Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Transmedia Frictions

Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities

Marsha Kinder
Tara McPherson
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 416
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Transmedia Frictions
    Book Description:

    Editors Marsha Kinder and Tara McPherson present an authoritative collection of essays on the continuing debates over medium specificity and the politics of the digital arts. Comparing the term "transmedia" with "transnational," they show that the movement beyond specific media or nations does not invalidate those entities but makes us look more closely at the cultural specificity of each combination. In two parts, the book stages debates across essays, creating dialogues that give different narrative accounts of what is historically and ideologically at stake in medium specificity and digital politics. Each part includes a substantive introduction by one of the editors.Part 1 examines precursors, contemporary theorists, and artists who are protagonists in this discursive drama, focusing on how the transmedia frictions and continuities between old and new forms can be read most productively: N. Katherine Hayles and Lev Manovich redefine medium specificity, Edward Branigan and Yuri Tsivian explore nondigital precursors, Steve Anderson and Stephen Mamber assess contemporary archival histories, and Grahame Weinbren and Caroline Bassett defend the open-ended mobility of newly emergent media.In part 2, trios of essays address various ideologies of the digital: John Hess and Patricia R. Zimmerman, Herman Gray, and David Wade Crane redraw contours of race, space, and the margins; Eric Gordon, Cristina Venegas, and John T. Caldwell unearth database cities, portable homelands, and virtual fieldwork; and Mark B.N. Hansen, Holly Willis, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Guillermo Gómez-Peña examine interactive bodies transformed by shock, gender, and color.An invaluable reference work in the field of visual media studies,Transmedia Frictionsprovides sound historical perspective on the social and political aspects of the interactive digital arts, demonstrating that they are never neutral or innocent.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95769-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PREFACE: Origins, Agents, and Alternative Archaeologies
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Marsha Kinder and Tara McPherson

      (pp. 3-19)
      Marsha Kinder

      In this era of transmedia discourse and postmedia pronouncements, we might question whether it is still productive to talk about medium specificity. Yet, given that new media forms are replacing each other so rapidly—usually before we have time to fully explore their social and aesthetic potential—perhaps a discourse on medium specificity might enable us to recuperate unique possibilities that otherwise would have been lost.

      In 1999 at the Interactive Frictions conference, one could still hear echoes of Marshall McLuhan’s famous refrain that fetishized medium specificity for the fifties—“the medium is the message!” Adopting this idea from turn-of-the-century...

    • PRINT IS FLAT, CODE IS DEEP: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis
      (pp. 20-33)
      N. Katherine Hayles

      Lulled into somnolence by five hundred years of print, literary studies has been slow to wake up to the importance of media-specific analysis.¹ Literary criticism and theory are shot through with unrecognized assumptions specific to print. Only now, as the new medium of electronic textuality vibrantly asserts its presence, are these assumptions clearly coming into view. Consider, for example, Roland Barthes’s influential essay “From Work to Text.” Rereading it, I am struck both by its prescience and by how far we have moved beyond it. As Jay David Bolter and George Landow have pointed out, Barthes’s description of “text,” with...

      (pp. 34-44)
      Lev Manovich

      In the last third of the twentieth century, various cultural and technological developments have together rendered meaningless one of the key concepts of modern art—that of a medium. However, no new topology of art practice came to replace media-based typology, which divides art into painting, works on paper, sculpture, film, video, and so on. The assumption that artistic practice can be neatly organized into a small set of distinct media has continued to structure the organization of museums, art schools, funding agencies, and other cultural institutions—even though this assumption no longer reflects the actual functioning of culture.


    • IF–THEN–ELSE: Memory and the Path Not Taken
      (pp. 45-79)
      Edward Branigan

      “One of the foremost tasks of art,” observes Walter Benjamin, “has always been the creation of ademandwhich could be fully satisfied only later. The history of every art form shows critical epochs in which a certain art form aspires toeffectswhich could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard, that is to say, in a new art form. . . . Every fundamentally new, pioneering creation of demands will carry beyond its goal” (“The Work of Art” 237, emphases added). For Benjamin, a new art form and the necessary technical changes are not due to...

    • CYBERSPACE AND ITS PRECURSORS: Lintsbach, Warburg, Eisenstein
      (pp. 80-99)
      Yuri Tsivian

      I know I need to explain this unlikely company of names, for indeed it may not be immediately clear what a visionary linguist, a revolutionary art historian, and a theory-minded film director have to do with each other—and why I yoke these three thinkers with the notion of cyberspace coined well after their death. In this essay, I am going to tap cyberspace not to preview the future, but to review the past. This, I must add, I do out of necessity: hindsight is the only vantage point that my background makes available to me. Unlike most people I...

