Trust me, I am God, I am Universal Education, I am the Media
review by Komninos Zervos
Planet of Noise
Miller and Wark 1997
Publisher: Miller and Wark 1997
Conceptualisation: Brad Miller and McKenzie Wark
Realisations: Brad Miller
Aphorisms and Additional Sound: McKenzie Wark
Original Sound Design: Jason Gee and Derek Krekler
Additional Sound Design: Brenden Palmer
Original Voice: Khym Lam
Additional 3D Models: Horst Kiechle
Additional System Support: Lloyd Sharp
Additional Hardware and Vision: Jeffrey Cook and Sam De Silva
Project Officers: Michael Hill and Andrew Trauki
Print Design: Glenn Stace
ISBN 1 098346874
Print Publication - Paperback Book
celebrities, culture and cyberspace: the light on the hill in a postmodern world
Pluto Press and Comerford and Miller 1999
ISBN 1 8640 3045 (Aus)
ISBN 1 871204 15 1 (UK)
I am reviewing a CD ROM and book that have in common McKenzie Wark.
One is interactive multimedia, the other is an analysis of the last forty years of Australian cultural, political and media history. One is viewed on a screen and the other is read from a book. One uses vivid background images, illuminated texts, cinematic video sequences, three-dimensional objects, hyperlinked text, noises, quotations, speech, spoken texts, artificially intelligent objects, and, of course, Wark's aphorisms and fabulous one-liners.
...men will tell you that fucking is a science, take it from me being fucked is an art. (woman's voice) (zone 4)
The book contains references from academics in literature, media studies, cultural studies, sociology, etc, as well as analysis of, and philosophies from, popular culture, television shows and newspapers, rock music and the movies, talk-back radio and just-plain-gossip.
Lumby is interested in what I would call a 'virtual' practice of media feminism. "We're all media producers", she says. (p 73)
The CD ROM utilizes the metaphor of space exploration for the space it chooses to tell its story, present its theories and thoughts. The graphics conjure exotic alien terrains, brightly coloured and bump-mapped surfaces, each window that opens a new visual experience, even before the text begins to appear.The CD ROM invites you into its world, its cyberspace, with interesting visuals and a rather cheeky little orbiting sphere that changes texture in every window. How can a sphere be cheeky you ask?Well, it hides some of the text, and as you move your mouse towards it the sphere runs away. You begin to read the text and the sphere re-enters from the opposite side from which it exited. You start to chase it with your mouse and a voice reads some of the text on screen. As your mouse scrolls over the text the text glows, and that pesky sphere comes again. Gradually you notice that if you keep your mouse over the text the sphere does not move but as soon as the mouse leaves the text the sphere returns, and by this time you've read that text fairly thoroughly, and have even heard it being spoken in a woman's voice, you figure out that clicking on the spere is the navigation to the next window.
As you progress through the various zones of Planet of Noise the interactivity alters slightly, the rotating sphere actually becomes your guide, the games you played with it earlier having trained you to navigate this piece. Certain words in some blocks of text begin to highlight in red; and mouse clicking these takes you off the linear progression through zones to another zone. Text begins to appear differently, instead of appearing all at once it comes line by line or word by word or from the bottom line first to the first line last. This variety kept the interactivity interesting and unpredictable, more like a thing with human intelligence than a robot, which added an extra edge to the experience. In some windows no text appears at all but a vortex in the landscape opens a view into rotating 3D objects which quickly fade. As you get deeper into zones you hear other voices apart from the main woman's voice, in some parts the spoken text is repeated in the next window.
...who would sell their soul - in such a buyers market? (zone 4)
celebrities, culture and cyberspace - the light on the hill in a postmodern world is itself a multi media wok (now that should have read work but...). The book draws from the media that informs us, entertains us and sells to us, so that we begin to see the extent of our own relationship with media. It speaks in a language of popular culture, an accessible language with recognisable Australian icons and voices, political figures, pop stars, poets. And it speaks about concepts equally easy to understand, philosophy in suburbia, cultural theory in Canberra, politics in the pub, history at home in front of the tellie, literary criticism at the bus stop, Kylie as art. But the book does not cry gloom and doom, no way. The book is a hopeful experience, trying to open up new spaces for thought on how we do go forward, since forward is the only direction we can go.
The dream of a place outside communication where a pure self resides is a fantasy. Feminist talking heads have no more access to the truth of 'woman' than Marxists had to the truth of the 'working class' - or for that matter, priests do to the 'Soul of Man'. (p 74)
For me the book presented itself as hypermedia and I began to conceive spaces; the skepsispace, that space inside your head where you consider ideas; the fantaspace, that part of your internal headspace that imagines; the iconospace, the tv screen which conjures talking heads and stereotypes that come packaged with slogans and attitudes which seemed to add weight to the arguments being presented in the text. The navigation through these spaces was sometimes linear, certain triggers teleported me to different spaces, even though I took a linear path through the text.
Structurally the two media reviewed were basically similar, in Planet of Noise there are ten zones, and within each zone there are about ten to fifteen windows, consisting of an aphorism per window.The book had eleven chapters, with about ten to fifteen subcategories in each.One was created by a team of individuals, specialists in their own fields, to produce a product that looks, feels and sounds good, works properly and navigates easily, the other was created by a usually transparent team of individuals and the author of the text.
Yet the two seemingly different media are essentially saying the same thing. And that, I believe, is that a third way can always be extracted from situations that are seemingly in direct contrast, and in fact this is the way we, as individuals and as a people, progress through life into the future. We select from the many conflicting realities society/the media offers and own those that we choose to build our beliefs on, rejecting those that we do not want to see or experience.
In the Planet of Noise the noise is the elements we have to choose from to construct our realities - the text, the spoken words, the possible meanings of those words, the animated space-objects. We are bombarded by these things whilst we are attaching a human personality to the rotating globe, because our main push is to move forward, to navigate life, to confront conflicts and opposed positions, good/bad, rich/poor, kind/mean, capitalism/communism, afl/rugby league, and find a third path as we go. When we leave we leave with flashes of what we have read and heard, some being absorbed more than others, reinforced by repetition or signification.
In the book the media tells us what the media is, and we see that celebrity, culture and cyberspace do not have to be the dualities we mainly conceive them as being.At present there is a perception that literature and publishing are at crossroads, do we choose the information superhighway or go down more familiar print based roads?It seems Wark has found his third way in exploiting all media as a forum for his writing. McKenzie Wark is an important Australian and International thinker and artist. His texts are always challenging and entertaining, whether he writes for the newspaper, online email discussion groups, multimedia, book publication or live conference appearances.
What is of enduring significance about Horne is that he tried to develop concepts out of Australian experience, rather than importing concepts and sticking them on top of that experience. (p36)
Wark is attemping, and I believe has succeeded, in each medium to do what he praises Donald Horne of having done in his day as a prominent Australian intellectual.
Komninos Zervos lectures in CyberStudies at Griffith University, Gold Coast.
Vol 3 No 2 October 1999
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Tess Brady