My Fellow Hombres

This week’s addition to the participation checklist was to link out to other student’s blogs, who are also participating in the Networked Media course here at RMIT. I feel a bit like Adrian Miles doing shout outs, but I do like this idea as it gives me the chance to interact with other students online and commend them for some of the great things they are putting out there on the net.

1. This blog post still makes me crack up laughing. God love Tyson our Communications lecturer, but I absolutely agree with Kenton when he says ‘never in my life have I wanted more badly to see two people locked in a room together… Traditional university skeptic and Network Media lecturer Adrian Miles and rigid university practice enforcer and History of Communications lecturer Tyson Wils.’

2. I do feel like a bit of an intruder commenting on this, because this story seems so personal, even the way Michael has introduced his short story entitled Mara implies its ‘auteurist nature’ which reveals ‘great truths about the personality and media consumed by their creators’. But nevertheless, I needed to say something about it. I’ve been pondering on it for a while, trying to think about how I could turn it into a film; however, this is one of the rare stories I don’t think should be pushed into a moving picture form. I think films work best with minimal dialogue and although this story does have limited spoken word, it is predominantly made of ‘thoughts’ and would thus most likely end up as a highly narrated short video. Its pensive and delicate nature lends itself to written form all too well. The only person who could possibly do it justice in an audio/visual format would be Michael himself – probably starring himself as well.

3. Just a general mention of Giorgia, whose blog posts reflect her personality beautifully. She is incredibly complementary and wears her heart on her sleeve. Her openness and honestly is clearly evident in her blog… I’d give her a follow, her posts are consistently interesting and beautifully worded.



Architecture vs. Media

My Dad and I often end up talking about the similarities between architecture and media as we are both very interested in these realms of creativity – I’ve been working in his architecture office for a couple of years now and he’s also the person I go to about film or photography. Anyway, we were in the car last night discussing the architectural theories he’s been studying recently; one of which was deconstructionist theory. From what I can gather, this concept was the aftermath of post modern theory, which was of course the aftermath of modernism. It is characterized by fragmentation, the manipulation of a building’s surface and curvilinear shapes which appear to distort and dislocate elements of architecture. The finished visual appearance of buildings that exhibit deconstructivist ‘style’ are characterised by unpredictability and controlled chaos. But what caught me, was the idea that deconstructionist architects are against the idea of a structure with a singular ‘narrative’, or purpose. My Dad hates the idea that something has to have a narrative; a concept that is drummed into us as media students constantly. There are people out there whose sole job is to create ‘interpretative narratives’ in buildings. Take zoos for instance; there is now a massive concentration on how people move through spaces and landscapes, what they read and in what order and how their senses are engaged.  Ultimately these designers want to create a fabricated story experience for people. But deconstructivist theorists ask why… Why does there always have to be a narrative?

Let’s take the famous deconstructionist example of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum located in the Spanish city of Bilbao. As you can see from the image below, the very appearance of the building looks deconstructed and fragmented, it is hard to know where the ‘centre’ of the structure is (probably because there really isn’t one). Additionally, there is not one preferred entrance nor one preferred pathway through the exhibition. In fact, every person who receives an ‘audio guide’ essentially chooses their own way through the gallery – it is up to them to press the numbers on the audio device, which correlate to the artworks they are looking at, in order to find out more about them. What is important to note here is that there is not one set sequence they must view the artworks or rooms in.


I found this idea related to a lot of what we have been studying in Network Media in regards to materiality, but specifically the second of this week’s readings, which concentrated on the differences between interactive narratives and print narratives. Like deconstructionist architecture, interactive narratives are ‘polysequential’, they are ‘discontinuous’ and ‘non-linear’ or rather multi-linear. Furthermore, hypertext narratives are also fragmented and decentralised – deconstuctionists were ‘pulling apart’ the elements of architecture to make new forms, just as hypertext authors are essentially ‘reconstructing’ narrative form by deconstructing it. Interactive narratives and deconstructivist structures are also both unpredictable – deconstructivist buildings are designed around the idea of shock and surprise, similarly most hypertext narratives are created on the basis that the outcomes of the story are not set in concrete from the beginning, nor can they be fully controlled by the author. As Douglas suggests, someone who ‘reads’ a hypertext narrative ‘cannot be entirely certain… that [their] carefully considered choice [of pathway] has not triggered a connection randomly’. Interactive narratives do not necessarily have one default story route from a single place. This essentially means that ‘the same answer to the same question does not [necessarily] yield the same reply’. Thus, just like deconstructivist architecture, hypertext mediums are also a form of ‘controlled chaos’.




