Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Integration, Convergence and Reflection

For a thorough assessment of my research up until this moment, please see the blog dated 8th February entitled Time and Resolution: Experiments in High Definition Image Making, which outlines my work and current findings.

Any DP of calibre will have wanted to use a camera such as the Genesis, the F35 or 23, The D21 or the new Dalsa to Arri D3, but the available and ubiquitous and first camera of nearly the highest resolution, has been the Red One. From what I’ve seen of the F35, it has the credentials to create a film-like image. What I mean by this is the simple improvement in highlight handling, where the hot whites roll off and transform to what seems to be a gentle white – though I have seen some DP’s create bad whites with this camera. Come to that I’ve seen very good output from the red as well as very bad.

The Red has been more than sufficient to the task of introducing higher resolution imaging to the world and now it’s even used to gather footage for TV shows. I saw one being used (as a badge of quality) on a low budget show the other day. So the 4k high resolution image or at least the technology that allows this little seen level of detail has surfaced into the mind of the zeitgeist.

But as a friend of mine said to me – “I don’t understand what your research has go to do with convergence or the idea of pervasive media” (as if this were the main or indeed the only criteria of digital worth).

Pervasive Media as an outcome of ‘Convergence’ (in some quarters) is the low-resolution introduction of digital technologies via mobiles and in my mind is typified as the kind of technical development that might lead to the world of Spielberg’s Minority Report. ‘Hello Tom’ says an advertising display as Tom Cruises’ character walks past.

Delightful or oppressive, this can only happen if the world of art devotes itself to a research and development strategy around new technologies which it is prone to do. From Art comes commercial use. It’s always been the way that since art has gained a technological edge – from music concrete using reel to reel recorders as a source of sound materials to make art, then on into early video art, then computer and digital art, the commercial realm has benefited from the investigations of artists.

Pervasive media is a sign that convergence exists and also it is a sign of the beginnings of integration, that’s currently my name for the next technological stage. Our recent flirtation with convergence as the main act in town is now coming to an end. Convergence began around 1400 with the invention of the printing press, which to my mind was an act of integration of several realms that had persisted as separate for millennia. At various Media Institutes, freethinking professorial headmasters have created ‘sandpits’ for people to play in and generate connections between hand-held devices (one sometimes imagines these are born of a nostalgia derived from readings as children in the 50’s of 20’s and 30’s science fiction – wrist communicators, ray guns and the like). All of this energy is directed toward generating the use of software on various ‘implements’ – objects within this world that refer to another world, the data world.

In my own research I have been looking at creating intelligent environments with remote telematic ‘eventing’ probably derived from my own penchant for moments in shows like star trek where the crew goes into the hollo-deck. Another convergent/integrative investigation. Here though, my intent is to enter into the data realm, where there is a significant difference from bringing mysterious objects, which have a narrative life similar to a comic book hero’s mysterious findings on another world – Green Lantern’s ring and lantern for instance. The significant difference is that there will no longer be a need for separate objects – implements and tools.

So to return to my friend’s question, ‘what does high resolution have to do with convergence and pervasive media?’ the answer is simply that when everyone has accommodated themselves to the idea of a low-resolution devices, spaces or events, then they will need to bring in higher levels of veracity to the experience. And with resolution comes detail and with detail comes veracity – as someone said ‘God is in the detail’. Yes we have to understand the technologies that allow free-flow of data at a sufficient rate to enable ‘veracity’ to substitute for the low-res Barnum and Bailey effects enjoyed at the pervasive bleeding edge, but I’m here to apply the bandage, stop the flow of blood and take off the leeches which were never that useful anyway.

My task is not simply to give sufficient thought to the enabling of high resolution experience, it is to consider what that means before we do so. There are ethical, moral, social and theoretical issues in the introduction of the new and we no longer have time to consider this after the event.

My interest in high resolution imaging means I have to get into the ring with the big bad sludge monster that people interested in Pervasive Media, or low resolution are not having to deal with. Sometimes I feel like Mickie Rourke in ‘the Wrestler’. The Sludge Monster’ is ‘latency’ – that element in the universe that Newton identified as entropy or as having entropic qualities.

I’ll explain this in a moment. It surprises me that, of the pervasive institutes worldwide, few are integrating their research with others outside of the traditional and Renaissance form of the symposium, or a conference, article or paper. Today, every event occurring at any research institute should be broadcast via the web. Every research institute should gather online to listen to the findings of others.

Because research is framed within the academic model it is fundamentally isolationist. It has learned the buzzwords that government is pushing for, knowledge transfer etc, but it hasn’t learned the culture, mainly because the funding for all of this style of research is given to something akin to a medieval barnony which in itself encourages separateness and at its extreme, the siege mentality.

The solution is that the academy begins to dissolve itself through moving away from the use of text as its fundamental currency. It needs to embrace resolution as the solution. Resolution equals veracity of experience.

So, when my friend asked me what my research had to do with pervasive media enquiries I had to reflect on the question and this is what I thought: I’ve been looking at streaming data from and to remote telematic spaces – an example of this would be a ‘Star-Trek-like-hollo-deck’ that can correspond with other ‘hollo-decks’ (clubs in Tokyo and London for instance) - and I began to realize that we have had the technology to create events in different places at the same time for some time now, but we have been enamoured with an outmoded thought process – that the idea of convergence has been configured intellectually up until now as a world full of implements – which echoes our past experience (for instance the recent appearance of the Wii).

But the under-the bonnet-mathematics that’s powering the digital domain is qualitatively different from any maths that have gone before because it’s a viral and intelligent mathematics that is replacing a more passive mathematics – And the software, hardware and firmware should now be envisioned and designed as integrative - as the digital domain is now becoming.

A way to characterize what it actually now is, is to invert the notion of a world full of implements, where technologies grow together. From my point of view we are way past that point and the maths is configurable so that in fact the world as it stands can be real-time modelled into a 3D version held in what used to be called a computer but should now be called a ‘domain’.

Using ‘difference’ a computational technique - the space without people in as compared to the space in their absence - this then alone can become the root of a triggering system – organic gestures, movements, glances and speech can trigger events. We will no longer need a laptop or tower to deal with the digital domain that is becoming pervasive in a way we can barely now imagine – in fact it will not be pervasive, because that suggests a reality filled with implements – it will be integrative because the potential ‘modelled’ reality will overlay reality as it is.

Two issues will remain: Latency and Resolution. Latency is about how long you have to wait, given the speed of the system (which moves at light speed) and Resolution is about how big the individual has to make their instruction (gesture, speech etc). High Resolution is data heavy and will have an effect on latency – and vice versa. So, two cameras used not as optical devices, but as matrixing and triangulation devices, coupled with appropriate software can do this real time – right now with the technology we have. Integration is therefore the real-time modeling of the world in the digital domain.

Imagine the detail of that modeling using the F35...