Concept in 60, Projects

CONCEPT-IN-60: [SURVIVAL/COEXISTENCE]

METANARRATIVE:

The two main concepts behind my Concept-in-60 are found in what I’ve decided to title it: Survival and Coexistence.

The digital alarmists out there, or other such folks who fail to understand the progression of technology and its impact, falling instead to hyperbole, would have you believe storytelling formats such as the good old novel are as good as dead. We’ve touched on this subject in class and read scholar Rober Coover’s stance on the matter in his article “The End of Books,” where he declares, in summation of the current ~digital age~, that printed mediums are now “a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.” I’m here to tell you the novel is not dead.

Technology is constantly evolving. There’s always a new way of doing things, and it’s often very exciting to creative types. This same positive excitement can take a negative spin as well, of course, given how one percieves the changes. One might thing them a threat to how they like things – how things have always been done. Well, maybe they are threat! I, on the other hand, see things differently.

When it comes to new media, there is always “old” in the “new.” When it comes to technological advancement, it’s often fast – but it always brings along trappings of that which came before. This class, as a whole, has taught me to see both the potential in the “new” and the perseverance of the “old.”

I, in this video, want to emphasize both a rejection of technological fear, belonging to that alarmism that frustrates me so much, and an optimistic outlook on the future of all mediums.

I wanted my Concept-in-60 to be themed and I thought cyberpunk inspired media would work wonderfully for what I’m trying to do. The themes cyberpunk media often deal with – like transhumanism – resonate with the message I’m trying to get across. One of living with “the machine,” accepting “the machine,” and seeing the potential for good in “the machine.”

(It’s ironic that I use cyberpunk inspired media given that their universes are often dystopic and harsh and I’m trying to be optimistic, but I think it works in that it is hard to escape the pessimism that comes with technological advancement but there’s very cool and interesting things that come with it, too.)

I choose Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as the starting point of my video in form and in concept, both because it’s a traditionally printed novel and it largely spurred the cyberpunk movement. From there, I incorporate film with Blade Runner, which was inspired by Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and serves as the basis of inspiration for most of the media in its genre that comes after it. I hop to Giannis Milonogiannis’ cyberpunk cop comics with Old City Blues and pull in video games with Snatcher and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. There’s an intermingling in their showing up in the video, and it isn’t traditionally chronological until near the end when I do a flash-through of the content I’ve used in the video, and I think that’s important because I want to show that all of these forms of storytelling are related and draw upon one another.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a traditionally printed novel, as it came before the brunt of this “digital revolution,” but we see it preserved in ebook format in my video. This shows both a modern love for the “classic” in that technologies have been developed for the sole purpose of displaying novels digitally and a perseverance of the novel’s form in our current technological landscape.

Blade Runner is seen in a physical format – technically digital given that it’s a DVD, but give me a pass here – and also shown to be available online through Netflix (which has, sadly, since the shooting of my video has been taken down. Which is kind of okay, too, because Netflix had the theatrical version, and the Final Cut is much better). Netflix is a digital streaming service that sometimes even produces its own original video content in the style of television shows, showing that new distribution methods can effectively give the “old” new audiences, potential for discovery, and timelessness.

Old City Blues gets a lot of focus in the video, and for good reason. Old City Blues was first published online digitally by its author, then later physically printed, serving as a fantastic example of how “old” and “new” aren’t so far apart. The digital version is free to read online, serving as a sort of advertisement for the printed version – if you like the comic, you can choose to support it traditionally. It’s a new concept using old forms. It’s wonderful.

The video games I incorporate – Snatcher and Deus Ex: Human Revolution – are the most “new media” of the bunch. Video games are often home to a narrative, and therefore take on aspects and concepts of storytelling you’d see in novels, films, and comics. Though you don’t see it much in the video, Snatcher is actually a text-based adventure with images and animation to help tell its story and it’s heavily inspired by Blade RunnerDeus Ex: Human Revolution, on the other hand, is not so closely linked. Visually, though, it shows a massive progression in technological prowess and potential in comparison to Snatcher. Its footage serves as a fantastic bookend in the sense that the main character is shown being part man and part machine and being in awe of this blending. He is both “old” and “new.”

The final bookshelf scene visually drives home the “coexistence” theme.

