Can you get the same experience from an online exhibition as you would from a conventional one? By Todd Andrew Bridges

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This blog entry will review an online exhibition called Deadly Medicine, which is being displayed on the United States Holocaust Museum’s ‘Online Exhibition’ site.  Although online museums are different from conventional museums, this particular online exhibition is an archetypical example of how online exhibitions can be just as effective in terms of authenticity.

I chose to review Deadly Medicine because it memorialises one of the most deplorable events of our world’s history.  It offered a variety of artefacts, just as if they were in a building.  What I first saw were actual health cards which contained hereditary information that the Nazis kept.  There were also physician reports which recommended ‘mercy killings’, and warning posters that reminded people to remain faithful to Aryan race.  The way the artefacts were presented made it extremely easy for me to navigate through them.  When I chose Deadly Medicine, I decided to click on ‘artefacts’, which quickly took me to instructions on how to navigate. I clicked ‘start’ and my tour began as if I were there. The curator would provide clear information for each artefact.  The high-quality information also suggests that like other museums, the curators went to great lengths to represent different groups of persecuted people. It is extremely likely that those who planned the exhibition liaised with academic historians such as German LGBT scholar Rüdiger Lautmann, who explained “the Nazis targeted many other groups: for their race, beliefs or what they did”.

The Deadly Medicine exhibition enabled people to view the holocaust from the eyes of those who experienced it themselves in the form of an online Holocaust Encyclopaedia which contains the stories of the survivors of the hideous treatments.  Handicapped people such as Dorthea Buck were stripped of their ability to have children through a process called ‘forced sterilisation.  Buck explained that the process was carried out because the Nazi regime did not want handicapped children to grow up with the ability to reproduce.  Therefore, this exhibition gives a sense that those who were interviewed were talking to them directly. This also means that my experience was linked to authenticity. I was seeing real artefacts and listening to real people.  The difference is that I was not inside the museum where I could touch the cases where the artefacts.  I was not directly in front of the tour guide with other visitors standing near me.   I was however, still able to receive the information.

According to Howells and Negreiros ideas in their chapter about ‘New Media’, The Deadly Medicine, would be an example of the ‘new media’ as it is different from the conventional method of obtaining information which would be the museum with tour guides present.  With Deadly Medicine, the actual medium is my lap top.  However, I received the same information or ‘text’ as I would have at the museum.  There are of course benefits and problems though.  New delivery methods complement the conventional methods in the same way it does with music, film, and television.  Often when people see or listen to a text (information), they are compelled to own the physical or conventional source.  Therefore, the new way of presenting the text can be seen as advertisement. When people see, or hear texts, they are often compelled to own it themselves or see the text (performance or exhibition) themselves and share the same space as the performer or exhibition.  Therefore, new methods of presenting texts let the public know that that information is available in person and live, which of course would draw revenues from the public.  Another advantage to what Howells and Negreiros label as new presentations or ‘new media’ would of course be presenting text (online exhibitions such as Deadly Medicine) and making it available to people who are not able to visit certain locations.  Therefore, it provides a delivery method in order for everyone to have an authentic experience which is an example of Film critic and theorist Andrei Bazin’s theory that technology has evolved in order to create a better illusion or, historical authenticity for everyone to enjoy and use.

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However, there can be disadvantages.  People have been accused of using new delivery methods such as the internet, in order to ‘cut corners’ or save money in order to increase profits.  There are education officials who have been blamed for this as well as national banks.  What sometimes happen is that new delivery methods replace what should not be replaced.  Museums are more than history and can never be rendered obsolete; they immortalise people and pay respects to those who suffered injustice.

In conclusion, Deadly Medicine is an example of how new delivery methods can deliver authenticity.  It delivers powerful messages or texts about the past, just as the actual museum itself does.  Whether people enjoy conventional methods or new methods of presenting information, the text is there; same text, but different methods of delivery.

