Category Archives: New Media Class

Required Blogging for History and Theory of New Media

New Media Artist: the Ong’s Hat creators

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

In the late 90s and early 00s, the internet was a different place.  Instead of everything being based on large corporate Social Media sites, you typed subjects, thoughts, queries, and keywords into the search engine of your choice and jumped in.  Instead of becoming lost in an endless news feed or auto-playing YouTube videos, you jumped from site to site. 

I don’t remember how or why I stumbled onto Ong’s Hat.  I vaguely remember knowing it was a constructed game but nonetheless it pulled me in.  The original website is gone, and the game declared dead and annoying by one of its main creators.

 The story started long before.  The quantum physicist/mystic/out-there genius Nick Herbert had started hinting at the Ong’s Hat story back in the days of online bulletin boards. Then friends of his, including Joseph Metheny and Peter Lamborn Wilson, started uploading and linking to the Incunabula

The Incunabula was presented as a rare book catalog.  Some of the books were real, others were fake (“unpublished”) books by real authors, and others were made up whole cloth. The striking thing was that once you started reading the book descriptions and annotations, you learned a story about a secret ashram of mad scientists, religious splinter groups, and reality hackers who were in a race against shadowy government forces to… well those clues came slower.

So you pulled up your trusty search engine and went exploring.  You followed clues that lead to Moorish Science, Church of the SubGenius, Mondo 2000, Robert Anton Wilson, and more. You could find fake websites that had a phone number to call for more recorded clues.  You could stumble onto forums with cool people talking about mind-shattering ideas or fall into a pit of lame conspiracy theorists.  You could discover the email address for Emory Cranston, the ‘made-up’ author of the catalog, and someone would answer your email with more cryptic clues.  Joseph Metheny even appeared on a few episodes of the conspiracy radio show Coast-to-Coast.

It was fun, it was smart, playful, and intersected media in a way that really hadn’t been explored before.   And in these days of weaponized conspiracy theories like that mess QAnon, it can never be repeated.

Kinsella, Michael (2011). Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi

Joseph Matheny : Ong’s Hat & ARG Auteur. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://josephmatheny.com/

Monaghan, P. (2011, July 31). Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/pageview/the-surprising-online-life-of-legends/29221

Oelbaum, J., & Oelbaum, J. (2019, February 21). Ong’s Hat: The Early Internet Conspiracy Game That Got Too Real. Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://gizmodo.com/ongs-hat-the-early-internet-conspiracy-game-that-got-t-1832229488

Reflections on Game Theory

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

  Reflections on Game Theory:

            In 1933, Johan Huzinga released a book called Homo Ludens, whose title roughly translated as “Man the Game Player” or “Man who Plays”.  His concept was simple, that the notion and practice of play is important within and to build culture.    

            Hip Hop often refers to “The Game”.  As with most vague analogies, one can take it to mean several things depending on context.  For instance, “the Rap Game”:  Learn how to produce engaging content, usually music.  Retain rights to this content while procuring distribution and promotion.  Promote and establish a brand.  Capitalize with paid appearances, performances and sell associated product.  Diversify and elevate your portfolio. 

            Simple enough in theory.  Some play this as a zero-sum game, which means that in order for me to win, my opponent has to lose.  This never works out that well for that long.  Some, like Jay-Z, play an advanced form of non-zero-sum game wherein a rising tide lifts all ships.  The trick here is to engage other players who understand that the brand is set and can be added to but never diminished.  It is necessary for all players to ‘know their lane’ and work hard in their role for the co-operative pay-off.  The Game is sequential mixed strategy in that one must adjust or change completely their strategy at each stage or series of actions in order to continue to participate in the ever-evolving Game. 

            It is this sense of play and gamesmanship that advances Hip Hop culture, in fact that advances civilization at all.  In this greater Game of Civilization, many agree that non-zero-sum strategies are best. However, it is imperative to remember that many advanced players have switched to versions that are zero-sum. They are willing to declare as sacrificial large groups of people, races, countries, and even planets in order to feel that they are winning. 

 

Reflections on a Glossary entry.

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

My Glossary post: 

Deconstruction

dē-kən-ˈstrək-shən  Originally a literary theory by Jacques Derrida, deconstruction is a philosophy which explores the idea that meaning is only possible within arbitrary context.  It is often pitched as in opposition to analytical theories, especially those based in structuralism.  Although Derrida’s ideas were about literary analysis, deconstruction has been applied to various other branches, including architecture, music, social theories, law, and linguistics.     

Derrida himself fought against the idea of deconstruction as a school of thought, only framing the definition of deconstruction in terms of negatives, saying “Deconstruction is not a method, and cannot be transformed into one” (Wood).  His refutations of deconstruction as a critique, method, analysis, or even as post-structuralist are because Derrida uses deconstruction thought in these negations.

