new cultures of writing

A class at Valparaiso University examining the way technology shapes our reading and writing practices. We like to talk about whether we're cyborgs, too.

legochesters:

Arguing about books vs. ebooks is like arguing about cake vs. also cake.

(Source: caperqueen, via neverwhere-shesays-sheis)

Guest (Re)Blogger: Why, Shia? Just why.

Disclaimer: This post is not in response to the Benjamin reading. Rather, it is in response to the Eisenstein/Johns reading from our last class. To redeem myself for a pretty embarrassing misreading of the text, this is my revised contribution to the discussion. Okay disclaimer over you can read now have fun bye.

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My first introduction to plagiarism was as early as kindergarten. Now, it wasn’ta written work; rather, we were all painting ceramic plates(In retrospect, it was a very ambitious project for four and five year olds.) Mine was an original piece: a small smiley face, cradled by an assortment of different vegetables.

Well. Original until the girl next to me painted the exactsamething.

I didn’t mind the copying. Really. That wasn’t even the real crime. The dirty business didn’t occur until the girl — let’s call her Ally. Ally, the Art Thief — actually swapped out my masterpiece with her cheap copy. I was so mortified that I just let her take my work and claim it as her own.

Luckily, I haven’t experienced anything to that degree of plagiarism since then. My subsequent education ran parallel to an anti-plagiarism campaign that I’m sure many of you remember. Mostly because we’re still in it.

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Most of us probably remember the Shia Labeouf drama from earlier this year. For those of you who don’t know, Shia was accused of and proven to have plagiarized the work of a graphic novelist. His short film HowardCantour.com was blatantly copied from a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes. Shia’s twitter feed is riddled with apologies to those he has plagiarized — apologies that are often plagiarized themselves.

One (as far as I know) original tweet caught my eye:

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These tweets reminded me of a passage from Johns’ writing. Johns says, “In the first place, a large number of people, machines, and materials must converge and act together for [a work] to come into existence at all. How exactly they do so will inevitably affect its finished character in a number of ways…” (pg 60).

Like people sitting around a campfire telling stories, the printing industry involves the work and opinions of several people. While Shia supports this system (or a version of it,) Johns questions its integrity. Print culture, he argues, has the dangerous ability to corrupt a text. Later, Johns continues:

"…But the story of a book evidently does not end with its creation. How is it then put to use, by whom, in what circumstances, and to what effect are all equally complex issues." (pg 60).

The perfect embodiment of these complex issues is Shia’s plagiarism-palooza. Daniel Clowes’ book did not end with its creation. Rather, Shia (illegally) took the story and recreated it as a film. You can read the letter from Clowes’ lawyer here and here for funzies.

Shia’s actions and opinions concerning plagiarism and creative license have sparked a lot of controversy. This post was admittedly pretty late in the game, but if any of you have found the time to read it (god bless) then I would be very interested in hearing what you think about creative license and print culture.

I’m sure a certain art thief could learn a lesson from you. #stillbitter

Networking: Filming as an art and other cool stuff

From what I’ve seen on twitter and our blog posts, there has been some mixed reception to the Walter Benjamin reading. I don’t really know a lot about Walter Benjamin (besides he smoked hella pot), but he seems like he’s not too fond of reproducing art. Or maybe he just hates movies, I don’t know. Anyway, I came across an article that responded to two people arguing if films are the “art of our time.” It has links to other articles about the “argument.” 

You can skim it here.

 

So it doesn’t seem like anyone is arguing how awesome Benjamin is. However, our class does seem a little divided on whether or not technology is “good” for us. Is google making us stupid or just helping us? We seem to focus on the negative effects of technology a lot, so it might be refreshing to see a post that doesn’t claim technology is killing us or making us cyborgs (which isn’t a bad thing, remember?) . The blog looks a little low end (you’ll see what I mean) and is pretty short, but I figured it might inject some optimism into you cynics out there. Don’t worry, it takes like, ten seconds to skim.

