Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thesis Extract: Layering in Design

Layering operates in the design of the works from the underlying code, whereby “the practices of concealing and revealing [that] offer fertile ground for aesthetic and artistic exploration […] reveal themselves according to time sequences, cursor movements, and other criteria” (Hayles 2005 54). Hayles cites the example of Coverley’s Egypt, as an example “where the visual tropes of revealing and concealing resonate with the multiple personae, patterned after ancient Egyptian beliefs, that cohabit in one body” (Hayles 2005 55). The representation of temporality, as Hayles suggests “according to time sequences,” is related to the spatial configuration achieved by layering. Design does this by “re-creating on the screen dynamics that both depend on and reflect the ‘tower of languages’ essential to code” (Hayles 2005 54). [1] The concealing and revealing in design effectively bundles code-created objects in a digital text, providing a sense of temporal progress in narrative. The following analysis explores further the techniques used to make layering part of design, specifically in regard to narrative.  
The works dealt with in this study are coded at the point of reception; with inputs from readers developing narrative according to the conditions of spatial configuration in design. Clicking and following links, along with word recognition, cultural and social references, and the combinatorial possibilities found in spatial navigation, activate narrative progression. Thus layering in the works includes reader attention to these structures, such as the keyword parsing in Façade. Layered bundles, such as the audio, visual and spatial content together, are arranged in meaningful sequences, which can be repeated and therefor emphasized in reading. In some examples layering results in narrative metalepsis, grounded in how layers transgress narrative boundaries through the use of perspective, depth and temporal representations in design. By functioning in this way, layering is a fundamental part of reading new or digital media, which Lev Manovitch compares to the effect of montage in film, as a defining element in digital media reception (Manovitch 2002 143-147). In my analysis I develop Manovitch’s observation in relation to narrative as it is affected by design.
My analysis of what David Shepard calls “the executed layer” of the digital work, or “what the user experiences” (Shepard 2008 np), reveals that it is actually composed of multiple layers when read for the effect on narrative. These layers include combinations of characters and settings, writing, audio, video and still images. Each of these are composed of further sub-layers, for example the audio layer of Façade can be arranged into sub-sets according to individual keywords, or as layers of music, character voices and sound effects, and even further according to how dialogue is parsed by the program in narrative progression. Each of these layers conceals and reveals other layers during reception. The reader organizes the layers via linkages, not just via clickable points but also using keywords and virtual objects. All these linkages are examples of material meaning and navigation joined in reading, where “by traversing the gap that is the link, the gap is filled with meaning” (Parker 2001 np). Meaning is associated with the link as “a syntactic, structural, and distinctive feature” (Raley 2011 1). The activation of a link by the reader is therefore a meaningful part of the interpretation of narrative. As the reader navigates via links, and arranges the layers according to design, particular narrative features blend, are obscured or transmute into each other. In this sense, layering is the organization of narrative, which results in both restrictions and meaning in reading.

[1] Hayles cites Rita Raley as the source of the “Tower of Languages” trope. Describing the gradients that exist in a digital program between the base code and the layer experienced in reception, Raley explains, “The tower of programming languages that underlies the representation of natural languages on the screen. For all of the differences among particular instances or events of codework, they all incorporate elements of code, whether executable or not. Code appears in the text, then, in whole or in part, in the form of a functioning script, an operator, and/or a static symbol” (Raley 2002 np). The code of the text, at the point of reception, is precisely the concern of this present study.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

KEXP: KEXP Live Music Highlights 2012

Seattle’s KEXP deliver a mix of some of their best sessions from January-February 2012, featuring local and international artists and bands.

Sandrider, a hardcore trio from Seattle, preview their self-titled debut, released on Good To Die Records.

London’s Veronica Falls play their shimmering 2010 debut single ‘Found Love In A Graveyard.’

Portland warehouse band Blouse preview their self-titled debut with ‘Into The Black.’

Minneapolis punks Banner Pilot play ‘Isolani’ from their third album, 'Heart Beats Pacific.'

Welsh indie superstars Los Campesinos! Play ‘By Your Hand’ from their newest album, "Hello Sadness,” recorded live at The Neptune Theatre.

Quasi is an indie trio formed in Portland in 1993, comprising ex husband and wife Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss and bassist Joanna Bolme.

Seattle lo-fi folkster Bill Campbell (AKA Thee Midnight Creep) plays ghostly autoharp-driven tunes.

Laura Gibson is a Portland-bases folk singer and songwriter. ‘La Grabde,’ is the title track from her 2012 album.

13-piece Seattle ensemble Orkestar Zirkonium count funk, punk, klezmer, and Eastern European and Indian styles among their influences. Check out their rambunctious drum-and-brass from KEXP studios.

Detroit band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. deals in sublime indie-pop.

Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado plays adventurous psychedelic folk.

Gruff Rhys-collaborator and Welsh psych-pop songstress Cate Le Bon plays ‘Falcon Eyed,’ the opening track from her recent solo album ‘Cyrk’.

