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akademic werdsakademic werds
written and published in Tinderbox 1.2.3
best thing from the weekend. a sunday of perfect light.
have spent a lot of time the last two weeks trying to write a tutorial come essay about how to vog. its more a demo thing, just wanting to show how to use quicktime pro to layer and collage content and that it really is a desktop practice. i've got the first draft of it done in word, now i need to edit, move it into html, add all the screen shots and then figure out where i might get it put. i decided this needed writing because i want people to see how easy it is to do, and because i want people to do it.
24.2 how to vog
mark and torill have been musing about audiences lately. mark also comments (as does jill) on various recent discussions come commentaries in the blog community (seems to me that it's a bit hard to call it a community anymore, unless we're happy to say that there's a web community, blog community seems to be getting dangerously close to staking an authoritative claim for some normative standards, or at least to define the blog community as those who blog about blogs) on good versus bad writing. i agree with mark that this is rather narrow minded and perhaps misses the point of blogs, but i've also always been unsure or ambivalent about the necessity or otherwise of writing for someone online.
on email lists and the like you're definitely writing for someone, you are usually explicitly responding to someone or something or simply asking for something. but when you write and put something on a web page, well, audiences seem to form around that of their own accord. and i actually think this is very very important.
if i want to publish a book, make a film (at least get it paid for), etc then the cost of the object and its production tend to ensure that some notion of the audience most be accounted for to legitimate the work. so a scholarly edition, for instance, might need to be written in a particularly accessible style so that students can use it. for many of us (not all, but many) the cost of access to publishing on online is either trivial, or invisible. (i work in two universities and i run my own web server at one of them, someone pays for this institutionally, but it isn't me, and so is 100% subsidised publishing.) as a consequence you don't have to legitimate the cost of delivery by the assumption of delivering a particular demographic (of course this is different in etailing...). so you can write what you wish, how you wish (as homepages did once, and now blogs do, but numerous other forms of web publishing to boot) and if you did it reasonably well and keep it stable so that it can get linked and indexed, audiences will form.
and they're a different audience. i have readers who might look at two screens from a multiple screen hypertext essay on singin' in the rain because they want the song lyrics, not the semiotic theory, and i have thousands of readers a year who still use my chris marker archive (originally written in 1994 or 5) because it is still one of the best resources for references on marker. i didn't write this for a particular audience, but one has formed around it (a community that if i had been so inclined i could have exploited in various productive ways). online the audience is large enough that readerships will always form around your content, there are channels (link networks) that encourage readers along particular pathways, but as most other media demonstrate, having a link to a site in no way means you've got readers...
to tinderbox which once was ceres. and is now up there in the storefront. ready and waiting. while i'm using this for this vlog and for that it does a bloody good job, it is also just a brilliant environment for keeping your notes. chuck 'em in, sort 'em and let the agents you write pull out the content for you. once you begin to understand how it works (which isn't just reading the manual, its more like you have to let yourself slip into tinderbox space as well) then it's just wonderful. i have one rather odd concern with it though. i would like to use it with my students but i'm worried that it's power is too close to the surface and so students will keep breaking stuff as they try out things. though i imagine if i don't use it as a html publishing engine, only as a note engine, that will be ok.
jill has taken a well aimed swipe at lax citing in blogspace. i'm pretty sure i'm the target of the swipe after the long essay-come-post on teaching in and with blogs the other day. (and the angry email she sent me probably helped me recognise myself in her post too.)
i agree with her comments, but it raises an interesting question or problem about writing in non networked space. since i use tinderbox i can write my stuff off line, which i do a lot. and when i'm offline i don't link to urls that i don't have access to. i often assume that when i'm online i'll get back into those particular notes and add the links, which is something i'd thought i'd do with the long one on blogs and teaching, though of course what often happens is that i just don't get round to it.
i'll ask jill if i can include her email and i'll add all the links from that. i could re-edit the one from the other day but instead i think i'll just add a link to jill's comments and here to contextualise it, since what she writes is fundamental.
