Remixing

Week 12 Response

“RIP: Remix Manifesto” is an open sourc documentary by another Canadian filmmaker Brett Gaylor all about copyright in the digital age. The movie documents various recording artists who use copyrighted songs in their own music pieces.

http://films.nfb.ca/rip-a-remix-manifesto/?cat=13

Like “Tracey: Re-fragmented,” the director also decided to allow users by participating at the above website. Users are encouraged to take the raw materials of the film under a creative licensing agreement and create a remix of their own.  The image below states the four points of “A Remixer’s Manifesto” that essentially outline the films main messages. Firstly, “Culture always builds on the past” comments on the way new works recycle and reuse old materials whether just in concept or in actuality. Both ways, ideas of the past are implemented into the work, making it part of a historical process of cultural evolution. Secondly, “The past always tries to control the future” relates to how protective past artists are of their works, attempting to copyright their materials so new artists have to pay to use them as they are and are unable to modify them. This limits the creative abilities of future generations when the ideas of past artists are built up on older cultures of the past, bringing us to the third point “Our future is becoming less free.” If it weren’t for the free sharing of ideas, it would be impossible for the past artists to have created their pieces as well. Thus, it seems hypocritical for them to limit future artists from doing what they did themselves. Thus, as the fourth and final point of the manifesto instructs, “To build free societies you must limit the control of the past.” In order to allow remix artists to create new content along with many other individuals, we must work towards actively limiting the abilities of past artists to control their pieces. The public domain law is a step in the right direction as it states that any work whose author has been dead for 75 years or longer (only 50 years in the United States) enters into the public domain as a work that can be freely incorporated and modified into new projects.

Like the remix artists in the documentary, I too am constantly using open-source materials in nearly every project I make. Without copyright-free footage, it would be extremely time consuming to create my pieces. I also do not have the knowledge and the expertise in certain fields to create a professional production without the help of open-source content. Fortunately, the amount of people who continue to share their work online has made it easier and easier for new artists to create professional works of their own. These artists in turn share their content with others to continue the cycle. Below you can watch a clip from the film itself and add your thoughts to the comments below!

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Fragmenting

Week 11 Response

This week we watched a Canadian film entitled “The Tracey Fragments.”  This time, I was slightly familiar with the style, as the popular television series “24” has used the split screen technique for years. However, “The Tracey Fragments” combines the split screen technique with other digital styles to create a unique kind of story that I found incredibly enticing and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Some clips are repeated, some are layered on top of each other. The changing style of screens during the film keeps the style fresh. Otherwise, like in “24” it is easy to feel dizzy and get tired of the multiple screens. At times, it also felt like I was being overloaded with too much information too quickly for me to see everything. Thus, the film also encourages viewers to watch it multiple times, as well as actively keep their eyes moving around the television while watching.

Watching the film from so many fragmented perspectives made me feel as though I was Tracey in a way and gave me a deep bond with the main character. Screens correspond nicely to the audio and are edited in sync with the beat of the sounds. THe various angles give the audience a nearly 360 perspective of Tracey’s environment. They perceive what Tracey the main character perceives throughout the film, bringing them into it in a more interactive way. Self-reflexive. However, this style also draws attention to the medium. Watching the split screens makes viewers aware of the camera and its location on the set. It also makes them aware of the various kinds of shots and angles there can be in a film.

Another unique aspect of “The Tracey Fragments” is its online counterpart: “Tracey: Refragmented” where anyone can download the raw footage of the film as well as the soundtrack and script in order to re-edit the film to their liking, creating a whole new meaning. The website was set up in order to experiment with content licensing by asking users to compete with their submissions for a Tracey and Final Cut prize package. In the digital era, corporations will lose power to the masses as they are able to collaborate and make high quality productions as well as distribute them online. It might be a neat experiment to create a website that has users upload footage, audio, voice overs, images, and animations for upcoming filmmakers to use to experiment with. (Note to self: patent that idea…)

Dreaming

Week 10 Response

Angela Joose, Guest Lecturer

Angela Joosse, a guest lecturer from the Image Arts program spoke to our class today about digital experimental cinema and installation art. She showed us a few of her recent projects, but one of them really caught my attention. The piece was part of the Leona Drive Project in Oct. 2009 in Willowdale, which is just two blocks away from my house! Since the neighborhood is in transition where small houses are being converted into townhouses and condos, the art project took over five bungalows for ten days and put various art installations inside. The piece that caught my eye entitled “Dear Ruth” by Angela Joose was one of the installations located inside the kitchen space of 9 Leona Drive. There was a video projection on the oven door. The cabinets were filled with hanging objects and images people were encouraged to take and examine. In the sink there was a video projection of people cooking Ruth’s old recipe’s. Interestingly enough, all the objects used in the exhibit were those found in the basement of the house belonging to the former owner Ruth. Her installation encouraged the viewers to reinact what Ruth would have done in her kitchen when she lived there, something I thought was a very clever idea. For example, since there were things inside the drawers, people would open the drawers and take things out then put them back just as Ruth once did in that very house. This project is a good demonstration of how digital technologies can be used to enhance art projects and installations.

