Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movement and the Digital Image

As an initial reaction to a technical detail of Mark Hansen’s argument, I’d like to talk about movement and pixilation in the digital image. On page 9 of the introduction to New Philosophy for New Media Hanson writes:

“If the digital image is an accumulation of such discontinuous fragments, [pixels] each of which can be addressed independently of the whole, there is no longer anything materially linking the content of the image with its frame, understood in its Bergsonist-Deleuzean function as a cut into the flux of the real. Rather the image becomes a merely contingent configuration of numerical values that can be subjected to ‘molecular’ modification, that lacks any motivated relation to any image-to-follow.”

According to my, admittedly limited, knowledge of video files this is, strictly speaking, untrue. A compressed video file is made up of both the change in color pixel-by-pixel, frame-by-frame (called the I-frame) and the movement within those frames through time (called the P-frame). This is what allows for the technique called datamoshing in which I-frames are deleted but P-frames are not, creating a decidedly unique effect. This technique has been used by artists such as Takeshi Murata:

And Paperrad:

How this retention of movement-in-time effects Hanson’s argument theoretically I’m unsure. In Deleuzean terms, the strictly striated space of pixel grid is smoothed over by the P-frame’s access to movement which identifies larger forms on the screen and transgresses the borders of individual pixels. For a how-to video on datamoshing and more information about the process you can watch this video:

-Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa

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