Monday, January 21, 2008

Welcome To Fight Club - What I've Learned So Far: Self Reflexive Post

Fight Club (1999) – Probably one of the more important films in the past decade. The reason Fight Club is appearing in a self reflexive post is because that is what I feel the past three weeks has become.

When out for drinks with my friend the other night we got to talking about film as we usually do and our on-going debate of whether to get with Blu Ray or HD, and why both of these were even invented became a sort of catharsis for me. As Jack would say, ‘And there they were… Bolter and Grusin’s words coming from my mouth’. My new knowledge of remediation helped me better understand why there is suddenly this new craze for Blu Ray and HD – because the technology has been remediated and thus become the new and improved DVD, just as DVD replaced VHS. Ian also furthered these ideas with his discussion of CD player to Mini Disc to Ipod.

Jack: ...Consumers?
Tyler Durden: Right. We are consumers. We're the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession.

There you have it – this is the answer to whether or not my friend and I will get with the times and pick up a Blu Ray or HD DVD player. The answer is quite obviously yes, we will both end up purchasing these because we are indeed consumers with a lifestyle obsession burned into our minds because we live in a capitalist society and media has constantly reinforced this over our 20 years. The thing that aggravates me the most is how right my friend was in saying, "I could buy The Exorcist, The Godfather, Fight Club, American Psycho and every other film essential to a good library on five or six different formats throughout the course of my life." Entire media libraries, built up over a few years until the latest and greatest comes along - just when you thought you were finally complete. It would be nice to throw it all away and ‘lose everything so that we are free to do anything’ like Tyler, but let’s face it – this is the way it is. ‘The things I own have ended up owning me’ just as Tyler warns Jack in the film, and I have become my MP3 player, my Xbox 360, my Dell desktop, my Lexmark printer, my flat screen HD TV and will eventually become my Blu Ray or HD DVD player.

My point with all the Fight Club examples is that I have become a hell of a lot more media conscious in the past three weeks, and this is just by reading one text and engaging here and there in class discussion. The biggest thing that I feel has contributed to my new awareness as a consumer of media is this blog. By placing me in front of my computer and asking me to think critically and interpret the things projected to me by media every day, I feel I have learned a great deal more than I would just sitting in class writing notes. This also allows for me to put a piece of myself into each post I write, which makes things a great deal easier than having a strict outline before me. Lastly, the group presentation helped me learn a great deal about my learning style. In my past year and a half at University of Guelph I have never got together with group members to work on a presentation, and I have had my fair share being in a good deal of English seminars. Getting together with the group members helped me realize I get a lot more accomplished on my own – not that their input wasn’t exceptional – I just feel that by working on my own I can set and monitor my own work habits which is easier for me.

Thanks to this course I am quickly becoming Jack’s media conscious consumer.

Works Cited

Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter. Art Linson Productions, 1999.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1996.

The Transparency of First Person Shooters: Response to Class Discussion

The group presentation tonight seemed to generate a great deal of discussion, much of which was of great interest to me. A considerable amount of questions were raised about the concept of transparency in film, and the possibility of a film being completely transparent. The best examples of this from classmates were Maya’s interest in the films of Michael Winterbottom, and Dewey’s interest in Trailer Park Boys.

The Winterbottom films are quite close to complete transparency, in that in The Road To Guantanamo (2006), In This World (2002) and 24 Hour Party People (2002) all make you feel like you are actually involved in the plot. Winterbottom has a real knack for making the audience feel like you are right next to the character through the use of night vision camera work and the majority of the film being shot in hand held. Trailer Park Boys also does this with the interviews with characters, the use of hand held, and the feeling of a documentary style film.

However, both of these are quite immersive in their own right, but after listening to all the examples and presenting some myself, I couldn’t help but realize they can’t even come close to offering the transparency of a video game. To get down to specifics, the first person shooter is the closest we have come to a transparent medium.

To start from the beginning, in 1999, Irrational Games created System Shock 2 for the Sega Dreamcast. The game appears on numerous ‘Best Games of All Time’ list, and takes place in the future on board a spaceship. The interface (shown below) is quite complicated. Just from looking at it, it isn’t hard to see how frustrating operating such a massive interface to switch weapons, reload, etc. would be. It is interesting that Irrational’s next success was a game set in 1961 in an underwater dystopian society much like Atlantis.

