What new media not is Part of my research is concerned with the language aspects of traditionally and digitally produced cultural text, with visual language. Lev Manovich's work seems to aim in the same direction, but in fact offers me an opportunity to differentiate and fine-tune my position. In ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe language of new mediaÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Manovich defines various criteria delineating the nature of new media, as in digital media, like numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability and transcoding. He then moves on to discuss interfaces and HCI, analyse various aspects of interaction operations and returns to conclude his analysis in view of his favourite medium, the cinema.
I do not accept ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs criteria as defining new media conclusively. Before discussing ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs criteria of new media, I look at his definition of object. Throughout the book he uses the term object synonymously with ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂnew media object, product, artwork and interactive mediaÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ , i.e. the content and the medium are one, a unity.
On the other hand he uses object in the computer science way to indicate the ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂmodular nature in object oriented programming languages such as C++ and javaÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦ ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, i.e. a module of a code structure. This can be confusing as one definition points to visual representation and the other to underlying invisible code. I agree with Mcluhan here and find it necessary to distinguish between content and medium as separate entities and will break down Manovich's explanations accordingly.
If new media were defined by numerical representation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding only, a 100-year-old woven paisley rug would be a ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂnew media objectÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. Lets start with ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂnumerical representationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, as Manovich defines it in terms of digital code, as mathematical form : A woven carpet is defined by a strict grid, by horizontal and vertical threads. This is a binary description as we find it in assembly code, as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂX / 0ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, or ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂoff/ onÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ or ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂone and zeroÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. Assembly code is a low-level computer language, which can be directly understood by the processor. However few people write computer programs in low level languages, the norm is that programs are written in high level languages, which are close to human languages, compilers then render the high level code into assembly code, or machine code as it is also called. So, if we talk about digital code as in binary code, we talk machine language; if we take digital code as programming language, we need to extend ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂnumericalÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ to ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂalpha-numericalÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. Strictly binary code only stands for the lowest level of the underlying code structure, it describes the grid of the carrier, the medium or the woven carpet. It does not give us an impression or depiction of the visual representation level.
Picture paisley.jpg as visual and alphanumerical code represenation (jpg opened in MS word) To discuss the ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcontentÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, i.e. the displayed pattern, we can look at ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs second definition of numerical representation as in algorithms. Some Persian carpets use as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂbasis of these designs the head-bent paisley motif common in both Indian and Iranian patterns from older timesÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in a self-similar fashion. The first recorded use of these patterns in England dates back to 1733 , indicating a much older history of those patterns. Paisley patterns can be described mathematically as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂJulia set: a non-Euclidean limit set., z z2 + c when c = 0ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ . The pattern as visualisation of this non-linear mathematical geometry is achieved by introducing ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ(ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) the smallest possible non-zero value of c and the Julia set gets distorted. As we distort in the inversion pictures, we begin to get the beautiful Paisley patterns (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) . A Julia set is an algorithm that describes chaotic behaviour. Chaos theory, in ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂits conceptual elements had already been appreciated by Leibnitz in the 17th century and PoincarÃÂÃÂ© in the 19th century, (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) did not become fashionable until the 1980s when scientists began to realise that the phenomenon is widespread in the natural world.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ(ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) Non-linearity is known to be a crucial ingredient in chaotic systemsÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ So far my carpet still seems to fit the description of a new media object as it conforms to an underlying binary structure that displays algorithmically organised content.
Furthermore the displayed content follows fractal patterns in terms of modularity and variability, ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs next two criteria for new media objects. Both terms are used in chaos theory and Manovich refers directly to the ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂfractal structure of new media: Just as a fractal has the same structure on different scales, a new media object has the same modular structure throughout. Media elements, be it images, sounds, shapes or behaviors, are represented as collections of discrete samples (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) but they continue to maintain their separate identity.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Again, this conclusion is only possible because Manovich does not distinguish between content and medium. I think we need to be more specific here. Code, as carrier of content, describes media elements on a technical level mathematically but not necessarily as a formula i.e. an image would be described by its RGB (red ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ green ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ blue) values per pixel per grid positions.
However this is still a linear description, even though the values of the parameters might vary. A shape would be described as form (e.g. circle), diameter (e.g. 3 cm) and colour (e.g. pantone 123). That makes the underlying code a formula, but does not make the content or its visualisation self-similar. The execution of the math results in independent instances. So while digital media elements can be seen as fragmented as far as the code that visualises them is concerned, they are not fractal in their visual representation, unlike my earlier example of the paisley carpet. The sense in that Manovich uses ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂmodularÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ applies only in terms of object orientation.