I meant to create a certain type of “flow” throughout the video – a dark, murky flow. I thought it would capture the spirit of cyberpunk well if I went about things this way, and only serve to enhance everything I was doing by giving it thematic coherence.

So my video, as a whole, is supposed to show an intermingling of the “old” and “new,” progression, evolution, intermingling, perseverance, survival, and coexistence. I wanted to show the physical, both printed and technological (the Nook, the iPod), and the digital – their relationship. “New media” is largely just “old media” done in new ways, and I wanted to capture that complexity. I wanted to say that “the old doesn’t have to die, and it never really will, and it’s all still relevant. Oh, also, the new stuff can be cool, too!”

As for my actual creative process in a hands-on sense, I used Movie Maker 2012 to edit the video clips. The Kega Fusion emulator has a in-program video capture feature and can read and play SEGA CD discs, so I used that for getting the scenes of Snatcher I wanted. The footage from Deus Ex: Human Revolution was from the cinematic trailer the publisher released a while back so I just ripped that straight from YouTube using a site called ClipConverter, and the same goes for the in-game footage I ripped from the original gameplay trailer released for the game. The same goes for one of the Blade Runner clips, and I used that ScreenCastomatic doodad for getting the comic reader footage. Everything else was captured using a video camera, the footage later imported and edited. Any potential copyrighted footage is only used in very small bits so I should be fine as far as those concerns go.

The music I chose to use was Snatcher‘s opening track, “One Night in Neo Kobe City.” I really liked the vibe this track created, but I didn’t just want to take it and slap it on my project. To avoid copyright concerns, I’ve used Audacity to cut out the 50-or-so seconds I wanted (about 30% of the total song) and change its sound – its tempo, its pitch, its speed (slightly), and I even messed with the bass and treble levels. What’s created isn’t something wholly new, hence why I just state it’s “remixed” in the credits, but I think the changes work overall, and are especially noticeable during the synth saxophone section. I reviewed Winthrop’s own copyright guidelines, which states “students who are creating presentations for which they are graded are generally exempt from copyright restrictions on materials they embed in work to be graded,” but to both fulfill the requirements of this assignment and ease my own worries, I’ve made changes despite the potential fair-use protection.

There will be parts of my potential audience that won’t get the underlying themes of cyberpunk concretely, but perhaps they will vibe with the mood of it all, and understand the core of what I’m trying to say even if some of the thematic complexities are lost on them.

Creating this project made me reevaluate the way we can communicate using media. As Marshall McLuhan gets across in “The Medium is the Message,” the “message” of a creation is heavily impacted by the form in which it takes – its medium.  The “message” is not the “content,” not exactly what it is about, but instead what it is made of, how it is presented, and what, in whole, it communicates or says because of all of these things together (205-209). New media, in its incorporation of images, text, sound, video, and animation, brings to light the complexities of the medium and the message. So many rhetorical choices, visual and auditory, working together to get something across. The process is often so complex it’s hard to consider the intricacies, but they’re there. It’s amazing.

“This is Scholarship” was one of the examples of new media video presentations we looked at in class. The creators, Braun and Gilbert, did some interesting things in recognizing the qualities unique to video and playing with them. I watched it before I created my rough draft to see a way to go about all of this, but upon doing so remembered how boring it was. This was both due to the subject matter (sorry) and the way it was all put together. But I recognized the video was made that way specifically considering what it was trying to do and who it was trying to communicate to. That matters.

My project, I believe, shows an embrace of the video medium and a consistent awareness of the message I want to emerge from it. I did my best to make it thematically solid, in terms of both what you see and what you hear, what you read and what you watch. All of it, I think works together well to say what I’m trying to say – to communicate that message.

I think my video is engaging. I think the ideas and the argument I’m trying to express are relevant and timely and should be considered – hopefully in more accepting, optimistic ways like the stance I take. I want my audience to engage their fears, to recognize the stance they take in this wild world of technological progression, and I want them to be mindful of the changes and the good. While there is no “active” engagement in the sense of interactivity, I think I do well to engage the audience’s sensibilities with the themes and entertain them with the direction.

This is, without a doubt, the most scholarly-sounding thing I’ve written all semester in this course. I did my best to try and get across everything that needed to be got across: why I did what I did, how I did what I did, what this all was a response to, and the information I considered going on.

