Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 and Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory at York University, Canada

Week 5: Oral Presentation Summary – Bush and Morris

Summaries of Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” and Adalaide Morris’ “New Media Poetics: As We May Think/How to Write”

Vannevar Bush “As We May Think”

-          Bush, writing this article in the post WWII period, asks the question of what the future direction of science will be. Bush describes that the scientists that have gone most off course during the war are the physicists.

-          Before moving forward with his projections of future technology, Bush states the benefits of using science for man as the following:
- It has increased man’s control over his environment
- It has allowed for the improvement of food, clothing, and shelter
- It expands people’s knowledge of their biological, physiological and psychological processes
- Lastly, it has allowed for communication between people, which in turn, allows for the evolution of knowledge (beyond one individual)

-          On the topic of research, Bush emphasizes the benefits of recording that knowledge so that it can be shared, as well as the drawback (e.g. too much time has been dedicated to researching and evaluating scholarly works, not all publications can be found once recorded, therefore a lot of texts are not appreciated in their time)

-          With the growth in technological pursuits, interchangeable parts for machines are available

-          On the topic of recording, Bush emphasizes the growing number of methods of recording (such as photography, film, and wax disks) and discusses that they will only evolve further
- E.g.: Photography: Bush predicts future scientists’ use of glasses that can capture photographs in the field without audible clicks. One can see how this has been echoed in technology such as Google Glass, which is mobile and able to take pictures without the audible click. In the printing process, one can not only have the display almost immediately after taking a photograph but they are also able to print in through the process of dry photography which Bush forwards.
à With Bush’s contemporary technology, he predicts that the speed of the technology will have to improve in order for its success

-          Returning to the topic of recording information, Bush emphasizes that future technology will take up less physical space. For example, an entire encyclopedia may take the space of a matchbox  (The hypertext that Bush suggests can be seen in the compression of encyclopedia such as Wikipedia)
Video: http://youtu.be/LJHpA2ugqXw

-          A major dichotomy that Bush emphasizes is the difference between scientific logic and rationale and the way in which people naturally think
-> If recording would continue to follow scientific logic, it would follow a process of selection (similar to the technology of the telephone: as each number is dialed the numbers considered are reduced until the entire number is dialed and there is the one and only option)

-          In the application of selection to indexing: The system of subclasses may only have documents in one place, or they would have to be duplicated in order to prevent this
(To find additional documents, one would have to re-enter a new search)

-          Bush emphasizes that “the human mind does not work that way,” it works by association. While this process cannot be duplicated, Bush draws on this reality to improve the permanency of recording

-          In this context, Bush describes his proposed “Memex” which is described as “a device in which an individual stores all of his books, records, and communications and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.”
- Video: http://youtu.be/c539cK58ees
- The Memex would aid in man’s memory (he would not have to rely on it as heavily, as it could be consulted when a question or topic is raised)
- The text could be read as a book, one can see the various pages ( the way in which the pages are described as moving across the screen, echoes microfilm technology)
- Multiple files can be open at the same time, notes can be added to text for additional learning, and certain files can be combined according to a topic (in accordance with the mind’s associative quality discussed previously)
- Information can be shared between different people’s Memex
- Furthermore, specialized encyclopaedias for professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, will allow for them to consult the information more easily
- One can see how Bush’s vision of the Memex is clearly aligned with the technology of the computer, as well as the internet in his discussions of exchangeable and easily accessible records

-          In this evolving context, science “may implement the ways in which man produces, stores, and consults the record…”
-> Perhaps technology will allow for more direct paths for recording (through our physical senses, recording could be possible)
(Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbKqZfBoaXc)

-          In order for civilization to move forward records must be kept in a better fashion so that the past can be analysed more productively and current events can be objectively dealt with

-          Bush’s article has demonstrated the many ways science has enhanced men’s lives and the imperative need to move forward, otherwise too much information would be lost


In Bush’s projection of different technologies’ futures, can you see the descriptions in any contemporary technology? How does Bush’s vision of the future compare to our reality?

In what programs can we see the following of the associative versus selective process in researching?

What are some of the limitations you found in this reading?

