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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Florian Cramer discusses the idiosyncrasies of the term post-digital. Defined as a moment in which digital media is no longer considered new media, post-digital refers to an obsession with nostalgia and old media as well as disenchantment with the status quo. It means that the digital has become fully pervasive throughout and the user must actively try to avoid it. Ironically, to resist the digital presupposes its totality. Cramer also discusses the misconceptions of the terms analog and digital, arguing that even the typewriter fits the definition of digital, although perhaps not in the colloquial sense of the word. He furthers his argument by pointing out that anything we see must be in analog format, as our eyes require the processing of light waves. Post-digital is thus an embrace and a critique of the digital, a complication of its existence which relies upon it to make sense. It reminds me of the Kirshenbaum article which points out the similarities between paper and the hard drive. All new media is based on old media and the two are perhaps inseparable.

I would like to take this weeks blog post to express my appreciation for this class. As a graduating senior studying ECON & BEO, I was done with my my major and wanted to take a class that I could learn about something that would truly help me out in the future. I sat in on lecture during shopping period, and loved Professor Chun’s lecture style. Throughout the semester, every lesson was a new lesson from me. I was not familiar with the material before we learned in during class or in readings before, so this class was very informaitve and one of my favorite classes I have taken since I have been here at Brown. Thank you professor Chun for an exciting and extremely informative semester! Hopefully in a few years, my name will be one that is mentioned during the last lecture of a semester of the students that you have taught.

During Wendy’s lecture on Monday, I remember feel very uneasy. I tend to get this way when I hear compelling information about not so pretty visions of the future. Big Data, as it were, is hoped to be the solution to all problems. With such a vastness in statistical analysis, it does not suffer from not enough research. Wendy spoke of the potential in justice to go sour as a result. Based on studies of Big Data, a case can be made that it is compelling enough with information that it knows you better than yourself. And if it knows every you who interacts with the internet, it has a body of information so great that it can easily assess decisions based on the information. I worry about the individual voice getting lost as the voice of the absolute mass, Big Data, begins to make decisions.

What will the continuation of new media forms and the advent of the “post-digital” age mean for society, economics, law, entertainment? Cramer describes the post-digital age as an extension of the digital, the journey into what lies beyond the current structures. What is the future? Perhaps we’ll find other reasons to read, ceasing to be bound by traditional meanings and embracing free thought. We will understand the awesome creepy power of the internet and become less visible, fearing the possibility of a distant person piecing together who you are. Big data is already informing our conceptions of analysis, preciseness, and causality. “Data was no longer regarded as static or stale, whose usefulness was finished once the purpose for which it was collected was achieved” (Mayer-Shonberger and Cukier). Will we value privacy be overshadowed by capture and surveillance or will we simply be at ease, having entrusted these to persons who will not abuse their powers? Perhaps we will rediscover what it means to be public. New inventions and their interfaces will inform how we interact with the world. We will forget the things that are hidden behind them, falling prey to screen essentialism. We will discover new worlds—new games. Perhaps in the post-digital age, activism will cease to be activism and government and democracy will also lose their meaning. Will we be better for it?

 

The notion of post-digital is an intriguing one, and illustrates the artistic and social anxieties of my generation to define themselves in relation to the constant flow of technology that surrounds them. Florian Cramer discusses the dual meaning of this term “post-digital” and I believe both are relevant in a discussion of the current artistic and social relationships within the “digital age”, within new media. In one sense, post-digital may describe disillusionment with technology, perhaps because of its mass reproducibility (the internet memes Cramer describes for example) or its deterioration of privacy. One may have arrived at this conclusion themselves, or perhaps post-Snowden they joined many others in a newfound disappointment with these new technologies. This definition corresponds to the man in the park with the typewriter. The solution is to disconnect and go back to the old, safer, better way. Interestingly enough I find this phenomenon is rarely present in those who actually had to use typewriters. Both of my parents grew up with typewriters and would never trade in their new digital toys for the “frustrating and unforgiving” clacking of a typewriter, which they don’t seem to find nearly as romantic a sound as I do. I have to agree with Cramer in thinking that this desperate return is a bit naïve, and ultimately will not do anyone any good. Of course, artists are the exception to this rule and generally have reasons other than nostalgia for returning to older materials or methods. I was so excited this summer to try out a digital drawing tablet, but in about 10 minutes I was so frustrated with the minute delay between my stylus and the marks that I ended up drawing with pencil, scanning it in and only coloring it on the tablet. Digital technology is not known for giving its users physical control.

The second definition of post-digital is slightly different. Cramer uses the example of post-feminism as an example, post-feminism does not imply that feminism is over and something has come after it, but simply that this new movement is a continuation of feminism as well as a different movement in its own right. So post-digital could be looked at as an extension of the digital, a move towards a restructuring of our interactions and relationships with the digital, without abandoning it.

What I take away from this course is a mix of these two definitions. At once, I am disenchanted by new media, but at the same time in studying its history I cannot help but consider its future: a post-digital that is aware and “enlightened” to the mistakes and concerns of its past, without abandoning technology. I suppose the moral of the story is that even though new media is problematic and violent, hateful, oppressive and scary, it is also creative, indefinable, communicative, a tool for activists, an instrument of change, and infinitely the most interesting phenomenon being tackled in critical media theory.

