Fiber optic vines on the third wall : cultivating natural media in the digital age
Bendick, Eric Louis.
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Twenty-thousand years ago, the earliest known depictions of natural forms were inscribed by primitive man onto the surface of the "third wall" . . . be it cave, grotto, overhang, or alcove. Today the myriad representations of our natural world, along with the expanding cosmic narratives of 'natural history' that animate and describe such characters within an ornate epistemological framework (part-science: evolution, thermodynamics, ecology, and part-social criticism: environmental justice, sustainability, conservation) proliferate in ever-increasing mobile permutations; not only in our textbooks and living rooms, but also in our cars, on billboards, Jumbotrons, laptops, cell phones, and portable media players. Throughout history, changes in representational 'mode' (across and through new technical mediums) have ushered in significant narrative metamorphoses, formal innovations, and accompanied revolutionary transitions in symbolic language. The focus of this paper is to assess the implications of recent technological shifts, especially those characterized by the widespread contemporary adoption of digital technologies and the emergence of vast, interconnected networks of computing power, on the representation, production, and distribution of 'natural world' (both science and social) new media content. Through a detailed survey of popular case-studies, analytical research, and data trends, this paper will analyze new media models both from within and without as they relate to digital publishing, non-linear content creation, social networking, and the increasingly permeable interface between consumer and producer in our contemporary mediascape. Finally, this paper applies formative research to prescribe a more general use of 'best practices' in new technology which may facilitate a more progressive and participatory moment in post-industrial 'natural world' media-making, in concert with peers and fans, corporations and collectives, and open to interpretation, cross-pollination, and synergistic hybridity. It is no exaggeration to remark that this technological transformation will forever change the way we learn, evaluate, and participate in a global dialogue whose subject is none other than the globe itself. As our ancestors surely harnessed the power of the 'third wall' to communicate in both personal and broad strokes, so this essay seeks to re-imagine the 'digital third wall' as a place of increasing ubiquity, intimacy, contention, and epistemological power throughout the evolving realms of scientific and social natural representation.