Monthly Archives: April 2010

Rough draft: The Sprawl

The (partial) draft of my project is up here. Clio is my designated peer-editor, but if the rest of you have some free time between now and Wednesday, feel free to go through and make comments. I’ll continue to update and expand it (significantly, I hope) over the course of the next day or so.

Feelings

The two sites assigned for this week arose many questions in me which I’m very interested in discussing with the class tomorrow. The most interesting one for me is We Feel Fine. Beginning with the title, it seems as though the site is promoting a certain ideal among a particular Western-like population. The site is truly a work of art which was created by very talented experts in the field of computer science (which made me feel pretty inept in regards to my semester project). It is very easy to navigate and beautifully decorated with many colors and categories to investigate. The link available through the “News” icon provides a great description summary of the project (some of you may have seen it already).

We Feel Fine is an outstanding site which provides valuable and concise information about the feelings of people through the World Wide Web (not to confuse it with people all over the world). Johathan Harris and Sep Kamvar are young innovative artists who have clearly done a wonderful and fruitful job in marketing this website. The publishing of their book (from information obtain on the website) is a good indicator of the popularity of this site. Rather than focusing on the strenghts of this site, I decided to discuss some of the concerns or questions I had on this project.  My questions center mainly on the methodology, legitimacy, and privacy of issues.

What is the main purpose or goal of We Feel Fine? How quantifiable or legitimate are the so-called feeling expressed through out this site? How accurate is their methodology for collecting such data? Particularly when they are dealing with the combination of qualitative data in a quantitative form of analysis.

Do you think that the collection of such personal information violates or threatens the privacy of the informants? Do you have any concerns about your privacy after exploring this site?

Why publish a book about the project? What do you think are the strenghts and weaknesses of the book?

Can feeling be quantified? How are they different than emotions? Could they just be an expression of language or communication? Do you think that claimed differences in gender and age can be generalized?

Finally, the authors of We Feel Fine claim “This is a project about people. Blogs are just the medium.” Do you agree with this statement?

Twistori seemed to offer a shorter version of the the same site, but in a simplified way I was wondering what would be the differences and similarities of the two sites. What are the advantages of twistory?

What is the “Big Plot”?

After reading all the various aspects and characters of “The Big Plot” I realized that the question of the Big Plot was not necessarily what the site claimed. On the one hand, there are characters who criticize the effects of unregulated capitalism, such as consumerism.

Mark Savin had many statements which really got me thinking (unfortunately I lost my notes where I had compiled them). One of the statements he made centered on traveling and tourism. I love to travel and never before had reflected on the effects and complexity of our desire to travel. In this sense, Mark points out the consumerism and emptiness we have in our lives which makes us seek out exotic destinations. Yet, when we travel, do we really see the cultures as they are or are these just constructed cultures for our enjoyment and consumption? For example, as I have traveled to Latin America, I have been able to witness the way that indigenous people dress-up to play the part of “noble savage” so sought after by the tourist. I have also been upset when Americans go to Latin America and get upset that the local people don’t speak English well. As though if they are not doing “their job” of pleasing the tourist. I guess Mark was the character I was most attracted to due to his Marxist ideals, though I don’t know that they would be truly Marxist actually.

Another aspect of the Big Plot which I really disliked was the way that the authors used sensationalizing language on their site to attract a particular type of user. I think that it is deceiving and claims to do something which really never does.  “Love – espionage – sentiment – hate – politics – corruption – turmoil
are rendered in a form of fiction which doesn’t treat the spectator as a consumer, contemplating a completed piece of art in a tv-box, theatre or museum, but rather as something unfinished.” It plays on universal themes and yet does not deliver what it offers.
It also states that  “The Big Plot is an immersive Recombinant Fiction, which needs an active investigation by an audience, who must follow clues in several stages in order to compile the whole story. So now you can take the responsibility of creating your own show!” I agree that the audience has to look for information (not necessarily clues) to piece together the story, but I don’t know how the audience creates her own show? Maybe I was just missing something.

Finally, it is the message that I found most contradicting. The idea is to promote so-called Global Consciousness, yet it seems to do this through mediums which are infiltrated with advertising, such as: Facebook – Youtube – Flicker – BlogSpot – Twitter – MySpace – Linkedi. I wonder how effective is the Big Plot in achieving its goal? or could the goal be something different?


