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<nettime> open letter to manovich - how soft?
philip pocock on Thu, 13 Feb 2003 01:04:40 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> open letter to manovich - how soft?

lev manovich, there is a difference between a 'database' and a list, 
heap, archive or library. your text 'the language of new media' garbles 
the current distinguishing factor feature of a database, its realtime, 
open access, participatory dynamism, upon which net activism, political 
and cultural activism, and network media art  counts to counter your 
retrograde database idea, as synonimous with a pile of film clips in a 
20th C. editing room. your open definition of a closed database, makes 
the word useless and it could just as well be a synonym for garbage can 
or anything for that matter. it's dangerous to publish fallacious 
uniformed texts and pompously title them 'language of new media'. i 
returned the book and ward all my students from it. it sets back open 
access network media if anyone follows your ami-prop-style apparatus 
guidelines,  which mirror simply stated a fbi dossier database idea, 
your GUI (Global User Interface) clone. Search manovich page for GUI at: 
http://www.manovich.net/cinema_future/toc.htm to catch my drift.

is soft cinema masquerading as a new media work when in fact it is 
giving american tv new style a digital technology facelift, co-opting 
dynamic database open participatory constructive knowledge bases as 
peripheral? seems so, as i cant find a trace of database cinema or 
narrative at your site or in your show?

your work, offered as videotape or dvd on the site,  yes videotape, 
clearly exposes how little dynamics of databases appeal to you (suppose 
it diminishes your belt size as the only GUI since 1998 as you write on 
your page, URL above) and in doing so it blinds newbie new media workers 
from seeing the radical dynamics of open access database cinema and 
media activities (such as a simple threaded mailing list!)

your work as you yourself confessed in zkm is based on a fixed 
audiotape. standard usa propaganda basis, easily controlled, and even 
timed for insertion of decorating visuals a la gulf war one, or 
commercial sponsors, since the time is set and the message too.

  i have since established this fact in soft cinema in zkm as well and it 
reveals this very disturbing fact. one that ought to be acted against. i 
protest! manovich's work operates like cnn does, by fixing a soundtrack 
(controllable by media and government executives) and then decorating 
that with images to help the propaganda messages go down. manovich 
borrows like the cosmetic firm clinique did some years ago, a mondrian 
signature, lovely, to help the misinformation medicine go down.

media politics in america is nothing new to me. i am a graduate of nyu 
filmschool, a canadian born irish citizen. and it is time to act and 
expose the ami-prop viruses like manovich masquerade.

that you do not distinguish or practice open audience dynamics in your 
database idea exposes the mistitle of your book 'language of new media'. 
where's the 'language' when a crucial new media term like 'database' is 
indistinguishable from 'film archive'. it can be any collection in your 
definition and as 'language' your term 'database' loses all meaning and 
in fact perverts its primary characteristices, hides them from new 
readers, and supports just more american style media control by closing 
the ports to open alteration and co-authorship of information and how is 
is computed in a dynamic database, the standard network media form, ie 
linux, apache, php, mysql, perl, or flash, action script and python...

your book 'language of new media' mr manovich is more appropriately 
called 'how to use new media to give the nightly news a digital 

i have studied your soft cinema site and installation at zkm. i live in 
karlsruhe. in both modes soft cinema does nothing more than dangerously 
conscript internet vernacular and open access networks to produce 
nothing more than yet another how-to build an ami digital propaganda 
bomb. and it bombs.  your classic american propaganda machinery built 
from bolshevik agitprop torpes  to close off network media as a prison 
containing labyrinths for passengers leaves the building walls in tact 
and the passengers/prisoners all go nowhere but in loops concocted fo 
optical pleasure by the only Global User Interface, self-proclaimed as 
you by you on your soft cinema url. oh no, not another net art 

you send a fallacious message in writing and practise that a database 
is  a closed loop. appealing to bolshevik cinema not surprisingly as it 
was the basis for 20th century propaganda style and technique, as pretty 
as it may be. well the cnn nightly war report trailers are also pretty 
so some. and look out here comes the database cinema version 
masqeurading as new media - soft cinema - for a soft sell of new media 
for an old meesage or 'massage'.

if anyone thinks i am off my rocker check it yourself 
reads and looks not ironically unfortunately just like a homeowner's 
insurance site selling something that it is not.

and here's one for you lev. take IJ (Information Jockey) i wrote that in 
96. DJ -Vj-IJ.  more jargon. i said it at a net event for fun. your url 
term FJ Film Jockey has less surprise or stachastics than a tv remote. 
or is FJ an anagram for how some lonely souls ride films on the 
internet? that would at least be half a laugh. so much jargon and no art 
or media. advertising pure to conscript new media for ami-prop ends imho.

