The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 03.19.04
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2004 22:32:22 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: March 19, 2004


1. Francis Hwang: seeking Software Consultant
2. Andy Clarke: COSIGN 2004
3. Marc Garrett: Be a reviewer for Futherfield

4. Cody, Michael Szpakowski, Peter, Margaret: Community

5. Kanarinka: Interview with - Boston New Media is
Mediumly Old

6. Curt Cloninger: a more exciting delerium
7. Patricia Badani: Ethnography in Old and New Media

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Rhizome is now offering organizational subscriptions, memberships
purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions allow
participants of an institution to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. (Rhizome is also offering
subsidized memberships to qualifying institutions in poor or excluded
communities.) Please visit for more
information or contact Jessica Ivins at Jessica AT

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Date: 3.17.04
From: Francis Hwang (francis AT
Subject: seeking Software Consultant, a non-profit organization focused on new media art, is
seeking a Software Consultant. The Consultant will work closely with the
Director of Technology on a number of long-term projects, including
improving the site's search capabilities and improving the ArtBase
submissions process. is a highly trafficked community website that uses Ruby,
MySQL, Apache, PHP, and Perl. Experience with specific technologies is
less important than an interest in object-oriented design patterns,
agile methodologies, and test-first programming. Yes, it's a computer
job, but communication skills are important anyway. Apple and Unix
programming snobs encouraged to apply.

This is a highly flexible short-term position. We have budgeted for a
half-time, six-month term of employment, but this may change depending
on the applicants. This position allows for off-site work, but
candidates need to be in commuting distance of New York for frequent
short meetings and pair programming sessions. is among the oldest and most well respected organizations in
the field of new media art. For more information about the organization
and our programs, please check out our web site:

To apply, please email your detailed cover letter and resume by April 1
to Francis Hwang at francis AT

Hours: 20 hours per week, scheduling flexible
Dates: April 1 - October 1, 2004 (flexible)
Location: New York
Salary: Commensurate with experience

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Date: 3.15.04
From: Andy Clarke (andy AT
Subject: COSIGN 2004


First Call For Papers


The 4th International Conference on COMPUTATIONAL SEMIOTICS

University of Split (Croatia)

14th - 16th September 2004



The creation and interpretation of meaning in interactive digital media
requires the manipulation of signs and/or pre-existing structures of
meaning. COSIGN plays a crucial role in exploring the relationship
between computer systems and sign systems.

The focus of COSIGN is the way in which meaning can be created by,
encoded in, understood by, or produced through, the computer. As such,
it is of interest to computer scientists, digital artists and designers,
HCI and AI practitioners, and a broad range of other critics, theorists
and researchers.

Possible themes include, but are not limited to, the following:

- Software architectures and technologies based upon or inspired by
existing theories of meaning (such as structuralism or semiotics).
- Structures of meaning in artificial intelligence systems.
- Hypertext/hypermedia and the semantic web as structures of meaning.
- The study, analysis or criticism of digital interactive media using
methods drawn from structuralism, semiotics or other theories of
- Narrative/ludic structures in interactive digital media and
- Interface as sign system.

Media that make use of the unique capabilities of digital systems are of
particular interest to this conference. These include, but are not
limited to, the following:

- Virtual reality systems and virtual environments.
- Hypertext, hypermedia, multimedia and the internet environments.
- Content analysis systems (particularly those that extract higher-level
- The semantic web (and similar systems).
- Digital art, net art and other technology-based or technology-oriented
art forms.
- Computer games, interactive narratives and other forms of interactive
- Interface as sign system.

The programme and proceedings of the previous three COSIGN conferences
are available at the conference website:

COSIGN invites submissions in the following categories. For full
submission procedure, guidelines and requirements, please go to:

1. Academic Papers

Submissions in this category can be initially either in the form of an
abstract of 500 words or in the form of a full paper of up to 10 pages
(see for full details). After the review
process, authors will be notified of acceptance/modifications.

2. Artworks

COSIGN also invites presentations of artworks relevant to the themes of
the conference. We are interested in all forms/formats of artwork - it
need not be digital art if it is relevant in other ways.

Submissions in this category will be assessed on the basis of
documentation of the work presented in the form of an online website.
The website should include the following:

- A textual description of the proposed artwork and any illustrations.
- A biography of the artist(s)/author(s).
- Contact details.

