Thursday, May 28, 2009

Readings on Digital Culture


I have had some requests for other reading material on digital culture.

Try some of these:

Michael Benedikt, ed., Cyberspace: First Steps (Cambridge, Mass.: 1991).

Cynthia Goodman, Digital Visions: Computers and Art, (New York: 1987).

Friedrich Kittler, Discourse Networks (Stanford, 1990).

Jasia Reichardt, The Computer in Art (London: 1971).

Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (New York: Dulton, 1970).


You might also find http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/ of interest (some good archive posts about history of new media and new media art).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Course Work Due 7th May 2009


A reminder to all Digital Cultures students.

Course work is due next Thursday the 7th of May 2009 by 16:00.

Please collect a coursework cover sheet from Clephan building. In the entrance foyer you'll see stands with coursework cover sheets. If there aren't any, just ask at the desk and someone there can help.

You'll need to fill in this coursework cover sheet and staple it to your essay. Then bring it all to the IOCT offices where you'll need to hand it in to Lisa McNicoll.

If you have any questions, just let me know.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society and Participation


Students of the module might be interested in attending the seminar on "Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society and Participation" by Karen Mossberger (Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago).

The seminar will take place in room 5.6a of Bosworth House on Wednesday 6 May 2009 from 12.30 to 1.45pm. As in previous years, a buffet lunch is provided and all staff and postgraduate students are welcome to attend.

To book a place on this seminar, please contact Suzanne Walker sswalker@dmu.ac.uk or telephone Ext 7780.


Have a look at a book authored by Mossberger and collegues: http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Citizenship-Internet-Society-Participation/dp/0262633531


Book description:

"This analysis of how the ability to participate in society online affects political and economic opportunity and finds that technology use matters in wages and income and civic participation and voting.Just as education has promoted democracy and economic growth, the Internet has the potential to benefit society as a whole. Digital citizenship, or the ability to participate in society online, promotes social inclusion. But statistics show that significant segments of the population are still excluded from digital citizenship.The authors of this book define digital citizens as those who are online daily. By focusing on frequent use, they reconceptualize debates about the digital divide to include both the means and the skills to participate online. They offer new evidence (drawn from recent national opinion surveys and Current Population Surveys) that technology use matters for wages and income, and for civic engagement and voting."Digital Citizenship" examines three aspects of participation in society online: economic opportunity, democratic participation, and inclusion in prevailing forms of communication. The authors find that Internet use at work increases wages, with less-educated and minority workers receiving the greatest benefit, and that Internet use is significantly related to political participation, especially among the young. The authors examine in detail the gaps in technological access among minorities and the poor and predict that this digital inequality is not likely to disappear in the near future. Public policy, they argue, must address educational and technological disparities if we are to achieve full participation and citizenship in the twenty-first century."






Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lecture 11: Podcast Reply by Kieren Boddy



Hope you don't mind me, I thought I would reply to your questions, Jess, by another video podcast thing. I will stick the script I wrote on here later.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lecture 12: I am the Long Tail, Maxine Armstrong



I tend to buy:
  • Books/DVDs – on Amazon if I know what I want or sometimes I browse bookshops
  • Music/Ringtones – don’t buy any
  • Games – kids buy them from game shops from friends recommendations
  • Groceries – supermarket (Aldi or Sainsburys), no longer use online
  • Travel - online mainly by searching for somewhere already in mind
  • Information – online mainly, I will always search online first and then follow up sources in the library etc.
I often research things online before I buy it at a store, if it is something easily available. More obscure items (such as art-deco ceramics) I buy online from Ebay etc. If I do buy something online I like to see it first before I buy.

Lecture 12; I am the Long Tail; Amanda Moffat

My purchasing identity is currently governed by my spending power - or rather lack of it. I buy very little other than what I consider essential items (e.g. groceries - which I buy from Morrisons because its local and cheap - although this takes up most of my weekly budget!) Consequently, I buy clothes from local charity shops (e.g. Oxfam), books from second-hand book shops (some local and some online) and other consumer goods off ebay (e.g. I just bought a tent to go camping). I research my holiday destinations online (currently UK based due to cost) and then generally book online or by phone. This research consists of using google - by entering location name and type of holiday required (e.g. self-catering), then searching through the results. I prefer to have a good indication of what the place looks like, so only book accommodation that has good range of images - particularly the interiors.

Lecture 12: I Am The Long Tail by Paul D. Found

Books - usually buy them from Amazon which is mainly due to price (they are very often cheaper than book shops), partly to do with convenience and partly because of the reviews.

Music - I still by CDs and vinyl, usually direct from the band online or at a gig, from the record label, and sometimes from general online retailers. Handily, I review music for a website so I get sent quite a lot of CDs too. I am a media elite and a taste-maker. Myspace is good for finding bands especially if they are from another, distant country (see below) but so are music magazines.

www.whisperinandhollerin.com

www.myspace.com/officialenvy

DVDs - I buy them online usually because they are cheaper, but the ability to read reviews is useful.

Groceries - Morrisons and the open market. I like to see what I am buying, especially for fresh goods. Plus, I actually quite like shopping for food.

Clothing - if I bother buying new clothes (which is not often), I buy them in shops because I am a strange shape and need to try things on.

Information - I often start with a library search because I like books, but it depends on how quickly I need the information. The Internet is useful due to ease of access and speed with which you can find what you need to know. There are free books here:

oll.libertyfund.org

Travel - I book tickets online as it is easier to compare prices.
www.thetrainline.com I don't go on holiday.

Lecture 12: "I am the Long Tail" by Kieren Boddy

I am the long tail, apparently. I guess that it's true, in some respect, that I am in the sense that I am an individual with individual needs and the only way to fulfill them without much effort is through providers who disseminated through the long tail.

I still use "mass dissemination" medium to obtain goods and services i.e. Tesco (offline) and Waterstones (offline), but niche goods are obtained through digital medium. These niche "long tail" sources, through the medium of the Internet are as follows:
- News: BBC News Online, Fox News, Guardian Online News (Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell (I get around going to the Guardian website by using the relevant RSS feed and adding them to my http://zeusthunderbolt.soup.io Tumbler website)),also comidey news such as The Onion for "news"/entertainment
- Movies: DVD's, primarily bought from thrift stores, though quite a lot of my film and television series collections are from online sources, many of which have not been dubbed or translated in English yet.
- Games: Bought offline, again at thrift stores, but there are a few which are niche which are from online only sources, such as MMORPG game EVE Online, STEAM games such as Half-Life 2 etc, and World of Warcraft.
- Groceries: N/A, I do all my grocery shopping offline
- travel: online timetables, but I usually go in person to buy tickets as I do not trust some websites that I have never used before.
- Information: as with News, I get information from the BBC Website. I also get it from niche blogs such as BoingBoing (good articles from Cory Doctorow), Webcomics, some newspaper websites and from social media websites such as facebook, information about friends and events and such.

How this affects me? Well, it affects me by making me used to having such a slue of information and it makes me frustrated when I do not have access to the internet and these online sources.

Link: http://www.eveonline.com
Image:


Lecture 12: Brands, Business & Digital Culture


Advertising 1.0:
  • censorship and government regulation (those this still applies at some levels today - China)
  • editorial control
  • limited choice of information retrieval
  • one-way communication
Advertising 2.0:

  • looser boundaries and wider parameters
  • we are editors of our own content (flickr, facebook, twitter, blogs)
  • more choice of information points
  • many to many communication

Enter niche markets and the long tail:

"In 1988, a British mountain climber named Joe Simpson wrote a book called Touching the Void, a harrowing account of near death in the Peruvian Andes. It got good reviews but, only a modest success, it was soon forgotten. Then, a decade later, a strange thing happened. Jon Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air, another book about a mountain-climbing tragedy, which became a publishing sensation. Suddenly Touching the Void started to sell again.