In closing, I want to say that I kinda felt like I had an advantage once I started getting going on all of this. Like I intrinsically knew a lot of the concepts I was trying to employ. Part of it is this class bringing concepts to light, but the rest of it (and what I’d say a large part of it) comes from me growing up immersed in the language of new media.

Well, anyway, I hope you enjoyed my video, and I hope it makes sense to you.

Thanks a bunch, everyone, for a great semester.

—-

Works Cited

Braun, Catherine C., & Gilbert, Kenneth L. “This Is Scholarship.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 12.3 (2008):  n. pag. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

Coover, Robert. “The End of Books.” The New York Times On the Web. The New York Times Company, 21 June 1992. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

“Frequently Asked Questions.” Winthrop Copyright Policy. Winthrop University, 9 Aug. 2006. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

McLuhan, Marshall. “Two Selections by Marshall McLuhan: The Galaxy Reconfigured, The Medium is the Message.” The New Media Reader (2003): 203-9. Web. 5. Dec. 2013.

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Concept in 60, Projects

Concept-in-60 Status Update

I put a lot of work into the rough draft of my project, and it went over pretty well, so I’m mainly just making an effort to complete the final touches to polish it off.

While I haven’t re-edited what I had in class two weeks ago at this point (the project file is on my Z-drive and I live 30 miles away, so..), here’s what I’ve done at this point:

  • Used audacity to fool with the Snatcher song I used in the video to cover my bases as far as copyright concerns go
  • Re-shot two scenes of grabbing cases off my my bookshelf because the lighting was so bad in the original version
  • Captured Deus Ex (original) and Deus Ex: Human Revolution gameplay footage

What I need to do:

  • Insert the newly edited song
  • Compensate for timing issues – might even edit the song again to make some of the nice beat/transition line-ups I had work still
  • Insert the missing scenes I filmed but never put in the rough draft (one of these is replaced by a re-shoot)
  • Shave off a few extra seconds throughout the video to make room for Deus Ex and Human Revolution footage at the end

I actually don’t have a whole lot to do, all things considered. Hope this thing comes out nicely. I’m glad I put so much effort into the rough draft so I’m not overwhelmed right now.. Haha..

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Concept in 60, Projects

Concept in 60 Draft: Survival/Coexistence

Got that draft.

Honestly, I made way more progress on this than I expected.

Basically, throughout our class this year it’s become evident that “old” media doesn’t really go away – our “new media” is quite often just building off of what was already there or just plain “old” media published online. That got me thinking about digital conversions of “old media,” which sometimes falls under the umbrella of “new media,” and digital publication. Also, ease of access and the variety of tools one can use to access them.

I’m running with a cyberpunk theme because I feel like it just vibes well with the kind of topics we’re dealing with. All the media used in the project was directly or indirectly inspired by Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which essentially jumpstarted the cyberpunk genre when Blade Runner adapted it.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a print novel and I use it as the basis for the running theme of “survival” (it’s still relevant and available through print and digital means) and “coexistence” (which will tie up in the end with all the pieces of media, old and new, being placed in the same shelf on a bookshelf, symbolically saying -these storytelling formats can adapt and exist concurrently despite the differing properties and potential of different storytelling mediums.)

Old City Blues, my running example there in the middle, was a digital comic (I guess you could call it a webcomic) put online first by its author, then published in print. One could potentially discover either version first, and the digital version is essentially preserved timelessly (unless the author decides to stop hosting it). It’s a very interesting example of how technology has changed a previously purely print-based storytelling medium, making authors embrace their comics as new media publications (in the sense that they are digital and manipulated by the user).

The second-to-last piece of footage is a scene from Deus Ex: Human Revolution that  fits the “NEW” concept really well, I think, given that it is only two years old and is of a relatively “young” form of a media – video games – that could not exist without computers.

I’m missing some footage at the beginning and the end because I foolishly failed to copy those two video files before heading to class this morning. I edited all of this with a campus machine, so I haven’t had a chance to go home and retrieve the missing video yet.

