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On page 612 of Jeffrey Bardzell’s article, Interaction Criticism: An Introduction to the Practice, he quotes Lev Manovich and theory of transcoding in New Media.  Transcoding means “the principle that computer files have both a computer layer and a cultural layer”  (612).

When I read this quote (and I believe I read some of Manovich’s work when I was in Christians Briggs’s class, cause I know the theory of transcoding from somewhere), it reminded me of the video posted above from BuzzFeed.  Photoshop is used as an example in Jeff’s article, so I will not repeat what he said here.  What I want to focus on is the cultural layer of this video.

We often see models on the covers of magazines and automatically think, that is not the way he or she looks in real life, they have been Photoshopped.  It is said these magazines and the practice of retouching photos to make people appear perfect has lead to increased instances of body dysmorphic disorder.  What makes this video so different is that it shows the reactions of women after they have been put in the model’s situation and have photos of them altered, in order to meet what is called perfect.  The reactions show they do no like what they look like, stating it does not look like them — going against everything these magazine covers are trying to show.  Maybe the cultural layer of Photoshop should be seen more as making things unreal rather than improving photographs.

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Our discussion on genealogies sparked a few ideas on the Interaction paper. I’m thinking about researching the genealogy of music ownership (owning CDs or downloading Mp3s) and the genealogy of accessing music (streaming music through services like Spotify). The goal of the paper would be to reveal these genealogies, and provide a better understanding for interaction designers when developing music related software or platforms.

From what I understand, and this is something I used to blog about frequently in 2007, music access has roots in live performances, days prior to recorded music, radio, and services that we pay for (such as electricity or running water). Accessing music thrives on community (via social networking) and views music as something we tap into or engage in. Because accessing music encourages community, you find services like SoundCloud that encourage people to record their music and share it with their friends, and provide an engaging commenting system.

Music ownership views music as a commodity. Its roots are in printed sheet music and player pianos. While certain forms of music ownership (such as vinyl) encourage community, it has largely become an individualistic experience. Music ownership didn’t replace music access until vinyl exploded in the 1950s.

While music ownership will continue, through vinyl and Mp3 collections, there are more and more signs that people are once again viewing music as something they access. As interaction designers, we should be aware of the differences between these two genealogies.

I would like to view these two genealogies through the lens of the Lev Manovich reading, and discussing the semiotics involved.

One thing that I really enjoyed from the Lev Manovich article is his ability to provide roots for current developments. It’s common for us in 2013 to think that we’re quite separated from our past (and I don’t have any statistics to support the “common” claim). But all of our technologies, and ways we interface with them, have genealogies that can be studied and understood.

As someone that enjoys studying my own familial genealogy, I’m interested in the genealogy of our technology. The ancestral roots of a webpage, for example, is intriguing.

During fall break I took my family to Louisville for a few days (partly for genealogical research). We walked through a downtown museum that focused on the development of weapons. While I’m not someone that is very interested in swords and guns, it was interesting to watch medieval weaponry change over time, and swords develop, as the museum was designed to progress over time as you walked through the museum. It was interesting to see the connection between Civil War rifles, for example, and a medieval lance. Everything has roots.

In Lev Manovich’s article, he talks about how the language of computer interface is drawn upon cinema, print words, and the tradition of HCI. This is a way to place the development of computer interface on top of our development of media in general. We have seen this line of argument in Cramption-Smith (who proposes computer interface to have a language of its own), and Bolter and Grusin write a seminal book called Remediation to discuss the notion. Among all these studies, computer interfaces are thought of analogues to book, painting, and cinema, but I thought it might be interesting to add another category to it: Michael Benedikt thinks of computer interface in spatial terms. For him, computer space can be thought of as a socially shared architecture, as a city, or as “a common mental geography.”

In Benedikt’s seminal essay “Cyberspace: First Steps” (1991), he speculates cyberspace before it has ever come into being. The essay is the editorial essay for the self-proclaimed first conference on cyberspace (1990). He calls it “cyberspace” instead of interface, first of all, marking his background in architecture. Benedikt, too, places the development of cyberspace on top of four human histories, among them are language/myth, media technology, architecture, and mathematic. Notably, he argues that the advent of cyberspace signifies our cultural impulse of “dematerialization” of architecture, long existent in our imagination of “the city of heaven.” Cyberspace marks also the efforts of mathematicians to specialize their understanding of math.

I quote a passage from the Benedikt and you could see how he conceptualizes computer interface in the language of space. It is conceptualizes in spatial terms mainly because it is social shared as city does. Also, see how the fact that computer interface is an immaterial, virtual, and mental space fascinates Benedikt.

“Cyberspace: A common mental geography, built, in turn, by consensus and revolution, canon and experiment; a territory swarming with data and lies, with mind stuff and memories of nature, with a million voices and two million eyes in a silent, invisible concert to enquiry, deal-making, dream-sharing, and simple beholding.”