Author Archive: angelarovak

Never Quite Done – The Process is the Project

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 by angelarovak

What occurs to me most is that my project could continue on almost indefinitely. With this realization, I am consciously stopping for now. Please head over to The Process is the Project for the “final” result. I hope you can spend a bit of time clicking through and I truly hope you enjoy. I am particularly fond of the Artist Statement.

It has been a pleasure, and an eye opening experience, to say the least.

To quote myself: “I am the common factor, I am the medium through which these elements worked.”

The Process is the Project

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 by angelarovak

My experiment tonight perfectly summarizes the intention of my final project. Tonight, I began playing with printing on standard stock printer paper, but covering sections with (not-so-sticky) tape in order to remove areas printed on to leave behind a planned image. The inspiration comes largely from Steve McCaffery’s Carnival series, with which I’ve been enamored since first encountering it earlier this semester. My initial goal was to see if I can make image impressions when the tape is pulled away, like this one:



Here, the flower was made with cut outs in packing tape placed on the page, and then using a ruler in hand to compare to the ruler supplied in Microsoft word, I typed out the filling. the word “petal” repeats in the flower and “stem” in the, well, stem. My calculations were not too precise (hence the erroneous type you can see), but I find this a successful first round experiment.

While this image and piece was my original end goal, I was surprised to be inspired by and more aesthetically interested in the tape I pulled away from the paper. With flaking letters from the laserjet printer, the tape seems delicate and ephemeral in a way the printed page does not.

petal tape


(Yes, the printed-on tape is currently sticking to my living room wall)

I have concluded that the better way to achieve my first goal would be to cut out the intended pattern on a piece of paper, lay it on top of the intended sheet (securing with bits of tape), running it through the printer, and removing the top page. That would give me the same affect of the peeling tape, but it would not leave me with such an intriguing byproduct of the process.

And now we get to the main point of my project. I intend to compose a portfolio of images inspired by both the art pieces we have encountered and the theoretical material to see how I can recreate the aesthetics or add to the conversation by engaging a variety of media and using the tool I know best: Word. Throughout the semester, as we investigated the long and complex history of communication technologies, I have thought frequently about how they are all related to this program we use most. While clearly Word isn’t my only tool for this project, which will range from copy machines, to typewriters, to scissors and paint, all of the images and experiments will begin here in one way or another. I want to see how tools of communication can be tools for art, and how that is a different form of communication. I want to see what I can, and cannot, do. But my main prerogative is not to create a set of stunning final images (although that would be nice) but to be critical of the process by which I make the item. Hence: The Process is the Project.

I am documenting my trials and errors on my own blog ( where you can see my methods and thoughts and, eventually, see the final images I land on. Right now you can pop over to see the few blog-like ramblings I have posted thus far about my experiments (in “The Process”), but the final results will be more critically engaged. Once complete, the “Results” page will feature each image and will link to a brief 500-1000 word analysis of the image via the technologies and media I have used. I hope to see how the media and machines act as much as an artist as I will, influencing the final product and its reception.

The Human Clone in the Age of Technological Reproduction

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 by angelarovak

Throughout the course of this semester we have steadily moved backwards in time, tracing a reverse chronology of media theory and art. With that concession I hope you will stick with me as I reverse my own thinking back to the topic of our first class session, The Future, and begin to relate the course offering to my own specific field of study. I have spent a large part of the last week writing on and thinking about cloning for a different project, and one thing I am always struck by is the intersections of cloning and other speculative assisted reproductive technologies and the realized media and medical technologies in our world. Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” is often used in tandem with Baudrillard’s theories of simulacra to examine literary representations of cloning. To quote Maria Ferreira from the text I Am Other at length:

What Baudrillard mainly objects to in cloning is the endless, mechanical reproduction of the same, a duplication that inevitably entails the disappearance – or at least the dilution to extreme, homeopathic doses – of  a supposed original, unique, authentic first being or object. Walter Benjamin is of course, a crucial source in any debate that deals with copies and reproductions…With reproduction, the ‘aura’ of the object, to take up Benjamin’s term, is lost…Indeed, the dread associated with the loss of an aura of authenticity in an age of simulacra is a driving force behind the horror often linked with the prospect of cloning. (Ferreira 153)

