Images of inspiration: The visual genealogy of Kon, Jodorowsky and Friedrich

September 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Watch this video essay by Tony Zhou about filmmaker and animator Satoshi Kon (h/t Robin Sloan on Snarkmarket).

First off, Zhou’s piece is absolutely wonderful.

One thing I find particularly fascinating is when you’re shown the original scene and a scene inspired by it — e.g. Inception and Black Swan.

The documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” which I watched last weekend thanks to Sandro Mairata, offers similar examples in the context of science fiction, which are mentioned near the end of the trailer (1:42) — e.g. Alien, Blade Runner and The Matrix.

It also reminds me of “The 19th Century Painting That Most Blockbuster Movie Posters Are Based On.”

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich (Courtesy Wikipedia)

It would be awesome to have a tool that maps the genealogy of visual imagery. Maybe something to incorporate into the Visipedia project.

Tell me: What are some other works that reveal the visual inspiration of a painting or a movie scene?

This piece is based on my comment on Robin’s Snarkmarket post.

Running for ONA board re-election

September 8th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s almost time for the ONA14 conference (yeah!) and that means another board election approaches.

My first term on the board is almost complete and I’m running for re-election. It’s been an honor to serve on the board with such a wonderful and talented group of journalists. ONA continues to make great progress and I’d love to continue serving the members and the organization. If you’re a member (or not yet a member, you should join) — I’d greatly appreciate your vote.

Here are some highlights from my candidate page. I also want to know what you would like from ONA going forward, so please drop me a line in the comments below, on Twitter or privately here:

Vision for ONA and skills I would bring to the board 

ONA members include every type of journalists in every type of news outlet. As an organization we deal with subjects that affect a wide spectrum of the industry — such as leadership, ethics and diversity — and more specific topics — like how to protect sources, use a new tool or adopt new reporting methods.

In order to best serve our members and take advantage of ONA as platform (see http://bit.ly/GLonaboard12), we need to include more voices.

We need more members and participants who are in business, advertising, sales. They also work in the news business and are a notably absent group in our conversations about the present and future.

We similarly need to expand our community to include others outside of news — professionals and academics whose fields share similar fundamentals, themes and practices or who have methods we could learn from and apply to journalism. We should recruit them as associate members.

Artists and architects. Biologists and book-creators. Filmmakers and forensic accountants. Game animators and geographers. Industrial designers and improv actors. Linguists and librarians. Mathematicians and musicians. Poets and philosophers. Sociologists and screenwriters.

We have so much to learn from our peers and colleagues. But, beyond learning from each other, we have even more to learn from those outside our field — the subject-matter experts and specialists.

What are their processes? How do they solve problems? How have they been disrupted? How have they adjusted their business models? What have they made? How have they spearheaded change?

It’s like you’re writing a story. You have the seed of an idea, so you ask a reporter in the next pod if it sounds worth checking. Then you start contacting sources, asking them for other experts and broadening the scope of what you know.

That’s the same kind of expansion we need.

Invite them to local meetups. Ask them to speak at annual conferences. Include them in dCamps and leaderships breakfasts. Appeal to them for guest posts on journalists.org.

Let’s update our rolodex.

 

Quick history of ONA involvement:

  • Member/conference attendee since 2008
  • ONA DC participant and volunteer since 2009
  • Conference video stream team leader 2009-2012
  • Conference speaker in 2012 and 2013
  • Board member since 2012
  • Helped plan dCamp in DC in 2013
  • Board’s point person for journalist.org redesign
  • Conference karaoke instigator since 2011

Block Chains for News

July 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Anil Dash’s piece on applying an underlying concept of Bitcoin to track digital art has me thinking about the potential applications of  block chains for news. As he writes:

What the technology behind Bitcoin enables, in short, is the ability to track online trading of a digital object, without relying on any one central authority, by using the block chain as the ledger of transactions.

What if we built a block chain system for news? Recording and verifying facts, data, updates, quotes, people, etc like the Bitcoin protocol tracks transactions in a database that no one owns, but of which everyone always has the same copy. (Update: This is meant more as “inspired by block chains,” but it would be different kind of system because we’re not dealing with transferring or owning the units.)

How useful would that be in the reporting and dissemination of information? With all the noise introduced during breaking news and even long, complex story arcs, it seems like there’s a lot of potential here.

The nature and task of art is different from news, but there’s much we can learn (stay tuned for more posts on that topic). Consider this from Anil’s piece:

Reblogging is essential to getting the word out for many digital artists, but potentially devastating to the value of the very work it is promoting. What’s been missing, then, are the instruments that physical artists have used to invent value around their work for centuries — provenance and verification.

Think of these two key terms he uses.

Provenance. 

Verification.

In the context of news, provenance could be the source of information — or it could be who first reported something. Verification, of course, is already a common term.

The next question then is: What instruments do we have to give our work value?

Not methods. Instruments.

All this — you guessed it — also makes me think of GitHub for News (more here). That idea would make tracking updates, contributions, feedback and even facts more structured by incorporating them in a versioning system like git.

Neither GitHub for News nor Block Chains for News would solve all the problems they aim to tackle. Anil’s piece smartly notes in the art realm:

as with any new idea, it can be difficult to reckon with the implications. Steven Melendez asserted that monegraph could “eradicate fake digital art”, when this is exactly backwards. In fact monegraph makes it possible to have “fake digital art”, because prior to this we had no consistent way of defining an “original”.

So, where should we start?

UPDATE: More discussion and explanation…

PoW = proof of work

Also, just for fun and more Bitcoin background: By reading this article, you’re mining bitcoins

Jorge Luis Borges on “the task of art”

April 20th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

“The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something that can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. You are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams.”

View on YouTube

Of aquariums and arcades: John Cage and Walter Benjamin

March 20th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

An interesting remark in the preface to avant-garde composer John Cage’s 1969 book, Notations:

A precedent for the absence of information which characterizes this book is the contemporary aquarium (no longer a dark hallway with each species in its own illuminated tank separated from the others and named in Latin): a large glass house with all the fish in it swimming as in an ocean.

This aquarium metaphor immediately reminded me of another work: Walter Benjamin‘s Arcades Project.

Both represent examples of literary montage — collections where the author’s primary contribution is the compilation of materials for the works.

In the case of Notations, Cage assembled a complete compendium of graphical music scores submitted by composers. For the unfinished effort known as The Arcades Project, Benjamin researched and cited works to create, in a way, his own arcade: an arrangement of windows into 19th century France for the reader to stroll through and explore.

What are similar examples of this that you’ve seen?

View the full Notations book on Archive.org:

Path of discovery

I first learned about Notations (and John Cage, though I had to formally discover him independently more than a year later) by reading Theresa Sauer’s Notations 21. I came upon that  and purchased it after being captivated by a post on Brain Pickings. (Although only very expensive re-sell or used copies are on Amazon, it appears to still be available directly from Sauer for $34.)

As for The Arcades Project, Max Fenton featured it during his week of the Snarkmarket Seminar in March 2013. He also kindly gave me a copy of the book (thanks again!) during the in-person gathering last November,  which I reciprocated by giving him a copy of Marjorie Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius.

And, to close the loop: I knew Max was interested in Kenneth Goldsmith, whom I learned about when fellow seminarian Tim Carmody recommended Uncreative Writing. Goldsmith, who references Unoriginal Genius early on in Uncreative Writing, helped bring Cage to my attention and rediscover the Notations connection.

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