Skim—->here

Something we touched on briefly in class is copyright. I wanted to learn more information on the parameters of copyright and how it works and such. In case you shared my curiosity, I found a nifty blog post about blogging and copyright. It’s actually pretty interesting, read it here.  

Best of luck English peeps.  

 And just for fun, here’s why books are cool and eBooks suck. 

Networking: Here’s a LOT of stuff.

So I guess I’m gonna start off with a couple of blog posts that reminded me of Benjamin’s text for today (and of everyone who’s now 100% over Benjamin on account of that little gem).

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First of all;; I honestly laughed out loud the more I read about “aura.” like could anything be more “hipster” aka pretentious. not that there’s not a definite vibe around original or fine art, but to say that reproductions, collaborations or new forms of media are less worthy because they don’t have the right “aura?”  Please.
So here are a couple things that fly right in the face of that.
This is a blog post by Jane Friedman, cofounder of “Scratch” magazine, on the process of collaborative writing and the experience authors have working together. As in, LOOK, REAL AUTHORS WORK TOGETHER, ITS A REAL THING THAT HAPPENS, PLEASE GET OVER YOURSELF WALT.
Speaking of, my favorite author in the world, Neil Gaiman, made his name on a collaborative project, the graphic novel series “Sandman,” and has since wrote several collaborative novels with other authors. Which brings me to my next post, because I couldn’t resist an opportunity to share Neil’s blog with all of you.
This is a post that Neil Gaiman wrote the morning of Ray Bradbury’s death. They write in the same genre, and Bradbury was pretty much the bastion for progress in science fiction for a while, so when he died (over two years ago now) Neil wrote this piece for himself and his grieving colleagues and readers.
It’s a piece written online, without a physical copy, to an invisible audience, about a dead author. And it’s still one of the most moving things I’ve ever read. So stick that up your aura.
On the more morbid vein (sorry about this) I found this insane article about an app that will continue to tweet for you after you die?? Like?? This seems like something we need to talk about.
I also wanted to leave this here for all of you. Even though it’s unrelated to today’s reading, Spike Jonze’s 2014 film “Her” is freaking amazing and also bizarrely well-suited to what we’re talking about in class. In the movie, the protagonist Theodore begins a romantic relationship with his operating system, an AI named Samantha. Theodore, whose post-divorce isolation is only aggravated by his job with a company that writes people’s letters for each other (this is just. so important to talk about) is forced through a period of self-evaluation in regards to intimacy, human connection, and the difference between technology-as-a-tool and technology-as-an-integrated-life-form.

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Here is the review that Roger Ebert’s film blog posted after the release. I know we’re all still feeling Ebert’s loss, but the blog still exists for a reason. It offers really interesting and well-articulated opinions on todays films (WHICH IS DEFINITELY ART OKAY WALT ARE WE CLEAR YET).
Trust me on this? It’s one of the most beautiful, powerful, thoughtful films to be produced in years. (and if you need extra motivation, ScarJo plays Samatha, and Arcade Fire does the music. so have fun with that.)
My final piece for you is literally not related at all, but it’s a blog post from a blog called TerribleMinds, which is Chuck Wendig’s blog (author/screenwriter/game designer if you’re unfamiliar). He wrote this beautiful post about how to manage feelings of inadequacy when comparing your own work to other authors. I know we’ve got a bunch of writers in here, and this is a message I know I need to hear when I’m writing.

Guest Blogger: Let’s Define Art

It appears that modern forms of art, such as film, are completely different from graphic art, because they do not possess the history and aura of the latter form.  

Walter Benjamin believes that art has taken on a new definition because of how we perceive it.  In ancient Greece, he states, Coins were reproduced, but not statues.  Therefore these statues were deemed unique and a cult formed around them, which led to rituals, and thus the statue could not be moved because the art signified something beyond simple pleasure.  Similarly, painting, he argues, was done in the here and now, which is the historical.  This is also true of photography.  But reproduction of paintings and photographs robbed the art of the here and now, and the painting or the photograph of a battle scene in the Civil War could be enjoyed in a private room, where the same emotions can’t be expressed.  