At some point, Irrational Games became 2K Game’s, and they created Bioshock (2007). With Bioshock, gamers receive the latest in transparency and interface design (or lack thereof). There is a screenshot from Bioshock below. When walking through levels, all that is displayed on the screen is health, eve (the supply of special abilities which diminishes each time used) and what type of plasmid (special ability) or weapon is currently drawn (ammo appears when guns are drawn). For the Xbox 360, you must press RB or LB in order to cycle through the plasmids/weapons available to you, at which point the game pauses and an interface pops up for gamers to select from. This revolutionizes game play and makes everything less cluttered, easier to operate and much more transparent. Just compare the two screenshots below and it isn’t difficult to see which game you’d rather be playing.

In short, as time goes on, games become much more transparent. The reason video games are becoming more transparent than film is because they are interactive. Film may place you directly beside a character as with the Winterbottom films or Trailer Park Boys, but you can’t reach out and touch them. Video games bring us that much closer to transparency, specifically with interfaces disappearing. When you talk to someone about a film, you may say ‘remember the scene where so and so shot that guy?’ However, when discussing a game, it is easy to catch yourself saying, ‘I finally killed that guy!’ The high level of interaction in a video game allows for users to lose themselves much more easily, and brings us that much closer to complete transparency of the medium.

The Matrix: Gospel of Remediation? Response to Class Discussion

Just the brief preview of Strange Days from January 14th’s class was quite enticing. However, this called to mind the topic of the outdated textbook once again. Since I covered the film aspect in our group’s presentation, I thought of what would have happened if the book was published a few years later with the Matrix trilogy being released shortly after this text was. I don’t think Strange Days would have been made mention of at all; the living, breathing VR world of Morpheus and Neo probably would have gripped these authors much more so than the other film.

Not only did the Matrix trilogy boast the latest and greatest special effects, it also delved into the possibility of artificial intelligence and the repercussions of rapid technological advancement, as well as providing an astounding metaphor/juxtaposition for our dependence on media and technology. The metaphor/juxtaposition of which I speak in the Matrix is that the machines harvest humans as form of energy and nourishment and we feed into a world they conceptualize for us in order for mankind to remain docile. I also found it interesting that Entertainment Weekly called The Matrix, “the best science fiction piece of media in the past 25 years.” (see link to wikipedia article below) This is a very bold statement considering media encompasses not just film, but video games, television, books, graphic novels, and everything else.

Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain) whom I hold in high regard for being such a prolific director, also comments, “I walked out of The Matrix and I was thinking, ‘What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?’ The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured.” (see wikipedia link) This is perhaps the greatest encapsulation of my thoughts on the trilogy. Many people see the trilogy as too sci-fi for them, but I believe it was a profound and important trilogy as well as a milestone of achievement in film. Aronofsky’s comment is dead on, but can be taken much further, the film is not really a ‘pop culture sandwich’, but more of a house of mirrors reflecting ideas of media phenomena upon one another, contrasting them and warping them. This film speaks much more to remediation, hypermediacy, and transparent immediacy than anything else I can possibly think of, it not only reflects science fiction but how far we have come as a society technologically, ideologically and spiritually.

Works Cited

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Seminar Presentation Handout

Below is the handout I distributed for my section of my seminar presentation on Bolter and Grusin's Remediation.

