Re: [Frameworks] **VL-JUNK** Re: Analog and digital

From: Alistair Stray <>
Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 08:35:31 +0100 (BST)

>From: Karl Mendonca

>The point I'm struggling make is that along with thinking about signal processing and materiality, perhaps the underlying
>(dare I say) philosophical framework that informs how analog / digital signals are captured, processed, stored and ultimately (re)presented is part of the
>fundamental difference between the two.
I've recently completed my Masters and most of my research related to the issues raised in this discussion. I think that as far as producing a philosophical framework to inform any debate about digital media that you're point about its difference in capturing and processing (transformative actions) is one of the keys. Lev Manovich has written a lot about this fundamental difference and pretty much has it nailed down, however he does make some mistakes in representing the flexibility and benefits of digital media. For myself the main point of interest and debate relates to what Nick Hamlyn has posted when he says the way to think about this is to look at "how different media inflect and inform practices". There is a myth that digital media gives an artist more flexibility, when in fact it just offers different processes (and some analog processes, particularly in film have no corresponding digital method and can't have). A lot of that
 misrepresentation, to me, is down to how it can easily represent content within a base structure (the ones and zeroes). So that any form (sound, image, text) can be represented digitally and therefore manipulated and transformed with similar techniques irrespective of the actual form of the content. This isn't actually true as software has to have constraints (I'm simplifying) to perform any function much like analog procedures have to. Also, the 'it's all digital now' is very similar to the 'its all an electronic signal now' ideas that came about at the birth of video.
The impact on somebodys practice, and work, that are the results of the constraints of digital media, are not easily described when it comes to video work. Lev Manovich talks about the 'computer layer' and ther 'human layer' (cultural layer) a lot, and as far as I can see it is the cultural layer that has the most impact on experimental digital video artists and their work. To see this its possible to look at most experimental digital video works and point directly to an experimetal film work that is similar or identical in its overall content and expression. This isn't the case when it comes to digital music however, where the medium itself has given rise to new genres of music with completely different aesthetics in terms of the relationships between content and expression. I don't know why that is, and exploring this with digital video is pretty much my entire practice now. The main constraint, like any media, is always the artists decision as to what
 they want to deliver (a canvas, a sequence of moving images etc). In the digital medium this constraint leads you down a path of using specific types of software, with their own specific constraints which is no different to other media leading you to take specific processes. In digital though, you do have less control over your transformations I feel, you're limited a fair bit by what the software designers envision you need (and also their idea of how to do it). The phenomonology of film and video is very similar, if digital video is going to create works that are different in the way (rules ?)  its content is expressed then the best way I can see for it to acheive this is for the medium to allow(encourage maybe) the artist to change their relationship to their content, the pragmata (sequence of images). For myself, switching from working with timeline based editing software to node based compositing software dramatically shifted my own
 relationship to my work.
I guess what I'm saying is that yep, there is a difference in the 'quality of light' and there are many process based reasons for this, but I personally don't attach any importance to that difference (because I don't work in film, although unquestionably experimental film strongly informs my work). Sometimes though it feels like my work is an attempt at digital structuralism, which is in itself 'almost' an oxymoron. I'm interested in the effect the medium has directly on the more emotive and sometimes narrative content that is in the final work, and how much of this is a result of how an artists practice is shaped and influence by the medium itself. Unfortuantely its difficult to find other digital artists whose analysis of how the medium impacts on their practice, and their work, that go beyond being just an analysis purely about the qualities of digital representation itself (as in.. can we please move on from that now ;)).
I've covered these ideas with a lot more clarity in this document
Skip the creative freedom section, its not really an important foundation. I do think however that trying to use a post-structuralist philosophical framework to examine these aspects of digital medium is the best tool for the job, as digital media through abstraction gives a good illusion of a 'smooth space' to work in.
- Stray.
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Received on Wed Aug 31 2011 - 00:35:37 CDT