Final Project Plans

Woodcut of a photo by Juergen Christ
Woodcut of a photo by Juergen Christ

Assignment: Individually or in groups of up to 4 members, design a project that speaks to one or more of the major themes from our course readings so far this semester. For this project, you will devise your own question about the relationship of the human to the media that we use, and attempt to answer or expand upon it in a humanistic essay that take a form other than academic writing.

You should choose a medium in which you have some measure of technical expertise, that fits your topic, and makes sense with your theoretical interests. Beyond this, be creative!

Presentation and Statement: On Dec 10 you should come to class prepared to present your final project, with a 2-3 page statement that identifies a) the question you’re addressing, b) your argument in the project, and c) the theorist(s) that influenced your thinking.

Comment below about your project plan (due by 8am on Tues, December 3).  You should include the topic, medium, and at least one key quote from a relevant theorist or critic. Include any AV needs for your presentation so we can plan ahead!

About Maria

I am an Assistant Professor of Literature and Director of Experimental Humanities at Bard College. My teaching and research interests include children’s literature and culture, digital humanities, gender studies, institutional influence, media studies, medieval literature, medievalisms, and popular culture.

24 thoughts on “Final Project Plans

  1. Is your Facebook profile picture a good representation of who you are?
    “On social-networking sites such as Facebook, we think we will be presenting ourselves, but our profile ends up as somebody else – often the fantasy of who we want to be.” (Turkle).
    I will ask a group of people I know, and a group of people I do not know, this question.
    I will use HTML to make a visual/textual argument, based on the opinions/profile pictures of others.

    Is Facebook a realistic representation of us, or is it a fantasy world we curate to please ourselves and hopefully others?

  2. Can people be together without technology? Are people basing who they are on social networking sites’ versions of who they are? Is the internet helpful or harmful in forming relationships? I have written a series of poems which I will put a link to on my HTML homepage, that confront how technology is stripping us of our person identities and, even more so, interpersonal relationships. The poems will be accompanied by screenshots from various social networking websites, like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.
    This is influenced partly by McLuhan in that my statements against technology are on the internet (the medium is the message). Also definitely influenced by Nakamura’s ideas of identity and stereotyping in the digital world, as well as Donna Haraway’s ideas of cyborgism.

  3. In my final project, I’d like to look at the concept of a “global village”, inspired in large part by my life experience growing up between different continents. The way we communicate across physical distance has shifted so incredibly throughout even my lifetime, and I find myself using several different forms of media to keep in touch with different people in different ways.
    My thinking was influenced in part by Tara McPherson’s idea of nowness – being less bound by “linear time and continuous space”, especially in terms of today’s children growing up with skype as a primary mode of communication with relatives, as well as how communicating instantaneously through a time change affects communication.
    To show this, I intend to work with html, and specifically mapping to demonstrate physical distances and varieties of media. I will put a link to the finished project on my homepage.

  4. For my final project, I intend to look at race within the social media site, Tumblr. I will be using the site to display my findings and answer/argue the question: How is tumblr the breeding ground for the racial stereotypes and inequalities we face today? I was definitely influenced by McLuhan’s belief that “the personal and social consequences of any medium-that is, of any extension of ourselves-result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology” and his believe that the medium is the message. I also tapped into Nakamura’s view on cybertyping.

  5. For my final project, I am going to explore the effect that media has on children. How does TV, video games, toys, and cell phones alter a child’s development? As our world becomes continually technological, what are the implications on the next generation (positives and negatives)?

    I will pull from Jenkins, Hayles, and Turkle. Here is an example from Jenkin’s chapter “Why Heather Can Write” from Convergence Culture: “They [children] are active participants in these new media landscapes, finding their own voice through their participation in fan communities, asserting their own rights even in the face of powerful entities, and sometimes sneaking behind their parents’ back to do what feels right to them,” (216).

    To do this, I want to use HTML to create a sort-of interactive narrative. The site will have pictures and links to other pages that allow the user to explore media in similar ways that children do. For example, the user will be presented with a page with multiple pictures of media (television, cell phone, computer, etc.). The user can click on the media, such as a cell phone, and be brought to a new page that explores the effects that cell phones have on children. Hopefully with HTML, I will be able to create an exploratory environment that investigates all the different ways media can impact children, negatively and positively. I only need a computer and projector for my presentation!

