Week 3

Ralph Goings, "Quartet", 2006, 22 x 32.5 in.

When reading the Bolter and Grusin pieces on remediation, immediacy, and hypermediacy, photorealist paintings immediately came to mind. Photorealism was a genre of paintng which was popular in the late 1960's and 70's, where painters like Ralph Goings (above), Richard Estes, and Chuck Close (an artist who arguably transcends the genre) would painstakingly recreate photographs (for whatever reason, usually of diners or cars or other ultra-American things) on canvas using paint, creating a "trompe l'oeil" effect. When we think about these paintings in the context of the Bolter and Grusin paper, we begin to extract some interesting ideas.

First of all, these painting are a fairly clear example of remediation, although in a reverse progression than would be expected. Whereas remediation is usually "new" media borrowing and re-purposing media that came before it, photorealist paintings act to inject new ideas and new concepts about technology into the medium of painting by applying aspects one is used to seeing in photography, such as extreme sharpness, depth of field, and even the presence of grain. Painting, a medium which existed for centuries before the advent of photography, was now refashioning ideas from the newer technology.

Presentation and Detail of "Mark" by Chuck Close, 1978 - 1979, Acrylic on canvas, dimensions unknown

What is really interesting is when we start thinking about the ideas of immediacy and hypermediacy. Photography aims directly at achieving immediacy by recreating on a piece of paper the exact visual image of the corresponding scene in real life. Roland Barthe's called this the "photographic paradox", where in the relay and the encoding/decoding between the signifier and the signified of a photograph (almost) ceases to exist. A photograph attempts to be a window to another time and place, a individual moment, and in that sense, it attempts to reach pure immediacy. However, it fails at this, as our logical brains prevail and we see a photograph for what it is, a piece of paper in our hands.
Once we get over the immediate shock and realize we are not indeed looking into a magical window, a photograph loses its immediacy and photographs exist within a semiotic framework with a corporeal medium.

What photorealist painting does is different, in that it does not attempt to immitate "an external reality but rather another medium," as Bolter and Grusin put it (they are talking about photorealism in computer graphics, but the ideas hold true). This other medium is the photograph, an object of which we are already very aware of its materiality and its medium, and thus it is hypermediated. A photorealist painting attempts to remove the mediation from painting to photograph, the signifyer (painting) from the signified (photograph)(which itself is an attempt at immediacy, creating a chain of signified and signifers). The immediacy is not from real life to virtual medium, but from one virtual medium to another.Thus, it as once a hypermediated object and an immediated object.

Don Eddy, "Untitled (Volkswagen)", 1971, acrylic on canvas, dimensions unknown

Boler and Grusin say that designers of "hypermediated form ask us to take pleasure in the act of mediation", and I think this especially holds true for photorealist paintings. The true joy of such works is the reveal, when you realize you've been tricked, and that the object you se in front of you is not a mechanical photograph, but instead a painting created by a very skilled human hand. This realization is what makes these paintings and all "trompe l'oeil" effects fun for the viewer.

-Christian Storm

As a former English major, I saw a number of familiar names in this week's reading. It makes sense – modernist and post-modernist fiction writers were aware of and playing with the form of their novels just as new technologies like film, radio, TV, and eventually computers and the Internet overtook the collective consciousness. Kittler won my affection with his Pynchon quote, but I’m especially interested in Manovich’s invocation of one of my favorite authors, Jorge Luis Borges (I even wrote a found poem based on an interview of his for my undergraduate thesis). Imagine my disappointment to see him gloss over the man’s contributions, not even naming the story which includes this “idea of a massive branching structure” (Manovich 6). I noticed going back over some of my favorite stories that some of the questions we tackle in our reading appear; therefore I’m going to use Borges as my guide in this response.

"In all fictions, each time a man meets diverse alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the work of the virtually impossible-to-disentangle Ts'ui Pen, the character chooses - simultaneously - all of them." (Borges, 1998 : The Garden of Forking Paths , pg. 125)

I am very familiar with the concepts of immediacy and hypermediacy through games scholarship, though in games scholarship they use different terms – immersion and interactivity. Immersion, like immediacy, is defined by the player’s ability to get lost in the game’s visuals, much in the way Bolter and Grusin describe virtual reality. The most obvious example of this is the first person shooter, which believe it or it is heavily borrowed from experimental films in the 20th century. Alexander Galloway has a wonderful essay on this topic in his book Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture , but instead of summarizing the essay I’ll borrow two of his examples, one from film and one from games. The first is from the 1947 film Lady in the Lake while the second is from a modern first person shooter,Metroid Prime . Note the similarities; both are trying to equare viewer/player and camera/computer screen.