 

Sources:

http://edutechdebate.org/ict-in-schools/there-are-no-technology-shortcuts-to-good-education/ , accessed 19 December 2016.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/holocaust-non-jewish-victims_n_6555604.html , accessed 19 December 2016.

http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/01/01/255739234/banks-try-to-save-big-with-atms-of-the-future , accessed 19 December 2016.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/gallery.php?ModuleId=10007063&MediaType=oi ,accessed 19 December 2016.

Lev Manovich, “New Media”, in The Language of New Media (MIT, Cambridge, MA, 1995), pp.  176-205.

Richard Howells and Joaquim Negreiros, “New Media”, in Visual Culture (Polity, Cambridge, 2012), pp.  263-289.

 

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Are movies such as Jurassic Park and Avatar Fundamentally Different from Conventionally Produced films? Not Quite!

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The technology that is responsible for creating an ‘illusion’ has existed in various forms. Jurassic Park (1993) and Avatar (2009) are examples where various forms of computer technology were used to create illusions of spectacular events taking place in the films.  However, when comparing such films with conventionally made films, there is no fundamental difference at all between them.

According to Howells and Negreiros in their chapter about ‘New Media’, they discuss the characteristics of old media and new media, and evolution. To them, new media in regards to the actual medium which is used to deliver texts, whether they are music videos, films, or information, is basically just a new way of presenting the media and is only a new delivery system.  The act of receiving the information or ‘text’, is not new, but just transmitted through a new delivery system.  However, special effects or what Lev Manovich described as ‘illusions’ can also be examples of text.  The illusion which used to be delivered through conventional means such as constructed models and makeup, are now delivered through computer technology.  In the case that involves conventional films and films that rely heavily on CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) the fundamental aspects are the same because even though the illusion, text, or what is to be seen in the film, in only delivered in a new way, what the viewers are supposed to see is the same.  For example, in Jurassic Park, viewers are supposed to see in the film a modern habit for a variety of genetically engineered dinosaurs that escape and create chaos.  In Avatar, much of the film’s budget was spent on cutting-edge visual effects which included 3D and using technology in order to produce live action in a CG world.  According to a  BBC website, “performance capture was used to record real actors’ movements which were then translated into animated CG aliens called Na’vi”.  However, what has not changed was the main aspect of the film, which was the actual text or special effects that people were supposed to see; as the BBC explained, live actors were used and they are both feature films.  The method of delivery in regards to the special effects were delivered were different.

The new delivery of special effects did not begin with Michael J Fox travelling back in time from 1985 to 1955 in Back to the Future.  According to Richard Rickett in his 2007 book, Special Effects: The History and Technique, special effects were used in an 1895 by Alfred Clark in his re-enactment of Mary, Queen of Scots getting beheaded.  According to Andrei Bazin’s, the technology that creates realism and illusions has evolved.  Therefore, what is needed is to look at how the delivery of illusion evolved throughout the twentieth century which made how we see certain aspects of the text (film) better. What existed for Clark was good, just like CGI is good for the present; what existed for Clark evolved into present day CGI, which has been used on countless feature films.

Whether film producers deliver their ‘text’ through CGI or through conventional methods that require actual physical models that are used for the special effects in films, there is no fundamental difference between the two types of delivery methods of illusion or what was described in Howells and Negreiro’s Visual Culture as the “text”.  Also, if we look at Avatar and Jurassic Park, the only thing that is different is the delivery method; therefore, that the two films are products of a film industry that has evolved and progressed.  However, this is not to say that everyone will be happy with such progress or evolution, even though there have been people such as Jean-Louis Carnolli who regard the advancement of how filmmakers deliver illusion as a way of looking back to see how ‘unrealistic’ special effects were compared to modern delivery methods such as CGI.  According to him, each new technological development, whether it consists of creating the illusions of a spaceship going through a star field or characters interacting with animated backgrounds as if they were physical sets, should point to viewers that previous delivery methods were unrealistic.  However, it must be pointed out that people criticised George Lucas when he abandoned puppetry and practical effects in favour of using GCI to create certain characters in Star Wars and director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy favour using more practical to create the illusion of realness.

