truth in practice | Theoretical Perspectives

flanneryCloseupShow and tell. My week. Past weeks have included an audio sampling consisting of semi-obscure works of poetry as read by their respective not-as-obscure authors : Ong’s Orality and Literacy; a demo on Multi-User-Domains from someone who had recently registered with an “adult” MUD and revealed some of the “orientation” to this new environment. My week is Reader-Response-Theory and Reception Theory. I decided to bring in samples of TWG’s work (the Young Frankenstein section from the showHouse/Lights which I was fortunate to be involved with at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn). I was interested in the simulacra and steps of disassociation from original material. House/Lights combines the text of Gertrude Stein’s Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights with a 60’s B-soft-core-porn-flick, Olga’s House of Shame. I also decided to show something I had prepared, but wasn’t necessarily decided on showing.
I remember an English teacher of mine from high school recalling the second hand story of a Flannery O’Connor exchange she had read about. A literature class had spent the good portion of a semester in 1961 dissecting the notoriously symbolic language of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” The Professor of the class wrote a letter to Ms. O’Connor detailing the classes close reading of the story and what its conclusion’s were regarding the symbolism of the text. She wrote a response unflinchingly debunking the theory.

Interpretation.

This was a relevant example to discuss Reader-Response-Theory, I thought. And due to intense previous class discussion’s involving the importance of “the original” and the notion of the “first edition” and “the document”, I decided to forge the response Flannery wrote to that Professor of English many years ago. A cake-pan full of coffee and tea, a font called “1942 report”, and some crumpling were enough to illicit little or no questioning regarding the authenticity of the required document.

Was authority gained with the possession of the “real” document? Was it more impressive than the printed online article from which it was pulled? Is it detrimental to the trust fostered in a classroom dedicated to open-ness of thought and understanding of media theory? I’d certainly like to that that it was at least more creative.

Journal-Ism

What do you want to say? How do you want to say it? What’s more, who do you want to know about it? We are a society of graphoholics. We all have a life. We all have an opinion. And, it seems, the majority of us have the need to write about it. And why not? A pen and a paper cost very little these days. The overhead for small-time authorship is next to nothing. We don’t need to be the next James Frey of the world. And hey, at least we are honest about ourselves. Besides, it’s not like we’d ever dream of publishing something like our very most personal experiences for all to see. Those things are private. Well, maybe you’ll tell your best friend. Or perhaps leak some gossip to the book club on Thursday nights. Once and a while you might let your support group know “how does that make you feel” but that’s as far as it goes. Communication and shared experience is one thing, our deepest darkest secrets are another.

Social networking aside and laundry lists not included, most of us write on a semi-regular basis to keep track of things in our daily lives. To remember the good times, explore the bad, banish the intolerable. Those of us who keep a journal do so for a myriad of reasons. Some free-write to let the ideas flow, unshackled from self-judgment in a stream-of-consciousness sort of prose. Some of us choose our words very very carefully so as to capture that perfect transcription of thought with just the right turn of the syntax. journaling is as long as the pages of the records themselves. Some of us simply log the day’s events for easy recall, sentimental or otherwise, at a later date. The list of reasons for personal What ever our reasons for writing personally, it is becoming evident that more and more of us are making our personal writing public. What once was kept under lock and key and guarded by big sister, is now accessible, and in some cases, advertised for public rummaging. Our innermost thoughts now worn on the outside. On the whole, the modern society used to be more akin to a shy pubescent teenager than to our present parallel with the prosaic and moderately annoying college philosophy major spouting his thoughts across the quad. I want to tell you what I think. I want you to know. As our notion of privacy has changed in the age of virtuality, so to has the fundamental notion of “ourselves.” The more we represent ourselves on-line, the less likely we are to be entirely truthful about that representation.

The tradition of writing in one’s journal usually involved a semi-private space with semi-private thoughts. You and your mind, free to think and write and express and explore and conspire as you please. Being able to admit things to ones-self has an enormous impact on the make-up of one’s being. Consistent journal-writers might even attain the level of pure disclosure to the page with no form of self-censorship whatsoever. We confide in the medium which is all our own. We dance a different dance however when we know that others may be watching.