3. Posters

We also welcome poster presentations of work that is not yet ready for a
full paper, or which would benefit from this more informal mode of

4. Demonstrations

Demonstrations of relevant leading-edge work and work in progress are
also invited.

We also welcome proposals which don't fit into these categories (such as
panels, workshops, etc).

All submissions are peer reviewed to ensure the quality and relevance of
those selected. All submissions selected will be included in both the
printed and online proceedings.

As in previous years, COSIGN will endeavour to support as much as
possible the registration fees and/or accommodation of those presenters
who are not funded by an institution or organisation.


For full submission procedure, guidelines and requirements, please go


29th April 2004 - Submission date for 500 word abstracts, full papers
and artworks
24th May 2004 - Submission date (posters and demonstrations)
26th May 2004 - Notification of acceptance (abstracts, papers and
04th June 2004 - Notification of acceptance (posters and demos)
26th July 2004 - Camera-ready copy for the proceedings (all)


COSIGN 2004 will be held in Split, Croatia. The city of Split is located
in the South of Croatia, just one or two hours away by ferry from some
of the most attractive Adriatic islands and seaside resorts. It is easy
to reach Split by air or by an overnight ferry from Italy. Split
International Airport is connected with major European airports via
Zagreb and Frankfurt. In the summer months, there are also numerous
direct flights from several European capitals. International ferries and
S.N.A.V. speedboat for Split depart from the Italian port of Ancona.

COSIGN will be hosted by by the Department of Visual Communication, Art
Academy, University of Split. The Department is located in what
originally used to be a Venetian fortress, just a five-minute walk away
from the historic core of the city. The medieval heart of Split, whose
eclectic architectural style is highly appreciated by art historians,
grew from the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (built between 295
and 305 AD). Numerous cultural events take place in Split all year
round. In September, the city is home to the International Festival of
New Film and Video, with a vibrant new media section.


Andy Clarke - Kinonet (UK)
Clive Fencott - University of Teeside (UK)
Grethe Mitchell - University of East London and Kinonet (UK)
Frank Nack - CWI (Netherlands)
Mirko Petric - University of Split (Croatia)


For up-to-date details of these, please see the conference website:

COSIGN 2004 - University of Split (Croatia)
COSIGN 2003 - University of Teesside (UK)
COSIGN 2002 - University of Augsburg (Germany)
COSIGN 2001 - CWI (Netherlands)

end of call

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Date: 3.15.04
From: Marc Garrett (marc.garrett AT
Subject: Be a reviewer for Futherfield

Do you want to be a reviewer for Futherfield?

Furtherfield constantly receives submissions by excellent artists from
all over the world inviting us to feature their work. As a reviewer you
will be asked to select from these works and contribute to the context
of what is being created and write about why it is relevant. You will
also have the option of seeking out and writing about other works that
you think should be seen.

We are interested in people who understand and know net art, software
art, aspects of new media (if you have a better term please let us
know), social networks, live net art, live Internet tv, open source,
tactical media, art blogs, activist games, relational art & its

We are especially interested in having more female writers join our
crew, but are of course not biased against males or inbetweenies.

If you possess knowledge and enthusiasm for any of these subjects, are
able to write;-) and are interested in being part of a group that is
growing daily as an adventurous community, join the reinvention of the
creative, digitally related vista as we know it.

To find out more about becoming a Furtherfield reviewer please email :
info AT

web site :

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For $65 annually, Rhizome members can put their sites on a Linux
server, with a whopping 350MB disk storage space, 1GB data transfer per
month, catch-all email forwarding, daily web traffic stats, 1 FTP
account, and the capability to host your own domain name (or use Details at:

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Date: 3.13.04-3/.16.04
From: Cody (cody AT, Michael Szpakowski
(szpako AT, Peter (ae AT, Margaret
(heffmarg AT
Subject: Community

Cody (cody AT posted:

Hey everyone, I just joined this site because I'm writing a paper for a
college course. Basically, the topic of my paper is how digital art can
develop a community. I was wondering if anyone could help me out, either
by posting a reply, e-mail me or IMing me (AIM:sellout002). Essentially,
I would like to hear from people who have been on the site for a while
and have a deeper knowledge of how it works. Basically, have you made
friends through the site (either online or off), have you obtained any
jobs through the site, learned anything from discussions, etc. Really,
any information would be a big help. Hopefully someone will take the
time to help me out. Thanks.

