Future Cinema

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

Network Aesthetics: Part 1 — Linear Forms

In Jagoda’s first book, Network Aesthetics, he states that he “attempts to revise the common treatment of networks as control structures that originated in the computing and cybernetics research of the early Cold War” (7). Referencing the “network imaginary… [meaning] the complex of material infrastructures and metaphorical figures that inform our experience with and our thinking about the contemporary social world”, Jagoda “turns to narrative, visual, and procedural art forms that encourage an active, critical, and even transformative engagement with the network as the new dominant configuration and category of life” (3, 16). Specifically, Jagoda looks at four texts (two literary, two cinematic) and through a close reading of the networks presented in each, discusses the influences behind the origins, and how that influence can be “read” in terms of networking.

The Network Novel: Meaning & Mapping

Jagoda begins by looking into the literary network texts of DeLillo’s Underworld (1997) as well as Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (1999), and discusses what makes each a “network novel”, which by his own definition is “a late twentieth-century genre that reworks and intensifies the cultural concerns regarding a world interconnected by communication and transportation networks, and made unprecedentedly dependent upon an informational economy”, which he believes began in the 1990s during the rise of the Internet (44).

Despite both being pieces of science fiction, Jagoda chose to study these novels specifically because “[the] pieces are not predominantly speculative” (compared to works such as The Matrix), and demonstrate domestic interconnectivity through various processes of “mapping” (41, 44). Jacoba asserts that “[w]hile network visualizations offer a stable representation or a map of elements configured as nodes and links, the novel makes possible processes of mapping networks across space and time” (44). To provide an example of this, he writes about a baseball featured in Underworld, acquired by character Nick Shay. Partially due to the fact that the novel uses a non-linear timeline, the baseball in question has its own lineage, thus defying the conventions of space and time (similar to family heirlooms). As Jagoda points out, “For Nick, as for the reader, the significance of the ball derives from its historical linkages” (50). In and of itself, the baseball is meaningless. It is due to the ball’s mapping, Nick can derive meaning.

Network Cinema: The Butterfly Effect

The butterfly effect is a popular concept used to explain how small actions can have large consequences. It has been used in numerous mediums, such as the 2004 film of the same name, or the 2015 video game Until Dawn. Within network films, this effect is highly present, however Jagoba is specifically interested in its manifestation through technology.

The two works of cinema Jagoda is interested in are Syriana (2005) and HBO’s The Wire (2002-2006). The means of interconnectivity and network within cinema primarily deal with character relations to one another, within a specific space and time, which is then punctuated by cinematic language (cinematography, mise-en-scene, etc). In Syriana, audiences follow a CIA officer, an energy analyst, an attorney, and “a Pakistani immigrant worker”—though seemingly separate storylines—negotiating their respective ways through or with the oil industry (76). As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the actions of one character, though he may not know it, directly correlate to the (often negative) actions of another. Jagoda notes that this type of movement has been seen in films before, though believes Syriana has far more complexity than many of its counterparts due to the themes it addresses, and “through frequent camera movements, quickly paced dialogue, and rapid montage” (88).

Network cinema is far less interested in “epic battles” as Jagoda puts it, and far most interested in “perpetual violence”, which is derived though each character interacting with another (91). For example, Wasim Ahmed Khan (the Pakistani immigrant) discovers his “path to terrorism” through connectivity, “from unemployment to violent mistreatment by immigration officials to enrolment in an Islamic school to training for a role as a suicide bomber” (89). Network films are not the story of a protagonist on a journey to rescue the princess, but typically about an ensemble of protagonists (occasionally anti-heroes) with interlocking narratives through technology.

In a scene Jagoda focuses on, CIA officer Bob Barnes (George Clooney) attempts to warn Prince Nasir of his impending assassination by the CIA. The audience experiences multiple perspectives at once, as the film cuts to the CIA headquarters where a man counts down to the impending bomb that will kill both the Prince and Barnes, to a flashback of a moment in the past when the Prince and Barnes met in an elevator, to the Prince and Barnes together in the desert. The last words the Prince says is, “You’re the Canadian” to Barnes, remembering his previous fictional persona under the CIA. As Jagoda states, “[t]his scene could be read as a moment of reflective alliance, but it more properly conveys the profound dimness with which all global actors, regardless of their access to privileged political information, encounter the vast network of relations through which their lives unfold” (92).