Commerials and TV…or both

Here are some of those mini series I was talking about in class.

The first is called It’s Everybody’s Business, and features an ex-President of GE and his wife as they help businesses out.  Of course, it’s all extremely obvious product placement.  You have to download this application to watch it, but it’s up to you.

http://everybodysbusiness.msn.com/

The other series is called Race to the Moment, and it’s sponsored by benadryl.  I don’t think it’s aired yet, so I don’t have any links for this one.

Rough Draft

Here’s a link to my blog project as of now.

http://anaylzethisblogthat.blogspot.com/

The Big Plot

The Big Plot considers itself a piece of recombinant fiction: “This new method blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, swaps the roles between actor and spectator and plays with the idea of time-bound performances. It reverses-engineer the process of storytelling. Nothing is simulated, just transformed patterns for real-world actions. In the end the distinction between art and life collapses, and the artifact of human existence emerges.”

To achieve this aim, The Big Plot brings together YouTube video clips, blog posts, Tweets and Facebook messages. Through each technology medium we learn a little more about the characters of Brian, Vanessa, Mark and Paul. Each of the characters speaks to the camera sort of like a video diary, yet editing their response towards the other characters. Viewers of this narrative piece together pieces of the puzzle by sifting through “public” information. After reading the messages, reading the tweets, and watching the videos, the viewer comes away with a sense of “knowing all.” This feeling represents the Eurasia revolution that the characters speak of during the piece. As the “artifact of human existence emerges,” the viewer is hyper aware of the commercial culture the characters speak of as well as the culture that the viewer herself engages in. Vanessa heads the “Global Consciousness,” movement in which she is influenced heavily by Mark. Within this movement, “Now the only one solution for the planet is the Global Conscience. Nothing else.” This movement works in opposition the the Eurasia Revolution, American culture, in which “we bought its trashy dreams and now we can’t wake up.” In American culture today, the characters describe society as a place where “people say one thing and do another,” politicians speak half truths, the media gets excited about moral corruption, and there is no truth you can call objective. Global Consciousness would safe us from this society we have built.

Like Flight Paths, this piece focuses on real world issues. While Flight Paths comments on the plight of refugees, The Big Plot tries to bring awareness to  a new cultural movement. On the website are links to videos in London and Berlin of volunteers trying to spread information about Global Consciousness. I think that The Big Plot tried to mirror our everyday reality, the way we think that we understand a situation simple by accessing social networks. However, I found Flight Paths to be more effective in delivering a message. Maybe The Big Plot was too similar to our everyday reality. I consumed the piece as I would any other home made YouTube video, and found myself giving more credit to the artistic direction of Flight Paths. If The Big Plot tried to collapse the distinction between art and life, I think they achieved their aim. I am just not sure whether collapsing that distinction is effective.

Collaboration

Flight Paths and Implementation are both pieces that depend on collaboration to succeed. However, the collaborative aspect of these projects manifests in different ways. While Implementation posts pictures and descriptions of user involvement after the project debuted, Flight Paths used collaborative material from participants in order to create the project.

Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph were interested in the Guardian story, “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” They created a blog in which interested users who shared an interest in the topic of the article could post videos, pictures, poems, and memoirs. When Pullinger and Joseph created the short flash videos that we watched for class, they used material that users had posted on the blog to formulate the characters and create visuals for the piece. This project revisits a current theme of our class: authorship. Who is really the creator of this piece? What constitutes as authorship – ideas or the editors eye that brings these ideas together? This piece shows an example of a successful (in my opinion) collaborative web based art project. What makes this piece successful? I think the set up of the blog brings together ideas that allow for collaborative brainstorming. However, the fact that two artists worked to achieve the vision and the final artistic direction allowed for the end piece to come out with a cohesive look and message. Are there examples of web projects that were entirely collaborative from start to finish – with no real “leader”?

