Reading Media Culture – Friday’s class notes

January 19, 2009

Summarize in 500 words (2 pages) one of the readings for next week
– Digital Encounters – deal with animation and interface
– Introduction to Gramophone – linking technologies / theorizing military and ideological reasoning behind the technologies

– film, video and media were used to expand our minds to make us speculate and understand what Egoyan was up to when he made the film, Calendar
– we are all media consumers, producers
– medium = plural of media = collective of mass types of media
– ceramics, painting, writing = media as well (think outside the box to what is considered media and artists who create them are still media makers)
– systems or vehicles for the transmission of ideas or entertainment = transportation method
– media are the materials that communicate – early examples, hieroglyphs, alphabet, radio, moving image…
– the human body produces a form of mediation such as shown in the public performance (dance, spoken word, music…)
– Calendar had multiple types of media and media technologies listed
– translation, transcription and interpretation or size have an effect on the distribution method and overall interpretation that the media has on the audience (ie: watching a movie on your iPod vs. watching it on an iMax screen)
– all media give shape to experience – human experiences are affected
– selectivity of media and method of distribution helps set the tone of the piece (amplify, extends, restricts or prohibits)
– may open or close doors (reveal, conceal)

Issue of memory / morality
– rise of video distribution has enhanced the dissemination of culture, thought, ideas and art can be compared to the Guttenberg press – more people who can read and access information
– the loss that results is that people do not have to remember anything when they can simply look it up
– medium is another term for language (create dialog and communicate with an audience and articulate an idea or way of thinking)
– The medium is the Message
– mode of transmission that forms part of our total environment
– in the film Calendar, the telephone becomes a medium that mediates communication between two people on either end of the phone
– character relationships are mediated through the various technologies shown in the film (phone, video camera, answering machine, many different languages, written notes and letter, human body of Egoyan’s wife in the way she interacts with the guide)

Marshall McLuhan
– canadian scholar who embraced various media technologies during the 1960’s
– the professor in the film Videodrome, by David Cronenberg was a satire of him

– book called Understanding Media – Extensions of Man and Guttenberg Galaxy
– metaphor of a paradox – medium is the message – global village
– most important = tools to provide understanding technology
– all technological advances produce a new type of sensorial experience and alters human embodiment and reaction to the technology
– seduction and power of media technology – humans become mesmerized by technology
– called his ideas prose so they are designed as thought pieces to change perspectives in the reader
– writings were prophetic – anticipated the persuasiveness of the extent of media technologies available to the general public today
– cross-disciplinary media has further contributed to his idea of the global village and is being documented by a new generation of media savvy artists
– size of the day changed for many with the introduction of the electric light = communication media with no overt content
– message of electric light = purest form of information because it makes thing instant – acceleration of time
– invention of electrical light irrevocably changed human culture (revolutionary media)

“The message of electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, persuasive and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone and TV, creating involvement and depth.”

Mothlight – Stan Brakhage

– this is used as an example of McLuhan’s ideation about technology being required to disseminate information
– the purest form of watching this film would be to watch it on film and have the actual light to shine through the moth wings onto a screen

– what are the properties common to all media and what and what are the specific to individual types of media – what are the properties associated with that media? (ie: film vs video vs photography vs print vs painting vs sculpture…) – what is essential for the medium to consist of in order to convey the associated ideation to the audience?
– McLuhan talks about when we use the medium for a particular purpose, it becomes a part of that purpose (form of content)
– subscribe to the idea that the medium that is chosen to convey the art that that technology becomes prominent and has a voice
– technologies become interpretative frameworks – representation is a major theme of this course
– what messages are encoded in the choices made in how they publish their work
– ie: Fast Film
– brain shifting = ability to question to what you as the audience are viewing – what is the artist trying to convey to me and not in any other way?
– process by media and process of mediation interact with one another
– personal, social consequence of particular types of media – introduction of TV changed the family dynamic (eat dinner at the table or in front of the tv)

FUJI – by Robert Breer (1974)
– an experimental animation – very original for its time – good use of rotoscoping – animating over existing film stock and combining film footage with animated overlays
– framing an artwork is a method of mediation (process of inclusion and exclusion)
– composing the frame and deciding more importantly what is in the frame is also an act of mediation
– framing devices used in both Calendar and Fuji
– page 375 (bordwell & thompson) – use of rotoscoping – use of motion picture footage and print over it with frame by frame animation or otherwise manipulate
– original derivation comes from motion picture (series of images)
– motion capture is a form of rotoscoping (different but related)
– Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly are contemporary examples of this process
– window frame of the picture frame is on display in Fuji = frame within a frame
– 24 views of Mount Fuji is mediated by this footage of the place on the train and looking out of the window and then further extrapolated by the rotoscoping
– technological applications that appear in the film (line art, colour splotches) become mediations in their own right as well as existing as the sum of the piece
– perspective is dictated by the person who took the footage (north american tourist visiting Japan and the inaccessibility to outsiders = culture is alien to him)
– commentary on representation – as a cultural outsider truthfully represent that culture or that cultural icon in a media presentation
– the subject matter is further mediated by his body language and interaction with Japanese people on the train
– he’s not trying to be politically correct and act with reverence to such an iconic Japanese symbol – he was simply trying to illustrate his personal connection to Mt. Fuji as a tourist and as an artist — he’s acknowledging his own subjective, highly mediated experience of Mt. Fuji