In object orientated environments various independent components are arranged in a certain fashion, a programming shell or container. Manovich uses as example ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂMacromedia DirectorÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, which is author software: software that creates software. Macromedia director uses two operation modes: a linear timeline offering frames in which all kinds of media elements can be placed for linear playback (i.e. picture one follows picture two, etc) and a programming mode in which the playback order can happen in a non linear fashion, according to user input. The programming language in question is an object oriented high-level language called ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂlingoÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ; commands would look similar to English language, i.e. if user clicks button ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, then play sound ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. This is also the operation mode Manovich calls ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂdiscreteÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, as this access fragments the linearity of the playback of continuous media elements (like the frame by frame view of a cinema movie). Consequently, while the overall structure of a new media construct can be object oriented and non-linear, the elements involved are independent and self-contained. The fractal metaphor is inappropriate, however, as for fractals the criterion self-similar modules in various scales needs to be fulfilled. Manovich does include variability in his set of criteria, but uses it synonymously with ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcopiesÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ , which are ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂmutable and liquidÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and not necessarily intertwined with the modules. Used separately, the terms modularity and variability delineate objects, but not fractals.
Manovich is the only theorist I know of who addresses the loss less reproduction of media products in mass production to ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂold mediaÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, while ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂnew mediaÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in contrast is characterized by variability. Instead of identical copies a new media object usually gives rise to many different versions.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ As example he uses websites, which are created on the fly from databases using a set of templates. For instance like in online news. While I agree that this practice is highly computer specific in terms of speed and temporary use value of the displayed information, I would not accept the products as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂvariations of each otherÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. If an object takes content as variable and technicality as fixed template, every painting is a variable of another, as they are all using colour pigments in various quantities, spread over canvas. Or, to return to my carpet example, every woven carpet, that displays different patterns or designs for that matter, it does not even need to be the paisley pattern.
The next criterion Manovich lists to identify new media objects is automation. He distinguishes between ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂlow level automationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂhigh level automationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Early computerized low-level automation overlaps in its application greatly with electro-mechanic controls as we find it in factories or domestic appliances, like washing machines: simple parameter control, loop control, status indication. It is generally agreed that the historic starting point for ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂdigitally controlled productionÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ dates ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂaround 1800, (when) J.M. Jacquard invented a loom which was automatically controlled by punched paper cards. The loom was used to weave intricate figurative images, including JacquardÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs portrait.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ This fact supports directly my position, as far as low-level automation is concerned the paisley carpet still counts as new media object. Low-level automation in media production usually comprises repetitive tasks like image editing batch processing, i.e. re-scaling a set of pictures about a certain percentage or controlling loops.
As examples of ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂhigh level automationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Manovich lists agents, game characters, and avatars, which act on more or less complex underlying AI (artificial intelligence) engines. Here I am in full agreement with Manovich, these kinds of representations are truly unique to user-computer interaction and communication. Agents are anything from filters (e.g. set up my default word file in this document format with this typeface as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂnormalÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ font in this style) to customised search engines (find product ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ for this price in this region). An agent is a non-pictorial, conceptual representation of the user via a set of instructions, defined by the user. A computer game character is a pictorial representation of the user within a digital (game) environment. Sometimes the user identifies with a given characters in the game (like in Lara Croft, the player is always Lara, you can not choose to fight Lara), sometimes users can choose between a variety of characters (like in role games). While the design of the visual representation in this interaction is pre-defined, the user always determines the final definition of those characters via the behavior. An avatar ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂis an interactive, graphical representation of a human being in a virtual reality environmentÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. In contrast to a game character, where the user identifies with a given character, an avatar actually represents the user in cyberspace. Usually one can design their own avatar, either from a set of design elements or use individual designs, to represent oneself for instance in a cyber chat room.
