So, I changed my idea around quite a bit. Rather than starting with the question, “How has new media changed us?”, I take two quotes by Marshall McLuhan and seek to synthesize the ideas into one concept and represent it through this video.
Using the quotes that bookend the video as direction, I tried to steer my piece towards a unity between the two ideas. To be literate, our brains seem to have to act schizophrenically. We must break texts down into their singular elements in order to interpret them. Yet, we must also be able to dissociate each element’s individual “meaning” from the meaning of the whole; yet even the whole must be treated as necessarily incomplete. Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” provides a good example of this idea of incompleteness: Krapp’s story is presented as incoherent, littered with fragmentary voices and images. We cannot tell which voice is the most important, and it eventually becomes a futile endeavor to try to construct a coherent understanding of the text. We must accept the schizophrenic quality of literacy, brought about by the schizophrenic nature of text.
But we still want to draw those connections, to make sense of the whole, and to find a unified interpretation to a text. We want to do what we cannot do, by necessity. The logical connections between one image and the next may not exist, but we will fight to create one. Thus the second quote explains a second part of our literature nature: we use artistic means to create connections where, arguably, none exist. The men covered in paint and the bloody man’s body become significantly connected due to the work’s aesthetic pairing of the two images; the cigarette glows red hot as the music swells; the two shots of the Korean detective, separated by the shot of the woman in red, create a sense of unity when viewed together; the voices in the song and the people singing on the traincar seem to be one and the same, for a moment. Our mind seems to be a powerful tool for drawing these logically unwarranted, but aesthetically satisfying, connections.
I would argue that new media studies treats these ideas as fundamental. As an example, consider these images in the video: the first gunfight and the second are opposed in their brutality and their numbers; one man fighting many, and the many annihilating the one. The mind is quick to equate the two, just as it is quick to associate the shot of the men drenched in paint with the preceding shot of the blood-covered body. The connection is disconnected from each individual meaning, totally entrenched within the medium’s juxtaposition of the two images; the medium becomes the message. As a backlash, as a resistance against becoming totally schizophrenic, we move from the realm of logical association to aesthetic association; we use the methods of art to get at interpreting the seemingly incomprehensible texts.
What does this mean for the writer of new media, or more specifically, the writer of electronic media versus print? I would argue that it means we must appreciate how the mind works as a tool of association and dissociation if we are going to write effectively. Especially in an online context, where mediums shift as rapidly as ideas, the writer must be aware of how their text is presented. Each blog post, for example, contributes to the whole blog; but, as an audience, we make a conscious effort to disconnect our understanding of the single post from the rest of the blog. As a blogger, it thus becomes necessary to treat each blog post as the primary interpretive mode of the text rather than the blog as a whole. Our interpretive scheme, in this instance, tends towards schizophrenic, dissociative actions that are reinforced by the aesthetic design of the blog. On the other hand, a website may act as a single text; each webpage, then, must be designed artistically to accommodate the entirety of the work, or to prompt an association with the whole of the work. The interpretive scheme here fights against schizophrenia, towards unity. In either instance, artistic design plays a large role in matching the text to its audience by prompting certain interpretive actions. The blog posts, separated by their titles, prompt the reader to dissociate one from the other, or treat them as only loosely connected at best. A webpage design that remains consistent throughout a website, on the other hand, prompts the reader to connect each webpage together and interpret the website as a whole (even if it is never truly possible to do so).
Thus the point of my video is to say exactly what McLuhan said: the medium is the message. The significance of this statement to our class’ overall goal is immense; if we are to learn how to write for new media, we have to understand the interpretive possibilities, and inevitabilities, of new media. To understand the interpretive choices available to the audience, we must understand what interpretive choice(s) the medium allows for, and what each different artistic choice provides the reader as interpretive tools or clues. Each text must be deciphered in a particular way, according to its medium.
I began this project with my focus being, “How has new media changed us?” I abandoned this focus halfway through the project, but I believe this question is still addressed in the project. I don’t think new media has changed us at all; there are those who argue that “Google is making us stupid” because they believe we are being catered to like petulant children. All this great technological progress is actually dumbing us down by reducing our ability to draw deep insight from dense material. I disagree with this view, and argue that, instead, the period of new media requires more of us intellectually than any period before. Both artist and audience require a new type of literacy, one that treats its schizophrenic quality as more beneficial, since our texts are becoming more multi-voiced and fragmentary while simultaneously becoming more pervasive in our culture. We are constantly invited to interpret text throughout our lives: coffee cups, iPhone apps, t-shirt designs, etc. etc. etc. We live in a world of texts like never before; the Google age is not making us stupid, it’s actually pushing us more than it ever has to find meaningful interpretations of the texts of our lives. As a result, our literacy comes to value immediacy, the ability to quick connect and disconnect images from one another, and the ability to understand what interpretive mode we are supposed to be in when interpreting each individual text. This, of course, places a burden upon the artist to adapt his work towards this new understanding of literacy; the writer for new media must know the interpretive qualities of his text more acutely than ever before. Unlike a book, which presents a pretty obvious interpretive scheme, electronic media can easily mislead the audience away from the point of the work if the artist is not careful. Plenty of the sites we looked at suffered from this error, at least to me. I think of this as an example of a website that is poorly suited to the (assumed) interpretive scheme of the work: http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/12.3/topoi/braun_gilbert/index.html.
To conclude, consider this page: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-users-read-on-the-web/. More than any other site we looked at, I found this one the most useful in the discussion of how to write for new media. This is an electronic media writer’s path to victory; by understanding the particular facets of interpretation that the audience uses in an electronic setting, the electronic media writer can successfully form their work specifically for electronic media publishing. All of the suggestions on this website help to make a webtext more accessible to its audience by putting the text into a more understandable interpretive mode. That is what writing for new media is all about: making intelligent design choices that promote the audience to read the work more effectively. Essentially, writing that promotes literacy rather than hinders it. As we have seen, that requires an appreciation for the schizophrenic nature of literacy, as well as an appreciation for the power of artistic design to inform our interpretation of a work.
With regards to source material:
Quotes by McLuhan are taken from:
McLuhan, Marshall. The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. New York: Vanguard Press, 1951. Print.
McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962. Print.
McLuhan, Marshall and Fiore, Q. The Medium is the Message. New York: Random House, 1967. Print.
Audio: pg.lost – “The Day Shift” http://pglost.bandcamp.com/album/its-not-me-its-you
Ghost in the Shell http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113568/
The Story of Film: An Odyssey http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2044056/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Video: The Story of Film: An Odyssey http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2044056/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060196/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Memories of Murder http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0353969/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
The Headless Woman http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1221141/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3
Songs from the Second Floor http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120263/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Requiem for a Dream http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0180093/?ref_=nv_sr_1