"Man,the imperfect librarian, may be the work of chance or of malevolent demiurges; the universe, with its elegant appointments-- its bookshelves, its enigmatic books, its indefatigable staircases for the traveler, and its water closets for the seated librarian - can only be the handiwork of a god." (Borges, 1998 - The Library of Babel, pg. 113)
Interactivity, as with hypermediacy, is defined by its constant and visual interfaces, which force the player to constantly recognize the artificiality of the game and the medium the player is interacting with. Any time there’s a menu or images of buttons, the player is reminded of the artificiality of their experience and the medium they are utilizing. There’s a controversy in the industry over how much value interactivity still has, but I think what Bolter and Grusin write about hypermediacy works equally well as a defense of interactivity – it’s a “rich sensorium of human experience” that requires a different skill set, allowing in turn a more subversive and self-aware play style (Bolter 34). I can’t help but think of The Sims , which uses a series of menus and buttons to help you give commands to your characters. There’s a distance between “you” the player and the characters you control, which is why you can be things like murder them in increasingly creative ways with no penalty and feel no remorse. Since the character in the first person shooter is designed to appear to be you, there’s far less distance. I would go so far as to say that The Sims, with its series of inputs, likens to computer programming with all its creative and destructive possibilities.

"I suspect that the human species - the only species - teeters at the verge of extinction, yet the Library - enlightened, solitary, infinite, perfectly unmoving, armed with precious volumes, pointless, incorruptible, and secret - will endure." (Borges, 1998 - The Library of Babel pg. 118)

I don’t want to finish before discussing Debray. I’m a fan of the historical perspective that Debray utilizes, particularly his idea of the interactions across systems and how new technologies have contributed to the transmission of ideas over long periods of time. The tragedy of this method is that video games are too young a medium to truly see how this technology has influenced culture in the way the printed word affected the rise of Protestantism. But seeing as how the concept of games goes back to the mancala and the Iliad’ s funeral games for Patroclus, I would like to hazard one question – why have so many games, from chess to Counterstrike, simulated war? What message is being transmitted here? Hopefully I can hand this question off to my classmates for an answer.

-Tracy Carlin

The corporality of transmission; materiality
Forms and hierarchy
Mediating Agencies
Networked expansion
Internet Noise

Using my previous explorations with Kittler and the concepts of communication as experience and visual culture as language it sets a foundation for further exploration. Something that I instantly gravitated towards was that of the “data channels” and it heavily informed what I extracted from the Debray’ s “Transmitting Culture” reading. Keeping this concept in mind I began to focus on the ability of transmission to “dynamically convert into different forms of motion” (pg. 2). This dynamism is especially attractive when taking into consideration the Internet as a mode of transmission and the immaterial materiality of its digital realm which allowed for “the movement of ideas without requiring direct movement of bodies” (pg. 2)

Considering Debray’s assertion that mode of transmission impacts the output and material form and I began to imagine the virtual universe of the internet and wonder if the its ‘form’ was reflective of its transmissional hardware. If we keep with this premise and understand the internet’s present form or imagining with multiple points of origination, transmission and reception the a network begins to emerge. But I still found this model constricting to my perception of this virtual milieu. I began to think of smoke and the way it unfurls, or better still an idea and the way it spreads, which can mimic they spread of a disease or bacteria within the body.

Still entrenched in imagining my virtual landscape and attempting to understand the concept of mediating agencies I began to examine the semiotics of the interfaces of my computer’s desktop for example. The gateway that is my desktop was very much shaped by and conditioned to anthropologic and sociological forces. So just as the Debray was able to extract information that was transmitted through a natural environment, I became aware of how they virtual one was mediated. While in my imagined internet forest, I began to understand how there presence of advertisements and pop-ups were equivalent to noise in the traditional model, distracting and obstructive to transmitting the content.

-Metasebia Yoseph

Debary’s mediology talks about the power of abstract concepts and how abstracts concepts can transfer its powers into material powers. For example, ‘democracy’ is an abstract concept. While we say democracy, we cannot see it or hear it. Internet is a media that makes democracy materialized. Internet changes the communication model from “one to many” to “many to many”. Under this model, everyone can publish their opinions no matter a pop star or common people. Then democracy becomes a detailed thing. We can see it on the Twitter via our screen, hear it from different Youtube channels via the speakers and practice it by publish our own opinions through those websites. Then I couldn’t help to ask what is ‘new’ media?

The concept ‘new’ media obviously comes from the concept ‘old media’ and ‘traditional media’. As Clay Shirky talked the new communication model that we have is a ‘many to many’ model, which makes new media different from traditional media, because as he said in the lecture, traditional media’s (such as television or newspaper) communication model is a ‘one to many’ model. That is to say, new media is more democratic.

Remediation is another very interesting concept in this week’s reading. Because we have new media, the process, remediation generated a lot. While we shared news or a new movie via Facebook, we practice the process of remediation. While you retweet someone’s tweet, you are remediating it. With digital technology, we are remediating everyday. Here is an example of remediation. The author uses 3D technology to make old paintings alive.

