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New Media and Digital Humanities

New Media and Digital Humanities

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Designing with Gamestar Mechanic

Gaming the System demonstrates the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions of game elements and rules, and how to identify systems concepts in the design process. The activities use Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a systems thinking focus.

Digital Storytelling with Scratch

Script Changers shows the ways that stories offer a lens for seeing the world as a series of systems. It provides opportunities for students to create interactive and animated stories about creating positive change in their communities. These projects utilize the Scratch visual programming environment.

A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels

Light is the condition of all vision, and the visual media are our most important explorations of this condition. The history of visual technologies reveals a centuries-long project aimed at controlling light. In this book, Sean Cubitt traces a genealogy of the dominant visual media of the twenty-first century—digital video, film, and photography—through a history of materials and practices that begins with the inventions of intaglio printing and oil painting. Attending to the specificities of inks and pigments, cathode ray tubes, color film, lenses, screens, and chips, Cubitt argues that we have moved from a hierarchical visual culture focused on semantic values to a more democratic but value-free numerical commodity.

Cubitt begins with the invisibility of black, then builds from line to surface to volume and space. He describes Rembrandt’s attempts to achieve pure black by tricking the viewer and the rise of geometry as a governing principle in visual technology, seen in Dürer, Hogarth, and Disney, among others. He finds the origins of central features of digital imaging in nineteenth-century printmaking; examines the clash between the physics and psychology of color; explores the representation of space in shadows, layers, and projection; discusses modes of temporal order in still photography, cinema, television, and digital video; and considers the implications of a political aesthetics of visual technology.

Mobile apps promise to deliver (h)appiness to our devices at the touch of a finger or two. Apps offer gratifyingly immediate access to connection and entertainment. The array of apps downloadable from the app store may come from the cloud, but they attach themselves firmly to our individual movement from location to location on earth. In The Imaginary App, writers, theorists, and artists--including Stephen Wolfram (in conversation with Paul Miller) and Lev Manovich--explore the cultural and technological shifts that have accompanied the emergence of the mobile app. These contributors and interviewees see apps variously as “a machine of transcendence,” “a hulking wound in our nervous system,” or “a promise of new possibilities.” They ask whether the app is an object or a relation, and if it could be a “metamedium” that supersedes all other artistic media. They consider the control and power exercised by software architecture; the app’s prosthetic ability to enhance certain human capacities, in reality or in imagination; the app economy, and the divergent possibilities it offers of making a living or making a fortune; and the app as medium and remediator of reality.

Also included (and documented in color) are selected projects by artists asked to design truly imaginary apps, “icons of the impossible.” These include a female sexual arousal graph using Doppler images; “The Ultimate App,” which accepts a payment and then closes, without providing information or functionality; and “iLuck,” which uses GPS technology and four-leaf-clover icons to mark places where luck might be found.

Contributors
Christian Ulrik Andersen, Thierry Bardini, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, Benjamin H. Bratton, Drew S. Burk, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Robbie Cormier, Dock Currie, Dal Yong Jin, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Ryan and Hays Holladay, Atle Mikkola Kjøsen, Eric Kluitenberg, Lev Manovich, Vincent Manzerolle, Svitlana Matviyenko, Dan Mellamphy, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Steven Millward, Anna Munster, Søren Bro Pold, Chris Richards, Scott Snibbe, Nick Srnicek, Stephen Wolfram

This book takes a single line of code--the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title--and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a text--in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources--that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. They consider randomness and regularity in computing and art, the maze in culture, the popular BASIC programming language, and the highly influential Commodore 64 computer.

Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain

In Biopolitical Screens, Pasi Väliaho charts and conceptualizes the imagery that composes our affective and conceptual reality under twenty-first-century capitalism. Väliaho investigates the role screen media play in the networks that today harness human minds and bodies—the ways that images animated on console game platforms, virtual reality technologies, and computer screens capture human potential by plugging it into arrangements of finance, war, and the consumption of entertainment. Drawing on current neuroscience and political and economic thought, Väliaho argues that these images work to shape the atomistic individuals who populate the neoliberal world of accumulation and war.

Väliaho bases his argument on a broad notion of the image as something both visible and sayable, detectable in various screen platforms but also in scientific perception and theoretical ideas. After laying out the conceptual foundations of the book, Väliaho offers focused and detailed investigations of the current visual economy. He considers the imagery of first-person shooter video games as tools of “neuropower”; explores the design and construction of virtual reality technologies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan; and examines three instances of video installation art that have the power to disrupt the dominant regime of sensibility rather than reinforce it.

