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Posts Tagged ‘Imagination’

Discovery

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

A few years ago, I started to really get into live music. By live music, I don’t necessarily mean concerts (although I do love concerts), but even televised live music, because bands prove their true talent through live performances. When DVRing various concerts on TV didn’t quite cut it for me, I turned to Youtube. Youtube works wonders. At the time, I had just learned how to play “Drops of Jupiter” by Train on the piano, so I looked up a few of their live performances. I viewed a couple videos, but then accidentally clicked on this cover band at the bottom of that tab on the right side. Best mistake I’ve ever made. Two years ago, I was one of the first youtube viewers for a cover band called Boyce Avenue–a band composed of three brothers who put their music on youtube with the hope of getting famous. Before I could go back to the previous page, the music started playing, and it was amazing. To me, Boyce Avenue’s rendition of the song is even better than Train’s. And that goes for almost all of their covers.

Now, the Boyce Avenue “Drops of Jupiter” cover has over 2.5 million hits, and the band is performing concerts all around the world, and have become quite well known (at least compared to a few years ago). I know it seems like this blog is an advertisement for Boyce Avenue, and so far it is. But the main idea here is that, through the internet, I have discovered someone’s hidden talent, a talent I most likely would not have found otherwise. At the same time, Boyce Avenue has found another fan (probably their number one fan), and that is one step closer to them becoming famous. Boyce Avenue has come a long way since I started listening to them, and that just proves how the internet has become this extremely useful medium for discovering talent.

A more famous example of this success is Justin Bieber. Even though I am not particularly a fan of his music, he started his career on youtube, and now he’s making movies.

WHADDUP!!!!!

Maybe Boyce Avenue will one day make their own movie too. You never know. Even my 12 year old sister has put up a few youtube videos of her singing. I think she is amazing, but my opinion is probably a little biased. I’m posting her video anyways.

Whether she becomes famous of not, that fact that she believes in the internet’s ability to grant her fame is enough in itself to prove my point:  Without technology like Youtube, so many of the people we hear about today would still be undiscovered. Youtube works wonders.

Oh and I have to post the newest Boyce Avenue video too because it is absolutely amazing.

Imagination still King

February 4, 2011 1 comment

Future technology Photography small  Lens cameraTechnology continues to advance each day and with each new discovery people are amazed by what humans have accomplished.  We think of how far we have come and everything that our new technology can do for us to make our lives a little better.  We think about how innovative we are and how impressive our skills as inventors are.  While most people may be in total awe of what we are able to make, I think about something else.  I think about the power of our imagination and I think about how it will always outpace any technology humans will ever create.  The picture to the right is what some people believe to be the future of photography.  The huge lens can take a snapshot of whatever it is looking pointed towards and it immediately streams the digital information to a computer.  My reaction to this future camera was at first a sense of awe.  No doubt it looks cool andserves its purpose quite well.  But then for some reason I though back to when I was 5 years old.  If you asked me then what the best way to take a picture I probably would’ve told you something along the lines of, “Oh, just make a box out of your fingers, put it

Concept Phones Of The Future 2

up to your eyes and say snap.”  Now that may seem totally ridiculous, but back then my imagination allowed me to believe that I could really take a picture using only my hands and my eyes.  So although that future camera may seem really high tech it still is far inferior to the camera my imagination was able to create.  Another example of this phenomenon was only a few years ago in 2007 when Apple announced that they were coming out with a “touch screen” ipod.  Before I had seen the actual prototype I though to myself wow that’s pretty cool they’ve actually come up with a totally flat touch screen.  What I imagined was actually very similar to the picture to the right.  As soon as I heard touch screen I thought it would be a clear flat screen with almost no depth.  However, the actual ipod touch fell abruptly short of my expectations.  Even today they have yet to develop and shelf a product like the one I imagined.  Technology will continue to progress, but it seems that simple imagination will always be years ahead of any invention.

Here Beginneth Yon Web Log

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to the course blog for ENGL 115F, First-Year Writing Seminar at Vanderbilt University, taught by Brian Rejack (Dept. of English). The course title is “Imagining the Internet: Representations of Digital Culture.” Instead of giving a course description here (if you want that, just look at the syllabus page), I thought I would present a narrative moment from the long gestation period the course underwent in my brain.

It all began with me watching TV like a good cultural critic–that is, by snarkily scoffing at the ideological claims forwarded by advertisements that I, as a hoity-toity intellectual, was of course immune from (sarcasm comes across on the internet, right?). Here is the particular commercial that caught my attention:

I found myself simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by the ad. The attraction stemmed from the cute little kiddie drawings floating about the city, and naturally by Gene Wilder’s soothing tenor. The repulsion resulted from my cultural snobbery. What could a smartphone possibly have to do with imagination, that exalted mental faculty I have come to understand primarily through my study of the British Romantic poets? Would Keats consider playing “Angry Birds” on an iPhone an act of imagination?

After I calmed down (my students know that the first step of analysis is to suspend judgment :)), I began to think more about the relationship between imagination and the internet. Perhaps a virtual space is merely computer-assisted imagination, a new non-space of the mind in which one can form the mental pictures that characterize imagination. But then, like a good analytical reader, I went back to the commercial’s details. The people in the ad, presumably the ones imagining the cartoonish figures, are engaging in mundane tasks like doing laundry, waiting for the bus, commuting to work. Many people are carrying briefcases, and the entire ad takes place in a downtown, urban environment that seems fitting for corporate as opposed to domestic activity. And lots of activity there is! People are in cars, on buses, on bikes, walking–we even see a dog enjoying a car ride, looking wistfully out the window at one of the paper figures. Those paper figures seem envious of all that everyday human activity. The dragon rides along on the road with the cars; the fish swim behind the cyclist; the three-eyed purple creature walks along the sidewalk, hoping to be noticed by the urban professionals. Then all the imagined figures collapse, seeming to gain materiality as they do. The train crumples into the wall, and our three-eyed friend sways in the wind as it drops to the ground.

And then we see the tragic figure on whom the commercial settles. A bearded, middle-aged man in a suit and tie, with his tie loosened, hair disheveled, and posture slumped, all of which suggest fatigue, maybe even despair in the face of the corporate world he presumably inhabits daily (note the lunch, laptop and coffee–essential elements to survive the grind–placed around him on the bench, itself situated oddly amidst the urban landscape, as if it too offered some respite from the world he’ll return to after his lunch break). And then he consults his phone, and it’s back to childhood innocence, the world of pure imagination, apart from the material world and all its trappings.

The commercial presents a fairly typical view of digital culture–technology offers us escape, that escape takes a disembodied form, there is limitless possibility for expression, freedom, etc. It’s not quite as lofty as the early-90s cheerleading of virtual spaces (like Jerry Barlow’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”), but it operates on the same assumptions: that the internet exists apart from the world of the flesh, of commerce, of suffering, and offers an ideal world in its place.

So this brings me to my point (finally!). The Romantics (Shelley and Keats, especially) understand imagination as the mental faculty that bridges the divide between body and mind. Imagination is sensual; it’s messy; it’s dangerous; it’s revolutionary. But it is all those things because it remains attached to materiality. As Katherine Hayles and Matthew Kirschenbaum, among many others, have argued so well, much of digital culture seeks to elide completely any questions of materiality or embodiment. That’s precisely what this commercial does with imagination. Imagination is “pure,” completely apart from the world, in this ad. What might happen if we think about bodies and matter through digital spaces, as the Romantics did through imagination?

Well that’s one of the things we’ll ask in this course. First up, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a text deeply conversant with the “prison of the flesh,” but not quite so eager to eliminate it completely.