"Dear Ruth" Installation for The Leona Drive Project

Personally, this is a topic close to my heart as throughout my three years in the Radio and Television Arts program, my focus has been in digital media. I have created a few installation art pieces of my own, and am in the midst of completing another one for my Independent Production class. It is very fun from the artist’s perspective to influence people’s actions based on your piece of work. For example, my digital installation features a large canvas with a map of the world painted onto it, where as people walk by it, music that is representational of the country or region will play as they go by. Have a watch to see what happens and then feel free to comment with your thoughts!

Crossing Over

Week 9 Response

This week we were assigned to watch Waking Life by Richard Linklater. After Richard Linklater shot a live action film, 30 different animators used a technique called rotoscoping to remake the film with their own individual styles. Rotoscoping is when you take an image and colour over it to turn it into an animation. The main character Wiley Wiggins has a lucid dream he can sometimes control and sometimes not that explores various philosophical issues such as: existentialism, Buddhism, Taoism, quantum mechanics, creationism, free will, and Situationism. Rotoscoping was an appropriate medium of choice for this film as it gives it a flowing, surreal, and dreamlike quality to enable the audience to share in Wiley’s dreaming experience.

One of the scenes in “Waking Life” that was most striking to me was the scene where the man fills up a tank of gas at a gas station and then walks to the corner of the street where he lights himself on fire and says “let my own lack of a voice be heard”. The people in the streets just watch as his body turns to ash and blows away in the wind – they are not phased by the violence. After doing some research, I found out that this scene is a metaphor about how the media paints a sad face on catastrophes, turning us into puppets of spectacle. The media uses images of death and destruction to turn us into passive observers who are ready to consume the latest “news” in a heartbeat: the more violent the more entertaining. I personally was  jolted at first when he lit himself on fire… although it only lasted for a few moments and I easily returned to enjoying the movie.  Most individuals would not even find this scene disturbing, since it is only an animation. However if it were live-action it may be more shocking to watch. This demonstrates how digital technology is even further pacifying our feelings towards tragedies and violence.

The visual style throughout the film is appealing and keeps the audience focused on the movie, easily capturing their attention. It also makes you feel like you are in a dream with Wiley, the lead character, as the images disorient and change as he sees them. The interviewees were animated to reflect Wiley’s real life perception/experience listening to them. We can feel what he was feeling where his focus is with the help of digital technologies. For example the man with hand gestures all you can focus on are his hands. New digital technologies allow for more experimentation and expression through creativity, like the various styles employed throughout the film.

Refashioning

Week 7 Response

This week we had to watch “Wall-E,” an animated Disney film by Andrew Stanton. One of the first things I noticed while watching this film was how realistic the animation looked and how it enhanced my believability of the narrative. The realistic animation, mock camera and film style of shooting and editing, as well as integrated real life images in the form of online “screens” made me feel like I was watching a live-action film as opposed to an animation.

By making the film hyperrealistic to the point where the animations resemble live-action footage, Stanton demonstrates Jean Baudrillard’s fourth phase of the image: “Image bears no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.” Likewise, Wall-E is a simulation of live-action films and almost does it better than the real thing, looking incredibly high detailed and defined.. While watching the film in high definition, I often felt as though “Wall-E” was even more real than me! It’s crazy to think that I could be fooled even for an instant, however in the present age dominated by simulations, reality is often replaced by hyperreal experiences using new digital technology.

Another thing that stood out in the movie was the use of visual language to help the audience understand the movie without much actual speech. Due to the images and sounds that describe most of the actions in the film, words are unnecessary, making the film understandable by a broader range of ages as well as nationalities. For example, the main character Wall-E does not speak English like the other humans in the film. The only sounds he makes are robotic hums and vibrations that contain the tones of language. Wall-E’s way of speaking demonstrates how language is not required for communication in the digital age. Now, people are able to convey meaning through digital images and sounds. For instance, at the beginning of the movie, posters are used to explain the plot “Wall-E — Working To Dig You Out.” Likewise, a newspaper article explains the background “Earth Covered in Garbage”, and a short movie explains where all the people went (to space on a cruise). These various mediums within the digital medium itself present a history of the phases of  image that Jean Baudrillard described, reinforcing his message about simulations.