THST 2450 Presentation: Remediation & Film
Presented by Andrew Pritchard

Animated Film
In keeping with the theme of the old vs. the new, the animated film is slightly complicated.
“Animated films remediate computer graphics by suggesting that the traditional film can survive and prosper through the incorporation of digital visual technology” (Bolter and Grusin 147)
Consider the example – these shorts are simple to make now vs. difficult before because animated film remediates computer technology and lives on
The short also refashions a literary/film classic and satirizes it

Transparency in Film
“Avant-garde film has always been hypermediated, in the sense that it has always made the user conscious of itself as a medium.” (Bolter and Grusin 154)
Sin City (2005) is a prime example of this – consider how the director makes the audience conscious of film as art, a return to Black and White cinema, computer graphics and editing to give the film the feel of a graphic novel, the use of colour as symbolism (the woman in the red dress at the beginning, her blue eyes, the yellow bastard)
In Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), the director employs the use of a hand held camera to follow the drug dealer out of his house and onto the lawn during Mia Wallace’s overdose fiasco. This is a prime example of transparency in film because the handheld camera gives the audience the sense that they are actually there following behind the drug dealer, Tarantino does not want the audience to be aware of the medium during this scene
Cloverfield (2008) is also a good example of transparency in film – even though the director makes audiences aware of the medium, the way in which the film is shot entirely in handheld with no music allows the audience to engage more with the film because it seems much more transparent than other films
Transparency in film means placing the audience in the film without an awareness of the medium – they must feel like a bird flying into a window

Remediation & Film
Our classics – how many times can we remake films based on Jane Austen novels (more importantly WHY?) Rocky, Rambo, superhero films being remade
Rotoscoping – creating a matte (combining multiple images into one) for live action films. This technique has been used recently in Richard Linklater films (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly), however it isn’t new – it was also used in the 1978 Lord of the Rings, therefore it has been remediated
The Matrix (1999) remediated special effects for the time, but more importantly it remediated and compacted sci-fi theory of the past 25 years – see my blog for further details

Works Cited
Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Video Bars

I have now customized my blog page a bit and added two video bars. One is at the sidebar, and is linked to youtube searching videos from '', a funny site that is a prime example of remediation that I could possibly use during my presentation. These clips efface remediation because it shows that we have now remediated enough to make accessible the tools to make film cost effective for regular people, and therefore change the endings to our favourite movies as this person has done. Also, it shows how animation is remediated in film, because since film is the remediation of photo graphic image, and photo graphic image is the remediation of renaissance art. There is also a video bar at the bottom of the page displaying Trailer Park Boys clips. SOME MAY FIND THESE OFFENSIVE. My apologies, but I felt there was no need to not include them seeing as we are all adults. A lengthy explanation of why these posts are here is included in my response to class discussion dated January 18th, 2008.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Hegemony of the Trailer Park Boys: Response to Class Discussion

Luckily I jotted down a few notes on Monday’s class because I seem to have forgotten almost everything that was running through my head that day. I found this hard to believe since I’ve generated so many interesting ideas on my term paper, my group presentation and to blog about for the next few weeks.

The clip from Strange Days got me thinking about too many other filmic references so I decided to post about that tomorrow in my self reflexive post about everything I have realized and researched for my seminar presentation.

We discussed hegemony, which is something I am quite interested in, since I feel that we in Canada have a lack of hegemony, being that America’s hegemonies are forced more on us than anywhere else seeing as we are the loyal neighbours to the North. We as Canadians are a bit cheeky in our satirizing of American culture, specifically when considering Canadian television programmes such as the ‘Rick Mercer Report’.

What I was most interested in during this class was the concept of using media as a foundation to explore other avenues. The two examples I have in my notes for this are South Park as an example of racial discourse and The Simpson’s as parody.

Although I could write for hours on both these subjects being an avid fan of both series, I think a better example would be Trailer Park Boys as the embodiment of Canadian humour, culture and hegemony.

Trailer Park Boys is set in a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia trailer park and follows the daily lives of small time crooks Ricky, Julian, Bubbles and many others. There are many examples of how TPB is the embodiment of our nation’s humour, however I think the three most important examples for reflecting this are ‘Rickyisms’, the character J-Roc, and one of the boy’s notorious crimes.

‘Rickyism’s’ are a type of colloquialism used by one of the show’s main characters named Ricky (see youtube link below for some laughs). A Rickyism involves Ricky imitating informal speech, brutalizing figures of speech, etc. An example of a Rickyisms would be Ricky’s idea of robbing an ATM to pay for going on a cruise (‘getting two birds stoned with one joint’ – a misunderstanding for killing two birds with one stone). Perhaps even more memorable is Ricky asking for a bag of jalapeno chips, which Bubbles corrects him on ‘haaaaaalllapennnooo, the j is silent’ to which Ricky replies, ‘I know how to pronounce it, I order jalapeno, not halapeno’. Rickyisms are a prime example of Canadian humour because in order to understand a Rickyism, one must have excellent knowledge of our language’s sayings and proverbs and see the humour in Ricky misconstruing every one the show’s writers can think up.

