Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Permission Culture" and it's Restrictions on Art

In Lawrence Lessig's article "The Failure of Fair Use and the Future of Free Culture", Lessig points out that our culture has become a "permission culture" that restricts the creativity of the general public. This means that in order to mix media for art's sake, one must first obtain permission from the copyright owners of the media that is being mixed. At first glance, this may seem like a reasonable thing to expect; however, this greatly restricts the creativity that the general public possesses. It would be nearly impossible for a person of average income to be able to afford to ask permission to use a song or a movie clip in a home-made video project. Alas, this is what the law demands. It is easy to see how this greatly limits the digital artist. This "permission culture" is becoming more prominent as technology advances. Today, the average person has easy and affordable access to countless media as well as software that is capable of mixing it. However, even though almost anyone has the capabilities of making multimedia art, the law strictly forbids it with the exception of fair use.

A couple years ago, I picked up the hobby of mashing video game cut scenes or clips from anime cartoons with some of my favorite songs to create music videos. So far, I have made 5 AMVs (anime music videos) and have spent countless hours in the production. First, I decide which game or anime that I want to turn into a music video. Then, based on the game that I decided on, I pick a song that I feel matches the mood or storyline. After deciding the basics, I start to experiment in Windows Movie Maker (I realize that this is an outdated software that is poor quality, but it meets my needs without me having to purchase any new software). After hours of production, the end product is, in my opinion, fantastic. Naturally, I want the world to be able to see the art that I have created and so my first instinct is to upload the video project to Youtube. The video that I am most proud of mashed the song "Blue Lips" by Regina Spektor with cut scenes from the Kingdom Hearts series. The lyrics of the song match the storyline of Kingdom Hearts so well, it's almost eerie. The scenes in the video that I made transition with the beat of the song, and the lyrics match what is being show in the scenes. Overall, I am extremely proud of this creation.

Despite the amount of time that I put in this video as well as the fact that it was purely artistic, the video was almost immediately taken down by Youtube because of the copyright laws. As stated in the article, we are part of a "permission culture". It would seem ridiculous for me to have to ask permission from Regina Spektor as well as the creators of Kingdom Hearts to be able to post this video because they are unreachable and would not spare a moment to listen, but this is what the law requires. Copyright laws greatly restricted my ability to share the art that took me so long to create. I had no intension of making a prophet off of the videos that I created, and I stated in their descriptions that I did not own the rights to the song or the cut scenes that I used. I simply wanted to share what I had created. As a studio art/film major, I take great pride in my multimedia art, and it is disheartening to know that no one will be able to view my art unless I show it to them in person. Oddly enough, Youtube recently allowed all of my videos to be public because they matched third party content. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I am extremely grateful for my art to be able to be viewed by a public audience.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Photography's Journey From Film to Digital

In Doane's article “Indexicality and the Concept of Medium Specificity”, medium specificity was discussed in regards to photography and film. The article seemed to focus on how the medium has been changing over time as technology advances. For example, photography did not start off with using film. First, the calotype was invented, which "burned" the image onto a metal plate. As technology advanced, photography began to incorporate film. As technology advanced further, film was no longer specific to the photography medium. Film could also be used to capture moving images in cinema. As technology advanced even further still, digital media became popular and film was no longer necessary to capture photographic images or moving images. Captured images were no longer specific to film photography or moving-image cinema. As technology changes, certain aspects of certain mediums are no longer specific to that sole medium. Mediums can work together in the digital age.

 All throughout high school, I have been working with photography. I learned how to develop my own film in a darkroom, and I also learned how to enlarge my own prints in a darkroom. I am very fond of my knowledge of photography, and I am proud to say that I am am able to develop my own film and prints. It saddens me that the digital medium is becoming much more popular than the "old-fashioned" film medium. To me, it seems as though many digital images are fake. If a photo is not impressive when taken, it can be made impressive by editing it on the computer. To me, this seems like a form of cheating. When I take a photo with a 35mm camera and develop it myself in a darkroom, I am extremely proud when the image is beautiful because I did not need to edit it on a computer to make it beautiful. I feel as though the physical work of producing the image is quite rewarding when I develop my prints with my hands. Over the years, I have produced many gorgeous prints. During my senior year of high school, I managed to develop a set of 3 images from a fisheye camera. In my opinion, these were the best images I have created because they work together as a set to tell a story. I also find the contrast to be quite stunning because I did not edit the photos to have such a gorgeous contrast.

As stated in the article, technology is constantly changing and certain aspects of mediums are no longer specific to that sole medium. I developed these images myself in a darkroom, but as you can see, they are now on the internet. These images are no longer specific to print. Although I scanned these images in order to post them on the internet, I did not edit them in any way once I uploaded them. I feel as though it would have tainted the already beautiful images that I created with my hands. As stated in the article, "For within the digital realm, there is no difference between original and copy, and information outlasts its material support. As the technology changes, the information can simply be transferred, without loss, from one 'medium' to another." By scanning these images, I transferred my physical prints from the print medium to the digital. Now, I will be able to keep these photos much longer than if I simply kept the prints. Already, my prints are deteriorating because I did not leave them in the fixer as long as a should have, and so light is beginning to ruin the photos. These digital copies that I now have in my possession will outlast the prints, as the article states. I see no problem in transferring the print medium to the digital; however, I am worried that the "old-fashioned" film medium will be lost in the future. I hope that even though the digital medium is easier to access for most people, the film medium will still prevail for art's sake.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Creating a Flowchart for "Run Lola Run"

