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Huffington Post (part 2)

"Software Takes Command: An Interview with New Media Theorist Lev Manovich," Part 2. By Illya Szilak.
December 24, 2013.


Illya Szilak: In Software Takes Command, you make an interesting statement: "So while simulated depth of field, maintains the memory of the particular physical media (lens based photo, film recording) from which it came, it became essentially a new technique which functioned as 'character' in its own right."
Reading this, I was reminded of cultural critic Hiroki Azuma's assertion in Otaku: Japan's Database Animals that "independently and without relation to an original narrative, (some) consumers consume only such fragmentary illustrations or settings." He describes this as "chare-moe" - a consumption of and search for database characteristics, which, by fulfilling some desire in the user, substitute for story and significance. Do you think that the use of particular media species for particular effect/affect, a move that uncouples it from the physical apparatus, parallels or will parallel a move away from narrative in writing?

Lev Manovich: It is s interesting that you bring up Database Animals - I think it's one of the best books of cultural theory published in the new century. It was also very interesting that apparently in the same time (late 1990s) both Azuma and I turned to "database" as a concept, which can explain some new cultural phenomena. I think that there is a real parallel in what we describe, in the following way. Azuma says that at a certain stage of the development of Japanese popular culture, it's no longer driven by narratives or by characters ("properties" in US entertainment language); instead, the "elements" of manga/anime/games are now separate parts of characters. These parts/elements become separated from the narratives and the complete characters. My argument (already present in The Language of New Media but more fully developed in the new book) is that softwarization liberates effects and techniques previously hard wired to particular media technologies; now they can be applied to any content. The designer operates with a pallet of hundreds of such effects (think Photoshop tools and filters.) So here as well, the parts are "virtualized" and they acquire new status.

2013  Interview