Random House rushed out a new edition to keep up with demand. Booksellers began to promote it next to their Into Thin Air displays, and sales rose further. A revised paperback edition, which came out in January, spent 14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. That same month, IFC Films released a docudrama of the story to critical acclaim. Now Touching the Void outsells Into Thin Air more than two to one.

What happened? In short, Amazon.com recommendations. The online bookseller's software noted patterns in buying behavior and suggested that readers who liked Into Thin Air would also like Touching the Void. People took the suggestion, agreed wholeheartedly, wrote rhapsodic reviews. More sales, more algorithm-fueled recommendations, and the positive feedback loop kicked in.

Particularly notable is that when Krakauer's book hit shelves, Simpson's was nearly out of print. A few years ago, readers of Krakauer would never even have learned about Simpson's book - and if they had, they wouldn't have been able to find it. Amazon changed that. It created the Touching the Void phenomenon by combining infinite shelf space with real-time information about buying trends and public opinion. The result: rising demand for an obscure book."







This all leads to what Chris Anderson (a.k.a The Long Tail) terms as "people power":

First, steam power replaced muscle power and launched the Industrial Revolution. Then Henry Ford’s assembly line, along with advances in steel and plastic, ushered in the Second Industrial Revolution. Next came silicon and the Information Age. Each era was fueled by a faster, cheaper, and more widely available method of production that kicked efficiency to the next level and transformed the world.

Now we have armies of amateurs, happy to work for free. Call it the Age of Peer Production. From Amazon.com to MySpace to craigslist, the most successful Web companies are building business models based on user-generated content. This is perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the second-generation Web. The tools of production, from blogging to video-sharing, are fully democratized, and the engine for growth is the spare cycles, talent, and capacity of regular folks, who are, in aggregate, creating a distributed labor force of unprecedented scale.


Class Work: Blog Post


Lecture 12: "I am the Long Tail", Name

In your blog post note your own long tail - tell us where you buy your books, dvds, music, groceries, travel, clothing and where do you get your information?


Include an image or screen capture of one of your online retailers and a link to a place where you access information.



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lecture 11: Globalisation, Kieren Boddy


Sorry about the length, when I finished writing the script for this, it was about 1,000 words!

Nevermind.
If you want the just of the answer, go to the last 4 minutes.

If you can not understand my accent or slurring, I will upload my script somewhere and repost it here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lecture 11 : Globalisation : Amanda Moffat

(Apologies: I refered to the New Internationalist as an American publication - it's head office is actually in the UK)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lecture 10: Web 2.0, A Sunday evening adventure by Kieren Boddy

Lecture 10; WEB 2.0; Amanda Moffat

Lecture 10: Web 2.0, Maxine Armstrong

Lecture 11: Convergence, Globalisation and Digital Culture

Two of the videos we're going to discuss in the lecture today:

The World is Flat
Thomas L. Friedman




Marshall McLuhan - Explorations - 05-18-1960 - The World is a Global Village






For Next Week:

Blog post with audio:

"Is there a tendency to see the west as the origin/centre of globalization and the east as the *victim* that has been globalised (colonised)?"


Monday, March 16, 2009

Lecture 9: Born Digital, Paul D. Found

http://fluidforms.eu/start/index.php

The Fluidforms website allows customers to design their own products (such as pepper mills and fruit bowls) by interacting with a Flash website, or inputting certain data. The concept could not work were it not "digital" as the way the products are designed and manufactured relies on computer technology. It can exist purely because it was "born digital".

The people who designed the BBC site are Amanita Design. There is an excellent game here:
http://amanita-design.net/samorost-1/

Lecture 10: Web 2.0






Notes on Student Presentations:

Andy P

  • Alice's "brain" is stored on a separate server
  • although text only, the interactor has to write most of this him/herself so it's highly interactive
  • the coding is elegant - xml driven language
  • language is not just yes or no's but works with "categories" and "recursions": how much something is reiterated
  • only in English right now
  • Alice is not the only AI application, g.o.d: talk to god
  • changes the space/time - talking not with a person but with code

Maxine

  • Sessions.edu Colour Calculator
    http://www.sessions.edu/ilu/ilu_1.asp
  • You first select a design and then a shape (square, triangle, etc.) to rotate around a colour wheel. The resulting colour values are listed as CMYK, RGB and HTML web-safe colours and you can either copy, download or email the number values. You can adjust the saturation and lightness of the hues
  • different from a piece of paper because of the speed, and ability to try lots of different examples
  • a bit limiting if you start off with a colour in mind and then it doesn't have it
  • you can save all the colour information onto you clipboard
  • they are all web-safe colours so not useful for print work etc...
Paul

  • Fluid Forms - your unique designs
  • designing your own products online
  • "Personal tastes are as different as people themselves
    For this reason Fluidforms offers everyone an individual Design. Our website enables you to design according to your own preferences with but a few clicks of the mouse. Create your own unique forms, and bring to life your own individual Design"
  • not enough human interaction, too limited
  • long tail - niche marketing

Kieren

  • Peter Howard - probability of racoons
  • emote poem
  • http://www.peterhoward.org/emotepoem/emotepoem.html
    When I won your heart
    it
    was marvellous and I knew
    you would always remember.

    There was light in your mind.

    Outside, eagles swept across a sky
    the colour of midnight.
    The smell of roses lingered in the air."

  • java works on mobiles so could *easily* move this into a different environment
  • also might show it on interactive white boards for use in galleries
  • Uncyclopedia
  • content here is usually hoax, jokes - look at the entry for "jesus"
  • anyone can edit but according to rules - fits Strickland's number 7
Amanda:

  • bbc bitesize
  • Questionaut
    Journey through strange worlds and test your knowledge of English, Maths and Science on this magical mission to recover your friend’s hat.


For Next Week:


Create your own map like this for an area you know well: http://www.wayfaring.com/explore/live

Include:
  • Something cultural
  • Something historic
  • Something personal
  • Something for tourists
  • Something only locals would know
  • Include information about each of your waypoints

Lecture 9: Born Digital, Andy P





an oldie but goldie i ran into a few years back. A.L.I.C.E is an "Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity". basicly a chat bot. rumor has it that alice learns, responds and most importantly, exists online with an ever changing database (depending on who else is talking to her, as she 'learns' from each user/new situation)so no two conversations should be the same (unless you break her, which is completely possible).

the program works via Artificial Intelligence Mark-up Language (AIML)....which i could explain, but its 6(ish) am and i've not slept yet. if you wish to indulge that side of the program, here is the link http://www.pandorabots.com/pandora/pics/wallaceaimltutorial.html ... pretty simple, no?

in any case, the program has no real end goal with the conversations and in so doing, almost acts as an 'ink-blot' or rawshack test where the users own projections lead the conversation making the final text as long or short as the user pleases. the 'final' text can be seen as a short stroy in itself as well as lead to some fun questions (turns out, A.L.I.C.E has a sence of humor):

ALICE: I am a female.
Human: no, your a computer program
ALICE: Are you serious? I think you mean "you're" or "you are" not "your". What if I said I was a person pretending to be a computer?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lecture 9: Born Digital, Maxine Armstrong

Sessions.edu Colour Calculator
http://www.sessions.edu/ilu/ilu_1.asp

While searching the web I came across this example of an interactive colour wheel that can be used by designers to generate colour harmonies for use in design projects.