I know I’m rambling pretty badly (I haven’t slept!!), but here’s hoping you got something out of what I just posted

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Experiment in Non-Print Presentation, Projects

Experiment in Non-Print Presentation

I chose to do a video project for this. Originally, I started out with the podcast format but thought it’d be fun to make a kind of silly informative video with not-so-great graphics and animations drawn by me. Sadly, after tinkering with Flash for hours I learned that I had no clue what I was doing, but I already had a lot of silly images drawn and figured I might as well not let them go to waste. I re-recorded some of the audio (mostly the beginning and end), remixed the music/narration in Audacity, and tried to salvage a “video” editing it in Movie Maker with some goofy scenes that I hope add humor to the whole thing, seeing as I was going for that sort of vibe.

I did write a script in the beginning. The final written script I have is very rough and differs in some places as I improvised as I read or made alterations in consideration for time. I hosted it on Google docs here.

I used CamStudio for the first time to record my desktop for some scenes. It did what it needed to do at the quality I’d expect from something free (low fps, large filesize).

In the end, after finally getting it all pieced together, I realized how “slide-show-y” it felt in the end. Because I couldn’t pull off the animation I wanted to, I think it hurt the video over-all. I got overambitious. This project woke me up to the fact that I have surface-level knowledge of many software and what they can do without being able to really use them to their full potential.

I was surprised by how tough it was to find decent royalty-free or CC license music to use in the video. Same goes for video footage and images. You’re stuck with a bunch of lame pay-for-free-use content sites if you do a cursory search, and you run into a lot of shady sites full of useless content if you dig deep. I spent a lot of time just looking for a simple “crowd scene” that’d I’d be able to use and I’m still not happy with what I got. Maybe I was being too paranoid when it comes to copyright but I don’t think you can ever be too paranoid in that regard. The music I was able to find on a Creative Commons music database that said it was good to use for non-commercial use. In retrospect, I probably could have found something I thought fit more and play with it in Audacity to make it okay, but I didn’t consider it at the time.

The video project prompt says “the question should concern New Media.” I took that quite literally, I guess. Like I said, this originally started as an informative podcast project, so it’s mostly just a “guide” to considering audiences when creating web-based content, but the title is “Who’s Your New Media Audience?”, so I was hoping that’d at least cover my bases! The question does concern New Media and the creation of it!

I’d hope this video at least accomplishes what I set out to do with it – to help someone consider the complex nature of audience in web-based multimedia, as well as steps they can take to make their content more accessible to people with disabilities or simply be more aware of that side of things.  I think I did a pretty decent job in that regard, though I must admit that it’s ironic that I talk about adding captions for video-based projects when I haven’t yet gone through the process of adding them to this video.

Anyway, after all of that, here’s the video:

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responses to community

Response to Community: There’s Goodness Out There

Responding to Jess’ post here.

I can’t say me scrolling down my own Facebook wall yields similar results to what you found, though I guess I’m associated with more pessimists than I thought I was.

I want to talk about the potential social media has, though. To an extent, the potential I want to talk about is being realized today. Social media is allowing more personalized, first-hand news to come out into the limelight. This isn’t “news” in the traditional sense, filtered for grade-school rhetoric, easy sound-bites, and grandparents watching afternoon televised programs. Instead, this is raw.

Social media outlets like Twitter are amazing to watch when something major happens in any part of the world. Suddenly, people there with access to Twitter through a phone or computer are throwing up a dynamic, personalized timeline of what’s going down. Different people all providing their own personal account of whatever is happening, dire or no, giving us a “clear,” ground-level picture of what’s going on. No filters. No outlets. There’s limitations, sure, but I’m just saying the potential is awesome and it’s working to a degree. I mean, you can’t necessarily account for what’s misinterpreted or outright wrong, but I guess that’s the fun in news in the first place. If you have any idea how the world works, t’s hard to get to the objective truth of things most of the time.

You always have to stop and consider that there’s still powers that can filter this content, though. It’ll be hard to ever really have a purely dynamic and independent source of news, generated by individuals living it. There’s always power structure involved. Certain controlling interests are going to be the ones to develop platforms people choose to use. The dynamics involved are mysterious and hard to predict.

Anyway, I’ll be happy if the world starts getting a little brighter. Maybe not in terms of “goodness,” but in terms of “truth.”

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responses

Peering Into the Future: Where do I have to touch myself to get the news?

Writings that paint visions of the future are always interesting to me, so I’m going to talk about Eric Pfanner’s Peering Into the Future article.