Furthermore, hyperrealism is dependent on the available media technologies for perspective, photography, CGI, etc. Lev Manovich says that CGI has two goals: 1) to simulate the codes of traditional cinematography and 2) to simulate the perceptual properties of real life objects and environments. “Wall-E” successfully employs CGI to both of these effects. The animators made the film have the illusion of being shot using a mobile camera. There are crane shots, pans, zooms, close-ups, fade ins and outs between shots, different focal lengths in lenses, different foreground and background lighting effects – all features that would be commonplace in feature films but not typical in animations, especially done by Disney. It seems almost impossible to include “Wall-E” in the same category (Animation) as “The Little Mermaid” as the styles of the film are so different. “Wall-E” would arguably be more suited to go in the same category of a live-action film. Furthermore, as you can see in the images above, the objects and environment of the film are also simulations of reality. Being a digital media student and someone who has dappled in a couple animation courses, the work put into a piece like this is enormous and making it look so real is not easy even with the assistance of new digital technologies.

Screening

Week 6 Response

For class this week we were told to view Mark America’s “FILM TEXT.” Like “Twelve Blue” I was not anticipating the kind of piece I encountered, a very abstract narrative online that used new digital technologies to engage me in more entertaining ways that made me feel right in the story. The experimental “FILMTEXT” combined images, sounds, language, and code to create an interactive digital narrative experience for the reader. This piece offers insight into new ways of distributing, exhibiting, and producing art in the digital age.

Screenshot from Mark Amerika's "FILMTEXT"

Another form of art similar to Mark America’s piece is called the “ARG” also known as Alternate Reality Games. These games take place in real life but integrate audio, images, mobile phones, the Internet and various other digital technologies to help solve a scenario such as a kidnapping or a government conspiracy. Often times, ARG’s are used to promote products like “The Dark Knight” which was played all around the world in promotion of the latest Batman film.

Last semester, some friends and I were asked by one of our teachers to create an ARG for a women’s conference that would be coming to our University to learn about new digital technologies. We were to create an ARG that demonstrated various kinds of digital tools such as mobile applications and new computer software. We began by creating a story, a plot, that would start the game and engage the women in a role-playing adventure. We did not want it to be too cheesy or kiddish or we knew they would not get as into it. Fortunately, our kidnapping plot worked out perfectly and got the women very excited to play. They followed various clues founds on laptop computers, cell phones, QR codes, and other digital technologies to save the hostage and destroy the evil villain’s master plan. The abilities that the digital age provided us to create this ARG using audio and video certainly enhanced the role of the narrative, engaging the audience and forcing them to step in and take control of the story. As a player in the story you become the main character and your role becomes crucial to the overall success of the story. This form of narrative makes audiences stay deeply involved and invested in the story and makes them want to continue consuming it for as long as it goes on.

(Un)Weaving

Week 5 Response

Before going to class this week I looked up the website featuring “Twelve Blue” by Michael Joyce. The first thing I noticed was the subtitle which read: Story in 8 bars. I did not know what I was supposed to do at first. I noticed the various shades of blue and felt the title in the overall display. The story propelled me forward through clicking various hyperlinks that seemed very disconnected. The language varied from poetic rhymes and rhythms to vulgar and mature content to even abstract images. Each title on each page had a chapter name that helped me understand the story a little bit better. On the left hand side of the page were different bars that lit up as I moved my cursor over them. The different paths and choices I could make made me feel in charge of the story and gave me a great deal of agency.

Screenshot from Michael Joyce's "Twelve Blue"

In class we examined Hypertext and the various points of entry into digital texts. In an effort to engage with the course material, I plan to respond to the questions posed in class in an analysis of Michael Joyce’s “Twelve Blue.”

1) How does the materiality of the medium open up the possibilities of its composition or constrain it?

– The medium used in “Twelve Blue” is the Internet and HTML web design. These mediums opened up the possibilities of creating a narrative that could be controlled differently by each reader. Furthermore, it enabled the author to link various fragments together on the website with different threads to click on.

2) What kinds of generic “horizons of expectation” are being challenged or met?

– The generic “horizons of expectation” being challenged in this piece are that of a coherent and chronological narrative. “Twelve Blue” is a very difficult story to understand as each page presents a different form and a unique context that relates in a more abstract way.

3) What kind of reader or viewer does the text require, and what cognitive, emotional, and physical activities are demanded of the reader?

– This text requires a more mature reader who can understand abstract concepts and ideas and be able to piece together the fragmented pages. Furthermore, some of the material is unsuitable for children due to vulgarity and mature content.

