“Edge Detection” in New Issue of Media Fields Journal

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A new issue of Media Fields Journal is out, titled “At the Edge” and edited by Jeremy Moore and Nicole Strobel. There is a lot of great work in here, which I look forward to digging into.

I am happy to have contributed a short piece called “Edge Detection,” which departs from the sex scene in Blade Runner 2049 to think about computer vision, DeepFakes, and human/technological interfaces and their impact on perception more generally.

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Out Now: Serial Figures and the Evolution of Media in NECSUS

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The latest issue of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies has just come out. As always, it is freely accessible as an open-access publication, and it is chock full of articles, reviews, audiovisual essays, and a special section on “Mapping.”

Among the feature articles is an article I co-authored with Ruth Mayer on “Border Crossings: Serial Figures and the Evolution of Media” — a text that outlines some of the topics we covered in our research project within the DFG Research Unit on “Popular Seriality” from 2010 – 2013. This is a slightly revised translation of a text that first appeared in German in Frank Kelleter’s edited collection Populäre Serialität: Narration – Evolution – Distinktion. Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert. We are happy to see this text made available in English, and especially happy that it found a home at NECSUS, which is the perfect venue for this transatlantic and interdisciplinary kind of media studies work.

Check out the whole issue here!

Seriality (Encyclopedia Entry)

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I have an encyclopedia entry on “Seriality” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory, which is scheduled to come out this week. I’m not allowed to post the final version, so here is an early version that includes references, bibliography, and a few other details that were cut from the text as it will appear in print.

Seriality

Shane Denson, Stanford University

 

Seriality is a formal property and/or organizational principle that is commonly associated with ongoing narratives, recurring patterns, and periodic publication schedules. As a narrative form, seriality is perhaps most readily associated today with TV – especially the recent explosion of “narratively complex” (Mittell) television series, which inherit and adapt strategies from 20th-century film and radio serials and popular serialized literature of the 19thcentury. Outside of popular culture, seriality also characterizes a variety of tendencies or “attitudes” (Bochner) in modern art, exemplified by conceptual artists such as Sol LeWitt, Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, or the twelve-tone music of Arnold Schönberg; in each of these cases, seriality refers less to narrative continuity than to aesthetic modularity and material repetition of visual, acoustic, or other elements. Critical discussions of seriality tend to focus either on popular/narrative or on artistic/non-narrative expressions, thus suggesting a split between “high” and “low” forms; however, there are blurrings and borrowings on both sides: e.g. Pop Art appropriates serialized comics and popular culture generally, while the discontinuous, episodic forms of sitcoms and procedural crime shows embody the modular and quasi-industrial repetition that characterizes so much post-War gallery art. At the root of seriality in all of these forms is an interplay, highlighted by Umberto Eco, between repetition and variation (or innovation).

Seen in terms of this formal interplay, seriality is pervasive across literary and cultural traditions, from the Homeric epics to J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations and beyond. However, serial forms have proliferated at an unprecedented rate since the 19thcentury, when technological advances like the steam-powered printing press enabled serialized publication to dominate the literary marketplace. As Roger Hagedorn has argued, 19th-century feuilletons, penny dreadfuls, and dime novels attest to close relations between seriality and media-technical innovation: serialized stories “serve to promote the medium in which they appear” and thus “to develop the commercial exploitation of a specific medium” (5). Moreover, this explosion of serialized culture corresponds to advances in serialized production more generally; the steam engine enabled not only the daily newspaper but also promoted deskilled factory work, leading eventually to the Taylor/Ford assembly line. Thus, both narrative and non-narrative forms of seriality find impetus in industrialization; Eugène Sue and Donald Judd alike owe debts to industrial technologies, which are inextricable from capitalism. According to Karl Marx, capital operates according to serialized processes of its own (not just factory production but the process of repetition and variation expressed abstractly as M-C-M´ chains of value-production). This grounding of modern seriality in industrial capitalism helps explain the suspicion and scorn heaped on the “culture industry” by the likes of Horkheimer and Adorno, but it also points to the necessity to regard seriality not just as a formal property of cultural objects but as a social phenomenon that is central to the contemporary lifeworld: both our collective identities (such as “the nation,” according to Benedict Anderson, or gender for Iris Marion Young) and modern subjectivity itself (in Jean-Paul Sartre’s pessimistic view) can be seen as products and expressions of seriality.

 

Bibliography:

Anderson, Benedict. “Nationalism, Identity, and the Logic of Seriality.” The Spectre of Comparisons. New York: Verso, 1998.29-45.

Bochner, Mel. “The Serial Attitude.” Artforum 6.4 (December 1967): 28-33.

