The most modern form of art?

Going back to one of the first days of class, code is a word that was not created for technological purposes. Code as a word has been used since the 1300s! Today, code is a way of communicating between humans and computers. For someone completely unaware of how to code, I was surprised to learn how frail it is. “The Naked Game” highlights that even setting out to create code that doesn’t have a bias, i.e. isn’t programmed so that one player will win, the removal of even one line of code completely disrupts the intended action. The GIF below shows a loop of perfect pong where the ball never passes a player. However, “The Naked Game ” demonstrates code has a strong ability to interfere with this.

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One thing I really appreciated in “Criminal Code: The Procedural Logic of Crime in Videogames” was the explanation and emphasis that code was not only for those who could code. To me, coding and talking about code all seemed to be one incomprehensible entity. This article also refers back to the notion of coding being frail. Although it seems to be direct and does exactly what it says it will do, it also seems to say what it will not do.

A major aspect of ” The Naked Game” was the notion that  video games and by extension code could be art. One of the coolest class discussions I have had was a debate over what constituted art and what was too much of a stretch. While video games were never mentioned, I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be considered art, especially after seeing some fairly strange or simplistic pieces in modern art museums. In an article for Time Magazine, writer Chris Melissinos asserts that video games are not only art, but one of the most important forms for all of history. The reason for this being that video games are a combination of science and art. One line that was emphasized and really stuck out on its own was the notion that video games are the only art medium that allow the user to personalize it. For some reason, this distinctly reminds me of an episode of “The Office” in which Dwight creates a virtual world where he lives the exact same life but is able to fly. The only question that remains is if the majority of people using an art form don’t recognize it as art, is it always art or only in certain contexts?

Stripped of essence or just economical?

When I got my first car, it was so old that there wasn’t a place for an aux chord. Instead, I was forced to go back to my mom’s old CD collection from 2005 and choose six CDs that I wanted to have in my car on rotation. Coming from a world where every song is at your fingertips in mere seconds, this was not ideal. The advancements in technology have allowed for new formats, such as mp3s, to take up less space and thus provide more options than the CD, cassette tape, or record. For my generation, mp3s aren’t just technology, they’re cultural artifacts.

One of the ways that mp3s are able to take up less storage is due to the fact they are engineered differently. As a musician, this fact shocked me because I have never been able to tell the difference between a song off of a CD and a song coming from an iPod or iPhone. Part of the song is sacrificed without us being aware. There is both a psychological and biological element to what is being heard and more importantly, to how it is being engineered so that we think we hear everything without realizing there is something missing. In an article from The Guardian “How much difference is there between MP3, CD and 24-bit audio?”, the author notes that when listening closely, it is easy to discern the poor quality of mp3s when held up against their competitors. However, hi-res music is both more costly and consumes more space than an mp3.

In the video above, it is explained how some of the sound is removed from the file of the mp3 and shows what exactly is removed. It sounds almost as if the song was coming from a very far distance and is cluttered with static. It is very difficult to notice this missing piece of the mp3, so why not continue to use something cheaper, less space consuming, and that sounds just as good to the everyday man’s ears?

Our Online Janitor

Commercial content moderation(CCM) workers function much like a janitor. They work for little pay, little acknowledgment, and deal with disgusting things all day long. They are also expected to remain invisible while taking care of something others don’t want to have to deal with. One significant issue is that if the janitor doesn’t know about the mess, they’re unable to clean it up. Content that is potentially a violation of a site’s guidelines are not seen by the CCM worker until a flag has gone up. Within this lies the significant problem that the content becomes normalized.

The CCM worker is expected to completely remove themselves from their own beliefs and even own culture at times. If a person is not exposed to the racist patterns found in American culture, how can they be expected to screen for content that could be offensive to an African-American individual? Racist material being used as humor is undoubtedly present in the digital age, with GIFs and Vine being prime examples. CCM workers don’t even have the power to remove blackface because it alone is not considered hate speech.

A clearly offensive post made by a large company in a misguided attempt at humor and marketing.