Agents, game characters and avatars are good demonstrations of various interactive interfaces and therefore an interesting starting point for the discussion of interfaces as such. These examples offer the possibility to contrast computer-human interactivity versus CH - interpassivity which is what I call interfaces that regard interactivity as multiple choice option, e.g. to press one of three offered buttons. I agree with Manovich again in rejecting a definition of interactivity in mechanical terms, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂequating it with physical interaction between a user and a media object (pressing a button, choosing a link, moving the body), at the sake of psychological interaction. The psychological process of filling in, (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦), recall and identification, which are required for us to comprehend any text or image at all, are mistakenly identified with a objectively existing structure of interactive linksÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Manovich correctly identifies the current understanding of interactivity where the majority of users are presented with ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂpre-programmedÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ solutions while before we would form our own view how to proceed, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂfollow our own private associationsÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. Now ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂinteractive media asks us to identify with somebody elseÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs mental structure.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Bearing in mind that ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs focus as new media practitioner is game production, i.e. full screen pictures form interfaces, interactivity for him is also the metal process involved in consuming and making sense of images of various kinds. Interaction becomes synonymous with interpretation. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAll classical, and even more so modern art, was already ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂinteractiveÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in a number of ways. Ellipses in literary narration, missing details of objects in visual art and other representational shortcuts required the user to fill-in the missing information. This sounds very similar to McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs attempt to address various media types as hot and cool media, according to their demand on the user to fill in the gaps, i.e. photography is a hot medium as it is rich in infor-mation and requires little ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂmental interactionÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ by the user to get the message while a cartoon is reduced / low resolution or cool, and requires a lot of user interaction to create ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe full pictureÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ.
Manovich refers directly to McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂrevolutionary works in the 1950sÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in his chapter about transcoding, the last criterion to identify new media. To ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂtranscodeÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ something is to translate it into another format,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ i.e. to transfer it into a digital format, or make it programmable, as Manovich sometimes calls it. Again, this sounds similar to McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe content of any medium is always another medium.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Mcluhan separates ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcontentÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂmediumÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in order to be able to look at the medium. Manovich also identifies two layers involved in media presentation: ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe cultural layer and the computer layerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, with the cultural layer being ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcultural dataÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ like ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂtexts, photographs, films, music, multimedia documents, virtual environments;ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and the ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcomputer layerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ as databases and its functionalities like searching and ordering. The Internet, in Manovichs view, is ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂone huge distributed media database.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ But here is where the similarities end. Manovich then carries on to outline that the two separate levels: content and interfaceÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ are not only ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂold dichotomiesÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ content ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ form and content - medium can be re-written as content ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ interfaceÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, but ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcontent and interface merge into one entity, and no longer can be taken apart.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ To support his viewpoint he refers to Bolters and Grusins study of new media in their book ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂRemediationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in which they define the medium as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthat which remediates, repurposes, remedies and even replacesÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ content during its journey through various media. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂNew digital media oscillate between immediacy and hypermediacy, between transparency and opacity.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Bolter and Grusin claim that the content of new media makes the medium disappear ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂand leaves us in the presence of the thing representedÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in order to achieve ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂtransparent presentation of the realÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ This notion of reality creates ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂimmediacyÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ for the user, furthermore in new media environments ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂimmediacy depends on hypermediacy,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ the mosaic view of media: Various media combined, interconnected by random access and collapsed into one window, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂour culture wants to multiply its media, and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ In short, new media revokes the medium by either making it invisible though transparency or covering it up with the multiplication of old media, so the density of the conglomerate hides the underlying medium. The interface is absorbed and erased in the process.
In their conclusion they seem to arrive at a related position to ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂDigital media is best understood through the ways in which they honour, rival, and revise linear-perspective painting, photography, film, television, and print. What is new about new media comes from the particular ways in which they refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves to answer the challenges of new media.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ This sounds similar to ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂwe increasingly interface to cultural data: texts, photographs, films, music, multimedia environmentsÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and consequently extends the definition of HCI (human computer interface) to human computer culture interfaces, which he abbreviates to ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcultural interfaces.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ However, the study ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂremediationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ investigates the role of reality in media representation and the reality of the hyperreal. It advocates a user-centred approach expecting media to transfer ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe experience from one person to another.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Moreover it is concerned with the perception of the user and the ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂformal relations within and among media as well as the relations of cultural power and prestigeÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ .
In contrast Manovich argues from the expert point of view, taking a production centred position. He discusses digital concepts in the context of construction, but not in terms of presentation.
ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂCultural interfaces try to balance the concept of a surface in painting, photography, cinema, and the printed page as something to be looked at, glanced at, (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦), without interfering with it with the concept of the surface in a computer interfaceÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ . Instead of looking at the effects and meaning of new media experience he returns to explore media production processes in a self contained design area, e.g. computer game production, in view of its linear predecessor, cinema.
