Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Noise

I was intrigued by Terranova's characterization of noise and how it could relate to Brucker-Cohen's work. In his last post, Sebastian cited Wiener's definition of noise as the "unbridgeable gap between representation and reality" (32). Terranova cites conventional concepts of noise as the 'demon' of “background static that is not solved by amplification” (12).

Nonetheless, Terranova offers a complicated distinction between noise and intended meaning. She explains that the “information source, or sender, selects a message to be coded into a signal that is then transmitted through a channel to a receiver. Information is the content of the communication, in the sense that it is what needs to be transported with the minimum loss of quality […]. At the same time, this content is not defined by its meaning, but by a mathematical function.” Therefore she has to ask: “In which ways is a signal mathematically distinguishable from noise?” (13), if “an encoded television signal or piece of software has no meaning in the conventional sense” (13).

If encoded information has no inherent meaning, then what is at stake when the intended message conveyed by such codes is in fact conventional noise itself? Take for example the site 'YouWorkForThem', started in 2001 by designers Michael Cina and Michael Young. The site distributes the work of various graphic designers for commercial and personal use. They have a large selection of stock video for use in web design projects. I came across some interesting series of video called “Color Noise,” “TV Noise,” and “Grifter Noise.” The screen shot above is from one of the stock video products.

Terranova reveals dissolving distinctions in contemporary digital network cultures, including the distinctions between “production and consumption, labor and cultural expression” (75). Could such a noise commodity point to another imminent intersection, that between meaning and noise itself – all the while conveyed in the same meaningless codes?

Such blurred definitions can also be seen in the work of contemporary sound artists. One example is the work of André Avelãs, who builds noise symphony installations from found objects. He has said that his work is “not as a carrier of content but a malleable material which shifts and changes in relation to the methods and machines through which it is reproduced.”

Is it fair to say that his work does not carry any meaning and is rather a pure vehicle of noise? Or rather is he touching on the same entanglement of noise and content? And how do J.B.C.'s scrapyard challenge musical controllers or cell phone simpleTEXT productions fit into these ever-merging categories?

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