The Web


Although this week’s reading was mainly centred around the concepts of reading and writing, it also brought my attention to the very simple idea of ‘the web’. It might seem completely obvious, but it is interesting to think about why the World Wide Web is titled that way. Using the metaphor of an infinitely large spiders web has helped me to grasp the idea behind hypertext and multilinear texts in general. The very straight-forward explanation of the World Wide Web on Wikipedia is ‘a system of interlinked hypertext documents’. As with hypertext, points on a spider’s web are connected by different links or ‘trails’ (a term coined by Bush’s ‘Memex’) and there are several different pathways to get anywhere on the web, none having a particular entry or ‘departure’ point. This idea of an audience member, ‘not coming through the front door’, but dropping through the lounge room ceiling of the text, was something I also picked up from last week’s reading on hypertext. Similarly, in regards to multilinear narratives such as ‘Titanic: Adventure our of Time‘ (the CD-ROM), even if 5 different users/readers began the ‘story’ at the same place, they would most likely follow 5 different pathways, ending up at 5 very different positions in the plot.

I wonder what ‘the web’ metaphor for a linear book would look like? Most probably a single string of ‘proteinaceous silk’ that isn’t attached to anything…



I was in the mood to get nostalgic today. Or waste time. Both I think. I spent many minutes going through my travel photos from last year (when I travelled Europe with my best friend, now flat mate) and ended up finding this photo. Here, we were sitting waiting for our very expensive meal, with our very expensive waters on a boat to Italy from Croatia. Actually the food probably only cost us 10 euros or something, but that seemed ridiculous for a plate of pasta at the time. Anyway, it reminded me that I actually kept a journal while I was over there; something that I really don’t do, aside from when I’m forced to do it for uni or school. So I then spent many minutes going through my old journal. I remember I originally bought it because Sarah, my travel buddy, had one and when she was writing in hers, I didn’t have much to do in our down time aside from read American Psycho (and that’s not always something you want to be doing in a 14 person dorm, with a creepy man watching you sleep in the bunk next you). Most of the stuff I’ve written in there is just in dot point form, because I really just wanted to have it so I could tell other people what to do and what not to do when I got back. I also got very behind with writing in it, so only the first couple of months of my trip are recorded. But even so, I think it was worth it. The first month was actually the hardest part of the ‘holiday’ for me. Sarah and I were just getting used to each other and being stuck with someone 24/7 in very stressful situations was very difficult at times. Thus, the journal supplied a place for me to vent…everything.

However, the best part about looking over my journal was reading my records about the first time I met people. I know it’s a cliche, but the things I treasure most from traveling are the people I meet. I had paid particular attention to writing about every new person I became friends with in those first couple of months; and since, I think the majority of people traveling Europe (who are my age) are Australians, I have managed to stay friends with a lot of them. Dan, who I met in the Austrian Alps, but is from Mentone, has become a really close friend and it was funny to see what my first impressions of him were. He had ‘misplaced’ his travel buddy and so ended up being the only boy staying at this tiny hostel in Wildschonau with us, but we clicked right away. We cooked together and stayed up all night watching films and talking about Melbourne clubs, comparing the t-shirts we had brought over and proclaiming the times we had wanted to kill our travel mates in the previous weeks overseas. Anyhow, the point is, I had a good feeling about him right from the start… and its makes me realise I should trust my first instincts more often.

So writing is good for some things. Photos are good for another. But I think the most nostalgic medium by far is video (maybe this is why I love it so much). Sometimes it’s almost a little bit too real, I look at the clip below and it sends me right back there…to a different time, a different place and a very different head-space.

European Expedition from Mia Zen on Vimeo.

Multi-linearity, hypertext and disembodiment

Week 5’s reading  by George P. Landow helps to make sense of the linearity of print mediums and the multi-linearity of online mediums (as result of hypertext). In regards to writing on the internet, Landow mainly uses blogs as an example, reiterating a lot of what Adrian Miles has been going on about in our Network Media Symposiums.

