Tag Archive: manovich

Application Example 9/6/2012: Automation/A.I.

I found these while perusing through youtube and thought I’d ask the opinion of the class as to how they think this technology will effect us in the future.

I believe this falls into the category of Manovich’s principle of automation.  In his book, he discusses how video games only make it seem like they have intelligence, as the technology it is housed in severely limits the types of interactions we can have.  For example, we cannot talk to the characters in the video game that we play (i.e. street fighter, Starcraft, etc), or hold a conversation with them, as they only react in ways that their programming allows.  This allows them to block when we attack, or counter our methods with a pre-programmed response, therefore making our interactions very shallow.
However, with these robots, a greater form of interaction is accomplished through allowing the AI to talk, and respond to us and what we’re saying in a relatively intelligent manner.  At what point does this make you uncomfortable?  Or on the other hand, do you think that this technology will be awesome for the future?

I know that these robots are merely a sequence of coding and merely respond as they are programmed,  but the first video’s robot says something eerily true.  “Everything–humans, animals, and robots, do as programmed, to a degree.”  So at this point I questioned myself as to what I considered to be sentient.  Do you think that these robots or our AI can reach a point of Sentience?  Or will it just be 1’s and 0’s?


Week 3 – Baym/Manovich Summaries

In Baym’s article, he speaks of 7 principles to which new media can be compared to one another, which consist of interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, and mobility.  With interactivity, Baym talks about how we interact with one another via these forms of new media through interaction, such as IM, blogging, or text messaging, and how we tend to lose the social cues that normally we’d be accustomed to via “body to body” communication.  Things such as body posture, eye contact, and emotional cues may be lost in such a form of media, though we gain the benefit of instantaneous communication on a broad scale.  Also, with messaging someone, there is a time-delay from when a person receives a message, to when they actually respond, or see the message, which may lead to frustration from time to time.  New Media to Baym must also be able to be replicable, and extend one person’s voice to reach many, such as posting in a blog or sending a mass email.  Mobility is also a key concept, in that a person is able to now go anywhere at any time and usually be able to get a signal to the internet, and increase connectivity to their peers.  Distance is no longer an issue for communication.


Manovich on the other hand takes a more computational approach.  His principles include Numerical Representation, Modularity, Automation, Variability, and Transcoding.  The idea of Numerical Representation is that new media is programmable in the sense that it can be described mathematically and is subject to algorithmic manipulation, or in other words, changed digitally, much like a photo can be altered for contrast or color.  Modularity covers the concept that new media normally retains its original structure, though it may be part of a bigger picture, much like a Fractal image.  For example, a video mash-up has many individual clips that are assembled into a bigger project.  Automation covers the idea of media being able to automatically perform some function, much like photoshop’s removal of glare, or a videogame’s AI reacting to player movement and behavior.  Variability is the idea that there are a potentially limitless amount of changes that can be done to a type of media, such as enlarging a photo, changing the size or color of a photo, therefore allowing multiple instances of the same photo, yet customized in a different way.  This plays off the idea of Modularity.  Transcoding is the idea that computers essentially have two layers that are representative of media, the computational layer, which is machine code, binary, and the listing of the type of file being read, and the cultural layer, which is the format in which humans can understand what we are doing (i.e. seeing a full image rather than the pixel color represented in binary).  In Manovich’s opinion, transcoding is most substantial component of the computerization of media, in that media is now programmable.

In his book, Manovich establishes Modularity as his second principle of new media. He describes media elements as “collections of discrete samples.” Essentially this means that new media elements can be broke down into smaller groups/modules. This concept is important because each media element generally consists of a number of narrower elements. The modules allow content to be modified without much effect on the media element as a whole. This kind of content management makes the development and maintenance of new media elements far more simple to modify and maintain. Manovich mentions several important examples of this concept including: movies, HTML documents, and the World Wide Web.

For my first application I have chosen a video that encompasses many of principles Manovich. At one point in the video one of the designers brings up the idea of reducing all the imaging down to the smallest levels, pixels, to get to the roots of the imagery. The multiple facets of both the model and the design behind it also demonstrate structural computer programming which Manovich brings up in the reading.  I also chose this video because I thought it was the bee’s knees.  Enjoy.

I chose to focus on Manovich’s concepts for my application example, and I chose the 3 I feel most relevant to modern new media.  I have a few examples of media which I feel exemplify the readings.