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Michael Szpakowski (szpako AT replied:

Hi Cody
I joined Rhizome three years or so ago after chasing a reference to it
in Peter Lunenfeld's excellent book "Snap to Grid". Hereafter I'm mostly
talking about Rhizome Raw because intersting and commendable as the rest
of the operation is, Raw is what is key for me. My experience of it has
been almost wholly positive. I've learnt a good deal from it, seen lots
of very interesting work and made some friends and new collaborators
though it. Its a place that requires you to keep your wits about you but
this seems to me to be no bad thing -in fact in terms of scariness the
contemporary opera list I also subscribe to is a much fiercer place. I
think the recent groundswell of support for Joy Garnett through the list
and outside has shown one of it's really positive characteristics at
work, that it proved a way of organising support and solidarity for a
fellow artist under attack. There are some negative things - I think it
would be nice if there were a wider circle of people willing to take a
deep breath and post, sometimes one might slightly wistfully hanker for
a moderator, although I'm actually opposed to this, occasionally it can
feel a little New York centric, not that that bothers me enormously as
an Americanophile, at least where culture is concerned, and on occasion
there is a bit of a feeling of the existence of a 'charmed inner circle'
but I think that's almost inevitable and in fairness I think steps have
been taken to make the thing more open. In short: the benefits and
pleasures for me far outweigh the negatives and its made a real
difference to my life as an artist. I hope after you've completed your
research you'll stick around and contribute- it would be interesting if
you posted your results at least.

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Peter (ae AT replied:

Perhaps the original digital art communities--the old ANSI scene back in
the 80's. iCE and ACiD were/are the two largest and most well know --
read some about them here, but I'd imagine most of the original members
have moved on :)

Once you get into it--fascinating pre-internet online communities--the
ANSI scene was global, linked to the original of software piracy
distribution networks--and all sorts of other adolescent things... It
would make for an awesome research project--I think in time it will be
more celebrated as I'd imagine this was the first large-scale global
digital art/music/programming community/distribution network, maybe
after the cool stuff you can read about in the book Hackers (not really
focused on Art--unless you count the game-of-life and Frogger heh)...
Ansi artists worked with very rudimentary tools--had only 16 colors to
work with and only 80 columns and 25 rows... but the pictures are
amazing--using high-ascii characters in very creative combinations.
TheDraw was the tool of choice and most of the drawing was done using a
few shading characters and two block characters--with these basic
characters you could draw curves and angles and create depth with
shadow. You could only mix the first 8 colors because of the way DOS was
configured. I could talk more about the nuances of it--I made some
ANSI's myself, but that's another chapter in another book :)

Also celebrated still somewhat is/was the "loader" scene--these were
TINY programs usually used to introduce the various hacking groups
(inside the .ZIP or .LZH or .ARC) after a download... I'm not really an
expert in this area but the analogy might be how a graffiti artist might
tag his territory--a hacking group would pride itself on the fastest
global distribution (hence the origin of the "0-day" bragging
terminology) and teaming up with a top art group would be an integral
part of this hacking culture... Most of the art was influenced by
comicbook characters and I'd imagine most of the artists (hidden behind
aliases) were young. They still have programming/art competitions I
think where coders have only 17 kilobytes? of code to work within but
they are still able to do 3D graphics, sound, etc. FutureCrew was
probably the most well-known group.

I'm starting an artist community myself based on Wiki's and mirrored

--Peter James

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Margaret (heffmarg AT replied:

this is an interesting example of an online community

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Date: 3.17.04
From: Kanarinka (kanarinka AT
Subject: Interview with - Boston New Media is Mediumly

Hello all,

Check out the article by kanarinka about surveying the Boston new media
with in this month's issue of Big RED & Shiny.

"New Media is Mediumly Old: Surveying the Boston New Media Scene with"

Please send me any feedback, comments, questions.

Check out the other articles, news and reviews while you are there - Big
RED & Shiny is an excellent new resource for Boston-related art news &


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Site and Performance in the Digital Age, June 7-25, 2004 in NYC,
presented by The Kitchen and Sarah Lawrence College. A 3-week lab for
artists 18-30 to investigate site-specific art integrating live
performance and new digital technology. Deadline: April 13. Call
212.255.5793 x28. Credit and scholarships available.