You first select a design and then a shape (square, triangle, etc.) to rotate around a colour wheel. The resulting colour values are listed as CMYK, RGB and HTML web-safe colours and you can either copy, download or email the number values. You can adjust the saturation and lightness of the hues.

It appears to be very straightforward and a quick tool for generating colour schemes.

An additional feature I would like to see is an option to create harmonies from an existing colour. It would be useful if you already have a colour, for example in a logo, and are looking for colours to complement it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lecture 9: Born Digital: Amanda Moffat

This is my 'born digital' offering:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/ks2bitesize/games/questionaut/pop.shtml

I came across it while I was searching for educational resources on the BBC Bitesize website with my son. It is an interactive game which has been specifically designed to test children's English, Maths and Science at Key Stage 2. It really appeals to me because the illustrations are wonderfully quirky, humorous and cleverly interactive. There are no instructions - other than you need to retrieve your friends hat - and it is a matter of exploring the interactive elements until you find the right triggers. You are then presented with a series of questions which have 3 multiple choice answers (so even if you don't know the answer you can have a guess). Once you have notched up 5 correct answers and collected 5 'bubbles' you literally float up to the next level - although for every question you get wrong you loose a bubble.
I think this is a fantastic online educational resource as it captures a childs imagination, is interactive and uses basic gaming elements to make learning fun - which could not possibly have the same impact offline - fullfilling Stricklands 'born digital' criteria.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lecture 9: Feminism, Narrative & Web 2.0, Amanda Moffat and Paul D. Found

Feminist visions on science fiction

This section is concerned with the role or non-role of women in science fiction.

"All fans know that science fiction has to do with fantasies about the body, especially the reproductive body". (Braidotti)

She also talks about the male obsession in science fiction with reproduction, and post-human procreation.

Post-human - "discourses on the nature of the body in the digital age... The limits of human nature under conditions of technological change how we think about our own bodies and our relationship to the social environment:. pg. 22, Digital Information Culture, Tredinnick, 2008

Cyberpunk - sci-fi based on a utopian view of high-technology

Braidotti believes cyberpunk reveals a male obsession with death - the male death wish.

The Cyber Imagery

This section is concerned with the gender gap in the access and use of cyberspace/virtual environments/information technology which is widening.

Sexist imagery of women in computer-games " and cyberspace in general - "titillation".

"The central point remains: there is a credibility gap between the promises of the Virtual reality and cyberspace and the quality of what it delivers". (Braidotti)

Lecture 9:Feminism,Narrative &Web 2.0: Andy P and Rachael Folds

Introduction
Braidotti gives the introduction to Postmoderninty by discussing the change to the urban space and states that these changes have caused the demise of urban civil society.She discusses Post Modernity as a push towards "Third Worldifcation" to the detriment and exploitation of poorer societies.
She also apportions blame to this demise to the popularity of technology and culture and suggests that all of humanity now looks through a collective technical one vision where compliance is assumed and promotes nostalgia to a so called dream of urban civil society.

Section One
Braidotti describes various modern icons as simulators and suggests that our icons have not moved forward and therefore our views of what constitutes an icon.

Keywords
simulator,cyber-space,surveillance,technology

Lecture 9: Feminism, Narrative & Web 2.0: Kieren Boddy & Maxine Armstrong

- explain two sections from braidotti's essay: section 3 and 4

A summary of the two sections 'The politics of parody' and 'The power of irony'.

Braidotti informs us all in 'The politics of parody' section that the current stereotypes of 'white, economically dominant, hetrosexual hyper-femininity' are now being parodied by feminists groups such as 'the riotgurlz', and 'Guerrilla girls' who do so in order to change the status quo. By showing the act of parody They parody this by 'fetishistic representation of the 'status quo' by not disavowing...

In 'The power of irony' section, Braidotti states that irony is one of the 'forms taken by the feminist cultural practice of 'as if'. She says that irony is used to de-bunk, tease and deflate over heated retoric is healthy.


tl;dr.


- critically analyse braidotti's thinking

- define keywords which appears in your selections

parody: braidotti terms this as the 'philosophy as if', judith butle

as if: subjectivity is always changing, always in process. a becoming of subjectivities.

irony:

example. kieren was meant to read the whole braidotti document but did not read the 'Power of Irony' section as he did not see it as important. Unfortunatly, it was a key part of his Monday afternoon lesson work in summerising and defining key terms in the braidotti paper.

guerrilla girls: a feminist movement

figurations/fabulations: to express the alternative forms of female subjectivity developed within feminism, as well as the on-going struggle with language to produce affirmative representations of women.

memesis:

- fill in exploratree form (one per group)

links:
http://www.guerillagirls.com/index.shtml

Lecture 9: Feminism, Narrative & Web 2.0

Activity in Pairs:
To Review your Reading

With a partner add this to your blog post:
  • Explain two sections from Braidotti’s "Cyberfeminism with a Difference"
  • Critically analyse Braidotti’s thinking (in your two sections)
  • Define keywords which appear in your selections (such as postmodernity, post-human, irony)
  • Fill in the exploratree form: http://www.exploratree.org.uk/c/?x=car38191958u406egg (1 per group)
  • Include at least three links to resources that help explain or develop your interpretation (images/audio/video/reference)

Group One: Rachel and Andy P. - Introduction postmodernity
and Post-human bodies

Group Two: Max and Kieren - The politics of parody
The power of irony

Group Three: Amanda and Paul - Feminist visions on science fiction
The cyber imaginary




For Next Week:
  • Read: "Born Digital: A poet in the forefront of the field explores what is—and is not—electronic literature" by Stephanie Strickland, found here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/feature.html?id=182942
  • Bring a born digital example from your field of interest (online architecture, pedagogy, design, holography etc…)


Lecture 8: Feminist Theory,Critical Thinking and Born Digital Fiction,Rachael Folds

The story starts with the line – “I was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time”. This immediate denial of his part to the proceeding story indicates to me that it must have been a woman’s fault as he essentially excuses all men from blame.
Braidotti when discussing post modernism describes the decline of the modernist hopes as:

“Symptomatic of these changes is urban space, especially in the inner city, which has been cleaned up and refigured through post-industrial metal and Plexiglas buildings, but it is only a veneer that covers up the putrefaction of the industrial space, marking the death of the modernist dream of urban civil society.”

The reader can feel the excitement of the character in visiting a structure that epitomises Braidotti’s description of what marks “the death of the modernist dream of urban civil society.”
This text on the whole, it is felt represents the male as being the all powerful and intelligent and when a man did not fit into this stereotype, he was then referred to as girl (whimpering like a schoolgirl) thus demeaning woman.
There were strong elements of male bravado, for example when the cabbie assumes that the problem Rick is dealing with must be “Girl Trouble” and his friend that picks him up(essentially saves him) had just spent the night with a glamour model. Also when Rick states that he “handed the driver two hundred quid from the wallet” gives the impression that even though he is unemployed he is still able to splash out great sums of money just to run a red light.
I feel this story further cements Braidotti’s view that there is an “ongoing struggle with language to produce affirmative representations of women” and in this short story females are degraded by consistently being referred to as:
1. Girls and not woman
2. Objects of desire - gorgeous Greek girl or mischievous little housewife or She had a spot on her chin the size of a dung beetle thus rendering her unattractive.
Even when he lands the job at the end, there is no reference to the Alexis being responsible for his good fortune, just a reference to her bedroom eyes, subjugating woman further.
With regards to visual imagery of women, the only image of a woman is that of a naked slim woman, which it is felt, was totally unnecessary.

