Thought

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Ludic New Media
January 16th, 2009 by Lex


How do we read and consume media online? This Slate article makes a strong point regarding our fickleness as an audience. Our attentions are minute, skimming text for links and names rather than thoroughly understanding the information. We are looking for snacks, nuggets, bits. We jump from paragraph to video to conversation. Trap us!

This is also true for other types of content. People routinely only watch the first 60 seconds of web video, and episodes/virals get shorter and shorter. Unless we are primed to consume something like a full episode or movie, we simply nibble along.

Slate brings up an interesting aside: a 1988 study about Lucid Reading, or reading for pleasure. To quote the paper’s conclusion:

The processes of reading gratification begin with the subjectively effortless extraction of meaning from the printed page (Study I), the rewards of which appear to be augmented by flexible control of reading pace (Study 2). The harsh judgments elite criticism has made of pleasure reading interact with text difficulty and reader preferences to determine the reader’s selection of a ludic vehicle (Study 3). Fluctuating physiological arousal (Study 4) and cognitive consciousness-change mechanisms (Study 5) combine to confer on the skilled reader the sovereignty of the reading experience through which, with striking economy of means and
precision of outcome, readers transform fear to power, gloom to delight, and agitation to tranquillity.

A deliberate slowing-down of the process and a focused reading approach lead to a meditative result. A ludic consumption need not be limited to reading however. This was the driving idea behind Sokolin’s 2004 project Pause. If we sit down and resign ourselves to taking enjoying something, to really knowing it, there is a tangible benefit to slowing down.

This idea is eloquently explored by Carl Honore in his book “In Praise of Slowness”, and this video for the TED Conference.

However, the verdict is that we see the web and technology as junkfood. Change must come within, which is unlikely. The alternative is to encounter (or to create) some new media experience, artpiece, or text, that is so compelling it stops in our tracks.

Creativity Without Purpose.
October 21st, 2008 by Lex


Funding for technology and media start-ups is severely drying up, as the main available business model (advertising) is taking a nosedive with the rest of the economy. This will, hopefully, raise the bar. What happens though to all the unspent creativity? What do people who are marginal losers in this situation do instead?

Perhaps it goes into some pool of reserves energy, to be brought out next cycle. Or maybe people give up their dreams of color and font, and become accountants. It must be aesthetically satisfying to practice such an act of self-denial: the economy has got me down, and I have no choice but to abandon my freedom.

They must practice it in small ways. Sneaking in synchronized excel formatting. Switching up the paper for their PowerPoint presentations. Wearing a green tie to work.

Or maybe, and this is a hopeful maybe, we can divorce the practice of creativity from actual “practice”. We abstract it, and make it its own pursuit. Goals, results, etc etc, are by-products; and if they are that much harder to reach in this environment, why not indulge in pure and meaningless art?

The Web Design
July 23rd, 2008 by Lex


What role does visual design play in the evolution of the web? One might think that the effects are limited to aesthetics, but this is not true. One particular example shows how a visual set-up determines the consumption and creation of content, and how we react to that content.

Message boards and forums are as Web 1.0 as you get. They have a specific information structure. A single user posts a thread, and others reply to the starting post with their own posts. The design is such that the original post and the following post have equal visual weight. The first poster is similarly equal to everyone else.

Now take that single poster’s entire library of threads and pull it onto a single site. Keep the information structure exactly the same, with page numbers, responses and so on. However, isolate and highlight the first post. Make it large, colorful and bold. Make the title fancy. And then take everyone else’s responses and call them comments. Shrink them, thin them and gray them out. All of a sudden the forum turn into a blog. The visual change literally becomes the orator’s pedestal. It is a sign of power, a crown.

In the last few years, services like Twitter and Tumblr popped up as new, exciting, Web 2.0, paradigm-shifting approaches. Really? This is just another visual redesign of the old forum thread. The concept is exactly the same, only the design is changing. And this isn’t to say that the meta-concept is the same, i.e. it is all “conversation”, or the web is all “information”. No! The functionality here is identical, but how the service looks and feels drives its usage.

And this leads us to the grand importance of appearance. There has been a lot of innovation in information structure, such as the social network. Has there been a similar intensity of innovation in visual presentation?

There are people.
May 9th, 2008 by Seamus


It is sad to see the self-destructive continue in a self-righteous way of life, never removing a cast or a bandage in fear of people recognizing that they’re just fine, and that they may have always been just fine. Some of these people are fortunate enough to have everything. They have people who love them and will always love them. This unconditional bound which may even originate from their attempts to victimize themselves and come off as an insecure, humble and sweet person.