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Date: 3.18.04
From: Curt Cloninger (curt AT
Subject: a more exciting delerium

A Response to Paul D. Miller's "Rhythm Science"
Curt Cloninger

Paul D. Miller (of DJ Spooky fame) recently wrote a book called "Rhythm
Science" for MIT Press. The book comes with an original DJ Spooky mix
CD. In the following review, I'm going to criticize Paul's prose,
analyze the inherent media differences between turntablism and the
essay, praise Miller's brilliant use of media filtering as a tactic for
self-identity preservation, and exonerate the intuitive aural
playsmithing of all things Spooky. As I proceed, I'll try my darndest
not to get sucked into the meta-meta-meta-mire of de/re-construction
that even now pulls like a gaping maw at the mere thought of responding
to this text with something resembling lucid criticism.


Freestyle turntablism is when DJs get together and improvise mixes in
real-time, as Jazz musicians have done for decades. Freestyle rapping
is like a form of contemporary jazz scatting -- improvisational rhyming,
real-time rhythmic spoken verse. The two forms aren't unrelated, but
mastering one by no means assures the mastery of the other. Louis
Armstrong could do both; Miles Davis could only do the horn thing.

In the first and last sections of "Rhythm Science," Miller attempts a
sort of prose freestyling. It reads like most of his CD liner notes,
and is my least favorite part of the book. It's not that a freestyle
prose genre isn't possible. Indeed, there are very interesting
similarities between mix culture with its digging and sampling, and
academic prose with its research and footnoting. Both cultures are
attribution/remix cultures, and props to Miller for foregrounding their
semiotic similarities. It's just that the end result of Miller's
particular experiments generally come up short. For example:

"From now to the beginning let it be like a record spinning. Nets and
bets, tasks and masks, codes and modes, it all just flows. Do you get
my drift?"

"The circuitry of the machines is the constant in this picture; the
software is the embodiment of infinite adaptability, an architecture of
frozen music, unthwarted. Watch the flow: That's the content versus
context scenario of DJ culture. Hardware, wetware, shareware, software:
The invisible machinery of codes that filter the sounds is omnivorous.
Opposites extract."

Stacked up against Ginsberg's "angel-headed hipsters burning for the
ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of
night," Miller's freestyle prose pales considerably. It reads less like
Burroughs or Ferlenghetti (or even Gibson) and more like a train wreck
between a cyber-utopianist Gil Scott Heron on Ecstacy and Derrida at his
most impenetrably obtuse.

The middle, more autobiographical sections of "Rhythm Science" fare much
better. Miller is at his best when he is simply describing his personal
experiences and inspirations.

Even so, Miller's overall approach to prose is generally, detrimentally
oblique. In many ways, "Rhythm Science" attempts to port the mojo of
mix culture to the medium of the prose essay, but crossing between media
is a lot more sticky than crossing between operating systems,
particularly when you're starting from the visceral/ethereal extreme of
media (music) and hoping to arrive at the encoded/didactic extreme of
media (the prose essay).

Poetry seems the most logical bridge between these two extreme media,
but poetry is art, and not all great jazz musicians make great poets. If
"Rhythm Science" is art, it's pretty fragged. If "Rhythm Science" is
academic scholarship, it's pretty loose. For example, Miller writes,
""Flip the script, open the equation, check the situation. Guy Debord
used to call this style detournement, Sigmund Freud called it the
uncanny -- we call it wildstyle." Definitely illuminating in terms of
Spooky's personal influences, but more of an assertion than an academic
argument. I'm inclined to forgive Lev Manovich's plodding prose for the
frequency of his useful insights, and I gleefully forgive Lester Bangs'
illogical ramblings for the sheer delight of his frolicking prose. But
"Rhythm Science" comes off as a kind of awkward in-between.

Semiotically, written prose doesn't "flow" like mixed audio, or even
freestyle rapping. It's a more strictly encoded medium. If I miss the
exact flow of Spooky's freestyle audio mix, I still land more or less in
the same intended analogical zone, and I have a pleasant trip getting
there. If I miss the exact flow of Miller's freestyle prose (and I
almost always do because of its unapologetic subjectivity), I get a
binary disconnect.

