Archive for January, 2011

A Tool Being: Short video activity

Here is the finalized version of our preliminary video shooting activity.  While we faced some minor set backs (mostly just the loss of our comical toilet sound effects), the finished product is something that is both enjoyable and mildly thought provoking.

When asked to create a video of “a tool being”, we concluded that the best way to illustrate a tool “being” was to use the very device we had been given for this exercise.  Essentially, what one can probably make from the video itself is the camera is represented as an autonomous device (no human interference…at least none that can be seen anyways).  The initial concept was to have the camera go about its business in a public washroom.  Having lost the original audio track from the shooting, the audience cannot hear the mysterious flushing of the toilet intended to be in the background.  Like any sanitary “being” would do, the camera proceeds to wash itself in the following sequence.  Again, with no human interference, the camera appears to be controlling the faucet all by itself.  Take from it what you will, but we thought that a simple and yet clever expression of this nature satisfied the “tool being” guidelines we as a group were given.

As a result of our lost audio track, we decided that an overlay of background music would have to fill the bill.  After selecting a piece of music from the “Requiem for a Dream” soundtrack, we worked tirelessly to properly synchronize the video and the audio.  The finished product is something rather humourous and none the less shows the efforts of our first attempt at creating a polished video sequence.  The experience has taught us all something very important:  we have a long way to go before we will be getting anywhere near the quality of Hollywood productions.

How we became Posthuman, and how do we put that in a kabinet.

We had an interesting discussion in class this week that focused on the idea of posthumanism. A difficult question left over from the discussion is what do we do (ethically and morally) in the face of technology that may privilege the mind over the body. For our kabinet project we are going to create a controllable video project that specifically addresses these theoretical difficulties. By creatively recording a single head in a recursive set of movements and speech patterns we intend to create a controllable virtual person with joysticks to move the eyes and the head, and buttons that make the head speak. We have already begun designing the speech tree which will allow for thousands of combinations of sentences which the head will say through the kabinet’s speakers and which the user will control. The idea is that the interface with the kabinet is a tool of both creation and destruction. Creation in that it will exercise control over a recognizable talking head and create language from inputed sequences and destruction based on the fact that by controlling the virtual head you are actually making your own flesh less important. This viewpoint is based on the fact that our prostheses’  (our arms and legs) are simply electrical extensions of our brains. It is this idea, that our cyborg selves as conduits of electrical energy are actually controlling prosthetics all the time, that drives our project. By highlighting the control we have over our limbs and by directing our energy onto a virtual object we will hopefully illuminate the idea that our bodies are simply tools we use and that we already are cyborgs.

Musings and Questions: Our Journey Through Cyberbodies

Our groups experience in ENGL 794 has been filled with a plethora of eye-opening and jaw dropping concepts that for the most part are foreign to us with literature backgrounds.  While we are not completely lost in the realm of Cyberbodies, we have debated and questioned some of the concepts that we have been subjected to.  While we have many thoughts and concerns, the idea of the “cyborg” presented by Donna Haraway and later discussed by Langdon Winner presents us with some challenging obstacles.  Haraway defines cyborg in “A Cyborg Manifesto” as “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism” (516).  Winner adds in his “Resistance is Futile” that cyborgs present a “pervasive blending of nature and artifice” (396).  If one is to understand “machine” and “artifice” to be used interchangeably with “technology” (as the authors themselves tend to do), complications arise.

What exactly constitutes “technology”?  If one uses the distinguishing terms of “hi-tech” and “low-tech”, where is the line drawn between the two?  If “low-tech” is considered the same type of technology that would define a cyborg, have humans been cyborgs all along?  These are merely some of the questions we have asked ourselves and feel need to be defined in order to a fruitful discussion surrounding these issues to take place.  While they may appear elementary at best, the “elusive [and] endlessly beguiling way of writing” (Winner 400) that Haraway and other scholars use in discussing these topics is not only frustrating for us as students trying to grasp these concepts, but also limits the potential for discourse because of such ambiguities.  Perhaps it is our old literature habits that are getting in the way of seeing the ‘big picture’.  Regardless, we will continue to question, discuss, think, and research in hopes that we will come to a better understanding of the concepts we are dealing with in this course.

What is Necromedia

e felt it was apt to outline briefly exactly what Necromedia is. In his article entitled “What is Necromedia”, Marcel O’Gorman defines the term as “the incorporation of death and technology” (156). O’Gorman wants ”to impress upon the reader the importance of accepting and even embracing one’s finitude in a technological world built upon a false promise of immortality” (157). It is this tension between death and technology expressed through the body and through images of the body that we will be using as a vehicle for our research creation project. Our Kunstkabinett will try to speak through this definition and give the users an evocative object to think with.

Our group consists of the inestimable Adam Bradley, myself James Saliba, and everyone’s favourite (pseudo)professor, Cameron Stott. We have begun construction of our Kunstkabinett, or at least the housing for it. Behold! The MAME cabinet that shall become a box of curiosities and wonder. Luckily, Bradley supplied his own power tools to make the job swift and painless. View some pictures of our challenges, our processes, and our victories with the cabinet:

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