Monthly Archives: March 2012
“The Galaxy Reconfigured: or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society” by Marshall McLuhan , describes how looking back in retrospect is necessary to fully grasp the phenomena of cultural change that takes place at the dawn of a new technology or thought process. He explains how change takes place slowly, like a
type of societal mass hypnosis that claims “one sense at a time” (199). Society is both observer and participant in the transformation because change can’t take place without its acceptance. The masses are swept along unwittingly, while “a very few people [ ] furnish the public with all the thought and reason possessed by the vast multitudes” (196). Mcluhan compares the magnitude of the creation of electronic technology to that of the Gutenberg printing press in its ability to change societies. Whereas the printing press moved the world from oral to written mass communication, likewise, new media created a shift from print text to electronic text. Once perceptions begin to change, McLuhan says, it’s impossible to return to the previous state of awareness because the change is, at first, so subtle we don’t recognize it until past the point of no return. In his article “The Medium is the message,” (Here’s the complete lecture).
McLuhan expands on the idea that “indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium” (203). Electricity is just such a medium, he says; Its presence is so pervasive that we no longer recognize it as the medium (of instantaneous light, for instance). That’s the way most users of the computer view computer technology; we just flip a switch and things happen. We don’t realize how that simple act has changed us. But, we aren’t just mindless consumers are we? The fact that I’m writing this blog and you’re reading it makes Baudrillard’s point that independence breeds subversiveness (287). When we read blogs written by average people from all over the world we are a part of the information revolution.
Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.
McLuhan, Marshal. “The Galaxy Reconfigured: or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 194-202.
McLuhan, Marshal. “The Medium is the Message.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 203-209.
Baudrillard, Jean. “Requiem for the Media.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 278-288.
Here is my completed video.
Reflections on the creation of my video project:
This is my first attempt at making a still-image video with background music. It took many hours to complete because I was totally engrossed in searching for tutorials, downloading images, and listening to lots of great original music as part of the process. I used an older version of Windows Movie Maker that came with my computer years ago. This presented a problem, as I wasn’t able to work on it in class or get peer feedback. Finding tutorials for my old program was nearly impossible, but I could usually figure out what I needed to accomplish from tutorials of newer versions.
The assignment was to create a short, video advertisement for a book. I chose William Faulkner’s 1929 classic novel The Sound and the Fury. The novel is written in a stream of consciousness style which moves the story quickly along a very non-linear path. My audience is comprised of readers who began the novel once before and were scared off by the often confusing time-line and prose. By focusing on Caddy, a main character who never tells her own story, I hope to narrow the novel’s focus long enough to capture the attention of those readers once again.
I began the pre-production process by brainstorming descriptions of novel’s characters that I wanted to portray in my video. Next, I narrowed my choices of characters down to three; Caddy, Benjy, and Quentin. Then I paraphrased the plot of the novel as tightly as I could. Finally, I wrote a script of single sentences that I could include on my slides. Ultimately, however, I let the images speak for themselves as much as possible.
The tone of the novel is one of economic, moral, and familial doom. I see it as being portrayed on video as cold, gray, and lost in the past, just like many of the characters. I used Creative Commons images of some beautiful cemetery statuary that I downloaded onto Flicker from Compfight. I followed Creative Commons’ guidelines for citing images that I shared. I imported my images to PowerPoint where I was able to write text onto the images. I made a few text- only slides, using PowerPoint’s “Apex” template, that has a slash of light running through it. This effect helped recreate the silent movie feel I was attempting to mimic. I used four different fonts for the text; AR Decode, an elegant, undulating script, to express a personal, conversational tone (like telling a secret); Book Antiqua for a newspaper effect; Elizabethan Script, a simple rounded script, for Caddy’s signature on the young girl statue; and Baskerville Old Type for the text on the ornate iron fences. Maybe for my next attempt, I’ll create my own font out of ice cream sticks, like Jeanne Verdoux (New Media Design 43). Luckily, I found a tutorial explaining how to upload a PowerPoint presentation as individual slides on Movie Maker. The trick was to change the format to a PNG (Portable Network Graphic) file where it says, “save as type.”
Once I had uploaded my PowerPoint images to Movie Maker and dragged them into the time line, I chose the special effects for each one. The drop-down menu at the top is easy to navigate for including special effects and transitions:
- For all of the text-only slides, I used the Old Age Film effect which I further distorted by using the Brightness Increase effect.
- For the edited images, I used the Film Grain effect to make them look like old photos.
- I used the Pan Out/Zoom In effects liberally throughout to give the effect of visual story progression.
I used several different transitions to serve my purpose:
- The simple Fade transition worked best on several slides.