The synthetic "flow" of Spooky's Dj-ing seems intuitive to him. He has
the conceptual ear of an arranger/composer. It's not just the
intriguing source samples that he digs, and it's not just the physical
dexterity of his hands to scratch, cut, and play other instruments.
Spooky's genius as a turntablist has to do with his overarching
understanding of hierarchical rhythmic, tonal, and thematic

The synthetic "flow" of writing is a combination of reason and
prosecraft. You can allude to dope source texts all you want, you can
even synthesize these texts in your own mind to your personal
intellectual satisfaction, but if you lack the prosecraft necessary to
convey the vibe of your intellectual remix to your reader, then your
text will never generatively ascend to the next level; it will remain a
mere sum of its parts. Simply layering memes in prose isn't enough.
The memes have to be interleaved and woven, and on more than just an
instantaneous, syntactic level. Miller himself admits, "The danger
within writing, of taking sampling too far -- too much citation, not
enough synthesis -- leads to the break with the old form." When "Rhythm
Science" fails, it's not for lack of attempted synthesis, but for lack
of accomplished synthesis.

To his credit, Miller is obviously enjoying the novel process of porting
mix culture approaches to the prose essay. He even seems aware that his
experiment might not be working out as well as expected. He writes:

"It is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to

"It's a dyslexic shuffle of autopoesis between two undercover agents who
carry their orders clutched in dead hands -- the transfer of information
between them is an Inter-relationship between music and art and

"Have I spoken around the topic too much. That's kind of the point."

Still, Miller's own awareness of the difficulty of his task doesn't make
my reading experience any less obtuse.


"Rhythm Science" works best when I approach it as massive liner notes to
the accompanying CD. The CD is presented as a sort of artistic "proof"
of the book's text, but the audio mix proves so strong an "argument," it
actually backgrounds the book and makes it seem almost incidental.
Miller writes, "At the end of the day, when you press PLAY on the CD,
you don't necessarily care what the DJ was thinking about. You're just
going to see if you like it or not." Amen.

My favorite parts of the CD include text readings by Joyce and Tzara,
both so overboard hypnotically rhythmic that Spooky barely has to
recontextualize them as rap. Various spoken texts are read by their own
authors, and there's even a Debussy piano piece played by Debussy
himself. Here in this other/ether medium of audio, Spooky's influences
are no longer worn, time-shifted memes on a page ("palimpsest,"
"flanneur"); here they are real-time, pneumatic personalities. In this
other/ether medium of audio, Spooky's influences are no longer
disembodiedly floating in the back of his mind, they are crisp and
crackling at the tips of his fingers. In other words, his influences
are in the mix -- a mix that's finally reaching me; a mix that's deftly
narrated; a mix that suddenly matters.

I wonder whether Miller will take offense at my toggling the primacy of
book and CD? I'm hoping Spooky will understand. The book actually
allows itself to be read as supplement. Miller writes, "I do know that
average kids from the street are probably not aware of the connections
between Derrida's deconstructions and turntablism's mixes, but it's
there if they ever come looking, and my own writings are a place to
start." However you read/play it, Miller can hardly be accused of
advantageously pimping hip hop culture to the academic set. If
anything, it's almost the opposite.

The CD appeals to me more than the text because it "reads" as more
genuine, more vital, more crucial to the everyday life of the artist.
Why this should be so brings me to the main value of the book, the CD,
Paul D. Miller, DJ Spooky, and all things pertaining thereof...


The single coolest thing about Miller/Spooky is the way he implements
the role of "filter" as a self-preservation mechanism. Spooky's music
is vital not because it's based on some formulated conceptual theory
that panders well to the contemporary academic art set. His music is
vital because its creation is the way in which he maintains his own
identity in a world constantly seeking to erode it.

Miller writes, "There's so much information about who you should be or
what you should be that you're not left with the option of trying to
create a mix of your very self. The mix absorbs almost anything it can
engage -- and much it can't."

A seemingly intuitive solution to this dilemma is to become a content
producer rather than a content consumer. The problem is, once "content
producer" becomes your role in contemporary society, whichever marketer
redistributes you, whichever critic evaluates you, whichever entity
ultimately filters and contextualizes you -- that entity gets the last
spin on who you are. How to avoid this conundrum? Simultaneously
become both producer and filter. On the "Rhythm Science" CD, Spooky is
remixing remixes of remixes. He even remixes his own remixes. Once you
start filtering yourself, the only person who can filter you now is a
meta-filter. And if you become you're own infinitely telescoping,
self-filtering meta-meta-filter, who can filter you now? The catch is,
in order to maintain your most-meta position, you have to wake up early
and go to sleep late and swim all day long in fresh streams of steely
media, imbibing and remixing, imbibing and remixing, all in order to
stay one step ahead of the system's constant attempt to meta-name you.
Fortunately for DJ Spooky, he doesn't seem to mind the hours.