The questions that arise for me deal with the definitions of media, object, art, human, and posthuman. Ferreira goes on to write that clones are inscribed “in the realm of mass art, as reproducible and unoriginal” (154) as the technologically reproduced prints and posters that fill the popular imagination when considering Benjamin’s theory. What, ultimately, is the difference between a human and the object of art? The human and the machine? We can trace these same questions in Benjamin’s essay when he considers the subject of these reproducible objects, particularly that of the actor. The film actor, divorced from the auratic physical body, becomes a cloned image. The filmed actor has no life, no soul, no ability to react to the audience. Is the actor himself reduced due to these clones? How does their moving screen life differ from the life of a clone? So much of the technology we have examined in this course are methods of alternative reproduction; of images, ideas, electronic data, and I argue that any conversation about reproduction cannot be fully divorced from the ideologies of human reproduction.

Cloning represents the possibility of alternative reproduction, the ability to break down the rigid definitions of sex and gender that permeate our society, and is therefore a site of great anxiety and fear. Benjamin’s article speaks to some anxieties about the mechanical revolution, but also marks the induction of modernity and the rise of alternate ways of being and communicating. “Work of Art” draws on the concerns of the turn of the 20th century and seems almost prophetic in its analysis of the coming era, just as “[i]t seems greatly appropriate that human cloning, an eminently millennial and apocalyptic theme, has significantly come to general attention almost at the end of the millennium, suggestive of portentous changes to come” (Ferreira 3–4). We speak so often of the mechanical and technological as separate dimensions from the human, and I know I will be criticized for trying to reintroduce the human into the humanities here, but I can’t help but wonder how they are all connected. How the body is a machine, reproducible and reproductive. And what such a concession would mean for the development of an alternate social construction.

Reproducing and Reviving the Aura

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 by angelarovak

I have long been persuaded by Benjamin’s argument in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” regarding the diminished aura of a mechanically or technologically reproduced item, that “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art” (219). If we consider that the aura can be succinctly described as “uniqueness” or “originality,” tied to religious practices and rituals that imbued deep meaning and reverence in art objects, then it seems to logically follow that when art can be reproduced this esoteric characteristic fades into nothing. But due to the examinations of this course over the semester I have begun to doubt the full accuracy of this statement. I am not sure I still believe that the mere intrusion of technology and mechanical mediation destroys the aura of the art object. Besides the propensity for glitches and unique and unpredictable outcomes through mechanical reproduction, the production and availability of an art object does not necessarily dilute its aura. The Gorgeous Nothings of Emily Dickinson’s envelope poems readily proves this idea.

The delicate and fleeting nature of Dickinson’s poems is evident to all readers. Scribbled on scraps of paper and envelopes, never intended for a readership let alone wide publication, the ephemeral quality of her writing permeates even this most masterfully reproduced collection of her hand written poems. Perhaps it is the quality of the reproduction that allows for an aspect of the aura to be maintained (I recall a past reading that claimed the Photoshop was returning photography to the realm of painting, perhaps the high quality scans of these poems allows some semblance of the original “art” to remain). The texture of the poems and the resonating intimacy of the hand written words almost makes me forget that this text only offers me reproductions. The texts also offer unique reading experiences, unreproducible between each experience, as Dickinson played with replacing words and offering alternative navigations of her poem indicated by the + signs etched above or below her lines. Each reading is new, like a chose your own adventure poem. Whether we are meant to read the alternatives simultaneously, in a specific order, as full replacement of the original word, is unknown. But then again, we were never meant to read them at all. How can we determine “the location of its original use value” (Benjamin 220) in order to define these poems as “authentic” art when they were to remain obscured from consumption?

What I cannot do is imagine a different reader experience in terms of the original documents. I would postulate that an even greater aura surrounds the envelope poems themselves, but all is not lost in the reproduction. Or perhaps it is a different kind of aura emerging from the exponentially rising technology and mediation of our time. Benjamin reflects upon the rise of reproduction in accordance to modernity, but this may not translate as literally into the “postmodern” (although I do dislike that term) world we now find ourselves in. Mechanical reproduction may have destroyed the aura, but it may also be the means to bringing it back.