    • PAST INDISCRETIONS: Digital Archives and Recombinant History
      (pp. 100-114)
      Steve Anderson

      In 1965, the analytical philosopher Arthur Danto described what he called the “Ideal Chronicler,” a theoretical model for the ultimate form of history-writing. Danto’s Ideal Chronicler would possess the ability to record and analyze the significance of every historical event from multiple perspectives at the same moment it is happening (155–159). Although originally invoked to demonstrate the impossibility of an objectively perfect form of historiography, the values reflected in Danto’s ideal—comprehensiveness, multiple perspectives, and immediacy—are revealingly congruent with those promised by the proliferation of searchable databases and digital distribution networks. Setting aside, for a moment, euphoric expectations...

      (pp. 115-125)
      Stephen Mamber

      Two major documentary strands, the compilation and the autobiographical, have been taking hold in digital environments. The affinities are strong enough to suggest that these two forms anticipate narrative capacities of new media formats in significant ways. We will look at Chris Marker’s CD-ROMImmemoryand the installationThe Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents of the Rivercreated by Péter Forgács and The Labyrinth Project, in order to explore the linkages from both sides of the seeming divide between old and new forms, the tendencies already present which have flowered in the two works, and what they suggest about further...

      (pp. 126-146)
      Grahame Weinbren

      It is easy to read the nostalgic tone of Rushdie’s 1990 “children’s story” as the wish for a return to innocence, to a state of storytelling purity beyond the reaches of politics and intrigue. At the time he wroteHaroun and the Sea of Stories,purportedly for his eleven-year-old son, Rushdie was, of course, too sophisticated—and too embittered by the outrageous circumstances of his life—to profess any kind of innocence or naiveté. The novella abounds with metaphors of cruel suppression and mindless censorship. The nostalgia embedded in the Sea of Stories is better seen as a reminder of...

    • IS THIS NOT A SCREEN? Notes on the Mobile Phone and Cinema
      (pp. 147-158)
      Caroline Bassett

      A parallel: There are parallels to be drawn between the development of visual telephony and sound cinema. Vision is to the phone as sound was to cinema—it came later and remains only partially integrated into voice services and mobile routines, operatingserially(see Virilio,Art and Fear88). Let these two moments merge momentarily and we can equip Al Jolson, the star ofThe Jazz Singer(1927, dir. Alan Crosland), the film that most famously bridged the silent and the sound eras, with a mobile phone: “Hullo Mammy I’m on the train” (but would he say it with intertitle,...


      (pp. 161-179)
      Tara McPherson

      Much has changed since the original Interactive Frictions conference, both on the Internet and in the wider world around us. Less than a year after the conference, the castles in the air built by the mid-1990s Silicon Valley frenzy had collapsed and, soon after that, the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. The spiraling deflation ignited by the dot-com crash was further fueled by the disastrous events of 9/11. Today, as a second round of economic turmoil continues to wreck havoc with the economy, the United States still feels the effects of a falsely justified war and faces...

      (pp. 180-197)
      John Hess and Patricia R. Zimmermann

      Currently, much intellectual and political debate over the concepts of the transnational and the national has arisen as the “new world media order” reshapes the globe (Time Warner/CNN, ABC/Capital Cities, Bertelsmann) and as nationalist passions dismember its “Others” in brutal ways (Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, China, Kosovo, Chiapas).¹ Arjun Appadurai has advanced our understanding of this deadly relationship between globalization and genocide: “In ethnocidal violence, what is sought is just that somatic stabilization that globalization—in a variety of ways—inherently makes impossible” (Appadurai, “Dead Certainty” 244).² Zillah Eisenstein puts it even more succinctly. In her bookHatreds, she traces how...

      (pp. 198-210)
      Herman Gray

      Can black cultural production function as a critical counterknowledge? In the new information order and with the emerging new communication technologies, what are the conditions of possibility for the production of such knowledge? In this essay, I aim to work through popular conversations and sentiments about the new information technologies as they bear on issues of blackness, difference, and identity. I consider the political salience of identity and representation under conditions that Stuart Hall and Cornel West, over a decade ago, called the “new cultural politics of diff erence.”¹

      Does it make sense, I wonder, to continue to speak about...

