Monday, February 05, 2007

Previous blog responses

I'd like to encourage you all to link to each other's blog responses. The 'date' at the bottom of each post is actually a permalink, so you can copy it into the text of your response and directly link to the material you cite. As we further develop the topic of this class, it will be increasingly important that you are able to build upon, question, and synthesize ideas developed in this blog. Good writing doesn't take place in a vacuum, and so we'd like you to be able to use this forum as a way of connecting your own responses to those of your peers. In this way we're also encouraging you to integrate the various texts and films around broader thematic topics of the course.

In that spirit, I've tried to synthesize some of your blog responses into a very brief (and meandering) overview. I encourage you to use it as a reference as you skim the blog for posts that resonate with your own ideas. This description is by no means exhaustive. I merely picking out passages or ideas that I thought were particularly salient. Where it was easier to simply excerpt your writing I've included block quotes. Feel free to add your own thoughts and additions in the comments section.

(Also, note that I haven't been able to include responses from this week yet.)

Meegan pointed out Vertov's seeming hypocrisy in "adapting" the written words of his manifesto from a graphic medium into a visual one--precisely the kind of translational act that he purports to argue against. Some commenters noted a difference between adaptations of a narrative 'platform' vs. rhetorical 'dissertation.' It will be interesting to see if this discussion of translation (between media) pops up again later in the course.

Jeff talked about how Vertov's imagery melded the human and machine into a kind of hyper repetitive automaton.
As dummies are models that are supposed to represent human this shows that we're turning into these machines by doing the same monotonous work and having on alive objects to do the same things that we are able to do.
Valerie and Tom both provided vivid experiential descriptions of their encounter with Vertov's unusual formal devices. Tom said he felt like he was a "lab rat" in one of Vertov's experiments and criticized Vertov's overemphasis of reflexive gestures (too many shots of the camera shooting another camera for example). Valerie on the other hand, felt more comfortable when she discovered that Vertov was using the theme of a "day in the life" (in the Soviet Union) as structuring device. She also observed the rapid camera movement (literally the camera was often placed on moving objects) and linked this technique to a particular historical context of rapid speed and industrial advancement.

Silbi situated the man/machine hybrid within a particular political context. In contrast to those of you who found Vertov's treatment of the human body threatening, she emphasized the positive aspects of this theme.
Man with a Movie Camera subtly conveys Lenin’s political ideology in that era. The movie puts a great emphasis on a Proletariat-oriented society under the rule of Lenin. The members of the upper class enjoying the horse-carriage ride is portrayed pejoratively as old and outdated compared to the automobiles and trolley cars. Most of the scenes of the film show the unity among the common people en masse, mostly proletariat, enjoying and participating in the same activities, whether they are working or playing. The film expresses the pleasure and satisfaction resulting from a society where everyone shares and works together equally and fairly.
Nina emphasized the way that Vertov uses the camera as personified subject. She pays particular attention to the sequence with an approaching train. Also, echoing Jeff, she argues that Vertov uses camera (and editing) to make humans seem like they're working at inhuman pace.

Stephanie presented a detailed reading of the orchestra scene (intro), arguing that Vertov depicts humans as subject to (or perhaps oppressed by) machine time.
Here, Vertov is again depicting humanity’s dependence on machine temporally, instead of spatially like the beginning part with the seats. The orchestra players are waiting on the camera’s cue, essentially running on machine time. Humans subject themselves to their control, and once again, the machine-to-human dependency and restriction that was previously present has completely changed.
Nehal looked at "The Man with a Movie Camera" not as a "day in the life" but rather as an allegory for a longer temporal framework—metaphorically suggestive of the preindustrial era leading to the industrial age (with its 5 year plans and rapid development). He also echoes many of you in pointing out temporal oppositions, between: old and new, horse-and-carriage vs. car, marriage vs. divorce, birth vs. death

Miriam points out that Vertov's lack of obvious spatiotemporal clarity was compensated for by consistency of themes. She also notes how MWMC demonstrates the human aspects of the Kino-Eye--which I thought was interesting because this idea of the "Kino-Pilot" as a particular body seemed less emphasized in manifesto.

Felix was the first to discuss "The Time Machine" and touched on themes of Darwinism in order to cast the novel as Wells's critique of British capitalism.

Shyam pointed out differences between time travel and cinematic time warping. But then he reconnected Vertov and Wells by integrating the three aspects of time travel introduced in class (in order to show how each is broken): 1. linearity, irreversibility, continuity. I thought this was a really good example of how to synthesize two works and place them within the context of the course's theme.

Alex connected "The Time Machine" to "Metropolis," comparing the underground workers to Morlocks. He also points out how different the time traveler's expectations of future turned out to be from his actual experience. This idea seems to underscore the notion of the time machine as an inherently political device (available to offer a kind of sociohistorical critique) because it allows us to measure and re-evaluate some of the rationale for how we imagine movement towards future worlds.

Kathrine connected the notion of time standardization to the physical blurring of the time machine:
When the Time Traveler initially showed his companions the model version of his time machine, “the little machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for a second…” as it disappeared into either the past or the future. (Wells 8) This machine is supposed to represent time. As it propels itself into a different space, it loses its shape and distinct look. The imagery painted is one that is slowly blending into the background. As the time machine model is losing its place in time, and defying all the laws that we know about time, it is losing itself. Could it be that the time we decided to standardize has become a comment on who we are as a society?
She goes on to highlight the differences in the kinds of details Wells uses to describe permanent vs. fleeting things... including names (less descriptive) vs. the machine itself (highly descriptive).

Guillermo, like Shane, focuses on plausibility of Wells's future world scenario. I think it's interesting how we feel so compelled to evaluate science fiction as a kind of forecast for the future. I found myself having the same reaction. Does Wells invite this kind of critique? I think in some ways he does, but I also think it's important to ask the question: what can we learn from trying to understand a vision of the future that originates in our own immediate past? Dan seems to have addressed some of these questions in his recent post this week.

Ifan made a really interesting argument about consciousness and links the notion of time travel to the idea of memory.
Within each hour, our consciousness constantly zips back and forth between the immediate and distant memories of the past and future.
While proclaiming that Vertov wanted to portray the consciousness’ ability to travel through time would be too convenient of an exaggeration, it is important to remember that one’s consciousness unpredictably travels back and forth across what Wells calls the “Time-Dimension” (Wells 5).
"We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave" (Wells 5).
Daniella made an interesting observation about the time traveler's sudden discomfort with the idea of temporal liberation once he loses his time machine and begins to fear the impossibility of a return trip.
Although he is bombarded with several benefits of the future, his confidence in his surroundings begins to deteriorate once his machine is stolen. The time frame he is currently stuck in is no longer a utopia of the future, but a vast unknown world full of what seem like unpleasant creatures. Without the machine, the Time Traveler feels lost and helpless, fearing that he will not be able to return to his own time frame, and to the familiar.

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