just found out that there is a 2 frame out of sync problem with sorenson pro 3.x, and here's the fix, courtesy of ben waggoner via the apple quicktime list:
24.2 sync problem
::24 Feb 2002 10:39::
home from the tibetan buddhist new year's eve party. it was held in a retreat on the way up mt. st. leonards, just out of healsville (we're talking victoria australia here). tall mountain forest, tree ferns, and no doubt several posses of lyrebirds, wombats and kangaroos all nearby.
the place has rows of small dormitory like rooms. each numbered and each limited to a simple mattress and chair. on the lawn a large marquee bubbled with coloured lights and the trellis tables where all sat.
i'm not sure what i expected, but the live music (everything it seemed from a capalla through to what the program described as 'asphalt country'), the screening of hong kong martial arts movies in the meditation hall, and the good natured indulgences in alcohol probably didn't quite fit my expectations. or it did but the prayer flags, images of the dalai lama, and shrines sort of shifted things.
the food was honest, the location wonderful, but even with the drinking, movies, and music it was a quiet sort of party. i guess that's was the buddhist bit.
all my friends there stayed the night. i drove home into the dark. school starts in a week and i'm. well. i'm not very ready yet.
24.2 after the party
is the latest release from on2 and is the vp5 codec. this gets tricky in my field of interactive networked video since high quality proprietary codecs can get expensive and you run into problems with the installed user base.
i currently use the professional version of sorenson (sorenson 3.1) which is very very good, but it is very cpu intensive for playback so if you want to use it for higher bit rate broadband work then you really start to run into some hardware questions.
the on2 codecs on the other hand have always been less demanding in terms of cpu load, and they're definitely been of a comparable quality. however sorenson is part of the base install of quicktime, so anything encoded with sorenson will play off-the-shelf in quicktime (though sorenson 3.x will only run under quicktime 5.x or better). the on2 codecs aren't part of the base install, so you either need a reasonably sophisticated user who knows how to get quicktime to find the optional codecs, or you need to rely on quicktime 5.x where the architecture will prompt the user if there is a missing codec. it's much better than say a missing plugin in a browser, quicktime 5 knows what missing codec it needs, it knows where to get it, and it knows how to install it once you say ok.
i guess i need to try and get a budget so i can trial something like vp5. now where did i put that research lab?
yeah, but blogs are mixed up polyvocal things. i mean this isn't really an essay is it? i mean it is just in between things which makes it rather suited to a blog. - author.
[and of course this note is an appalling example of a blog as it is long, wordy and doesn't have a whole lotta links. - editor.]
have learnt of a party tonight in healsville (a bit over an hour out of town in some beautiful mountain forest) which is at a buddhist retreat. a tibetan new year dance party. for $45 you get the meal (i imagine feast but who knows) and there's music, some films being screened, and byo alcohol. mark and i and some other friends are planning on going, they also provide cabins, so byo bedding and breakfast in the bush! the idea of a buddhist tibetan new years dance party just, well, it's like a screen from the unknown.
23.2 buddhist party
semester starts here in melbourne shortly. i'm teaching my hypertext theory and practice subject as well as an honours seminar in cinema studies (deleuze).
in the honours subject last year i tried to develop a curriculum that let students learn about theoretical reading and writing as a process. what i mean by that is that i wanted to provide and develop skills for them so that in the second half of the year, when they were writing their theses, they would have an ability to engage with thought in their writing. it just struck me that setting yet another 5,000 word research essay as a primary assessment task didn't actually teach them how to write a 15,000 word theses except by quantity of writing. that the processes required are only indirectly dealt with in such teaching styles.
my faculty at rmit has just provided me with a new server for some of the project stuff i do. g4 with a gig of ram, 80gb hard drive and gig ethernet. currently running osx server on it (apache) and quicktime streaming server 4 on it. got apache on one ethernet port, qtss on another so that i can let quicktime clients connect via port 80 if there are firewall problems. so someone somewhere should notice that this is all arriving just a tad faster these days.
