Module Reflection: New Aesthetic

Thanks to the previous groups who covered this module, I’ve learned that “New Aesthetic” is a term coined by James Bridle. It describes the blending of virtual and physical. We live in a world that is infused with software and code. The new aesthetic encourages us to view things through a digital lens and has produced a lot of interesting work. With a simple Google search, I am greeted with pixels, colors, and geometric shapes combined with common physical objects.

One facet of the movement which caught my attention was the rise of glitch art. Glitches are a brief malfunction in a machine or device. It can point to an error in digital circuits or software codes. While traditionally disliked or avoided, glitches have evidently become a feature of new media art. I was inspired to explore ways of producing glitch art during my study of new aesthetic.

traditional glitch reflection

In my search for tutorials, I came across an image glitch tool that was created by Georg Fischer. This allowed me to simply upload an image and adjust the sliders located in the control panel. These controls alter the type, size, and prevalence of the glitch, and the changes made to the image are updated in real time. I generated some really cool graphics with this tool, but I wanted to dig deeper and try to manually corrupt the image.

glitch

I soon discovered the term databending, which is the process of manipulating information from within a media file of a certain format, using software designed to edit files of another format. I found a couple of common techniques. The first is known as the WordPad Effect, which utilizes features that are accessible to any Windows user.

The WordPad Effect is more likely to be successful with certain image files, so I opened my image (a JPEG) in Paint and saved it as a bit map. Then, I opened that file into WordPad. I learned that this reformats the image to fit the screen, adding line breaks and what not, so a lot of glitches occur just in that step. I was able to manipulate the image even further by deleting characters or copying and pasting chunks of the code in other areas. With this technique, the smallest change has very drastic effects. Here’s what happened to the image after reformatting in WordPad.

WordPad effect reflection

The other technique that I learned is a method of sonification, or the reinterpretation of non-audio data into audio data. For this, I downloaded Audacity and tricked it into opening my image by importing it as raw data. Audacity has several built-in audio effects. I realized this method is successful because these effects are applied to the image file as it would an audio file.

Audacity Reflection

Audacity was my favorite program to use because the possibilities seemed endless. I could control how much of an effect was used and could combine different effects in the same image. While Georg Fischer’s image glitch tool offers a similar amount of power, the effects that Audacity provides are much more flexible and predictable. The WordPad Effect allows a more hands-on approach with the code but is rather aggressive; the color is displaced and the image itself becomes incredibly distorted without much effort.

Glitch art was really exciting to work on. I learned details regarding image file formats and even gained some experience with an audio editing software. I discovered new terms, concepts, and techniques that will benefit me in the future. Glitching isn’t as easy as I though it would be, especially if the goal is to tinker with the image and not just apply a filter or effect. I’d like to continue working through the list of tutorials that proved helpful throughout this module.

audacityechoreverb

Module Goals: New Aesthetic

The first two groups that covered this module discussed what the new aesthetic is and provided several examples using Tumblr and Reddit. One popular aspect I’ve noticed of the new aesthetic is glitching. The prevalence of this shows that people find images/videos of digital imperfections interesting and artsy. I figured I could take this module as an opportunity to try producing my own.

Original imageSo far I’ve experimented with two methods. The first method was through this image glitch tool. It is super convenient and easy to use. I just uploaded whatever photo I wanted to corrupt and played around with the sliders in the control panel. I’m not really sure what each parameter does, but I think that is something worth looking into while working on this module.

I had seen an image of a glitched Hellenistic sculpture and really liked the combination of the ancient and digital. The original picture I used is a painting of the Greek goddess, Artemis. Below are some of the glitches I liked best. I noticed that the images I found most appealing contained analogous colors and had recognizable traces of the original image.

glitch

The second method I tried used Wordpad and Paint. I opened the original image in Paint and saved it as a bit map. Then, I opened that file into Wordpad, scrolled about 75% of the way down and erased a few random characters. The product was a completely distorted image. A majority of the color was lost or displaced. Still thought it looked pretty neat.

glitch2

I’d really like to have more control over how much distortion occurs, but I have a feeling that requires a lot more knowledge and experience. I’m hoping to find more tutorials and new methods as the week progresses.