4) What kinds of aesthetic/affective effects are being produced (or seem to be intended to be produced)?

– In this piece, the different shades of Blue have an aesthetic effect that reinforces the tone and mood of the narrative. Another effect that comes from the various coloured threads on the left hand side navigation bar is that of random disordered agency to go wherever in cyberspace and reinforce the message about connectivity online.

5) What kinds of larger intervention (into art, culture, society, technology, etc.) is intended by the piece?

– “Twelve” Blue intends to intervene into language and narrative in the digital age using new technologies. It explores how various forms of language can combine to form different understandings of some unified whole.

6) How does this piece let you know what to do with it?

– This piece does not give the user any specific instructions. However, due to the nature of the web itself, it is only logical that eventually the user will explore the website using their cursor to see what is “clickable.” After engaging with several different links, the reader will learn what to do with the piece and continue to explore the various threads.

7) Does the piece offer any core metaphors that reflect upon its nature or purpose?

– According to lecture, this piece “explores the way our lives – like the web itself – form patterns of interlocking, multiple, and recurrent surfaces.” Thus, “Twelve Blue” is in a way a metaphor for our lives as the web being a web of different stories all part of one larger narrative united by the location of its participants. In Shakespeare’s words “All the world’s a stage…”

Activating

Week 4 Response

This week we examined how the avant-garde movement pushes the experimental boundaries of art and literature with the arrival of each and every new technological medium. Once again, in the digital age, new technologies provide experimental artists with a new way to play with language, implement interactivity, and combine visual and audio stimuli, among other elements into their pieces. These new digital tools evoke deeper connections with audiences, increase engagement, and enhance overall experience.

The inspiration for my final project came after I interacted with some of the assigned readings such as “Grain, A Prairie Poem” by Darren Weschler Henry, “Puddle” by Neil Hennesy, “Let the Drummer Kick” by Citizen Cope, “Fricativ” by jorg Piringer, “Nio5” by Jim Andrews, “Birds Singing Other Birds’ Songs” by Marcia Mencia, and “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson. All of these pieces experiment using audio, images, and text online to give individuals a very unique kind of interactive experience.

Screenshot from "Cut-Twit-Up" by Sabrina Hinitz

Likewise, my final project that I named “Cut-Twit-Up,” builds on some of these principles to provide a live and continuously updating cut-up poem featuring the content of Tweets from the social networking and microblogging wesbite Twitter. Every time a user sends a Tweet on Twitter, the first word is taken from their post and inserted into my project. The line breaks are triggered by the posting of a Tweet containing Chinese characters. This way, users contribute to the creation of both the content and the form of the poem.

Another major influence for my project was William Burroughs who popularized the cut-up poetry method where a person takes a newspaper article and cuts it up then reassembles it to create new meanings. Likewise, in my project I take snippets of personal narratives in an effort to reformat them into a continuous poem.

Another Screenshot from "Cut-Twit-Up" by Sabrina Hinitz

The astonishingly rapid rate at which the words are updated, nearly 600 words per second according to Twitter’s statistics, is indicative of the amount of information that is constantly being uploaded onto the Internet. It is amazing how much literature and other information is available with a quick “Google” search. The possibilities for new artists are endless, especially in the digital era where content sharing is hugely successful.

Many people share their codes and ideas to help other artists build and create better projects. For example, my project uses a library called “tweet_stream” that makes my programming tool called Processing able to  understand commands related to Twitter. This free-to-use library was available for anyone to download and saved me a great deal of time and extremely complicated programming. As more and more information becomes available online, projects will likely become increasingly complex yet easier to construct, enabling even more individuals to create projects and art experiments of their own.

Despite the fact that Lev Manovich argues that digital culture materializes avant-garde strategies, I believe that just like television, radio, and print before it avant-garde has always existed and simply adapted throughout the ages on different mediums – just like “Cut-Twit-Up” the modern day cut-up poem.

Thinking and Being

Week 3 Response

In our readings this week by Nicolas Carr and Darin Barney, we explored some of the ways in which the Internet has affected our minds and also our sense of community. While Carr examines how Google changed the way people think, Barney questions the social effects of virtual worlds on communities. Both authors make interesting points, however I find Carr’s argument far more convincing than Barneys.

Nicolas Carr discusses the effect Google has had on changing the ways individuals read and think. I can certainly relate to the cognitive effects he warns about: scan-style reading, key word searches, shortened attention span, shortened memory for long readings, etc. It frightens me to think how severely my reading and thinking have changed since the invention of Google and the Internet.