In film, a similar thing happens.  It is not an art, in the sense that it captures the historical, but is edited and reedited to achieve a perfection that is not existent in reality.  This is what the film actor suffers.  Acting is not original, uninterrupted, but rather modified, which defeats the purpose of art, which is that it shares the ideal of the producer (the artist).  

Moreover, reproduction of photography now, has led to different perceptions of it.  We are no longer compelled in the same way by a photograph in a museum as we are in a newspaper article.  When we see a horrid image in a newspaper we feel something different, than when we look at images of the Civil War in a museum.  We don’t look at the situation in the museum, but rather the quality, whereas in the newspaper, it is the reverse.  This places art in a different role—that of the informer and newsman of the world. Art becomes a tool of promotion and propaganda, which ties it to politics.  It is no longer the simple passion of the artist.  An photographer feels bound to an audience and must produce photographs that relates and informs them.  

Of course, we can make the distinction of time and place.  Benjamin was in Europe in the 1930s, when the film industry was in its adolescence.  Now, an actor performs his role differently, and has more independence than before.  But I can’t make this distinction when it comes to graphic art.  Are Michelangelo and an artist today similar?  Can they profess to uphold the same ideals?  I think these are questions we should be asking.  

Networking: Google and Grammar and Literacy! Oh my!

I want to start by taking us way back to one of our first class discussions, it has also been mentioned more recently in some of our tweets to one another; I’m talking about Google. While it may be entirely plausible that we’re a little too reliant on this search engine, haven’t we sort of aided that dependence?

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but, with the constant evolving technology, we’ve been able to expand the way we look things up. We’ve gone from having to go to the library, to just typing into a search bar, and now we don’t even have to type. We can just ask.

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Claire Cain Miller points out that we can simply say something right into our microphones, and instantly we can have an answer; who needs to type anymore? (Sorry for the bit of sarcasm.) This leads me to my next point: what’s going to come next in the realm of looking information up?

Are we going to have microchips implanted into our brains that let us just know something whenever we think about it? Speaking of which, I think would be cool, but just a little creepy. Or a lot creepy.

Now that I may have you freaked out, I think it’s time to move on to something less robotic and technologically advanced.

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As an English major, I can honestly tell you that nothing bothers me more than bad grammar. It’s especially annoying when I read blog posts, online articles, or even books that have one too many grammar mistakes. I can feel my skin crawling at just the thought of improper grammar. 

Anyway, my point here is that I’ve found this wonderful blog. I can’t even begin to describe how much this blog has made my life. Whether you just want to learn more about how to use grammar to your advantage, or, you’re like me, and you just want to have a good laugh, you should totally check it out.

To move on, I’d like to start by saying that I’m not really much of a ‘hipster’ type, but then again I don’t really know how to even define what a ‘hipster’ is, so just bear with me on this, okay?

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To get back to my point, if you’re looking for a blog that has a hipster vibe, but also has a meatier, more literary feel, while still retaining some semblance of education, I think this blog is what you’re looking for.

By happenstance, I found this blog while searching for something to share with all of you. I figured since this was an English class, and also based on some things we’ve talked about in class, you all might enjoy it.

Happy reading, citizens of English 400 (and anyone else reading this post).

Guest Blogger: Aura—it’s not just a Lady Gaga song!

It’s hard not to ponder what Walter Benjamin would think about our technology driven society. In the 1930s, the man was already creating crazy theories about the effects of technological reproduction in terms of film and photography; what would he think of the thousands of ebooks available at the click of a button or the millions of posters of Van Gogh’s Starry Night” that are currently hanging on dorm room walls?

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I’m gonna level with all of you right quick: I’ve spent hours reading through (and re-reading, for some passages) this piece, and I feel like most of it (approx. 95%) makes no sense. I mean, right on to Benjamin for creating something fresh and new when it comes to theory, but also, just kinda no.