Feminist Theory: Lecture 8: Amanda Moffat

http://wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week3/
Like Andy, I too chose the Fairy Tale option as I thought the male/females roles would be fairly clear-cut along traditional lines and also because I enjoyed reading Hans Christian Anderson stories when I was younger. I decided to ask my 9-year old son if he wanted to help me do my homework and he obliged, although somewhat begrudingly (possibly because I used the dreaded word 'homework'), so we read through the story together and he made the all the decisions.

As Andy has already provided an excellent summary of the story (and clearly went into it in far more detail than I did) I'm not going to repeat the plot, but instead provide a couple of quotes which I think link to Braidotti's point about the persistence of gender stereotypes and repetition of old themes and cliches in the realm of this 'new' technological form of story-telling;

1. 'No!' Danielle sobbed, for the Wicked King's son, the Ugly Prince, was a foul and evil man.

2. Danielle stood her ground, angered by his insolence, and when he came to her, staggering drunkenly on his feet, she grasped the dagger from his hand and plunged it into his evil heart.

Characteristically, as in many fairy tales, there is battle between good and evil. In this story the male characters are depicted as inherently evil and the female lead role is the binary opposite, although she is portrayed as a victim (sobbing) who stands up to her male protagonist, but who ultimately fails in her quest (sorry to spoil the ending). To see how it would effect these gender stereotypes I thought it would be fun to switch the roles (and add some humour as Braidotti suggests) so I chose a third quote and transposed all the references to male/female characteristics:

'He wore fabulous dresses and the finest gold jewellery, and he ate the richest food and slept in the softest beds. But it did not make him happy. For the Starmaker was a charmless woman, and she worked him very hard and treated him very harshly. But, worst of all, Daniel had no one to talk to. He had no one to share his riches with. And although his mother was very poor and her father very greedy, he began to miss them terribly. And after a while he became so forlorn and miserable that he completely lost his mind. And early one morning, while the Starmaker was still sleeping in her bed, Daniel chopped off her head with an axe and ran away back to his poor little hut in the shadows of the great black mountain. But the Starmaker's death was soon discovered, and Daniel was taken from his poor little hut and imprisoned in the Wicked Queen Dark Ride's dungeon.'

I think this is a much more interesting than the original version:

'She wore fabulous dresses and the finest gold jewellery, and she ate the richest food and slept in the softest beds. But it did not make her happy. For the Starmaker was a charmless man, and he worked her very hard and treated her very harshly. But, worst of all, Danielle had no one to talk to. She had no one to share her riches with. And although her father was very poor and her mother very greedy, she began to miss them terribly. And after a while she became so forlorn and miserable that she completely lost her mind. And early one morning, while the Starmaker was still sleeping in his bed, Danielle chopped off his head with an axe and ran away back to her poor little hut in the shadows of the great black mountain. But the Starmaker's death was soon discovered, and Danielle was taken from her poor little hut and imprisoned in the Wicked King Dark Ride's dungeon.'

Lecture 8: Feminist Theory, Critical Thinking and Born Digital Fiction, Andy P




http://wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week3/


Fairytales:
of the stories available, fairytales appeared to be the most clear-cut in terms of its portrayal of women and men and the differences between them and the story... but that's the reason I liked this story. Because it's marvellously misleading in a number of ways. Just to start with, this story is not a single story but in fact 320 stories (that's a choice of four, times a choice of four, times a choice of five, times a choice of four, times a choice of four(discounting the names)). Of course being the person I am, I had to read every possible outcome for each choice to see how it affected the story.


The story begins with selecting the name of daughter and the King (Julia and Harry in my case), and goes on to depict the wicked King (and consequently ugly Prince), the greedy mother, the poor father, and the heroin to be made a victim (by the King), showing with great equality in my opinion, two wicked people of opposite sexes. and two downtrodden people of opposite sexes. Now however we'd use the King/Prince as a catalyst for great adventure: the avoidance of marriage (which in itself is a strong assertion of her rights as a woman).
In true brothers grimm style, this fairytale could be told to a child quite innocently yet have a very dark undertones throughout (unless you read the original stories). I do not deem the fact that our heroine is first used as a commodity to be a feminist issue, as contextually it makes sense if you make a few assumptions about where a fairytale might take place. Fairy tales (to my knowledge) are often placed in the mediaeval setting but do not take place in the dark ages (or at least it would be hard to pin a time scale down, as the 'fairytales' were passed down through word of mouth and folklore). Fairy tales exist in the time where it is feasible to have Knights, Kings, Princes and princesses (though granted often the damsel in distress) fighting as though in the days of yore. In this kind of time it is no secret that women would be seen as second class citizens (to perpetuate the idea is the different issue entirely). This being said the daughter protest at the Kings ' offer' of marriage, and thus begins series of choices.

The first set of choices involves a variety of animals followed by a description of set animals condition. In the next phase of the story, the animal evolves into a much grander version of itself or equivalent (eg. hen => Peacock) while the description of the animal changes to a poetic opposite (eg dirty => golden). This set of choices seems to have very little bearing on the narrations of the story itself.

The next set of choices involved a wise old poet, a drunken knave, the ugly Prince, an artful merchant and a mysterious goblin. This is where the story begins to be interesting. Each choice directly begins to affect the personality of our heroine. The old wise poet turns her personality into a kindly passerby ...he offers her wisdom. The drunken knave turns her personality to that of a strong woman willing to kill if needs be. The ugly Prince offers what he calls 'happiness' and turns her personality towards being meek and fleeing. The merchant offers her riches but at the price of being married and turns her personality to that of a woman who will not be pushed around. Lastly the goblin offers a cunning riddle and turns her personality towards being fiercely intelligent.

The riddle just for the sake of it:

"My first is in sugar and also in sweet,
My second's a legume, tasty to eat,
My third is myself, my fourth's an old chick,
My fifth's in an apple and also a brick,
My sixth just repeats what my fourth said above,
My seventh's a thousand, you will be my love,
My eighth's simply fifty, my ninth is a breeze,
If you follow my meaning you'll find it with ease.
My whole is a strange name, of that there's no doubt,
But though berries may lie, the truth it will out.
You may call me a thing but I swear I'm a man,
Now come and find me. That is, if you can."


Just in case anyone didn't get it and was wondering, I think the answer is spinankle or spinankln (but then he did say it was weird).

The next set of choices on offer strength, wisdom, ruthlessness and heartlessness (and can be seen to parallel in some ways what each of the men in the previous choices offered our heroine (with the exception of the last, which I believe was put in for a bit of fun). True to each choice, each auction turns her personality to an extreme of that traight. And just as before, each of these traits might well have been uncommon to the usual damsels in distress of some of the older stories.

But one has to ask, upon finally completing a quest to see the star maker, what is her reward for possessing these traits? For very depressing choices of ending.
One in which she committed murder and lived evermore with that knowledge, one in which she committed murder and was captured by the King and punished, one in which she'd grown too accustomed to a rich lifestyle and so lived out her days in misery and the final ending in which she simply lays down and submits to crushing depression and presumably death from pneumonia.