As most computerised programs are a simulation of something real and physical, the blog is essentially a simulation of a diary or journal. Or is it? The blog does a few things differently. For one, it organises posts in reverse chronological order, going from the most recently dated post to the oldest post – very much unlike the sequentially ordered book. Not saying that you couldn’t do that with a diary if you wanted to, it is just that the materiality of a physical book and the conventions of reading seem to go against the ‘backwards’ ordering of entries. However, the biggest difference between print and the internet is the enabling of hypertext: the idea that a blog can link you to anywhere else on the web, but maybe most helpfully, it can directly link you back to other entries that have been posted on the same blog previously, giving the reader the ability to put events into greater context. On the other hand, in order to give readers a deeper understanding of a subject, a journal would have to explain the whole story again, or reference a text ‘outside’ of the text the reader physically has in front of them – which they might not be able to get their hands on. In this way print can be seen as a rather ‘closed’ medium and the internet a more ‘open’ one. This concept allows for the idea of multi-linearity; hypertext let’s the reader chose their own ‘pathway’ through a piece of writing by providing them with links to sites ‘outside’ of the dominant text.

Another element of the blog that is different to the diary is that fact that it is public. It has taken me a while to realise that when I am writing for my blog I am writing, not only for myself (which is the main and generally the only point to a diary) but with the intention that it will be read by someone else. I think this is because it doesn’t feel ‘completely’ public, there is still a facade between myself and the readers of my blog. I am not physically saying this stuff to their faces, I don’t really know there’s anyone else ‘there’ reading my blog, I am just writing this stuff on a webpage in the hope that someone might be vaguely interested in what I have to say. So essentially I agree with McNeill when he says that web diaries ‘blur the distinction between online and offline lives, ‘virtual reality’ and ‘real life’, ‘public’ and ‘private”. Another part of blogging that differentiates itself from print/written form is the idea of participation – if someone comments on my blog I know they have read that post, but if someone bought a book I wrote for instance, I wouldn’t actually know that they’ve read it, because there is little chance for readers to provide book-writers with feedback. In saying this, readers and writers of blogs still have the problem that their identities can be quite anonymous online – they are ‘disembodied’ participants hiding behind the ‘grille’ of the internet. Although the mixture between a virtual identity and the publicness of a blog can cause problems online (take trolling as an example), it also creates an opportunity for people to expose themselves a lot more through their writing and personal taste, which is a good thing right?

The Written Word

Week 4’s reading by David Bolter looked at the history, technologies and theories behind the written word. Although I found the reading mainly ‘pro-technology’, there were also a few examples of where hand-writing was portrayed in a very positive light. Bolter compares hand-writing to print writing, discussing how even though print enhanced legibility, the ‘organic’ and personal nature of writing is lost in typography. When something is typed rather than written, it ultimately loses a part of the writers identity. Hand-writing is like a signature – it is obvious that the writer is the one who has written a certain page; but the ‘mechanically correct’ markings of a printed document mean that it could be written by anyone. A second mention of hand-writing as advantageous in comparison to print, is the quote by Roman rhetorician Quintilian, who remarks that ‘when we write…our hand cannot keep up with our thoughts, and so we have time with our words’. This concept has changed with new ‘faster’ typing technologies that can essentially keep up with our brains.

In saying this, there are still similarities between different forms of writing. The writer always needs a ‘surface’ to put marks on and a tool with which they make them (besides, as also mentioned in this reading, writing is not a natural, humanly thing). These materials help to define the nature of writing. Writing with a pen and paper, is different to using a type-writer, which in turn is different to writing on a computer. Each technology requires different skills, but all of them demand ‘the intention of the writer to arrange ideas systematically in a space for later examination by a reader’. All of this may seem completely straight-forward and obvious, but it is interesting to realise that although technology is progressing rapidly, the very foundations of language as a written form essentially stay the same.

Bolter also notes that literate men and women ‘reveal their literacy when they are speaking as well as writing’. This is quite a fascinating concept as I perceive my style of writing to be distinctly different to my style of speaking. Like most people, my conversational language uses ‘filler’ words such as ‘um’ and ‘yeah’ far too often (not to mention the word ‘like’); plus I swear, a lot. But this made me wonder if I would talk differently if I was illiterate…and yes, I think we all would. As Bolter suggests, literate people have wider vocabularies (as there are more places we can pick up new words) and we structure our oral use of language similarly to our written use of language. Most of the time we speak in full sentences or paragraphs. In essence, we are writing all the time, even if it is just in our minds. (I know at least my mum and I often imagine how a word looks like in our head when we are thinking about something i.e. if someone said butter, we would not visualise a block of butter, but instead the word ‘butter’). So in a sense the ‘materiality’ of words has altered how we speak.