Art, Media, and the Sonic

The sonic has come to occupy center stage in the arts and humanities. In the age of computational media, sound and its subcultures can offer more dynamic ways of accounting for bodies, movements, and events. In The Rhythmic Event, Eleni Ikoniadou explores traces and potentialities prompted by the sonic but leading to contingent and unknowable forces outside the periphery of sound. She investigates the ways in which recent digital art experiments that mostly engage with the virtual dimensions of sound suggest alternate modes of perception, temporality, and experience. Ikoniadou draws on media theory, digital art, and philosophical and technoscientific ideas to work toward the articulation of a media philosophy that rethinks the media event as abstract and affective.

The Rhythmic Event seeks to define the digital media artwork as an assemblage of sensations that outlive the space, time, and bodies that constitute and experience it. Ikoniadou proposes that the notion of rhythm--detached, however, from the idea of counting and regularity—can unlock the imperceptible, aesthetic potential enveloping the artwork. She speculates that addressing the event on the level of rhythm affords us a glimpse into the nonhuman modalities of thought proper to the digital and hidden in the gaps between strict definitions (e.g., human/sonic/digital) and false dichotomies (e.g., virtual/real). Operating at the margins of perception, the rhythmic artwork summons an obscure zone of sonic thought, which considers the event according to its power to become.

Why Children Need to Learn Programming

Coding, once considered an arcane craft practiced by solitary techies, is now recognized by educators and theorists as a crucial skill, even a new literacy, for all children. Programming is often promoted in K-12 schools as a way to encourage “computational thinking”—which has now become the umbrella term for understanding what computer science has to contribute to reasoning and communicating in an ever-increasingly digital world.

In Connected Code, Yasmin Kafai and Quinn Burke argue that although computational thinking represents an excellent starting point, the broader conception of “computational participation” better captures the twenty-first-century reality. Computational participation moves beyond the individual to focus on wider social networks and a DIY culture of digital “making.”

Kafai and Burke describe contemporary examples of computational participation: students who code not for the sake of coding but to create games, stories, and animations to share; the emergence of youth programming communities; the practices and ethical challenges of remixing (rather than starting from scratch); and the move beyond stationary screens to programmable toys, tools, and textiles.

Art, New Media, and Social Memory

How will our increasingly digital civilization persist beyond our lifetimes? Audio and videotapes demagnetize; CDs delaminate; Internet art links to websites that no longer exist; Amiga software doesn’t run on iMacs. In Re-collection, Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito argue that the vulnerability of new media art illustrates a larger crisis for social memory. They describe a variable media approach to rescuing new media, distributed across producers and consumers who can choose appropriate strategies for each endangered work.

New media art poses novel preservation and conservation dilemmas. Given the ephemerality of their mediums, software art, installation art, and interactive games may be heading to obsolescence and oblivion. Rinehart and Ippolito, both museum professionals, examine the preservation of new media art from both practical and theoretical perspectives, offering concrete examples that range from Nam June Paik to Danger Mouse. They investigate three threats to twenty-first-century creativity: technology, because much new media art depends on rapidly changing software or hardware; institutions, which may rely on preservation methods developed for older mediums; and law, which complicates access with intellectual property constraints such as copyright and licensing. Technology, institutions, and law, however, can be enlisted as allies rather than enemies of ephemeral artifacts and their preservation. The variable media approach that Rinehart and Ippolito propose asks to what extent works to be preserved might be medium-independent, translatable into new mediums when their original formats are obsolete.

Wearable Discourse in the Digital Age

Wearable technology—whether a Walkman in the 1970s, an LED-illuminated gown in the 2000s, or Google Glass today—makes the wearer visible in a technologically literate environment. Twenty years ago, wearable technology reflected cultural preoccupations with cyborgs and augmented reality; today, it reflects our newer needs for mobility and connectedness. In this book, Susan Elizabeth Ryan examines wearable technology as an evolving set of ideas and their contexts, always with an eye on actual wearables—on clothing, dress, and the histories and social relations they represent. She proposes that wearable technologies comprise a pragmatics of enhanced communication in a social landscape. “Garments of paradise” is a reference to wearable technology’s promise of physical and mental enhancements.

Ryan defines “dress acts”—hybrid acts of communication in which the behavior of wearing is bound up with the materiality of garments and devices—and focuses on the use of digital technology as part of such systems of meaning. She connects the ideas of dress and technology historically, in terms of major discourses of art and culture, and in terms of mass media and media culture, citing such thinkers as Giorgio Agamben, Manuel De Landa, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. She examines the early history of wearable technology as it emerged in research labs; the impact of ubiquitous and affective approaches to computing; interaction design and the idea of wearable technology as a language of embodied technology; and the influence of open source ideology. Finally, she considers the future, as wearing technologies becomes an increasingly naturalized aspect of our social behavior.

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