Monday, March 19, 2012

Reflections on Writing the Born-Digital Text

Authorship of a so-called born-digital text demands skills and forms of expression that are radically different from works that are digitized or that employ remediated authoring methods.

The born-digital work "refers to materials that originate in a digital form. This is in contrast to digital reformatting, through which analog materials become digital. It is most often used in relation to digital libraries and the issues that go along with said organizations, such as digital preservation and intellectual property. However, as technologies have advanced and spread, the concept of being born-digital has also been discussed in relation to personal consumer-based sectors, with the rise of e-books and evolving digital music. Other terms that might be encountered as synonymous include “natively digital,” “digital-first,” and “digital-exclusive'" (Wikipedia).

Authoring the born-digital text demands a skill set the includes those needed for the analogue texts that feed into the digital via remediation:
"According to their book Remediation: Understanding New Media by J. David Bolter and Richard A. Grusin, remediation is a defining characteristic of new digital media because digital media is constantly remediating its predecessors (television, radio, print journalism and other forms of old media). Remediation can be complete or visible. A film based on a book is remediating the printed story. The film may not provide any reference to the original medium or acknowledgement that it is an adaptation. By attempting to absorb the old medium entirely, the new medium presents itself without any connection to its original source. On the other hand, a medium such as a movie clip can torn out of context and inserted into a new medium such as music. Bolter and Grusin describe this as visible remediation because, "The work becomes a mosaic in which we are simultaneously aware of the individual pieces' and their new, inappropriate setting."(New New Media Wiki)
It is important to comprehend remediation as including practices associated with older media, which change as a result of the fusion with newer media. Examples of this dual-directional influence include film spectatorship, which has been dramatically altered in the last ten years as a result of the pervasiveness of moving images manufactured for, and distributed by the Internet. In the same way newspapers have changed their production and distribution techniques in response to an information economy radically altered by digital media. Consumption of newspapers has changed as a result of this multi-layered series of influence on how people take in news.

So how should one think about authorship in relation to born-digital texts? Of course it is simpler to break it down into the reading practices that can be associated with the media. The visual includes moving and still images, along with 3D navigable spaces and all the dynamics that can be coded into written text using digital media. One has to only consider the speed and movement of Young.Hae Chang Heavy Industries to see how words become images in a born-digital work:

The visual in a Young.Hae Chang Heavy Industries work is the written word, but it is more than that. With rhythm, dimensions and addressive syntax what can be termed a poem in the analogue sense becomes an experience for the reader. The role of audio in this experience cannot be understated.

Sound is an important consideration in any born-digital work. Sound creates space, contextualizes objects, provides rhythm for the text and guides the reader along a set path of interpretation. Ignoring sound in the authoring process is to present a digital work without its legs.

The creation of space is achieved with the visual and the audile, but relies on the interrelated quality of perspective. Perspective is a vast field of knowledge. Sufficient to say the era of the marriage between realism and quattrocento perspective in the Western Hemisphere is coming to an end.

ur perception of space is dominated by perspective, in the sense of a reduction of the projected size of objects with distance. One of the key jobs of the visual brain is to decode this size diminution as distance in the third dimension, or egocentric distance. If the eye were a pinhole cameras, the projection of the world onto the back plane would be in perfect linear perspective (and in perfect focus). The succession of images projected on the curved retina within the eye what Leonardo da Vinci termed natural perspective, a series of distorted projections that needs to be integrated over time in a representation in the brain as the eye moves around the scene. How the brain decodes the information in natural perspective into an accurate appreciation of the spatial layout has yet to be resolved. (Principles of Perspective)

In many examples of online visual 3D media (e.g. Second Life, World of Warcraft) depth of focus is infinite and there is no central vanishing point. Natural perspective is gradually being coded by digital media in the current age. This is an exciting prospect. My advice is look to the artists and not the geometers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Global History of Revolution

A coded favor is offered by the earth
Two torn sticks wound with bark and the mud of the river
This secret was first shared with a few
To borrow from life something of magic or beauty made it valuable
It was kept then in the temple and later in the palace
For a very long time the soldiers guarded it without knowing what they were doing
It was never shared but the forces of its creation were understood by others outside the palace
Unable to make copies the holders of knowledge took power
The palace was opened and the secret spilled upon the ground
The next day the streets were cleared.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The American Novel Since 1945 with Amy Hungerford: Jack Keroauc 'On the Road'

The American Novel Since 1945 (ENGL 291)

Yale Professor Amy Hungerford's lecture on Kerouac's On the Road begins by contrasting the Beats' ambition for language's direct relation to lived experience with a Modernist sense of difficulty and mediation. She goes on to discuss the ways that desire structures the novel, though not in the ways that we might immediately expect. The very blatant pursuit of sex with women in the novel, for example, obscures the more significant desire for connection among men, particularly the narrator Sal's love for Dean Moriarty. The apparent desire for the freedom of the open road, too, Hungerford argues, exists in a necessary conjunction with the idealized comforts of a certain middle-class American domesticity, signaled by the repeated appearance of pie.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Beats: Similarities and Differences to Literary Modernism
09:46 - Chapter 2. A New Use of Language: Mirroring the Speed of Experience
18:13 - Chapter 3. "The Prophet of 'Wow'": The Language of Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady
29:48 - Chapter 4. Dean and Sal: Tangled Sexual Tensions
33:56 - Chapter 5. The Hunger Metaphor: The American Culture of Consumption
40:21 - Chapter 6. Modes of Craftedness: Carlo Marx's Papier-Mache Mountains

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Spring 2008.

In this second lecture on On The Road, Yale Professor Amy Hungerford addresses some of the obstacles and failures to the novel's high ambitions for achieving American community through an immediacy of communication. Sal Paradise's desire to cross racial boundaries, for example, seems ultimately more exploitative than expansive; Dean's exuberant language of "Yes!" and "Wow!" devolves into meaningless gibberish. And yet the novel's mystical vision of something called "America" persists, a cultural icon that continues to engage the interest of readers, scholars, and artists. Among these latter is the digital art collaborative Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, with whose online work DAKOTA Hungerford concludes the class.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Kerouac's Mythical America: Trans-historical Communities
22:03 - Chapter 2. Defining American Identity: Sal's Illusory Vision of Mystical Oneness
30:01 - Chapter 3. Dean and Sal, Again: The Theme of Sadness
41:12 - Chapter 4. The Publication History: Creating a Literary Object

Friday, March 02, 2012

Technology and Anarchy: A Talk with Cory and Nigel

With a 3D printer and laptop, does everyone have the tools they need to build a bio-weapon? Science fiction novelist, blogger and activist Cory Doctorow talks to Nigel Warburton about whether we can - or should - attempt to regulate subversive technology.