I’m currently working on two things for two courses(my Duke 21st century literacies course, and a required course in my home department) that have me asking myself why I am doing what I am doing. These things are also demanding that I explain my reasons. This post is my mini-through experiment as I start thinking through why I’ve made the choices I’ve made.

DISCLAIMER: You are about to read un-edited thoughts. You have been warned.

While I suggest that the medium of both photography and the digital is light, the way light is used between the two is very different. The message of the photographic medium is stoppage while the message of the digital medium is movement. McLuhan maintained that as new media come into being we will see them cannibalize the older media they are enhancing and/or replace. We have seen this with photography. The movement of photography from being experienced on a piece of metal or paper that might be tarnished or fade over time, to a screen made of moving pixels that contain the illusion of an infinite number of both still and moving images becomes a great playground for understanding what the big changes of digital media are. Specifically, the changes on our environment, expectations, and ways of knowing are most fascinating for me. Further, because both photography and digital media are understood for their memory storage capabilities popularly, and epistemologically they are seen as information storage and processing devices that go above the capabilities of humans on their own, the importance of understanding the move from stillness to movement becomes more important. When we begin to think about it in relation to speed, where photography is still and the digital is movement at light speed, we can begin to get a glimpse of the new potentials that are built into the medium as well as the accidents.

Another difference of the digital versus photography brought on by movement is when things move they can turn into different types of waves.* As such, even though at a base level photography and social media are both light, digital can move between moving images and sound, and can be rendered through seamless dots of color and through sound processors that turn the patterns in the light stream into sound. We can push this so far with our current technology that we can take digitized photographs and turn them into soundwaves. I’ve included a tutorial above that shows a program that does this. Someday when I’m not a poor grad student maybe I’ll be able to purchase the program. I would say 3d rendering is new, but I am not sure it is because of stereographs.

*pseudo-scientific I know, but let’s go with it.

Also of interest: How to Turn a Paper Image of a Record Into a Beautiful Music http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/04/how-to-turn-a-paper-image-of-a-record-into-a-beautiful-music/#ixzz2PzDiP7wm

I am in a McLuhan-esque mood, which I imagine has something to do with the fact that I am auditing a class on Media History & Theory and week 1 is McLuhan week. I’m also teaching a course on introduction one Media History, Theory, & Criticism and the end of the first week of readings is “The Medium is the Message”. This makes me insanely happy. I am looking forward to speaking about it because I saw the trailer for the Pirate Bay movie (above) and it sort of changed my life, or the way I was thinking about life. Then I went to the #Duke21C class yesterday and Cathy Davidson said something that changed my life, or the way I was thinking about life again. She reminded us that most of our students have never been alive in a world without the internet/world wide web. Whoooooooooosh!

So. I am old, relatively, in that I lived in an ancient world. I understand that it is the result of the last information age and the amount of things that changed with it. I am thankful to have gone through it, and to have the frame of reference that allows me to speak to my students about a time when everyone had to use a calling card or make a collect call at some point. And use a pay phone. And not have social media in the way we think of social media today [side note, when I asked them to rank the most important forms of media from 1-2, most of them had only 1. The Internet, 2. Social Media. In the past news always came out on top.]

I think that, for the people of my generation, the transitional generation (home internet really took off when I was in middle school, so I had the landline version of a social network before I had my award winning geocities site in the 90s), the adjustment of seeing the computer as more than an extension of our hands took a lot of time. We have memories of a life outside of the screen. I am making a guess here, but I am feeling like the thing that made the TPBAFK trailer so “whoa” for me was that they said that the stuff that happens in the computer is real life, so they say they know each other AFK (Away from Keyboard) instead of IRL (In Real Life). They already know each other IRL through the screen! This means, and really this explains so much, that the screen, especially for say, my students who have always had these kind of screens, is no longer a window to an imaginary world. Screens are, instead, just an extension of the whole body/world. Things that happen there are real! It seems we haven’t readily acknowledged this culturally completely just yet.

I mean, I joke about the idea of relationships being “facebook official”, even as I watch relationships develop, evolve, and devolve through facebook status updates. I come across editorial stories from other people weekly that speak about the brother or sister who found out their brother or sister was pregnant or had a baby through a mass social media post, mass texting or a blog post instead of calling on the telephone and how confusing/upsetting the situation was for the receiver of the news. I think it is funny though, that most of us, even those of us old enough to remember a time before the internet, upon receiving good news often post it somewhere rather than individually emailing and calling. It is simply more efficient, and it is where most of our interactions with friends, family, and colleagues are happening anyway. It might not be physical, but it is our world. I think that is where we are with the screens. We are not IRL and online anymore. We’re either At Keyboard or away from keyboard… but even then, we usually have a keyboard in our pockets at this point.

And a lot of times, even when we are in the same room, something that happened in #Duke21C yesterday, we are still At Keyboard, having conversations in the backchannels of our worlds with the people in the room as well as those in the open world of the web.