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The Culture of Information
ENGL 25 Winter 2004, Alan Liu
Notes for Class 15

This page contains materials intended to facilitate class discussion (excerpts from readings, outlines of issues, links to resources, etc.). The materials are not necessarily the same as the instructor's teaching notes and are not designed to represent a full exposition or argument. This page is subject to revision as the instructor finalizes preparation. (Last revised 2/9/04 )

Preliminary Class Business

  • Midterm reading exam on Wed.

[from end of last class:]  . . . Thus was born the "look and feel" of contemporary corporate graphic design:

Chanel "Allure" Ad, 1999 Chanel ad from Wired 7.09, Sept. 1999
(9 x 10.75")

--Modernist minimalism: white space, sans serif
--asymmetry, diagonals

From avant-garde shock to directness/immediacy, fused with functionalism (Modernist credo: "form follows function")

= Informational "clarity" (quote from Jan Tschichold)

Paul Rand's Designs for IBMEstablishment of Swiss Style, International Style (migration of European designers after WW II; the Container Corporation of America; Paul Rand and IBM). Corporate style.

New Media Graphic Design

"Anti-design" for the age of media and digital media:

"Anti-design" principles:
  • extreme assymmetry; lack of "grids," or grids used ironically (example)

  • "maximalism" instead of minimalism: cluttered backgrounds and hybrid, "bleeding," or "distressed" fonts and images (as opposed to sans serif)

  • aggressive montage vs. compositing (e.g., decomposition of unity between images and text)

"Anti-design" is design for the age of media and digital media:

  • The new design foregrounds the fact of media (the effect of "immediacy" from non-composited "remediation").

  • The new design foregrounds the logic of digital new media:

    • sampling and digitization (e.g., Greiman's "jaggie" fonts)
    • modularity
    • variability
    • automation

  • Form does not equal function.

  • Instead of "good design," let there be "cool" (cool and anti-informational unclarity)

Current New Media Art and "Net Art": The Example of Two Artists

George Legrady, Pockets Full of Memories (2001)

Lisa Jevbratt,

A Gallery of New Media Literature/Art
(review of last section of course)

Edward Falco, Self-Portrait as Child with Father

Edward Falco
Self-Portrait as Child with Father
David Carson, Page from The End of PrintDavid Carson
from The End of Print
Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl
Shelley Jackson
Patchwork Girl
George Legrady, Pockets Full of Memories
George Legrady
Pockets Full of Memories

Some Questions About "New Media" and "New Media Art"

(1) Is this what your mind is like?

  • Bruce Tulgan, Managing Generation X: How to Bring Out the Best in Young Talent (1995):

    ". . . Boomer managers find Xers to be disloyal, not sufficiently deferential to authority, short on attention, lacking commitment to work, arrogant, unwilling to go the extra mile, not willing to pay our dues, and overly concerned with finding fun and personal fulfillment in our work" (pp. 19-20)

         "Xers have developed a rapid-fire style of interacting with information because the information revolution has shaped the way we think. Don't forget, we didn't have time to develop pre-information learning habits because the information revolution was approaching at full speed by the time we learned to read. . . . Xers were born in the infobahn's fast lane.
         This generation is used to nearly infinite information coming at us in rapid-fire doses. Think of music videos, Miami Vice, CNN, ESPN, C-SPAN, Court TV, the Weather Channel, and VCRs. Vivid images of constant change: Revolution, war, terrorism, diplomacy, politics from Carter to Reagan to Clinton, famine, fire, earthquakes, floods, violent crime, sicko-crime, kangaroo courts, urban riots, oil spills, nuclear accidents, New Coke, Coke Classic, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, Jolt, Gary Hart, Michael Jackson, Tonya Harding, the making and unmaking of heroes, the making and unmaking of meaning.
        Xers are the children of video games and computers. Xers learned to write using word processors with which words, sentences and paragraphs can be rearranged, deleted, and replaced, changes can be made and errors erased—all without effort." (pp. 44-45)

  • Don Tapscott, Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (1998):

    "The Net Generation has arrived! The baby boom has an echo and it's even louder than the original. Eighty million strong, the youngest of these kids are still in diapers and the eldest are just turning twenty.
            What makes this generation different from all others before it? It is the first to grow up surrounded by digital media. Computers can be found in the home, school, factory, and office and digital technologies such as cameras, video games, and CD-ROMs are commonplace. Increasingly, these new media are connected by the Internet, an expanding web of networks which is attracting a million new users monthly. Today's kids are so bathed in bits that they think it's all part of the natural landscape. To them, the digital technology is no more intimidating than a VCR or toaster." (p. 1)

    (Cover of Tapscott's book)

Is this what your mind is like? Or is there a disconnect between new media and the way you think, live, feel?

(2) What is the function of the literature and art of new media as literature and art? Is such literature and art successful?

Some historical rationales of literature and art:

  • Mimesis (imitation)
  • "Teach and Delight"
  • Self-expression
  • Critique

New media and the aesthetics of:

  • cut-and-paste, sampling
  • random access
  • algorithm
  • process
  • distributed meaning or networking

"Browsing" vs. "close reading"

(3) How would you turn Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 into a work of digital new media, or would you ?



  • Don Tapscott, Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998)
  • Bruce Tulgan, Managing Generation X: How to Bring Out the Best in Young Talent (Santa Monica, CA: Merritt, 1995)