Sven Lutticken’s “Undead Media”: (2004)

The concept of the undead media is a fascinating one. The idea of a new form of media borrowing from an ‘outdated’, or ‘dead’ one, is somewhat monstrous or vampiric in its own right. However, Lutticken’s paper is rather hard to grasp on first reading and takes a number of readings to sink in, it seems to be worth reading a few more times, as well as some of the referenced papers.

  • The ‘post-medium’ and ‘post-media’ ages exist because digital media has no distinguishing ‘essential characteristics’ to tell them definitively apart, such as films with interactive elements borrowing characteristics from games.
  • It is important to keep in mind a medium’s history when evaluating its current position in modern mass media. “While we now talk of the medium as well as the art of painting, it was once only the latter.’
  • Traditionally, medium in the arts, referred to specific substances, such as oil or water colour paints. There for, paintings were not the medium. As such, a new term was needed. The media, newspapers, films, etc.
  • The digitization of media ‘mimic’ the characteristics of the original. According to some, the concept of the medium and the actual media are already deceased. If this is true, then the digitized media can be seen as ‘Undead’. As “Vampires or phantoms that continue to haunt us”, adopting elements, mimicking, and feeding on the original.
  • Gesamtkunstwerk, “A total work of art”. Integrating art and society. – The Nazi’s and the Soviet Union used films to attempt to shape their ideal societies.

People to look at:

  • Bruce Sterling
  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Luchino Visconti
  • Lev Manovich
  • Rosalind Krauss

Digital Portrait Project – Part Two [Practical Media]

basic-ideaThe initial idea of using an infinite canvas to explore a digital portrait is intriguing. Our true selves are made up of different aspects that we display in different environments and through different media, there for the physical and digital worlds are both extensions of ourselves just as much as the other. Both equal and influence the other. This could be represented by an even split through an individual with the infinite canvas feature allowing a user to explore the different sides.

As the internet is the extension of the nerve system, that should be shown as branching from the brain on the digital side, but they should also be able to connect to aspects of the physical world. For example my love of comics is shown largely in the physical world, confounded by my large physical library, but is influenced and shared through discussion and research online. Branching pathways may be an option, borrowing for Scott McCloud’s ‘trails’ technique in his early infinite canvas comics [McCloud, 1998]. However, McCloud used trails to inform the reader of which order to read the panels in, it may be better here to set them up as a branching path system. A good example to look at would be A Webcomic Tetrad by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, as it uses the infinite canvas comic to explore how McLuhan’s four laws of media can be applied to webcomics.

basic-idea-thought-through

Maybe, starting with a structured collage that can be navigated with a panel overlay..?

digital-portrait-proto

I like the idea of using photographs for the physical world and screen shots for the digital, but I think more information needs to be shown. My research needs to be implemented more. Perhaps post-it notes for the physical world and something else for the digital, I’m not sure what else. Panel layout shout be added as an overlay that branch out to each other in a connected fashion (things related to the film fan connecting to each other and spanning into the film research area, research in general, research in games, convention work etc.). A prototype layout is next to be made before implementing the infinite canvas feature.

  • Goodbrey, D. (2001) A Webcomic Tetrad. [Online] Available from: http://e-merl.com/comtet.htm [Last Accessed: 29/09/16}
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (1998) Porphyria’s Lover. [Online] Available from: http://scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/porphyria/index.html [Last Accessed: 29/09/16]
  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man. Routledge Classics. Oxon.
  • Shedd, A. (2005) No Borders, No Limits: The Infinite Canvas as a Storytelling Tool in Online Comics. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Idaho.