22.2 new server
dane and geniwate were in town last night and had dinner with me and mark amerika (il bacaro for those in the know). we had an interesting conversation about using flash or not using flash, as the case may be.
there's been a lot of argument in various net.art communities and forums about using proprietary software and that the universe ought to be open source. (the argument can be complex and consists of more nuances than that, but it's an argument that seems to privilege a degree of computational literacy and nous that runs counter to their own intent - access and accessibility. on the other hand in my particular forums i'm tired of academics advocating open source software and that it's 'free' when all those hours spent fiddling with files and what not are all actually paid for because they're academics.)
jenny's point about proprietary software was very well made which was simply that you needed to develop transferable skills in these sorts of environments. concentrating deeply on one 'tool' (software) tends to produce a particular mode of work (and i guess seeing) that constrains things from other views. i guess while your horizon within the environment expands your horizon outside contracts.
on the other hand i'm very aware of the things that i do in storyspace are utterly transferable, which is why i use it so routinely in my teaching, and that it turns out these are some of the skills that i rely upon in the vogs. so that i started in cinema studies, went off into hypertext, and now the two are returning into each other.
my own frustration with specific tools is rather invalid. i work in networked interactive video and find the flash's hegemony means that many in the new media flash community has virtually no idea of what quicktime can do. this isn't a 'product wars' thing but there's now some great flash narrative and creative work out there, if the same work could be done in quicktime then we'd have worked out a lot of stuff about multilinear video, multiple timelines, and all that stuff by now.
seem to have got tinderbox back into shape for publishing, and used the opportunity to tidy it up a bit and slow down the exporting. i had been exporting a lot of content into html but using the html view i can publish from an agent and not publish the children as individual pages. nice feature and works well.
the vlog has been quiet lately on the publishing front. not because i haven't had things to write but because i've been buried in a round of meetings, discussions, plans, and new developments.
though it's also that i had a big crash back when tinderbox was ceres but tinderbox-was-ceres torched my file. mark b. got it back fine but somewhere in there all my rather complex html templates got unstuck from their notes. i guess this is what comes from making complex templates and not properly documenting them so that it is going to be a very very slow process working out how the wholeshebang actually works - i have notes that get published twice so i rely on attributes within the note to help control this.
paul fishwick is someone who's name pops up on a north american email list i'm on, a greg ulmer list. he's into computer aesthetics, or i guess programming aesthetics and the questions/problems he lists here are really interesting. being a computer user and theoretician but not a programmer i have a lot of trouble imagining what it might mean for an os to look like tron, though the difficulty i had with understanding zigzag is probably symptomatic of the conceptual and cognitive leaps that we need to make.
18.2 visual computing
this is a short note about the claims that british telecom (bt) is making regarding linking in html. they're claiming a patent for it. no idea what the implications are here legally. if they are deemed to hold a patent what that then means. even if that is the case it strikes me as being extraordinarly facetious.
is a press release about the licensing agreement for mpeg4. seems if there is no revenue stream attached or derived from the stream then it's free. anything else pays. the problem is that this gets very confused simply because it seems that if you have students who pay for the course and your mpeg4 stream is a part of your course then they want to charge.
i don't see this as very different to other forms of cost recovery in education. for instance photocopying. however the major difference is that i photocopy once, read multiple times. a mpeg stream is the reverse, i might need to watch it 5 times and it would seem i'm paying for each viewing. now that's a problem.
blender is a freeware 3d modelling environment. various platforms and supports realtime interactivity.
current rambling on the vogs. well. they're not just interactive video, since dvd does that. not that i got anything against dvd. but they do acknowledge something about the network. what is that?
well they happily accommodate and fit into a networked distribution model. this means they don't demand broadband (though it helps but the largest vog to date is only 4.2mb). it means they have a sort of grunge aesthetic which is produced from the domestic technology that i use to make them. single chip camera, imovie, the only high end stuff would be sorenson pro 3 and livestage pro, but for me to call that high end shows my low texcht history. but this aesthetic is also something from say, the french new wave (hey, why not?). not quite cinéma direct, or camera stylò (help me with the accents here) but definitely something about cinema for the masses.
but it isn't only being polite or proper about bandwidth. that just risks becoming an apologia for that infantile stuff about what could be. (why's it infantile? because the wish for instant/unlimited bandwidth is not so very removed from the child's original relationship to the maternal body - insert any or all of -> object relations psychology - lacan - kristeva -> where absence is erased, this becomes a fetish in new media so that things like limited bandwidth/hardware/bugs/crashes are denied or rendered marginal to the work (accessories).)
