Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Question of Programming Languages

Why is C the most popular programming language? Is this a question in the study of texts and technology?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Notes for Manovich The Language of New Media

Notes for Lev Manovich The Language of New Media

(74) Text is unique among media types. It plays a privileged role in computer culture. On the one hand, it is one media type among others. But, on the other hand, it is a metalanguage of computer media, a code in which all other media are represented.

Now that we are getting away from logocentrism, this kind of consideration is possible.

(74) If computers use text as their metalanguage, cultural interfaces in their turn inherit the principles of text organization developed by human civilization throughout its existence. One of these principles is a page - a rectangular surface containing a limited amount of information, designed to be accessed in some order, and having a particular relationship to other pages.

This implies the linearity or sequentiality or simply the logic and rules by which the computer operates, the famous “fetch and execute” concept from early computer scientists like von Neumann and Turing.

(158) By establishing a logic that controls the changes and the correlation on values on these dimensions, digital filmmakers can create what I will call spatial montage.

(159) Compositing, achieve in Tango through optical printing, allows the filmmaker to superimpose a number of elements, or whole words, within a single space. . . . Works such as Tango and Steps develop what I will call an ontological montage: the coexistence of ontologically incompatible elements within the same time and space.

(159) While previously, filmmakers usually worked with a single format throughout the whole film, the accelerated replacement of different analog and digital formats since the 1970s made the coexistence of stylistically diverse elements a norm rather than the exception for new media objects. Compositing can be used to hide this diversity - or it can be used to foreground it, creating it artificially if necessary. For instance, the film Forest Gump emphasizes stylistic differences between various shots; this simulation of different film and video artifacts is an important aspect of its narrative system.

Just when you thought it could not get any deeper, style comes after ontology. Manovich runs his theory through “montage” like an operator in a computer program that is itself supposed to be a metaphor for how the human lifeworld works.

(160) the shots in his films that combine live-action footage with graphic elements position all elements on parallel planes; the elements move parallel to the screen. . . . this subordination of live action to animation is the logic of digital cinema in general.

Style controls (informs) ontology; subordination of live action is representation's hegemony (and hysteresis).

Representation versus Communication

(161) Still, no new media objects are being generated when the user follows a hyperlink to another Web site, or uses telepresence to observe or act in a remote location, or communicates in real time with other users using Internet chat, or just makes a plain old-fashioned telephone call. In short, once we begin dealing with verbs and nouns which begin with tele-, we are no longer dealing with the traditional cultural domain of representation. Instead, we enter a new conceptual space, which this book has not explored so far - telecommunication.

This is what I mean by Manovich delaying discussion of what he calls 'telecommunication'. Importance of no new media objects (sic) are being generated divides the book in half at page 161 by instantiating tele-operator conceived as a computer program running a real time communications system, from TCP/IP to POTS.

(162) Clearly, we are more impressed (or at least, we were until the arrival of the Internet) with modern media's ability to record aspects of reality and then use these recordings to simulate it for our senses than with its real-time communication aspect. . . . the new recording technologies led to the development of new arts in a way that real-time communication did not.

Link with history of writing. Recording over RTC (real time communication, real time control) as technologies noticed and manipulated/controlled artistically controlled/manipulated (representation over RTC).

(162-163) modern media technologies have developed along two distinct trajectories. The first is representational technologies . . . second is real-time communication technologies. . . . Such new twentieth-century cultural forms as radio and, later, television emerge at the intersection of these two trajectories. . . . the majority of programming came to be prerecorded.

Imagine real time generation of TV signal dynamically: this is the norm for the Internet. We should seek to understand the Internet, then, for which purpose I argue we should learn to comprehend the likes of Transmission Control Protocol, Internet Protocol, and even Ethernet to a degree. I do not think that Landow appreciates this distinction.

