Slowness and Slow Cinema

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My student Spencer Slovic has just published an excellent video essay on “Slowness and Slow Cinema” at Film Matters, which will be of interest to people thinking about contemporary and world cinema, or simply interested in the medium of the video essay (and this is a very good one!).

Spencer’s video grew out of an assignment for my “Post-Cinema” seminar, which I taught in the winter quarter of 2017. An earlier version was featured in the exhibition I curated at Stanford, Post-Cinema: Videographic Explorations (you can still see all of the videos online).

In any case, the version featured in Film Matters is much improved, having gone through a rigorous peer-review process. Take a look!

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Matthew Wilson Smith: The Nostalgia of VR

Smith poster DAW 2018

On Tuesday, May 15th, we’ll have our fourth and final Digital Aesthetics Workshop of the Spring quarter, “The Nostalgia of Virtual Reality” with Matthew Wilson Smith, at 4 PM in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room. In this workshop, we will discuss the degree to which emergent technologies of virtual reality are indebted to longstanding concepts of presence and disembodied consciousness.

Matthew Wilson Smith is an Associate Professor of German Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies at Stanford University. His  interests include modern theatre; modernism and media; and relations between technology, science, and the arts. His book The Nervous Stage: 19th-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theatre explores historical intersections between the performing arts and the neurological sciences and traces the construction of a “neural subject” over the course of the nineteenth century. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. His previous book, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Routledge, 2007), presents a history and theory of modern artistic synthesis, placing such diverse figures as Wagner, Moholy-Nagy, Brecht, Riefenstahl, Disney, Warhol, and contemporary cyber-artists within a genealogy of totalizing performance.

Syllabus: Let’s Make a Monster! Critical Making (Stanford, Spring 2018)

Somehow I forgot to post the syllabus for “Let’s Make A Monster! Critical Making,” which Paul DeMarinis and I are currently teaching as a hybrid Film & Media Studies and Art Practice class in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford. The main focus of the course, as the title indicates, is the production of monsters in a variety of media and informed by reading literary, philosophical, and other critical texts on making and monstrosity. Students have been making some truly astounding work, and I look forward to being able to present some of it later in the quarter. We will be organizing an exhibition of works on campus, and I will post images here.

New Review of Post-Cinema in Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft 18 (2018)

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There is a new review of several works on all things post-cinematic, including Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film (which I co-edited with Julia Leyda), alongside Francesco Casetti’s The Lumière Galaxy; Malte Hagener, Vinzenz Hediger, and Alena Strohmaier’s edited collection The State of Post-Cinema; Vinzenz Hediger and Miriam de Rosa’s special issue Post-What? Post-When?; and Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky’s Queeres Post-Cinema.

The review, in German, is titled “Werden/Weiter/Denken: Rekapitulation eines Post-Cinema Diskurses” (roughly: Becoming/Further/Thinking — suggesting a thinking in flux and a thinking beyond — Recapitulation of a Post-Cinema Discourse). The text, by Elisa Linseisen from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, appears in Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft 18 (2018). The full text is available as an open-access PDF.

Visualizing Digital Seriality — Demo Videos

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The short videos below (all under 1 minute in length) demonstrate the interactive components included in “Visualizing Digital Seriality, Or: All Your Mods Are Belong to Us!”—a digital humanities/critical code studies project utilizing visualization and other software tools to study exchanges of code and community-building in the Super Mario Bros. modding scene—published in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 22.1 (August 2017): http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/index.html

The videos, which use IBM Watson’s text-to-speech generator for voiceovers, were produced just in case any of the interactive functions ever stop working, but they also serve to show what you can do with my webtext (as Kairos refers to this type of multimodal scholarship).

1 – Mods & Interfaces

This page allows users to filter and sort the title screens of 240 Super Mario Bros. mods, all taken from ROMhacking.net’s database. Sorting and filtering can be done by year, by modder, and by mod name, as well as through a quick search via text input. Dropdown lists appear when the mouse hovers over “Year,” “Modder,” or “Title,” allowing the user to select parameters by checking the relevant boxes. Sorting can be done with the buttons below: “Sort by Date,” “Sort by Modder,” or “Sort by Mod Title.”

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/screens-page/index.html

2 – Basic Metadata

This page offers visualizations of basic metadata derived from ROMhacking.net’s collection of Super Mario Bros. mods. The interactive visualizations contain basic information on the number of mods released each year, the most active modders, and trends concerning the types of mods being produced. Additional information appears when the mouse hovers over the charts.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/basic-metadata.html

3 – Modder Networks (default view)

This interactive network graph visualizes the social networks among modders, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. “shout-outs” in README.TXT and similar accompanying files). This is the default view. Each node represents an individual modder, while edges (lines) represent connections between modders. The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

4 – Modder Networks (concentric view)

This interactive network graph visualizes the social networks among modders, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. “shout-outs” in README.TXT and similar accompanying files). This is a concentrically arranged view. Each node represents an individual modder, while edges (lines) represent connections between modders. The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

5 – Modder Networks (weighted)

This interactive network graph visualizes the social networks among modders, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. “shout-outs” in README.TXT and similar accompanying files). Each node represents an individual modder, while edges (lines) represent connections between modders. In this view, node size corresponds to the number of references it has received (the more paratextual references, the larger the node). The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

6 – Modding Communities

This interactive network graph visualizes connections between modders and various online modding communities, as revealed in paratextual references in files distributed with mods (i.e. references to various online communities and modding websites). In the default view, white nodes represent various mod files, while solid red nodes represent communities and websites referenced by them. The user can change the visual style and layout via the dropdown menus on the left, as well as zoom in and out with the mouse wheel and rearrange nodes by holding and dragging them. Scrolling is achieved by holding and dragging the background.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/community.html