To get beneath that and see a person who willingly hates and refuses to acknowledge anything truly good, comfortable living in a self created world of sadness and angst is even worse. Further frustrating is the idea that we live in an age where humbling truths are so easily accessible. Visible everywhere is a mass of destruction, sadness, poor health and, to be frank, a constant and unavoidable bleak motion that is as constant as the earth’s orbit around the sun. It is as constant, heavy and obvious as gravity. Perhaps since it is so like gravity in the respect that we seldom stop to think about its force until something falls on us that many refuse to recognize this humbling bleakness. All the same it is still sad. To keep quiet and, in a self satisfactory fashion, victimize one’s self to achieve the righteous, holier than though sentiment. Hope is hard to come by. 

The following two songs are the entirety of Days Run Away IV. At 18 minutes a piece, they add up to being over 30 minutes long. The songs have movements and resolve themselves like narratives. They consist of manipulated guitars, keys and heavily processed vocals. The pieces together are entitled XIII: The Chrome Earth.

This is the first track: 01 days run away i_ chrome sky_chrome earth [no. 2].mp3

This is the Second Track: 02 days run away ii_ 101901[biii]83.mp3

When You Were A Girl.
April 30th, 2008 by Seamus


When amongst peers, there seems to be a certain amount of, for lack of a better term, ‘magic’ missing with respect to their idea of fear. The classic imagery of Ray Bradbury’s illustration seem to do little to stimulate any kind of fear-like response. This is a disappointing concept. The chains that rattle through fog filled graveyards seem to be silenced now. No transparent sheet of a specter would cause fear to rise in any reasonable young adult. Instead there may be laughter, or even worse, apathy with respect to this image. Realistic fear is just as rattling, however, it’s not as avoidable. No clove of garlic or circle of salt will protect anyone from a car-crash or a dirty bomb. It’s there that the real fear is. It seems that with the images of ghosts and the surreal, one could, hypothetically, control their fear and take superstitious precautions to avoid encountering them.

In the contemporary idea of fictional horror, the concepts and the stories are getting more realistic. This, again, is both good and bad. The better of the realistic can be truly stunning and leave one completely shaken to the core. The bad comes in the fact that it could potentially leave one further afraid and helpless feeling. All the while, the ghosts of the ghosts that once knew youth now shuffle without real reason. Their direction is lost as there’s little to anyone left to scare. The most recent track utilizes the heavily processed guitars as in the prior tracks, and a Celeste sound created through a series of keyboards, heavily processed to avoid juxtaposition in fidelity.

02 days run away ii_ w.y.w.a.g..mp3
Download it at mp3space.com

Healing.
April 29th, 2008 by Lex


This is a follow up on the Destruction post, although it takes a nearly opposing point of view.

When faced with a shock to the system, we go into an animal defensive. Our alerts, on either a personal or societal level, ring until we are deaf with fear. We hide in the shell until the danger passes. The danger: wars, thugs, layoffs, rejections, asymmetries. Anything that upsets the system. As mentioned before, the destruction takes away a chunk of the shell; it does not create anything by itself.

But once the shock passes, we look up from underneath the cover and rebuild. We use the steel beams of the WTC as monuments, we forge skyscrapers at nuclear ground zeros. We shrug off Bear Stearns, and invest in our future. Or at least we should. This is a normative argument: we must use creativity to push back the blackness of destruction. It is a struggle of the living against the dead. It is again an animal struggle.

And in our process of redemptive creation, we find the newest thought. The newest art. The sounds of the phoenix. Life is vivid, we are reminded. Here it is. So how to reconcile the positive effects of healing, and potential strengthening, with the black hole of destructive processes? How to correctly draw causality, a thin line in the sand between inspiration and evil? I don’t yet know.

The Heavy Hours Of Sunday
April 16th, 2008 by Seamus


There seems to be a kind of nagging joke that one’s on the outside of when it comes to Sundays. This is nothing new to most people. The great frustration with Sunday is that it can frequently be so beautiful and at the same time so full of a sense of dread. The golden hours of dusk and dawn seem to radiate more on a Sunday than they would any other day and yet, one finds it hard to truly enjoy them. The reasons for this are more commonly found in the coming work/school week. The hours get so heavy. And when night comes it seems more intrusive than ever, forming a blanket around the city and one’s thoughts. The piece of corresponding music has been recorded with heavily processed vocals and guitars.