Similar to Syriana, HBO’s The Wire uses an impoverished Baltimore as the setting in which “plotting is subordinated to the detailed mapping of Baltimore’s intersecting social worlds”, while “explor[ing] social networks by forging audiovisual and narrative links among a web of major and minor characters” (107). Like with Syriana, characters are connected through technology, though far more so than in the former example. In a particular scene during the Baltimore city election, three candidates debate on television, though the fictional audience is what is primarily shown to the real-world viewers. What is interesting is not the debate itself, but how characters react to it. Jagoda writes that “detectives in the homicide unit watch with distant interest, listening selectively for issues that pertain to their daily criminal investigations. The ex-con Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise, in another vignette, notices the debate on his screen before immediately switching the channel to a football game… This human web is arguably one of the reasons that this series has been so often celebrated and debated by social scientists” (106-7). This combined connection and apathy is centred around the technology of networks, as well as the sociability of the networks themselves. As Jagoda accurately asserts, this is not Baltimore—it’s Baltimores (107).

Networks, be they literary or cinematic, help to illustrate the ways in which people relate to one another through the medium of technology, but must compounded with their social status and physical locations in order to be truly understood. Jagoda concludes similarly to how he began, writing, “The networked narrative forms that I have explored… mediate and compose the ordinary that sustains the network imaginary” (138).

Mon, October 10 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Callie

Network Aesthetics Notes Part 2. Distributed Forms

Digital media offers new forms of sensory and social habits.  Games are a cultural form of digital media within a current network era offering worlds and microcosms of dynamic systems, allowing players to interact with them in new sensory and social ways. Jagoda takes a look at three different games; Introversion’s Uplink (2001), Jason Rohrer’s Between (2008) thatgamecompany’s Journey (2013) and his own augmented reality game The Project (2013) to examine the participatory and improvisational qualities of network aesthetics.  Each of these games address interconnection of networks not as a novel feature but as an aesthetic form that can be represented and participated in through gameplay.

Uplink is a computer network simulation which puts the player in the position of a hacker.  The game does not run on a network, but rather creates a diegetic world of hacking through audiovisual and interactive instruments.  Visually, Uplink relies on a cartographical aesthetic to create an illusion of network.  The two most important operations of Uplink are communication and control, which evidently serve as an allegorical aesthetic of networks.  Jagoda emphasizes how society functions on the illusion of continuous control and instant communication through networks.

The next game, Rohrer’s Between is analyzed through Jagoda’s personal account of the gameplay.  Between uses network aesthetics through an online game which reflects action and extimacy (the breakdown of intimacy) by linking the player with a secondary player.  The game thinks through networks, not about them by complicating our control within networks.  In the game, communication and connection is broken, the secondary player which the game is dependant on does not appear on screen.  This a ludic aestheticizing of distance and the dependance on someone or something that is similar to the relationship we have with networks.  In the same way that our reliance on networks gives us the illusion of being close and in control, there is a distant intimacy that occurs in the game.  Between highlights experiences of dysfunction that are not often acknowledged but still remain a large part of network cultures.

Jagoda analyzes Journey through the accounts of experience shared on the online tumblr blog Journey Stories.  Journey provides a unique co-op experience where players can voluntarily traverse through the environment of Journey with other players linked through online networks.  The other players do not effect the gameplay but rather created an affective experience together.  Through this co-operational function, Journey illustrates network aesthetics as an experience of intense affective sensations.  While looking through the accounts written on Journey Stories, Jagoda notices the trend of stories regarding experiences rather than overt narrative stories.  He attributes this to Journey’s lack of language which creates a greater emotional connection between players.  This can be likened to modern ‘stranger sociability’ which is a symptom of networks.  Journey aestheticizes this stranger sociability by allowing players to experience feelings of disconnectedness and intimacy with others through a network connection.

Lastly Jagoda discusses his work The Project which was an Alternate Reality game inviting players to engage with three conspiracy groups through social media, live performance, transmedia storytelling and more. ARGs explore qualities of connection through game form, utilizing game based interactions and collective interplay to access ordinary affects.  He describes networks not merely as novel objects of study but constantly altering forms which unfold and initiate new ways creating experiences.  Jagoda felt ARGs existed within networks but also mirrored them.  There are five main elements of ARGs which The Project employs: 1. The flow of transmedia which employs the experience of moving among media and integrating multiple medias to create new relationships.  2. Integration of play with everyday life to blur the boundaries of ludic gameplay and real life, mirroring the sociotechnical conditions of the internet.  3. The production of an alternative reality which is situated in everyday life but creates a distinction from empirical reality.  4. A breakdown of distinctions between designers and players where games transform through a collaboration between designers and players.  5. The organization around collective gameplay in which realization and completion of games rely on the collective intelligence of both game makers and players.  These elements are recognizable not only within ARGs like The Project, but exist as aestheticizations of the networks they inhabit and utilize.