 

Mapping your Device

The Digital Archaeology project was a challenging task. I had never taken a piece of technology apart before, so I didn’t know exactly how I was supposed to identify and gather information on the components of our Samsung Epic 4G phone. Our group began by grabbing a screw driver and diving right into it.

image 1

The disassembly process was fascinating. I enjoyed revealing the inner workings of the smartphone. It shed some light on the complexity of something that is used daily and often taken for granted. During this process, my group made a few educated guesses on the identification of certain parts. We were later able to accurately identify several components after watching this video.

image 2

Once the phone was completely taken apart, we divided the parts among ourselves and set out to do our research. This was the most frustrating part of the project. I delved into the rear camera, front camera, light sensor and earpiece speaker. The front camera and light sensor had the phone’s model number on it, along with a logo. I tried searching for the logo and wasn’t able to find any information on it. Google searches really only led me to websites selling replacement parts. Instead of searching specifically for the parts, I found more information when looking generally into Samsung.

image 3

Samsung’s website provides general info on manufacturers and overseas research & development centers. I tried searching for each company’s name that was listed, and came across Samsung Semiconductor Israel R&D Center Ltd., which specializes in CMOS image sensors used in mobile phones. While this information didn’t really tell me much about the actual camera models used in our group’s smartphone, I was really excited to find a possible piece to the puzzle. Perhaps the wiring inside of the camera was developed at that location.

I didn’t find much on the light sensor aside from its purpose. However, I discovered a possible source for the earpiece speaker through my groupmate, who researched the antennae components. The piece she looked at was marked by EM Tech, a company that specializes in micro/one way speakers in South Korea.

image 4

My group members were able to find more information on several other components. The Lithium Ion battery that powered our device was manufactured in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China. The headphone jack and motherboard were manufactured by Doosung Tech in South Korea. The headphone jack is composed of plastic and copper while the motherboard is composed of fiberglass and copper.

This project led to many assumptions when trying to connect our device to possible locations. It was very hard to find solid, straightforward answers about the inner components, but the search itself yielded the discovery of many other aspects. If we had more time, I would have liked to try and contact the companies we found to see if they could’ve provided more details.

Debating Your Device

Today in class, we held a brief debate about the ethics of purchasing phones and other cheap technology when their cheapness is enabled by exploitation of slave labor. Our team needed to debate the affirmative stance- that we should stop purchasing this technology. Well known electronic firms, like Apple and Samsung, claim to provide their workers a high living wage, but fail to provide proof of this. The acquisition of their raw materials is more than likely a result of the exploitation or enslavement of their workers.

Some of the conditions that workers may face were described by Kevin Bale during his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. Workers at Bisie in Congo venture into mines with no protective gear, handle potentially dangerous minerals and chemicals, and generally live in harsh conditions. These people sleep in piles in tunnels, they are beaten, sexually assaulted, and receive no medical care.

Kevin Bale mentioned that, while a lot of the blame is placed on the companies that promote the use of cheap labor, some of that blame does fall on our shoulders as consumers. One of the most important things I think we must do is inform people. Before delving into this topic in class, I honestly didn’t realize that the devices I used daily were likely made in such inhumane conditions. I’m certain that many people still don’t realize this. Creating an advertising campaign on the issue could stimulate discussion and lead to mass action.

One of the suggestions our team made in the debate was to boycott technology produced by Apple, Samsung, or any other big electronic firm that possibly utilizes slave labor. Instead, we could purchase goods from other firms, like Nokia, who can prove that it pays its factory workers a living wage. This could serve as an example to companies who profit from cheap labor; once they realize the consumer prioritizes working conditions, they may be motivated to as well.

It’s a tricky issue. Regardless of what is done, there will be consequences. I am fortunate enough to not have to deal with the circumstances described in the article. But does that mean it doesn’t matter, or that I cannot change it? Every time I look at my phone, I now think about where it came from and who was mistreated throughout the process of its creation. I feel that it is our responsibility to take action.

