Steppin’ Out of Reality

steppin-out

bowler-up

 

The 7th Principle of Mass Media Scans is, A new mass media technology will initially borrow the content and imitate the conventions of the mass medium that is currently dominant in a society. As the technology advances, the new medium will consume the older medium, turning it into content.  This  principle and the media text produced in this manner is what is called Necro-Media. This post features some examples of Necro-Media. 

While exploring posts from fellow photography bloggers, I came across some tagged as Polamatic. The Polamatic app enables you to convert your phone shots into a retro aesthetic that turns the shot into a composition that has the features and qualities of an old Polaroid picture.  I have some experience producing the Polaroid look, and PaintShop Pro imaging software includes a simple Polaroid frame effect which allows for the creation of Polaroid Transfer effects.  As a challenge and an experiment, I used two shots I had taken at the local bowling alley, when my daughter was participating in the weekly Special Olympics bowling night.  I tried to emulate as closely as possible the frame & look produced by a Polamatic app.  It took a bit of time to create & modify the frames, and the viewer can judge for themselves these first attempts. 

Let’s now consider how this all fits in with the concept of Necro-Media.  To begin with, the app itself is such an example. The app allows the user to take digital photographs with their phone and turn them into digital representations of old Polaroid pictures. The Mass Media technology allows the user to imitate the codes and conventions of an earlier medium, Polaroid Photography.  What I attempted in my experiment was to use other software to imitate the app.  In one sense I was just doing the same thing as the app, so that is an example of the same type of Necro-Media.  In another way, I was applying the principle to the app itself, by trying to emulate the Polamatic app’s features, including the use of dirt/scratches/folds and colourful text font.  The final compositions are Necro-Media of Necro-Media. 

The Steppin’ Out title for the first composition, brought to mind the classic jazz/swing standard, Steppin’ Out With My Baby, composed by Irving Berlin in 1948 and first performed by Fred Astaire in the movie, Easter Parade.  I selected the 1993 video of Tony Bennet ‘s rendition  of the song.

The music video was very successful at the time of its release. Helping to bring Bennett to the attention of a much younger generation, it established him as an elder statesman of a passing generation of entertainers.  It formed a bridge bridge between very different times. We can see this video composition as both a homage to the past, and as an example of Necro-Media. 

The first obvious  component is the use of B&W to emulate the old classic Fred & Ginger  movie musicals of the 1930s.  The choice of wardrobe combines the Fred & Ginger style with elements of the contemporary look of when the video was released.  The choice of camera angles, distances and staging also plays homage to the past. The mix of the older tap dancer ( could not find his name ) and the younger contemporary black dancers widens the target audience, while acknowledging the past and visually reflecting how much has changed in both the American entertainment industry & society. 

As the technology advances, the new medium will consume the older medium, turning it into content. This is both figuratively and literally true in this video. Besides all the aesthetic imitation and use of codes and conventions, take note of what is included in the limited number of props.  Included were, the early phonograph with the horn amplifier, the large records, the microphones included both 1930s nightclub that Bennett walks up to begin singing and a close-up of a radio studio microphone.  The later goes with the old radio being tuned .  The other technological prop was the fan typical of the early movies as a symbol of emotional heat and cool music.  

Mass Media technology and the forms of media  it generates are constantly changing and adapting. New art forms are created and old one respond to the impact, some adapt while others disappear, still others become specialty forms of art and communication.  The recent changes in the WordPress Reader demonstrate this, but that is for another post.  So now I will conclude & post this analysis; let’s  see  how it looks on the Reader. 

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“The Old New World” – an example of Necro- Media

 

Necro-media is the re-purposing of older forms of Mass Media & Mass Media content as content of new forms of media. In this case, photographer and animator Alexey Zakharov of Moscow, Russia, has created a superb animated short using camera projection.  The content was a series of photographs of American cities taken between 1900 and 1940. They were sourced from the website Shorpy.  

Besides bringing the photographs to life in a steampunk/Gernsback  vision, the short makes use of the aesthetic of aged damaged motion picture film and the codes and conventions of early motion picture establishing shots. The audio track is of Al Bowlly singing, Guilty, a song composed (published in 1931) by Richard Whiting, Harry Akst and Gus Kahn.