--Xinidi Guo

Disclaimer: The following ideas are not meant to impress, they are just thoughts generated by a person with a deep passion for what she does
This week’s readings clearly reveal to me that our understanding of communications and media theory are based on models that can barely touch on all the intricacies of technology and its effects on society (and vice versa). I found Kittler’s article on the history of communication media to be a bit of a hard read of a very basic progression and evolution in the mediums/tools of communication - probably the most prominent facts for me in his article was the advent of mass media and the references to the use of media by those in power, seeking to influence their domains. This is further enhanced in the article by Cary “Cutural Approach to Communication” in which he elaborates on the desire to use media as a tool to influence people and space. I thought this was a fascinatingly honest angle and pretty much a good summary of the origins of Western media development. I appreciated especially his analysis of the reluctance within America to accept the cultural underpinnings of religiously motivated communications - AND while I think the religiously motivated use of media has given way to ethnocentric and economically exploitative media in the United States, I do believe mainstream US Media is still in denial of its relatively myopic use of technology as a way to bolster national agendas, market demand for products and international foreign policy stances that are often times based on ignorance of other cultures.

When reading about the Shannon-Weaver model, I really wanted to scream at times because I felt theorists have taken this dry, linear model which was purely intended for use in a telephone company (and never really was supposed to be the basis for an entire explanation of the basis of human communication and transmission) and proceed to dissect it as though there aren’t stark shortcomings in its comprehensiveness. I calmed down by telling myself everything has to have a foundation for its beginnings and I suppose the Shannon-Weaver Model at least provides a start. I think the three models that built upon Shannon’s – Intermediary, Interactive and Transactional- are all fair progressions of thought but not nearly reflective of where we are today in terms of technology and interdisciplinary forces involved in modern communications. So Chandler’s critique was a welcome read.

Coming from the angle of Conflict Resolution and the media, McLuhan is a genius in my book. He touches on the very core of my work in studying how perceptions and communication are a product of the methods (technological and content based) in which they are transmitted to the public. I see issues with this in my daily work and am not surprised why the man became a superstar in his day. His ability to predict the direction of electronic media and the trends that would influence human communications and society earned him the spotlight. Stuart Hall is also a genius because he actually delves into the different levels of encoding and decoding of information and communication WITH the idea that at each level, there is a “power” play that determines the way we process and therefore reflect ourselves and others within society. I found myself integrating Hall’s 3 positions of readers/3 codes of dominant reading, negotiated reading and oppositional reading with mainstream US media coverage of conflicts around Muslims and issues in Islam. Perhaps I can relate to him because his work is said to be more suited to news media or current affairs media coverage (though his “Encoding, Decoding” Introductory Chapter was a hard read).

All this reading made me think of transmission via Twitter and then about blogging and how one can now express themselves in a finite number of characters. And of how much information there is out there that constitutes modern day "noise" !


What resonated with me the most in these readings was the notion of immediacy, especially through the use of hypermedia. In the Bolter and Grusin chapters, the authors continuously returned to this idea, focusing on the modern audience's growing desire for 'immediate' and 'immersive' experiences. Much like early virtual flight simulators, whose enjoyment is documented in the Manovich reading, hypermedia allows us to get inside the information or experiences we encounter online or on television. Or so we like to think. Just how immersive are these forms of media?

Although writing about the web as it was over a decade ago, Bolter and Grusin could (even then) see the burgeoning hypermedia practices throughout their culture. It's fascinating to see how TV more than ever now constitutes itself mainly through its resemblance of internet news pages and online interactivity, while online news, more and more, draws inspiration from televisual presentation.

While reading these chapters, in concurrence with learning about new Yankees trades, I found myself rethinking the 'interactive' and 'immersive' experience of the MLB 'At Bat' software, which is available for mobile devices, personal computers, and even on the PlayStation and XBOX.

A screenshot of the iPad app:

Photo Oct 06, 2 03 13 PM
Photo Oct 06, 2 03 13 PM

(from: http://notebooks.com/2010/10/07/mlb-at-bat-2010-ipad-app-of-the-week/)

The At Bat program allows subscribers to not only see as many games during the season as possible (a whopping total of 2430 – not counting the postseason), but also allows the user to 'interact' with the game and essentially create their own broadcast. Subscribers can constantly choose between different audio broadcasts, as well as pick from several camera angles, either focusing in on one specific location, or building a tableau of several angles which creates a picture-in-picture experience that lets nothing go unmissed.

The designers of this interface, and the users who interact with it, presumably think they are engaging with the apex of sports broadcasting interactivity. But are they? Are immediacy and immersion best accomplished through hypermedia saturation? Or do they resonate more closely with direct presence? Does a fan sitting behind a team's dugout suffer because of his uni-directional and (in comparison to watching dozens of feeds online) myopic view of the game? Or does direct experience and presence define what is most immediate and immersive? Similarly, do the window-styled and ticker-taped news broadcasts on stations like CNN and MSNBC really allows us to engage with the information on a deeper, more complete level than ever before?

- Jen Feldman