March 30, 2005

Is a photograph more real than a digital image?

In the bonus documentaries that come with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, there's a long demo of a waterfall scene that didn't make the final cut because it slowed down the action. Most of the components of the scene are digitally created, including all the water effects. The artist shows how he created the waterfall from image samples and overlays -- and then added noise and film grain. Film grain. Because the image looked too crisp and perfect.

So by making a digital image look like a photograph, it becomes more "realistic" to our eyes. Isn't that interesting? Photography connotes realism. And we make this judgment -- realistic or not realistic -- when viewing an image, even though we should consciously know that photos can be staged or completely manufactured.

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan. When a digital image simulates a photo, is that two messages? Or is it just a mixed message? ;-)

I'm not going to try it. You try it.

Ken and Alice have a large, sweet, but loudly barking dog. They also have an old crotchety neighbor that doesn't like noise and does like making complaints. What to do?

They got a shock collar but wanted to make sure it was OK for the dog. Guess what happens next. (video included)

March 28, 2005

Marshall McLuhan: the wayback way forward

I have a B.A. in English, but I'd never heard of Marshall McLuhan until recently, when I read an old magazine interview with him for a master's-level class I'm taking. My bachelor's program was centered on literature rather than communications, so perhaps that's part of the reason I missed his work.

"The medium is the message." I'd heard the phrase -- but never really thought about who might have said it or what it was supposed to mean. All I can say is, this guy rocks. He's hard to get sometimes. And for some of his work that I've read, I can't decide if I just don't get it, if he's totally missed the mark, or something else entirely.

But it definitely seems relevant today, even though it's forty years old. More on the mark than a lot of the talking heads. Even P Diddy recently quoted him, natch.