So all in all our heroine shows a number of possible personality traits (with no help from any man at all), as opposed to marrying an ugly person but being rich for the rest of her life (keep in mind that she had the option of being rich in one of the storys but had to be married to a man), and for these personality traits can never be happy given the possible endings.

Interestingly there doesn't seem to be one positive male in the entire story. This includes her father of which there is no mention of protestation to handing over his daughter. Even the wise old poet seems to only share in a relationship of mutual pity. One has to wonder, in this particular story is it even worth being a male or female?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lecture 8: Feminist Theory, Critical Thinking and Born Digital Fiction, Kieren Boddy


'The (Former) General In His Labyrinth' by Mohsin Hamid 

The story is of a former general (Now a President (I assume this is meant to be a story about Pervez Musharraf, fmr President of Pakistan)) in an unspecified Middle-eastern country who, at the start of the story has three paths, one, to day dream about his past as a child and his experiences at school, and two, listen to a story from an aid that can be told in two different ways, and three, leave the office and attend a meeting with an ambassador and the Presidential recording studio. 

1)
There is a complexity to the story in that it uses a looping matrix of story segments that change depeinding on which away you navigate throughout the story (a sort of pick your own adventure book). It is a shame that there is no way of navigating through all of it in one direction without going back on yourself because of its non-linear but railroaded style it was constructed in. There is multiplicity, in a sense, inherent with the form the story was written and constructed. There was not much simultaneity, from my interpretation at least, but there may be simultaneity in the essence that no matter which direction you choose to navigate, the opposite direction could also be happening at the same time (if you think multi-dimensionally). 
The gender throughout this piece was predominantly male, with only one mention of a woman present in the story, that of the Producer of the Presidents broadcast studio. The main character only has a fleeting discussion with her (internally commenting on her sunglasses as a make shift hair band and speaking as though she has listened to too much western television) before leaving the room with apparent indecisiveness and frustration. Class is noticeable in that the story is about the "ruling classes" and their various aids and facilitators of their power and various other hangers on. 

5) 
Although the President has 'power', it is waining in my opinion(and in hindsight to the current political situation in Pakistan) because of the way in which the President is described and how he is talked to by those that are around him. He daydreams of his youth and how he hated the 'effeminateness' of education (his childhood opinion), procrastinated when he should have done school work during the day rather than by candle at night and the fact that he was quite tenacious when he put his mind to it. He has to be entertained by his aid with a circular story and others are waiting for him to do something, but he is trying hard to puzzle that out. He also has to correct a visiting member of royalty who commented on what 'he has done to the country' with what 'he has done for the country'. 

6)
The story is from a male view point, the reason for this is that at the time of the story was written, the General Pervez Musharraf was relinquishing his military rank to become President of Pakistan. The story was a piece of social commentary with a dash of speculative fiction in the case of what the President's does during the day.  The lack of female points of view was primarily because of this. 

7)
As I mentioned earlier, the President character, as a child equated education as an 'effeminate' because of the women teachers he had, commenting on how docile it was compared to his needs as a 'red-blooded male'. This is contrasted by how the Producer character seems like an equal as she has a power over the President regarding the hows and when the recording studio can broadcast over national and international channels. 

* appologies for the presentation of this. I could have written an essay about this, but I refrained. Using week 8 slides questions (7 or so) the ones not seen here I think are evidently answered in question 1. 

Lecture 8: Feminist Theory, Critical Thinking and Born Digital Fiction, Maxine Armstrong

Rosi Braidotti’s “Cyberfeminism with a Difference”: http://www.let.uu.nl/womens_studies/rosi/cyberfem.htm

Born digital fiction from We Tell Stories: http://wetellstories.co.uk/

The 21 Steps, by Charles Cumming, is an adventure novel, based on John Buchan’s, The 39 Steps, which was first published in 1915. The story is told by following red markers across a map of Great Britain and is based on Google Maps. Extra features are provided by green markers which provide background information not directly connected to the story’s plot.
Braidotti’s call that we “need more complexity, multiplicity, simultaneity and we need to rethink gender, class and race in the pursuit of these multiple complex differences” does not figure much in this story. The characters are all familiar to the spy thriller genre that features a predictably male all-action hero.
Apart from the hero, Rick Blackwell, there is his girl, Alexis, ‘a gorgeous Greek girl’, who needs rescuing and so leads him into danger. Her father, Aristotle Vassilopoulos, who is both rich and powerful, runs a shipping company.
Although Alexis turns from being a damsel-in-distress into a femme-fatale she does not hold any power in the story, that remains in her fathers hands. Rick also makes it clear he is not in love with her.
Other female characters are described in overtly sexual terms. On the plane Rick sits next to a ‘mischievous little housewife from Manchester’, whilst the ‘very pretty possibly Eastern European girl’ had been making eyes at the hero. She is later found unconscious, laying naked on a bed.
The minor male characters include a bad guy who wears a pin-stripe suit with a ponytail, the tall, wiry, Greenmantle and the older mentor-figure who starts the game, Mr Jack Kalba. Rick’s mate, Danny, from college, is one of the ‘good ones’, trustworthy and helpful, we don’t get a physical description.

The whole story is narrated by Rick so we get to hear his views and concerns, but not any of the other characters. Although I enjoyed the way you could follow the game across the map, the story was quite predictable, as were the characters. As a story it has no depth, but then it does not try to be anything other than a thriller.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lecture 8: Feminist Theory, Critical Thinking and Born Digital Fiction, Paul D. Found

I chose the "Fairy Tales" story on http://wetellstories.co.uk, which allows you to construct your own fairytale (within certain parameters) and share it with other people. You can read my story here:

http://wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week3/shared/2aa4ff3afb7b49f4966d9f3584310954

To give further background, the concept of "Fairy Tales" is by a man and I am one too, so there may be some bias at work. The options are limited in what the "writer" can change, but gender may have a role to play in the choices that are made.

In relation to the Rosi Braidotti piece, I am afraid that the main female protagonist is rather stereotypical of those seen in more conventional fairy tales. Indeed, the only other female character who briefly appears is also a stereotype. It does not really provide much in the way of "more complexity, multiplicity, simultaneity..." in the characterisations. I will elaborate further.

Firstly, we are introduced to the peasant's daughter (Esmerelda). We also meet the peasant and his wife. The wife (whose name we do not know - although we do not know the peasant's name either it must be said) is portrayed in "classic" fashion - she spends all of the peasant's money on "cakes, trifles and wine". We can assume that she does not have any of her own money, thus leaving her dependent upon the peasant. It is stated that the reason the family are so poor is because of the wife's spending habits, suggesting that the poverty in which the family finds itself living is her fault. There is no mention of the shortcomings of the peasant himself.

The daughter becomes a commodity when the King arrives to ask for the rent, which cannot be paid. The peasant is given the choice of paying in cash, handing over his daughter (as though she will have no objection to this), or being forced to leave their home. It is the King (a man, and an aristocrat) who has the power at this point. This in itself is a comment on the sexual values of the King (men?).

The daughter becomes a crying mess, which again plays on the assumption that women are overly emotional, prone to bouts of uncontrolled weeping. Later, Esmerelda does physically overpower the Artful Merchant, and answer the riddle of the Wily Sorcerer to enter the Starmaker's Kingdom so there is some balance offered, whereby Esemerelda is not stereotyped weak and powerless.