- An interesting transition I used to simulate Benjy’s confused state of mind was the Spin. I used this transition to spin the previous image into the hands of the little girl holding the leaf.
- I used the Circle transition for both the fence images to mirror circles in the iron fence.
- I used the Diagonal, Down Right transition because it perfectly meshed with the Brightness Increase effect I used on my text-only slides.
- The Wipe Normal Right transition worked well for the young woman image with text that was presented in two columns.
- I used the Reveal Down transition on the path through trees image to move the eye down from the text to the detail of the image.
- Finally, I used the Dissolve transition to move into my citation credits slide.
The most difficult part of the project was choosing and synchronizing the background music. In a silent video, the music is equally as important as the images. I found the track I used on Free MusicArchive.org. I tried several searches to get an olde-tyme, southern feel that echoed the era of the novel,1929. Then I easily uploaded it to Movie Maker using the Upload Media option. I had some difficulty timing the music to the images until I expanded the timeline out far enough (just click on the + or -) to be able to fine tune it. I chose to continue the music in black-out for several seconds at the end to emphasize the demise of the Compton family . I was pleased with the result.
I enjoyed making my video and learned a lot in the process. I will definitely be making more videos, hopefully with a newer program. I’m encouraged too, that once one has the tools, like Jeanne Verdoux says, creativity basically involves the “eyes and mind to observe the world we live in. . . [then] using technology to concretize my ideas” (43). Rereading her description of the creative process (pen, paper, and hundreds of storyboard images) reminds me of how impatient I can be when working on even a simple computer design project consisting of twelve static images. Next time I would like to experiment with movement in my video project that, as Tricia Austin and Richard Doust explain, “unfolds over time and allows the designer to play with rhythm, pace, and narrative” for a stronger emotional impact (45). Time, or the lack of it, is the key word at this phase of my studies, and I would have to argue with Lev Manovich on his insistance that computers are a fast and efficient method of digitally drafting complicated compositions (21). But, I will admit that I’ve certainly created something beyond my “unaugmented human intellect.”
Austin, Tricia. and Richard Doust. New Media Design. London:Laurence King, 2007. Print.
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. 1st Vintage International Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.
Manovich, Lev. “New Media from Borges to HTML.” 13-25. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.
The time allotted for my video project has been on an as-needed basis so far because I really had no idea how long it would take. As I figured, everything took longer than anticipated. Here’s where I’m at now:
3/4- 1 1/2 hrs- Downloaded the PowerPoint of my video project to Windows Movie Maker. Inserted transitions and special effects.
3/7- 1 1/2 hrs- Downloaded background music to Windows Movie Maker. Fiddled with the time line to coordinate the music with the images.
3/8- 1 hr- Edited some of the text on my images. Fine tuned background music timing.
3/13- Project downloaded to thumb drive.
Engelbart describes his research at the Stanford Research Institute as “man-computer” interaction with the goal of “reaching the point where we can do all of our work on line (234). This, he explains, will be accomplished by an NLS (online system) that is both a tool and the means. He uses the term “bootstrapping” to explain how his group is structured for collaboration to “build and try,” and in an evolutionary way, to study and modify the computer program continually.
Deleuze and Guattari, in their article “A Thousand Plateaus,” written twelve years later, uses the metaphor of a rhizome to describe and expand on the complex structure of Engelbart’s vision. Unlike a tree, that has one trunk with many roots, a rhizome is a bulb-like structure that although connected to the whole, is itself a complete unit (hierarchy) “a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, [and] modifiable” (409).
Creating signifiers for the signified (Deleuze and Guattari 407) which are easily understandable for global users has been an important aspect of achieving, what was clear from Engelbarts’ demonstration, the vision of mass public use of computer technology. For me, Shneiderman’s article, “Direct Manipulation,” immediately brought to mind a metaphor of my own for the computer system process.
I thought of a sewing machine. Like a rhizome, the sewing machine performs its action ―two hands, a needle, and thread, forming individual stitches from above and below— to connect together pieces of fabric to create a complete product.
The purpose of the product, a garment in the case of the sewing machine , can be utility, beauty, ritual, or a number of things relevant to a culture, similar to products created on a computer. I visualize Engelbart’s diagram of the organization of NLS as similar to the threading of a sewing machine. Both, once complicated maneuvers performed by hand, are now linked together by the most elementary users of digital technology.
This reminds me of something else, for like the rhizomatic action of NLS, my thinking is quite recursive today — Did the birth of the computer fulfill a need, or create one?
Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattaro. From “A Thousand Plateaus.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 407-409.
Engelbart, Douglas and William English. “A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 231-246.
Shneiderman, Ben. “Direct Manipulation: A Step Beyond Programming Languages.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 485-498.