19th May 2011
19th May 2011
Reblogged from ∴ Mat Stevens ∴
12th May 2011
11th May 2011
Reblogged from 7 or 8
27th April 2011
Thesis Abstract, (rough) final draft
Technology continually restructures our relationship to memory — the storage and retrieval of information, and its synthesis into knowledge. Design Future History serves as an exploration of, and meditation on, transformations to memory occasioned by new media. How have memory-bearing technologies, from written systems to mobile applications, imposed order on knowledge? How does the formal ordering of knowledge, its conceptual and visual presentation, influence the stories designers re/construct from remnants of the past?
I use design to explore language as a technology, making observations on the evolution of mnemonic techniques from orality, through literacy, to today’s “information age.” I conduct field research to understand the persistence of material in an increasingly immaterial world. I develop a theory of digital temporality, separate from the experience of past and present in the physical world, and build tools that allow users to more conscientiously interact with new media environments. I provide strategies for designers to more rigorously interrogate media, and a methodological framework for the designer as “future historian” — the gatekeeper between past actuality and potential representation.
In an effort to extend the theoretical foundation of graphic design, my projects and research bring into concert the writings of designers, media theorists, historians, philosophers, computer scientists, fine artists, and myriad others pursuing questions of memory and history, in particular their visual representation. From this research, I position my own design practice as an ongoing conversation between truth and semblance.
The Great Communicator: Memory in the Reagan Administration, Greek Lyric Poetry, and Object-Oriented Programming.
27th April 2011
The Great Communicator is a paint-by-number kit that includes paint containers, brushes, and a booklet of canvases prepared with patterns of Ronald Reagan. The containers are labeled 1-8 and correspond to numbered areas on the canvases, although no paint is provided. Scenes depicted on the canvases cast Reagan in the roles of president, actor, athlete, and cowboy, each using paint-by-numbers idiom to literally and figuratively outline a nostalgic archetype of American male identity. A warning appears on the back: “Contains allusions to a mythic past. Paint with caution and disregard.”
When the Palmer Paint Company introduced Craft Master brand paint-by-number kits in 1951 (boxtops promising would-be hobbyists “Everything you need to re-create a masterpiece!”) they received harsh criticism from the art community for merely simulating creativity. Paint-by-number soon become a metaphor for mechanized behavior and cultural erosion. Despite this criticism, the Master Craft kits proved wildly popular. The foolproof paint-by-number system tapped in to middle-class desires for participation in activities previously reserved for trained elite, while still allowing artistic amateurs to color outside the lines. Indeed, anyone could be a Rembrandt.
The Great Communicator draws upon paint-by-number political satire emerged in the 1960s, notably the July 1967 cover of Esquire magazine. Esquire art director, Samuel N. Antupit, commissioned former Master Craft artist Richard Hess for an illustration lampooning president Lyndon Johnson’s indecisiveness in selecting an artist for his official presidential portrait. Time magazine paid homage to Antupit and Hess for their January 2004 and December 2010 covers, featuring Howard Dean and Sarah Palin respectively. For the 2010 cover, illustrator Tim O’Brien describes Sarah Palin as “a low-brow kind of portrait, unfinished and in doubt.”
While acknowledging this satirical tradition, The Great Communicator is also a commentary on the rhetoric of notable political speeches containing biblical references. Reagan’s 1989 “Farewell to the Nation Speech”, transcribed on the opening pages of the kit, serves as a particularly salient example, alluding to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:1-7:29) and directly referencing John Winthrop’s “A Moddall of Christian Charity” — a sermon given to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and a foundational text of American Exceptionalism.
