September 13, 2002
Real Time

Caveat that it's late and caveat that this involves something by a paying client, but if you're on a PC, and you use WinAmp or WMP or Real to play music, there's something to pay attention to, maybe. There's this company that made something for Spiderman that's kind of interesting. It's a visualizer for your audio player, and you can download it from the Spiderman site. (It's all flash, so no bookmarks: skip intro > enhanced media > visualizers and skins)

Install the appropriate one, and instead of opium-like satori patterns in your media player, you'll see a beautifully rendered Spiderman moving through the city, all 3D. It's pretty. Very.

It's pretty, but the really interesting part is this: the streets and sky and even the buildings (you'll see) are all responding to the music you're listening to. Spidey is independent, but you can imagine him also being responsive, five minutes into the future. And that's where entertainment takes an interesting turn.

Because if Spidey moves through the city, his paths and actions determined by pitch, volume, it's not "interactive" per se; you can't determine which way he'll go, or what he'll do. But it's compelling because it has the grammar and drama of predetermined narrative, without the constraints of same.

This is not interactive entertainment, it's something like systems-response entertainment, something which is in dialogue with the world, just not you in particular. Which puts you back in lean-back mode, entertainment wise; this is how we like to sit anyways. But it puts you in lean-back mode with some of the complexity of the mad big world brought to life.

It's like 60's concept-kunst "systems esthetics" but lite, or maybe not so lite. The systems esthetics folks ("For systems, information, in whatever form conveyed, becomes a viable esthetic consideration") were concerned with somehow revealing systems; environmental, mathematical, political. But Spiderman, for example, builds on the interplay of their complexity without revealing anything. The viewer is the one piece of the puzzle that knows the least, and is the most passive. Everything else at play in front of us, and we ourselves at rest.

It could be that this resonates now in particular because the world -- this new one -- feels so far from the effects of our own interaction or agency. Look at Spiderman, but just for example: invisible systems define and redefine the skyline. Invisible systems define and redefine the skyline.

Or, I'm quoting the 60s, one of the systems esthetics artists: "These processes evolve without the viewer's empathy. He becomes a witness. A system is not imagined, it is real."

Which is worth pursuing, maybe. Or worth following. It's worth something, anyway. Either way, I could watch Spidey forever, especially with Le Tigre playing. Feels a little dangerous without being so at all. That's Entertainment.

Posted by at September 13, 2002 04:59 AM
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