Sexting and the Threat of Technology

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 by angelarovak

Yesterday afternoon I attended a great lecture on campus by Profssor Amy Adele Hasinoff of Communications at the University of Colorado Denver titled “Sexting and the Politics of Privacy and Consent.” As we have discussed many of the new technologies she covered and the concepts of privacy, I wanted to share a few moments from her talk.

Most of the talk revolved around her argument that the legal ramifications of sexting, defined as creating or distributing a sexually suggesting or explicit personal image via text by mobile phone or other electronic means, should be abolished for the consenting participants. The logical conundrum that in many places in the U.S. two 17-year-olds can engage in sex acts but it be illegal for them to photograph these sex acts seems bizarre, to say the least. Also, Prof. Hasinoff pointed out how people of color and queer couples are disproportionately targeted by these laws, often serving jail time for creating “child pornography” of their own bodies. The trend to engage in this risky behavior speaks volumes about how different populations privilege, or don’t, privacy.

Now on to the interesting points about technology. I was particularly intrigued by the argument that, even though the technologies of sexting are recent, the discourse is quite old. Throughout history the conversation on how each new technology is related to or can be exploited by female sexual deviancy arises. A great example is of the telegraph, examined in an article “High Tech or High Risk” by Cassell and Cramer, where young women operators caused anxiety after stories of illicit love affairs beginning over the wires circulated in society. How the technology is blamed along with the female can be seen through many of these stories, showing yet another narrative we can consider when thinking about media development over the past few centuries.

Prof. Hasinoff hit may great points about how to change social conception and legal ramifications of sexting. I was curious about one of her suggestions to limit the privacy violations of circulating intimate images. She proposed that cellphones offer the option for user-controlled DRM on devices which would inhibit any recipient from forwarding on the item. I am curious how we all react to this? Is this an inhibition of media and technological devices? Do we believe the files and images shared between devices should be “free” to circulate? She also mentioned SnapChat as a move in the right direction for consent and privacy issues surrounding digital file sharing, but agreed that the servers which hold all images could be considered as harboring child pornography under the current laws. My intent in sharing this watered-down version of her lecture with all of us is to consider yet another aspect of the relationship between people, society, and technology. How new media change the public perceptions of consent and privacy seems to be a site ready for more reflection.

Quak-Quak Goes the Frog

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 by angelarovak



Written language, even when incomprehensible on the basis of semiotic understanding, still represents the possible noises achievable through the human instrument. The vocal cords and distortion of the face can produce a remarkable array of sounds, but this mode of expression remains limited. Much of the analysis of Futurist and Dadaist poetry seems predicated on the sounds a human can make, and I was most interested in Niebisch’s analysis of onomatopoeias per Marinetti in Media Parasites in the Early Avant-Garde. Niebisch argues that the “reason for the extensive use of onomatopoetic expressions is that they are not conventionally determined. They refer directly to material pre-verbal sounds” (53). While this appears sound in theory, I pause at the assumption that onomatopoeias are not culturally determined, invested in a common linguistic system even if they are “not established as lexical items” (53) as Niebisch argues Marinett’s use of onomatopoeias is not. The symbolic representation of written noise still connotes particular representations within a language system. This becomes glaringly obvious when considering the onomatopoeias from across languages and cultures, all which presumably represent the same thing but only come into interpretive meaning when applied in the proper language system.

The phonetic reading of “quak-quak” and “quack-quack,” to the English speaker, is undeniable the same. But the first, in Greek, would conjure images of a frog, while the second, in English, draws to mind a duck.

With this consideration I find the argument that, for Marinetti and other such poets, the onomatopoeias “constitute linguistic expressions of non-lexically coded sensations and compress these sensations in just one term” (53) to be unconvincing. In order to understand the intention of Zang Tumb Tumb the reader must have an understanding that “tumbtumb” represents the auditory experience of bombings. Any semantic communication is lost otherwise.

This interrogation of the more authentic experiential representation of written sounds and syllables applies to much of the Futurist and Dadaist poetry and even the sound poetry assigned for this week. While there is a strong argument that this artistic expression is meant to aestheticize pure noise disconnected from semantic linguistic reasoning, there still remains an imbedded ideological reliance on language systems. In this manner, I agree with Niebisch’s critique of the “optophonetic” quality of Dada visual poster poetry, a concept applicable to most visual poetry. While the size, typeface, and other visual features represent a particular acoustic impression, that “the aesthetic quality of the letters corresponds to a certain mode of acoustic utterance” (76), it is a limited system. Non-phonetic written representation cannot be read in such a way. Just as the kazoo-like sounds, ringing bells, and other non-human vocalized features of the sound poems would be linguistically impossible to represent in written form. The visual and acoustic manipulation of the poem’s parts seems to get us as close to the intention of pure communication, but still falls short as long as the poet and reader remain embedded in a conventional linguistic system.

