Tag Archives: language

Cornell

The quality of multiplicity lends itself well to Cornell’s aesthetic. After all, what were his boxes but collections of loosely associated artifacts? Going off of that, the novel itself is a compilation of visual images, created by text, which combine to create a story.

cornell.paul-virginia

As I mentioned in my adaptation post, I would like to make the abstract aspects of the novel, such as the characters’ interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and the multiple ways of organizing and understanding information, concrete through the use of images in my blox. I plan to combine little snippets of text, fragments of LEGO bricks, and lines of computer code to create my blox and mimic the scavenger hunt-esque aesthetic of Cornell’s boxes.

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Adaptation

I think my images of LEGOS and letters will guide my visual adaptation of the multiple aspect of the novel. The two units are similar in many ways; they complement each other the way natural language complements code. Both are geared towards some type of constructive problem solving, which reflects the characters’ cooperation.

IMG_0958 Again, since there is such a clear relationship between multiplicity and the visual in the novel, I don’t think it will be too difficult to adapt this experience as a blox. I will continue with my practice of making an abstract aspect of the novel concrete through use of a visual motif within the novel.

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Experience

As with visibility, it’s easy to see how Mr. Penumbra exhibits Calvino’s quality of multiplicity. For one thing, Clay has to tackle the mystery from multiple angles, both high and low tech. He enlists the help of Oliver Groan, archaeology student, to sift through Penumbra’s ancient files and computer system; Grumble, a mysterious hacker who provides him with a makeshift book scanner on short notice; Kat, who has access to Google’s virtually unlimited resources; Neel, who finances most of the crew’s operations; and Penumbra, who is Clay’s window into the world of the Unbroken Spine and the Festina Lente Company.

Teamwork In addition to the multiple ways to solve a problem, the novel does an excellent job of illustrating the many different methods of acquiring and storing knowledge. It begins with Manutius and his incunabula and ends with Kat and the Google Knowledge Graph.  Mr. Penumbra resembles Calvino’s encyclopedic novel in that it explores the way information and language, and the way we process those, change over time and adapt to new technologies and environments. Like the LEGOS I mentioned in my earlier posts, a finite number of letters combines to create a multitude of words and meanings. Mr. Penumbra celebrates this multiplicity of language in its many forms, both print and electronic.

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Adaptation

For my adaptation of the novel’s exactitude, I want to hybridize natural language and code in a visual format. The exact qualities of both languages are essential to the composition of this book. This one is a little harder to visualize because so much of the work of language is done behind the scenes: we can visualize a story as we read without having to think too much about the mechanics of the language. Likewise, we can even more easily use a computer without comprehending the tremendously specific code that enables it to run correctly. My blox for exactitude will attempt to make visible that which is normally overlooked.

24442

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Experience

As I mentioned previously in my blog, there is a direct correlation between exactitude, natural language, and computer programming. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. We see it especially it Kat and Neel’s work: Kat’s knowledge of code allows her to solve problems with the utmost precision, while Neel’s skills enable him to make an accurate model of the human body using software.

binary

Exactitude is not the sole domain of digital technology, however. As Penumbra explains to the three friends, Aldus Manutius and others like him developed the first book printing technologies, which required specialized knowledge and attention to detail to operate. He pioneered the field of data science by  making information available to readers in a concise, portable, easily replicated format: the book.

th-paris-1542

 

As a novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore pays homage to the pioneers, both past and current, of exactitude in language. As a work of literature in itself, the novel hopes to bridge the gap between the study of print and electronic media by bringing the precision and speed of computers to bear on the wealth of knowledge and history accumulated in print books.

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Analogy

Jackson’s combination of minimalist colors and poetic language in my body remind me of the work of graphic artist Julian Peters. Peters takes classic works of poetry and translates them into graphic novels. He uses the same black and white color scheme to add contrast while creating detailed visualizations of the language of the poems, some of which are very abstract.

This is taken from his rendering of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which is my favorite poem. When I was reading this, I noticed the similarities between Jackson’s and Peters’s translation of images into words (Jackson) and words into images (Peters). This is exactly what Calvino describes in his definition of the two types of imaginative processes. In both cases, the visual aspect of the work greatly enhances the linguistic component. Peters’s illustrations greatly added to my enjoyment of the poem, and I look forward to his completion of the Prufrock project.

prufrock4

Follow the link to explore more of Peters’s work:

http://julianpeterscomics.com/page-1-the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock-by-t-s-eliot/

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Analogy

When I started thinking about lightness, the image of ice  immediately came to mind. Because of the hydrogen bonds in water molecules, solid water (ice) is actually less dense than liquid water, thus enabling ice to float. This seems counterintuitive, but water is an exceptional molecule. When water freezes, the molecules create a crystal lattice structure which is about 9% less dense than liquid  water.

submerged iceberg

This accords with Calvino’s definition of lightness. The apparently massive ice rises to the top of the liquid water because of chemical interactions at the atomic level. This is similar to how good literature rises above the heaviness of living because of the interaction between language and the human imagination. Good literature seems to defy the laws of this world while at the same time firmly anchoring us in the world through its ability to relate universal human experiences.

