new media

Bob Dylan on Contemporary Literature

A few weeks ago a 2001 press conference with Bob Dylan emerged on youtube. Dylan, usually cagey and recalcitrant with reporters, is unusually earnest in the interview. He says a lot about his career and his Love and Theft album, which he was promoting at the time. You can check out a clip above, and the interview’s other five segments can be found on youtube. The reason I choose to bring this to the attention of the blog is that in the interview Dylan makes some interesting comments about the state of literature in America, and in particular some comments about how digital media is affecting the ways we feel. The comments, which I’ll outline below, are particularly relevant after yesterday’s massacre at the Boston Marathon, but I’ll leave that connection to your own reflections – we’ve all seen coverage of that tragedy, and I don’t want to add to the noise. As the version of Bob Dylan who appeared on the day of that interview might suggest, this post isn’t a work of art and thus I have no business telling you how to feel.

“Memeing” Silence—the Gif and Silent Film, Part 2

A tumblr user asks who the actor who appears in a gif is in a post to his followers.

Image Credit: Deeras23

In my previous post, I outlined DeCordova’s arguments about the emergence of a discourse on acting in the early 20th century, and the contributions that discourse made to modern conceptions of celebrity, beginning in silent film.  In this post, I’d like to translate those arguments into a discussion of 21st century media and attempt to outline a discourse on “gifing,” and what that can tell us about the intersections of gifs and celebrity in the 21st century public sphere.

“Memeing” Silence—the Gif and Silent Film, Part 1

A gif composed of a scene from Chaplin's _City Lights_.

Image Source: Gorgonetta

As gifs begin to occupy more and more space in internet discourse, I’ve been contemplating the various ways they reinvent older media forms.  New media theory tells us this is an inevitable historical trajectory; it is not just a characteristic of post-broadcast media but embedded in mediation as an ideological concept.  What I find particularly interesting about gifs is not just how they remediate the television shows, films, Youtube videos, and memes from which they derive meaning, but also how they relate to a much older form of media: silent film.  And in such a reading, the overlap between the production of fame and celebrity in the silent film tradition and in current gif discourse is remarkable—and worth discussing.     

Wild Horses and Bayonets Couldn’t Drag My Binders Full of Women Away: Political Satire on Web 2.0

Screenshot of the Twitter feed of Invisible Obama, taken 23 January 2013

Image Credit: Screenshot from Twitter

Inauguration officials estimate that about one million people crowded the National Mall this weekend to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as President. While this crowd was smaller than the 1.8 million who attended his first inauguration in 2008, a number of luminaries were present: Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, and Invisible Obama. Apparently Invisible Obama had a busy day planning his inaugural ball outfit, surprising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and acting as a “seat filler.”

“No phonetic pronunciation”—xkcd and Layered Aesthetics

deconstruction roll over

Image Credit: xkcd 

I’ve been following the webcomic xkcd for the better part of my adult life, despite its warning that it may contain “strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).”  (Clearly, I was always already a liberal arts major, any way you slice it.)  Randall Munroe’s bare-bones aesthetic consistently privileges an idea above the attached illustration; each entry thrives on an invented ethos of the supremacy of text to convey this idea, rather than the illustration itself.  This ethos is also heavily grounded in an empirical interest in physics, mathematics, and programming culture, and this empiricism translates quite cleanly into any comment the comic makes on the condition of being human; that is, that it is always based in lived experience, but that this experience is best crystallized in the juxtaposition of concrete, minimalist illustration and sparse but highly suggestive prose.  Its only flourish is that each comic contains a “hidden” joke in the roll-over text—often one that works to undo the rhetoric of the initial panel.

Pinterest and Panopticon: Self-representation Through Appropriation

Leviathan Frontispiece including Pinterest Content                  Hacked Leviathan Frontispiece. Image Credit: David A. Harper

In the coffee shop where I ‘m writing, there are two large bulletin boards in a high-traffic area (the hallway leading to the restrooms). We all know how bulletin boards and advertising work: once a provocative image draws you in, the text informs you, proselytizes you, or sells something to you. On a well-used board layers upon layers of images vie for attention, each individual post contributing to an unintentional artistic whole.  Gathered on the same bulletin board, even the most antagonistic images are put into dialog as the physical wooden frame becomes a conceptual one. We find patterns in the noise. These old-fashioned bulletin boards have been on my mind this week while I explored the high-tech virtual pinboards of Pinterest.

Sol Lewitt, #StankyLegg, and the Publics for Conceptual Art

Evans Dances

Evans Dances Baldessari Sings Lewitt Via UIC

Can the Stanky Legg bring new publics to conceptual art? Perhaps this is arguable.  But why don't you make up your own mind about it while Chaz Evans shakes a leg in his Vimeo video.  Shots of Evans dancing the Dougie, the Robot, and the Hustle after the break.

Being with Technology

Daniel Everett, detail ofGoals

Noel's post on tweeting with the body reminded me of Daniel Everett's work, which also deals with the intersections of man and machine. His pieces suggest, sometimes playfully, the myriad ways in which interaction with technology shapes selfhood.

Reboot: Teaching You Tube by Emily Bloom

Youtube is (as self-reflexive as my video book)via MediaPraxisme

 H/T Justin Hodgson

Last month, MIT press published Alexandra's Juhasz newest scholarship in what they are terming a video-book format. Vectors Journal has hosted the online work, which collates together a set of videos by Juhasz and her students. The videos work within, as they reflect upon, Youtube. Last year, viz. writer Emily Bloom featured Juhasz's journey into the pedagogy of Youtube. Bloom helps to crystallize Juhasz's arguments about mediocre video, Youtube's popularity versus its radical potential, and the practical difficulties of teaching in the medium. Bloom's original post is rebooted after the break.

Multi-Media New Orleans



magazine street

"Hey Cafe Magazine St. Uptown NOLA Jan. 2010" by Infrogmation

Via Flickr

This weekend, I visited a friend in New Orleans.  On Sunday, we sat in plastic chairs outside a coffee shop along Magazine Street, with my friend sipping a Diet Dr. Pepper (her addiction) and me indulging a tall glass of latte (my addiction). Let's not mention the almond-butter infused croissant.  As my host surveyed the Times Picayune, I took in the people passing and the variety of businesses and signs.  George Harrison "My Sweet Lord" was echoing from a restaurant across the way, and the morning air was mildly warm and a little smelly. We chatted with some NOLA locals sitting at the table nearby:  a mother and toddler, who was dressed adorably in an orange jack-o-lantern hoodie.  We talked about the Saints game (the toddler could cheer "Who Dat") and about Halloween festivities the coming evening.  When the toddler threw down the plastic lid from his chocolate milk, his mother coached him to one of the over-flowing trash cans on the sidewalk. 

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