Author Archives: Kim Arena
Technology continues to integrate itself into our lives on daily basis. New apps are frequently developed and the use of smart phones has given us access to these apps wherever we go. As a generation, we are becoming accustomed to being “connected” with the world—whether through our phones, apps, or the Internet. As our connections increase, we are given more access to the world, to information, to contacting others. In turn, we give out information about ourselves—willingly or unwillingly—to this collection of data. We post information on our Facebook pages or Twitter accounts and instantly that data becomes available to the world—regardless of the minimal privacy settings we are offered. What will become of this system of information sharing as technology continues to develop? How will this change affect how we live? How we relate to others? How our government is run? Already we can see how the threat of “siren servers” is increasing as companies such as Google grow.
In his science fiction novel Ebocloud, Rick Moss explores what our world will be like in a future dominated by Internet connections. He presents the idea of a “cloud”, a computer network that links together the human minds of its users. The users also have digital tattoos that connect the individual, the “family” you belong to, and the “cloud”. This level of connection can be seen as a blessing or a curse. Yes, you are opening yourself up and forming bonds with others that you would not have otherwise met. You surround yourself with this group of people who are open to helping you and whom you can associate with. You open yourself to opportunities to join organizations and projects to do good or that correlate with your interests. It doesn’t sound too different from social networks we have today. But to what level does this connection extend? There is no logging out—the tattoos keep you connected to the cloud, and thus you are giving up the ability to remove yourself from this cyber world. And how genuine are these bonds you are making? When people have extrinsic motivations—such as earning “Kar-merits”—does that affect the way they behave? Does that make them more self-absorbed? Or less so because they are participating in projects that better society? The concept of a powerful computer network connecting the world—which is far less of a fictional concept than we may believe—would affect the way we think, the way we interact, the way we make decisions, the way our world is governed. How much of your self are you willing to give up for the sake of a more connected world?
There is more to cancer research than just raw data. My project is a tumblr compilation of visual representations of scientific literature that depict what would be considered concrete data in an artistic manner—establishing a connection between the research processes, the results, the components of the disease, and the impact it has on people’s lives. Research is not one-dimensional; there is a beauty behind analyzing the building blocks of life—even when they’ve gone wrong—and that can be extracted through manipulation of the text, diagrams, and data of the official paper.
The goal of this project will be to investigate how augmenting the text of figures of scientific literature can alter the reader’s perception and interpretation of both the literature and the data. Interpreting the data in this manner sheds a different light on the subject and makes a connection between the concrete and abstract ideas associated with the disease and subsequently forms a bridge between the molecules, the scientists, and the patients. There will be multiple elements in my project that will collectively augment the scientific literature. The tumblr will have images generated by text analysis tools, manipulations of the data using visualization tools, mapping of certain processes, and other interactive elements that together establish a way of looking at science through an artistic lenses. The literature that I will be using will be a collection of scientific articles found online that all relate to cancer research.
Through the media elements, I will aim to compare and relate different concepts and features from the various articles, augmenting them in a way that will form connections and go beyond the factual data to demonstrate that there is more to scientific research than just charts, numbers, and molecules. Some examples of ways that this will be achieved are through text analysis, such as words clouds, that analyze major concepts in research based on the words used in the discussion of the findings and through manipulating discovered sequences of important molecular components to create an artistic image of what makes up a disease. I think it is important to look deeper into research literature and having a visual and artistic depiction of the components of a disease can expand the range of understanding that can be obtained from the work.
Throughout history, literature has continued to progress alongside the medium through which it is received. The development of print technologies increased public access to literature and expanded the methods through which it could subsequently be interpreted and analyzed. This trend continues today with the continual expansion of technology and electronics, giving rise to a whole new genre of media from which literature can be expressed, interpreted, created and manipulated. Electronic literature provides an endless stream of new ways to experience written works in ways that print cannot. But does this aspect take away from traditional literature? What is considered to be literature? According to Oxford Dictionary, literature is defined as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”. Literature does not aim to make print obsolete, but rather to expand what we can obtain from written works. The technologies provide us with new ways to think and increase our level of interaction with the text—allowing us to explore concepts, patterns, and more that go beyond the words, but that delve into the art of the work itself and the components that make up the literature. In her book, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, N. Katherine Hayles describes how electronic forms of literature allow for “the criticism and analysis of programmed media without sacrificing the interpretive strategies evolved with and through print” (25). The use of technology as a medium for literature does not replace traditional print literature, but rather opens alternative ways through which it can be experienced. Electronic forms of literature expand the artistic merit of the written word, establishing different ways through which we can explore interactions between words and meaning. Similarly, we can employ multiple senses in our interpretations through visual and sonic components, altering our experience with the work and thus the understandings and interpretations we can extract from it.