What arises is a constant flux of creative variability serving as a sort
of talisman/immunization strategy against commodification. You ward off
stereotypes of yourself by absorbing them and spinning them. I won't
tell you who I am. You'll just misinterpret me anyway. Instead, I'll
take who you say I am (which is skewed) and own it just long enough to
hybridize it and spit it back out at you. Now do you know who I am?
Guess again; here comes the 2.0 remix. And on and on and on. In the
50s, Ralph Ellison declared, "I am an invisible man. When they approach
me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their
imagination -- indeed, everything and anything except me." Spooky
transcends invisibility via the remix. In situations that defy reason,
the most effective strategies are often counter-intuitive.

Miller writes, "By Dj-ing, making art, and writing simultaneously, I
tried to create a new role that's resonant with web culture: to function
as content provider, producer, and critic all at the same time. It's
role consolidation as digital performance." Ultimately, it's this
tactical approach that makes the "Rhythm Science" project worth wading
through. Spooky is one of the few artists simultaneously prolific and
optimistic enough to perpetually speak the ever-churning language of new
media. Consequently, most of his static detractors will wind up eating
his dust, because his dust doesn't appear to be settling any time soon.

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Date: 3.18.04
From: Patricia Badani (pat.badani AT
Subject: Ethnography in Old and New Media

Ethnography in Old and New Media

Review of:
"Cultures in Webs" (CD-ROM)
Roderick Coover (Eastgate Systems, Massachusetts, 2003)

By Pat Badani

The representation of cultures and the study of ethnographic documentary
images finds interactive approaches in the recently published CD-ROM:
"Cultures in Webs," in which author Roderick Coover discusses theory and
practice in "old" and "new" media. More significantly, Coover reflects
on the various ways in which the word "web" can be used as a metaphor,
not only to provoke thought about the co-habitation of documentary
photography, the moving image, and text in a hypermedia format, but also
to argue in favour of this format in order to reveal a network of
concealed narratives in co-existing, cross-cultural worlds. Composed of
three essays that illustrate the use of digital media as a mode of
cultural analysis, the work uses a host of media formats: HTML and
Javascript, digitized video images shot in DVCAM and Hi8 Pal, digitized
slides shot on 35 mm film using Nikon FG and Nikon N90, and written
material. Published by Eastgate Systems in 2003 with an introduction by
Lucien Taylor, the work demonstrates how interactive hypermedia can
present and disseminate ethnographic information that would be difficult
to convey in traditional form, thereby contributing an alternative model
for the documentary arts.

Theory: World-making / Sense-making
The use of film in psychiatry became common practice during WW2 and was
adapted to sociological research in the 1960's. Ethnographic filming was
initiated by Margaret Mead in the 1940's and classical examples can be
found from Robert Flaherty (1922) to Jean Rouch (1957). The works of
Trinh T. Minh-ha and other filmmakers serve as examples of the renewed
efforts to use the documentary camera by prompting the viewer to look
and build a network of association. Coover references these in order to
discuss cross-cultural representation in film. He notes that these
filmmakers have used editing techniques to support multiple, and even
contradictory, associative and narrative fields, and that their
experiments in breaking linear form would seem to anticipate the
multi-linear worldmaking available to digital media documentary authors

One of the three essays presented, "Metaphors, Montage and Worldmaking",
discusses precisely these topics with theoretical texts, film samples
and stills from three filmmakers: Robert Gardner's "Forest of Bliss,"
Vincent Monnikendam "Mother Dao The Turtlelike," specifically in
reference to strategies of montage; and Trinh T. Minh-ha's "Naked
Spaces:Living is Round," describing a physical as well as an
intellectual process of sense-making that the viewer undergoes in order
to build pictured worlds. By drawing parallels between the three
filmmakers, who deny linearity and the authority of a single voice-over
narration, a case is made in favour of documentary producers who abstain
from reproducing the us/them power differential. To illustrate this,
"Metaphors, Montage and Worldmaking" contrasts the three films mentioned
earlier to Robert Flaherty's film : "Nanook of the North" in which the
narrative is placed within a prefigured Western and romanticised
archetype of a man battling nature. Coover supports the view that
worldmaking is what one does in the act of looking? and further
describes a way of looking at the world by defining relationships?. This
way of looking guides decisions made while gathering images as well as
choices made while editing, a theory of production geared to structuring
the viewer's experience in the process of constructing reality. The
essay shows how "new" media practices amplify "old" media with design
elements that include the use of embedded digitized video clips, links
and pop-ups. Multi-sensory ethnographic material is thus organised and
displayed as interlaced fragments that can convey the culturally
specific qualities of places? for the viewer to experience and make
sense of.