Digital Portrait Project – Part One [Practical Media]

Our first week’s task requires the making of a ‘Digital Portrait’, centred on personal identities, and how technology transforms that identity in the digital landscape. The question posed to us as a starting point was, ‘What is the relationship between the media you use and your own sense of self’? This in itself poses a question. What is my own sense of self? What am I? Well, I’m a comic book fan, I love films, and I’m a Masters student in Digital Media. I’m a researcher at heart, an Illustrator and podcaster. To a lesser extent, I am a gamer, though I spend more time looking through the history of games and working at conventions rather than playing them, a musician, a martial artist and, biologically speaking, I am a woman. With at least a surface Idea of what I am, I have to now review how each of these aspects relate to my digital self, and how that relates to my physical being.

A lot of my interests and subjects that I use to classify myself, are influenced by the World Wide Web. While most of them were cultivated in the physical world, with books, comics, VHS cassettes, DVD’s and cartridges littering my library (A physical collection of shelves that has stayed with me and feels to reflect myself, as a library should for any owner), the advent of the internet allowed for these passions and defining qualities to be shared with a much wider audience and be expanded upon with the freedom and infinite spread of knowledge the web allows. According to McLuhan’s theories of ‘The Extension of Man’, the infinite supply of information the web provides, is an extension of our own central nerve system. [McLuhan. 1964] The expansion of our own interests in real life through the internet, does provide a way for us to expand our thinking to an almost infinite space and share our thoughts.

Some interests, such as occasionally gaming and at times the temporary escape of films, books and comics, can allow the individual to live the life of another vicariously through the medium. Rather than extending one’s self, the individual can reinvent or inhabit another, while still expanding that experience through the global net.

The infinite nature for these expansions could be explored using an infinite canvas lay out. More research and planning required..

  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man. Routledge Classics. Oxon.

Digital Comics: Infinite Canvas meets Infinite Time.

The idea of a comic book would most likely bring to mind the image of dog eared magazine, decorated in the garb of colourful superhero action, such as Superman or Spider-man, or comical animal strips, including the likes of Garfield, found in your everyday newspaper, due to the image that the mainstream media has perpetuated. With this image in mind, the general public can view the comic book medium as a playground tailored for children and the immature, a notion once shared by the creators themselves [Howe. 2012], this can put off some creators, as they “have a very limited audience and little chance of seeing any returns for their efforts” [Shedd. 2005:05]. The advent and ease of access of the World Wide Web, allows for creators to share their own comics with a wide audience without the fear of distribution costs, the freedom of genre, and complete creative control over their work. With that freedom in mind and the implementation of web only features, such as HTML and Flash, the medium itself could be played with and experimented upon, creating interactive experiences and motion sequences.

However, the creation of motion and interactive comics, according to Scott McCloud, could fall into the same trap as the traditional printed medium, using the screen in the same manner as a standard page. Unlike a sheet of paper, which has defined dimensions and can be ripped and ruined, a screen can be viewed as a window, an infinite space. “The goal is to use the infinite nature of the web to the advantage of the medium, rather than be constrained by panels and pages” [Booker, 2014:1825]. The expansion of a comic beyond its original dimensions, allows for a creator to experiment with what we traditionally see as a comic, and take “advantage of the medium to a much higher degree” [Shedd, 2005:09], using the added space and flexibility to complement the story being told.

The implementation of an infinite X and Y axis can add a sense of time to the work, as information is being revelled to the audience in a controlled setting. A practice McCloud refers to as “gradualism – slowly gaining information by slowly scrolling through an image or sequence of images” [McCloud, 2007]. This practice can, theoretically, expand on an idea of Marshall McLuhan, and the notion of time between panels. That the space in between comic book panels is infinite and can only be determined by what comes before and after. “The viewer, or reader, is compelled to participate in completing and interpreting the few hints provided by the bounding lines” [McLuhan, 1964:174]. An idea also expounded upon by McCloud, with the example of an off panel death, “To kill a man between Panels is to condemn him to a thousand deaths” [McCloud, 1993:68].