Module Reflection: Trolling

As a child, I visited sites where I was protected by a screen name. Much of the trolling I had witnessed wasn’t offensive, but clever and funny. My experiences with this form of trolling left me with a relatively lighthearted approach to the topic. Working on this module encouraged me to look more into other people’s interpretations of trolling, and I found that some of them weren’t as fun as my own.

The trolling subculture is very popular. It is a product of the anonymity the web offers. I learned trolling is not just one specific act, but rather a term that describes various forms of anonymous behavior online. The type of trolling that takes place often depends upon the platform and context.

Trolling can consist of cleverly convincing someone of false information, or posting random images in a thread to derail the discussion. In these cases, the intent is not to harm or attack the audience, but to shock them. In other cases, trolls may use racist, sexist, or homophobic language to hurt their target and elicit a response. Among all possible actions, a troll seeks attention and entertainment. But why?

I learned that trolls often turn to an anonymous persona to take out their offline boredom/frustrations. They may consider life online to be an alternate reality, failing to consider the idea of interacting with their targets in real life. People tend to perceive their online network to consist of people who are like them, leading them to feel much more comfortable in expressing their opinions. Trolls are stimulated by the attention they receive from taunting others.

Trolling can definitely result in funny and entertaining posts, but even with the best of intentions can turn sour. I read an article about trolls flocking to tribute pages, where they would post pornographic images or message a dead youth’s grieving family and friends. Another experience I read about discussed the harassment of a black woman on Twitter due to an angry tweet she posted. These experiences don’t just affect people for a brief moment, the harm that this type of behavior can cause follows people offline.

For this module, my learning relied on several readings, YouTube videos, and just general observations of online behavior. I found myself relating other people’s understanding of the concept to my own. The websites that I used to frequent when I was younger left me with an interpretation of trolling that did not match some of the severe/hurtful experiences I learned about while working on this module. Trolling has the potential to entertain and improve one’s mood, but can also impact people negatively and lead to serious consequences offline.

 

Module Goals: Trolling

I’ve been familiar with trolling ever since I can remember using the Internet. I’d visit forum-based websites and was met with the term quite often. I understood trolling to be some sort of trouble-making behavior that took place on social networking platforms. I had assumed it was all in good fun. I don’t come into contact with too many trolls these days, and this may be because of my lack of participation on the sites where they may be.

I was really interested when I saw there was a module on this concept. While I have witnessed some light-hearted trolling before, I hadn’t really looked into the term or the circumstances associated with the behavior. Trolling is actually a very common occurrence on the Internet, and the means of participating vary depending on the people and platforms involved. By choosing this module, I really just hope the learn about why trolling exists, who trolls and gets trolled, and I hope to understand others’ interpretation of the behavior. I think that this module will add a new perspective to my understanding of digital culture.

Explaining Neuromancer

Our group decided to try explaining Neuromancer through emoji. We thought it would be a fun and unique challenge, especially since emoji are so embedded in the way our society communicates. We took advantage of Apple’s abundant selection and, in an iMessage conversation, sent a series that best conveyed our interpretation of Neuromancer.

This was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. I think that our little emoji story could lead to several different conclusions, and we may have been able to express the main ideas of the novel a bit more concisely. However, the fact that we have emoji relating to concepts found in Neuromancer, like artificial intelligence and hacking, reveals that we are indeed living in a digital age that is, in some ways, similar to the one found in the Sprawl. While it may not depict the plot in its entirety (we had to leave certain details out), it’s easy for anyone viewing the image to notice the close relationship between humans and technology.

NeuromancerExplanation

Responding to Neuromancer

Throughout Neuromancer, I found myself comparing human will to the will of artificial intelligence. Case’s struggles are a human aspect of the novel; someone I could relate to among the foreign terms and characters Gibson used. He starts out as a “broken” man, seeking drugs or a way into cyberspace. Once employed by Armitage, Case was basically forced to remain clean through poison sac implants. If he did not complete his mission, his ability to continue hacking would be disabled. Case was willing to do whatever it took to continue this lifestyle.

