Revolution Lullabye

March 18, 2009

Kirschenbaum, The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. “The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction.” In Eloquent Images. Eds. Hocks and Kendrick. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 137-156.

Kirschenbaum, writing from the perspective of applied humanities computing, contests the argument that digital media has allowed texts and images to be easily integrated with each other. He looks at the history of printing and how images are being made searchable through computer algorithms to show that texts and images are still treated differently in digital media because they have different material constraints and limitations. Some include the long upload time for images versus text and how images are still invisible (in many ways) and dense for search engines to navigate, explore, and use effectively. Mark-up language (SGML, XML) has helped some, but these tags force the designer to transform the image into formal elements and named categories. He shows that even applications like Flash (vector applications) do not truly integrate word and image into a usable form because they are designed from scratch, are time-consuming, and again, invisible to searching engines.

Quotable Quotes

“The notion that digital texts and images are infinitely fluid and malleable is an aesthetic conceit divorced from technical practice” (154).

“There are significant ontological continuities with analog media that are not adequately accounted for by casual assertions about the blurred boundaries between word and image” (153).

“The lesson in all this is that the material truths of digital reproduction exist in constant tension wiht the Web’s siren song of the visual” (140)

Notable Notes

images are costly problems in printed texts; they are often separated from the text (see Tufte for an exception) and this historic separation of text and image began in the days of the movable type press – images were etched, engraved, or photos that were designed separate from the text.

material limitations of printing led to design choices that last after the limitations end (Macintosh fonts as an example, pixelated)

applied humanities computing – digitizing archives, William Blake’s poetry and designs, art work

data becomes textual, not graphical (with mark-up language) (150)

uses his Flash/vector example of Lucid Mapping

If the text isn’t searchable, how interactive is it?

the material constraints of computing


Bolter, Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media

Bolter, Jay David. “Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media.” In Eloquent Images. Eds. Hocks and Kendrick. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 19-36.

Bolter argues that writing teachers have a unique position in the university for approaching new media as a critical practice, distinct from the critical analysis done in the humanities and the practice of new media done in graphic design and fine arts. His chapter explores the binaries present in the study of new media (dichotomies present in other areas of the university as well): theory/practice; critique/production; the ideological/the formal; the verbal/the visual, seeing how the critical practice of design in new media challenges them. Bolter shows how his department at Georgia Tech plays with the tensions in these dichotomies in an eclectic, multidisciplinary way.

Quotable Quotes

“The World Wide Web and other new media challenge not only the form of the book, but also the representational power of the printed word.” (21)

repurpose v. remediate: repurpose = “pour content from one media form into another, while attempting to replicate the earlier medium’s definition of the authentic.” (29) remediate = “to borrow the sense of the authentic from one media form and to refashion it for another” (29), what good Web designers do.

“a new critical theory is needed that can make us aware of the cultural and historical contexts (and ideologies) without dismissing or downplaying the formal characteristics of new media” (34)

“design in context must be critical and productive at the same time” (34)

Notable Notes

can the Internet replace printed books? is that the goal?

new media as a critical vehicle, you do something with it, not just talk about it or critique it.

educators are trying to close that theory/practice binary

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