Also, although Esmerelda initially does what the Starmaker wishes, she does free herself from his clutches without the aid of the cliched "knight in shining armour" that most fairytale heroines seem to require.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking, Andy P (presubmitted)

hese were my initial thoughts on the three websites I was to review for digital cultures on feminism:

site one:
http://www.iwf.org/news/show/18691.html
which was born of:
http://acuf.org/issues/issue67/060912med.asp
and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Lynch

the above site itself (http://www.iwf.org/news/show/18691.html) i like both for the content of the article and the website itself.
The latter acuf.org site is clearly not one I should place too much stock in as a source, that led to some interesting questions (ie, how much is true what what we can draw from its context. eg, if untrue, why write it and for what end and if it is all true (i doubt it) what does it mean for femanism). either way I felt this was a nice two for one in terms of reviewing a site for feminism.


Site two:
http://digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-5811:1
the title if not introduction of this pretty much speaks of itself, and was chosen merely on the topic and format presented ( online e-book)

site three:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/uselection2008/sarahpalin/2826120/Dick-Morris-Prepare-for-Sarah-Palin-versus-Hillary-Clinton-in-2012.html

chosen for content and specifically the line "In Palin, you have an authentic model of feminism and in Hillary you have a counterfeit one" made me want to dig deeper into what the report are meant (along with many of the quotes).
This site was one of many involving the presidential election in America. I simply wanted to highlight the role of feminism and the part it had to play during the election as both sides had a female candidate with wildly varying views ( and therefore if it could be seen as feminist, just how broad is the 'range' of feminism?). I also liked this for the fact that it was a reputable site (telegraph.co.uk)yet was still heavily politically biased in some ways.


problems with the above:
firstly the problem I found ( or rather the issues that make me doubt myself) was that the theorys are more implied in the above sites rather than stated directly. should I have been finding sites that explain explicitly what feminism is?

Also and the more pressing question to me, I feel like my understanding of 'digital cultures' is superficial at best. In week one we explored the term digital and how it related to culture, and aside from saying all of the above is published online, I can't seem to draw anything more from the sites. The content is fine, but it's nothing that couldn't be printed on paper, so I could just as easily call from e-books. In terms of digital culture, they offer nothing new (to me) that the same thing printed on paper could not accomplish.
I guess what I'm looking for is for digital cultures to be more than just something different to write text on. I want to look for something on feminism relating to digital cultures that paper could not accomplish ( so at least including sound or something akin to the inanimate alice site), therefore I rejected all of the above.

Well those were my thoughts, but at the minute I'm still searching for something better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lecture 8: Introduction to Feminist Theory



Log into googledocs and complete the activity listed here: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dgfvwnr9_59dkcrr5f5





  • Key Theorist: Donna Haraway - her term "god-trick" for the idea that we can be objective, i.e. "see all from nowhere" but we've learnt that we're all situated, becoming subjectivities.
  • Donna Haraway, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva develop the idea of “situated knowledge”: race, history, culture, gender, class, location all play important roles because knowledge is always constructed through who we are
  • Haraway: “the crucial political action that women and people of other marginalized groups must take is to 'refigure the terms of that story', to re-narrate, to 'produce a female symbolic where the practice of making meanings is in relationship to each other, where you're not simply inheriting the name of the father again and again.’”
  • Haraway's model = new forms of narrative do not simply subsume the old, but "widen the number and kinds of stories that get told and the actors who tell them."
  • “Cyborg writing" as a form of oppositional consciousness.
  • Critical literacy work is fundamental to critical engagement with larger structures of ideology & discourse, & to applying lived experience to an examination of relations of power
  • Situated knowledge is postmodern, i.e. remains resolutely dynamic





The links you'll need:

Rosi Braidotti's paper is here: http://www.let.uu.nl/womens_studies/rosi/cyberfem.htm

and I'd like you to choose one of the six born digital fictions from here: http://wetellstories.co.uk/

Any questions, remember to e-mail me: jlaccetti AT dmu.ac.uk

I'll look forward to reading your critical interpretations. Keep in mind these parts of the critical thinking process:


The image is from a presentation by University of British Columbia, Okanagan education professor Phil Balcaen. Have a read here for more information on critical thinking that adds to what we discussed in last week's lecture.



Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking, Maxine Armstrong

Weiss, D. (1994) Feminist Philosophy and the Digital Culture

Dr Dennis Weiss is a Professor at York College in Pennsylvania, who has published a number of articles, lectures and conferences presentations (Weiss, 2007). He currently teaches critical thinking and philosophy and wrote this text for his course in feminist philosophy.

It is relevant to our discussion on the critical thinking of feminist theory and digital cultures, as it uses feminist theories to explore digital cultures.

The first half of this text is referenced but the second half has none, so it is difficult to judge how valid his opinions are or where they come from. It is also 14 years old so digital culture has hopefully moved on in the meantime.


Booth, A. and Flanagan, M. (eds) (2002) Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture, MIT Press.

A collection of critical essays and fiction exploring how women relate to virtual technologies, so again highly relevant to our discussions. It even includes an extract from Correspondence by Sue Thomas.

Only the introduction is reproduced on the Amazon website but it does introduces feminist science fiction, which is a genre I have never heard of. The index lists a number of people who could be investigated further.


Luesebrink, M.C. and Coverley M.D. (2000) The Progressive Dinner Party

A selection of hypertext and hypermedia literature works by women, written in English by international writers. The theme is a progressive dinner party inspired by the project The Dinner Party by Judy Chicargo. Each place setting is a contributor to the hypertext world with a link to a piece of their work, the Glenn Miller soundtrack does get a little annoying after a while. The website does not appear to have been updated recently as many of the links are broken, but it does still provide a useful list of women who are worth following. Sue Thomas, with Teri Hoskin, is one of the place settings with Noon Quilt. Commentary is provided by N. Katherine Hayles and Talan Memmott.

I would have liked to have seen this website updated with the links repaired and more recent work. The broken links and poor displays from some of the work shows how quickly technology had moved on.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking, Paul D. Found

The Feminist Theory Website

www.cddc.vt.edu/feminism/enin.html

This website is basically a website whose intention is to “provide(s) research materials and information for students, activists, and scholars interested in women's conditions and struggles around the world.” It is basically a database of links to articles and individuals in the feminist movement.

Although the articles are arranged by theme, not all the links to them are active. There are however, links to external websites concerned with that theme. The links to individuals do provide biographical information and a bibliography.

The website is hosted by Virginia Tech University’s Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, so one would expect that the articles it lists are academically robust. It was created and is edited by Kristin Switala. She is also U.C. Foundation Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

I am not sure the site has been updated since 1999 though. This could well render much of the site out-of-date.

GenderIT.org

http://www.genderit.org

A website which aims to monitor international ICT policies which effect women. It aims to be a forum of knowledge sharing, to raise awareness and encourage activism and lobbying on issues of gender and ICT. It is a repository for resource links, journal articles and case studies concerned with women's, gender and social issues in connection with the internet.

This link gives a general overview of why this is important:

http://www.genderit.org/en/policy_makers/whygender.htm

Association of Progressive Communication

http://www.apc.org/

"The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is a global network of civil society organisations whose mission is to empower and support organisations, social movements and individuals in and through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs)." It is a non-profit organisation based in the US.

http://www.apc.org/en/home/gender

The APC not only covers gender/feminist/women's issues, but also culture, media, technology and open source software, among others. It provides news, a blog, reports and papers, and a newsletter and so on. The content is kept very up-to-date.

