New Book Reviews now online

PDFs for Amy Ione’s Reviews of Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life and From Melies to New Media: Spectral Projection now online.


From Melies to New Media: Spectral Projections by Wendy Haslem. Intellect Press, Bristol, U.K., 2019. 201 pp., illus. Paper. ISBN: 978-1783209897. (Reviewed by Amy Ione, Leonardo, Vol. 54, No. 3. PDF

Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle. University of Minnesota Press, Posthurnanities Volume 46, Minneapolis, MN, 2018. ISBN: 978-1517902773; ISBN: 1517902770. (Reviewed by Amy Ione, Leonardo, Volume 53, Number 3, 2020, pp. 343-346) PDF

The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir by Sherry Turkle (Reviewed by Amy Ione)

The Empathy Diaries: A MemoirSherry Turkle’s exemplary research on technology as it relates to humans, personal relationships, and children has provided key insights as the computer has ingrained itself in our world. While her early chronicles on innovative technologies were impressive, I felt that the more important contributions were her insights challenging the unbridled enthusiasm of innovative technologists and how technology often compromised privacy. This memoir—primarily devoted to her childhood. through tenure appointment years (1948-1985) — presents more details related to the person behind early works like The Second Self than the researcher who later pennedLife on the Screen,and Alone Together[1]. That said, the book does cogently capture how Turkle came to the interdisciplinary framework that has often set her apart. Or, as she puts it, “I found my life’s work by navigating as a bricoleur, trying one thing and stepping back, making new connections, and most of all, by listening” (p. 241).

 

The volume is divided into three parts. The first part introduces her from childhood to her early college experience (1948-1968). We discover that while she felt a part of her family as she grew up, she simultaneously developed the sense (and the clarity) of an outsider. Some of this came about because her mother believed that any “reality” could be claimed as real. Turkle therefore had to decipher how her mother was interpreting reality because her mother’s “facts” didn’t always conform with the world Turkle experienced.

By contrast, her biological father’s love of science made it easy for him to lose touch with the human needs of his family. Then, once her parents divorced, her mother’s second marriage created identity problems because her mother wanted Turkle to use her second husband’s last name even before she was legally adopted. The upshot of this was that Turkle grew up with two deep convictions: On the one hand, she felt something was wrong with her because of her name. In addition, she understood that four loving adults— her grandparents, her mother, and her Aunt Mildred— had made her the center of their lives. We also learn she was an exceptional student and intent on going to Radcliffe.

“I was focused on finally leaving home. But I had tried to take what I most admired: my aunt’s intelligence and integrity; my grandmother’s empathy and resourcefulness; my grandfather’s tenacity. As for my mother, I wanted her capacity for joy in small things, the energy she brought to every moment.” (p. 77)

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Book Review: From Méliès to New Media: Spectral Projections

Reviewed by Amy Ione, August 2020
Leonardo Reviews, https://www.leonardo.info/review/2020/08/from-melies-to-new-media-spectral-projections

From Méliès to New Media: Spectral Projections is an exploration of the presence and importance of film history in contemporary digital culture. Using a media archaeology approach, the author, Wendy Haslem, aims to demonstrate that innovative new media forms are not only indebted to, but firmly embedded within the traditions and conventions of early film culture. Throughout the book Haslem presents an array of projects that deftly move through topics, like indexicality, semiotics, memory, and digital restoration to light, materiality/immateriality, creative experimentation, time and obsolescence. While the overall goal is to introduce a new language of cinema and an alternative approach to historiography, the net result is a good start but falls short. The study is strongest and most original when presenting contemporary projects and examples of spectacle. Haslem tells us:

“Many of the films that I explore in this book favour spectacle over realism, some prioritize non-linear, experimental narration over linear, classical narrative form. Many of the older (and some of the newer) films exhibit surfaces etched with markers of time, and as such, they provide a rich surface aesthetic to encounter and explore. My approach to writing on film has always been to try to explore the surface of the film itself. That means prioritizing the aesthetic, looking for moments where details of the spectacle reveal history. My tendency is to zoom into surface details, focusing on the traces of celluloid that remain present within a digital ecology. Material detail, surface, aesthetic and mise-en-scéne drive my film analysis. This is also an approach that prioritizes the senses. (p. 28)

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Leonardo Reviews Posted July 2020

Leonardo Reviews is pleased to announce this month’s reviews posting.

Soundtracking Germany: Popular Music and National Identity
by Melanie Schiller
Reviewed by Beate Peter

Planet of the Humans
by Jeff Gibbs, Director; Michael Moore, Executive Producer
Reviewed by George Gessert

IOBA: Virtual Book Fair, May 15-17, 2020

The Independent Online Booksellers Association LogoIOBA Virtual Rare Book Fair
May 15–17, 2020
Virtual doors open 1:00pm EST
www.iobabookfair.com

The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) is proud to announce its first virtual international rare and antiquarian book fair, to be held Friday, May 15 to Sunday, May 17, 2020 at www.iobabookfair.com.