Adalaide Morris “New Media Poetics: As We May Think/How to Write”

-          Morris begins her article with a discussion of Gertrude Stein’s discussion of the two types of knowledge: 1) That which we see and do 2) What we know because of what we think

-          Stein’s writing did not follow conventional formats; they were “machines for cognition” (contemporary conceptual categories can be exceeded)

-          What we see and do is conditioned by our technological environment (many concepts and understandings come from a world of print)
-> Yet technology does not necessarily reflect the way we see the world

-          While Stein argued that cognition would happen within an individual, since the mid-1980s the term of “districted cognition” has gained traction. In this case, cognition happens between people and with networked and programmable machines

-          Post WWII period: Rise of theories surrounding Cybernetics: “theories of the nature of information, information technologies, and the biological, social, linguistic, and cultural changes that initiate, accompany, and complicate the development of those technologies.” (4)
-> In this case, people in the post-human era are cyborgs (connection with technology, feedback between the two)
-> one of the common ideas in this context is the interaction between people and “intelligent machines” (4)

-          Ideas of synergy/ interaction can be seen in the field of literature and poetry as they engage with programmable machines
-> Through a consideration of new media poetics (use of the term emphasizes this field as an ongoing process), the computer as an expressive medium becomes apparent.

-          The field of new media poetics poses a number of questions:
For example: What field should it be studied in? Art? Art History? Communications? English?
(What would be the implications of jumping between fields?)
-> By considering its application in numerous fields, one can see how the computer is/ can be
used as a creative medium

-          Code is one of the elements which emphasizes how new media poetics/digital literature is different from previous forms (it is the code that the poet engages with in order to allow for the poetry to become visible for display on networked/programmable machines) Beyond the code, the set of rules of coding must be operable otherwise the text will be unreadable and the computer would be useless.

-          Another difference with new media poetics includes it ability to be edited, reused, or recycled

-          Morris also asses Bush’s “As We May Think” according to the fours words in the title to show his argument: 1) to emphasize the process of change discussed, 2) the importance of it being exchanged between people, 3) the potential of it following the projected path, 4) as well as the question of the role of mental activity in determining the world around us.
- Morris also discusses Bush’s Memex and emphasizes how it predicts technology such as desktops and laptop computers
(This technology, Morris argues “thinks with us,” coinciding with her argument for the partnership between people and technology in which people can be extended or “remade” in relation to technology used. (11) )

-          In early discussions of hypermedia theorists overestimated the abilities or new media. For example, the agency of the electronic reader was overestimated. In hypertext narratives the choices are pre-determined, therefore the agency of the reader is limited.

-          One important question, Morris raises is how what can new media poetics tell us about thinking and writing in an increasingly technologically reliant/ networked culture?

-          The author also discusses what it means to interact with new media and the importance of new media poetics performative qualities. When new media is activated, it is through our bodies that the art is augmented and amplified.

-          New Media poetry to Morris is “an active exchange between two forms of discourse: the late romantic print lyric, on the one hand, and the networked and programmable poem, on the other.”
-> The two types of new media poems Morris discusses are 1) “poems composed for dynamic and kinetic manipulation and display” and 2) “programmable texts” (20)

-          The six varieties of new media poetics covered by Morris are as follows: (20-30)
1) Literal Art https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZgKPc4RGro (overboard)
2) Poem-games

3) Programmable procedural computer-poems
4) Real-time reinterative programmable poems
5) Participatory networked and programmable poems
6) Codework http://www.rssgallery.com/pages/code.htm (code scares me)
-> The variants emphasizes the contingency of new media poetics, yet all of these poems are driven by “the energy of an age of information”
-> According to Morris it is “cyborganization” that is “recalibrating how we write and how we think.” (34)
(Poets as commentators on society’s use of programmable and networked machines, yet they can be seen as Stein’s “outlaws” who are preparing for the future that is here)

-          Morris then goes onto discuss later chapters in the text, which will cover three topics. The first topic is the context of new media poetry. The second topic is the nature of digital poetry and how it may affect the way we think. The final section discusses various theories regarding how to consider new media poetics so that its potential can be understood. Overall, the various texts described will assess the ways in which new media poetics differs yet also continues poetic traditions.

-          New media poetics shows one of the ways our experience is being negotiated and new ideas or perspectives can be seen in creative and critical forms.


What were your general thoughts on the text?

How would you consider the relationship between yourself and technology in artistic pursuits?

How does this reading compare to early theorists of hypermedia?

- Erica

Mon, October 12 2015 » digital storytelling