Jottings on Manovich

Wed Nov 16, 2005

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. MIT, 2001.

“In this respect the computer fulfills the promise of cinema as a visual Esperanto” (xv, 78).

I wonder here, and in the later comments about the universality of the interface, about the distinction between a recovered universal language and an artificial one. Esperanto invokes questions of “ease,” which I believe my friend Bradley discusses in his dissertation. Is the simplest language the most perfect? The Modistae, Bishop Wilkins, Leibniz, Chomsky and several others seem relevant here.

“As theorized by Vertov, film can overcome its indexical nature through montage, by presenting a viewer with objects that never existed in reality” (xviii, 149).

I’m curious about self-referentiality here. Film can represent an object; montage enables film to represent non-existent objects. The non-existent objects are created in the process of reference, however.

“Synthetic computer-generated imagery is not an inferior representation of our reality, but a realistic representation of a different reality” (xxiii, 202).

So much depends on the meaning of “reality.” In a recent paper I wrote on Primer, I discussed the effect of the director’s choice not to use differently exposed film to indicate different temporal loops or subcreated domains. eXistenZ uses a progressively nested expressivism. It’s an interesting metaphysical idea, and one that the metaphysicians have in fact investigated in compelling detail.

“The avant-garde strategy of collage reemerged as the ‘cut-and-paste’ command, the most basic operations one can perform on digital data” (xxxi, 306).

Is it? “By the distinction that there is one section of it which the soul is compelled to investigate by treating as images the things imitated in the former division, and by means of assumption from which it proceeds not up to a first principle but down to a conclusion, while there is another section in which it advances from its assumption to a beginning of principle that transcends assumption, and in which it makes no use of the images employed by the other section, relying on ideas only and progressing systematically through ideas” (Republic 510b).

I am curious about the logic of sections here and that of Manovich’s windows. And discovery and invention.