Reconfiguring film studies through software cinema and procedural spectatorship | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
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The increasing use of software and database aesthetics in film and video production has created hybrid modes of spectatorship by altering the dynamic between media production and reception. Software-generated narratives (pre-programmed databases that create films through random selection and combination of discrete audio, visual, and/or textual tracks) remove the viewer from the actual algorithmic process, drawing his/her attention instead on interactions between hardware and software. Here, the element of unpredictability that is part of cinematic pleasure lies in the recombination of discrete elements (audio, visuals, subtitles, and so on) and the unexpected ways in which the software stitches those elements together. The subsequent reduction in the degree and compass of authorial control invites us to reconsider existing frameworks of spectatorship and narration within new contexts of mobility, performance, and databases. In this article I consider films (Lev Manovich, Andreas Kratky, et al., 2003) as prototypical software-driven examples of this shift in viewing conditions and reception contexts. I argue that, despite its emerging and changing techniques and aesthetics, software-generated cinema retains one of the primitive socio-pedagogical functions of the cinema: training audiences to receive and buffer contemporary medial sensations. Just as early cinema prepared audiences and worked as a buffer for shocks of technological and industrial modernity, software cinema trains the viewer in new modes of film spectatorship and new modes of narrative and affective subjectivity that correspond to the hypertextual ways in which we interact with digital technologies. These viewing modes create a new form of procedural spectatorship that has been evident since the first pioneering experiments in generative cinema and a form that is, nonetheless, not entirely detached from existing theoretical paradigms of cinematic spectatorship and the development of the cinematic medium.


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