Numerical Representation

I chose to show numerical representation by showing a low quality vs. a high quality song from Youtube.  The Low quality song uses much less bits to record the song than does the high quality rip







I would lastly like to focus on the idea of transcoding.  Transcoding how various forms of media become “cross-platform”  i.e. they work on various operating systems.  I chose the example of Angry Birds, which originally released on iOS, but has since been ported to Android, the web in the form of a flash game, and now onto desktops, both PC and Mac.










Manovich describes many principles of new media. Variability is one of those principles. A new media object is not fixed. There will be a infinite amount of variability when it comes to new media. There will always be new versions of whatever media you are working on. It is continuously being updated. New media technologies are forever changing, therefore variability is a key principle in Manovich’s new media reading.

This was particularly interesting to me because of how closely connected variability is to automation. The best example given in the reading is the one about webpages being updated by databases. The automation comes in to play when the computer automatically updates the webpage based on changing information in the database. Variability is involved because the webpage is forever changing, much like a new media technology. There is an infinite amount of versions of this webpage.

Automation is becoming a more and more part of the way we interact with technology. Instead of having to manually adjust the color of a photo towards what you want, you can use programs that already have preset adjustments. All you have to do is look at the previews and then boom, your photo has taken on a whole new setting. There are many programs that do this nowadays, and because it is so easy to accomplish, these programs are becoming popular compared to others.

I’d like to ask a simple question: What is Informatics? When I was a freshman, I was told that Informatics is the process of making things better through new developments of technology. This is exactly what automation is. It makes processes, not only photo editing simpler than ever before. Automation also involves artificial intelligence, claims Manovich. Deriving from numerical representation and modularity, automation is adapting very well into the technology world. Automation facilitates the process of using technology, and that is just the point of technology itself.

Manovich – Modularity

By extension of his concept of discrete data, Manovich dedicates an entire section of his research to what he refers to as modularity. The idea behind modularity is similar to discrete data in that new media objects are composed of smaller, independent pieces. One example I gave for the previous section was that a digital image is composed of pixels, which are its discrete parts. Going in the other direction, however, is where modularity begins to take hold. Take a common webpage, for instance. This webpage is considered a new media object, but it also contains many other smaller media objects within it. While most webpages have the aforementioned digital images within them, they can also contain other media, such as video clips, sound bytes, interactive Flash media, text, and so forth. This is just a single page, and its scope is already pretty deep, having multiple types of media objects composing it, each of which have their own discrete data composing them. Zoom out further to an entire website with multiple pages similar to the one described, each linked together using HTML hyperlinks; this website is also considered a new media object. Consider the entirety of the World Wide Web and you begin to see how completely modular the internet truly is.

An additional important concept concerning modularity is the idea that each and every part is not necessary for the whole to exist properly. Unlike old computer programs which required each module in order to run (failing if one were to be deleted), today’s new media objects can add, remove, or modify any piece of its composition and still be perfectly fine. Continuing the webpage example, a particular image could be removed or replaced simply by modifying a single line of HTML code, and the page itself will retain its identity as a new media object.

Manovich – Numerical Representation

The concept of numerical representation that Manovich presents in this portion of the reading describes all “new media objects” as being digitally coded one way or another, i.e. they can be represented with numbers. There are two important ideas that arise from such a statement, and they are as follows:

  1. Media objects can be described mathematically. Vector imagery, for instance, uses mathematical functions to describe shapes, creating pixel perfect representations of that shape at any resolution.
  2. These media objects can be altered using other algorithms to perform various manipulative tasks. An example of this is shown in the fact that digital photos can be easily improved by pressing the button that changes its brightness and contrast, and this button performs an algorithmic calculation to change the mathematical data contained within the photo.

Manovich then details the process of converting old media into new media objects. While many common terms are given, the one that appears to be of the utmost importance is the concept of changing continuous data into discrete data. He defines continuous data as “the axis or dimension that is measured has no apparent indivisible unit from which it is composed.” Put another way, old analog photographs are just that: one photograph. There is no smaller unit that it can be broken into. New media objects are composed of discrete data, however, which means that the information is defined as a collection of distinct units. A digital photograph is composed of a certain number of pixels, for instance. These pixels hold a quantifiable value that determines its color. Images are not the only thing that adheres to the principle of discrete data; all new media objects are composed of smaller, quantifiable units of one form or another.

Another important idea Manovich expresses revolves around standardization. Once a new media object is introduced, the type of information carried within it can be standardized such that future objects of a similar nature have the same type of discrete data. All digital images are composed of pixels, and as such, digital viewing devices must be able to display pixels. Going one step further, these media objects can be easily broken down into their discrete data in order to produce an identical copy. Every time you use the copy/paste functions on your computer, you are adhering to this principle.