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.

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