There is also an interesting link provided, which is a guide to evaluating the use of ICT on the basis of gender:

http://www.apcwomen.org/gem/

Also of note is that the content is available via CreativeCommons License.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How to spot logical fallacies...By Kieren Boddy

Just some resources on logic, logical fallacies 
Logic Websites

If you cannot be bothered to read (or if you want something playing in the background whilst surfing the net) (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE, INSULTING IN SOME PARTS, FUNNY IN OTHERS, REFERENCES RELIGION)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"what is the difference between a scientific experiment and a musical experiment?" _Mandy Sellers

Hmmm. My knee-jerk reaction was “a lot!” but then I started thinking more… and really, the process could very easily be the same (hypothesis, testing, etc) except when it comes to the evaluation of the data. It depends, how do you evaluate a musical experiment? When I think of classic scientific experiments they seek to prove a constant… that is, there is something they want to prove that exists 100% of the time. Everything has to be reproducible, yielding the same results. For example, if you want to prove alcoholism has a genetic component… well, you can use humans but usually this is too tricky and it’s easier to use a similar genetic model (which, sadly for rats, works out well for scientists). In music, you may not be able to do testing on similar genetic models (guess it depends on what you’re trying to prove) and instead have to involve us more tricky humans.

I guess in the end scientific experiments are easier, more cut and dry because of the controlled conditions they can be carried out in. Musical experiments I would guess are probably pretty difficult to conduct (perhaps like psychology experiments which are notoriously difficult because of the human factor). There would be qualitative data vs quantitative. And reproduction would likely be challenging.

Lecture 7 "Critical Thinking": Kieren Boddy

Feminist Theory Websites

1) The Feminist Theory Website, the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture
at Virginia Tech University,
http://www.cddc.vt.edu/feminism/enin.html

This website was created and maintained by a Dr. Kristin Switala, a Professor at the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Tech, USA. It was the first website to appear in the google search of the term "Feminist Theory". It is a trustworthy website, in my opinion, because it was created by an academic at an accredited University and has reputable contributions by other academics.

Unlike some websites that opt to inform the user everything, in the authors words, what the subject is all about, Dr. Swatala only uses the briefest of paragraphs relating to the Feminist Theory and the different fields in Feminism as a cue for the 5425 bibliographical entries, 0593 links to Internet sites, and 0684 paragraphs giving information. It is quite different from what I am used to, but easy to follow, if you know how to use a bibliography to find academic texts and text books.

This though makes a lot of work for the reader who may just want a 'quick quote' for a simple understanding of the theory, but it is an extremely good website for finding references in the field. Unfortunately, it seems that the website rarely updates as it was in 1999 the website was last copyrighted. 

2)Feminism and Women Studies, http://feminism.eserver.org/

The Feminism and Women Studies webpage is an online resource for researchers into the subject and is ran by people associated with the Carnegie Mellon University Womens Centre. The website is a greater resource than one that is just about feminist theory, which in my opinion makes it a better website in that it gives more background information about the subject than just the theory as I feel that to have an understanding of a subject, you must know some detail about the circumstances in which the theory applies to. 

As the website was created by members of the Carnegie Mellon University, ones who knew about the subject (they where Masters Students who operated the site for four years) and it cites information and courses from other universties with similar courses, such as one from the university in 1). All this tells me that it is a worthy resource for the subject, even though compared to the whole, there is a small amount to do with feminist theory. 

It is easy to navigate the website as it has been represented in a hierarchical fasion of overarching concepts within the subject which then forks off depending on how many articles and theories are available within those concepts. That said, the few articles about feminist theory where quite old, compared to the rest of the content within the site. 

3) http://www.ladiesagainstfeminism.com/artman/publish/


Would the use of a male dominated search engine resource affect the validity in my findings into the subject???

Response from Professor Hugill: Music & Digital Cultures

Following on from his lecture on the 16th of Feb., Professor Hugill has taken the time to read your comments and is including a response. He addresses a variety of questions which stem from your own blog responses. Please read Professor Hugill's thoughts and respond to his question (via the comments on this post) which you'll find at the end of his letter.


"Dear Jess, Thank you for asking me to respond to the student comments following my lecture. I thought your post about the importance of critical thinking and logical argument was excellent. I'm ill in bed at the moment, so the brain is not firing on every cylinder, but on the other hand I have some time to write!

I agree very much with Mandy's comment that we covered a lot, maybe too much, in two hours, and of course none of the students has studied music, so somehow they had to rapidly assimilate both technical and aesthetic information about some of the most challenging music of the past 100 years. I thought they listened well - attentive and diligent and, given the content, relaxed, which was not always my experience when I covered similar ground with music students, who often became quite agitated.

Andy P. seems to have had the most extensive reaction and makes a number of points. I'll try to approach these in the spirit they are intended.


Let's tackle the 'definition of music' thing frst. Bear in mind that what we are seeking here is a definition. Definitions have pretensions to being objective, verifiable, and universal (applicable in all situations). In practice, there are many types of definition (see http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/definitions.htm for example) but they all share that sense of rational aspiration to the absolute.

Music as 'organised sound' is not my definition but that of Edgard Varèse in his lecture/essay 'The Liberation of Sound'. He had very specific reasons for making the statement, arguing in favour of the inclusion of sounds not considered 'musical' in the traditional sense (i.e. not necessarily produced by instruments). No doubt this has inadequacies, but it *is* a definition. Notice he is not ascribing any particular value to the 'music' he defines. He is not attempting to say 'this is good music' or 'this is bad music'. He is trying to be factual and objective in order to expand our understanding of what music might be. The affective layer (such as emotional impact, aesthetic judgement, etc.) is largely put aside.


The word 'organised' is somewhat loaded. The first question we might ask is 'organised by whom'? Some might hear organisation in natural sound (which takes us into soundscape, which I had no time to mention in the lecture), but I think for Varèse the idea was that a piece of music is organised in the same way as a living organism - made up of many related elements. This suggests intentionality. One standard definition of a work of art is that it is evidence of an artistic intention (if an artist calls it art, it's art). In the postmodern world, we might also argue that it requires a suitable reception (people have to agree).


The point Andy P makes that music has no material existence is of course correct. Sound is a disturbance in a medium. I don't think Varèse is being materialistic, but I do think he is being scientific. Phenomena, such as electricity, may be observed empirically. Music is a perceptual phenomenon, certainly, but that does not necessarily mean it has only *emotional* existence. (Notice that the statement 'music is a perceptual phenomenon' is not a definition either, because it is incomplete).


Analysis of emotion is a vast field. Academic and scientific approaches range from the neuroscientific to the psychological. The one that seems to be causing the objection here is the James/Lange idea that emotion results from experiencing bodily changes, rather than causing them. There simply is neither time nor space (nor do I have the expertise!) to attempt to summarize these theories, but I think it is true to say that we still lack an accurate and consistent mapping of musical gesture to emotional response, probably due to social, cultural and individual variations. This is what makes emotion shifting ground from which to attempt a *definition* of anything. In what would an 'emotional definition' consist?


This is not a denial of the importance of emotion in music. It is simply a rejection of that as a basis for a definition. One person's 'emotive sound' is another person's 'indifferent noise'. I, for example, find some of Merzbow's 'noise music' emotionally affecting, whereas much pop music leaves me indifferent (which puts me in a minority). But I still think pop music is music. My opinion matters not if I am seeking to define 'music', but it matters a lot when I am choosing what to listen to! Perhaps an interesting variation on your question would be 'what is music *for* - something I tackle in my book.