Sensing the Typewriter

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 by angelarovak

The further I dive into this material the less I trust my own senses. What I see and hear don’t appear to be what actually exists, and trying to ponder what actually exists in terms of these different media seems a fruitless endeavor as well. My befuddlement only increased while reading McLuhan’s section “The Medium is the Message.” If “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium (McLuhan 10) then the scrambled, out of order, even repeating content of the (corrupted?) McLuhan file only solidifies this basic concept. What was being said, the content, the words as print as phonetics as sound, didn’t matter as much as the medium of transmission. I could not be a passive reader participating in “subliminal and docile acceptance of media impact” (28), and at the very least the reading experience made me more alert and aware of the mediated communication.

This reading practice resonated with me experiences in the MAL this week where I spent some time on the Olympia typewriter from 1956. Originally for this blog I intended to include the typed page and an edited transcript, but such an inclusion would emphasize the content of the writing instead of the message of the medium. Most of the content focuses on the experience of typing, both psychologically and physically for me, the user, as well as recording the limitations of the device. It took me several lines of focused counting to deduce that the typewriter would allow 60 characters per line before stalling, and the ding would sound with 9 characters to go. By engaging these multiple senses, as well as a new tactile experience of the tiered keyboard, the boundaries between myself and machine seemed to dissolve. What I was typing seemed irrelevant, I was searching for the experience of typing on this medium that changed both my approach and my thoughts. The auditory noise of the keys, a dramatic version of the clicks of the keys on my laptop keyboard, in conjunction with the warning ding, and the heightened awareness of hearing the dreaded double-space (which you cannot feel or really predict), seems to change the relationship between the “eye” and the “ear” as theorized by McLuhan. While the phonetic alphabet catalyzed a “stark division and parallelism between a visual and an auditory world” (95), this analysis appears overly focusing on the content. The medium, the typewriter, parallels the visual and auditory world unlike any other writing technology. It is a device predicated on the phonetic alphabet and creates an immersed experience of multiple human senses. While McLuhan argues that the “[l]iterate man undergoes much separation of his imaginative, emotional, and sense life” (100), literate in this instance meaning adhering to a phonetic written language, it appears that the typewriter helps to bring these aspects back together.

While he may not advance the ideas, McLuhan presents the poetical belief in “the power of the typewriter to help the poet to indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspension, even, of syllables, the juxtaposition, even, of parts of phrases which he intends” (286). From my experiences this week I would be keen to agree with this sentiment. The human quality of typing on a typewriter is different than other methods, the medium truly is mediating the writing experience. The typist has the opportunity to engage with the medium without much concern over the final product, the content. As typewriters “altered English verse and prose, and indeed, the very mental habits, themselves, of writers” (287), it seems to be an ideal medium to investigate and elaborate upon the notion that “the medium is the message.”

I chose the typewriter this week to experiment on in order to consolidate ideas for my final project. By mapping its capabilities I discovered the means and methods of transposing the content of my messages, but perhaps now I see that shouldn’t exactly be my intention. What the typewriter offers cannot be condensed to the characters stamped on a page. Its involvement in my final project will hopefully reflect the medium and not merely the message.

