So I’ve found a few different definitions of ‘noise’.
John Maeda refers to basic information theory formalized by Claude Shannon, in that information can be mathematically modeled as a stream of variable amounts of noise. Therefore the noisier the stream, the more information there is. Maeda compares then the work of Jackson Pollock as having a lot more ‘information’ than a painting by Kasimir Malevich. The web is then considered to be an extremely noisy place. Although there are attempts to control the information online with metadata to create some sort of organisation (as mentioned in Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age by Victor Mayer-Schönberger) for example in the form of non-formatted text tags, geo-tagging, file and website extensions, I.P. addresses (relating user to activity/information – I use this as a broad term for all data and media online), there is simply not enough to keep track of everything.
An example of poor online organisation is image hosting site Imageshack.us. Users do not have to sign up for an account, or add any metadata for the file – which is seen as a plus for its ease of use. Therefore, the vast majority of images saved to Imageshack’s servers cannot be retrieved, without keeping hold of the original URL. They also cannot appear on search engines (unless they appear on a webpage with text relating to the image). If this site were to cease existing, like the recently deceased Geocities, in favour of sites such as Flickr (- unlikely, but), Facebook or TwitPic/Plixi (Imageshack have already invested in this trend as yfrog) all of the images may be lost without notice. For some reason I think about all the forgotten images floating around on their servers. I imagine that over half of their servers are full of forgotten images, rendered useless. Maybe it’s strange but I think about these kind of things a lot…
Referring back to Delete, he mentions that the increase in popularity of saving/owning/archiving to digital memory (rather than biological memory, not RAM!) is not down to just the dramatic decrease in price of hard drives and the accessibility, but also the fact that a perfect copy can be obtained digitally. Of course digital files are arguably not as perfect as a first analogue copy, as a digital file is made of thousands of samples taken at intervals. But eventually an analogue copy will decay, and further copies made of it will decrease in quality. However, when a digital file is copied, it does neither of these things. Files may encounter ‘noise’ when they are converted to different formats etc – which is actually an interesting way of thinking about it because information is actually lost instead of gained, compared to for example, if a vinyl record was scratched, adding texture to a song, or a paper document becoming folded and creased. Files also encounter noise when they are uploaded online to be displayed, such as .jpegs, .mov files, which is an increasing activity for web users to easily share and at the same time archive their files elsewhere. (Kind of related – I am going to a series of lectures for the Signal:Noise project, which is based on research on cybernetics and information theory).
Just looking at the topics discussed during the elective class on digital noise, the question is posed – is digital noise and its negotiation the ‘human’ element? I’m not sure about digital noise being a human element, but I could use some examples of human influence upon existing digital images/issues . Some recent (I say recent but I have only come across this trend in the past 12 months) digital art appears, on the surface, to be using juxtaposed dated software/internet graphics and images. Although I am on the fence with this sort of work – whether it is being ironic for the sake of being ironic and ~trendy~ or it may be recognising&/exploiting the era of early web design and graphics which I may come to appreciate/hate more in the future. We’ll see.
I apologise these example images aren’t great for illustrating my point. Please take a look at this press release for a recent exhibition at NewGallery. Blogging and re-blogging is something I would like to write about… some other time.
I also picked a book up in the library a couple of days ago, full of essays by Futurist artists – out of all the isms in the early 20th century, Futurism is my favourite. I’m more a fan of the ideals than the paintings. I came across a letter written by Luigi Russulo – The Art Of Noises. Not really about noise as discussed earlier, but about experimental music as a distant thought and concept which I found quite fascinating for a 100 year old piece of writing. Weirdly enough I’d never thought about how noise ≠ sound. I liked the curious and ambitious tone in which he comes across with. I may touch on this and the other writings another time, I’ve lent the book to my housemate on the Sound elective course for the time being!