In "Writing for Multimedia and the Web" by Timothy Garrand, chapters 3 and  5 focus  on creating flowcharts and script formatting. Garrand explains that in order to be successful in multimedia, your organization must be simple and easy to understand for anyone who is looking at your site, hypertext, movie, etc.. To make organization simple, it would be best to first create a flowchart that breaks down the main points of your project. After the flowchart is complete, a writer can then write the script for their project much more easily than is the flowchart had not been created. A great example of where a flowchart can be useful can be seen in the film “Run Lola Run”.
“Run Lola Run” is a somewhat experimental German film that was made in 1998. In the film, time is extremely crucial. The main character, Lola, must race against time to obtain $100,000 in 20 minutes or less for her boyfriend, Manni, who needed the money to save his life. The film follows a mainly linear format; however, the entire plot of the film is carried out 3 times from start to end. The first 2 times that it is carried out, the end result was death, but the final time victory was achieved. Each attempt yielded different outcomes based on interactions Lola had with characters throughout the film. The slightest interaction changed the entire course of history for both Lola and the minor characters. This style may seem experimental to many people, but in the end, a beautiful film was the result.
“Run Lola Run” can be very complicated to understand if someone only watches it once. Every little detail is important and effects the entire course of the plot. In order to keep track of the important details, a viewer of the film could take Garrand’s advice and make a flowchart of the plot. By making a flowchart with a few rows and columns, the details can be very easy to keep track of; also, the slight differences between each of Lola’s 3 attempts at saving Manni become clear. For example, in the first run through, Lola passed a boy and a dog in the stairwell of her apartment. In the second run through, she passed the same boy and dog, but the boy tripped her, causing her to lose time. By creating a simple flowchart, these slight differences become much more apparent and easier to understand. The same flowchart concept can be applied to creating multimedia for the web.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Interactions between characters in "Citizen Kane"

In Garrand’s book “Writing for Multimedia and the Web”, a section of the first chapter is about the importance of characters in multimedia. The book states that sometimes, the main function of a character in multimedia is to guide interactions. For example, in the Nancy Drew computer game, telephone calls from her friends as well as other characters guide her in one direction or another. This is common in multimedia such as video games and films. Video games allow the player to have freedom over what they choose to do in regards to the game; film, on the other hand, limits the viewer because they are not able to control what happens next. Film viewers must rely on the characters in the film to progress the plot.
            One of the most classic films of all time is Citizen Kane. The narration of this film is quite unique because it is told from the perspective of many different people. Throughout the film, a reporter named Jerry Thompson is trying to find out the meaning of Kane’s last word: “Rosebud”. Thompson interviews many people who knew Kane well during his lifetime. Kane’s life unfolds through the memories of those who knew him. Specific details about certain characters also unfold through the perspective of the characters themselves; characters sometimes talk about themselves in the past, and sometimes they refer to other characters in the past. Through this method of storytelling, the plot of  “Citizen Kane” unfolds.
Garrand’s book states that multimedia is the combination of many media into a single piece of work. This could be a combination of video, text, audio, photos, etc., and so the film “Citizen Kane” falls into the multimedia category because it (along with most other films) incorporates video and audio. “Citizen Kane” is a great example of how characters guide interactions. In this sense, characters in the film “Citizen Kane” guide the plot of the film from one point to another. Garrand’s book refers to interactions between people and the web (or other forms of multimedia such as video games), but in “Citizen Kane”, the interactions are between characters in the film. As stated earlier, films limit interactions between viewers and the film itself because the viewers are not able to control what happens in a film. However, the same basic concept of characters guiding interactions can still be applied to films. The only difference is that with films, the interactions are between characters in the films.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Connection Between Hypertext and Wikipedia

In the article “Hypermedia and Literary Studies”, Paul Delany and George P. Landow discuss how hypermedia can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage to students. Students may find hypertext beneficial to their studies. Hypertext and hypermedia allow students to easily find articles that are on the subject that they wish to study. Once they find a suitable article, they are then able to find other related articles that could further their studies. This could also help when students are trying to find multiple sources. On the other hand, students might not find the exact article they need. This could potentially lead to more unrelated articles. Also, hypertext and hypermedia can be modified by readers. This could make a “bad” article better, or it could make a “good” article worse.

 A great example of hypertext/hypermedia is the popular website Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is free to the public. It also allows anyone to post their own articles and entries. Because of this, Wikipedia has a vast collection of articles on almost every subject. Not only are readers allowed to post their own articles, Wikipedia also allows readers to edit or add on to any article that they feel needs to be edited. This can be beneficial as well as harmful.

 For a student, Wikipedia can provide many useful articles on any subject. A student can also look up information simply for the sake of gaining knowledge in a field of their interests; it does not have to be used academically. However, most teachers strongly advise students not to use Wikipedia for their homework or studies. This is because anyone can edit an article to make the information false, or they can simply post an article that contains false information. As stated in the Hypermedia article, printed books are considered finished once they are printed; hypertext is not finished until it is printed. Because of this, Wikipedia will never be “finished” and will always contain false information. IT is not always easy to tell which articles are trusted and which are not.

Personally, I love the .hack anime/manga/video game series, and I found a wiki that I found useful. It is not from Wikipedia, but it works in a similar way that it provides links to similar articles that may provide extra information. This would not be useful for a student, but it can provide anyone with information for their personal interests, like Wikipedia.