Eco, Umberto. “Innovation and Repetition: Between Modern and Post-Modern Aesthetics.” Daedelus 114 (1985): 161-184. Rpt. as “Interpreting Serials” in The Limits of Interpretation. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. 83-100.

Hagedorn, Roger. “Technology and Economic Exploitation: The Serial as a Form of Narrative Presentation.” Wide Angle: A Film Quarterly of Theory, Criticism, and Practice 10.4 (1988): 4-12.

Horkheimer, Max and Theodor W. Adorno. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.”Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002.

Marx, Karl. Capital, Volume 1. New York: Penguin Classics, 1990.

Mittell, Jason. Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: New York UP, 2015.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume One. Trans. Alan Sheridan-Smith. Foreword by Fredric Jameson. New York: Verso, 2004.

Young, Iris Marion. “Gender as Seriality: Thinking about Women as a Social Collective.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society19.3 (1994): 713-38.

 

Further Reading:

Allen, Rob and Thijs van den Berg, eds. Serialization in Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Denson, Shane and Andreas Jahn-Sudmann, eds. Digital Seriality. Special issue of Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture 8.1 (2014): <http://www.eludamos.org/index.php/eludamos/issue/view/vol8no1&gt;.

Kelleter, Frank, ed. Media of Serial Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2017.

 

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

Horror and New Media, and the Horror of New Media #SCMS18 #SCMS2018

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Looking forward to speaking on this panel, alongside Cecilia Sayad, Adam Hart, and Kevin Chabot at the 2018 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Toronto. Panel L13, Friday, March 16, 2018 (3:15pm – 5:00pm).

Thesis of my paper: “Post-cinematic horror is a side-channel attack on our affective processing of time itself.”

Out Now: Post-What? Post-When?

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The new issue of Cinéma & Cie, edited by Miriam de Rosa and Vinzenz Hediger, is out now. The special issue, which goes to the heart of recent discussions of post-cinema, is provocatively titled “Post-What? Post-When?,” and it includes my own contribution, titled “Speculation, Transition, and the Passing of Post-Cinema” alongside pieces by Malcolm Turvey & Ted Nannicelli, Sabrina Negri, Rachel Schaff, Saige Walton, and Monica Dall’Asta. The contributions are framed by a “Conversation on the ‘Posts’ of Post-Media and Post-Cinema” by Miriam de Rosa & Vinzenz Hediger.

General description of the special issue:

If we live in a post-media and post-cinema condition, how much longer will it last, and how will it end? Picking up on the recent debate about post-media and post-cinema, this special issue of Cinéma & Cie addresses the question of temporality and periodization in media history and asks what exactly the ‘post’ in post-cinema means. The contributions approach this question from a variety of perspectives and discuss a number of key issues, from the question of medium ontology to that of medium specificity, from the development of digital and hybrid cinematic forms to the problems and pitfalls of preservation. Exploring new analytical and theoretical frameworks that account for the moving image in the multiplicity of its configurations, the contributions open up new avenues of research and provide a sense of what may lie beyond our current post-media and post-cinema condition.

Out Now: ETC Media 110

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I am proud to have a piece on “Pre-Sponsive Gestures” and the work of French media artist Grégory Chatonsky included in the new issue of the Montreal-based ETC Media. Looks like a great issue, and happy to be in such good company!

CURRENT ISSUE // 110
GRÉGORY CHATONSKY: APRÈS LE RÉSEAU / AFTER THE NETWORK

Issue 110 of ETC MEDIA is dedicated to Grégory Chatonsky, who has curated the form and content of this special issue. A Montreal resident for the last ten years, the artist is a pioneer of net art, founding Incident.net in 1994, and an unflagging explorer of the relationships between technology and anonymous existence. In this issue, the artist and a few other friends, artists, philosophers, art historians, and art critics reconsider the last two decades of experimentation, a time in which the world drastically changed through the widespread use of the Internet to reach a digital omnipresence that heralds a near extinction. Divided into 3 sections—“infinitude,” “hyperproduction,” “without ourselves”—ETC MEDIA becomes a platform for navigating in our era and gaining a better understanding of a future whose portents remain deeply ambivalent—promising and threatening all at once. Rather than being reduced to trendy notions often misunderstood by the contemporary art milieu, the concepts of post-digital, accelerationism, and speculative materialism constellate a world in the process of perishing and being born.

Collaborators

Grégory Chatonsky
Eve K. Tremblay
Pau Waelder
Bertrand Gervais and Arnaud Regnauld
Shane Denson
DeForrest Brown Jr.
Goliath Dyèvre
Pierre Cassou-Noguès
Erik Bordeleau
Nora N. Khan
Dylan Trigg
Pierre-Alexandre Fradet
Jussi Parikka