One final idea that I found intriguing was a brief comment that was made about Chinese and Japanese standards of hand-writing – they would perceive Westerners as barely literate, because of our appalling calligraphy skills. I remember when I was learning Japanese in primary school, that our teachers (who were native to Japan) always had the most immaculate handwriting using the English alphabet. We would watch documentaries about Japanese students learning how to write in English lessons and they would have ‘calligraphy‘ workshops, in order to learn how to ‘draw’ our alphabet. That’s hardly something children learn how to do here even though English is their first language! In some ways I think the Chinese and Japanese would be correct in saying that the legibility of writing has a lot to do with literacy. For instance, when people try to read my hand-writing they appear to wonder if I speak a whole different language with a completely different alphabet.Byodoin_calligrapher_close

The Elephant’s Garden

One of my friends is considering applying for the Animation Program at RMIT and on her visits to the university she came across this short clip by a past student who goes by the name of Felix Colgrave. If I had any talent in drawing, I would have most likely progressed into an animation course as well (although my interests mainly lie in 3D modelling and digital animation, rather than 2D cartoons). I really love this ‘genre’ (if you can call it that) for the obvious reason -> what you can’t do in real life, you can do in animation; and I think the video below exploits this concept beautifully. It has been put together immaculately – the intricate patterns, creative characters and even the perceived use of focus changes make it stand out amongst the animations that are broadcast on TV today. It puts cartoons like Adventure Time and South Park to shame in terms of aesthetics; I do realise that the ‘simpler’ drawings and colour palettes are part of both of these shows’ distinctive styles (and don’t get me wrong they are some of my favourite series of all time), but wouldn’t it be great if a cartoon with this delicacy of detail was to come out as a TV show?… or even a film? Wouldn’t it be great to revive the 2D animation feature length films in a time when cinema has shifted so dramatically towards ‘3D experiences’, digital modelling and CGI?

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth for today; so in the words of Kath & Kim, ‘snaps’ for Felix Colgrave, a guy who must have an incredibly wild sense of imagination to create something as silly yet as perfect as this…

‘Dreadful Vacation’

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a very close family friend who lives in London… it read like this:

Subject: Dreadful Vacation

I hope you get this in time, my family and I made a trip to Kiev, Ukraine unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel we are staying, all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily we still have our passports with us,

I have been to the Embassy and the Police here but their response was too casual, the bad news is our flight will be leaving very soon but we are having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills, I will need your help/LOAN financially I promise to make the refund once we get back home, you are my last resort and hope, Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it’s the only way i can reach you.

Best Regards,


Now, I hate to say it, but there was a part of me that was like ‘crap! Gillian’s in trouble, I should try to help her’. I thought it could be her because she would use words like ‘dreadful’ and ‘best regards’, she’s the type of person who travels a lot and is an extremely generous person, but also expects everyone to give as much as they get, in return. So maybe it was Gillian and she was in trouble and she really did need money…

But no, the smarter side of me did realise this was not a legitimate email and her account had been hacked.

This is where Week 4’s symposium comes into it. We discussed network literacy and the idea of validity on the internet. How do we know if a piece of information is true or false? In regards to hacking, Adrian Miles made the point that it is generally up to one’s better judgement and their internet/digital literacy skills to decide whether to ‘trust’ a piece of information or not.

So how did I know this email was a fake?

For one, as if anyone would ask a 19-year-old uni student who lives out of home for money!

Secondly, these days people do not simply ask for money over the internet. We are generally quite aware and cautious about our internet banking and who we are giving money to because there have been so many publicised cases of online money-stealing scams.

I have also been trained into doubting the validity of everything I see on the internet. For instance, even though thousands of pages have pop-ups telling me that I’m the 100,000th viewer of the webpage and I’ve won $100,000, I know I shouldn’t press on the link because I definitely won’t have won a prize and I also know the link may give my computer a virus or it will somehow rope me into giving away my money. All of us have learnt that these things are just teasers or ploys.

Well, maybe not all of us have quite grasped this idea yet. My mum received the same email. To her credit, she did doubt its validity; but unlike me, she actually replied…just to make sure (‘I didn’t want to look like a bad friend if it was real Mia’).

‘I hope everything’s alright Gillian. I’m just worried this isn’t actually you writing the email…’ and then she asked her some cryptic questions that only Gillian would know about their past experiences together.