Deconstruction is important in the Age of Information as way of understanding how and why communications, especially on the internet, are wholly dependent on the assumed arbitrary context of the content creator and content consumer.  Meme culture is a good example of this.   

Wood, David; Bernasconi, Robert (1988). Derrida and Sifférance (Reprinted ed.). Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press

 

My Reflections:

Ultimately my paper is going the relationship between Hip Hop culture and New Media technology.  An important part of my understanding of this, and life itself, is the concept of Deconstruction, which was originally presented as a literary theory by Jacques Derrida. 

                To present Deconstruction in as simple a form as I can manage: “Meaning is dependent on context”.   This is of course an oversimplification that, while making the concept accessible to more people, misrepresents Deconstruction. This is where we start the enter the woods.

                By explaining Deconstruction, I will start to use words, terms, and phrases that will assume unspoken agreements of truth and context.  Many of these are cultural. For instance, my phrase above about ‘entering the woods’.  This assumes an understanding of swiftly dwindling upper Northern Hemisphere environments predominately European and American. In 50-100 years from now this phrase will be archaic, or even fantastical like ‘slaying dragons’.

                Much of our communication depends on these contextual, cultural clues.  The more complex the subject, the more reliant we are on context.  One could argue that at some points all we are doing is communicating context without any substance or meaning whatsoever.  In fact, Deconstruction has a bit of a dirty reputation for being used to expose the lack of actual communication that is going on.  Many a lazy philosophy student I’m sure has used it to declare their classes meaningless.

                Hip Hop is a syncretic culture and artform that has often taken cultural pieces and created new meaning from them by changing the context.  Let us take, for instance, the vinyl record.  A technological advancement to preserve sound so that we can share it across time and space.  A way of archiving a musical performance.  Now let us take two copies of the same record and use them to repeat a certain passage.  I play the 16 bars on record player #1 and at the end start playing the same 16 bars on player #2.  While playing on #2, I reset player #1 so that when player #2 is done, I’m playing the passage on #1 again and resetting #2.  Viola, a breakbeat.  I have manually created a loop. The records and players are now a loop machine.

                Let us go further and manually manipulate a record, pulling it back and forth, to keep playing a few seconds worth of sound.  I manipulate the ‘scratch’ with a fader and artistically add the sounds to a piece and I have made the record and player into a musical instrument. 

                Now the deeper use of deconstruction is when I take samples and scratches of sound and layer them in a different context than their original.  Do you need to know the original piece referenced to enjoy the new?  No.  In some instances that knowledge might help you understand the artist’s deep meaning.  In others it was just a cool sound.

                Hip Hop does this non-musically as well.  The Culture has always taken technology and used it innovatively, New Media being no exception.

Path of Inquiry

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

      For this post we are going to starting the task of the slow assembling of our final paper for the History and Theory of New Media class. The topics given for this paper are broad.  Granted that the final paper is to be 10-12 pages in Arial 10 font, we have plenty of room to meander and be general, but I think we can benefit from narrowing it down a bit.

      I am looking to talk about Hip Hop culture as a syncretic, organic, post-modern phenomenon that has uniquely 20th century American urban roots but has, through its relationship to media and technology, transformed itself into a still evolving world-wide cultural force. 

     I had a long debate with myself about whether this fit into the “media and society” category or “media ecology”.  It seemed cheap to use “media and society” and rather inauthentic.  We are not talking about general society here but a culture that risen almost despite its people’s forced disassociation from society.

     I decided on “media ecology” due to a phrase I found about media being a “traffic” between nature and culture (Durham).  While McLuhan’s and Postman’s original ideas of media ecology seem a bit dated and naïve, Hip Hop grew up within the cracks of infrastructure and has created a communication between previously disparate parts of society.  I am confident that I can tie this in using the ideas of media ecology.

      Why Hip Hop? What are my credentials?  I have been a huge Hip Hop fan for decades and a good 85% of my media consumption is Hip Hop related.  This includes my spiritual explorations. I make no pretense to be an expert or even a representative of the culture.  I am a student and a fan, whose life has been illuminated and made better by Hip Hop. Most importantly, I have nothing but respect for my subject.

Reference

Durham Peters, J. (2015). Infrastructuralism: Media as Traffic between Nature and Culture. At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries, 88, 31–49. https://doi-org.library.esc.edu/10.1163/9789004298774pass:[_]003

Hip Hop Timeline

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

Hip Hop Timeline

This is a work in progress. The concentration will be on media forms for the duration of the New Media Class. 

 I am fascinated by Hip Hop as a post-modern deconstructionist art form and culture.  You can find an introductory essay about that here.  or other papers on the same subject.  