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, for instance, explores the interactions between music and literature and provides a medium through which we can appreciate the interplay between the two forms of art, thus augmenting the individual interpretations into something more complex. Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries pair their jazz pieces with a movie-like stream of words and phrases of varying sizes, speeds, and colors. Though the words do not form complete sentences, they are associated in a way that they flow with the music; rhythmically creating a disjointed stream of consciousness that comes together to tell a story. It is together the display, music and the words themselves that are telling the story, and thus how the story unfolds depends on the interpretation of the receiver, and how they associate the visual, sonic, and textual components. Thus, the result will be slightly different for everyone, and may even be different for a single person each time they listen. The patterns, colors, sizes, timing, and orientation of how the words appear on the screen in addition to the blinking and changing backgrounds augment the way that the meaning behind the text is associated along with the changing beats and notes of the music. These two artistic components are intertwined to establish an ultimate experience that changes that way we interpret both, interplaying off each other to affect the way each is perceived in relation to the other. Words can invoke feeling just as music can, and that feeling can affect how you interpret the music, or vice versa. Certain words may stand out to you, whether it is because of how they were oriented on the screen or the timing from which they appeared in relation to the music, whether it had gotten quieter or louder, faster or slower. This specific kind of experience differs for each person—different things stand out to different people and thus have different significance to different people. Subsequently, each person will have a different interpretation of the piece, and thus the story. These components can even establish a mood, and thus they are not only augmenting the perception of the work itself, but also the environment through which the receiver extracts such interpretations. The simultaneous interpretations determined from listening to the music, viewing the colors and timing of the words, and reading the text affect each other, thus the overall experience differs from the individual experience of each of these elements. This can be observed by muting the sound for one of the pieces. The words and their motions along still portray the story; yet do not produce impact on the reader. The music helps guide the reader through the text, providing pace and extracting emotions that the words along cannot. This process works in the reverse as well; listening to the music alone without the words deprives the sound of any particular meaning. It is the pairing of these two components that augments the way we perceive the literature as a whole. This concept can be experienced in their piece “Lotus Blossom”.
The Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries project adds an artistic element to written work that serves to enhance it and provide a means through which we can expand the boundaries of both music and literature to heighten the potential of both media and increase our levels of interaction and interpretation. The combination of reading and listening skills allows our interpretations to interplay with each other, forming an augmented version of a musical piece and a work of literature. Literature should not be bound by the confines of print, but rather should reach out to other medias to build on what the print has given us; to work together to build upon our knowledge and heighten our intellectual stimulation and explore the full potentials of the data presented by written word.
Jason Lewis in his digital poem “Nine” utilizes images, phrases, and game-like interactions to depict the layering of life and simulate how aspects of our lives interplay with each other and present themselves in different ways as time progresses. The convention is simple, nine squares each with a different image that can be shifted around—with the goal of forming a total media. Each time a square is moved, a textual piece of information is revealed about the life of the subject, whether it is a fact, an event, a thought, or another piece of the story. But, as the player interacts with the poem, the images change and fade into one another, creating a loop. While some of the images may not fade all together, some may be clearer than other and some may superimpose themselves upon another. These visual factors, alongside with the textual story, act as clues towards the lives of the characters—what is important at the time, what they may be feeling, what parts of their past may be reappearing or playing a subliminal role in the present. The artistry of this is that Lewis does not need to tell us these aspects of life—but rather lets us discover them on our own as he guides us through the story. And, because the reader is in control of the tiles, you are thus in control of how the story unfolds—which details you see at which time, which images are side-by-side, how the overall mood of the nine tiles is perceived—and it is through this interaction that the reader makes the story their own. Everyone who “plays” Lewis’s poem will be “reading” the same story, yet the path they take to get to the end will be different, thus the experience will be different. This concept expands the poem from a few lines with many interpretations to an infinite number of layers of information that can be perceived different visually, emotionally, and textually each time they are encountered. The interaction gives the poem a depth that reflects life itself, and thus establishes a connection with the reader that goes beyond written word.