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Maybe part of my confusion lies in the fact that I don’t know how to feel about what he points out. I mean, I have no problem with technological reproduction (how could I when it’s the reason I’m able to see the Grand Canyon or the Mona Lisa or the real Platform 9 3/4 without having ever actually visited them?), but I can understand what he means when he talks about the authenticity of an original work. It’s similar to something we discussed in class last week after reading (correct me if I’m wrong, please and thank you) Chartier. An original work is something that is valued and cherished and thought of as “other,” and maybe it’s because we hold that piece near and dear to our hearts or maybe it’s because of the aura (some element that only the original work has that makes it unique) that Benjamin suggests.

And in a way, technological reproduction does take away from the original work in a way that might be detrimental or might not do anything at all, depending on how you look at it. “American Gothic" is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art, but what’s so special about seeing it at the Art Institute of Chicago when you can see the same exact thing a hundred times over on Google images?

And does this same sort of “aura” exist with literature the way Benjamin suggests it does with art and film? Does the original manuscript of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus have an aura that’s different and stronger than the numerous reproduction of it at Barnes and Noble or on the online Kindle store? And does that original manuscript somehow differ from the scanned original manuscript uploaded to the online Shelley-Godwin Archive?

Is it possible for the works we love—like our first edition Harry Potter books or our favorite beat-up copy of The Great Gatsbyto have auras that we assign to them? Meaning, can a reproduced work have a uniqueness and a special quality that is only visible to the individual who cherishes it? Am I even using words anymore??????

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Guest Blogger: Auras, Actors, and Are We Still Human?!

You’ve probably heard the term “aura” before. If you’re like me, associations that come to mind are likely of mood readings, colorful hazes radiating off of people, and an overall indefinable sense of some mystical experience that leaves you thinking, “Now, what exactly is an aura again?”

In an essay he wrote in the 1930s, Walter Benjamin, (German literary critic, philosopher, social critic, and good ol’ pot head), uses the term “aura” in a different way, relating it to the history of changes in art in the modern age. To be completely honest here, I left his essay again asking myself, ”Now, what exactly is an aura again?”

Best I can describe, Benjamin’s concept of aura translates into a mystical power to generate a sense of wonder or reverence in a viewer who sees a work of art that is unique and authentic, not reproduced or taken out of original context. (Or maybe this guy’s terminology has something to do with how much weed he was really smoking.)

He goes on to speak about film, specifically of acting. Benjamin’s conclusion is that movies and actors lack an aura due to the fact that a live audience is replaced by a camera; an actor’s labor is captured but not her true heart and soul. Interestingly and along these same lines, Benjamin argues that in acting, art actually becomes one with reality

If this fusion is true, my attention turns to our modern use of social media, including YouTube and Facebook. According to Walt’s logic of acting before a machine, isn’t anyone who participates in these sites an “actor” of sorts? With internet usage comes the advent of the second self, an online or external identity. (Remember Amber Case?) Are we losing our auras — not just as individuals, but as an entire society? Are we currently undergoing a giant fusion between our “real” selves and our “actor” selves? What are the consequences of this?

(food for thought)

Guest Blogger: I’d Pick Netflix Over Cave Paintings ANY Day

When I say Alfred, Stanley, and Woody, what comes to mind? Alright, fair enough, I thought about a butler, Shia Labeouf in the movie Holes, and Toy Story, too. But what if I said Hitchcock, Kubrick and Allen? No, not Tim Allen… That’s still Toy Story…

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You’re supposed to be thinking about visionary filmmakers who have forever changed the way the motion picture and its significance in society. The way they crafted feature films into masterpieces is inspirational, and because of that, any person who doesn’t own a film by any of them will get a stick eye worse than they’ve ever experienced. At least from me. I love film. I want to make film. I want to make art. Art is film. And other equality formulas that I don’t have room for in the context of this post. These directors, among others, have turned film into a reputable art form, and have created pieces that will forever be remembered and cherished. 