  6. My final project for ITM will be an expanded version of my previous HTML project, “The Documents”. “The Documents” exists as a series of linked webpages that comprise different forms of documentation–epistolary, journalistic, personal–that, when taken together, circle around a numinous and violent secret regarding a large corporation, a Bornean cave, a rose-colored petrol source, and many violent and questionable deaths. The expanded version will be “(re:)open: The Documents Pt. II”, and will “reopen” the series of documents that ended *spoiler* in the death of the protagonist of the first series. “(re:)open” will interrogate questions of textuality (Hayles–how the text is mined for meaning differently across various forms of media) in regards to the digital, artifice & originary simulacra (Benjamin and Baudrillard), and how a fictive text is understood in terms of its very categorization as such. Baudrillard writes, “Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view” (Baudrillard 10). The Documents (Pts. I & II) is an accumulative history (or genealogy) of “lived experience” of fictitious characters.. It is artificial—a text outside of life—but results in impressions left on the reader. Topics either “covered” or hinted at by the project are: disintegration of the digital, facticity/contingency in fictional spaces, false histories, lacunae of representation in media, &c.

    The project will, as noted, a series of HTML sites. Use of the projector/computer will be required.

  7. In my first html project (the html essay) I explored the concept of the real and the simulated in 21st century societies. I wanted to explore how one extends their physical selves into digital and technological extremes, where original physicality becomes diluted and lost amongst the endless hallways that constitute a meta-world. I believe that people are able to become truer versions of their conscious selves when utilizing cybernetic technologies. However, I’m also interested when these systems break down and whether or not humans start to lose their sense of their identity upon realizing that these deity like objects are equally apart of a physical world when succumbed to failure.
    I explored this briefly in my essay through stills from the virtual reality game Second Life. They were from the Second Life online store, where you can buy items, avatars and more. In those stills I explored cyber-dogs and cats to comment on domesticity in cybernetic terms and the starkness of having something real against having something artifice. In the final project, I want to create a machinima film shot in Second Life that explores a character who lives a daily domestic life like similar to how Americans are ‘expected’ to live. There are ways to similarly enact a normal life within this realm, but I also want to expose the cracks in this man’s world and how the character must cope with the failures of this technology and whether or not he himself is a fictitious creation.

  8. For my final project in Intro to Media, I will be exploring the idea of how an image’s meaning changes through its presentation. More specifically, I will be looking at photography through sites like Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat and comparing them to more antiquated (yikes) forms of representation like Newspapers and Magazines.
    “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and spaces, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” Walter Benjamin – Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction pg. 106
    To present the project itself, I will be making a slideshow on my computer.

  9. add.>> I want to cull from sources such as Harraway and McCluhan to investigate the use of technologies as extensions of the body and Baudrillard to investigate simulation and the hyperreal.

  10. Throughout the semester I have really liked the idea of the Internet being a place in which one creates a new identity, especially through avatars. For my final project I am going to explore that notion through creating a profile on a site that I found like SecondLife (that is free). I am going to create my own virtual world and attempt to create relationships etc through the medium. I haven’t decided if I am going to make it a direct representation of myself or if I am going to create an entirely new identity. To preset it I’ll take screenshots of my virtual life and map it out on my HTML site.

    I want to look at ideas from Turkle and Nakamura. Turkle states, “It is not uncommon for people who spend a lot of time on Second Life and role playing games to say that their online identities make them feel more like themselves than they do in the physical real,” (159). In my exploration of a virtual world, I want to see if I am able to create an identity that I feel is truer to myself. I want to see if I can gain satisfaction from this notion of a “life mix.” Nakamura furthers this when she writes about creating the desired self online. I want to see how specific characteristics of myself are highlighted or are shed away in this online space.

  11. For my final project I will be performing an ethnographic observation of the social networking site, Facebook. I intend to better understand the processes under which the site functions, seeking to answer questions such as: Is there more to Facebook than code? How does the site confine and liberate user interactions? What non-coding dynamics help give structure to the site? To what extent is Facebook a representation of the modern state? I will create a fake Facebook user to illustrate my findings. I will be functioning under the premise of understanding perception, particularly how users view their world differently on Facebook than they do in the physical world. I was inspired to do this by Benjamin’s quote: “During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well” (107).