Implementation takes a different approach. Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg wrote a sticker novel and then asked participants to distribute this novel and take pictures of where they had put the stickers. While Montfort and Rettberg created the original idea, collaboration occurs on the website with the uploading of photos. As a viewer of the project today, a vital part of experiencing the project involves looking through the material of how the story was implemented. Therefore, while Montfort and Rettberg may have created the original story, there are now multiple authors of the project. Pullinger and Joseph were able to take users stories and pictures and decide exactly what the finished piece would look like. On the contrary, Montfort and Rettberg relied on participant involvement and creativity to take the project to the next level. Both projects were “successful” in that that they gained media attention, and are now analyzed in the aftermath.

New media narratives allow for an expansion of the conception of authorship, which is what Web 2.0 as well as new Creative Commons copyright tools are all about. As a society, I think individualism and ownership dominate the way we think about intellectual and artistic property. With new collaborative projects, as well as pieces online that allow you to use the material, remix it, and re-post it, we are changing these previously held assumptions. What are the societal implications and benefits from this change? Maybe we will be able to work together, combine our ideas and creative visions, and produce tools, projects, and ideas never imagined or conceptualized before.

breaking news!

Via  Kate Pullinger’s Flight Paths blog, here’s a brand new manifesto for electronic literature: “A [S]creed for Digital Fiction,” by members of the Digital Fiction International Network (Alice Bell et. al.) In light of the reading we’ve done in this class so far, what do you think of the DFIN’s definition of ‘digital fiction’?

Especially the closing section on what they’ve chosen to omit:

A [s]creed for digital fiction deliberately neglects…
…blogs,

…communitarian digital fiction,

…digital storytelling,

… and any other form of digital narrative that does not qualify as fiction. While we welcome the authorial democratization that Web 2.0 technology permits and wholeheartedly support research that seeks to understand it, life narratives are fundamentally nonfiction and therefore beyond our remit.

I’m not entirely convinced the borders of fiction and nonfiction are as clear as they make them out to be, especially on the web. What about blog fiction? What about hoaxes? How does one define ‘fiction’ these days, anyway?

Flight Paths

It is quite interesting to learn about the various cases in which immigrants from Asia can be so desparate to find work that they would go to the extent that they did. The story and project Flight Paths describe the complexity and terror of such immigrants, who, in their desire to improve their lives go through various horrific actions that lead to their demise.

I like the way the website was created. It is very interactive, perfectly timed and with beautiful music and graphics. From the beginning, I felt drawn to the experience of Yacub in Dubai. Later the life of Harriet, which seems almost as uncertain and even empty. I like the way that the story overlaps when both “Paths Cross”  and the results of that. Overall, this is a great project, very nice and short as well as entertaining.

The Cave & Gamer Theory

When I read the title of McKenzie Wark’s book Gamer Theory, it reminded me of a theory which has become very controversial today, Game Theory. In a nut shell, Game Theory centers on the notion of individualistic concepts eventually driving the economy to prosperity. Yet this book seems to take a different approach. To begin with, the first chapter is titled “The Cave” and it makes reference to Plato: The Allegory of the Cave. Plato would argue that the “Cave” is the place where most people who have not reached enlightenment are found, operating mindlessly in their daily routine. It is mainly through education that people can emerge from the cave. Another of Plato’s ideas was that “education is not a process of putting knowledge into empty minds, but making people realize what they already know.

McKenzie further explores the concept of a military entertainment complex and its rules. The way in which violence and war become a game. Yet, the “digital game plays up everything that game space merely pretends to be: a fair fight, a level playing field, free competition” (20). In other words, the digital game transcends into an emergent cultural form. Digital games transcend the gaming experience by allowing networks to form and the ability to enter and leave the “game zone” at will. Perhaps it is because all these technological advances have been so recent that there has been an increase in the academic interest of this cultural phenomenon. McKenzie also explains how “The world outside is a gamespace that appears as an imperfect form of the game. The gamer is seen as an archaeologist of the Cave. Digital games are “ruins” of a lost future. Gamespace is built on the ruins of a future it proclaims in theory yet disavows in practice” (21). This part seemed very interesting but I’m not clear on the connection of the archaeologist of the future. It seems quite odd as archaeology has always been the study of past remain.

The concept of the gamespace as the future is explained under the chapter analyzing The Sims. McKenzie explains that games produce in the gamer an intuitive relation to the allegorithm for a future which may never come. Perhaps it is the desire or longing for equality for all what grants the Sims such popularity, their homogenity and lack of ethnic features may be calling on the future of humanity as free from hegemonic exploitation.