New Media Semiotics

Artist’s Book, published for the Ljubljana World Book Capital 2010 and kindly supported by the Ministry of Culture

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Introduction

Contrary to New Media Textuality, this set of net.art projects, issued in an artistic book, doesn’t ad-infinitum veer towards the model of the literal sonnet. It rather turns back to the base of textuality – signs – which can and must be in the new media environment “read” (understood) different than in the literature.

Facebook Friends

Algorithm builds huge Facebook interface icons from profile pictures of authors digital friends. A chaotic mosaic, made of peoples faces, is a key for its understanding – as democratic potentials of social media in north African revolutions or through the critical optics, expressed in an interview with Vuk Cosic: is a revolution in a supermarket possible?

Crazy Icons

This virtual architecture project uses Google Earth plugin as the exhibiting space and as a ready made part of the project. User is invited to build giant computer icons, made of used containers, on any popular tourist destination like Cairo Gisa, Vaticano, Uluru, New York, etc. All this happens in a digital collective environment, a duplicate of the real Earth. Our planet becomes incredibly accessible and vulnerable at the same time.

Poems for Machines

To put this project into a context, we must know Maurizio Bolognini’s installation Computer sigillati (1992-2004). It is a group of computers, all connected into a computer net, but all without input and output devices, which would enable communication between the humans and the machines. So are Poems for machines sonnets, made of ones and zeros – carriers of the machine language, which are not anymore accessible to people.

The Day After

This project is In a wider context connected to so called alternative browsers, Mark Napier’s Shredder for example. It converts selected web page into its “postapocaliptic” appearance without images and letters. Only numbers and special signs remain, the rest is covered by emptiness and dots, substituting letters. Machines rule the world and all human understandable records disappeared.

Advertising Sonnet

Ad sonnets use the same system as SMS sonnets from my previous artistic book New media textuality. Project exposes the role of the program, the algorithm to manipulate data (the relation between the user interface and the database from the classic theory of Lev Manovich). It also shows the existence of the universe of machines as very pessimistic described in Vilem Flussers Towards a Philosophy of Photography: the logic of the web system supports inflation of sonnets, this time by changing data in new media objects. User acknowledges, that this inflation is not a “renaissance” of the sonnet, but rather something problematic.

Converted Brands

The anecdote says that the director and the screenplay writer didn’t want to comment the naming of the supercomputer in the famous movie 2001: the Space Odyssey. It’s name HAL9000 is namely a one letter shift of IBM, at the time the worlds biggest computer corporation. User is invited to type any brand’s name, while project shifts it by one letter and offers him to register that senseless dot.com name. Against a paranoiac reading of logotypes, translated into magic absurdity (searching for conspiracy based on mystical reading of names), algorithm sets functional use of textual entry, which runs a process of online shopping. The string of letters becomes an ironic nonsense, while buying such domain name would confirm users mystical sensibility. If brands are taking control over our lives, the Turing machine just converts one form into another, without creating new meanings. In the book, the process is pushed one step back: it incorporates absurd strings back into corporate graphic design.

Translate

Based on Google Translate, this project asks the question of computers handling the language.It asks if this is an explicit unsolvable problem, since the meaning of the language is co-formed by the context of the content, which is not included in the text itself. A translator is namely a person, living in at least two different lingual universes, understanding the original text through its expected context. By translating basics of a modern state with Google translator through seven different languages back to the first one, signs in the book are no more letters, but regular changes of a script, which lost its contact with linguistics.

Visual Readings

Based on Google Images, this project translates words into images. It breaks a sentence, entered by user, into individual words and creates a flat constellation of corresponding pictures. Understanding of an image becomes a search for resemblance between the substance of the symbol and the designated object. We come to the theory of iconicity as in the semiotics of Charles S. Peirce. At this level, in the framework of machines, remain also  symbolic signs, based on code (the third Peirce’s level). Pixels are in fact symbolic signs, but the machine functions on a quantitative similarity, on iconic level. The question remains, how the humans enter the semiotic of the machines.