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.

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.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

In Jay David Bolter’s “Seeing and Writing” he makes the point that the electronic page does not create a reading experience like that of the printed page. Kerry Lawrynovicz’s “Girls’ Day Out” captures the unique ability of electronic literature to create an experience for the reader that could not have been replicated in the same manner by a printed page. The white words on a black background help lead the reader to the terrifying truth that is in direct contrast with the seemingly extremely harmless story about two sisters riding horses over a vast natural landscape.

Bolter mentions the importance of how a page is framed and the space that is left unfilled on a written page and how that space has played a role in a reader’s understanding through history. Lawrynovicz utilizes the negative space, that is not only space absent of words, but also space that is black and not white (or some similar white-like color) as is traditional on the printed page, to make the reader feel the emptiness of the lost lives of these innocent murdered young girls. Additionally, Lawrynovicz uses the overlay of the innocent storyline of her and her sister riding horses to contrast the underlying sinister story that her and her sister knew nothing about but could easily have been victims themselves. The first story fades and select words are left behind to reveal to the reader that there is another layer to this narrative. To achieve this using a printed page would be challenging. The colors alone would seem strange on a printed page. On a computer screen it is less noticeable until the animation progresses and the lone few words are left on the screen and that is when the reader really takes notice of the black and associates it with thoughts of death and evil.

Bolter says “The electronic author who chooses to animate must bear greater responsibility for the reader’s temporal experience, because he or she can regulate the flow of text and images on the screen.” By this he means that the electronic author loses the advantage that the print author has which is the room for the reader to make their own interpretation. The electronic author who animates is able to direct the reader’s thoughts more precisely, but if their goal is not achieved or falls flat or if the reader doesn’t get it, the electronic author is more to blame than the print author because they bore the responsibility of creating a more directed understanding within the reader.