    • LINKAGES: Political Topography and Networked Topology
      (pp. 211-235)
      David Wade Crane

      This essay was written over 2004–05. Other than this prologue, a brief 2009 postscript, occasional notes, and some editing, it has not been updated.¹ Yet despite its anachronisms, I don’t think it’s now just an archaeological relic. Its references may be “outdated,” but the dynamics it addresses are still in force. Perhaps more so.

      For example: not long ago (June 14, 2013), I happened to catch Lawrence Lessig on the radio, as a guest on Tavis Smiley and Cornel West’s eponymous show. The topic was the NSA surveillance programs recently exposed by Edward Snowden. Guest and hosts agreed that...

    • THE DATABASE CITY: The Digital Possessive and Hollywood Boulevard
      (pp. 236-258)
      Eric Gordon

      The development of visual media in the twentieth century made photography and movies the most important cultural means of framing urban space, at least until the 1970s. Since then, as the surrealism ofKing Kong(1933, dir. Cooper and Schoedsack) shifted to that ofBlade Runner(1982, dir. Ridley Scott) and redevelopment came to focus on consumption activities, the material landscape itself—buildings, parks, and streets—has become the city’s most important visual representation (Zukin, 16).¹

      In the summer of 2000, I took a bus tour of Hollywood. I went into the experience with the assumption that the tour would...

      (pp. 259-271)
      Cristina Venegas

      In the music of Cuban composer Jose Maria Vitier, Cuba is an infinite island, a familiar romantic trope of never-ending natural and cultural plenitude. The boundless metaphor is carried over to the Internet, where homeland persists as portable, nostalgic, elusive, even forbidden—to U.S. citizens.

      Cuba was still surviving inestimable odds at the end of the twentieth century, and such resilience interested new audiences and consumers of yesterday’s pleasures and utopian hopes. It also appealed to book publishers, tour operators, filmmakers, and scholars who increasingly produced Cuban images and stories inside and outside of Cuba. The Cuban leadership’s moniker for...

    • THINKING DIGITALLY/ACTING LOCALLY: Interactive Narrative, Neighborhood Soil, and La Cosecha Nuestra Community
      (pp. 272-290)
      John T. Caldwell

      When the histories of media theory in the 1990s are written, they will no doubt acknowledge what some might consider an odd congruence between industrial and academic worlds.¹ This was a period of high-technology expansion (fueled by fiduciary boosterism from the financial markets) on the one hand, and of rich but unusually grand theorization (fueled by “new media” and disciplinary boundary crossing) in the academy on the other. FromWired’s inaugural celebration of the World Wide Web as the second coming prophesied by McLuhan, to NASDAQ’s collapsing exorcism in 2000 of the dot-com way of life, industry had learned well...

      (pp. 291-315)
      Mark B. N. Hansen

      In her particularly insightful account of video installation art, media critic Margaret Morse emphasizes what is certainly the most vexing element of this art form: its problematic accessibility to the public (Morse, “Body”). Because of their site-and occasion-specificity, video installations present difficulties not simply for the viewing conditions and expectations endemic to traditional museum culture, but also for the traditional tasks of art historical and cultural critical analysis. Indeed, in Morse’s quite apt characterization, video installations present a particular paradox to historians and researchers, for they have to be experienced in person to be experienced at all. For Morse, this...

      (pp. 316-329)
      Holly Willis

      American culture is obsessed with bodies, perhaps now more than ever, as we become accustomed to the often disconcerting realities of the digital era. One response to these anxieties is the creation of incredible man/machine hybrids such as the hypermasculine Terminators and RoboCops from the recent past. Another response is the development of disturbingly “perfect” cyberbabes and female sex robots, primed to serve (Wiedemann; de Fren). However, feminist artists have offered a more interesting retort: they’ve unleashed a bevy of grotesque monsters and female freaks whose uncanny physiques refuse the norms and propriety of the proper feminine form. Indeed, these...

    • TECH-ILLA SUNRISE (.TXT CON SANGRITA) Meijican artists release recovered files of the tech-illa network. Experts believe leaked document may be false.
      (pp. 330-338)

      Ever wonder what is in the root directory of your Mexican server? Wouldn’t you want to peek at the files of Chilicon Valley’s most powerful sysadmins?

      Scary, que no? What follows is a leaked document extracted from deleted files of the tech-illa network, a rare glimpse at the webback underground’s real agenda. Whether the tequilianos were responsible for the dot bomb market collapse is still unproven, but the latest electrical brownouts in the USA and Canada suggest that they are still active and at large. It is unclear at this time if this information was left in the cracked server...

    (pp. 339-372)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 373-396)