so bandwidth. no. being networked also means they participate in some manner to the acentric rhizomatic flows that the network is. increasingly they're made from content that resides in different locations. this is usually only different files on the one computer, but the point is that as objects they're actually made from several different objects and that the 'film' isn't a single thing, but is in itself a distributed thing collected and perfomed subject to the individual reader or user instantiation. i like that idea, though it sorta happens under the hood (well in australia we'd say bonnet).
and its time to make clearer where the hot spot of interactivity is in the vogs. the recent ones you mouse in certain places and things will happen, but the information or feedback for this is indirect. it happens elsewhere (mouse across the bottom and things are replaced up the top). this was interesting as a series of experiments, and i don't want to provide buttons or rollovers, but there is something much more pleasurable about realising that mousing into there changes that, rather than some of the very idiosyncratic pieces i've done recently - some of which cause changes in the movie which you cannot respond to.
5.2 a vog is
::5 Feb 2002 19:28::
ceres, as i mentioned the other day, is now tinderbox. don't like the name change. apart from ruining the delightfully named ceres-ly tinderbox just has bad connotations.
i assume it is to suggest that spark of thought that lights our ideas (or perhaps not?). but in australia, particulary in summer, tinderbox means fire. not the fire of the hearth but a fire that kills. we say "tinderbox dry" meaning if a match lands it will be devastating. it has bad connotations.
don't like the name change.
4.2 new names
to solve the problem i've been having of duplicate note names in ceres, sorry, tinderbox, i'm going to try a new naming convention. if i can remember to do it. day.month title, figure that should be pretty safe.
the problem with duplicate names is fine within the program. but when you do an export into html it seems to insert both notes. which is sensible but can cause formatting hell (particularly since when it happens you don't remember this particular problem so spend two hours wondering why all of a sudden it doesn't work).
4.2 duplicate names
that next time i think i ought to contact someone to get in touch, or to write down a bright idea. just do it. as that company likes to say.
too many times the inability to own (realise? recognise) that something is good leads to deferral. froth and bubble. stuff and nonsense.
4.2 remind myself
is a story from britain about teaching and the uses of info. tech. mentions mark amerika's ideas which he's implementing in colorado. we're currently swapping ideas about this while he's here as a visiting fellow.
i'm wanting to design a curriculum for an entire degree program that integrates media in all aspects. it could spell the end of the essay, though it does mean and need the birth of all sorts of new essay forms. it will utilise project and problem based learning and i'm hoping to end up with a curriculum where students when doing media studies at rmit will submit media rich objects that are assessed across disciplines by teams of teachers and students. it's a big ticket idea, which needs a lot of development and care in implementation, but if done the right way it will produce a course that produces graduates equipped for real information economies.
the danger with such ideas is that it gets hijacked (or misunderstood) as mere fashion. change for the sake of. it isn't. in the humanities academy we have become fixated on monumental forms, whether it's the essay, book, thesis. even the humble tute paper. i only seem to assess finished things, never things on the way to being completed. dead things. yet the media world (i teach media studies remember), the world of the media and the taken for granted acronymed world that our students graduate into (CD, DVD, SMS, PC, iMac, HTML) is about change, collaboration, mutation, variability. historical media forms survive (papers, tv, magazines, radio) but their content appears everywhere, pervasively, in multiple formats. this isn't the future it is the world right now. and a teaching process that accommodates this is not reinventing itself as a proto or lapsed dotcom but productively engaging with the possibilities that there are other ways.
of course this refers to teaching practice, but it also refers to the objects that we make. so there are two prongs, a move towards process based (and probably project based) teaching, and within this the realisation/understanding that letting students make/write/code (or just invent an acronmyn of your own, lets say codework which is either from mez or mark amerika, or perhaps both?) media rich things means that when they work in the digital pond new life forms emerge. these have different qualities and properties to what we ordinarily think academic 'work' is (remember monuments) or who does the work, but they are contextually dense expressions of learning. that's their strength. i find all this bleedingly obvious which is something i must forget. otherwise i rant and the foaming mouth interferes with the message.