25,595,766 hits to PostSecret and counting. PostSecret is a weblog whose simple rules state, “You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to PostSecret.” Ah. Anonymity. That’s where the popularity comes from. Catharsis with no consequence. But what about something more in line with our traditional notions of privacy. My-diary.org posits, “Everyone can have their own personal diary or journal on the Internet.” My own personal diary on the internet? What could be better? Reading other peoples personal diaries on the internet! The very first category heading on my-diary.org’s site entreats, “Read what others have written.” I would put forth that the overwhelming majority of my-diary.org’s users are not only well aware of the fact that their “personal diaries” are for all “on the internet” to see and read, but that they long for this kind of exposure. It changes the make-up of what they write. Dresses it up. Truths become liquid.

There is certainly nothing perverse about the human need for empathy and connectivity to a greater community. It is my position however that the more our society tends towards peddling our emotional wares through the annals of the web and the more we continue to raise future generations with this notion of personal expression, the less private, the less personal, the less meaningful, and the less truthful a web log or journal become. This is to say, the more we make it a habit to journal online rather than in a real-world journal, the more our relation to the truth of introspection changes due to the expectation of the content coming in contact with an eventual audience. As Sarah Boxer of the New York Times writes in a review of PostSecret from May of 2005,
The secret sharers here aren’t mindless flashers but practiced strippers. They don’t want to get rid of their secrets. They love them. They arrange them. They tend them. They turn them into fetishes. And that’s the secret of PostSecret. It isn’t really a true confessional after all. It is a piece of collaborative art.
Of course it’s exhibitionist, it’s modern art.

LiveJournal is another online “communication tool” that boasts some 9,861,091 journals created since 1999, and 307,253 post on the day this paper was submitted. The site informs us “you can use LiveJournal in many different ways: as a private journal, a blog, a social network…” A private journal and a social network? When deep in introspective thought, how does one reconcile the fact that the filtering mechanism one is using to funnel the bandwidth of stream-of-consciousness to the page is being affected by the fact that there is a good chance that a lot of people will read the content someday. Sites like these encourage us to take part in communities we may have otherwise never experienced, however, empirically they also encourage the creation and modification of our own attributes. We put our best (or worst) selves forward. But as we continue to experience reality in our lives ‘virtually’ and the line of separation gets dangerously thin between the two, we start to actually become the content of our own fabrications. We become self-fulfilling prophecies.

What does this mean then for future generations of would-be journal and diary keepers. If the current trend toward publicly viewable content continues, there will be no need for privacy concern any longer in our privacy obsessed United States of America. There will be laws passed against privacy. We will beg to be the next to have our secrets aired by the likes of Oprah and Dr. Phil. We are losing more and more ground in the fight for privacy because of our insatiable hunger with the concept of celebrity and the accompanying tendencies towards performative journaling. As our personal text becomes histrionic we sit back and laugh ourselves into oblivion and we will never question our methods, so long as we are entertained.

Online journaling removes the padding of privacy from writing and thus diminishes the truth and connection that a writer has to her text. I have decided to conduct an experiment with these thoughts in mind. I keep a student blog at http://www.itp.nyu.edu/~ajs510/blog. I invite people to see this blog and can imagine directing future collaborators to this site to get sense of my aesthetic and a cross-section of my graduate work here at NYU. For many years, I have also kept a physical journal. This journal, while mostly unread by anyone but myself is not at all private. I regularly leave a volume out in the open, flipped to a past entry that I may have been reading. Sometimes I’ll even voluntarily put my thoughts forth by reading from this record of daily thoughts and experiments in writing. A look back at some of the samplings of entries runs the gamut of the insufferably mundane to the eerily personal. Well, if I claim to be so frank and honest when documenting the day’s thoughts in this closable and geo-specific notebook even though it is not a private thing, then I should have no problem doing so on the internet. For the past couple of weeks I have been journaling as usual in my Mead Graph-ruled notebook on a semi-daily basis. The only catch is, now I scan it in and post it on the internet for all to see. The amount of privacy is relatively the same. Anyone can view it, however I do not advertise its existence often. Will my most personal writing change as a result of an expansion of possible readership? We shall see.

(download the short version pdf | 56k)

week.8

With a week off to play and catch up on missed opportunities, I return this week with a preview and primer of things to come.