All of the seemingly small events in the novel are orchestrated by an AI. Wintermute is only half of a whole; it yearns to be complete. This urge was programmed into it by humans, and possibly had human-like qualities because of that fact. Just as Case is motivated to continue his lifestyle, Wintermute creates elaborate schemes in order to reach its goal. One might argue that it craves its other half, just as Case craves his drugs, or the ability to jack into cyberspace.

The need for these two beings to be complete is what was most noticeable to me about this novel. Case strives to feel whole, while the Wintermute’s mission is to become whole. Though on slightly different levels, these two characters work to serve their own interests.

The idea of machines assuming human-like characteristics is hard for me to imagine. Neuromancer encouraged me to question how something like that could be done, and what opportunities and consequences of such a concept would be. Though it has become a reality in some ways through computer programs like Siri, we have yet to create something that decides and acts on its own. Once technology reaches that point, in what ways will our society change?

Neuromancer describes a world where humans and technology collaborate in every way. Physical and metaphysical traits are not limited to humans; they overlap and are shared with/enhanced by artificial beings. Unlike the negative consequence often found in movies like Terminator, the rise of technological sentience is something that appears beneficial to us. Before this book, I hadn’t really thought about that possibility.

Module Reflection: Blogging

My only experiences with blogging came from a previous class and stumbling upon others’ blogs. My goal for this module was to challenge myself and develop skills as an online writer. I wasn’t sure about what topics to cover until I discovered Justin Hall’s homepage. Reading his informal entries inspired me to simply share myself and my interests.

I decided to use WordPress for one blog and installed the first two platforms I found, Anchor and Textpattern. I dedicated a general topic to each. I have some experience with WordPress, but I failed to consider my skillset when installing Anchor and Textpattern. I didn’t think I’d have to spend too much time customizing each before jumping into content. I should have done a bit more research to make sure that they would be able to accommodate my lack of experience.

Textpattern requires HTML knowledge to modify the appearance of the page, and from my experience, Anchor really doesn’t offer much customization at all. I included images in my entries using a URL, and while Textpattern allowed me to increase the spacing between the image and surrounding text, Anchor wasn’t really responding to the instructions I gave. I had many ideas that could make for great blog entries, but I was unable to accomplish them because of these limitations.

Blogging is a popular way to share ideas and exercise creativity. Its uses vary from giving advice and sharing personal experiences, to advertising and persuading. It is informal, simple, and entertaining. I’ve come to enjoy blogging more than I had expected. Given enough time, I think I’ll be able to produce a space that I feel comfortable advertising to the world. I’d like continue working on the blogs I’ve created through WordPress. While an honest tone, interesting topics, and images are the best tools to attract an audience, I think that an organized layout is an important aspect as well. I plan on learning more HTML before looking into other platforms.

Module Goals: Blogging

I chose blogging because I was interested in sharing my hobbies with an audience. I had read blogs before, and had used WordPress to blog in a previous class, but I never took the time to create a blog that was meant for me. With little experience, I felt that testing out other platforms in addition to WordPress would be beneficial. I installed Anchor and Textpattern and assigned a general topic to each. I had hoped to customize both platforms to suit each topic, but was met with quite a bit of frustration.

With only two weeks to become a blogger, the setup of these spaces felt rushed. I think I stressed myself out with wanting to get straight into the blogging portion of the experience. I hadn’t anticipated the amount of time exploring and understanding Textpattern and Anchor was going to take. I still don’t completely understand them, and this has affected my ability to share my work. I really don’t want to show off a sloppy blog.

As a beginner, I’ve come to the conclusion that WordPress is the best choice for me. I think that my biggest mistake was mindlessly installing the first platforms I saw without doing more research on what options could have suited my needs. But, hey, I wanted a challenge, and I got one. I just wish I could have produced something I was more proud of by the time it was due. Moving forward, I’d like to continue developing my blogs with WordPress.