Jagoda addresses the process, collaboration and failures of The Project in order to highlight the range of connections that ARGs generate and how they reflect networks.  He describes his game as a constant process and not a static ludic experience.  Players were invited not to fill a role as an actor with an established script and environment, but rather move in and out of different roles in response to particular events or puzzles.  This leads to the next element of collaboration.  Collaboration is a necessary aspect of ARGs and networks because of the ongoing reciprocation of information needed for both to function.  If this does not continue than connectivity is broken and failure is imminent.  But in games failure is central to game form because it is often considered a productive consequence and a learning tool.  It is a stepping stone to eventual success.  The Project experienced failures in a few ways, firstly with the refusal of public play and the lack of user interaction in online networks.  Jagoda acknowledges these failures allowed the creators to rethink conceptually about networks, how they change and what sensations they grant us.  The Project was not about representing a network necessarily but bringing a new one into existence in order to rethink the role of public life within the era of networks.  Jagoda concludes by addressing the view we have of modern networks as being universal and necessary forms of connectivity that promise to explain everything and last forever.  He emphasizes that although networks seem to be our everything we shouldn’t view networks as a simple object that connects us all.  We should utilize networks themselves while we can to recontextualize the ethics of being and coming together in the network era.

Mon, October 10 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: AnnaMaria

worth reading

Janet H Murray about Not a Film and Not an Empathy Machine
How necessary failures will help VR designers invent new storyforms

Sat, October 8 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Amit

The Future of TV

Hi Everyone!
In a couple of weeks, I will be heading to Cannes for the MIPCOM market. This conference is an international gathering of content producers, consumers, professional executives, academics and even movie stars. As part of my research for this year’s event, I came across this interesting article about the “Future of TV” and I thought of our class. Here’s a link to it: http://www.thewrap.com/why-the-future-of-tv-isnt-tv-guest-blog/
This year’s MIPCOM is focusing on digital production, dissemination and exhibition so I thought this article on television becoming an outdated medium was particularly poignant and worth sharing.

Tue, October 4 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Mark

Report on the Media Architecture Summit 2016

Hi Everyone!
Thanks Dave for posting this and for all your great work at the Media Architecture Summit.
There were many great presentations. Here are a few notes on some of the highlights for me:
ALI MOMENI: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
Ali spoke about Animating Public Space and, in particular, Urban Projections. He showed us how easy it was to create mobile wall projection kits from bicycles, even backpacks. One project stood out as being uniquely creative: Telepuppet TV. The idea is to create dolls that serve as interviewers who connect with other puppet interviewers around the world. A sample of this fascinating concept can be found here: https://youtu.be/jHb4VRgvTBs.
DI MAINSTONE: Queen Mary University, London
The artist-in-residence at Queen Mary spoke to us about using suspension bridges as musical instruments. Another exploration into using the urban environment in an interactive, artistic way. Here’s her website and check out the video there to see how she “plays” a bridge: http://dimainstone.com/project/human-harp/
GRAHAM WAKEFIELD, Computational Arts, York University. Graham is also the professor of the Future Cinema II course being offered next term for any of those taking it. He spoke being immersed in computational worlds and shared his ambitious project “Archipelago”. He has created a “world” that reacts to human interaction (touch, casting shadows, light, etc.) in much the same way any natural eco-system might (migration, climate change adaptation, forest growth, etc.). Here’s a two-minute video on the project’s installation and how it works: https://vimeo.com/89884439
AMAHL HAZELTON: Moment Factory, Montreal
This ambitious company is responsible for some of the biggest art installations in the world. The installation at LAX airport in Los Angeles is not only expansive and immersive, but it’s also intuitive and interactive. For example, wall-mounted waves of colour sense a traveller passing by and follows or leads them to their gates. This 5-minute video shows how they made it and gives an overview of all the currently existing art pieces there: https://vimeo.com/68789136

Mon, October 3 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Mark

Intertesting video game

Hey everyone!

I first heard about this video game called “That Dragon, Cancer” on the podcast ReplyAll and was super moved by the story behind it. I was reminded of it this week while reading our assigned readings and thought it might be of interest to some of you!

It’s a really interesting game because it is based on personal experience and is very narrative-driven.

