elements of this article were the elements of video, interactivity, performance and collaboration – all aspects I consider constitutive of my project. Questions of access, surveillance and participation are present here, too, and those interest me, as well.  

Sobell’s work began in 1971 and, while this article was published in 2001, much of the work takes place in the 1970s and the 1990s.  Thus, some of the specific methods Sobell (and Hartzell, but I’ll only mention Hartzell when the work is one of their collaborations) uses to achieve her desired (and what I read as potential) outcomes are outmoded in contemporary context.  Her work from the 1970’s is more about interactivity than interactive.  The Disintegration of Objects within a Sequential Time Period, for instance, was a video recording of people playing on Sobell’s physical sculptures.  These videos, documenting the break down of the objects as they were used and explored by people in a “public” space (a campus), were played sequentially in a gallery, to which she invited those who she anonymously taped to visit the installation.  A “couch” made of pieces of the disintegrated sculptures was placed in the middle to be sat upon.  This work complicates my notion of “interactivity” in the sense that the totality of the installation is more of a representation of interactivity than interactive.  That is not to say that I don’t appreciate the work; rather, I think that the interface limits the degree of interactivity. (I want to be clear that I am unsure to what extent “full” interactivity is possible, given that I do not have a settled definition of the term.)  In this case, the limitation is found in the use of video technology to record people interacting with physical objects (more interactive than video-viewing) – this video becomes a record of the moment of interaction, rather than being itself interactive.  The video projection is of interactivity, not interactive.  The viewers in the gallery is more flâneur than participant, thought their relationship to themselves in the video is slightly more complex than a binary of active/passive, as they are both viewer and object.  This is not to dismiss this work as simple or a failure in any way.  Sobell, at the very least, accomplishes something similar to Duchamp, in that she recontextualizes the video in a “fine-art” setting of the gallery and thus raises questions about interactivity, as well as the degree to which public spaces and fine-art spaces are opened/closed.  [More about Duchamp later, whether I want there to be or not…]

Sobell’s other work from this period begins to explore a more interactive arrangement, through the layering of the product of two brain wave patterns as Lissajous figures over live video of the two subjects hooked up to electrodes (Interactive Brainwave Drawing: EEG Telemetry Environment, 1975) and by placing herself behind a transparent partition with a phone, obstructing her gaze, and forcing the use of CC TV for the participant on the other end of the phone to use a split screen monitor to make eye contact with her, while viewers could privately watch from another, hidden spot inside the gallery (Videophone Voyeur, 1977).  The former addresses a collaborative feedback loop of expressive visual imagery that is both eminently controllable (the face) and mostly uncontrollable (brainwaves), in that viewing themselves on the monitor changes a portion of their output.  The latter force-mediates interpersonal interaction through video and audio interfaces; while this shows the boundaries of these technologies, it also allows for participation in the creation of an “artwork”.  Videophone Voyeur, though, maintains the control of the author, in the sense that Sobell creates the environment and means of communication.  The audience can participate within this framework, but does not create this framework.  During the installation (or perhaps performance art is a better term for this as its more active than an installation, to me) in Manchester, one participant asked to take Sobell’s seat, which moved her to the rear of the studio – a more interactive and more “digital” (the latter according to Critical Art Ensemble) form of performance.  

The other project I found particularly germane was Sobell/Hartzell’s work, VirtuAlice, a motorized cart with a telerobotic webcam attached.  Internet participants could view Alice’s field of vision and click the direction they wished the cart to explore.  The drive saw the directions on a monitor.  Each made eye contact through a rear view mirror.  Visitors to the gallery could also remotely control the camera to suggest the next direction.  This is the most collaborative effort mentioned in the article: remote viewers on the internet, remote viewers in a different part of the gallery and a driver all contribute to Alice’s motion (and memory; it’s recorded).  The limits here are that of the physical network (how fast data can be transmitted and decoded, viewed and retransmitted) and the willingness of the driver to obey the wishes of the remote directors. 

Next, I will transit from video installation/performance art to theatre, which is allowable, since it’s collaborative theatre and Nina Sobell says ArTisTheatre.

Sculpting a Digital Remix of Armageddon Object(s): Five Articles

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure where I’d find articles that were of both interest and applicable to my project. The interesting qualification would clearly be the easier to meet; but, how many articles on digital video collage* with a narrative overly and a mediated collaboration can there be? Well, through the UWM Libraries Meta-search, the answer is between 0 and 1.

So, I went more abstract for my criteria and picked up an article I’ve been wanting to revisit. The original string of terms morphed into performance and public space, masculinity and apocalyptic imagery, interactive video installations, remix and collage – all with a patina of digitality.

In no specific order:

Critical Art Ensemble, “Recombinant Theatre and Digital Resistance”. TDR, Vol. 44 No. 4 (Winter, 2000), pp. 151-166. MIT Press.

Hartzell, Emily, and Nina Sobell, “Sculpting in Time and Space: Interactive Work”.  Leonardo, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2001), pp. 101-107. MIT Press

Ulmer, Gregory L., “The Object of Post-Criticism”. Collage: Critical Views. Katherine Hoffman, ed. pp. 383-412.  Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989.  

Manovich, Lev, “What Comes After Remix?” <http://www.manovich.net/DOCS/remix_2007_2.doc> Accessed April 28, 2008.  

Quinby, Lee. “Virile-Reality: From Armageddon to Viagra”. Signs, Vol. 24, No. 4, Institutions, Regulations, and Social Control (Summer, 1999), pp. 1079-1087. Univ of Chicago Press.  

More a bit later… 

Edit:  I almost forgot that I’m waiting on an ILLiad request for a potentially awesome article about fan message boards influencing television writers and how audience feedback is looped into the creation of new content in a serial story. It focuses on TelevisionWithoutPity.com  – yay!