Take Man Out of the Humanities

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 by angelarovak

When considering the prospect of taking the human out of the humanities, as we have been discussing in class and which seems to be a central caveat of Wolfgang Ernst’s argument in Digital Memory and the Archive, I have minimal doubts or anxieties; this approach seems highly pragmatic and a necessary addition to the scholarly discourse. But while I can agree to eliminating the narrative as “the medium of history” (54), as Ernst refers to it, I am more hesitant to completely ignore the ideologies embedded in the creation, curation, and preservation of media objects and, in particular, the photographic images Ernst highlights in the first chapter of the text. Mainly, my resistance stems from minimal concession to photographs as purposely framed images influenced by the photographer who is in turn influenced by the embedded ideologies of his sociocultural situation. I purposely employ the masculine pronoun in this case because, to paraphrase the John Berger in his seminal text of visual studies Ways of Seeing, all images are manmade. The neutrality of the masculine gender as the creator of images, and most often of the devices and techniques used to manufacture such images, undermines a potential alternative arrangement of media archaeological studies. Where are the women? Or other marginalized groups? I argue that the theories presented by Ernst and his predecessors blatantly ignore the gender ideologies invested in the objects. I understand that the intent of the approach is to ignore all ideological, historical, political, and social traces of these material objects, but the curation of archives and the selection of research objects cannot be divorced from hierarchies of power in the past or the present.

Ernst routinely refers to photography as a “cold medium” (47) that marked the “apparent shift of emphasis in nineteenth-century historiography from describing to showing” (45), but even theoretically the mechanisms of the camera cannot be seen as completely detached from the human (male) subject. (Ernst refers to McLuhan in this distinction between “cold” and “hot” methods of preservation, so perhaps this will all become more clear after next week’s reading.) The camera itself, surely, is but a cold seeing eye, but the camera is a useless combination of mechanisms without the external interaction necessary to create the actual photograph. All images are framed, reducing the panorama of human observation to a determined space and representation. How the image is framed cannot be objective but rather is the product of internalized and neutralized ideologies privileging particular modes and methods of seeing. There appears a deep contradiction in the claim that photography “achieve[s] historical transparency” (49), a “technologically neutral code” (46), and noting offhandedly and without proper concession or analysis that “Of course, no representation is ever unmediated” (48). I can agree that the “detached scientific observer is the camera” (49), but the camera is unoperational on its own.

The photograph is given a privileged position as a preservable artifact that can be stored in the archive. Again, I am troubled by the unexamined sociocultural influences of how and why items are prioritized for inclusion in the archive. Ernst attributes this position to photography since “photographic paper registers a genuinely mediatic transfer” (42) which makes it more authentic than other methods (again, however, ignoring the necessity of a human eye to frame the scene transferred to photographic paper). While Ernst points out that the “mechanisms that regulate entry into the discourse of history or exclusion from cultural memory are therefore part of the media-archaeological investigation” (42), he appears uninterested in examining these influences. I do not see a methodological rift between acknowledging the gender and power ideologies influencing the media objects included in his studies, quite the opposite. It seems that Ernst’s proposed approach reifies ideological hierarchies, further solidifying patriarchal attitudes and value judgments. To take into consideration of how objects and images are produced, under what ideological circumstances, while also questioning your own ideological investments as a researcher, can only serve to illuminate alternative arrangements. Such considerations can help break the narrative of history that material-based media archaeologists so desperately wish to escape.

“Ghost Fork” and “March of the Sad Lady”

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by angelarovak

I have fond memories of playing with the giant copy machine as a child at my mother’s office. Such thoughts made me incredibly excited to read and inspired by Copier Art. The possibilities seemed endless! And, partially frightening, as the text asks “Does the machine have a creative soul of its own? One begins to wonder” (107). During my experiment creating some copier “art” (in scare quotes because I am not sure I would label my results as such), I had to wonder if the machine was influencing my intent. And what I discovered is that it is incredibly difficult, and would take significantly more time in planning a piece than I dedicated today. I made two pieces to explore two basic concepts of copier art, zoom and density. My piece playing with the zoom capabilities of the machine, titled “March of the Sad Lady,” proved to be the most difficult. After several failed attempts at arranging the paper in the manual input tray to guarantee the images were aligned on the page correctly, I began placing my image, moving it about, and changing the zoom. What I discovered is how difficult it is to picture a percentage of zoom on the large glass space in terms of how it will be represented on an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper. Below are my results:

March of the Sad Lady

I feel particularly bad for the teeny tiny sad lady in the middle, obstructed by two larger sad ladies, whom I was intending to be closer to the bottom left hand corner. If anything I can say that at least my efforts were successful, it does look like quite a march of the sad, automaton ladies.