Both Jason Lewis and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries incorporate multiple dimensions into their works to increase the output that the reader receives through experiencing their respective projects. In both cases the authors tell a story, yet it is the way that they present the story that determines the way the reader perceives it. The musical, visual, and interactive elements that both authors implement aid to demonstrate concepts and themes that the written words alone cannot. The timing and changing tones and beats of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ pieces guide the reader through the text and put emphasis on certain ideas or phrases without having the text explain it—the reader simply experiences the increases or decreases and pairs the text and thus its meaning with the changes. Similarly, in Jason Lewis’ puzzle, the reader learns about the characters and the story through exploration and the connections between the text and the images on the tiles, along with the order through which they are revealed and the way that the tiles overlap, are established as the reader pieces the story together. These untraditional stories require the reader to learn as they go along, and it is this element of experience that helps to alter the perceptions produced by the literature.
Chang, Y., & Voge, M. (1999). Young-hae chang heavy industries. Retrieved from http://www.yhchang.com/
Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.
Lewis, J. (2003). Nine: Puzzling through several lives. Retrieved from http://www.poemsthatgo.com/gallery/fall2003/nine/nine.htm
Graphic novels act as a medium that can portray stories in way that conventional novels cannot. The artistry of the pictures do the job that descriptive writing would do—setting the mood, invoking emotion, and revealing interactions between characters and delving deeper into the characters themselves. However, with the graphic novel approach, the reader is able to connect on a different level with the character. Viewing the scenes rather than reading them allows for a more perceptive experience—you are still employing your imagination, yet are being guided by the colors and positions of images on the page. Much like how word choice plays a role in interpretation of a literature work, placement and artistic decisions play a major role in the emotions that are evoked by the graphics. It is not to say that one medium is necessarily better than another, but rather they provide different experiences. For a novel such as Moon and Ba’s Daytripper, a graphic novel was a far more effective medium than a conventional novel. The images make it easier for the reader to follow the confusing timeline of the Bras de Oliva Domingos’ life, while also allowing us to get to know him without his life being laid out for us in a description. Most of the text is dialogue or thoughts, not background presented by a narrator. As we travel alongside Bras, we get to know him through his actions and by visually experiencing his emotions through the colors and facial expressions. Through this method, we are able to relate to Bras on an intimate, yet detached level, one that allows us to connect the attributes of his life to our own. We feel for Bras, yet we are also able to relate the different stages of his life—his hardships, his defining moments, and his emotions—to our own. We are able to do this because we are following him along through his life and know just as much as he does about what is going to happen next. We can die at any moment—and it is through the uncertainty and twists of Bras life that we are able to experience this concept. We don’t need to be told things through descriptions—we are guided through the journey. Moon and Ba tactfully produce certain emotions through their artistry—from subliminal clues that we may not even pick up on and the relative colors of the background to the body language and facial expressions of the characters. Similarly, the “silence” brought on by the minimal dialogue used works powerfully to form relationships between characters and between the reader and the character. Through this silence we are able to feel the characters, and it is through this interaction that we learn about who they are, what they desire, how they perceive the world. We learn more from these still images, there frames shots of life, than we could from spoken word or physical description. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and Moon and Ba’s novel couldn’t have depicted this any better.
Media archaeology explores the components that make up various media elements and technologies and how the origins and interactions between these components have affected the way these medias have developed and established a role in our world. Jussi Parikka presents ideas and observations obtained through media archaeology in his article “The Geology of Media” and his book “Media Archaeology”, yet it was when our class met with the author that we were able to delve into the topic. One of the concepts associated with media archaeology that we discussed was reverse speculation—imagining what the world would have been like if things had gone differently, from a technology standpoint. I found it interesting to wonder, what would our world be like today if Bill Gates did not invent Microsoft? Where would computer programming be now? Would it have taken a completely different route in its design and function? And furthermore, how would that have affected other technologies—such as the development of Apple as a company, or computer software in general? Thinking in this way helps us to understand why our world is the way it is now, and thus we are able to trace the impacts the technology did have on our society and the development of other technologies based on the comparison between the path it took and the path it could’ve taken. This concept is related to William Gibson’s “The Difference Engine”, which explores what the 18th century would have been like if Charles Babbage had succeeded in the creation of the Babbage Engine. The speculative writing draws comparisons between what our world is like today and how it would have been (or how we imagine it would have been) in the past. By looking at the past in this light, we are able to see both how the computer plays a role in our society through the comparison between the known past and the speculative past.