The video at right was accomplished using a Jitter patch from an article written by bi-coastal artist and contributor to Res Magazine, Perry Hoberman. Implemented with two iSight’s and a little common evolutionary trait known as stereoscopic vision, all you need is two eyes and a pair of standard 3-D anaglyph red/blue or red/cyan glasses (got mine from St. Marks Comics) and you’re in business.

In the article (Double iSight: EZ 3-D Filmmaaking, res magazine, jan/feb 2006) I am happy to hear Hoberman comment, “At last the technological infrastructure may be in place to allow 3-D to become part of mainstream cinematic practice…However, 3-D will remain nothing more than a gimmick without the development of a new cinematic language…” Defense of content. It is always nice to hear.

Responsative

seminude_reclining.jpgIn a paper I recently wrote titled, “Truth in Content : Who Does it Matter To?” I pushed for the public’s realization of untruth in all entertainment. I argued not so much for the lowering of collective expectations as for the awareness of masses to such coersion. I received several replies. One excerpted response reads, “When I see your things I have this striking view of Egon Schiele.”

Egon Schiele? I have never heard of such a person. Is he a famous writer? A much-loved local hero? A well-liked basis for a character from the film Ghost Busters?

Egon Schiele, as it turns out was an Austrian artist born in 1890 and a would-be successor of Klimt‘s

An excerpt from Schiele’s on-line biography: “Schiele’s narcissism, exhibitionism and persecution-mania can all be found united in the poster he produced for his first one-man exhibition in Vienna, held at the Galerie Arnot at the very beginning Of 1915, in which he portrayed himself as St Sebastian.

“In 1918 he was invited to be a major participant in the Sezession’s 49th exhibition. For this he produced a poster design strongly reminiscent of the Last Supper, with his own portrait in the place of Christ.”

huh.

It’s not all bad…the response I received continues, “It’s always a pleasure to have your intelligent and subtly auto-narcissic creations. Ego centered poetry, love it.”

Well then…thank you.

Truth in Content : Who Does it Matter To? (long)

When I tell people by the water cooler that I haven’t watched television in over fifteen years, some people want to know why. I usually tell them that I haven’t owned a set since my family got rid of the broken one we had sitting on the end table in the living room. They usually ask why not. And I usually tell them, as matter-of-factly as I will tell you now, because my uncle Rick put my head though the glass of a 27” solid-state unit in an alcoholic fit of rage when I was nine. Do you want to see the scars? I had changed the channel to “Picture-Pages” without asking. Do you want to hear about what happened the time I accidentally broke the whisky glass which my dad, his dead brother, gave him before he died, in an event my uncle would later refer to as “the will-gift fuck-up”? Would you like to know what the results of improper use of a manual can opener look like? They usually don’t ask any more questions. That’s where the conversation usually stops. But that’s usually because by this time I’m sweating and my eyes haven’t blinked for a few minutes and I may have accidentally backed them into a corner. It is real. They feel trapped. Physically. Mentally. Obligatory pity. After escaping this awkward situation, rarely does anyone report that they felt fascinated, transported, entertained.

What about you. Don’t you have just the smallest twinge of interest as to why I always wear long sleeves? Aren’t you just slightly curious as to how soon Uncle Rick will make parole? Don’t you want to hear about “the will-gift fuck up”? If I explained it to you in the form of an op-ed piece for a class at NYU, doesn’t that make it just a little less real? A little more safe? A little more…entertaining?

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been telling you the truth. Of course I have a television. I watched the evening news not more than a half hour ago. My uncle’s name is Jim, and I don’t even think he’s ever had a drink in his whole life. I’ve never actually seen Picture Pages. No scars. No can opener. No pity. I am a liar, a fabricator, an author.