So I guess it was a kind of smart way to go about it. But in this day and age, I think it’s safer to keep as little connection to internet hackers as possible… Besides, if I was an online money scammer and a middle-aged, slightly gullible woman who probably has money replied to me, I know what I’d do, wouldn’t you?

The 2020 Vision

Although I am still extremely confused by this extract from Theodor Holm Nelson, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed at how prophetic some of his concepts were. This paper was published in 1992, yet by the sounds, a lot the ideas he had thought of in 1980 (or even 26 years earlier than that in some cases). From what I can gather ‘Project Xanadu’ was almost the predecessor of iCloud or a better version of the World Wide Web. He explains it as ‘a hypertext system to support all the features of these systems, and many more’; ‘a system based upon one pool of storage, which can be shared and simultaneously organised’.

He mentions the idea that floppy disks would become superfluous, as would physical versions of family photos – they would all be able to be safely stored in a public utility; I really can’t help thinking that this was similar to an advertisement Apple first had when they released iCloud.

Nelson then goes on to mention that ‘offices will be paperless’ in 2020. And to be honest, I think he’s correct, probably to the year. Obviously society isn’t quite there yet. Universities like RMIT still rely on hard copy documents now and then; I think this is mostly due to the fact that people still aren’t quite reliable enough to check their emails regularly and many people still like to be ‘old school’ and physically write on pieces of paper rather than type. But as this extract suggests, there will come a time when paper printing will be prohibited. The environment will continue to  be eroded by humanity and eventually people will realise that they have to stop consuming – the cost of paper and ink and all the processes involved with making the two materials will become economically unviable. Thus everyone will have to turn to the simulated pen and paper: the computer.

He also somewhat predicts how much computer technology would take over our lives (although I don’t think he saw this as a bad thing). Today I can hardly think of anyone, aside from my little 80-year-old Grandmas, who don’t own a smart phone and can use it in some way to help organise their lives. Nelson wanted computers to bring simplification and although this may not be the case exactly, they have helped to organise our busy schedules: ‘birthdays, appointments; possibilities to be kept track of; the blizzard of everyday matter’ are all things that can be logged into a technological calendar and shared between one person’s different devices (as well as sent across networks).

Lastly, ‘the memex’ concept was something that struck me as a rather complex but well-designed version of something like Google Docs. It is explained as ‘a publishing system that would hold everything that is written, and allow each new user to add connections’. Like Google Docs it would mean that you can essentially have as many people writing on one document as you would like and it would save each new version of the document so that a user could go back a few versions to view changes if need be. However, I think the part about adding new connections would relate more closely to the use of hypertext in blogs.

Overall, I was flabbergasted that the predictions of what life would be like in 40 years, from just one person, could be so accurate.

The Future Camera

As the owner of a Canon 7D DSLR camera weighing almost two kilograms I am always interested in up and coming photography and film technologies, especially if they aren’t too heavy! If it was possible, I would have my camera on me 24/7 (and with my iPhone I kind of do, minus the quality); however, the bulkiness of the machine is just a bit too inconvenient.

My take-away idea from week 4’s reading As We May Think is the concept of the future camera. The article mainly concentrated on the interrelations of science and technological inventions, the last segment foreseeing ‘the camera hound of the future’ wearing ‘a lump a little larger than a walnut’ on his forehead. The pictures they took would be 3 millimetres squared, but could be enlarged/projected afterwards into enormous dimensions (which I thought was pretty visionary, considering it was published in 1945). I couldn’t help but wonder if anything that small could ever be as good as the DSLR camera I have at home. Surely not, I first said to myself. You need the versatility of being able to attach different lenses! But then I read on. The future lens would have universal focus; this reminded me of the first Networked Media lecture where Adrian Miles briefly discussed the Lytrograph. These Lytro cameras, pictured below, enable the user to forever change the depth of field and focus of a photograph once they have imported the file into a specialised photo editing program.


My prediction is that this technology will grow to fill the need of having to have 38479970 different lenses with you at all times. I would personally love it if they developed a video camera with the same capabilities. Imagine being able to post-edit footage and create a pull focus shot after the actual production process! The possibilities are astounding.

In looking at how rapidly photography technologies have improved over the last 10 years, I think all of the above is very much possible. There will come a day in the near future when something smaller than a GoPro will encompass all of the functions of my Canon 7D. Memory cards will get physically smaller while being able to ‘carry’ millions more bites, batteries will become capable of lasting for days on end, shutters will become faster and who knows, maybe the automatic functions will be able to read our minds… The ideas are there, the technology just isn’t quite yet!