  12. The Internet allows for the nearly instantaneous dissemination of images, cultural content and information. Subsequently, the search engine “organizes” and maps a network of images, related by a descriptive word or chain of terms, by formal likeness, or similarity of content. Images may be gathered, viewed, organized, collected, downloaded, uploaded, edited—confounding notions of ownership and intended audience/purpose/message. I’m interested in making digital collages, images webs and maps and forming new associations derived from these web-based gathering systems, thus refashioning the Internet as global, (inter)personal Memex of sorts. I’m interested in Vaneuver Bush’s ideas of mapped memories and associations, specifically in image form, as well as Manovich’s writing on interfaces and visual experience. I will most likely need a computer for display and may also have physically printed images (for hanging).

  13. We are interested in learning more about Jenkins’ ideas related to convergence culture, participatory culture, and collective intelligence. It was fascinating to read about how Jenkins explored those concepts through American Idol, The Matrix, and Survivor. However, we want to try to see how these ideas are taking shape among online groups called fandoms, specifically fandoms formed on Tumblr. In addition to connecting to Jenkins’s ideas, fandoms also exemplify many of the topics we have covered in class—like McLuhan’s global village and media being an extension of ourselves, or Lev Manovich’s “cultural interface” and how the user interacts with the computer (or how the user fails to recognize the medium they are using). Another layer of our project is going to be the study of how people become involved in fandoms, create fandoms, and even become popular enough to circulate false information and cause a sort of crises from a single fandom page.

  14. For my project I want to research and discuss the various roles of the Internet historically and in the future. I want to discuss the idea of a free flow of information. I want to discuss ways that governments try to control the Internet through censorship and laws like SOPA and PIPA, and I also want to talk about the Tor network and Silk Road, and hackers like Kevin Mitnick, and organizations like Anonymous and Wikileaks.

  15. For my project, I am working on a software suite for exploring the medium equivalence of all things that exist in digital form. “Software suite” is just my way of making what will end up being a handful of relatively simple Python programs sound more exciting (and Manovichesque). So far I have three different categories of ideas—programs that will allow us to experience the binary code of a file in a new way, programs that will map the data of one medium onto another (ie, image to sound, text to image, etc.), and programs that will demonstrate the fragility of binary code by going into the code itself and screwing it up royally and pseudo-randomly.

    My project is influenced largely by Manovich and his idea of “meta-media.” As he says in “Understanding Meta-Media:”

    “ If we want to describe what new media does to old media with a single term, ‘mapping’ is a good candidate. Software allows us to remap old media objects into new structures — turning media into ‘meta-media”.

    This fits best with the second class of programs that I listed above. My preliminary experiments with image and sound files so far also take great inspiration from the essay we read—“Tones Out of Nowhere”— about Pfenninger and Fischinger’s work with sound engineering. Furthermore, Kittler’s discussion on media convergence and digital equivalence has also been and influence.

    Hopefully I will be able to make some headway in all three of these areas by the time our due-date rolls around, but I guess we’ll have to see. My AV needs will be: a projector for my computer (I’ll have to figure out what sort of cable I need to hook it up) and working speakers.

  16. I plan to explore the phenomena of participation on media including not limited to Instagram, Soundcloud, and Twitter.

    How does participation and communication on these platforms foster relations between artists and their community of fans?
    How do different modes of sharing – whether to the user the platform is a pulpit, a diary, an opportunity to share links to elsewhere, or to communicate directly in conversation with others – inform their persona?
    What are the real life implications of ‘following’ and ‘unfollowing’ a friend?
    How does numerical quantification of artistic value shape the artist’s persona and cultural influence?
    How does using these platforms on a mobile device versus on a computer shape the way they are used?

    McLuhan writes, “Electric circuitry confers a mythic dimension to our ordinary individual and group actions. Our technology forces us to live mythically , but we continue to think fragmentarily, and on single, separate planes?”…”Young people are looking for a formula for putting on the universe- participation mystique. They do not look for detached patterns – for ways of relating themselves to the world, a la nineteenth century”
    He states that “Myth is the mode of simultaneous awareness of a complex group of causes and effects”. How do artists utilize these platforms to create a mythic aura?