When stories like the JT Leroy hoax and the James Frey memoir/Oprah embarrassment happen, we, the public, react. However, we constantly react in a way that is counter-intuitive. When Oprah lets us know that we have been collectively duped, it is not so much that we feel hurt (as in “we have been deceived”), as we feel disappointed at the unmasking of our man behind the curtain. Our entertainment value has been soured. Once we believe those awful stories about the back-alley abortion, we want them to be true forever. Where we once had a miscreant to feel superior to, now we learn they were as normal as any of us growing up. After the strings have been cut from our collective suspension of disbelief, we are returned to the maelstrom of mediocrity. We again feel the call of obligatory accomplishment, which we are all too ready to tie directly to success. We want to know that those things happened to someone. Mirror Neurons hard at work. Empathy. Sympathy. Self-pity. Those vacationing in various tropical destinations when the tsunami hit the village of Banda Aceh in December of 2004 felt both a twinge of guilt and a greater connectedness with the disaster than those of us further away. It’s an “I was affected more than you were” kind of reaction we cannot help but feel – we have a ridiculous and arbitrary superficial connection to something that hasn’t really affected us at all. We crave a something outside ourselves. The fantastic. The impossible. We crave the story.

Perhaps it isn’t our fault though. The concept of the “daily news” has been dressing information in entertainment’s clothing for decades. Reality T.V. as well has been sating the mainstream’s voyeuristic urges since “The Real World”. And we love it. Not because it is real. But because it is sublimely unreal. “This is the story…of one person…who lives in a dreary apartment…in Queens.” That’s my life. Who’s going to tune in to me? The formula for good reality television, indeed for most entertainment does not lie in the real, but in the hyper-real, the theatre of the ridiculous. The truth is, while my insignificant tale from above may lack the weight and length of a traditional homespun memoir, Americans love a good story, more than they do reality. We love the drama, the antithesis of the mundane, reality, our lives. We would much prefer to be lied to, so long as the lie is laced with the sweet nectar of entertainment. No one wants to be bothered with normality1.

American Academy Award nominated talk show host and magazine publisher Oprah Winfrey, in the highly publicized second interview with debunked “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey commented, “…as a reader I’m believing you because it’s on the bookshelf as a memoir.” Really? He’s a drug addict, writing about being a drug addict, writing a memoir (from the Latin memoria, meaning “memory”), an intimate and personal account of drug addiction. With this foreknowledge, what kind of information retrieval would you trust this man with? Would you trust him with your medical records at the hospital? If he can write a book detailing the use of alcohol and drugs, he must be a reliable source, right? Something is rotten in this logic. We bought the book because Oprah told us to. We have instilled our trust in Oprah. Oprah has instilled her trust in James Frey because, as she has said, “it’s on the bookshelf as a memoir.” I wonder if she believes the President of the United States because he is in office. In fact, former president Clinton was on her show. I don’t remember talk of his disappointing a nation because he had lied to them about personal details. Further, in response to those who would claim that the whole affair is a tragedy because his book was helpful to people, I would argue most who read James Frey’s tale are not drug addicts, and are not looking to the book as a self-help guide, but rather read it for it’s entertainment value. The very meaning of the word entertainment stems from the idea of holding one’s attention. And how do we achieve this? With the fantastical. With the surreal. Why should we question the inherent entertainment value of the memoir industry as this country continues to churn out title like, “Callgirl: Confessions of an Ivy League Lady of Pleasure,” and “Bat Boy: My True Life Adventures Coming of Age With the New York Yankees.” No form of entertainment can be entrusted to tell an unbiased truth. Truth shifts in parallel with our ever evolving tool-set of communication. What about Callgirl author Jeannette Angell? Do we trust her more or less than Frey? Really? Ah, yes…she hasn’t yet been on the Oprah show. How upset will we be when it is reported that she hasn’t really slept with a quarter of those she claims to have?

Obviously our “authorship society” is leveling the playing field for user-generated content. Unfortunately that level is reaching a low-water mark. More and more product floods the market everyday. As Daniel Boorstin, author of The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America warns, “We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.” We seek to become the very product we can’t seem to consume enough of. We look to people like Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey to instruct us how to attain the “life-movie” we star in everyday in our mind’s eye. We long to be the life pored over. We long for our 15 minutes of fame. We long for our fifteen minutes of non-privacy. We long to be exploited. Newer generations are starting to put these desires into practice earlier and earlier. Twelve and Thirteen-year-olds are already obsessively exploiting themselves on social-networking sites such as the massively popular (and NewsCorp owned) MySpace.com or high school-themed myYearbook.com. 43things.com provides a forum specifically titled “write a memoir,” where people like “Becky” postulate, “i’ve already written my memoir – my blog over the past 4 years… i need to give it some form.. i don’t think daily diary entries is a good format for a book. or maybe it is (see “diary of anne frank”, etc).”