The virtual book fair will enable attendees to browse hundreds, if not thousands, of books and items of ephemera from the safety of their homes. Over four dozen exhibiting booksellers will be available for questions at their “booths” so customers may shop at their leisure during the 3-day fair.

When asked what attendees can expect from the book fair, Doug Nelson, President of IOBA, responded, “We took the best elements from physical book fairs – fresh material, exhibitors from around the globe, and the ability for attendees to easily interact with the exhibitors – and put it online. We anticipate this fair will be a success for our members and the book-buying public, and it will hopefully be the first of many.”

The Independent Online Booksellers Association is a trade organization representing more than 300 online rare and antiquarian booksellers worldwide. IOBA has promoted professionalism, ethics, and trust in online bookselling since 1999. To learn more about IOBA, its members, or to join, visit www.ioba.org.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power Reviewed by Amy Ione

Book cover. Soul of a NationReview:
Mark Godfrey, Zoé Whitley, Curators

de Young Museum, San Francisco, 9 Nov. 2019-8 Mar. 2020
Exhibition organized by Tate Modern
Catalog by D.A.P./Tate; 2017, 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1942884170.

In balancing a range of art practices with socio-political realities, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983 effectively demonstrates that there isn’t a Black art per se but rather a Black experience that informs what, how, and where Black artists present and re-present. The project also superbly presents the rich contributions of African American artists are an important and integral part of American Art, despite their often being underrepresented in art histories. While the catalog expands one’s understanding of the exhibition immeasurably, I was glad to have the opportunity to engage with the actual size works so as to optimally experience the interweaving of artistic insights and materials with concepts like Black Power, Black Pride and the array of social realities that informed the work (e.g., the Watts riots) [1]. Still, the catalog is invaluable. Reading curator Mark Godfrey’s essay on Black abstraction in the publication before visiting the exhibition primed me to see the socio-political elements through the eyes of individual artists musing about material objects and black identify in tandem. In essence, his essay, co-curator Zoé Whitley’s essay, and the recollections from a number of people associated with this art in the documentation, all of whom were black participants, further underscored that there is a black American culture to celebrate, one that has thrived despite its peripheral place within institutions. Furthermore, the written material demonstrate the value of critically engaging with objects on a number of levels.

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Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle

Reviewed by Amy Ione

As I began Phillip Thurtle’s well-researched Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life, I wondered how his “envisioning of life” would intersect with the abundant evidence that a complex array of grids have served as a foundational element in art, architecture, and design production throughout history. A few examples that quickly come to mind include those used to construct perfectly proportioned Egyptian and Aztec temples, Islamic and Buddhist art, Chuck Close’s stylized portraits, and the layout of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Rosalind Krauss’ 1978 statement that the surfacing of the grid in early twentieth century modernist art was an announcement of “modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse” [1] is also a part of the grid litany, although one that gives a negative cast to how we use grids to engage with objects in our world.

As it turns out, Biology in the Grid moves along a markedly different track. Despite his integration of graphic design, the entertainment industry, advertising, and cultural theory, the book is largely orthogonal to the long art and design trajectory. Thurtle sees grids as a framework within a biopolitical circumstance and makes the point that “living in the grid’ does not equalize us because all lives are not treated similarly despite the seeming uniformity of the form. In his words: Continue reading “Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle”

Book Review: The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce

Reviewed by Amy Ione.   

The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce is a robust and multidimensional reminder of the complexity of human consciousness. Moving from Enlightenment studies of electricity and human anatomy to our 21st century digitally-connected globe, this interdisciplinary study asserts that delusions of electronic persecution have been a preeminent symptom of psychosis for over 200 years. One impressive feature of the study is how deftly Sconce weaves together case studies, literary source material, court cases, and popular media. Through this material he argues that we are moving toward an increasingly psychotic reality in which data practices will produce a world in which thought, reflection, and doubt will be disrupted by the very structures humans are putting in place. In his view, the current melding of big data and political power is creating a situation in which it is becoming more difficult to isolate precisely how (or perhaps where) bodies, the mind, electronics, and information intersect. He draws a parallel between psychotic disembodiment and electronic simulations:

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Facebook Society: Losing Ourselves in Sharing Ourselves: Reviewed by Amy Ione

According to Roberto Simanowski, the author of Facebook Society: Losing Ourselves in Sharing Ourselves, this volume isn’t a book about Facebook. Rather his concern is what he calls Facebook society. His starting point is Facebook’s claim that it is building a “global community,” and his underlying assumption is that social-media platforms have altered social interaction, political life, and outlooks on the world, even for people who do not regularly use them. Bringing boundless enthusiasm to how Facebook and other social apps create community, this cultural studies perspective both celebrates networked society and offers a critique of problematic elements derived from digital communities, with a particular focus on our concept of the self.

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