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Emblem

the-nightmare-before-christmas

My emblem of exactitude is The Nightmare Before Christmas, a 1993 claymation film by Tim Burton. To produce a claymation film, the filmmakers have to create movable characters out of clay, then film each small adjustment of the character’s body to create the illusion of continuous motion. This ties in perfectly with my examination of the relationship between literature and animation in the E-Lit Example and Graphic posts.

A claymation film depends a lot on precision, skilled craftsmen, and quality storytelling. The individual frames all add up to one continuous piece which flows smoothly and entertains. Just as Calvino says that literature is the fulfillment of language, so too is film the fulfillment of the static image.

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Analogy

When I think of exactitude, I think about grammar and syntax. These are the foundation of every language, from natural languages, such as English and Japanese, to formal languages, such as computer programming languages. Right now, I’m taking a Java programming class. I’ve never been more exact than when I’m working on a project in Java. Unlike humans, computers take language very literally and do not interpret meaning based on context.

For example, if I were to type the sentence

i luv ice cream its gr8

you would be able to understand it perfectly, even though it’s not grammatically correct. If, however, I were to type something with similar syntactical errors into a computer program, I’d be awash in error messages. I’d have to type something more formal, like this:

I love ice cream. It’s great.

See what I mean? Fortunately, despite their inability to interpret context clues, computer languages are extraordinarily powerful. I used Java to write a program that draws Albers squares, which we learned about in Graphic Design: The New Basics. 

This is what the code looks like:

import java.awt.Color;

public class albers
{
/*This program creates Albers squares. I’m an English major, and I got the
idea for this project from one of my English classes, where we’re learning about Josef Albers.
The program takes 9 command line arguments, which correspond to the RGB values for 3
separate colors. Enter the RGB values (separated by spaces) for your three colors, then run the program
to produce your Albers squares. Have fun!

Ex. java albers 255 0 0 0 0 255 0 0 0 255
will give you a square with red, green, and blue components.

A complete list of colors can be found at:
kb.iu.edu/data/aetf.html
*/
public static void main (String[] args)
{
//command line args–RGB values for 3 Albers square colors
String red1 = args[0];
String green1 = args[1];
String blue1 = args[2];
String red2 = args[3];
String green2 = args[4];
String blue2 = args[5];
String red3 = args[6];
String green3 = args[7];
String blue3 = args[8];

//convert RGB values into color variables
int redVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[0]);
int greenVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[1]);
int blueVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[2]);
int redVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[3]);
int greenVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[4]);
int blueVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[5]);
int redVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[6]);
int greenVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[7]);
int blueVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[8]);

//available colors

Color color1 = new Color (redVal1, greenVal1, blueVal1);
Color color2 = new Color (redVal2, greenVal2, blueVal2);
Color color3 = new Color (redVal3, greenVal3, blueVal3);

StdDraw.setCanvasSize (800,800);

//first Albers square
StdDraw.setPenColor(color1);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.25,.5,.2);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color2);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.25,.5,.1);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color3);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.25,.5,.05);

//second Albers square
StdDraw.setPenColor(color3);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.75,.5,.2);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color2);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.75,.5,.1);
StdDraw.setPenColor(color1);
StdDraw.filledSquare(.75,.5,.05);
}
}

To an untrained eye, it may seem very technical and abstruse, but the point is that the syntax must be flawlessly exact for the program to run.

 

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Graphics

"I prefer to see with closed eyes." --Josef Albers

“I prefer to see with closed eyes.” –Josef Albers

Color and visibility go hand in hand when it comes to creating art and literature. The picture above shows a sequence of Albers squares, which were developed by Josef Albers as part of his scientific study of colors and the relationships between them.

Lupton and Philips state that “Color can convey a mood, describe reality, or codify information. Words like “gloomy,” “drab,” and “glittering” each bring to mind a general climate of colors, a palette of relationships. Designers use color to make some things stand out (warning signs) and to make other things disappear (camouflage). Color serves to differentiate and connect, to highlight and to hide.”

This is precisely what Albers desired to illustrate through his study of color. Originally, the use of color in graphic design was considered fantastic, while black and white designs were seen as realistic. A good example of this is the movie The Wizard of Oz: during the “real” parts of the movie when Dorothy is in Kansas, the film is shot in black and white, but once she reaches Oz, the film switches to Technicolor to denote magic and fantasy. Over time, these modes of representation switched places. Color came to denote realism, while black and white is now employed to place an artwork in a particular historical period (think of how the movie Schindler’s List is shot in black and white) or to create an aesthetic effect.

The minimalist color scheme in my body creates contrast, and the starkness of the artwork parallels Jackson’s honest, forthright language. Her choice of colors helps to set the tone for the work even before we have begun reading her story. Once again, it is the image, rather than the word, which enters the imagination first.

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