Off Book: New Art Needs New Gatekeepers

PBS* once again tackles "art on the internet" and introduces us to some movers and shakers (hat tip Paddy).

So much bad art, flying by so quickly.
Just a few dashed off thoughts. Thumbs down to:
--the slow turntable pan they do where all the interviewees stare meaningfully at the camera
--the editing out of 'uhs' and pauses that makes each speaker sound like an auctioneer (especially noticeable in the Kickstarter guy - hard sell much?)
--the constant emphasis on newness and "never seen before" in these programs

This one's not as annoying as they way they misrepresented GIFs. But the premise goes contrary to one creative type's experience of the Web (i.e., mine): which is, people find your work through searches and viral connections, so you don't have to have funding, gatekeepers, or special copyright schemes.
Perhaps now that Google is moving away from long tail content, the emphasis is shifting back to needing a Kickstarter to make something happen. Around here we don't want to have to resort to that guy -- he sounds like a one-man ad agency.
As for Lawrence Lessig's inclusion in the program, since when does copyright law expertise qualify anyone for art punditry? Only as the most cynical admission that law completely determines what's creatively permissible.

*Update: Have been referring to these Off Book programs as PBS shows. A commenter on Paddy Johnson's Google Doc, Tim Bavlnka, notes that Off Book is wholly produced by a third party content company called Kornhaber Brown. It appears these are just ad agency-produced infomercials getting a ride on the PBS brand. (Kornhaber Brown also calls Carnegie Hall a "brand" - ugh, I feel like I need to take a shower.) Let's keep calling them PBS shows, though. Ultimately the network is responsible for this one-sided happy talk quasi-journalism.

"Stress Theory"

"Stress Theory" [mp3 removed]

All done with the Mutator filter, two wavetable oscillators, and various forms of modulation, in real time. Some digital reverb (a spring tank clone) added later.
The modulation (mostly a couple of square wave LFOs working out of sync with each other and the beat) creates "stanzas" where the syllable stresses change from line to line. Tried to match some beats to this and couldn't do it. (Wonder if Ableton could...)
The beginning is just the Mutator self-oscillating, then the two wavetables are faded up, then the rest of it is just a slow, manual sweep of the filter cutoff knob's entire range. The sound changes pretty dramatically depending on what frequencies are being added/subtracted.

PBS does "animated jifs" - part 4


Above is a revised version of Ryder Ripps' original "stop talking about GIFs" rant. When I first encountered Ripps a couple of years ago he was a big fan of GIFs; now he thinks talking about them too much will somehow endanger web animation as we know it.

This sudden concern was touched off by a rather bad PBS documentary short where 80% of the interviewees pronounced GIF as "jif" (among other problems). Ripps didn't go postal over the documentary, though. He believes major media always lies and misrepresents its subjects; presumably that's why he appeared on the same PBS program last year. What angers him is that other people are criticizing and fact-checking PBS's treatment of GIFs. Giving his logic every benefit of a doubt, because PBS did a poor job of explaining GIFs, correcting it just makes it worse, to the detriment of all other forms of web animation.

But what other web animation cultures should we be discussing? Macromedia Flash and the people who embrace it? The brave new world of iPad-based HTML5 animation? Subversive uses of badly compressed YouTubes? For the last few years we've been discussing GIFs as a low-entry-level, vernacular, "native" way to animate on the Web and it's been fun. Ripps even co-created a site ( where talented GIF-makers flourish. It's not a "GIF site" but that's what you see a lot of when you logon (now by invitation-only).*

PBS emphasized recent attempts to clean up and dignify GIFs by calling them cinemagraphs. According to Ripps, we're not allowed to have an opinion on that because TV always lies. Thanks for your support -- go make a cinemagraph now.

*Update: Am told dump registration has re-opened.

Update 2: What we've been calling PBS is actually a producer of near-infomercials under contract to PBS. See later post. It's ultimately PBS' name on the product but worth mentioning in the context of a "media always lies" discussion. By "four walling" content like this it's possible they are lying in a new and different way!