Here’s the link for the game: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/#home

Here’s the link for the podcast if you’re interested in giving it a listen: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/50-the-cathedral/

Mon, October 3 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Sula

Bogost reading

Thanks, Sula!


Hi Prof. Fisher,

I found the Ian Bogost reading online. I didn’t see it on the Future Cinema website, so thought other students might find the link useful if you want to post it! :)



Fri, September 30 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Caitlin

Media Architecture Summit 2016

Hey everyone, here is the link for the event I was speaking about in class yesterday.

Media Architecture Summit 2016

We’re almost at capacity, so if you’re interested in coming, make sure you register ahead of time.

If you just want to come to the free events, here is the list:

  • Thursday, Sept. 29, 5:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 3
    Nuit Talks: Roundtable 1 – Reflections of Oblivion

    Director X (Death of the Sun) and Floria Sigismondi (PNEUMA), discuss their past experiences working in the music and film industries and how these experiences influenced their newly commissioned Nuit Blanche 2016 Projects, working on projection of solar images and water screens.

    Moderator: Theresa Scandiffio, Senior Manager, Adult Learning, TIFF Bell Lightbox

  • Friday, Sept. 30, 5:00pm @ TIFF Bell Ligthbox, Cinema 3
    Nuit Talks: Roundtable 2 - Media Architecture and Nuit Blanche Toronto

    A round table discussion exploring the relationship between architecture, public space and media with Nuit Blanche Toronto artists David Rokeby (Hand-held), Jean-Pierre Aubé (Electrosmog Toronto) and Nicola Verlato (The Merge).

    Moderator: Janine Marchessault, Cinema & Media Arts, York University

  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:00pm @ Church of the Holy Trinity, 19 Trinity Square, Toronto, ON M5G 1B1 (Bay & Dundas)
    Nuit Walk: A Guided Walk Through Nuit Blanche

    Nuit Blanche Toronto is a free, annual, city-wide celebration of contemporary art, produced by the City of Toronto in collaboration with Toronto’s arts community. For one sleepless night, from sunset to sunrise, the familiar is discarded and Toronto is transformed into an artistic playground for a series of exhilarating contemporary art experiences in unexpected public spaces. (Nuit Blanche website – www.nbto.com)

    The Media Architecture Summit has curated a guided walk through Nuit Blanche for all MAS participants. Curated and led by York University PhD candidates David Han and Mason Wales, the walk highlights artworks that resonate with the symposium’s themes, including contributions by MAS 2016 participants. Join us on October 1st at The Church of the Holy Trinity at 7pm as we explore and experience the city of Toronto through a historical and an artistic lens!

  • Nuit Blanche Toronto is a free, annual, city-wide celebration of contemporary art, produced by the City of Toronto in collaboration with Toronto’s arts community. For one sleepless night, from sunset to sunrise, the familiar is discarded and Toronto is transformed into an artistic playground for a series of exhilarating contemporary art experiences in unexpected public spaces.
    The Media Architecture Summit has curated a guided walk through Nuit Blanche for all MAS participants. Curated and led by York University PhD candidates David Han and Mason Wales, the walk highlights artworks that resonate with the symposium’s themes, including contributions by MAS 2016 participants. Join us on October 1st (are participants advised to meet you at a specific place/time?) as we explore and experience the city of Toronto through a historical and an artistic

Thu, September 29 2016 » Future Cinema » 1 Comment » Author: Dave

FIVARS: short film “Pearl”


Also checking the wordpress site out!
And also wanted to post that short film I saw at Fivars that I was raving about last week called Pearl.

It’s a 360 Google Spotlight Story and I think could accommodate some of the technology (used at Fivars Fest) if you watch this clip using a smartphone, but it won’t allow for full body motion (such as jumping up and looking at the view through the sun roof of the car, like I mentioned).

Wed, September 28 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Anita

Abel Gance, Napoleon, 1927

Abel Gance, Napoleon, 1927

Just thought I’d add this given our discussion of the history of multichannel film and expanded cinema last week.  The link is a trailer for the screening/performance that occurred at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, CA in the spring of 2012. This screening/performance featured a 5.5 hour restoration of Gance’s original film screened a full-length orchestral score composed by Carl Davis, who conducted the Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra.

The most striking part of this film is the ending where Gance employs a custom designed, multichannel sequence. He called this technology Polyvision.

This article has some additional information about this screening/performance and this specific restoration of the film.

Wed, September 28 2016 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Dave