Remix Affordances

A question someone recently asked about Where Are The Joneses (WRTJ) could be rephrased as “where were the remix affordances?”

WRTJ was structured as a TV-style situation comedy, albeit one running in three minute segments. The affordances for altering it were external to the episodes and came before the fact. You could create the plot, or write yourself or your radio station or your home into the episodes when they were on the wiki before they were filmed. As a participatory production project this was unprecedented. But after the episodes were filmed their forms were fixed and closed off. They weren’t particularly structured to provide affordances for remixing or mashing-up or extending.

Conversation Agent talks about traditional media starting to optimize their stories for search engines. Video search isn’t practical at the moment, so WRTJ couldn’t be structured optimally for search. But it could have been structured more optimally for remixing. Remixing produces searchable or discoverable material that leads back to the original project and hence to the project sponsor. Remix optimizing is therefore a form of search optimization. It is also of value culturally in itself as it provides more creative affordances to society.

Affordances must be perceptible. You must be able to see that you could use them, and be able to have some kind of idea what you can do with them. And they must allow or enable some action that would not be possible without them. For an episodic comedy project this would be adding to or altering each episode.

So here are some initial suggestions for how future Joneses-style projects could optimize for remix, some drawn from WRTJ and some from considering viral and franchise media:

  • Provide source. Give people more material to remix and to produce alternative versions. Give people the information they need to know about locations and props. Share as much of the planning and design process as possible.
  • Provide hooks. Every episode should provide plot or setting hooks, characters, and visual material for extension, recontextualization and response.
  • Provide gaps. Fades, pauses, quiet moments. Anything other content could be inserted into.
  • Provide elements. Catch-phrases, askew looks, funny moments. Anything that can be decontextualized and spliced into a flow of other moments.
  • Provide extensible arcs. Running jokes or plotlines that can run on elsewhere.
  • Provide calls. Anything people can respond to and be seen to be responding to.

Hooks, gaps and arcs would work in franchise media (like Star Trek). Source, gaps, elements and calls work for mash-ups and responses.

These are designed to enable and encourage everything from blipvert-style remixes of different media to inclusion in other series and fan responses. And to be seen to enable and encourage them.This isn’t a complete list of strategies, it’s just an initial consideration of what I think is an important idea.

The Worst Pies In London

The broadsheets haven’t been kind to Sweeney Todd. The Grauniad bemoaned Tim Burton discarding the play’s critique of capitalism while The Sunday Times was upset that there weren’t any proper tunes in Sondheim’s score. Oh, wait, I got that the wrong way round. The Times wanted more class activism, The Graun wanted something to hum. What is the world coming to?

It’s an excellent film. I found watching it a harrowing experience, as much from its psychological aspects as from the actual close shaves. The violence was a long time in coming as everything slowly fell into place (or possibly apart), and when it finally arrived it was visceral but matter-of fact which made it all the worse. A savage slash and few gurgles and that’s it. Apart from the final scene, which had both a deeper feeling of dread and even worse atrocities pervading it.

The criticism I’ve read of the acting is space filler. Burton got a good performance out of Alan Rickman ferchrissakes, the one that Rickman always feels and that if you were sat in the stalls of a theatre or behind the camera on a set that you would feel but that, like all supernatural auras, usually never quite gets captured by technology. Burton gets Helena Bonhma Carter and Ali G to give performances that go from comic to tragic in the space of a few moments without ever being annoying. And if Johnny Depp doing some unsubtle emoting rather than actually acting would please broadsheet critics then that’s just another reason to ignore them.

I found listening to the film confusing to begin with. It’s The Muses’ revenge on me for every time I have ever been unsympathetic to someone who doesn’t get modern art. The words pole-dance around the music. The music is complex and fleeting. But I got into it, and by the time the worst pies in London were on the table I could find my way around it.

The punchline works thanks to some masterful misdirection of the viewer’s attention, and the film ends at precisely the moment it should. In the soundtrack album notes, Burton mentions Hammer’s horror films as one of his points of inspiration, and I think this is the kind of film the old Hammer would make now. If they did musicals and had Tim Burton as a director.

draw-something Debugging

After debugging draw-something quite majorly last year and adding the framework for its future development I thought I had captured all the embarrassing bugs (like drawing things twice…). But I’d missed a bug in my random-point-on-line code that generated points off the end of the line. So draw-something was lovingly generating most of the drawing off the edge of the canvas.

Working around this has improved the drawings that draw-something creates, here are two I have selected:

drawing-20080121-233101.png

drawing-20080121-233324.png

Now I can start giving draw-something heuristics for deciding what kind of elements should go where, and when.

Comrades, Social Objects and Affordances

Imagine No Possessions

In Imagine No Possessions, Christina Kiaer investigates the Russian Constructivist conception of objects as being more than commodities. “Our things in our hands must be equals, comrades,” wrote Aleksandr Rodchenko in 1925. Kiaer analyzes this Constructivist counterproposal to capitalism’s commodity fetish by examining objects produced by Constructivist artists between 1923 and 1925

gapingvoid on social objects

2. Social Networks are built around Social Objects, not vice versa. The latter act as “nodes”. The nodes appear before the network does.
[…]
6. The Apple iPhone is the best example of Social Object I can think of. At least, it is when I’m trying to explain it to somebody unfamiliar with the concept.
[…]
8. How do you turn a product into a Social Object? Answer: Social Gestures. And lots of them.