When I was younger, I was able to immerse myself for hours in books. Now, I can hardly sit for 15 minutes to read a novel for pleasure. I also used to sit in libraries for hours looking through hundreds of pages while researching for projects. Yes, it was a long and tedious process. However, it was a quiet and enjoyable time for me. Nowadays it feels as though I am rushing to read through as many sources online as possible, not really soaking any of them in thoroughly. Thus, I find one of the biggest losses Google has caused for readers is the enjoyment and sheer pleasure that used to be a major part of reading and researching.

Darin Barney’s article questions whether community can exist in the same way it does today on the Internet. In her article, she concludes that it cannot exist in the same way. However, based on my past personal experience, I can say that some of the strongest and most supportive communities exist online and are actually strengthened by the fact that they exist in a virtual medium. Therefore, I completely disagree with Barney’s article. Many strong communal relationships are formed on the Internet, especially in virtual worlds such as Second Life and There.com, two communities I was once an active member of. Throughout my experience on these virtual environments, I met and interacted with people on a regular basis.

One of the first things I did after I was “born” in There.com was join a car racing league called that eventually became a second family to me. While I was not spending time with my real family or friends, I was spending time on There.com at my racing league’s home turf or competing at events. At one point in the game, two characters who were married in the game even adopted me to be their virtual There daughter. They spoke to me and treated me like their own child and when they got divorced, I was caught in the middle of the drama, as I might have been in a real life split up. Later, when my There Dad got remarried, his new wife saw me as a step-daughter. The relationships and life-long bonds I created on There.com have followed me even after I stopped logging on to the game. Thus, the communities also transcend into instant messaging, real life phone calls, and in some instances even real life meetings.

A Screenshot of my Second Life Avatar

The digital age creates a dangerous environment for young children who enter these worlds and form meaningful friendships with people who they may later be inclined to meet as they feel they can trust them. Unfortunately, often times people online are not who they say they are, and this can lead to devastating consequences. On the other hand, mature adults who take the time getting to know each other in these virtual worlds often meet in real life and continue their relationships offline. For instance, I met a couple on There.com who met in the world and then decided to meet in real life and eventually got married in the real world. To that extent, digital environments can have a huge impact on providing a meaningful platform where individuals are able to form real relationships. The more real the world looks perhaps, the more real the relationship feels.

The other world I used to visit, Second Life, is even more realistic than There.com. Again, there are many strong communities within it of people with like-minded interests or goals. There are nightclubs, business opportunities, universities, workshops, and even skydiving. Anything you can do in the real world, Second Life allows you to do, and more. These digital environments continue to become increasingly realistic and make it easier and easier for individuals to get lost in the fantasy and lose sense of their realities.

Theoretical Approaches to New Media

Week 2 Response

Is new media a threat?

Both authors of this week’s readings, Anna Everett and Marie Laure Ryan, deal with the above question and discuss the ramifications of the digital era on storytelling and traditional media.

Digitextuality and Click Theory, by Anna Everett

Essentially, the articles discuss which traditional media practices have been remediated by new media practices and also, how narratives are shaped by these new digital technologies. In an effort to better understand both authors, I am going to carefully examine this reading Blog in the context of media remediation and technical determinism.

First and foremost in the pre-Internet Era this Blog would not exist, nor would many other venues for young adults, specifically females, to freely and openly express themselves to the masses as I am currently doing via a blog that took me less than 5 minutes to create. As Anna Everett highlighted, it is difficult to regulate new media formats. In the past only a selected few individuals were able to publish their thoughts and opinions in a format that could be delivered to the masses. Therefore, it was very easy to regulate what was published and what was distributed for purchase. However, the Internet Era has caused an upsurge of unregulated content that is available entirely free of charge and which can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.

Will New Media Produce New Narratives? by Marie Laure Ryan

Furthermore, my Blog has all the distinctive properties of digital media that Marie Laure Ryan refers to in her article “Will New Media Produce New Narratives?” My Blogs most distinguishing feature is that it is highly reactive and interactive. As soon as a real life event occurs, I am able to log into my Blog and publish my immediate thoughts for mass consumption. Users also have the ability to comment on each of my posts making it interactive as well. Next, it has multiple sensory and semiotic channels and multimedia capabilities. In other words, I can post images, links, audio clips, and videos for readers’ enjoyment. It also offers social networking capabilities by providing me with the ability to add users to friend lists and send them messages or follow their posts.

To sum up, my reading Blog is certainly a narrative of the 21st century that utilizes the benefits  digital technologies have to offer. In doing so, it has somewhat remediated the former print autobiographies and personal columns in newspapers that existed in the pre-Internet era. This global phenomenon called Blogging has surely taken literature by storm and has very well changed the nature of personal narration forever.

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