In conclusion, there is nothing about conventional or GCI that makes a film less of a film.  The fundamental aspects are the same; no matter what the delivery method is, it is a film to be watched as it conveys a story or a text.  How people accept the film’s delivery methods in regards to realness or illusions is a different matter altogether.

Sources:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/8421468.stm

http://www.cgi.in/special-effects-in-cgi.html

http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Why-Star-Wars-Movies-Better-With-Less-CGI-66830.html

 

 

 

Your Television is a ‘Highly Conventional Medium’!

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The way we think about television has changed significantly. According to media scholars John Fiske and John Hartley, there is a strong argument in favour of television as being regarded as a ‘Highly Conventional Medium’. I certainly agree with them.

People have been using television in the United Kingdom since 1936. According to Television in the US: History and Production, television began entering the homes of American households in the late 1940s. Throughout the world, television has kept people informed as well as entertained them. Countries have shared programmes and televised films for many years. For example, the sitcom The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985 to 1992 on America’s NBC affiliate stations is often seen on British channels such as The Women’s Channel (TWC) or TVGOLD. The Netherlands even produced their own version as well. However, BBC’s long-running drama called Eastenders was often seen on American public television stations (PBS) from 1991 to 2010 before most British series were released on DVD’s in the US or made available through BBC America. Therefore, not only do television networks present various genres of programmes to viewers, but they also share such programmes with other countries. Viewers get a lot in regards to programmes as well as information from the television. Television has kept people in various countries informed of highly important information in regards to national emergencies, wars, elections, and disasters. During the 1960s and 70s and from 2003 to 2012, wars such as the Vietnam and Iraqi Wars were presented and televised to people so that they could understand the latest developments in regards to the fighting that was taking place. Therefore, it can certainly be argued that television is a medium and, according to Fiske and Hartley, it is a highly conventional medium.

Why is television a highly conventional medium? According to Hartley, a medium is a medium is simply any material through which something else may be transmitted. What is important to remember is that television is not just a box that sits in someone’s living room that waits to be turned on every evening after dinner so that the family can enjoy a good laugh or cry. As stated above, the television has more qualities than that as it informs people about what is happening in the world, from the daily weather to current and worldly events. Therefore, the information is the medium in which the information or entertainment passes through. It is one of the major mediums of sources of information. However, according to Hartley’s ideas about Semiotics (the science of signs), the physical object being the television and the signified (mental concept or idea), it is possible to look at television as a physical object or medium that we can touch or operate, that transmits mental concepts or idea that heavily influences people. Therefore, the medium conveys ideas or concepts about wars based on what is allowed to be seen on the medium/television. What is conveyed often influences people and can be seen as a tool that motivates people to doing things, such as purchasing a product, voting for a particular candidate. The US elections would be a good example of how television is a ‘highly conventional medium’ because in this case, it acts as an important medium that influences people into making powerful decisions that impact the world. The television is a normal or conventional method of conveying candidate’s ideas about how to best govern the United States, which is a major world power.

In can be argued that television conveys a type of reality or ‘norm’ to people. What is important to remember is that if certain realities are conveyed too often, what is being conveyed can loses its significance or cause people to take it for granted. A good example would be reality-based programmes, which have been broadcasted through the medium (our television) since television states came into existence. It can be argued that the news is a good example of reality-based television because news channels or programmes broadcast issues relating to current events. However, many would argue that certain news programmes and channels are biased and leans towards a certain political spectrum, such as right-wing or left-wing. Therefore, the actual ‘reality’ diminishes because of this as what has been conveyed cannot be trusted. I share this idea and there is striking evidence that suggests people are not trusting news outlets. Newsmax ran a story this year under the headline “Dick Morris: Fox News Grew More Biased Under Ailes in Recent Years”.

In conclusion, there is a strong argument that our television is a highly conventional medium in regards to how it conveys information and influences people. Television persuades as well as informs. It also causes the reality of what is being broadcasted to become distorted, but only if it is allowed.