For instance while I agree that cinema samples time in a non linear fashion, particularly when montage techniques are used, the implied target group is an audience, not an interactive user; the consumption process is anticipated to be passive and continuous. The presentation collapses into linear flatness, the narrative controls the viewerÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs perception. Manovich sets culture synonymous with art and representation of art, information culture can be thought of as visual culture , interactivity is a myth , the user is a consumer. His fascination with the medium cinema leads him to map digital media back to analogue media, the only difference being the format, which is programmable and offers random access.
Random access sounds like something accidental, uncontrolled while it actually means the opposite: succinct controlled access to an object in question, i.e. a sound track on an audio CD or a picture in an encyclopaedic database. Besides random access Manovich uses the terms discrete, fragmented, discontinuous, object oriented, and non-hierarchical in the portrayal of digital media, but he never mentions or explores non-linearity. This is surprising as the programming languages he mentions are object oriented and not structured in a linear manner like ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂCÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ or ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂBasicÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ. The concept of organising content in a non-linear way must be familiar to him, but he seems to be consumed with the idea that content needs to be arranged in a narrative. He even views ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe database and the narrative as natural enemiesÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in order to maintain his linear pursuits. It is because of the database, that ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂmany new media object do not tell stories; they donÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt have an beginning or end; in fact, they donÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂt have any development, thematically, formally or otherwiseÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Technically a database is ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂdefined as a structured collection of data. The data in the database is organised for fast search and retrieval and therefore more but a simple collection of items. (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) Hierarchical databases use treelike structures, object oriented databases store complex data structures, called ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂobjects.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ The idea of the database coming ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂto function as a cultural form of its ownÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ is an intriguing idea, as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂan architectural plan and a database present a different model of what a world is like.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ It actually forms one of the key ideas I will explore throughout my work.
In ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs discussion this information space is quickly reduced to a container for cultural objects such as multimedia encyclopaedias or virtual museums on CD-Rom, a collection by its very definition . In the example of the internet this scenario is amplified, the unordered collection displays an ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂopen natureÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ which can not ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂkeep a coherent narrative or any other development trajectory though the material, (as) it keeps changing.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Order is only restored in ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂcomputer games, (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) experienced by their player as narratives.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ The rejection of change and temporariness as values in their own right, of non-linear story telling as valid contemporary narrative and of the user defined journey through information landscape as compelling experience strikes me as a very limited conception of digital new media, particularly as it is published in 2001. Or as Scott Lash puts it: ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂCulture has left its stead as representational an narrative and has become - as Benjamin suspected - architectural.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ While I appreciate most people have no means to look beyond the interfaces, i.e. cannot access, design or produce digital code, Manovich can and should. When he states ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂweb pages are open, (ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¦) are computer files which can always be editedÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ or ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂa number of different interfaces can be created to the same dataÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ he portrays himself as an expert user and producer of digital media. Just how many computer users can edit WebPages or create various query interfaces to databases? The appreciation of users in ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs discussion oscillates between their anticipation as audience and their embodiment in terms of hard- and software as ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂa computer program can use the information about a user to (..) automatically customize the site ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂaccording to detected ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂhardware and browser (software).ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Again, meaning the visual presentation of the site, not the content.
ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs obsession with the medium cinema might make more sense after consideration of an observation Bolter and Grusin add to the discussion, ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂMeanwhile, computer game makers hope that their interactive products will someday achieve the status of first-run films, and there is even an attempt to lure film stars to play in these narrative computer productions.ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ More subject oriented interesting aspects Bolter and Grusins introduce, beside the already mentioned ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂgenealogy of remediationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ, are the consideration of ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe possibility that the desire for immediacy, at least as expressed in visual technologies of transparency, might itself be an exclusively male desire,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthe notion of interconnectedness of media amongst each other as well as amongst social and economical forces,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ and the idea of preserving presence and archiving experience.
