Technology played an important role in this class – through the use of Google Wave, the Blog, as well as the electronic literature pieces that we read online.
Google Wave: When writing my appendix paper for my website, I was grateful to be able to read through our class notes throughout the semester. I think that the use of GW worked best when there was one “lead” note-taker, with everyone else adding small notes if necessary. I think it was also helpful to have the first few minutes of class to look over the reading, adding questions and comments to the wave.
The Blog: I think the blog worked well for this class. Many of the discussions we had in class are occurring simultaneously all over the Internet. By having one blog a week on a topic separate from the reading, I felt motivated to search other outlets for similar discussion threads and examples of what we were talking about in class. This made our discussions more relevant and up to date with current arguments and conversations. For example, watching Digital Nation or We Live in Public informed that way that I started to think about digital culture, surveillance, and online identity – topics that were mentioned in class, yet discussed without much background information. The blog post about the reading was helpful to articulate my own thoughts on the material, as well as read through other’s responses before coming to class to discuss.
Electronic Literature: While I understand the importance of the theory we discussed this semester, I loved the last section of this class. Reading through online projects such as Flight Paths and We Feel Fine opened up a whole new arena of artistic electronic pieces online that I was not aware of before. Because this class discusses the digital narrative, I feel that technology should play a larger role in the beginning of the class. Also, by the end, when it was more technology heavy, I found myself unable to really integrate the theory. Maybe in the future the theory readings could be more intermingled with examples of electronic literature pieces that show what the theory is talking about? For example, contrasting older pieces like Afternoon with newer pieces, side by side, instead of weeks later.
Lastly, I was happy to create an electronic piece in lei of a paper. I learned more about code, the functionality of a website, and was able to think through how the Internet changes narrative structure and literature – far more than would have been possible through a paper.
The net art of YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES is different than many of the works we have discussed in the past weeks. The artists began working on these pieces in 1999, yet each work remains relevant ten years later. Each flash “movie” begins in a format we all recognize, the 10 second countdown and a screen with “Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries presents…” This iconic beginning gives the viewer a starting point to identity with – similar to many films we have seen before. Each work tells a different story using sizes of text, speed, and flashes of black to provoke emotion on an otherwise white canvas with black writing in a consistent font. The text moves at a rapid pace, a pace to fast that if you stop concentrating for a millisecond, you will miss something. With the many distractions of the the Internet and the way that we easily have five different tabs open simultaneously, consuming multiple pages on the Internet, the pace of these works keeps the viewer engaged on the Art, and only the Art. Unlike many works we have seen, these flash movies require no interaction, only concentration. We can decide which movies to watch, but the narrative is written and each piece is complete.
Each piece centers around a different theme – sex, surveillance, North Korean culture, politics, the Internet, technology, among others – and each piece seems to take a stance on these themes, relaying an opinion or statement. The artists translated the pieces into multiple languages, and while many of the pieces center on North Korea, they play off the Internet as a global epicenter. Underneath the loose narrative of each piece is a universal theme in which anyone can connect to. In one of the pieces “What Know?” they even state, “what now – our concerns become global.”
Each piece has it’s own score and the timing of each beat is perfectly tied to the display of words and sentences. As the words move quickly across the screen, the fast passed Jazz music keeps the viewer engaged and hyper attentive to the screen. It’s pretty amazing how perfectly timed every piece is. The importance of the music is reminiscent of film and the way both mediums of the Internet and film can create a full sensory experience by combining music and images. This was also central to “Flight,” in which the music added dramatic and urgent tones to the narrative.
The artists have also been able to present these works and others similar as installations in museums. Do you think this would add to the the experience (bigger screen, empty room)? Or is the web an integral part of the experience, making it more of an individual art consumption, rather than with a crowd.
A friend of mine and his parents are computer programmers. They are in the midst of creating a software that is very similar to We Feel Fine. However, they aren’t creating an Art project, they are creating a database that they pitch to companies as a marketing tool. For example, they will go to a company and tell them that they have a software that can survey the Internet for consumer feelings and sentiment and provide a report that will tell the company exactly what they want to know about their target audience. We Feel Fine is taking our sentiments off the Internet and putting it into book form. In two different ways, We Feel Fine creators as well as my friends are able to profit off public material on the Internet. Are we okay with that? Should we be okay with that?
While We Feel Fine might bring up debates on privacy issues, I think that it is important to talk about our own behavior, versus the people who are just taking advantage of that behavior. People seem quick to defend their intellectual property when they see it used, yet do not think twice about posting very private material in very public places. What is it about the Internet that gives users a sense of security, or even this urge to post statements and feelings that before, they might not even verbalize out loud – and surely they wouldn’t publish publicly?