Apples and Archivists

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

While reading his essay “The Disappearance of Archives”, I couldn’t fight the nagging thought that Mr. Prelinger was unfairly comparing a corporate website with a 501(c)(3) non-profit looking to preserve digital information.  Alphabet/Google/YouTube is publicly traded, their ultimate mission is to make money for their stockholders.  YouTube ad revenues are a large part of the billions in earnings Google rakes in yearly. 

                When large advertisers like At&T pulled away from YouTube in 2017, disturbed by their ads’ proximity to hate speech “and other disturbing content” (Maheshwari), YouTube started to clean up its “effectively infinite proportions” (Prelinger).  This was a purely profit-driven move, YouTube didn’t have a similar reactions when newspaper articles came out accusing its algorithm of using hateful right-wing conspiracy videos to entice viewers (Admin).

                But still we are presented with YouTube as an example of archives contrasted with “radical archivists”, the implication being that those who work to preserve culture without being driven by profit are ‘radical’. 

                All in all, I find Mr. Prelinger’s essay off the mark.  The purpose and motive of YouTube and actual archives are completely different.  YouTube is a for-profit video hosting site.  To state otherwise is like insinuating that McDonald’s is really about feeding the hungry.  Actual moving image archives are created and work to preserve digital video media.

Admin. (2018, February 05). Guardian alleges Youtube algorithm bias in favour of Trump & “conspiracy theories”. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://off-guardian.org/2018/02/05/guardian-alleges-youtube-algorithm-bias-in-favour-of-trump-conspiracy-theories/

Maheshwari, S. (2019, January 18). AT&T to Advertise on YouTube Again After a Nearly 2-Year Holdout. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/business/media/att-youtube-advertising.html

Prelinger, R. (2016). The Disappearance of Archives. In Hui Kyong Chun, W., & Watkins Fisher, A. (Eds.), New Media, Old Media, A History and Theory Reader (Second ed.). New York, NY, London, England: Routledge.

Spangler, T. (2018, October 26). Google’s Parent, Alphabet, Misses on Q3 Revenue But Rakes in $9.2 Billion Net Profit. Retrieved January 24, 2019, from https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/google-alphabet-q3-2018-earnings-1202994554/

The Internet: a better printing press

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

 When the internet when it became more widespread in the 90s, its main appeal to me was the sheer amount of information stored and so easily accessed.  I’ve spent most of my life haunting book stores and libraries, I know my way around a card catalog.  The internet was a welcome ‘more of the same’, a depository of thought, facts, and knowledge right at my eager fingertips. 

            I certainly don’t want to diminish the impact of the internet.  However, I’d submit that the invention of the printing press was the cause of a greater cultural explosion.  The translation of religious texts, epic poems, and ‘mere’ pamphlets let new ideas into the minds of even the semi-literate.  To quote William S Burroughs, the “Word is a Virus” and the spread of ideas became a problem for century old ruling institutions.

            In order to control the masses, it is necessary for there to be homogenized thought.  Religion can be used as a societal panopticon, wherein the people all voluntarily police each other for heresies and transgressions, being told by the clergy what to look out for.  This is easiest when the religious texts are only read and interpreted by the church officials, who let the people know what to think. Please don’t think I’m attacking religion, religious institutions are just one of many control systems.   

            This system started to erode when the printing press gave the people tracts to read and digest.  A great examination of this can be found in the book “The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a sixteenth century miller” by Carlos Ginzburg. 

The internet has certainly in part filled the same role, when it isn’t just a tool of surveillance capitalism. I would have to say though that the internet is more of a radical augmentation of the cultural revolution started by the printing press.

References

Burroughs, W. S., Grauerholz, J., Silverberg, I., & Douglas, A. (1998). Word Virus: the William S. Burroughs reader. Grove Press.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books.

Ginzburg, C. (2013). The cheese and the worms the cosmos of a sixteenth-century Miller. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Icebreaker

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

Hello.  

   I’m currently working towards a Bachelors in Communication in New Media.  I had worked as an IT guy for a Public Library for 7 years but as of July I became a Tax Researcher for a multinational data firm. Not as creative or fun but its got dental. 

    As a side hustle I sell used books and conduct consignment sales on the internet (Ebay, Amazon, AbeBooks).  I’ve experimented with and coached others in various social media ever since Friendster but have retreated from most of it recently due to personal distaste.  I still enjoy a daily half hour or so of Twitter.  

     New Media isn’t going to die in a cul-de-sac of thirst traps though.  With fringe experiments like Scuttlebutt and Loomio exploring social interaction, some netizens are still trying to work the bugs out of the way we communicate.  I can’t help but be fascinated.