updates @ m.blog

Raw and the Cooked

Sorry I haven’t posted any updates for a while, I’ve been busy. Getting engaged does that to you.

Last week I spoke at the Media Ecology Association conference at Hofstra University, on the “Critical Theory” panel. For those interested, here’s the abstract from my presentation:

Resistant Reading in a Digital Realm How has digital publishing transformed the respective roles of reader and text? Owing to mathematical design principles for the efficient construction of decentralized communication networks, digital publication technology requires information to be encoded into raw formats that are only given semantic coherence once decoded by the receiver. This has consequences that affect the power relationship between speaker and receiver as well as shape the nature of information publishing online. Confusion over the interpretive nature of digital documents has already resulted in no small degree of folly?including the accidental release of confidential information by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as numerous misguided lawsuits. In such systems, formerly “radical” acts such as resistant readings are fast becoming the norm rather than the exception. Rather than being simply “read,” digital network streams are interpreted by a client’s software agent?allowing for the possibility of constructing divergent (cooked) meanings from a single homogeneous (raw) source. Thus, in digital networks, the point of experience (e.g., the visual document) is in many ways a constructed fiction—the “document” being composed of network streams that are only assembled into coherence in the space of the user’s own domain, taking place as a process within the reader’s personal computer at the moment of interaction. During this transformation from a computer-readable format to a human-readable format, there exists a large degree of interpretative freedom: the ability for the reader to influence how the raw data will be represented via exercising control over the decoding process. For example, hackers have created numerous programs that use filtering techniques to intercept and modify information before it ever reaches the web browser?allowing them to exercise greater control over their interaction with online texts. Local interpretation can thus be wielded to create alternate “ways of seeing” digital data. Similar features are beginning to be built into the web browser itself?embedding the philosophy of resistant reading directly into the user?s everyday software tools.

The talk went fairly well, I think. Well, at least other people claim it did—my own opinion doesn’t matter, since you lose all sense of objectivity when you’re at a podium in a gigantic television studio. The information presented at conferences is always secondary to the schmooze-fest that serves as the primary reason for any conference, and I did meet a few interesting people. That aside, Hempstead is a miserable hellhole if you don’t have a car (which I don’t).

On a side note, I’ve become strangely addicted to a Gameboy game entitled Made in Wario. Who would have thought a game that contains virtual nose-picking could be so much fun?