STUFF®



Collected here under the broad yet technically precise rubric of "STUFF®" (a recursive acronym for "STUFF® That Undermines Figural Forms®" – sometimes colloquially referred to as "stuff that's hard to categorize"), you will find a selected assortment of projects in media other than text. This includes scholarly video essays, digital humanities and critical making projects of various sorts, and creative projects utilizing augmented reality, generative processes, glitches, and other STUFF®.

Caveat emptor: The division of all this STUFF® into three discrete categories (videographic, digital, and creative stuff) is somewhat arbitrary due to a great deal of overlap, recursion, and re-entry among them...

Videographic STUFF®

Digital STUFF®

Creative STUFF®

(Scroll down or click one of the links for more info.)

Videographic Scholarship

Selected video essays, videographic research, video-based scholarship.

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Post-Cinema: Videographic Explorations is an exhibition of video essays on a variety of contemporary media forms and phenomena – including digital animation, Beyoncé's Lemonade and the visual album, contemporary horror, slow cinema, post-cinematic television and transmedia franchises, among others. The exhibition, which includes works by leading filmmaker-scholars as well as students from Shane Denson's seminar on "Post-Cinema" (Film Studies 290, Winter 2017), was on display May 1 - 12, 2017 in the McMurtry Building on the campus of Stanford University. Featured here is a selection of the works shown there.

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"Don't Look Now: Paradoxes of Suture" is an interactive video essay that explores suture, space, and vision in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973), concentrating on one key scene in the film – an important turning point that problematizes both the characters' and the spectator's perspectives vis-à-vis narrative events. Formally, the video essay also experiments with "close" (or focused) and "distant" (or scanning, scattered) modes of viewing, allowing the viewer to alternate between paying close attention to intra-shot details and assuming a "meta-" perspective from which several or all of the scene's shots can be surveyed at once. "Experiment" is the key word here, describing as it does every facet of this piece. From its production to its presentation and finally the perceptual modes it offers to viewers, "Don't Look Now: Paradoxes of Suture" is designed as an experiment in a strong sense, one which questions the very form and function of the video essay. (Click here or on the image above to view the piece.)

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The video essay "Sight and Sound Conspire: Monstrous Audio-Vision in James Whale's Frankenstein (1933)" offers a meditation, in three acts, on the relations between the visual and the auditory in James Whale's classic horror film. Introducing the iconic image of the creature (played by Boris Karloff, realized by makeup artist Jack Pierce, and long defended as a visual trademark by Universal Studios), Whale's film drew its power to frighten audiences from the particular relations that images and sounds had with respect to one another in the early years of sound cinema. The video essay was published in [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Media Studies 2.4 (2016). (Click here for the original publication, where the video is accompanied by a written essay, along with responses from Drew Morton and Steven Shaviro.)

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In many ways, the medium of video marks the displacement of cinema as the culturally dominant moving-image medium. Especially in widely available consumer formats like VHS, video can be seen as having ushered in the era of post-cinema by installing something like (but also quite different from) cinema into people's homes. Most conceptions of post-cinema, including Steven Shaviro's important study of "post-cinematic affect," tend to emphasize the role of digital media – and it is indeed in the context of the massive proliferation of computational devices and digital video platforms that the idea of the post-cinematic becomes most salient as a genuine alternative to the media regime of "cinema." However, we should also attend to the transition to this post-cinematic situation, as well as to the ways that this transition (which even today is hardly complete, final, or determinate) is reflected in post-cinematic moving-image media. One approach, adopted here, might take off from the faux found-footage video that structures a film like Paranormal Activity 3. (Click here for the original publication, with textual accompaniment and discussion, in in media res.)

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On March 27, 2015, at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Montreal, Steven Shaviro, Patricia Pisters, Adrian Ivakhiv, and Mark B. N. Hansen participated in a panel I chaired on "Post-Cinema and/as Speculative Media Theory." It was standing room only, and many people were unable to squeeze into the room (a few images are posted here). Thankfully, all of the presenters agreed to have their talks recorded on video and archived online. (Click here or on the image above to view the videos.)

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See also my vimeo page for more videographic work.

Digital Critical Studies

Digital humanities (DH), critical making, multimodal scholarship, new media, whatchamacallit...

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"Visualizing Digital Seriality, or: All Your Mods Are Belong to Us!" is about seriality and serialization processes in games and gaming communities – and about the possible affordances of a digital humanities approach to studying these processes. In particular, I consider the ways "distant reading" and visualization techniques can shed light on these processes and provide a bridge between the various levels of seriality in digital games and gaming communities. The vibrant "modding" scene that has arisen around the classic Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. (1985) serves as my case study. As I try to demonstrate, automated "reading" techniques allow us to survey a large collection of fan-based game modifications, while visualization software helps to bridge the gap between code and community, revealing otherwise invisible connections and patterns of seriality. (Click here or on the image above to view a working prototype of this interactive, data-driven project.)