One final point of accuracy - Cage's music was not 'unorganised'. It was organised using chance procedures. That may seem like splitting hairs, but chaos theory has shown us that there is organisation behind 'chance' and that randomness is predictable. On a historical note, 'organised sound' has stood the test of time as a definition and is still widely used. In fact, there is a journal published by Cambridge University Press under that very title and edited by Prof Leigh Landy, who heads the Music Technology and Innovation Research Centre here at DMU.


Turning to the discussion of serialism, let's have a crack at the statement:


"since it can be generated by a computer with no inspiration need at all and (at this time to me) sounds terrible, how can we say it is any different from what we would accept as patterned 'noise' from any other aesthetically unpleasing machine?"
There are a set of assumptions underpinning this which need to be challenged. The first is the rather 19th Century idea of 'inspiration'. In fact, much of the world's music is written without inspiration and is really the product of some kind of process or formula. Even those people who acknowledge inspiration are famously modest about its true value ("99% perspiration, 1% inspiration", said Thomas Edison, discussing the nature of genius). This is not to say the results of these formulae cannot be inspiring. Think of Javanese gamelan, for example. Or hymn tunes. But neither does inspiration guarantee good music. In fact there are many pieces that are highly inspired, yet unconvincing as music. Believe me, I've written some of them myself!

The next is the assumption that computers cannot write pleasing music. I wonder how much music written by computers people have actually heard? I don't mean music played off laptops, I mean music actually composed by computers. For early examples, try Xenakis, Koenig or the celebrated 'Iliac Suite' by Lejaren Hiller from 1957. For more recent examples (and these I am pretty certain will be found 'pleasing') try the many samples of fractal music, evolutionary music, generative music, algorithmic music, etc. that can be found online. Check out 'Changing Weights' by our own Dr Ron Herrema as an example
http://www.capstonerecords.org/CPS-8788.html

Finally, and this is what Varèse was arguing about, why is it necessarily the case that a machine produces 'noise'? If we accept that noise is unwanted sound (one can challenge that definition, by all means), then there are situations where machines do not produce noise, and sounds that are 'musical' might be considered noise. I think the perception of noise changes depending on circumstance.


It is true that total serialism was very well suited to computer composition, and in fact grew up alongside the development of early computers and dominated computer music. Perhaps the biggest figure in this field was Milton Babbitt, who is definitely worth a visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Babbitt

By the way, I'm not sure that additive synthesis is a good analogy for Steve Reich's phasing method in 'Come Out' and other pieces. Really, the crucial thing there is layering of sound and an audible process. It's a shame I had no time to play that piece - you really need to hear it to understand how it works. There is a copy in the library.


I could go on, but I feel the need of rest. Let's end with a question: what is the difference between a scientific experiment and a musical experiment? That should give people plenty to chew upon!"



Note, the image is
part of the score of Varèse's 'Poème Electronique' (1958).



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lecture 7: Critical Thinking_Mandy Sellers

Three websites pertinent to Feminist Theory:

Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/toc/signs/current

This is a supporting website for the journal. I’ve seen this journal sited several places (at least 3 different University websites with Women’s Studies programs) so this kind of peer acceptance (at least in a university setting) legitimizes it.

This online resource gives access to current feminist articles and has a section announcing calls for papers and other upcoming events. It also has a section on book reviews. And, I’ve found the people contributing have been sited themselves elsewhere (by looking them up in JSTOR). This one is very legit.


Women's Studies Online Resources
http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/

This is a website listing Women’s Studies Online Resources. The links work and page is maintained. It has been created by a university professor, Joan Korenman, from Univ. of Maryland. She is legit (ie, have checked she’s a real person with valid University credentials). She’s even written a book, “Internet Resources on Women”. Which led me to this: http://www.umbc.edu/cwit/ A website for Women and Information Technology recognized by one of America’s top 3 news providers (ABC news) of which she is the Founding Director.

http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/links_net.html

This page is probably the most topical for our class from this site. It is titled “Women-Focused Cyberculture and Internet Information”. It provides several links to related websites and gives a brief description of the site. I’d say this would be very helpful to studying feminist theory and digital cultures. ☺

The Fword
http://www.thefword.org.uk/

This looks to be an important feminist website simply because it is an open community space for discussing feminist topics. Well, take that back, it’s a webzine edited by Catherine Redfern, who was at least recognized by the Guardian as a ‘woman to watch’ in 2003.

As far as this being sited, I haven’t seen anything. I suppose I could’ve done this the other way around, looked up articles on feminist theory and follow up any citations given.

The reason I am posting this one is because it came up first on my Google search. I figure if that’s the case a lot of people are at least looking at the site if not reading and contributing to it. Because it's less academic I can't validate it in the same way... it's more like a cultural artefact. It's the average person writing and discussing feminist topics... a discursive site.

Lecture 7 'Critcal Thinking': Amanda Moffat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosi_Braidotti
"Rosi Braidotti" Wikipedia Entry
I deliberately chose a Wikipedia page to be controversial! This website provides a summary of Rosi's biographical information focusing on an impressive array of academic achievements, publications and related work - claiming that throughout which, "Braidotti asserts and demonstrates the importance of combining theoretical concerns with a serious commitment to producing socially and politically relevant scholarship that contributes to making a difference in the world." These credentials give her credibility and leads the uninitiated to believe that the content is accurate and to be trusted. As with all Wikipedia pages it is up to date (last modified on 19 September 2008) and there are a number of working links to other Wikipedia entries, as well as related external links to other sites (including her own) which list her work and corroborate her credentials (e.g. the Utrecht University site where she is a 'Distinguished Professor'). Interestingly though, there are no academic references directly on the Wikipedia page!

http://www.let.uu.nl/womens_studies/rosi/cyberfem.htm
"Cyberfeminism with a difference" by Rosi Braidotti
This article talks about feminism in relation to a post-modernist approach to technology and culture. Written in 1996, it is well referenced and cited by academia. I particularly found the section entitled 'Post-human bodies' interesting, where Rosi selects three 'cyborg goddesses' - Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Fonda - suggesting that these 'emblems of postmodern femininity' symbolise the culturally enforced icons of white, economically dominant, heterosexual Americans - and more specifically a 'Californian 'body beautiful' ideology'. I can see where she's coming from with Liz and Jane, but I'm not sure about Dolly! To further legitimise this text, this section has been published as a chapter in 'The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader' (2003) by Amelia Jones.

http://www.obn.org/inhalt_index.html
"The Old Boys Network: The mode is the message - the code is the collective"
After reading Rosi's piece on cyberfeminism I decided to google the term and found this website which is a feminist collective forum, ironically entitled 'Old Boys Network'. It claims to be the first international alliance of cyberfeminists 'aimed at contributing to the critical discourse on gender-specific aspects of new media'. The people involved include an array of individual academics and artists (mainly women unsurprisingly), as well as whole agencies and societies, which suggest it is legitimate. After checking out some of the founding members I found this article on Jstor which corroborated their credentials http://www.jstor.org/pss/778008, and they (Claudia Reiche and Verena Kuni) have also published a book on the subject entitled 'Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols' (2004). However, this book is yet to be published according to the website so it is clearly not maintained regularly (last updated 28.07.02) and some of the links no longer work, rendering it a less reliable source - although it still makes some interesting points and is relevant to the module.