  • Blake, C. (2013) The digital evolution: from infinite canvas to infinite comics. [Online] Comic Book Resources. Available from: http://www.cbr.com/the-digital-evolution-from-infinite-canvas-to-infinite-comics/ [Last accessed: 28/09/2016]
  • Booker, M. (2014) Comics through Time. A History of Icons, Idols and Ideas. Greenwood
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics. The Untold Story. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (2007) Reinventing Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. Routledge, Oxon.
  • Shedd, A. (2005) No Borders, No Limits: The Infinite Canvas as a Storytelling Tool in Online Comics. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Idaho.

Revisiting Batman Begins (2005)

Breaking through the fear, and becoming a legend. A symbol.

Batman_Begins_poster6

 

With the release of the abysmal ‘Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ earlier in the year, it seemed only fitting to revisit Batman’s previous outing, beginning with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’. Nolan’s trilogy has been held by many as quintessential viewing when it comes to superhero films, as it delves deep into Batman’s long history and presents it in a grounded fashion, making it more accessible to a non-comic reading audience, leading to its success at the box office, as well as pleasing to the long time Bat fans.

Batman Begins brings Batman’s already well known origin to the big screen, but places a much larger emphasis on Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman. Allowing us to emphasis with Bruce and attempt to understand why a character like Batman would exist. The film’s opening and subsequent flash backs to childhood build up the ongoing presence of Bats throughout Bruce’s life, as well as his happy and fulfilling childhood and his relationship with his parents, especially his father. This gives a far greater weight to his parents death, as we have a greater understanding of how pivirol a role they played in shaping him. He reminds Bruce that when we fall, we must pick ourselves back up. While 2016s ‘Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ places a large, and somewhat convoluted, emphasis on mothers, Batman Begins develops Bruce’s relationship with his father and the respect he has for him. His father is the one to initially pull him back out of the cave, surrounded by his fear, and tells him that it’s ok. The inciting incident that causes his parents death, comes from his father wanting to keep Bruce feeling safe. The change from ‘The Mark of Zorro’ to a play featuring Bats, allows Bruce’s fear to get the better of him and leads directly to the meeting with Joe Chill in crime alley. This adds a level of guilt to Bruce’s fear, and already tainted perception of Bats. Bruce even confides in Ducard that his “anger out ways [his] guilt”. The image of Bruce sat, almost centre screen, in the alley, perfectly mirrors the depictions in Frank Millar and David Mazzucchelli ‘Batman: Year One’, which the film takes heavy inspiration from.screen-shot-2013-01-18-at-1-55-05-pm

At its heart, Batman Begins is a film about fear. How our fears can rule us, the importance of overcoming it and using it to grow stronger. Several characters throughout the film remind Bruce of the power of fear, Ducard reminds Bruce of what fear can do to us, “What you really fear, is inside yourself. You fear your own power, you fear your anger. The drive to do great and terrible things”. Bruce’s meeting with Falcone provides him with the proof that being feared gives you a power that “money just can’t buy. The power of fear”. With Scarecrow being the culmination of fear as power in the hands of a villain, “I respect the minds power over the body. It’s why I do what I do”.

batmanbegins2Bruce’s devotion to his father is further emphasised in two later scenes. During his training, Ducard tells Bruce that his parents death was not his fault, it was his father, enraging Bruce. “Your anger gives you great power, but if you let it, it will destroy you.” Later, during a flashback to the day of Joe Chill’s trial, Bruce reveals to Rachael that he planned to kill Joe Chill himself and presents the gun that he had been hiding. Rachael slaps him and reminds him that his father would be ashamed of his decision. The earlier devotion shown towards his father, and his father’s profession as a doctor (a healer), instils in Bruce the idea that killing is not the answer, that it makes you no better than the criminals that took his parents away from him. Cemented when he throws the gun away into the ocean.