The post above shows a social media post that was most definitely racist and offensive but was only taken down by the company at their choosing, not by CCM workers. The lines are very blurred when it comes to regulating images dealing with race, calling out abuse, sexism, and more. The job of a CCM worker is clearly no small achievement and their hidden labor contributes significantly to the sites we use everyday. By investigating CCM, race can be better understood as it functions in a digital space.

Counter GIFs

Type of GIF: Reaction GIF

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Counter Reaction GIF: 

Analysis

Reaction GIFs are typically the entire face, highlighting a very obvious emotional response. The use of the face allows for a stronger emotional connection and alludes to an exact emotion the creator is expecting you to feel. By zooming in, the exact emotion that the creator is attempting to convey is lost. By using the common action of a person blinking, there is no clear reaction conveyed. This would have little effect or ability to be understood in everyday use.

 

Type of GIF: Cinemagraph GIF

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Counter Cinemagraph GIF

Analysis:

Cinemagraph GIFs are normally classy, artistic, and used as art or fashion ads. They take a photograph that has a style and allure of its own and move one individual element so that it captures one piece of the photo they want the user to be aware of. It makes something already beautiful even more attractive and unique. By creating a Cinemagraph of typically crude cartoon character Homer Simpson, the beautiful, artistic element is removed. The emphasis on the drool highlights one of the least appealing parts of the image.

 

Type of GIF: Sports GIF

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Counter Sports GIF

Analysis:

Sports GIFs typically show an incredibly impressive feat or a ridiculously embarrassing goof. The GIF I chose for my actual example shows a superhuman catch, something exciting and captivating to watch. The GIF I created instead shows one of the most mundane, typical actions in football. This very average moment is not something you ever see in a sports GIF because with such a limited amount of time, you want your GIF to be used for something that will get people’s attention.

GIF or JIF, it all does the same thing

The first thing I thought of when reading both “A Brief History of the Gif (so far)” and “Never Gonna GIF You Up” was the ever pressing debate, how do you pronounce GIF? From these articles I learned what the acronym stands for and it seems to me that since it stands for Graphics Interchange Format and since the G in graphics is hard, it should be pronounced GIF, like gift without the T. However, if you ask the creator of GIFs, Steve Wilhite, how to pronounce it, he will answer JIF as is shown in minute 2:55 of the following video.

Do I agree with this? No. Will I let this be the final verdict? No. Will I move on? Yes.

To me, the GIF has always been a fun tool and a word of passionate debate. As these articles showed, the history and meaning behind the GIF are so much more. I learned from “A Brief History of the Gif (so far)” that there were GIFs before GIFs, they just weren’t electronic. “Zoetropes” and “Mutosocopes” were not something I had ever heard of before, but their description was much the same as my perception of GIF today. However, “Never Gonna GIF You Up” corrected this perception by emphasizing how the usage of captions and text in today’s GIFs give them multiple meanings. With GIFs being such a prevalent part of today’s online culture, it is surprising to learn they fell out of fashion in the 90s for being less advanced than the newer technology. Nowadays, it is an important and popular way to share and explore visual media. During the Election, GIFs were used and shared by both parties. During the Olympics, GIFs were banned so that the Olympics Committee would have control over what could be released. GIFs may go in and out of fashion like clothing, but their potential seems to be endless.

Hidden Figures … 56 years later

One of the things that causes new technology to be frightening or intimidating to some is our collective lack of understanding. The average person would not be able to understand the complex workings of what occurs in or behind their phone or laptop; that level of understanding is reserved for a select few. In this brilliant marketing strategy mentioned in “‘Where the Internet Lives’ Data Centers as Cloud Infrastructure,” simple pictures and virtual tours allow the common person to understand exactly what is going on in the cloud and at various data centers. The image below shows a very simplistic version of what iCloud is while appearing to provide all the information you need. Except, this actually allows the companies to hide more than they reveal.

This image seemingly shows everything you need to know about the iCloud- what goes into it and what it takes from. However, as this article showed, there’s more than meets the eye.