J-Roc is definitely a breed apart from other television show characters, but not out of place on TPB. Religious viewers of the show can make the connection from a Christmas special in which ‘Jamie’, a white, well-meaning kid from the trailer park smokes marijuana for the first time with his African-Canadian counter part Tyrone and they then become the rap duo T and J-Roc. J-Roc functions in the show as a Canadian parody of white American youth embracing hip hop, such as Eminem. This allows for Canadians to see the laughability of a white male in a trailer park pretending to be a gangster from the slums of Los Angeles or New York, and in turn have a laugh at the expense of America’s newest craze.

Finally, the wild and laughable schemes Ricky, Julian and Bubbles think up could earn them a spot on America’s Most Wanted blooper reel. I’ve included a link to the TPB movie trailer, in which the boy’s botch an ATM robbery and then commit ‘The Big Dirty’. The Big Dirty is the crime to end all crimes, a crime that can allow a criminal to retire and never have to return to jail. In the film, Julian speaks with another criminal who says he has the perfect crime, ‘change’. Julian replies, ‘Naw man, I can’t change, I’m a career criminal.’ But of course, only a Nova Scotian prison would possess a criminal with aspirations of stealing a giant gumball machine full of change (because, of course, unlike marked bills, change is untraceable). These ridiculous and hilarious crimes are another example of Canadian hegemonic humour – we are laid back and willing to let our minds roam free in order for a good laugh, we find hilarity in stupidity and absurdity and this is what sets us apart as a nation.

Works Cited

Rickyisms -

J-Roc -

TPB: The Movie Trailer -

Remediating The Way In Which I Think: Response to Readings

I have had little opportunity to make my way through readings for this course so unfortunately I have only read about half of the text so far. However, of what I have read so far, almost everything has been intriguing, so I thought I would highlight what has caught my eye the most.

Firstly, I found the brief chapter on computer games astonishing. This book was published in 1999 so I feel it is dated, but the fact that it is dated as such gives it an excellent outlook on the next 9 years of video gaming. I had to remind myself that this was before PlayStation2 was even released, so the fact that computer games like Myst, Riven, and Doom are being raved about did not surprise me. As I said in a prior post, gaming has certainly come a long way. The thing I found most astounding was a paragraph on page 93 which boiled down all video games to the same common goal.

“They are assigned explicitly or implicitly the role of security guards, whose simple task is to shoot anything that appears threatening…Ideologically, the player is asked to defend or reestablish the status quo, so that even though the violence of the games appears to be antisocial, the ultimate message is not. It is a message that has prevailed from the early games such as Space Invaders in the 1970’s to such games as Doom and Quake in the 1990’s.” (Bolter and Grusin 93)

This quote seems to boil every video game I have ever played with the exception of sports games to a redundant, seemingly pointless definition. However, the game play is still addictive, even if the point is to just shoot anything that moves.

Second, when reading this section on video games I had an excellent thought on what I could write my term paper on. The outdated text led me to realize that games have become a lot more like films. The basic point of a video game is still to ‘shoot to kill’, yet they are becoming expansive in the realm of story telling and most games have 2-5 minute breaks in game play involving films to advance the plot. When considering this, games are becoming much more immersive and in fact, ‘interactive films’. It can therefore be said that since the text states that television is the remediation of film, and video games the remediation of television, are video games remediating cinema and making it more immersive? I would say so.