These early interactions and conversation shape the idea in Bruce’s mind of what he needs to be to insight any change in the city, and bring the criminals of Gotham to their knees. Bruce’s trek to the League’s hideout and his immediate fight with Ducard hit hard as reminders that he must be ready at all times. The villains will not wait for him, they will come at any time. He must be prepared to be the Batman at all times. The lessons he learns from Ducard allow him to not only understand his fears but understand the power it has over others, “to manipulate the fears in others, you must first conquer your own”.

“As a man, as flesh and blood, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol. As a symbol, I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” “Something terrifying.”

Crane02The use of the Scarecrow and Dr. Jonathan Crane is a bold choice as a lead villain in Nolan’s first outing with Batman. The character is little used outside of the comics, making him far less known than some of the other members of Batman’s rouge gallery, such as The Joker, Catwoman, Penguin or even the Riddler. This allows actor Cillian Murphy to leave an impressive mark on the character and define him in the public consciousness. The implementation of Scarecrow in to Batman’s origin story, plays largely into the films theme of fear as Bruce must overcome his own fear, become fear in the hearts of criminals, and defeat fear in the form of Scarecrow.

The Films portrayal of Jim Gordon borrows heavily from ‘Batman: Year One’, with Gordon acting as a moral centre for a corrupt Police Department. Oldman plays Gordon incredibly well, as a man who emphasises with the Batman, hating the corruption that runs through the Gotham PD and the city, but wants to change things from the inside. Becoming a lawful counterpart to Batman. Michael Caine brings a great depth of emotion to his portrayal of Alfred, giving Alfred a far more apparent position as a surrogate father figure to Bruce. One that emphasises the importance of that relationship more for Alfred then to Bruce, as appose to previous incarnations.

batmanbegins_1600The city of Gotham is grounded much more in reality compared to previous incarnations, feeling much more like a living breathing city, helped by its influences from the real life cities of New York and Chicago, as appose to the sound stage hell created for the Burton and Schumacher films.

Batman Begins takes heavy influence from several key Batman stories throughout his almost 80 year history. With ‘Batman: Year One’ by Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli, being the largest contributer to both Bruce’s origins, Gordon’s characterisation, as well as heavily influencing visual aspects of the film. Details of Bruce’s training in the mountains take its lead from the 1989 one-shot ‘The Man Who Falls’, and the films depiction of Scarecrow borrows heavily from the works of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in ‘Batman: The Long Halloween’ and ‘Batman: Haunted Knight’. Other titles the film could possibly take influence from are ‘Batman #232’, ‘Batman: War on Crime’, ‘Batman Annual #8’, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Batman #400’.

Batman Begins is a strong opening to The Dark Knight Trilogy, and a fine example of an origin story done right, though origin story films have become somewhat over saturated since the film’s release. The depth to which the film borrows from Batman’s long history and the extraordinary casting, gives us a faithful and interesting look and the Caped Crusader on the big screen, excisable for both long time fans and the general public. While Batman Begins works largely as an origin story, and does it well, it would have been interesting to see the evolution of Batman’s detective abilities as he is the Dark Knight Detective, something I feel few films have explored about the character and could be an interesting premise for future outings.

 

– Barr, M. Eeden, T. (1982) Batman Annual Vol. 1 #8. DC Comics, New York.
-Dini, P. Ross, A. (1999) Batman: War on Crime. DC Comics, New York.
-Loeb, J. & Sale, T. (1996) Batman: The Long Halloween. DC Comics, New York.
– Loeb, J & Sale, T. (1996) Batman: Haunted Knight. DC Comics, New York.
– Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics, New York.
– Miller, F & Mazzucchelli, D. (1986) Batman: Year One. DC Comics, New York.
– Monench, D. (1986) Batman Vol. 1 #400. DC Comics. New York.
– Nolan, C. (2005). Batman Begins. Syncopy. Warner Bros.
– O’Neil, D. Adams, N. (1971) Batman Vol. 1 #232. DC Comics, New York.
– O’Neil, D. Giordano, D. (1989) Batman: The Man Who Falls. DC Comics, New York.