In his article ‘what is post-digital?’, Florian Cramer discusses a rising disenchantment with digital media and technology. While I believe that he is correct in his assessment that we are moving towards a post-digital era, I do not believe the he has correctly identified the form of the trend. That is, he speaks about a return to old-fashioned technological roots due to a weariness with the fast and efficient nature of digital technology and media, as well as due to a  growing fear of a technocratic state. However, while some of this certainly makes its way into our culture, I find it completely false that this sentiment is in any way main stream or even culturally significant. Rather, I feel that we are moving towards a post digital era because the digital is, as he put it, no longer new media. I feel that our culture is quickly making the transition out of the honeymoon phase with digital technology and media towards a place in which it is becoming the norm, a fundamental part of our lives. If anything, we are entering a post-digital world because we are becoming increasingly integrated with digital technology, not drifting away from it.

Reading the Cramer article on the post digital, I was struck by the discussion of old media in arts during the rise of new media.

“no exhibition is complete without some form of bulky, obsolete technology – the gently clunking carousel of a slide projector or the whirring of an 8-mm or 16-mm film reel.”

Having walked up the steps up the Granoff three times a week this semester, this observation stood out as I’m sure many of you saw the set up of the film reel threading film throughout multiple floors of the building and back onto the third floor where the film was projected onto a small screen. I don’t know what the piece was trying to say (it broadcast multiple sexual scenes of black and white footage from old movies), and I’m not sure how the medium was supposed to be interpreted, though it certainly was a focal point considering it was tied throughout the entirety of the building rather than just projected on a wall. Cramer goes on to discus art and artist’s relations to old media which I found quite fascinating (and sort of expected). She said 70% of art students polled would rather design a poster than a website. As an artist, I felt this was pretty obvious but I guess it’s not. Being able to design and create things on a digital platform is amazing and I have the upmost respect for artists who do that sort of thing. Some of the most talented people I know use a digital interface to create works I could only dream of and I am absolutely impressed by everything they do. Still, there is something so much more alluring and comforting about working with something in the “real” world. The thing you’re creating is something you have made with your own hands (or with whatever you use to make it). It is tangible, it is gratifying, every move you make has a permanence to it. You cannot Ctrl+z your mistakes or save your changes in another layer. You have to just trust your instincts and create. I love working with my hands, with paints, three dimensional materials, markers, pastels, anything really. Working in a digital space I find constraining, non-engaging, tedious. This of course is just my own personal experience and opinion, and I really am not that good at using digital media to convey what I have in mind so that too could lend a bias to my interpretation.

 

Cramer explores the artist and her intentions when it comes to this use of old media, questioning whether it is a choice made out of convenience, out of a simple love of aesthetics, or if there is a political message to their use. She discusses the political messages that could be associated with an artist’s use of physical film rather than digital footage, saying that film gives the artist the opportunity to physically engage in a sensual way with their media and make something tangible for, but also it gives the artist power in a world where a government (like Britain’s) can dominate the televised networks with their digital media. Physical media, like film, in this way are means of taking back power. When I think about this in the context of Citizenfour and Shah’s examination of exposure and regulation, I can see how this non-digital means of production could be alluring, avoiding the unwanted exposure and possibility of leaks and hacks that the digital is all too prone to. At the same time, I wonder if Cramer is over thinking and attempting to generalize something so broad where every artist makes their own decisions based on personal preferences. There is not necessarily one universal reason for the use of old media. Sometimes, it really is just aesthetic.

We have already entered the realm of the digital, can we even move to post-digital?

This question continually stumps me. I know that as a Generation Z-er, I have never had a time in my life without the presence of new digital media. Old media is viewed with a nostalgia that I was socialized to believe by older generations. Why do I think records are cool, when I have only used them a few times, and I listen to Spotify and iTunes everyday?

On the Internet, the good is mixed with the bad, because that’s also how society works. I think the Internet is a continuation of civil society, as well as community. People participate in digital media, because it’s either participate or get left behind. Participation can lead to extraordinary mobilization of movements, which includes exposure. Participation also leads to the constant creation of big data, which is used to predict based on pure data. And it all seems game-like and removed,  because it takes place somewhere separate from the physical real world, but has very real consequences.

I think the question to ask is not if we can move to a post-digital society, but in what ways can digital media continue to take over society? When will digital media be taken for granted, and not as a remarkably new phenomenon? Will the digital ever move into the real?

I want to use this week’s blog post as a space to discuss what this class has taught me. Never having taken an MCM class before, I began this class thinking that the subjects we would learn would be far from applicable to the real world. While many of the readings and themes we discussed in lecture are framed in highly theoretical ways, the main ideas we gather informs our understanding of how digital media affects us in our daily lives. From the “promiscuity” of my computer through its shared networks to the possibility of exposure, this class taught me how to recognize and how to be critical of the technologies that surround me. While it is easy to trust technology because of the benefits that it provides us, it is also easy to hate technology because of accounts, such as those of Edward Snowden, that demonstrate how the technologies we love can be used against us. While it can be scary to realize the hold that technologies have in our lives (before this class I didn’t think it ran so deep), I have also learned to not fear the technology since knowing how something works reduces the fear of it.

“…society will need to shed some of its obsession for causality in exchange for simple correlations: not know why by only what.” (cukier 7)

I was struck in the Cukier reading by the shortcomings of what’s known as “big data.” However impressive & massive Big Data is, it doesn’t seem big enough to grasp the conceptual— to get at the larger— even larger than the “big” of “big data”— structural reasons that cause the correlations data can recognize.

In section, though, I was prompted to think whether the conceptual and structural were big enough. What does it mean that the field of critical theory tries to reclaim power from apparatuses such as media and technology, like we are discussing in this class? Does this dismantling, or reclamation, not follow a logic of reparation? Does it not suggest that there is some sort of concrete amount of power that can be returned to those who have been disenfranchised from it, after which the power will be “equitably” or “justly” distributed? Who can decide how much that is, and to whom it belongs? Isn’t it true that there is a way in which that power, once taken away from some people, can never be returned to them?

Thanks for a wonderful course!