Thursday, February 25, 2010

Realism, Not Possible in Real Life, Spectatorship, Participation, & Digital Narrative

Our specific assignment for today as we continue mining Manovich for insights and outposts is to focus on the section on "Synthetic Realism and Its Discontents" that begins on page 184. Manovich makes the important point that the real break with the history of visual representation of realistic depictions of objects and places so they are indistinguishable from a photograph (in itself a modern way of defining it) happens not with the still image but when a person can experience him or herself moving around within the generated simulation of a 3-D space.

Manovich's approach highlights production and technological techniques that are used to create the illusion of realism, and quite rightly explains that because of the way 3-D computer graphics render "reality"--construct from scratch as opposed to record from reality the way a camera does--it is "practially impossible" to simulate photorealistic detail (192). Certain aspects have to be prioritized.

"New realism is partial and uneven, rather than analog and uniform" (196). Think about that for a while.

Today in class, we'll also talk about the icon, a la Scott McCloud:

ALSO, the new Second Life viewer has new media capabilities for putting media on prims. See my blog posting for a video that shows a uStream broadcast (done with my iPhone!!) on one side of a prim and twitter on the another face of the same prim in L1's SL space. The prims also can show Flash content and two or more avatars can interact with the content on the same prim--ie type or play on it. How does this offer more realism? More Not possible in real life possibilities? Hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


As we move from thinking primarily about narrative to focusing on what is specific to digital narrative, we are reading Lev Manovich's book The Language of New Media, and thinking through some of the multitude of ideas he offers. As this quotation (p. 71) highlights, cinema, the printed word, and computer interfaces are three major cultural forms of new media. But are there other possibilities, metaphors for cultural interface that go beyond the familiar forms and objects that we already know?

Also, let's ponder what Manovich suggests when he writes: "Thus, the old dichotomies content---form and content---medium can be rewritten as content---interface" (p. 66).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Digital Narrative at the MFA

Here we are at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, contemplating Giovanni Paolo Pannini's 1757 version of a database! The painting at the MFA is one of 4 similar ones Pannini painted for the Duke de Choisel. Here is a webpage with the others.

And here is a pic of Candice Breitz's video installation, Queen (A Portrait of Madonna), comprised of 30 screens of Madonna fans recorded individually singing the entire 73-minute Immaculate Collection album acapella (to us, while listening to it on earphones). Interesting to think about these two works alongside each other, frames against frames, windows into the culture of their times.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Is New Media?

Manovich Manovich Manovich I wish we could be in a version of Being Lev Manovich and go on a trip into his head, but reading The Language of New Media will have to suffice. I love the Prologue, that dips into the book to pull out pieces about Vertov, long an interest/obsession of mine. Our responses to watching Man with a Movie Camera last Thursday reinforced the importance of Vertov's work, and I am looking forward to bringing in my virtual kino-eye material next week as we connect cinema to virtual worlds and gaming.

In defining new media, let's consider this. Manovich writes:

1) Numerical Representation
2) Modularity
3) Automation
4) Variability
5) Transcoding

Let's look at Manovich's section on the myth of interactivity (page 55).

On Thursday, we will meet at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Please look at the museum website, because we will discuss and analyze it, and use it as an example of interface, database, transcoding, the use of digital narrative and forms in traditional spaces and contexts, etc. MFA

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Playing with Time, Messing with Expectations

In this path in the garden of possible universes, the groundhog saw his shadow and there will be 6 more weeks of winter. Personally, I am hoping for a big snowstorm that is fun to play in, but that is another kind of play than what we will be talking about today as we discuss the film Groundhog Day and Katherine Phelps's diagrams of story shapes. So much energy in Classical Hollywood Cinema's preservation of continuity goes into the spectator knowing where he or she is in space; time is usually a given unless the film is deliberately playing with time (like Memento.) It is particularly interesting to notice how time is compressed in Groundhog Day, how the clock and a few music cues work to signal the passage of time, and what is necessary for us to know where we are in the day, and if we need to know that at all.