Finally, when reading a text for my SOAN: Introductory Methods course I came across a very interesting piece of information:

“The term ‘road rage’ first appeared in 1988, and by 1997, the print media were carrying over 4,000 articles per year on it. Despite media attention about ‘aggressive driving’ and ‘anger behind the wheel’, there is no scientific evidence for road rage.” (Nueman 5)

I found this quite interesting because road rage has become such a highly publicized phenomena. I have heard of some cases where drivers are sent to anger management and to seek other forms of professional help to battle their anger behind the wheel. There is even psychological and sociological investigation into this phenomena, but how can this be justified as good research if it is just some wild goose chase with a catchy phrase that the media spat out one day? Since there is no scientific evidence for it, I was once again captivated by the impact media has on our world.

Works Cited

Nueman, W. Lawrence. Basics of Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (2nd Edition). Boston: Pearson Education, 2007.

Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Little That I Know (Precursory Self Reflexive Response)

I feel that it is necessary to make a precursory self reflexive post in order to establish what I know so far so my progress throughout the course can be tracked and evaluated much easier.

I will first off start by saying that I already know a good deal about the world of media. Since a young age I was glued to the television box; whether it was playing video games, watching television shows or films, like every other Canadian I just can't get enough. I'm fairly technologically knowledgeable (I know how to work a computer, a cell phone, an Ipod/Mp3 player, my Xbox 360, etc.) although I beleieve there is always room to grow and become more knowledgeable.

I took a media course in high school as well as Dr. Lipton's Languages of Media course, so I am more aware than others of how manipulative and powerful a tool the media is. Any medium is able to project a government or a corporations desires onto the general public, and to be honest I find this quite terrifying.

In terms of this specific class, my thirst for knowledge has me constantly participating by asking questions to get a better sense of things and understand the theories we will learn over the course of this semester. I do find the reading a bit overwhelming, but I'm sure at the end of the day it really isn't that much and won't be that difficult. The seminar presentation and the term paper do not really seem that exhausting to me, however this blog does. I have never kept a blog, so I think it will be interesting to experiment with this and hopefully be a useful learning tool for me so that I excel in this course.

Initial Thoughts on the Class (Response to Discussion)

I was quite impressed with the class and a number of ideas quickly popped into my head regarding the first course text, Remediation: Understanding New Media. I have to admit I was unfamiliar with the term 'remediation' so I wikipediaed it with no success, and then came across an excellent definition from (see below). Although I still have not purchased or opened the text book at this point, I still have a number of great ideas sparked from the class discussion regarding remediation.

The biggest thing i noticed with remediation was in the introductions Ian had us present. I believe Ian has already gone over the remediation process in music technology (record player to casette tape to compact disc to mp3), but the one I was considering most was video gaming technology.

Early video gaming technology was basic, and the 8-12 year olds of today wouldn't be nearly as fascinated by two dimensional super mario with repetitive and annoying music on Super Nintendo as I was as a small child. Throughout the years there have been massive improvements in the graphic design of games, themes, the exploration of a game, music, the level of difficulty and so on and so forth. Another thing to consider is Sony/Nintendo's/Microsoft's need for their systems to meet multimedia demands. For example, all systems (The big Three - Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360) can import and play/display the majority of music, picture and video files a computer holds, and Xbox 360 even has the capability to stream files directly from a Windows based PC to the system and onto your television screen. Who would have thought 20 years ago that a video game console would be able to play games with 80 hour storylines, 25 different weapons, graphic realism, the ability to physically immerse yourself into the game (a la Nintendo Wii), to play with friends online, hold your whole library of music and show your movies on HD DVD (Xbox 360) or Blu Ray (Playstation 3).

The thing that fascinates me the most with remediation is not the technological advancement, although that is something to behold with the Xbox 360's new capabilities, but our culture's hegemonic practice to constantly need bigger, better, faster. Obviously, this is spawned from ideas of capitalism and materialism that are instilled in us from a young age. When taking this into consideration I had a shocking vision of the future of gaming. If Nintendo, Playstation and Microsoft had some sort of merger, virtual reality gaming would be born. Nintendo's interactive gameplay, Microsoft's computer skill set, and Playstation's video graphic capabilities could combine to create an insanely accurate virtual reality game. Mind you, this is a process years in the making and we're still a bit far of technologically speaking. But - I say bring the remediation! On with the future of gaming, and the future of every other media medium for that matter.

Works Cited
"Remediation." Definitions from Random House: 2006.