But wait… Who’s this guy walking up to me with a “Not so fast” smirk across his obnoxiously smug face.

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Enter Walter Benjamin and his stupid (read: totally awesome but I’m angry with him so it doesn’t matter) mustache. Benjamin is a scholar who believes in the transcendence of text, and the power of original writings and creations. For the sake of space, I’ll be calling him Walt. Walt believes in this little thing called “aura,” which only exists in things that were initially created by a single (possibly multiple) person. This creation exists in one space, and because of the efforts and passion the artists/creator put into it, the creation holds a special significance that could not be attained if reproduced. Aura is basically an ability to be close to an object and the uniqueness of that object. In short, if you reproduce something, that reproduction has no aura and isn’t nearly as great as the original. Aura is what makes things awesome. Here’s where I want to pick a fight with him. Walt says that because of the nature of film, being a “work of art… produced only by means of montage,” there is no aura affiliated with it. Therefore, “the finished film is the exact antithesis of a work created at a single stroke,” making it less valuable and a haphazardly slapped together piece of work.

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What.

Here’s the thing, I understand that Walt lived in the 1930s, but he should have understood that he’s most definitely wrong, even back then. Filmmaking is the ultimate form of artwork, a collaborative effort between many people working together to create a single masterpiece. The power behind films is something that is hard to describe. Film can evoke emotions that people had no idea they possessed, turn a bruiser of a man into a weeping willow, transform the most timid character into a bulldozer of aggression. What I’m saying is this, had Benjamin been alive today, he would understand that film is definitely something that possesses a strong aura, regardless of the numerous reproductions. The visual aspects that Kubrick can weave into a tale, the neurotic dialogue that Allen can record on film, the thrills Hitchcock can conjure on screens, and countless other directors who have changed lives with their films definitely create an aura for their films.

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In summary, Walt is wrong, because there’s no way that looking at an original cave painting of a horse can make me happier than watching Scott Pilgrim Vs The World for the fiftieth time…

It appears that modern forms of art, such as film, are completely different from graphic art, because they do not possess the history and aura of the latter form.  

Walter Benjamin believes that art has taken on a new definition because of how we perceive it.  In ancient Greece, he states, Coins were reproduced, but not statues.  Therefore these statues were deemed unique and a cult formed around them, which led to rituals, and thus the statue could not be moved because the art signified something beyond simple pleasure.  Similarly, painting, he argues, was done in the here and now, which is the historical.  This is also true of photography.  But reproduction of paintings and photographs robbed the art of the here and now, and the painting or the photograph of a battle scene in the Civil War could be enjoyed in a private room, where the same emotions can’t be expressed.  

In film, a similar thing happens.  It is not an art, in the sense that it captures the historical, but is edited and reedited to achieve a perfection that is not existent in reality.  This is what the film actor suffers.  Acting is not original, uninterrupted, but rather modified, which defeats the purpose of art, which is that it shares the ideal of the producer (the artist).  

Moreover, reproduction of photography now, has led to different perceptions of it.  We are no longer compelled in the same way by a photograph in a museum as we are in a newspaper article.  When we see a horrid image in a newspaper we feel something different, than when we look at images of the Civil War in a museum.  We don’t look at the situation in the museum, but rather the quality, whereas in the newspaper, it is the reverse.  This places art in a different role—that of the informer and newsman of the world. Art becomes a tool of promotion and propaganda, which ties it to politics.  It is no longer the simple passion of the artist.  An photographer feels bound to an audience and must produce photographs that relates and informs them.  

Of course, we can make the distinction of time and place.  Benjamin was in Europe in the 1930s, when the film industry was in its adolescence.  Now, an actor performs his role differently, and has more independence than before.  But I can’t make this distinction when it comes to graphic art.  Are Michelangelo and an artist today similar?  Can they profess to uphold the same ideals?  I think these are questions we should be asking.