March 16, 2015

The End

My last “new media” piece looks at the resurgence of the dystopian genre. Partially, I was interested in the oversaturation of experiences leading to the desensitization of feelings. With an influx of news and other visual experiences, it often feels just as the McLuhan’s graphic describes, that "it isn't that I don't like current events. There have just been so many of them lately" (70). The documents that I read regarding dystopias say that they attempt to shock their audiences out of their apathy, but shock does not work in an oversaturated world. I do not want to live in a world of ‘allatonceness’. I sort of like the isolation of experiences…it helps inspire a newness and excitement.
I was also interested in exploring how “technology created a the myth of green pasture world of innocence” (72). After taking an Environmental History class this term exploring the myth of nature and how different environmental movements helped and hurt groups of people, I was interested in the portrayal of nature within these films. Is nature separate from the human element? Captured or controlled?

I definitely have some unanswered questions, but I enjoyed filming this over the past week with its beautiful weather. I filmed over four days along the river as the sun set to keep a consistent mood/lighting. For the music, I played with the sound of popcorn and eagle-cry-lullabies. I transcribed a bit of a carnival tune as well, but I sort of liked the overdramatic darkness of the low notes.

March 2, 2015

Laozi and McLuhan

Though the way that Laozi and McLuhan introduce ideas is similar, both using their text to puzzle some greater meaning out of their worlds, the image and quote McLuhan chooses are geared toward a propaganda at to a scale that an ancient Chinese philosopher would not be able to comprehend. The use of the quote on absence with the flaming man, the immolation of Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War, suggests something ominous about the increase in shared ideas brought about by the digital age. McLuhan seems wary of it all and the contrast between Laozi’s quote and the image feels discordant with the original text.

If Laozi lived in McLuhan’s time, he would become an icon much like the other revolutionaries in the book or McLuhan himself. As it is, he is a mystery, a man or many men, perhaps born with a beard and perhaps riding an oxen. Whoever he might have been, both McLuhan and Laozi end their texts by heading into an unclear future, the former mentioning an increasing look to the “East” and the latter looking “West”.      

February 23, 2015

Photo, Gallery, Book Reflection

The refinement process in this project really helped focus and hone in on the messages the stills tried to convey. Though I primarily think of photography as a method to try and least superficially capture memories, the selection process forced me to think of it in a more artistic way. The prints were a nice way to have a tangible product and the books were an interesting compilation of everyone’s work, definitely showcasing the personalities of the series. The gallery put the personalities all in a row to try and make a cohesive show.

The gallery opening experience made me feel proud of all we had done as a class. I was excited to show my friends the photos they were in, but also to show them the work that everyone else had created. At the same time, it felt a little uncomfortable with people slowly sliding from one photo to the next, murmuring to each other. The artist statement was fantastically weird, like the grogginess of waking from a nap or part of an episode of Welcome to Night Vale. I enjoyed walking around, appreciating pretzels with an empty mind. One of the coolest and most adorable parts of the process for me was when the barbecue sauce kid from Aly’s pictures saw the finished work on the wall.    

February 17, 2015

Kwame Anthony Appiah Reflection

Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “A Decent Respect: Honor and Citizenship at Home and Abroad” did not address the subject matter I thought it would; the title of the lecture made me think he would speak on a sort of global citizenship. The question that Professor Dominica Chang posed in her introduction, if our perceived comfort with diversity makes us comfortable to the point of complacency, stuck with me throughout Professor Appiah’s speech. His introduction of clear and consistent concepts, particularly civic honor, helped ground his argument on how honor and shame shape individuals and inform communications between cultures. I have definitely experienced the concept of honor supporting moves to action or stasis before and agreed that an instilled, internal code of honor can be more useful than other forms of surveillance in certain situations. Without internal motivations, systems of incentives can be difficult to handle.

His speech grew more original when he talked about the various approaches in cross-cultural communication. I found it interesting that he felt that we should look at how practices came to be discarded rather than came to be. Rooting his argument in the concrete examples of the case of foot binding in China versus genital mutilation in Kenya helped ground the definitions he gave earlier in the talk. His argument that confrontations failed when opposing views used shame without respect felt a bit obvious. His continued repetition of points throughout his speech made his argument feel pretty solid, although this might also have been because I was too tired to think of alternate views.

February 16, 2015

Project No. 6: We have no earlids...

My song is title “Ode to Iris Apfel” though it began as an ode to no one. As this was a project based entirely on sound, I wanted to go into it without a particular subject in mind.  The piece came from McLuhan’s idea that “our technology forces us to live mythically, but we continue to think fragmentarily, and on single, separate planes.” My biggest problem when creating this piece was in combining sounds. Though I did not want to make a traditional piece, I wanted to avoid making sound for the sake of making sound. I made four other songs with music boxes, but there was no relief from the cacophony when I tried to mesh it all together. I decided to focus on one element at a time, starting by playing the synth on GarageBand and then adding in elements, such as part of the traditional folk tune “Daisy Bell” and an improvised violin piece my friend had played that I discovered on my external hard drive. I then worked in the sound of my typewriter and dirty dishes to add in an element of life at school. It’s not perfect, but there are fragments to follow within it. It became an ode to Iris Apfel because she seems like a kickass older lady that masters the art of elements. Huge, black-framed glasses. Bright red lipstick. Everyone deserves an ode or two.       

February 2, 2015

Project No. 3: Something is Happening

College creates a space where students are encouraged to reflect daily on what kind of person they want to stay or turn into. Here, there are many methods which we are encouraged to frame and look, including the lens new to our generation of the virtual self.
           As freeing as self-reflection can be, the methods by which we reflect can constrain. As McLuhan says, “Environments are invisible. Their groundrules, pervasive structures, and overall patterns elude easy perception” (McLuhan 84-85). We live under patterns that we are aware of but, in many cases, cannot completely escape. The new environment of the virtual self can feel like a retreat from deciding, a digestible break to a quantifiable measure of personhood. However, it is there more than anywhere that we are required to follow set structures and patterns.
My first attempt at this project did not work. I took 300 photos of different forms of reflection, using the idea of a Claude glass to try and show how we frame and quantify our environments. Historically, a Claude glass was used to capture landscapes: people would stand with their backs to a place and frame it in the glass in order to somehow better appreciate it. Of course, it’s also a bit ridiculous because they missed out on the actual view of a place as they were too busy looking at its reflection.
          What I failed to include in my first attempt at this project were the people who make Lawrence meaningful. My friends, the people who help me understand and navigate this environment, are also the most helpful supporters in helping me try to figure out how to escape or accept my place in the ‘pervasive structure’. They are awesome and serve as a counterpoint to the reflections in the piece. 
Flickr is a valid art venue. Accessibility of art seems pretty important. If it helps people curate an online space that they can exhibit their work, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

January 21, 2015

Project No. 2: “Electronic technology created the masses”

In this quote, McLuhan correctly predicts the creation of a new space where people who may not be in the same physical space can still collaborate in a new, imagined space. My short film looks at that process and how a participant in it can do so while still being physically alone. However, in addition to viewing the Internet as a space for collaboration, we also realize it is a place where we might be more easily watched. The trails we leave across the Internet tell stories that we might not even realize we have created. Being observed is inevitable, inescapable. In the film, the actor’s messaging attracts the attention of some great “unseen” (pictured in Facebook blue). The space she perceives as solitude becomes flooded with light and when she tries to escape, she sees the constructed nature of the space she has built around herself. The shrimp tank plays into that, which is why the piece is bookended with it.

Description in box and date provided by Google

This, I now realize, makes me sound much more paranoid than I actually am about observation.