As William Grimes has commented, “the genre has become so inclusive that it’s almost impossible to imagine which life experiences do not qualify as memoir material.” I hope it is sooner rather than later that we, the consuming audience, realize that we do not want to know about “us”, or others like us for that matter, in the ways that we are currently selling ourselves. What we want is archetypal figures upon which to model a mode of behavior and personality. We want to be cool. We want to be sophisticated. We want to be told what that is. We do not look to ourselves. We do not trust ourselves. We trust the Dr. Phil’s and Oprah Winfrey’s (and Slashdot’s and BoingBoing’s or any other brand of coolness) of the world. The masses do not want to be trendsetters. Trend-setting by the masses are horses designed by committee.

It is the duty of the entertainment-industry to entertain. Why should we expect anything less from a memoir. Some have called the Frey escapade a hoax. A memoir hoax? What about the other genre’s. Could there be a “VH1: Behind the Music” hoax? What about the movies? As Anthony Lane of the New Yorker posits in his March 2006 article “Telling Tales,” “…there is no such thing as a cinematic hoax. Even the worst movies are made in good faith, and, if you start condemning public figures for pretending to something they’re not, what do you do about actors?” I wonder how many Oprah fans watch her show for the wondrous amounts of hard facts it puts forth. Come on, everyone dresses up for the camera a little. If Oprah wants the real truth from the entertainment industry, she should start by setting precedent. No more make-up for Oprah from now on. No more cameras either, or sets. Just invite the studio audience that wants to come down as usual for a rap session. You and Oprah, hanging out, talking straight about drugs. No decoration. No TV personalities. No entertainment. Period. Is that what you want?

Somehow, we have to reconcile our absolute obsession with the concept of celebrity and our motivation for user-generated content. We have to start again from the beginning,” Umberto Eco writes, “asking one another what’s going on.”

The full-length commentary is also available as an ironic videocast, which can be found here

Truth in Content : Who Cares? (short)

I haven’t watched television in over fifteen years. Some people want to know why. I them I haven’t owned a set since my family got rid of the broken one we had sitting on the end table in the living room. They ask why not. Because my uncle Rick put my head though the glass of a 27” solid-state unit in an alcoholic fit of rage when I was nine. I had changed the channel to “Picture-Pages” without asking. They usually don’t ask any more questions. That’s where the conversation usually stops. But that’s because by this time I’m sweating and my eyes haven’t blinked for a few minutes and I may have accidentally backed them into a corner. It is real. It isn’t a tale they are reading in a newspaper or journal. We are there. They feel trapped. Physically. Mentally. Obligatory pity. After escaping this awkward situation, rarely does anyone report that they felt fascinated, transported, entertained.

What about you. Aren’t you just slightly curious as to how soon Uncle Rick will make parole? If I explained it to you in the form of a writing exercise, doesn’t that make it just a little less real? A little more safe? A little more…entertaining?

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been telling you the truth. Of course I have a television. I watched the morning news not more than a half hour ago. My uncle’s name is Jim, and I don’t think he’s had a drink in his entire life. I’ve never actually seen “Picture Pages”. No scars. No pity. I am a liar, a fabricator…an author.

When stories like the JT Leroy hoax and the James Frey memoir/Oprah embarrassment happen, we, the public, react. However, we constantly react in a way that is counter-intuitive. When Oprah lets us know that we have been collectively duped, it is not so much that we feel hurt (as in “we have been deceived”), as we feel disappointed at the unmasking of our man behind the curtain. Our entertainment value has been soured. Where we once had a miscreant to feel superior to, now we learn they were as normal as any of us growing up. No escape. We want to know that those things happened to someone. Mirror Neurons hard at work. Empathy. Sympathy. Self-pity. We crave a something outside ourselves. The fantastic. The impossible. We crave the story. No one wants to be bothered with normality.

