Dispersing things through space, to anyone or to specific people. The act of publishing, when you sit down and dwell on it is a pretty incredible process. Distribution though, has become increasingly linked and tangled up with each other, especially with the rise of the internet. Video, sound, text and the bajillion other methods of publishing are all finding new ways to inter-relate. THe internet has allowed for extensive multi-media interactions that aggregate and distribute all these elements at once. However, in terms of my favourite form of publishing and aggregation I’d like to bring it back to a little bit more of an archaic platform: the physical disc. Specifically Blu-Ray Movies.
In the simplest form, Blu-Rays are a medium by which the big movie studios choose to distribute their films. They’re marketed on their higher quality compared to DVD and stuff but lately their biggest marketing factor is the inclusion of digital copies and Ultraviolet copies with the discs. I buy the blu-rays for the picture quality, because I’m a movie geek but the digital copy presents new ways for studios to distribute and for people to aggregate the content that they own.
So Ultraviolet. When I initially heard about it I thought it sounded a bit crap to be honest. It’s built on the idea that you buy a regular DVD/Blu-Ray and then with it you receive a code for a digital copy of the film. Where it differentiates from standard old digital copies of the film (that typically just gave you an iTunes code) is that your digital copies are stored in a cloud for you to take off and use on any device you’d like, while also being able to watch them on the cloud. Theoretically, your movie collection is wherever you are (as long as you have an internet connection). It’s all about making movie access suit your circumstance while also aggregating your data in a fashion that is pleasing (people like to have big movie collections) and useful (people cannot normally access their huge collection of blu-rays when they’re out of town). It’s a shame in some ways though, like Dodson says, data is now trending towards low value ubiquity. The leaders of content creation are merging with the followers by trying to use the distribution methods that are most popular with them.
Realistically, the studios this method isn’t enough for the studios, they need to adapt better, faster have freer standards on the ways they distribute and aggregate their content. Ultimately they have the opportunity to aggregate culture, encourage the creativity of individuals and simply make more money. Danah Boyd in her talk at the Web 2.0 expo mentions how those who control the content hold the most power in the digital space. Digital aggregation is the future of distribution for the studios, as long as they maintain control over the content.
So you’re sitting there reading that quote going, “What the hell Freud??? Why are you trying to confuse me at like 6:00 am on the train?” (This could be a scenario specific to me though, insert your own as required). In reality, the more times you read it, the more it reveals its relatively simple idea relating to representation reveals itself. Media productions and things of that nature often have a certain ubiquity about them. They allow you to be in multiple locations at once – even though you’re not – by representing those locations or generating their own social spaces. This is largely because modern ‘assemblages’ or interactions between people are built around aggregation. We take things from all over and construct, from data and what have you.
Danah Boyd’s little speech about Web 2.0 and media flows highlights one of the most exciting platforms for representing the social and aggregating information. Twitter. Tonnes of people use twitter to interact with their friends and share articles and content they like with each other. It’s quick, it’s kept succinct with its 140 character limit and its available on multiple platforms. The coolest advantage though is the embracement of twitter by celebrities and other content creators. They have shrunk the boundaries of the social to nothing in that they essentially put themselves in your room everytime they say something, and they can see what you say. This takes you, a random guy from the South Coast of Australia to places and people you never could have imagined interacting with 20 years ago. When you talk to Patton Oswalt, it’s as good as being in LA with him.
David Gauntlett in this video talks about how content platforms allow us to forge a sense of identity too. Heres this online identity, aggregated out of all your sharing and interactions with others. There’s an online version of you, with its own space, its own existence. It is both you and not you at the same time, because its created by you, and it can be anywhere, anytime.
So it’s pretty well established that as humans, with our fickle little memories, we’re obsessed with archiving our data. Most of the time we think of archives we think of books or words, pictures too, but they’re separate elements – saved as separate pictures. Well Visualisation as its put in academia is actually just a visual extension/version of the archive, an image that expresses data in a certain way. It usually makes it more easily digestible and accessible to an audience that has no interest in searching for that information themselves. As Edward Tufte suggests, they’re not perfect and extensive, because of the risks of oversimplification. A picture may speak a thousand words, but it’s not the whole story.
Lately in the online film blogging scene, visualisations have taken people by storm. Movies that have specific fan cultures around them, cultures craving new ‘factoids’ about their favourite films, are having all these different visualisations made for them. They’re referred to as infographics they can show some pretty interesting things, in a visually pleasing way. For instance one popular infographic was based around the Friday the 13th film series and the ways in which the main villain Jason killed people. It shows individual body silhouettes arranged in the order they’re killed on the page, it also shows how they’re killed. Its kinda gross, but its definitely cool. The problem is though, that infographics tend to be amalgamations of data that are interesting in only a cursory way – they’re actually made more interesting by the way they’re presented. That’s the brilliance of the infographic though, its presented using universal shapes and lines that could be taken as anything, but in the context they’re used they have meaning for their audience. Timo talks about this in different terms, referring to dotted lines specifically, and their power to create three dimensionality and meaning. It’s the same principle though.
Also of interest are the visualisations of Facebook and Friends Lists. They show our interactions all over the globe and each other – in a broad way though often. These big arcing lines travelling across continents. It’s quite beautiful and born from the human urge to know our place in the world. Visualisations are showing us what we want to know and who we are in a way that’s filtered and a ‘approximation’ of the actual, but beautifully simplistic and easily shared and understood.