Ten years ago, people probably wouldn’t post pictures of their weekend all over their office walls, for anyone to see. However, today, come Monday morning, it’s not that strange to post your weekend festivities all over the Internet, for anyone to see. Not only do we not think twice about this, we relish in the thought of posting these photos. We define moments in our life as “oh that would be a great profile pick,” or “this would be such a good photo.” We evaluate our real lives by how they might appear in a condensed online public portrayal. While reading through We Feel Fine, I almost felt uncomfortable reading through statements that were so private and personal, yet so publicly said. And it’s not just a generation thing. Plenty of Internet users that grew up “offline,” are using the Internet in a similarly public fashion than those that grew up “online.” I don’t really have answers to these questions, but it is definitely something we should all think about. I wonder if any of this behavior will change.
Here is the link to my project:
I am trying to create an environment where people can “deliberate” in the comment sections about the issues that I raise in each post. (sort of like Gamer Theory). If you have a chance to look at it, let me know what you think, or comment on any of the threads!
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.
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.
McKenzie Wark continually references the “Military Entertainment Complex” throughout Gamer Theory. While Wark discusses the MEC in general, I felt that the book was missing specific examples of ways that the MEC functions in our society – especially considering the cultural influence of Military games. In March I read an NPR article on “America’s Army,” an online combat game developed by the Pentagon. The article states that the game, “has helped boost military recruitment. The game’s technology is not all that different from the tools used in today’s war zones to guide unmanned drones and perform other tasks.” And, “One study found that the game had more impact on actual recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.”
The article talks about this new term of “militainment” where the US military draws from popular entertainment sources in order to draw more perspective individuals into the military. In reference to Rachel’s link of the TED video “When Games Invade Real Life”. This really is an example of games invading real life. Training costs are even going down because new soldiers know how to use the “video game” controllers of weapons.
The real effect of these games – something that Wark didn’t analyze in depth – is the “fog of war” effect that this article talks about. You can play games of war and win in the game, but real life is a totally different story. There are real effects on the ground, you cannot just reboot the game and try again. The scary thing is the desensitization. When a soldier is actually in combat, on the ground, I think they can clearly realize that they are not playing a game anymore. However, there are new missiles that are operated remotely by a soldier who looks at a screen and uses a controller very similar to that of a video game to eject to missile. In this case, the solider is put in a situation that is very similar to a game yet able to have real world effects with human lives in question. This is a very scary situation. Although we may save American lives from operating missiles remotely, is this really a good idea?
While reading GAM3R 7H30RY 1.1, I identified most with The Sims and SimEarth chapters, possibly because I am not a gamer and could not fully conceptualize the other games that McKenzie Wark alluded to. Both of these chapters focused on the game as an allegory for real life – The Sims as a parody for everyday life in ‘consumer society’ and SimEarth as an allegory for the imperfect balance of human life and the ecosystem.
Wark tells us that The Sims turn to the gamer as God while the gamer turns to the game to reverse time; the game can work as a critique of the unreality of the stakes of the game (35/42). While you are playing this game, you are entering in a God position where you can buy into the premise- play by the rules of “life” and consumer culture. Or, you can go against the rules, play the role of an evil manipulator and see what happens to your characters when you don’t follow the rules. If you play the game right, you really are doing nothing but “work.” There is no break from the grind of your real life and the grind of the Sim life. So what’s the point? Why is the game so addictive with so many characters? I think the game is similar to other simulation games, such a “playing house.” By entering into this pseudo reality game, the gamer has complete control. They are God. While we may live our own lives with a sense of losing control, we can regain that control and “win” in the game; something we may never do in real life.
SimEarth is a game that models the entire world ecosystem. As God you can control agricultural output and resource allocation to determine how your population will thrive or die. Wark talks about how the gamer can set the preferences and then leave the house for their own life, coming home to see how their simulation life “fared” at the end of the day. When this simulation life fails, the gamer is perplexed, “[the gamer] had always thought that if the economy in the real world cranked along at max efficiency, then the technology world would also bobble along at a rate sufficient to deal with the little problems that occur along the way” (210). Yet, technology cannot solve our problems. In the game though, if you are frustrated that your simulations only kill off the population, you can just uninstall and never play the game. Wark compares this to an allegory of the entire game world working in a quasi-Darwinian fashion. If games fail the “fantasy principle,” they are unfit for gamespace and cease to be played. We are constantly in search of newer, better, and more interesting games to quench our boredom and to transport us into a pseudo reality.
A couple questions that I walked away with after reading this piece: How did Gamer Theory actually function as a game? By going from each chapter (nicely organized with an exact number of paragraphs and certain color) I felt like I was checking off a new level that I “had” to get to. Also when reading the comments it seemed that other readers felt they were entering into this “comment” game. Another question I had was, what was the difference between “game” and “gamespace”? I felt that these were two important terms of the piece, but I did not feel that Wark accurately defined the terms that he wanted to dissect.
The Journal of Culture and Technology published this article by Scott Rettberg that describes “Kind of Blue” and shares some background information about the project. I found it helpful to read the article before reading through the project.