 

 

Pulp Covers & Movie Posters – The Age of Necro-media

Necro-media is a concept that I have been exploring on my Dark Pines Photo blog. Necro-media refers to both the codes & conventions (forms) of mass media and media content that were dominant in the past. Necro-media is often rediscovered by a new generation.

Click image to read Doc WordPress adventures

Click image to read Doc WordPress adventures


This generation may embrace it in its original form, (lovers of Old Time Radio, silent films, or original pulp/fictional detectives) or they re-purpose the medium, such as those who take up Alternative Photographic processes or attempt to emulate them using digital darkroom methods.

 

 

Necro-media grows out of the seventh Mass Media Principle (full list of principles here):

 

A new mass media technology will initially borrow the content and imitate the conventions of the mass medium that is currently dominant in a society.

 

 

Shakespeare borrowed ideas for plot & characters from earlier folk tales, historical accounts, and early prose narratives. Early photography of the 19th century used the codes and conventions of portraiture & landscape painting. In the 20th century, early cinema & radio broadcasts borrowed from the theatre, popular novels and the then growing popular ( North American Pulps ) magazines.

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Around the 1970s a change occurred. Mass Media hit a period of steady state. Movies, television, radio and print achieved an uneasy balance of power. Each had carved out a segment of the target audience’s attention. Each medium, based on their particular codes & conventions, played to their strengths to hold on to the audience, create sufficient demand, and generate revenue. Contemporary content, both escapist & serious, became more dominant.

The Deer Hunter Poster

If movies or television borrowed from print, it was more likely to be based on the current best-selling work of fiction or none fiction.

On Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

As the cost of producing movies & television shows with historical settings became more and more prohibitive, the past retreated further into print & memory.

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Ironically, there was a subtle shift towards the creation of future realities and fantasy realms that seemed to be as much a re-interpretation of the past as visions of the future.

Fantasy SciFi movie posters

The saturation of cinema & television content that was grounded in contemporary & futuristic settings combined with the gradual drift away from print. It catered to a youthful audience and their shared mass media experience built up a set of values, belief and ideologies. This target audience was centred on present day concerns & anticipation of a potentially bright future. As a consequence, the passage of time & social change was disconnecting them from the past. The past, when it was presented, became either a romantic fantasy escape or a commentary on the present. Even the Detective of the 1930s became a means of exploring contemporary issues.

Chinatown & Dark Shadows

With the arrival of information age and the pervasiveness of social media in the 21st century, cinema, television and print media are now on the verge of being fully integrated into the internet . This is more than a change of delivery system. Just as photography is both a medium and media content, so now have cinema, television and print been consumed/incorporated into new media.

The old approach of borrowing the content & codes and conventions of previous media no longer applies when the previous media becomes the content of the new. What we now see is media consuming media. Scrambling for revenue through new content, the snake is swallowing its tail. In an effort to produce more content, creativity becomes a process of cannibalizing the past. No longer just a snake, mass media becomes the hydra , chomping at its many heads to grow more of the same.

 

 

Fantasy SciFi 2 movie posters

Movies, like novels and series televisions, must have sequels. When the sequels run out of steam, reboot the whole series and start again. Not satisfied with print media as its source, cinema will repeat past cinema success or even more telling, turn old television shows into movies in the hopes of catching a ready-made audience and insuring profitable sequels. With television also revisiting its past, the once “humble” comic book & graphic novel has become a potential ready-made source for huge profits, as the two media compete for content.

 

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The comic book now looks to extending the life of old television series and capture the attention of the related target audience.

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The theatrical stage, which is another form of mass media, is not immune. Broadway versions of movies are becoming more common, while cinema & television are dipping their toes into the musical form.

It is difficult to tell where the trend of Necro-media will go. When it is used effectively and creatively it can produce a theatrical production such as Avenue Q, which played with the tropes of Sesame Street or innovative pieces of digital art or online video. Unfortunately, the business demands of the mass media industry have had a difficult time adapting to new forms of media and mass  media technology. The old models are not working and creative new content is limited. In all likelihood, new content and forms will not originate within the traditional industries, but will appear in the hinterland of self-production. A tweet drama or a hyper-texted musical ? A multimedia online narrative or a serialized flash mob mystery novel ? The possibilities are there. It may be happening now.