Perhaps it isn’t our fault. The concept of the “daily news” has been dressing information in entertainment’s clothing for decades. Reality T.V. as well has been sating the mainstream’s voyeuristic urges since “The Real World”. And we love it. Not because it is real. But because it is sublimely unreal. “This is the story…of one person…who lives in a dreary apartment…in Queens.” That’s my life. Who’s going to tune in to me? The formula for good reality television, indeed for most mainstream entertainment does not lie in the real, but in the hyper-real, the theatre of the ridiculous. The truth is, while my insignificant tale from above may lack the weight and length of a traditional homespun memoir, Americans love a good story, more than they do reality. We love the drama, the antithesis of the mundane, reality, our lives. We would much prefer to be lied to, so long as the lie is laced with the sweet nectar of entertainment.

American Academy Award nominated talk show host and magazine publisher Oprah Winfrey, in the highly publicized second interview with debunked “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey commented, “…as a reader I’m believing you because it’s on the bookshelf as a memoir.” Really? He’s a drug addict, writing about being a drug addict, writing a memoir (from the Latin memoria, meaning “memory”), an intimate and personal account of drug addiction. With this foreknowledge, what kind of information retrieval would you trust this man with? We bought the book because Oprah told us to. We have instilled our trust in Oprah. Oprah has instilled her trust in James Frey because, as she has said, “…it’s on the bookshelf as a memoir.” I wonder if she believes the President of the United States because he is in office. In fact, former president Clinton was on her show. I don’t remember talk of his disappointing a nation because he had lied to them about personal details. In response to those who would claim that the whole affair is a “tragedy” because his book was helpful to people, I would argue most who read James Frey’s tale are not drug addicts, and are not looking to the book as a self-help guide, but rather read it for it’s entertainment value – the vicarious experience, a romance novel for would-be drug users. No form of entertainment can be entrusted to tell an unbiased truth. Truth shifts in parallel with our ever evolving tool-set of communication.

Obviously our “authorship society” is leveling the playing field for user-generated content. Unfortunately that level is reaching a low-water mark. More and more product floods the market everyday. As Daniel Boorstin, author of The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America warns, “We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.” We seek to become the very product we can’t seem to consume enough of. We look to people like Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey to instruct us how to attain the “life-movie” we star in everyday in our mind’s eye. We long to be the life pored over. We long for our 15 minutes of fame. We long for our 15 minutes of non-privacy. We long to be exploited. Newer generations are starting to put these desires into practice earlier and earlier. Twelve and Thirteen-year-olds are already obsessively exploiting themselves on social-networking sites such as the massively popular (and NewsCorp owned) MySpace.com or high school-themed myYearbook.com. 43things.com provides a forum specifically titled “write a memoir,” where people like “Becky” postulate, “i’ve already written my memoir – my blog over the past 4 years… i need to give it some form.. i don’t think daily diary entries is a good format for a book. or maybe it is (see “diary of anne frank”, etc).” Are any of us really listening, or are we simply waiting for our turn to talk?

As William Grimes, contributor to the New York Times, has commented, “the genre has become so inclusive that it’s almost impossible to imagine which life experiences do not qualify as memoir material.” I hope it is sooner rather than later that we, the consuming audience, realize that we do not want to know about “us”. What we want is archetypal figures upon which to model a mode of behavior and personality. We want to be cool. We want to be sophisticated. We want to be told what that is. We do not look to ourselves. We do not want control. We do not trust ourselves. We trust the Dr. Phil’s and Oprah Winfrey’s (and Slashdot’s and BoingBoing’s or any other brand of coolness) of the world. The masses do not want to be trendsetters. Trend-setting by the masses are horses designed by committee.

It is the duty of the entertainment-industry to entertain. I wonder how many Oprah fans watch her show for the wondrous amounts of hard facts it puts forth. Even no-nonsense Oprah dresses up for the camera a little. If Ms. Winfrey wants the real truth from the entertainment industry, she should start by setting precedent. No more make-up for Oprah from now on. No more cameras either, or sets. Just invite the studio audience that wants to come down as usual for a rap session. You and Oprah, hanging out, talking straight about drugs. No decoration. No TV personalities. No entertainment. Period. Is that what you want?