Calendar – by Atom Egoyan
– deals with issues of tourism and also uses framing devices
– various storylines run through the film and they each have their own transmission mode
– the film itself exists as a signature medium to begin with – base layer for the other transmission methods to be projected
– video footage within the film acts as above as a frame within a frame so as the audience to experience and feel different emotions then the base film itself
– video camera is mobile and handheld lacking the resolution of the high-end production film camera
– a trauma has been inflicted on the Armenian people by the Ottoman/Turkish empire – not overtly referenced yet that is the reason why the Churches were abandoned and now revered as holy shrines
– they were the headquarters of religious identity and for the christian armenian population but also their own headquarters of population control (christian dogma being forced on the masses)
– cultural tourist in Armenia but also in his own marriage – without knowledge of what the significance of the churches signify, but more importantly without knowledge of the significance of the growing relationship between his wife and the guide
– ideation of separation and language barriers are developed and referenced
– obsession – he becomes paranoid at the aspect of feeling estranged of losing understanding of the situation
– interesting duality in the fact that Egoyan himself appears in it and plays the part of the fool and not understanding the importance of what the churches represent to the history of the massacre of the Armenian people – he would eventually make a future film called Ararat which specifically addresses this massacre, which is still denied by the Turkish government to this day
– further framing is shown in Egoyan’s kitchen as he has multiple dinner encounters with several different escorts, yet whom each are a different cultural background and speak different languages
– the phone scenes are further compared as each escort asks to use the phone and make outgoing calls vs. his ex wife making incoming calls
– there is a sick fascination for Egoyan to reconstruct the visceral and deeply hurtful experience of losing his wife in order to create the urge to write the letter
– forced alienation is the message being portrayed in each location (Armenia, kitchen)
– idea that memory is as collective as it is individual – community of two and individual conscience of the cameraman
– engages in a pathetic way in how he responds to his lack of interest in the history behind the churches and also in his pathetic attempt to write the letter but only with the reconstruction of traumatic memories with the escorts

A new type of media permeates the scene, a new problem of memory can be observed. (positive and negative charge – change for both good and bad)

Reading Media Culture – MHIS 206 @ Emily Carr

January 13, 2009

Fast Film – Virgil Widrich

– element of self reflection
– delight as educated film viewers watching the ingenuity of the animation
– patterns of juxtaposition of the different films put together to form a cohesive narrative
– distributed attention – I have the desire to watch the film again frame by frame in order to absorb greater meaning from the film clips
– inter textuality = film implicitly or explicitly alludes to or references other films
– the film lionizes the art of film making

Cinephilia = people who love film disproportionately

A Cinemaphile or Cinephile is most respectably noted as a person who dedicates their life to the academic study of cinema. The earliest cinephiles were that who bore the French New Wave or La Nouvelle Vague – André Bazin, Jacques Donial-Valcroze and Alexandre Astruc amongst others and film movements.

Could be a colloquial name for someone who is an avid fan of movies. From knowing hundreds and thousand of small facts and anecdotal stories to do with all their favourite films, being able to perfectly repeat large portions of script from their favourite films – all from memory (imitating all the various characters as they go), to collecting all the merchandise, associated paraphernalia, movie posters, various versions of the movie, cinemaphiles go above and beyond what most usual filmgoers would accept as a ‘normal’ filmgoer’s appreciation, sometimes to the point of absolute devotion.

This term is somewhat interchangeable with the word ‘cinephile’, and both can be (and are) used to mean the same thing. The word ‘cinephile’ is more often used in Europe, especially in French, to describe a devoted movie lover (the word ‘cinephile’ having an obvious root in the French word ‘ciné’, which itself is derived from the word ‘cinéma’).

– spectatorship = how to understand how we process information – why did you have an emotional response to a film?!?!?
– how do you respond to the psychological and emotional response to film and film characters?

– specifically in the interest of stars and stardom – Enquiring minds want to know!
– Replete – film about the star system

– phenomenon of studying stars, (Ie: National Enquirer, People Magazine…) – obsession with Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
– feud between Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood in regard to the film Flags of our Fathers (no black characters portrayed – even though all of the flag bearers were white in real life)


– film convention of the time with the cut and time delay that the audience reads the screen to assume that Rick and Ilsa had sex in the 3 second cut in the scene
– clothes are still on and unruffled when the camera shows them again in the morning – was able to get by the censor board = plausible deniability

– but also wanted to push the envelope as far as naughtiness went at the time – period of censorship

Reel Bad Arabs
This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged form the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs–from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding “terrorists”–along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and internationl policies on their lives. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined, the film challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (ISBN 1-56656-388-7, Olive Branch Press) is a 2001 book by Jack Shaheen where he surveyed more than 900 film appearances of Arab characters. Of those, only a dozen were positive and 50 were balanced. Shaheen writes “Seen through Hollywood’s distorted lenses, Arabs look different and threatening.”.[1]

He contends that the movies with the most anti-Arab content are: Rules of Engagement (2000), The Delta Force (1986) Death Before Dishonor (1987) and True Lies (1994).

Included on the “worst list” is:

* Back to the Future (1985)
* The Black Stallion (1979)
* The Black Stallion Returns (1983)
* Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1994)
* The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
* Chain of Command (1993)
* The Delta Force (1986)
* Freedom Strike (1998)
* Iron Eagle (1986)
* Ishtar (1987)
* Killing Streets (1991)
* Navy SEALs (1990)
* Operation Condor (1997)
* Protocol (1984)
* Rules of Engagement (2000)
* The Taking of Flight 847 (1988)
* Terror in Beverley Hills (1988)
* True Lies (1994)

Inspired by the “worst list”, a 9-minute-long trailer called “Planet of the Arabs” [2] was assembled. This short was an Official Selection at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Sut Jhally directed a 2006 video called Reel Bad Arabs about Jack Shaheen’s thesis.