Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture)


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Art, visual culture, and media education: Promises, problems, and possibilities

Akram Zaatari Scratched Portrait of Mrs. Baqari [detail]. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. I became very interested in thinking about video games as a form that could seriously affect us.

DIGITAL CULTURES:

Playing with Feelings picked up on things that I explored in my dissertation, but it was really this entirely separate project. I am curious — what motivated you to do that?

Aubrey: I realized that some of the things that I was trying to get at in my dissertation had set me up for what I wanted to say now. And also, I was reading this work in games studies that was really making me think—sometimes it was annoying me, but sometimes it was really interesting. I was really engaged with those questions, and that gave me the momentum to write that book. But if I wanted to write about contemporary video games, I needed to write about them now, in that moment.

Minor in Visual Culture and New Media Studies

The dissertation could wait for me, if I wanted to try to turn it into a book. To recognize that a dissertation is not the same thing as a book, and that sometimes that work that you do could work better as several articles but that the core ideas that you are exploring in it can move into a different project.

Clara: You both talked about the frustration you had with film studies and with the other ways you wanted to explore media. What attracted you both to VCS in the first place? Aubrey: There was part of me that was being very practical as a graduate student. But I was also, in an intellectual sense, frustrated with that s film studies moment, which I had been educated in, where the way of dealing with digital technologies was to reassert medium specificity, and I felt that it was undoing a lot of important work in feminist theory, in critical race studies — all the loosening up of disciplinary boundaries that had started to happen in film studies.

Something about digital media seemed to be compelling people to redraw those boundaries and that was frustrating so I was trying to think of a way out of that, as other people were. When I started reading work in game studies, what also did not sit well with me was that in the newness of establishing this field, people seemed to feel this need to draw boundaries around what games are and what games are not.

Media After Software - Lev Manovich,

That did not sit well with the kinds of things that I was learning in my courses in Visual and Cultural Studies, which is really about critiquing medium specificity in some ways and thinking about the ideological work that kind of boundary drawing tends to do or tends to kind of cover over.

Byron: Yeah, a follow up question on that.

To proceed, please supply your details

I understand where you are coming from with the critique of medium specificity, but in your book, you clearly really care about it as a medium that has its own specific qualities or affective possibilities — to use your own phrasing. I do think this department helps students think through this type of question, but I am curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Aubrey: Yes, you are totally right. Yes I do. Let me first of all say that I think that art historians or people who study visual culture should not throw away everything they know.


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All these 20th century techniques and theories remain useful. I do think, however, that these new techniques that are coming from the data visualisation and computer research field should be adopted and people have to get training in this. This is because there are lots of new questions that you can ask using these techniques. So, for example, you want to find out what people paint today around the world. Not just the famous people in the art world, but everybody else.


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This means you have to look at thousands or millions of images and you can do that using these techniques. I think these kinds of visualisations can be seen as a new language for the humanities which can supplement the discourses which were created in natural languages. It is possible to explore and study sets of images without metadata.

About the Series

Here, we already know that all the objects are from one artist. But you see here that if you want to do more, for example a scatterplot over time, then you do need this information. Usually with visualisation you have two, or sometimes three dimensions. Here we can combine metadata, time, geo-location etc, with visual characteristics, colours used, how symmetrical something is etc.

You look for example at the evolution of colour or composition over time. So metadata is important, but at the same time it is just one dimension.


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  6. A slide from Lev Manovich's presentation. This is also definitely the case for all the projects we have done. In my experience the only place where you get really clean data is from social media companies as they are commercial companies.

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    Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture)
    Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture)
    Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture)
    Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture)
    Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Time and the Digital (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture)

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