Critique of ‘Voice Tales’ by Nikki Pinney

I can only speak for myself, though I am sure others that have taken this class or any class which studies new media can agree that before I could only judge new media artifacts by their face value. After this semester, I now find myself able to critique and accurately apply judgment based on the concepts of new media which we have studied in I310 this semester, as well as applied to our own projects. This paper will speak of one such project, not my own, but of my peer. I will be critiquing her work within three topics- media histories, genealogies, and archaeologies, remediation, and digital art.

I will begin this critique as I would with any other project, be it a design project, a drawing, or a sculpture, by recognizing the formal qualities of the piece and the craft or how it was constructed. Nikki made a video using Adobe Premiere Elements, iMovie, and Photoshop. The video has good image quality and the sequencing is paced well. It is apparent that she likely developed storyboards and put some thought into how she was going to tell the story of each of her voicemails. The video is comprehensive; it does not make the viewer struggle to “get it.” I would like to know more from her about why she filmed both live action and stop motion animation; does that have significance to each story?

I want to continue this analysis by pointing out and referring to each of the three voicemails represented through the video as ‘stories,’ each one being unique and visualized in different ways. That being said, I wish to begin my critique of the video based on the first topic, media histories, genealogies, and archaeologies. When I first watched the video, I was forced to confront my own feelings about voicemail. I personally hate it, I don’t think it is necessary and I think is it outdated and should be replaced with voice-to-text. With this perspective, I saw this video carrying some emotional baggage over the concept of voicemail as being an homage to the old technology. When thinking about what it is that actually makes this video ‘new’ apart from the obvious of that it was recently made, I had to step back and study the individual parts that make up the whole. We have the parts that are filmed, parts that are animated, photographed, and the sound that was recorded. Lister, in Change and Continuity, speaks of old media in new times (Lister, 47). This is how I feel about “VoiceTales.” This is a video that combines my interpretation of the old technology of voicemails and tells an emotional story about each one. Now, as Lister does in the reading, I must seek out what it is that makes this artifact ‘new.’ For one, the context is new. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be understood by the audience, but little things like in the first scene, Nikki is sitting in front of her computer screen, eating and listening to her voicemail. This is a part of our generation’s daily life, we are always in front of a screen, be it a smart phone, computer monitor, or television. Another way that this video employs newness is in the style of how scenes of the video were created, namely the stop motion scene. This style of combining different types of videography and animation is new and is facilitated by recent advances in production software.

My next topic to critique this video within is remediation, or representing the old in the new (Bolter and Grusin, 45). As the viewer, and taking my own opinions and experiences into my understanding of this work, I view voicemail as “old media” that has been represented through a new media artifact. Nikki has taken the audio of her own personal “voicemailbox” and visually represented it with video. I think that this is a profoundly creative concept of memorializing voicemails that hold emotional value. Not only is she repurposing the actual audio of the voicemails, she gave them a unique visual representation that is specific to each audio clip. Bolter and Grusin define two logics of remediation, immediacy and hypermediacy. In applying this to Nikki’s video, I struggle with defining one or the other to the video as a whole. This is because her video lacks a consistent visual style. I can say that Nikki achieved hypermediacy in the birthday song scene since you were to understand that the voicemail was probably occurring while Nikki was eating dinner/looking at her computer screen. However, the second scene of the friend in Dunn’s Woods is closer to immediacy, as if the friend was just talking on the phone in front of [you] instead of leaving Nikki a message. The emotional aspect, I think, is stronger in the first scene and probably could’ve been pushed further in this style.

In transition to my final topic of digital art, I wish to analyze the artistic qualities in the video and the ‘values’ it carries. To begin, the opening scenes of “VoiceTales” is strong both emotionally and visually. The way that the sound of the “voicemailbox” plays while the title scene plays is clean and really sets the stage for the birthday scene to open. The Dunn’s Woods scene, on the other hand, has a transition in visual style, but it is an abrupt one. I want to know what significance the choppy stop motion style has for that individual versus the style of the first scene-why isn’t it Nikki doing whatever it was she was doing while the friend was calling her. I think exploring that concept throughout the entire video would’ve been both cohesive and emotionally powerful. De Mul’s ideas of cult value and exhibition value are interesting to explore here. She has an example of ‘remixing’ an artwork that holds cult value with the audience, the American Gothic painting she animated. I also think that as visually strong as this video is, if conceptually developed more, it will have a strong exhibition value with audiences (de Mul, 95).

In conclusion, Nikki made a very unique, conceptually interesting video that fits well into the theories that we have discussed this semester and it was a pleasure to critique it.­

Work Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000. Digital.

De Mul, Jos. “The work of art in the age of digital recombination.” MediaMatters. Ed. Marianne van den Boomen, et al. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. 95-106. Digital.

Lister, Martin. New Media: a critical introduction. 2nd ed. London: Routeledge, 2009. eBook.