Practice: Interconnected Patterns
The idea of visual documentation supplementing a written ethnography is
certainly well supported in "The Harvest." In this second essay, Coover
presents his own practice as ethnographic documentarist and tackles
questions about the structuring of interconnected, layered information
in view of audience reception. The work explores photographic stills in
digital media through a fifty-image black & white photo essay about wine
harvest in Burgundy, France, supplemented by three layers of text. The
texts unfold horizontally as one scrolls laterally through the
photographic diary. The occasional hyperlinked word will launch
additional image pop-ups, or videotaped interviews and sample analyses
that offer insight into the subject. Further, these hyperlinks inform
the viewer on the author's conceptual decisions and the use of
techniques. The texts address three different threads and narrative
points of view. The first thread tells us about the harvest as event
and includes a luscious description of a work-day at the vineyard; the
tools, the methods, and the people who partake in the complicated task
of growing three different varieties of grapes. The second thread
offers the author's subjective "felt" experience of this event and about
recovered memories that determine editing choices. The third thread
conveys the historical and contextual background of the harvest. A
story is told about winemaker Aubert de Villaine as someone who reflects
cultural ideals by practising a profession with a long history and
tradition. Interconnected patterns and relationships of meaning unfold
as one moves back and forth and into the hyperlinked environment. In
"The Harvest," Coover convincingly shows how grapes become substance for
stories, histories, and images, discovered by the viewer in the
construction of meaning.

Performance: Concealing/Revealing
The relationship of culture, communication, and audiovisual perception
in a hypermedia context is once again explored in the third essay of the
series: "Concealed Narratives." By intertwining written information
with photo and video, organised in an interactive environment rich with
hyperlinks and frames within frames, Coover hopes to mirror the complex
structure of the content presented. Composed of field notes, video
recordings, and photos taken in Ghana's Upper West and Central Regions,
"Concealed Narratives" is a study of how the history of politics at the
birth of the Fourth Republic emerged indirectly both through traditional
performances (festivals, funerals, enstoolments, and religious
ceremonies) and through painted words and images that decorate buses,
boats, walls, and statues. Specifically, Coover narrates his own learnt
lessons about the collision of politics and performance traditions, used
actively to both conceal and reveal conflicting positions. These
scenarios often expose latent struggles between several local, national
and international bodies, and are used to reclaim a space in sites
scripted by colonial history, or to claim a place within a new
post-colonial order. The underlying stories that amplify Coover's
written narration reach us through a number of video-taped interviews.
These testimonies show multiple, and even contradictory viewpoints. By
juxtaposing contrasting ideas and images as they move through different
experiences and environments, the author encourages the viewer to
compile the fragments into a whole, becoming aware of concealed
narratives through the process.

A new model
"Cultures in Webs" intertwines theory and practice, the imagistic
qualities of language and the paralinguistic aspects of visual media. By
suggesting a new relationship between the visual documentarist, the
subject, and the audience, Coover combines the poetic, the didactic, and
the interactive in what could well be a new model for documentary
representation in cross-cultural media. Concerned with plurality,
dialogism and reflexivity, the author fittingly withholds his authority
as narrator in his own practice and explores the social processes of
cultural self-representation as well as of spectatorship. Paralleling
his intentions to that of three ethnographic filmmakers, the author
seeks to go beyond conventional narration and exploits techniques of
montage and metaphor in a new hypermedia context. Most importantly, he
invites the viewer to navigate through and interact with a rich textual,
visual, and aural landscape. In doing so, Coover probes processes of
documentary production, circulation, and reception in a digital
environment and aptly demonstrates how knowledge of the world may be
acquired through techniques that can in some measure enable spectators
to discover webs of signification for themselves.

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Rhizome Digest is supported by grants from The Charles Engelhard
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the Visual Arts, and with public funds from the New York State Council
on the Arts, a state agency.

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Feisal Ahmad (feisal AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 9, number 12. Article submissions to list AT
are encouraged. Submissions should relate to the theme of new media art
and be less than 1500 words. For information on advertising in Rhizome
Digest, please contact info AT

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