My second experiment was in density, or the saturation of image. This was accomplished by using the same source material, in this case a large fork with pasta, moving it about and changing the input. We can call this one “Ghost Fork.” I was expecting larger contrast between the lightest setting and the darkest, but overall I am pleased with the results:Ghost Fork

After a few minutes experimenting, the controls of the machine became familiar, and I found myself laughing and smiling with excitement as things turned out and frustrated and scoffing when they did not. I was reminded of the instant gratification benefit of embarking on creative endeavors such as these described in Copier Art. The technology has advanced, although it appears to still be within the realm of those described in the 1980s. What interests me most is the ubiquity of the machine and how it no longer seems to have such an appeal, an aura of wonder, as it may have decades ago. Do children still place office supplies and found objects on the glass and make souvenirs from their trips to their parent’s office? The process reminds me of another long lost interest of mine, photography. Learning to use the dark room, to manipulate light and create your own saturations and zooms for your art came back to me in another rush of nostalgia. Like copier art it seems that the widespread use of such skills and techniques is fading from the general public as more digital means of image manipulation take hold. I am reminded of the introduction to Copier Art where “copier visionaries predict such marvels as instant copies of what a person sees, shot directly off the back of the eye’s retina” (18). While this still seems to be in our future, devices like Google Glass make it seem all too real.

Conceptualizing Time in “SWALLOWS”

Monday, February 17th, 2014 by angelarovak

When Zielinski declares that “the idea of geological deep time is so foreign to us that we can understand it only as a metaphor” (5), I began to question the language we have to discuss the temporality of humanity versus geology versus media. He claims that media has a history enriched in “deep time” but this phrasing attributes a physical characteristic (“deep”) to a theoretic concept (“time”). Similarly, to map the progression of media over space on time through the notions of cartography seems to further conflate the objective ideologies of space and physical reality on to the esoteric realm of time. This deficit of language to explain the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of time attributed to media by Zielinski left me wordless. No description seemed adequate to comment upon the intersections of the human with the machine across either time or space.

Stuck in the ether of unknowability, I moved on to Paul Zelevansky’s “SWALLOWS” to try and jar my mind out of this paradox. To my surprise, the first chapter seems to help bridge the gap of the human perception and machine temporality through animated visuals and allusions to “deep time.” Fittingly, we begin with a clock.

Swallows Image1

Time is foregrounded in this image as the hands tick away. Yet the 12 hour interface of the clock proved inadequate as the mythological language was deeply reminiscent of Biblical phrasing and time. I proceeded to “The Next Day,” and then “on the second day,” conjuring images of Genesis where a “day” does not adequately map onto the 24-hour temporal system humanity has internalized. The swallows come upon “two camels considering a matter of judgment,” continuing the Old Testament references as the proverbial camels suggest a “divine intervention” available in “the camel menu.” With this phrase the story on the screen reminds me of its mediated representation, offering me both the deeply humanistic desire for wisdom growing out of deep time and the contemporary interface of modern technology. I have access to the ancient through the digital menu. And to proceed I need the technology of the keyboard, an extension of my autonomous decision, to activate the theology. Swallows Image2

I took the Camel Wisdom. Quotations from Billie Holiday, Joyce Kilmer, and Kafka appear on my screen. Unsure how to process the “wisdom” from such popular figures, I next try for a Divine Intervention. As I began the game alone, I am now told “You Are Not Alone” but all that is here is the same screen, same machine, same interface. Somewhere from the start to the Intervention the machine has decided its presence constitutes companionship. I ask for Signs of Wonder.Swallows Image3

In succession I see the development of the wheel, the rise and spread of great forests, then the invention of weapons and guns. The trees diminish and the guns proliferate. I am viewing the procession of deep history through the rise of mankind. And all “SWALLOWS” offers me is

Swallows Image4

I cannot say if this experience helped clarify the concepts of Zielinski that robbed me of words to compare the temporality of humanity to that of machines/media, but “SWALLOWS” offered me a new perspective. It interrupted the idea that the conceptions must be separate, combining themes and concepts of deep time with the digital presentation. To complicate matters further, I have to run “SWALLOWS” on an emulator, the file cannot be read by modern technology. I am reaching into the past of media and digital technology to reach even deeper into the interactions of human and machine in deep time. The only conclusion I have to draw is an agreement that “Time Passes…”

Flappy Bird: Real Anxieties, a Silly Game

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 by angelarovak

As I was already mentally planning a tirade about the seemingly paradox of purposefully manipulated glitch art (how can we revel in the randomness when we can predict many of the changes?), I was sidetracked by the coverage of Flappy Bird. Yes, Flappy Bird. The public outcry of this app sensation caught my interest. For those of you out of the loop, Flappy Bird is a smart phone app by a Vietnamese developer that had a meteoric rise of popularity and profitability. But the game is impossible and frustratingly difficult, boasting its addictive qualities and the sense of deep satisfaction at performing well.

