Code Movie

While continuing to consider Hayles’ phrase, “Print is flat, code is deep,” I decided to closely examine the piece by Giselle Beiguelman entitled Code Movie 1. Once again by taking a so called familiar piece of ground and making it unfamiliar to us, Beiguelman is commenting and playing with the fact that there is always more than meets the eye with the particular medium of digital literature. In the piece, approximately 20 seconds long, you watch a sequence of texts fly and move across the screen from one end to another in multiple different patterns and shapes. The text itself does not seem to make too much sense, other than the fact that it is moving around in a sequence of different letters and numbers in an artistic manner, with music playing in the background. Instead of being an interactive piece, you simply watch, as the title seems to indicate. It turns out that Beiguelman took a series of JPG images and a hex editor to view the code underneath, then used Adobe Flash to make a movie out of it. While the movie does not have a specific narrative in particular, the goal of Code Movie 1 is clear: Beiguelman wanted to take the familiar aspect of JPG images (as to which ones she used I am not sure) and show not only that there is far more underneath, but that the material taken underneath can be taken and used as a new medium with familiar (Flash) techniques that we recognize. So while the movie itself doesn’t isolate the viewer completely because of the style of the movements itself, the actual content remains completely unrecognizable. Thus Beiguelman can create new mediums from objects that we often think are able to be grasped and understood (JPG images) by throwing it into a different but also familiar medium of the digital movie.

Interacting with New Media

After reading Nick Montfort’s Fourth Era piece, I decided to play our assigned interactive fiction The Dreamhold in the good spirit of digital media and get the iPhone version of it. To me I was taken aback at first by the fact that interactive fiction was being explored by developers onto new mediums of operations. As Montfort alluded to, book formats of interactive fiction came out shortly with popular stories such as The Hobbit in this form. In the same way, the iPhone and iPad versions, as I started to play, kept the same type of format as needed for all traditional interaction fictions: namely, I type in a typical response, “examine”, “north”, “look at”, etc. and it blurts out a response in which I can creatively imagine myself as the protagonist in the world described by the set of codes given by the programmer through the computer, or in this case, the iPhone. Yet the app expanded on this a bit, where a set of help options and settings were available to me, as well as an easy-to-access map, etc. In one sense, the iPhone version took out some of the essence of what I think interactive fiction is: that is, to place you in an unfamiliar environment and for you as the “interactor” to figure out exactly what’s going on through text. In a way, the text was your only hope to play the game and not only interact with the world given to you in the game but you as the player interacting with the text. Any possible traces of clues would be explored. Here, not only could I easily access any sort of hint from what was given but I could ask for help from a third-party, namely, the “narrator.” While Montfort argues that a third-party “narrator” can and should be used to create and cause a more distinctive and unique chain of events that happen in the world to make it more immersive, and though I do understand that part of what the first section of Dreamhold attempts to do is to introduce newcomers into the world of interactive fiction, I also believe that the use of the narrator as a help guide loses to a unique aspect of interactive fiction: namely the sense of being lost! It’s from this sense that I wanted to play further, explore the world, and let loose my imagination. From it I grew to appreciate interactive fiction in the first place and I believe causes many people to continue to enjoy it today.

Stand and Create

Upon reading Ryan’s Dysfunctionality in Digital Art article, I began to critically examine each of his four types of dysfunctionality, particularly at what he calls “Ludic” functionality, namely asking, “what can I do with this technology, other than what it was meant for?”
Then I came across this piece, by Bruno Nadeau and Jason Lewis:
Still Standing

This piece, as well as its similar referencing artwork, Text Rain, by Camille Utterback, seemed to me a prime example as this use of dysfunctionality in the digital realm. In the Still Standing piece we see that the person viewing it interacts with a seemingly random group of letters on a screen. These random letters, bumbling along the floor, then move accordingly as your body physically moves across the projector area in a way that replicates the letters actually running away from the person. Contrary to other interactive motion technology uses, the only way to interact properly for with this piece to make sense is to stand still, when the projector senses your silhouette and forms the letters to make words in that exact shape so you can see your own “shadow,” in a way, as well as the words forming a poem, and not only that but one about the increasing pace of our society and the necessity to keep up. Thus, through the use of dysfunctionality the artwork is displaying its message both literally as the letters toss to and fro on the screen and mentally as we attempt to relate to the piece and see how it functions. The creators Lewis and Nadeau have in effect turned the use of motion-sensing and turned it on its head, because in order to actually understand what the piece is actually saying, you have to be motionless. The message is portrayed through a seemingly random process and its solution is counter-intuitive to the user interacting with it. Otherwise upon initial interaction the piece may just seem like another technological exhibit in a science museum. Similarly (and originally), Utterback’s Text Rain plays with the use of motion-sensing technology by once-more throwing seemingly random text and having them fall from top to bottom, like rain drops. As they approach the user’s shadow, they land and also slowly begin to form words if enough of a shadow or interaction of the camera is captured. Thus the dysfunctionality actually portrays a message, in this case another poem:
“I like talking with you,
simply that: conversing,
a turning-with or -around,
as in your turning around
to face me suddenly…
At your turning, each part
of my body turns to verb.
We are the opposite
of tongue-tied, if there
were such an antonym;
We are synonyms
for limbs’ loosening
of syntax,
and yet turn to nothing:
It’s just talk.