Place and QR codes

Place and QR codes from Jim Barrett

"It is my assessment that this new model of cultural production results in approaching exhibitions as a process—that is an ongoing conversation with the public. Nevertheless, while the action may be with art spaces and non-profit galleries, these places have to make sure that they also stay relevant because the action does not necessarily stay with them: it moves anywhere due to the possibilities offered by the new state of globalization supported by networked culture". - When the Action Leaves the Museum: New Approaches to the Exhibition as a Tool of Communication by Eduardo Navas 

Monday, October 08, 2012

White Horse Tavern New York

The White Horse Tavern, located in New York City's borough of Manhattan at Hudson Street and 11th Street, is known for its 1950s and 1960s Bohemian culture. It is one of the few major gathering-places for writers and artists from this period in Greenwich Village that remains open. The bar opened in 1880, but was known more as a longshoremen's bar than a literary center until Dylan Thomas and other writers began frequenting it in the early 1950s. Due to its literary fame, in the past few decades the White Horse has become a popular destination among tourists.

The White Horse is perhaps most famous as the place where Dylan Thomas drank, before returning home and eventually becoming ill and dying a few days later of unrelated causes. Other famous patrons include The Clancy Brothers (who also performed at the establishment), Bob Dylan, Mary Travers, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Michael Harrington, Seymour Krim, Delmore Schwartz, Richard Fariña, Jane Jacobs, and Hunter S. Thompson. The White Horse is the tavern - "Once upon a time there was a tavern" - in the opening line of Gene Raskin's song Those Were the Days, adapted from a Russian folk song of the 1920s.

The White Horse's other famous patrons included Jack Kerouac, who was bounced from the establishment more than once. Because of this someone scrawled on the bathroom wall: "JACK GO HOME!" At that time, Kerouac was staying in an apartment in the building located on the NW corner of West 11th St.

About the same time, the White Horse was a gathering place for labor members and organizers and socialists. The Catholic Workers hung out here and the idea for the Village Voice was discussed here. The Village Voice original offices were within blocks of the White Horse. Much of the content was discussed here by the editors.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Chapter 3 - Reading by Design

This chapter examines how design is a source of authorial control over reading. This control is spatially derived and a constituent of narrative. In the digital works, design limits reading in how it constricts the representation of space. In a simple but effective example, designer and theorist Mary Flanagan points out that the representation of space in digital media is related to how “users of cyberspace have bought into the ‘spatialized’ scenario, complete with its imperialists overtones, by using frontier framework” along with the “highlighting and re-inscribing [of] suburban values” in such representational spaces as The Sims (Flanagan 2000 76). In a similar sense to Flanagan’s argument, the digital spaces of the works examined here represent particular meanings. In design, Façade represents a domestic, gendered and heteronormative space, while Egypt infuses space with exoticism, and similar imperialist overtones to those Flanagan refers to. Last Meal Requested is a space where the reader takes on the perspective of a witness and there is a similar sense of first-person immediacy for narrative in the design of Dreamaphage. Space in design is composed of elements that both enable and control reader reception, according to codified and therefore prohibitive techniques. Two codifying techniques in this design are perspective and monumentality, which organize space in reading.
Monumentality, as I demonstrate in Chapter One, organizes space according to “the strong points, nexuses or anchors” (Lefebvre 2007 222). These points codify representational space in a totalizing and restrictive sense, providing both meaning and guidance for reader navigation and interpretation. In the digital works Monumentality organizes the reader’s temporal experience of space. The emphasis in design on a particular feature and the resulting influence it has on representational space creates a sense of procedurality in reading narrative. As I explain in this chapter, an emphasized and therefore monumental feature of a work can introduce or link to a continuing theme or section of the work. Design techniques for the creation of Monumentality described in the following analysis include repetition, perspective, and scale and references to design features in dialogue. Perspective is a codified system that exists in design whereby point of view is manipulated, which results in both meaning and restrictions in reading. As I explain in my analysis, perspective is not only visual, but can be created by audio in the works.  In design, representational space is constructed by sound, visual perspective, depth and layering. Perspective and monumentality are interrelated concepts that make design meaningful for a reader according to how each contributes to the representation of space in the digital works. The material dimensions of the digital works include the “temporal and spatial relationships [that] are essential to our understanding of [the] narratives and go beyond the specification of a date and a location” (Bridgeman 2005 65). The temporal and spatial relations of the works are condensed in the design specifics, which are the first elements of representational space the reader encounters.
This chapter clarifies how design contributes to narrative, through an attention to the specifics of representational space. Remediation is a central element in how representational space is negotiated in reading narrative. Remediation, as I have already described, is “the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 273) in “the mediation of mediation” (Bolter and Grusin 2000 56). How this refashioning can influence reception should firstly be understood in terms of reading as a historical and acquired practice. Readers’ respond to remediation with an awareness of the media as representing sets of historical practices and responses. Each reference to an older medium in the digital is also a reference to the consumption practices associated with that form. This historical awareness is an important element in reading. Remediation in design is also meaningful due to the qualities it brings to the works. In the digital works each example of remediation adds perspectives to reading, such as a video, a book, or a phone, with each providing a point of view within overall narrative structure. These remediated elements perform functions within digital narrative similar to characters. Due to the simulative nature of remediation in the digital works, each example of remediation comes with a perspective on narrative.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Museum Studies and Teaching in Virtual Spaces

Images from the work done by museum studies students from 2010, along with teaching spaces, posters for virtual world and mixed reality seminars. All part of the work I was instrumental in guiding in HUMlab.