The speech places Reagan amongst a Pantheon on American political figures who have evoked the “Sermon on the Mount” in their orations, including John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech, and Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden. Rhetorically, the sermon operates as metaphor (America is a “shining city upon a hill”), an analogy (Reagan-era economic policies created “a city with free ports that [hum] with commerce and creativity”), and an allusion (to Winthrop, Puritain values, and American Exceptionalism). Within the context rhetorical strategy as well as Reagan’s memory lapses and impending onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the use of allusion recalls two information management techniques: mnemonic epithets rooted in the oral tradition, and object-oriented programming paradigm of our digital age.
Mnemonic, or Homeric, epithets are allusions used throughout Greek lyric poetry as a metronome for maintaining the dactylic hexameter, and an economical device for activating parallel or simultaneous narratives without expending additional time or memory. When “rosy fingered dawn” appears upon the horizon, she illuminates not only the earth and sea, but also a complex network of association that invoke the entire mythology of Eos (dawn), Helios (sun), Selene (moon) and the Anemoi (winds).
Scholars have traditionally approached this quality of Greek lyric poetry through aesthetic analysis, but have more recently turned to meme theory to explain the persistence of certain Homeric epithets long after the invention of written systems. As a memetic phenomenon, the repetition of epithets reinforces their connection to tradition rather than a particular grammatical style, and once established as “tradition”, they are more likely to be re-transmitted from media to media. They become absorbed into a “collective memory” — a collective consciousness of the past that trends towards the nostalgic.
The object-oriented programming paradigm, a philosophy and set of practices within computer science, offers an information management system built upon economical memory allocation similar to allusion. Within object-oriented programming, many “objects” can be built from few “classes” — constructs or blueprints upon which individual objects are pattered. Media theorist Lev Manovich contrasts the privileging of simultaneity in object-oriented programming with the privileging of sequence found Ford’s model of industrial production in developing a language for digital cinema.8 Beyond Manovich’s cinema, the high-level programming languages developed from the object-oriented paradigm are responsible for the character of new media technologies we experience on a daily basis, which increasingly embody a spatial rather than temporal dimension.
1 Bird, William. Paint by Number (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 2001), 97.
23rd March 2011
Brought to my attention by 7or8, from the obituaries no less:
Though much has changed in the 86 years since “gladiolus,” for the time being, at least, one constant remains: The bee’s young combatants are still sponsored by newspapers, those tactile, sweet-smelling repositories of words large and small, written on real paper, in real ink.
23rd March 2011
19th March 2011
"Digital media is a conversation" writes interaction designer Khoi Vinh in a recent article about archiving interaction design. How do you document a conversation? You can transcribe words, record demeanor, photograph environment — but certainly this account is far from complete:
Every time a site or an application gets a major upgrade, every time an interface is overhauled, it represents something learned, knowledge accrued to advance the craft. But we won’t benefit easily from these revelations if we don’t do the hard work of archiving these steps forward.
19th March 2011
The New York Times announced yesterday that, effective 3/28, they will erect a metered firewall (“paywall”) limiting access to the online newspaper to print subscribers and cyber denizens willing to pay $15-$20/mo. Aside from downloading the discounted iPad app and feverishly finishing nytimes.com-related thesis projects, I’ve been marveling at the onslaught of articles genuflecting at the alter of print:
19th March 2011
From UC Berkeley linguistics professor Geoffrey Nunberg’s review of Information: A History. A Theory. A Flood — author James Gleick’s new book on the history of information:
Even so, there’s enough information coming at us from all sides to leave us feeling overwhelmed, just as people in earlier ages felt smothered by what Leibniz called “that horrible mass of books that keeps on growing.” In response, 17th-century writers compiled indexes, bibliographies, compendiums and encyclopedias to winnow out the chaff. Contemplating the problem of turning information into useful knowledge, Gleick sees a similar role for blogs and aggregators, syntheses like Wikipedia, and the “vast, collaborative filter” of our connectivity. Now, as at any moment of technological disruption, he writes, “the old ways of organizing knowledge no longer work.”
But knowledge isn’t simply information that has been vetted and made comprehensible.
Timidly critical, but thanks for that point. (Via NYT)