Digitizing Permanence

Reading through Craig Mod’s Post-Artifact Books and Publishing, and seeing his many points about the artifact itself (the book), in particular, got me thinking about how the author interprets his medium and how it shapes his thinking about the act of writing. In the article, Mod says, speaking of traditional printed books, “…submitting that file to be printed is to place ultimate faith in the book. To believe — because you must for the sake of sanity! — that this is the best you can do given the constraints. And you will have to live with the results forever.” For one I thought this was quite a statement! But we live in an age where massive book stores chains (R.I.P. Borders) and newspaper companies go out of business for not keeping up with the digital demand of the 21st century, where seemingly every kid on the block has a new iPod Touch, and where new technologies are constantly being explored and melded into each other, the role of the traditional author can very well be changing as we know it. Thus the issue of immutability is one that can’t be avoided. In one sense I thought this seems to give a clear advantage to the printed book; e.g. given the fact that authors do have to think about the potential permanence of their work, and what that means when actually printing and distributing to the masses, would that not cause them to think more deeply and carefully about their ideas and refine them down to a crisp permanent fixture? On the other end of the spectrum we see the digital, in which it’s as easy as a simple hit of the delete key (I’ve personally done it with this very blogpost already many times over!) to completely eradicate the author’s work. It changes the very landscape of the writing world: instead of always having to be sure of your concrete ideas and being required to repeat these ideas over and over, one can simply throw out ideas into the digital landscape. Not that it is impossible to have a permanent digital reality, but when has a website truly lasted the test of time? Instead it becomes more about adapting to the environment and technology we’ve been surrounded with. What Mod argues is that this new “experience” is expanded beyond the individual and towards a community oriented, connected, and fast-paced society. What I am wondering now is not only on how the modern author thinks about his own ideas but whether these ideas are negatively impacted by becoming less developed and more raw, and how that will affect the future of literature.

Seeing Faith

In Robert Kendall’s digital poem, Faith, I think the biggest thing that I noticed which coincides with what we talked about in class is the aspect of the visual that can be captured much more vividly in the digital realm compared to any other period of literature. The first thing we come across when looking at the poem is the word “logic” literally bouncing off of the title, “Faith,” of which is at the top center in big, elegant font. Soon words fly on to the screen and the first part of the poem appears in different parts of the screen, saying “logic can’t bend this.” While much could be drawn upon the meaning of that statement in a still literary sense, contrasting logic to faith and their respective roles in society etc, I think it’s interesting that Kendall instead uses the digital medium he’s been given to invoke an entirely different meaning. By this he also means that logic literally can’t bend faith, as the words bounce off and faith is the only word that remains completely still. The movement of the words becomes the most important facet of the entire poem. As you click onward, more words continue to fly on the page, words that are very strategically placed upon the page in order to create layers of meaning for each time you click. One comparison I thought of in classic literature is in the use of alliteration. When we come across this in poetry, the first use that I often think of is the audio nature of the words in similar sounding syllables and so forth. But another aspect of alliteration is visual: when we actually see certain words that look similar on the page, we can recognize the importance of them without necessarily having to read them out loud. I think Kendall takes this part of alliteration a giant step further by having the words themselves move in different directions and coincide with the words’ meanings themselves. Another example is in the third layer when we see the words “red,” “winking,” and “neon,” flashing in place and in the next layer when the word “Leap” literally expands in size and moves up as if to jump out and actually take a leap of faith. Thus it’s clear to me now more than ever that the digital realm gives writers a unique opportunity by providing a limitless amount of options to play around with meanings of words in entirely different ways, particularly visually.