(163) The concept of an aesthetic object is an object, that is, a self-contained structure limited in space and/or time, is fundamental to all modern thinking about aesthetics. . . . Nelson Goodman . . . characteristics assume a finite object in space and/or time - a literary text, a musical or dance performance, a painting, a work of architecture. . . . “From Work to Text” by Roland Barthes . . . notion of a “text” still assumes a reader “reading,” in the most general sense, something previously “written.” In short, while a “text” is interactive, hypertextual, distributed, and dynamic (to translate Barthes's propositions into new media terms), it is still a finite object.

(163-164) By foregrounding telecommunication, both real-time and asynchronous, as a fundamental cultural activity, the Internet asks us to reconsider the very paradigm of an aesthetic object. Is it necessary for the concept of the aesthetic to assume representation? Does are [sic] necessary involve a finite object? . . . if a user accessing information and a user telecommunicating with other(s) are a common in computer culture as a user interacting with a representation, can we expand our aesthetic theories to include these two new situations?

Telepresence: Illusion versus Action

(165) the ability to “teleport” instantly from one server to another, to be able to explore a multitude of documents located on computers around the world, all from one location, is much more important [sic] that being able to perform physical actions in one remote location.

Do we forgive Manovich for these editing mistakes to miss his final proof reading? Or is this the easily found slippage of his thought, on the same axis/pole of Landow missing the foregrounding of TCP/IP more than Ethernet. This carelessness cheapens and causes one to shy away from actually learning how they work. Imagine telepresence of a pinball machine using history of games played on actual playfields (by serial number) to simulate play for the tele-operator (strike out, not through, to ensure the specificity of hyphen is not lost - similar to Rousseau's concern for the cheapening of spoken language by articulation to simplify writing for lack of recording devices). Manovich gives an example of what I am proposing on page 170.

(165) telepresence can be thought of as one example of representational technologies used to enable action, that is, to allow the viewer to manipulate reality through representations. Other examples of these action-enabling technologies are maps, architectural drawings, and x-rays.

These are poor examples to compare to telepresence, which includes a dynamic, computational component that affords telecommunication via TCP/IPv4 inter networked von Neumann stored program concept fetch execute sequential processing electronic computing machinery.

(166) Popular media has downplayed the concept of telepresence in favor of virtual reality.

(166) Telepresence allows the subject to control not just the simulation but reality itself.

(167) A better term would be teleaction. Acting over distance. In real time.

Although the case of the remote controlled pinball machine may be indistinguishable from a virtual reality simulation of a pinball machine. Teleaction: how long is the lever? At what point does the lever become an image-instrument?


(167) French philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour proposes that certain kinds of images have always functioned as instruments of control and power, power being defined as the ability to mobilize and manipulate resources across space and time.

(168) perspective is more than just a sign system that reflects reality - it makes possible the manipulation of reality through the manipulation of its signs.


(169) The ability to receive visual information about a remote place in real time allows us to manipulate physical reality in this place, also in real-time.

(170) different kinds of teleaction require different temporal and spatial resolutions.

(170) the technology that makes teleaction in real time possible is electronic telecommunication. . . . Coupled with a computer used for real-time control, electronic telecommunication leads to a new and unprecedented relationship between objects and their signs. It makes instantaneous not only the process by which objects are turned into signs but also the reverse process - the manipulation of objects through these signs.

(170) A sign is something which can be used to teleact.

New: instantaneous representation and control. Imagine those required for playing a pinball machine from the late 1970s to early 1980s, the first generation of digital electronic computer controlled pinball machines.

Distance and Aura

(173) The regime of Big Optics inevitably leads to real-time politics, a politics that requires instant reactions to events transmitted with the speed of light, and that, ultimately, can only be efficiently handled by computers responding to each other.

(173) Virilio postulates a historical break between film and telecommunication, between Small Optics and Big Optics.

There is always a delay and there are always constraints. It is much easier to enumerate and talk about those affecting computer to computer communication than any including non-'computer' participants.

(175) In Western thought, vision has always been understood and discussed in opposition to touch, so, inevitably, the denigration of vision (to use Martin Jay's term) leads to the elevation of touch. Thus criticism of vision predictably leads to a new theoretical interest in the idea of the haptic.

(175) The potential aggressiveness of looking turns out to be rather more innocent than the actual aggression of electronically enabled touch.