Wikipedia: Affordances

An affordance is the quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform action.

So…

Both state capitalism and neoliberalism have produced devices that are meant to be more than commodity fetishes. Are these just reification, however much academia and the blogosphere may protest to the contrary?

Under the theory of affordances the online social graph is produced through social objects, that is it is afforded by them. Is this reification? Are online social networks themselves hypostatization? Or are they intensification (pace Christine Harold’s OurSpace), or just implementation (utilities, to take them at Facebook value)?

If social objects are fetishized/reified they must at most be arcs, not nodes (lines not points). They will be the value of any line that they afford between other nodes. But if they are not fetishized/reified then they could be represented as nodes/points, with the lines they afford more clearly identifying that they are “comrades”, peers, or at least mediators.

Constructivist and technogeek objects, objects as comrades or social drivers, are affordative objects. They are morphisms on the social category. To avoid the “what is art” equivalent question for this we can declare all objects socially affordative and then ask which are better at it. Is an iPhone really a better socially affordance than a cup of coffee? Is a Facebook widget really a better way of making links really or virtually than meeting for a realtime conversation?

Online social networks would at most be events or contexts in a sociologist’s Social Network Analysis matrix. Would the telephone get a row, or a lonely hearts column? What kind of theory of society would that illustrate? What kind of theory of society would it illustrate if between Mrs Ingram and Mr Ippolito there was a column marked “iPhone”? And would every iPhone get its own column? Or everyone’s Facebook usage its own column? If not, why not?

Looking back into the history of ideas can expand the frames of reference that contemporary phenomena are considered in relation to. And applying contemporary sociological and mathematical concepts to social networks and affordative devices will be very fruitful. The problems of classifying relationships and of measuring relations in large populations were faced a long time ago in sociology but have just started to be of interest to bloggers encountering the iPhone. Treating social networks as sets, categories, topographies or graphs affords (fnarr) all kinds of analytical and philosophical tools.

What Is A Constitutive Blank?

It’s rare I encounter a term I can neither unpack nor Google.

So does anyone know what a “constitutive blank” is? I assume it’s Theory jargon borrowed from somewhere.

Longlines – GNU Emacs Manual

Longlines – GNU Emacs Manual

To enable Long Lines mode, type M-x longlines-mode.

Soft line wrapping for Emacs.Thanks to Matt Lee for telling me about this. 🙂

Free And Open Brands

(I found this in my drafts. I’ve no idea what I was talking about. 😉 )Dell’s IdeastormProcter & Gamble’s Connect + DevelopBrands need to become more like distros. The physical production of brands is valuable and will not be devalued by participatory and collaborative creation of potentialities for brands to en-afford.

Grammatical Fallacies Exposed

I had the misfortune to find a book called “Economic fallacies Exposed” in Oxfam today. It’s a collection of Market-Hegelian screeds that perform the same cheap trick each time for a presumably captive audience:Firstly an ethical, cultural, environmental (etc.) statement is translated into a fallacious economic statement.Secondly, that fallacious economic statement is shown to be fallacious.Thirdly, this demonstration of fallaciousness is used to dismiss the original statement.The results are stunning. Ethical, cultural, environmental (etc.) statements are shown to be utterly false by a kind of null-underwritten truthiness that would find utter bogosity an unreachable aspiration.To demonstrate the problem with this strategy, here is an excerpt from the book “Grammatical Fallacies Exposed”:The Free Market Is Benefit At Society.This is nonsense. Free Markets are therefore evil.Government Are Baddest To Regulating Corporate Activity, What Harms.This is double nonsense. Unregulated corporate activity must therefore be prevented by government intervention.Economists Are Having Understanding Of Economicalityness.This isn’t even trying to look grammatical. Economists are therefore ignorant dolts.

A Brief High Cultural Socio-Aesthetic Interlude Pace Adorno

My youngest child bought me a toy Laser Screwdriver for my birthday. Mwahahahaha! Zap!

Help ORG Reform Copyright In The UK!

Would personal copying of media you own, copying work for study, library copying, or legal protection for parody and pastiche help you? Or do you know of any examples of social or economic “harm” that such rights would prevent? If so please comment on ORG’s reprint of this givernment review:

consultation test » Blog Archive » Taking forward Gowers: Copyright Exceptions

This consultation is intended to bring greater flexibility to the UK copyright regime by strengthening existing and introducing some entirely new exceptions.

The point of copyright law is to engineer a market in creative expressions and in doing so the law tries to balance the competing interests of creators, publishers and the general public. In this mechanism, exceptions to monopoly rights protect a range of socially-important activities, such as education or reportage. They operate as a kind of safety valve.

We have not reproduced the entire consultation document because its 106 pages long. Instead, extracted below is the more-manageable Executive Summary, which outlines the consultation's concerns. The Open Rights Group submission will concentrate on the ‘format shifting' and ‘parody' exceptions but you're invited to leave comments on any aspect of the consultation.