Somehow, we have to reconcile our absolute obsession with the concept of celebrity and our motivation for user-generated content. “We have to start again from the beginning,” Umberto Eco writes, “asking one another what’s going on.”

This paper contains edits. The full-length commentary is also available as an ironic videocast, which can be found here

Forced Social Networking!®

EVERY BIT YOU MAKE >>> FINAL PROPOSAL ABSTRACT

splash.gifThe words “Social Networking” retain healthy buzzes in most industries in the city. Everyone knows it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. When your talent, work-ethic, education, and tenacity don’t pay off, your college frat buddies just might. Nederlander’s dad owns a private investment firm and can probably get you in despite your lack of experience. Thank God you didn’t complain too much during the hazing rituals. Or maybe you get introduced to the director you’ve always admired and you know that he might put you in his next movie if you’ll just “do him the favor in return.” No matter how you attain your next job, you’ll inevitably rely on “someone who knows someone” to get that ball rolling. Social Networking is key, but it’s also time-consuming and tedious. What if it could all be done for you. Imagine never having to make that monthly check-in with “the woman you met once from the Altria Group” to make sure she even remembers your name, let alone sees your next project. It doesn’t have to be the stuff of fantasy any more.

Forced Social Networking >>>

Through a semi-illegal and questionably unethical practice knows as “BlueSnarfing” we propose to gather data from various potential users who we think may enjoy the benefits of a world in which they are not continually forced to sustain the daily charade of “interest in other people.” How does the selection process work? Fortunately that work has been done for us. We are only interested in offering our services to those who have attained and sustain a lifestyle which affords them the very technology we propose to exploit. Basically you’ve already selected yourself!

How does it work? Completely unbeknownst to you, (you could be standing in line at Starbucks!) we will gather the contact information from your Bluetooth-enabled phone including phone book and other contact list information. We will then use an (?)asterisk phone server(?) to call the first number on your list and record their response to the subsequent silence coming from our server. The next number on the list is automatically called, the first number’s initial response is played back to the new number, and the new number’s response to the old number’s prompt is recorded. This continues for however many phone numbers you may have in your contact list. The server works not only linearly, but uses every possible combination of caller and receiver until all are exhausted. Your mistress will call your Child’s school Principal! Your mother will call you drug dealer! Hilarity and good social networking are sure to ensue. What protects this egocentric universe of your orbiting contacts from completely disintegrating is anonymity and lack of proof. So although your college sweetheart calls your wife, your wife can’t track the number, even though she may recognize the voice. So-long boring dinner conversation!

The Result of this system is an invigorated phone list and a renewed sense of obligatory connectedness. The by-product of the system (what we are interested in) is the auto-generated conversations that accrue when a number recognizes that voice saying “…hello?..hello…” and responds with “Jim – Jim I can hear you.” only to be the prompt for the next number who may respond with “…Jim…who is Jim?” and subsequently “…I’m not sure…who is this…I don’t know Jim…” and so on and so on into incomprehensible madness. Each snarfed and “forcibly-networked” phone-book will attain it’s own auto-dialogue, unique to your personal and business contacts’ personality and natural temperment.

What can your phone book tell us about you?

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MIDTERM

PRODUCT

1.) Out of ContextCam >>> Capture triggered by sound. A small camera attached to my face captures video triggered by a sound threshold. Talk and it records. Shut-up and it stops. I am interested here in capturing meaningful (or not) moments throughout a day. Compile the footage and we see and hear one side of a conversation completely out of context. What are the implications for generating creative content? Will Richard Foreman want one? What other applications does this system lend itself to? I’ve experimented with the camera trained just on the mouth, as well as looking outward from the face. The video shows a compiled example of each.

2.) Requiem JumpCut >>> Using the JumpCutCam in Java which inherits Dan O’Sullivan’s Motion Detector Cam, I’ve algorithmically edited the film “Requiem For a Dream” down to only the first frames following a cut. Certain patterns can be seen such as strobing between two characters in particular scenes, as well as this film’s quick-cutting techniques to portray drug use. I hope to further refine the Cam using “seed planting” video-tracking techniques which are much less computationally expensive. I will also explore the juxtapositions between the rapid and constant cutting in this film and a slower paced film such as Roy Andersson’s “Songs From the Second Floor.”