While I agree that certain aspects of media objects can be archived, so viewers can get a glance of that experience, I would argue that it mixes and intertwines with their own experience and invariably creates a new experience. I can accept that ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂthis new realÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ has its own reality, becomes individual reality, but the represented reality can not mean or become the same reality for every user / consumer / viewer. ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs notion of the archive deals with the past instead of the now of reality, envisioning a passive user; the stored media objects in turn become subject to retrieval and consumption. Manovich ignores the implication of their mediation in the process, as well as the practice of inscribing ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂgrammarÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ in applying structure, and collapses the non-linear space of experience in the linear flatness of the surface. This is why my carpet example works, because it is flat, a surface: The woven paisley carpet consists of a grid of horizontals and verticals, consequently every point of the carpet can be described as coordinates, structure and content can be described not only mathematically but in algorithms, its production can be automated, the displayed content conforms to the fractal requirements in terms of modularity and variability, as in the paisley ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ Julia set, and the content of the paisley pattern is the transcoded version of self similar leave structures; finally content and structure are presented as intertwined unity.
This differs considerably from my understanding of interfaces and their use: I do not view interfaces on the internet as digital representation of cultural artefacts as listed above, but treat interfaces as an individual layer between the content (pictorial or textual) and the medium, the internet. In techno-culture the production of the technology layer is a design discipline in itself, irrevocably seperating the process of preparing the medium and displaying the content. While the creative skill and technical knowledge of design and production process used to be combined in one person, i.e. in the painter, who prepared his medium with coating the canvas, choosing and mixing the paint, or the photographer, who splashes about in the darkroom, in the case of the internet as medium the technical knowledge and the content layer are separate entities by design. Institutional design that is, as code design and production, i.e. programming, is taught in the departments of computer science while visual design and production is confined to the realm of fine art academies and design technique / craft oriented colleges.
Hence ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂTo sayÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ the medium is the messageÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ is to say that the technology is the content,ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ sits not in contrast with my intention to separate interface and content, as both layers are subject to technological production: the technology that forms the content, i.e. PhotoShop, image editor or illustrator, and the technology that forms the interface, e.g. html, dhtml, java script, java, etc. McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂwe become what we behold, we shape our tools and thereafter they shape us, becomes ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂtechnology forms our tools and thereafter forms usÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ or our perception of the world around us.
In summary, even though Mcluhan wrote in the 1960ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs and Manovich published his work in 2001, Mcluhan emerges as the more inspiring theorist. At first glance Manovich appeared to be the perfect starting point and platform for my research as he, like myself, develops his theory based on practical experience. However, in discussing new media objects, his ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂbottom-up trajectory of the book as a wholeÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ always revolves around and ends up at the surface, with cinema as preferred representation. Even though he understands and explains the nature and structure of networks and its objects, he maps everything back to linearity and the limited ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂsnapshot viewÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ that comes with that. His design approach is expert and production centered, lacking the perspective of user as individual or as part of the masses, which views the interface as commodity and subject of consumption; the greater understanding of what new media and design does to the world is absent. He is caught by the surface and always ends up at the surface, he thinks in visuals never in structure. The proposition made in ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂRemediationÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ seems to sum him up, visual technology as representation of reality absorbs the medium and re-enforces the power of visual culture to cover up all underlying issues. Or to view this through PlatoÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs picture: Manovich, chained in the cage, focuses on the shadows on the wall, even though he intellectually knows they are reflections; he is so caught up in their seductiveness that he does not care or attempt to turn around to look what forms the shadows or what they reflect. Alternative representations of the design engineering process, like site maps, blue prints, wire frame models or prototypes, that shape the things-in-themselves, are not investigated, only its visual representation as standardized mental models.
I found ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs theory disappointing, as I would have expected more ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂan attempt to think of the object world of technology as though it belonged to the world of culture, or as though those two worlds were united. For the truth is they have been united all along. ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ In his scrutiny of interface culture, Stephen Johnson refers to McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs assertion ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂAt no period in human culture have men understood the psychic mechanisms involved in invention and technologyÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ This adds the social and cognitive extension level I was longing for in Manovichs discussion. So, following Lash, and Johnson, I will investigate my view of interfaces through McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs arguments in the next chapter such as: Contrasting ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs notion of the narrative with McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs interest in oral culture, likewise examining ManovichÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs reproduction of the expert view with McluhanÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂs dissatisfaction of the expert state, discussing the message and the medium as technological construct on different levels, and exploring visual communication as mosaic view, etc.
Bibliography: Manovich, Lev The Language of new media. The MIT Press, 2001 Mcluhan Eric, Frank Zigrone, ed Essential Mcluhan, the medium is the message, Routledge, 1997 Lash Scott, Critique of information, SAGE, London, 2002 lewis lapham, intro MITt edition, understanding media Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin.
Remediation: understanding new media, The MIT Press, 1999