One tool they use is disguising infrastructure as part of the natural environment (76). Environment plays a surprising and very hidden role in the world of data centers and information sharing. The cloud itself, requires enough energy that if it were a country, it would have the fifth largest energy demand (82). Somehow, as someone who regularly updates to the cloud, I completely failed to acknowledge that there would be significant energy need. The name cloud compares itself to an environmental feature and thus, detracts from the technical aspect and makes you think of only a simple object that is always present.

While data centers require significant amounts of energy, there is a push to make them more environmentally friendly. Many use sustainable energy to some capacity and Facebook has a data plant in Sweden that uses 100% sustainable energy (84). Despite the large demand for energy at data centers, only 6-12% is used and the rest is a surplus in case of a surge (83). Data centers attempt to present themselves as a straightforward, understandable system. However, behind data centers is a world of little clarity, lots of unknown environmental effects, and sometimes even a potential threat.

Freedom for Females: Can technology change social structures?

The technology of the late nineteenth century had strong implications for social structures and dynamics. One of the most notable effects was on the role and power that women were able to wield. For young girls, the telephone and new modes of communication became ways to escape the harsh supervision of their parents. In the image below it can be seen that female switchboard operators got to know the men on the other end of the line. In one instance, it even resulted in a father threatening his daughter’s life because he was so appalled at her flirting with multiple young men (Marvin, 74). The romantic landscape was completely transformed by communication that allowed both privacy and intimacy from long distances.

Female operators at a telephone switchboard in 1880. They would flirt with men on the other end of the line, one of the many example of their freedom.

This new media also gave young women confidence to move outside the constraints of typical obedient behavior that was expected of them. Girls were now allowed to attend shows without a male companion, referred to as matinee girls, and they were perceived as unintelligent, obsessive, and creatures of fleeting interests (72). These women closely parallel the fan girls of today who worship men they barely know and dedicate their lives to following the cult of their music. Electric communication in the external sphere was deemed as something for males, however, in the internal sphere it was something for women as well (81).

One of the original perceptions and goals for electricity was that it would eliminate the idea of separate spheres, something very prominent in early women’s history in England. Instead, in an article for Penn State “Has technology made life easier for working moms?”, it is concluded that technology does not create free time but instead fills it with stuff that may not always be meaningful. While technology did have positive implications for allowing women more freedom and independence, it still today has not erased the separate spheres perceived for women and men.

More than what meets the iPhone

I walk into the office, empty except for a desk, chair, and a few computers. “Hello,” a woman’s voice greats me from out of nowhere. It is familiar yet mechanic. Slightly startled and mostly impressed, I begin to fiddle with this computer that is aware of every sound, movement, and breath that I take. The voice, linked to the computer system, is an “intelligence assistance,” going above and beyond anything I have ever used or had on my measly iPhone. In a world where new technology is frequent and quickly becomes available in the consumer market, seeing and hearing something with capabilities I did not yet know existed was astonishing, and to be quite honest, a little terrifying.

As I read the article by Ed Finn, my ignorance towards new technologies and innovations was revealed to me full force. How naïve could I be to expect that Siri was the best there was? How brainwashed had I become to believe that Apple was always the top of the technological game? However, the brilliance of Apple and Siri was not the algorithm itself, but the marketing tools used to present it as magic, a unique experience. The commercial below shows a person with seemingly everything (The Rock!) to be able to do a superhuman amount of tasks with the assistance of Siri.

Above and beyond the games of marketing are the dreams of those in tech. The “Star Trek” computer has a larger goal, infinite amounts of data, and is ultimately, “an index to all human knowledge.” Google aims to create a machine that is able to understand and predict private and social life, the need to think seems to become obsolete and therefor, calls the purpose of existence into question. I know I, like many others, crave new technology and slight improvements that will make my life that much easier. With my phone being my most intimate part of my life, at what point will this intimacy take control? Without being aware, I have avoided negative perceptions of technology and focused on the current positive benefits I myself will reap. I still find that as I read Neuromancer, I perceive it to be outlandish and impossible. Elon Musk, prominent business magnate, warns against the soon coming dangers of AI. The desire to improve is one that is almost always positive, but in this regard, must be watched with a cautious and knowledgeable eye.