My interest here today, and how I see this occurrence as applicable to our topics and conversations, are the hyperbolic complaints. Buzzfeed lists a comprehensive and telling list of user reviews for the game from the iTunes store which demonstrates a widespread complaint that the game will ruin your life. How? Its apparent ease (you’re just flying a bird between Mario-esque pipes) mixed with its accessibility on our ubiquitous hand held devices compounds with its open-ended game play into the perfect storm of frustration. There is no end in sight, no way of qualifying your achievements. So you play on. As one user bemoans: “I used to be like you. I, a young man, once played online with friends. I once attended a school, I once talked to my friends. I never wanted to go down this road.” Another warns “it brings you down in despair…The horror of feeling confident and then it being crushed has no bounds in this game.” One urges us to “send a group of children to an island with no electricity to continue humanity before it’s too late.” While it is reasonable to believe these are exaggerations for comic effect, the anxieties expressed are all too real. A game, something so innocuous that enters out world through digital screens commands intense power over all other aspects of our lives. Many of the joke reviews speak of destroying the phone or tablet in a fit of fury as though the machine itself is the cause to be blamed for our destruction.

Today the developer has removed the app from Google Play stores and the iTunes App Store, Tweeting yesterday that “‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.” How should we define success? How should we monitor our personal investment in such entertainment and in the devices that carry them? How has society and humanity changed when so much of our self-worth can be reduced to a high score on a simplistic phone app? For the record, my high score: 52.

Unstimulated: Google Glass

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by angelarovak

Hello, everyone, I am Angie and I am a stimulation junkie. I have been for most of my life. During my youth you would be hard pressed to find me anywhere but the recliner by the TV, with my laptop balanced on the footrest, the radio blaring, mastering a Nintendo game while simultaneously chatting and texting on my phone. I fall asleep with the TV on and make sure to have the fan running for noise after the sleep timer detonates. Often I have the television on mute while I read. With all of this anecdotal evidence I had high hopes that the extra screen twinkling in my eye through Google Glass would feed right into my addiction. But I was wrong.

I want to experience the childlike excitement I felt over the advent of the Xbox Kinect for Google Glass, but even before trying them out for myself I was skeptical, not roused. After wearing them, connecting them to my Google+ account, exploring the features, all I can feel is disappointment. The features aren’t novel, it just moves the projection of my smartphone (and not nearly all of its capabilities) onto the panorama of my vision. Perhaps after the applications begin to sync with Google Glass capabilities I may enjoy it more, but this item is unlikely to join my store of gadgets and gizmos.

Google Glass seems like the most logical step forward in our 24/7 existence where no matter where you look the screen moves with you. There is no chance of missing out when it automatically engages your vision. Although you will only see a facsimile of the world behind the glowing box. It falls neatly into Jonathan Crary’s observation of our “unending demand for the externalization of one’s life into pre-made digital formats” (104). But there is something I find particularly unnerving about the externalized digital world onto my eye, into my line of sight.

The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences notes that neural pathways in the human brain “change as a function of visual experience” (as qtd. in Singer 107-8). It seems that Google Glass would be the next stage in invading our vision and altering human biological wiring. In this chapter Ben Singer lays out the argument for how modernity, circa the late-19th and early-20th centuries, vastly changed how humanity perceived external stimulus, locating much of the shock of modernity in the physiological reaction to visual input. The takeaway: we adapted. I can see individuals and whole populations using Google Glass and adapting, even if that means a reconfiguration of neural pathways to compensate for the additional visual stimuli. But do we want to? I believe the questions raised in both Singer and Crary’s texts revolve around limits and our willingness to move beyond them for the sake of modern technological “progress.” I, the self-professed stimulation junkie, draw the line just shy of Google Glass. For now.


Crary, Jonathan. 24/7. New York: Verso, 2013.

Ben Singer. Melodrama and Modernity. New York: Columbia UP, 2001.