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"Speculative Data: Post-Empirical Approaches to the 'Datafication' of Affect and Activity" — A common critique of the digital humanities questions the relevance of quantitative, data-based methods for the study of literature and culture; in its most extreme form, this type of criticism insinuates a complicity between DH and the neoliberal techno-culture that turns all human activity, if not all of life itself, into "big data" to be mined for profit. Drawing on recent reconceptions of DH as "deformed humanities" – as an aesthetically and politically invested field of "deformance"-based practice – this project explores several methods by which a decidedly "weird" DH can avail itself of data collection to interrogate and critique "datafication" itself. The focus is on work conducted in the context of Duke University‚Äôs S-1 Speculative Sensation Lab, where literary scholars, media theorists, artists, and "makers" of all sorts collaborate to produce computational and data-driven "things to think with" that blur the boundaries between art and digital scholarship. (Click here or on the image above to read more.)

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"Manifest Data" is a collaborative project by the Duke University S-1: Speculative Sensation Lab. In this "weird DH" project, we use localized network analysis tools to capture the content and destination of user-scattered cookie crumbs dropped, most often unknowingly and unintentionally, during Internet browsing sessions. The code recipe for Manifest Data transforms the protocological underpinnings of networking technologies – specifically IP addresses and port numbers – into points defining a vector field that can be geographically mapped, fed into a 3D printer or dynamically sculpted by a human artist. Manifest Data is our digital double. (Click here or on the image above to read more, or check out the video below.)

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Creative Projects

Art and art/theory projects

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"Post-Cinema: 24fps@44100Hz" by Karin + Shane Denson. Acrylic on 24" x 24" canvas, with augmented reality (AR) overlay: digital video and generative text, using a Markov-chain algorithm trained on the chapters of Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film, eds. Shane Denson and Julia Leyda. The collaborative piece is featured on the cover of that book. To view the AR content, download the free Wikitude AR browser app for iOS or Android and search for "Post-Cinema." Point your device at the image and enjoy! See also the "demo" video, which briefly explains a bit about the process as well as how it works.

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"Scannable Images" is a collaborative art/theory project that interrogates post-cinema – its perceptual patterns, hyperinformatic simultaneities, and dispersals of attention – through a mixed-media assemblage that is "after video" in several related senses. The basic elements of the work are static and animated images, derived from (and hence produced both after and in the manner of) digital video compositions. These images, when scanned with a smartphone or tablet, activate augmented reality (AR) video overlays that themselves thematize the materiality of post-cinematic/post-video images. But rather than inviting a linear form of consumption (according to which the viewer would first watch one video and then another, piecing together a narrative or argument), the images are arranged next to each other (in a space like the virtual "wall" of an installation, with the augmented videos playing simultaneously. Because the videos can only be viewed through the small screen of a smartphone or tablet – itself directed at a computer screen – only a small portion of the entire spectacle can be viewed at once. Materially, this complication of the viewing situation reflects and emulates the hyperinformatic simultaneity and selective, scanning regard of post-cinematic images – confronting the viewer with the materiality of the post-cinematic media regime through the interplay of screens, pixels, people, and the physical and virtual spaces they occupy. (Click here or on the image above to view the project, or see here for the Raspberry Pi-based "video book," published by Open Humanities Press, in which the piece appears.)

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"Ancillary to Another Purpose" — This montage is constructed from found materials, all of which were collected on YouTube. The process of collection was guided by only very loose criteria – I was interested in finding sonic materials that are related in some way to changing human-technological relations. I thought of transitions from pre-industrial to industrial to digital environments and sought to find sounds that might evoke these (along with broader contrasts, real or imagined, between nature and culture, human and nonhuman, organic and technical). Formally, the piece is a meditation on the interrelations between what Michel Chion theorizes as causal and "acousmatic" modes of listening, as well as the associative algorithms in which human agency is imbricated today as the latest stage of anthropotechnical interfacing. (Click here to read more about the process and thoughts behind the piece.)

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"Making Mining Networking" is a collaborative art project by Karin + Shane Denson. In these works, we combine data-collection techniques, painting, generative and hand-made sculpture, photogrammetry, and augmented reality in order to meditate on the shifting boundaries between the physical and the virtual in our contemporary media ecology. Further layers of networked connectivity are added to the mix, particularly as the augmented works take advantage of viewers' mobile screens to display 3D objects, digital video, and web-based contents. (Click on the images to see more, or check out the video below, which documents the project's exhibition at Duke University, April-September 2015.)

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Finally, if that's not enough for you, make sure you check out my blog for lots more STUFF®.

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