Original Post Date April 21, 2012

As a response to this week’s presentation, I created the above two “cinemagraphs”, which, as we discussed, some might consider an evolutionary artistic step for the animated GIF. These GIFs were inspired by the work of Jamie Beck whose work can be seen on her blog.

The woman depicted in the GIFs is one of my roommates. I created these GIFs by using a DSLR to take a series of photographs. My roommate was encouraged to move everything but the isolated element as little as possible, although the static nature of the other elements was primarily created through PhotoShop CS5. After I collected these images, I created a different layer for each frame. In each layer, I would delete all but the moving element so that the rest of the image appeared static. I created different frames with the single changing element as the only variable. Using PhotoShop, I moved through the frames at a rate of 0.1 seconds. While the animation in both appears to be relatively smooth, each animated GIF took less than 10 frames to create.

Prior to this exercise, I had never created an animated GIF before, although I did have experience with PhotoShop. However, understanding the concept of layers in PS and a quick Google search for an animated GIF tutorial allowed me to mimic the effect of Jamie Beck’s cinemagraphs, if not her skill, just by perusing through her work.

Digital technologies have blurred the lines between imitation and creation as all media can be reduced to a precise sequence of bits. They have forced us to ask time and time again where the threshold of innovation is and thus what constitutes as a copy, a remix, a mashup, an entirely new creation, or anything in between. That we have had to think more deeply about our standards of novelty has also changed our conceptions of self as our role as creators changes with the definition of creations. While this is not a new issue, digital technologies have only further confused the arguments.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about why people seem more resistant to consider digital art, art. It’s beyond the scope of this critical response to suggest a definition of art but I think it’s indisputable to claim that art is an expression of self. That the creation of art is now being mediated through a machine instead of being produced directly through the movements of our body (drawing, singing, strumming, dancing), is, I suspect, why we feel more hesitant to define the work produced through digital technologies “art”. However, why is the computer distinct from from other instruments with which we create art such as the paintbrush or the guitar?

I think a large part of the answer to this question has to do with how computers and other media-productive technologies feel more autonomous, more life or even human-like than older iterations of instruments. In the creation of art, the relationship between an artist and a digital technology feels more like a collaboration of strategy (humans) and execution (technology). Going back to some of the ideas that we visited in our unit on Robots, I wonder if the perception of an increasing closing of the sentient gap between humans and our technologies not only leads to a perception of robots as more life-like but also humans as more robotic. As scientific advancement seems to demonstrate that biologic nuances are not infinitely complex and thus increasingly reducible to lines of code, I think the fear of convergence between humans and robots or digital technologies in general is motivated by not only a sense of humanization of robots, but also the automation of humanity.