It’s neat how different eras of the past always have wildly different images of the future Earth. The Jetsons of the 60s gave us clean flying cars (that could be collapsed into a suitcase), blocky robot nannies with artificial intelligence and personalities, and cities of the sky held up on poles.

The seventies and early eighties gave us slick, dark, dystopic visions. Blade Runner, set in 2019, will always be my favorite.. its dark, perpetually hazy city, filled with architecture, flaming spires of the industrial complex, pollution, destitution, visions of economic disparity and ruin – and technological advancement. Intermingling with scenes that feel at home in  contemporary Earth we are given things like artificially produced biomechanical androids. Hovercars designed by Syd Mead, more “grounded” than anything you’d see in the Jetsons. Gigantic LCD screens stretching up the faces of skyscrapers – something not out of place now.

And we see the the blurring of culture. Deckard flies by images of Geisha displayed on those LCD screens I mentioned earlier. He walks through Asian slums, eats food sold by Asian street vendors. It reflected the thought of the time; that Asia, particularly Japan, economically booming, would affect the world on a grand scale. Today, we look to China and study its rapid development, as Pfanner’s article does, instead.

Our era, now, is in love with the concepts of “smart” technology, the prevalence and potential of the internet, and augmented reality. Blade Runner’s universe didn’t have touch-screen technology. Deckard owns a CRT TV and uses disks, not flash memory. Pfanner’s future reflects our modern conventions. We’re more concerned now with how “plugged-in” we’ll all be in a few years.

The more technology is embraced, the dynamics of media will certainly continue to change. Avenues of video-based content production, delivery, and advertising will continue to alter as traditional television providers fight to  keep subscribers and alternative services become more popular, for instance. New media will adapt to changing climates and demographics. These are things Pfanner touches on.

Our lifestyles have already changed and will continue to change, but, as always, technological surprises, politics, and economic conditions will dictate just how much of our current vision comes to fruition in our lifetimes – if ever. Will we really wear smart pajamas or will that be too much, even for those of us living through this “shift” now. How will fear of government tampering and privacy invasion play into where technology goes?

The future is uncertain and,  if the visions of the future our past generations have given us are any indication, most certainly unpredictable.

On a side note, if you’re interested in the cyberpunk genre that Blade Runner and other such works popularized, I highly recommend Giannis Milonogiannis’ Old City Blues comic book [or ~graphic novel~], which takes that dystopic 80s vibe and gives it a more modern flair. You can also read it online for free on the author’s website, showing another interesting way technology and the internet has affected once solely print-based forms of media (haha, tied that in good, didn’t I?!).

Milonogiannis’ choice to host the comic for free shows how differently creators approach their IPs nowadays, I think. He gives you the option to support him directly by purchasing his print version of his book and most likely hopes to generate some buzz through word of mouth from online-only readers. It’s a very interesting form of advertising and self-promotion that couldn’t exist in any other time!

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responses to community

Response to Community: Caption! From the eye hole comes the mean!

Responding to Kevin’s post here.

Yeah, man, YouTube’s voice recognition software for creating automated subtitles is a mess. It’s a cool move on their part that they’re actually trying to go out of their way and do something for the hearing impaired, but at the end of the day, the software’s lack of noise filtering and general inaccuracy is, indeed, hilarious.

So the responsibility for accurate  captions falls on the creators of the content, the publishers! YouTube actually has a very useful in-browser caption-creating software that allows you to type in the captions as the video plays. You can check a box option that makes the video stop whenever you’re typing, syncing each line to the specific moment you need. This alleviates the need for time codes and formatting that many casual users might not know how to do. (But if you do know how to do that stuff, they allow you to upload a file with all that information instead if you want.)

Here’s an example of what the in-browser tool looks like, which I just brought up on one of my own published videos:

YouTube's in-browser captioning software

YouTube’s in-browser captioning software

I’ve never personally captioned one of my videos all the way through before, but witnessing how simple the tool is makes the task of doing so seem a lot less daunting.

That doesn’t mean I’m proactive enough to think about it every time, though, and I guess that goes for a lot of content publishers on YouTube. Maybe I’ll be more proactive in the future!

In closing, the responsibility of generating accurate captions is on the creator’s side, not YouTube’s.

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