the notion of a dynamic database from what i can search on your 
website - http://www.manovich.net/cinema_future/toc.htm - or in your 
zkm  tv room is not present. DYNAMIC DATABASE software, open access, 
two-way, user-dependent, participatory, co-authorial and so on database 
attributes, is completely left to the periphery in your hyper-american 
propaganda view of a static one-man closed labyrinthain imprisoned 
database, your idea of a database as something akin to how you embody in 
one person - you- what you call a GUI on your site. i quote:

"Texts used for narration in some Soft Cinema movies come from GUI 
(Global User Interface) a collection of short stories I have been 
working on since 1998."
- http://www.manovich.net/cinema_future/toc.htm

are you proposing yourself as the embodiment of all users worldwide? 
that would concur with your closed fbi-style database idea, of which you 
give only 1995 non-progressively loading quicktime snapshots online and 
some indication of 'rules', which are certainly as rudimentary as 
harrd-coded keywords and tags, independent of users (correct me if i am 
wrong) and as limiting as the ai algorithms 'rule-based' rather than 
learning scenarios can drive. its like colin powell showing us some 
windows on a what we are told is a mega intricate database of discovery. 
we too see only some unchangin screenshots or quicktime movies.

i am curious now about what you call algorithmic cinema? as you do not 
specify what algorithms you use other than mixing them up with  
'rule-based' keyword searching, apparently there isnt much ai in your 
code there, and like the database you reduce the concept of an algorithm 
to something trivial, static and closed, like fingerprinting or checking 
credit card numbers, as rule-based logic (and america) proliferates all 
too much. why online? the jig is up. free to upload such propaganda 
building digital system design is as a firm belief of mine as the 
responsibility to expose it as exactly that. i think abe lincoln said 

some excerpts from your soft cinema url to raise questions for anyone 
searching your site for the slightest hint of contemporary standards of 
online database-driven media or cinema. i find nothing more than a 
constructivist version of a media carousel, not much different from a 
90s cd rom business presenation. pre-toasted by the big GUI for all to 
gawk at. why though pretend it is something that it isnt lev and confuse 
the 497 media students i have here just a few miles from the soft cinema 

and i do have a work also in the show displaying soft cinema ofr any 
patient consumers. but that is only to dispell any sour grapes 
motivation for this mail. i write it because it is time to act online 
again and expose such shabby misappriations of what we do here, borrow 
our terminology to set the clock back the the time of the cold war.

lev, three words, databases are dynamic.

and dynamic doesnt mean simply relational, it changed with OOP not OOPs.

from manovich soft cinema url:
"2. The second idea is database narrative. Rather than beginning with a 
script and then creating media elements which visualise it, I 
investigate a diffirent paradigm: starting with a large database and 
then generating narratives from it. In Soft Cinema, The media elements 
are selected from a database of a few hundred video clips to construct a 
potentially unlimited number of different short films."

the soft cinema (lite version, that is one monitor) displayed for visual 
consumers at zkm operates without meaningful human user or online  
participation or influence. instead soft cinema in zkm is based on a 
prerecorded female voice. it's not a live generated mp3 stream which 
could open up the system. but no, its static and prerocorded like a news 
report on the 6 oclock news in america. and you parade that as database 
cinema? its standard propaganda, american style for its high tech high 
priced attributes. it's as old as radio propaganda, nothing database 
about it.

the act is up. anyone else looking into your use of jargon and trying to 
find it in your media will realize that what you are doing is assisting 
the global broadcast media in how to dress up their bandwidth with 
closed coding and non-participatory, manneristic media tropes and have 
the public think it is how new media works. soft cinema does little but 
freshen up propaganda appeal and dangerously close minds as well to what 
linux, apache, php, mysql or any other dynamic database system can dream 
up as an alternative to manovichs at best 'pointlessness and click' 
digital tools for centralin contoling the time and information with a 
little psseudo-aesthetic game-like appeal thrown in.

i protest. i call for an embargo on american new media. soft cinema is 
poisoning my students minds with fallacious closed views on the radical 
potential of new media, and cultural politics is not far from washington 
politics. it ought to at least be exposed for what it is. gee, lev, why 
dont you do baghdad and kabul so we can really find out online what's 
going on? those fit your rule of places you've never been :-|

it' time to act. say yes to an embargo on any use of new media to 
further america's closed society (closed database) cultural politics now 
creeping into media art.

in our current context, like so many i am trying to find out in my 
world, the online world, where things are going wrong. soft cinema is 
not a scapegoat, it's the work of a major player who ought to know 
better, or work harder, to get the database dynamic before using it to 
illustrate a theory that itself needs an 80 year update.

philip pocock
gabelsbergerstr. 1 d-76135 karlsruhe germany
mobile/sms +49 1707 369 870
tel +49 721 845 715  fax +49 721 830 2714

the more we share, the more we have. - l.nimoy

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