I was reading the section of Ira’s book, Foundation Processing, called “Motion.” In it, he says:
In many ways, computer monitors are animation machines, as the pixels being continuously refreshed on the screen, at your monitor’s refresh rate, are a form of animation (not a terribly exciting one). This fact that animation can happen in front of your eyes and be wholly undetectable is significant.
I hadn’t really understood, not REALLY, what was at stake in “flickering signifiers” (N. Katherine Hayles, “Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers,” Electronic Culture, ed. Timothy Druckrey). But this passage made sense for me of a phenomenon I encountered a while ago at the library. I’m not sure it’s still true, but, when King Library first put up surveillance cameras, I remember looking at them and seeing the computer screens just behind me. They looked like TV screens used to look late at night, after stations went off the air, lines cycling up over and over again; the quickly moving lines were all that could be seen on a gray screen. Then I would turn around, look at the library’s computer screens with my own eye, and see no lines, no cycling, a perfectly normal desktop picture. I’d turn back to the video camera, and it would still be there. Things are moving all over the place on these screens, but our eyes distill them into still images.
I at first posted about how this idea surfaces in sci fi (and poetry). More interesting — Ira says “significant,” but it could also be sinister – is to think about the effects of distilling moving, flickering, animated images into still images. Is anything subtracted from our view in the process of distillation? Is the process completely “natural,” or informed by ideology, by habits of seeing? It strikes me that the eye’s propensity to render moving images still is very much like the capitalist’s desire to render relationships as commodities. Not all reduction is bad — some of it is essential to sanity, if nothing else. But does the eye’s desire to reduce movement to stillness affect our ideas of beauty or even promote the use of Ritalin for ADHD? (sorry for such a huge leap) Counteracting the sinister is why it is so important to teach code; knowing a bit of it enables looking under the hood.