7 – Extent of Modification

The visualization on this page offers information about the extent of modification that a given mod patch file instructs the computer to execute with respect to the original Super Mario Bros. ROM. The visualization provides basic numerical information about the amount of change contained in a mod or set of mods. It can be sorted and filtered by modder, mod, or by a range of particular byte addresses with the sliders and checkboxes on the right. The results, displayed on the left, can be sorted by title, year, or modder.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/extent.html

8 – Code “Diff”-Maps (Sorted by Date)

These visualizations offer the core means of conducting a “distant reading” of the code of all 240 Super Mario Bros. mods contained in the data set. Sorted here by date, these Gannt charts depict the location of byte-level modifications in the game ROM. The chart can be filtered by modder, mod title, and year via the checkboxes on the upper right, or by a range of particular byte addresses via the “Start” slider at the bottom right. The results, displayed on the left, can be sorted by date, modder, or title.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/diff-maps-by-date.html

9 – Code “Diff”-Maps (Sorted by Modder)

These visualizations offer the core means of conducting a “distant reading” of the code of all 240 Super Mario Bros. mods contained in the data set. Sorted here by modder, these Gannt charts depict the location of byte-level modifications in the game ROM. The chart can be filtered by modder, mod title, and year via the checkboxes on the upper right, or by a range of particular byte addresses via the “Start” slider at the bottom right. The results, displayed on the left, can be sorted by modder, date, or title.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/visualizations/diff-maps-by-modder.html

10 – Diff Compare Mods (Patched ROMs)

This page enables low-level analysis of mod files, accessed here through a browser-based hex editor. To use the tool, the user selects two files (from the complete collection of patched ROMs, as well as the original unpatched ROM) from the dropdown menus below and clicks the button “Choose Files.” Afterwards, the hex code and ASCII representation of the patched ROM files will appear in the two boxes, with the differences between them highlighted. Scrolling is synchronized between the files displayed in the left and right boxes.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/hexdump-diff/hexdump-diff.html

11 – Diff Compare Patch Files (Unpatched .ips Files)

This page enables low-level analysis of mod files, accessed here through a browser-based hex editor. To use the tool, the user selects two files (from the complete collection of unpatched .ips format patch files) from the dropdown menus below and clicks the button “Choose Files.” Afterwards, the hex code and ASCII representation of the patch files will appear in the two boxes, with the differences between them highlighted. Scrolling is synchronized between the files displayed in the left and right boxes.

http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/22.1/topoi/denson/hexdump-diff/ips-hexdump-diff.html

Jonathan Sterne: Machine Learning, ‘AI,’ and the Politics of Media Aesthetics

Sterne poster DAW

On April 24, 2018 (4-6pm in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room), Jonathan Sterne will be speaking at the Digital Aesthetics Workshop. The title of his talk is: “Machine Learning, ‘AI,’ and the Politics of Media Aesthetics: Why Online Music Mastering (Sort of) Works.”

Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology in the Department of Art History & Communication Studies at McGill University. His work is concerned with the cultural dimensions of communication technologies, especially their form and role in large-scale societies. One of his major ongoing projects has involved developing the history and theory of sound in the modern west. Beyond the work on sound and music, he has published over fifty articles and book chapters that cover a wide range of topics in media history, new media, cultural theory and disability studies. He has also written on the politics of academic labor and maintains an interest in the future of the university. His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; histories of signal processing; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception.

Ends of Cinema: Center for 21st Century Studies 2018 Conference at UW Milwaukee

C21-Ends-of-Cinema-poster

I am excited to be participating in the Ends of Cinema conference at the Center for 21st Century Studies, taking place May 3-5, 2018 at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. There are some great keynote speakers, including my colleague Jean Ma and lots of other wonderful people. The C21, under the expert leadership of Richard Grusin (who is now back at the helm after a short hiatus), has put on some of my personal favorite conferences, and I expect this one to be no less exciting and thought-provoking.

My own contribution will be a paper titled “Post-Cinematic Realism” — work in progress for my current book project Discorrelated Images. Here is the abstract:

Post-Cinematic Realism

Shane Denson, Stanford University

In its classical formulation, cinematic realism is based in the photographic ontology of film, i.e. in the photograph’s indexical relation to the world, which grants to film its unique purchase on reality; upon this relation also hinged, for many realist filmmakers, the political promise of realism. Digital media, meanwhile, are widely credited with disrupting indexicality and instituting an alternative ontology of the image. David Rodowick, for example, argues that the interjection of digital code disrupts film’s “automatisms” and eradicates the index in favor of the symbolic. But while such arguments are in many respects compelling, I contend that the disruption of photographic indexicality might also be seen to open up spaces in which to explore new automatisms that communicate reality and/or realism with and through post-indexical technologies.

Whereas André Bazin privileged techniques like the long take and deep focus for their power to approximate our natural perception of time and space, theorists like Maurizio Lazzarato and Mark Hansen emphasize post-cinematic media’s ability to approximate the sub-perceptual processing of duration executed by our pre-personal bodies. The perceptual discorrelation of computational images gives way, in other words, to a more precise calibration of machinic and embodied temporalities; simultaneously, the perceptual richness of Bazin’s images becomes less important, while “poor images” (in Hito Steyerl’s term) communicate more directly the material and political realities of a post-cinematic environment. As I will demonstrate with reference to a variety of moving-image texts employing glitches, drones, and other computational objects, post-cinematic media might in fact be credited with a newly intensified political relevance through their institution of a new, post-cinematic realism.