Another component of media archaeology that I found interesting was the observation of technological effects and developments through their relation to Earth. It is easy to overlook that resources play a fundamental role in what is able to develop at what time. Media is more than just data, as it is the device that portrays the data that interprets it and has an effect on how it is perceived—the device gives the data meaning. Development of technology—specifically why certain technologies developed at certain times and how they became the way they are—can be analyzed based on the political economy of the time, particularly in relation to minerals and metals. Similarly, trends in wastes, energy usage, and exploitation of resources provide tracking sources for the development of media elements. The history of media can be traced through what it is made of—chemicals, the developmental processes, and subsequently the develop of technological processes necessary to create and produce the media element. Technology itself can be tied in to the destruction of the world as well, as it has just as much—if not more—of an impact on the world as it develops as the world has on its development. Media develops are thus correlated to pollution, changes in populations, and environmental factors such as storms, weather patterns, or events that affect availability of or accessibility to resources. And environmental pollution isn’t the only kind of pollution that can be traced through technological developments, but mental pollution as well. Though abstract, we are able to see how technology affects our everyday lives and the way we behave and interact. Essentially, geology affects our exposure to media, and our exposure to media affects how our reality is augmented—thus geology is the direct source from which our reality is augmented.
We live in a world where technology is an integral part of our lives—but how would our world be different if technology had developed at a different time? Better yet, how would the past be different if the technology that we use almost subconsciously on a daily basis had been available? In their novel The Difference Engine William Gibson and Bruce Sterling explore what the late 1800s would have been like if Charles Babbage had been successful in building a mechanical computer. Throughout the novel, the authors implement prototypes for technologies that are common in our world today—such as credit cards, social security numbers, calculators, and projectors. Some of the emerging technologies are even more advanced than what we have today, such as the ability to trace someone’s personal history simply by obtaining their “number”.
The entire novel in itself can be viewed as a prototype for the world Gibson created in his other novel Neuromancer. Both plots, when simplified, are elaborate heists to obtain a key to information—whether that key is a box of plastic cards or hacking into a computer system. Similarly, both novels contain depth in their settings. Neuromancer’s is more obvious, as the characters alternate between reality and cyberspace, and furthermore different layers of consciousness within cyberspace. In The Difference Engine, while the characters remain in reality, there are different dimensions established between social classes and the world’s they inhabit. In the cases of both novels, these different dimensions become intertwined through the characters’ interactions. The comparison between the two is interesting, as it demonstrates how technology—regardless of its level of progression—has a timeless impact on how its usage affects our interactions with our environment and others.
Which brings us back to the question of what our world would be like today if the Babbage Engine had succeeded—would we be far off from the world presented in Neuromancer?
will not looking for you. If you,
will not look
for ransom, I can tell you.If you.If
you. But if you
my daughter go now, that
make me a very particular set of skill
you, I will not
look for people
I will not look for
will not look for people like you don’t, I
will find you, I will not look for
for you, I will
look for people
I will kills; skills;
skills; skill not look for you,
I will not look for people like
I will not look for ransom,
I can tell
are. I will.
Lady Natalie Bangcock
The argument of whether literature is data depends upon the definition of data. Data can be viewed in a negative connotation, in a way that removes the artistic and creative elements and turns something into a quantitative subject. It can also be viewed simply as a form of information, from which we can establish interpretations and analyses that we can learn from. In his article Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities, Stephen Marche makes several bold statements claiming the introduction of digital books have brought about the “…end of the book as we know it”. However, digitizing literature offers us an additional medium through which literature can be experienced, analyzed, and interpreted in different ways. It is not the end of the book as we know it, but rather the expansion of the book as we know it. Literature has always been taken apart—quotes, syntax, characters, plots, symbols, themes, and more have been discussed, interpreted, debated, and given meaning since their origin. Digitizing books doesn’t put an end to this kind of thinking, but rather provides tools that allow us to go even further in depth. Digital tools, such as n-gram, allow us to compare thousands of types of literature in seconds. Computer algorithms allow us to delve into details that would take years of collecting and studying to analyze in as little as a few seconds.
Literature has always been data—we have always learned from it and always used it as a tool to examine different elements of writing, human psyche, cultural reflections, and more. Just because there are new means to examining this data doesn’t mean that the old form is nonexistent. The book as we know it today still exists, and personally I prefer reading a hard copy of a book. I can choose not to associate with the digital tools that are being developed and experience books in the more nostalgic form. However, the fact that those digital tools exist provides the opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and understanding of a book, if I choose. Digital tools open the window for books to be examined on a large scale, to go in depth with details, such as word choice, while covering a wide sample, which could range from several works to an entire era’s worth of literature.
Marche, Stephen. “Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities.” Los Angeles Review of Books. 28 Oct 2012: n. page. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. .