    To explore these questions I will use as source material my own feeds and the feeds of people with whom I am connected on these websites.

  17. I am interested in exploring the how technology mediates the human experience through speed. Communication is almost instant; packages can be delivered within two days (soon to be 30 minutes); 50,000 dollars can be raised in a day by “ordinary” people through websites like Kickstarter through crowdfunding; everything you wanted to know about Jean Baudrillard’s philosophy is conveniently (though perhaps not accurately) summarized on Wikipedia; instead of the dictionary we use dictionary.com. It is a radical change for the flow of information and consequently capital. I’m interested in how perception of the world has changed due to a change in the pace that things happen in it– has my thinking about what’s possible increased or decreased?

    In order to explore this, I see a presentation that takes place in a computer lab. Participants will relay scripts to each other across different media platforms– works of art like the Oresteia (whose plot driver is delayed communication), conversations with relatives, conversations with each other– that are mediated with constant reminders to be conscious of the medium. I would also like to explore the implications of tabs.

    A primary question I have is whether we are creating a new “reality”, or simulating an old one.

    My project will clearly draw on the works of McLuhan, but also Turkle, Walter Benjamin, Baudrillard, and Jenkins.

    “What we are considering here, however, are the psychic and social consequences of the designs or patterns as they amplify or accelerate existing processes. For the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.” — Marshal McLuhan

    What I’m wrestling with is whether the railroad in this section could be replaced with internet.

  18. Sorry for the lateness of this post!
    My project idea is an expansion of the imagemapping strategy I used in my Image Essay and the Interactive Narrative.
    I am inspired by Baudrillard’s understanding of cartography as actually supplanting the territory which references. “Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is generation by models of a real without origin or reality; a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it.”
    I want to push this idea to its logical extreme, by creating a “map” that does not even attempt to correspond with a “real” 3-dimensional space.
    A map created on the internet is much more than simply a 2-dimensional representation. With the power of hyperlinking comes the potential to fulfill Baudrillard’s “end of the dialectic” with an endless desert of signs that “offer[s] all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vissistudes”. Hyperlinking creates wrinkles in the map, wormholes that shortcut across territories that once were thought to be bound linearly.
    Html as a medium is itself made up of language. I want to use the capabilities of html to create a “map” of Baudrillard’s hyperreal world as it is sketched out in his essay “The Precession of Simulacra” (using language to map language). The essay is full of visual descriptions, mostly of isolated “spaces” in either space or in time. All of these are juxtaposed in strange and improbable ways (the Loud family, The Resurrection of Christ, Disneyland, etc.). By embracing the empty signs that have obscured their referents in the vapid re-cycling of meaning, I hope to map them in a new way, bringing them out of the second dimension to a place where they are free to hash against each other. I’m not sure what the effect of this will be for the user of the interface. It will involve both a visual and intellectual navigation, possibly taking on a new kind of “discrete charm”.

  19. Hi! Sorry it took me until now to put up my final project idea.
    After sometime of thinking and shutting ideas down I finally figured out how to do something that comments on element we’ve discussed in class as well as link back to my own personal relationship with tech today. I’ve always had a huge difficulty when it comes to texting, emailing, phone calls, etc. But when I’m in person with people, I can easily speak to them. I guess it feels like a kind of anxiety that makes me freeze up and not be able to respond, whether it be wishing my mother happy birthday or responding to a friends question or text. From influence from Marshall McLuhan’s “Medium is the Message” as well as Donna Haraoways “Cyborg Manifesto” I have decided to go back in my phone and emails, and find all the ones of my friends and family writing to me about how bothersome it is that I don’t write back to them. I will either be making a prink of mural of all the screenshots printed out, a booklet, or have them projected in a slideshow.

  20. For my final project, I will be exploring Twitter language in relation to Hayles’ ‘Translating Media’ piece. I’m interested in what happens to our linguistic modes as they are forced to conform to the search engine algorithms of Twitter’s hashtag function. Are we, as a network, becoming an algorithm of computer speak?
    To explore this, I will be running my own tweets through Cleverbot to determine whether its language formula can comprehend twit-talk. I will a) present the “conversation” in print form and b) present it as a sound piece so that we can experience this digital lingo acoustically.
    For my presentation, I will only need my own laptop.

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