Day Six – Considering the Spectator

Reflecting on  his 1963 exhibition of prepared television sets, Nam June Paik wrote:

I utilized intensely the live-transmission of normal program, which is the most variable optical and semantical event in 1960s. The beauty of distorted Kennedy is different from the beauty of football hero, or not always pretty but always stupid female announcer (AFTERLUDE to the Exposition of EXPERIMENTAL TELEVISION, 1964)

Paik’s overwhelming sexism aside, his statement foregrounds the importance of not only the image, but also the programmatic content being manipulated. One question we’ve considered this week is how spectatorial reception might be affected as we distort the televisual broadcast in real-time.

First, we noticed that here in Owego, NY viewers using converter boxes are receiving an incredibly limited subset of local broadcast stations. We’ve consistently received 3 channels of PBS programming from Binghamton, and only occasionally receive a local ABC channel. This means that most of the programming being viewed in Owego is educational/governmental content – children’s programs, social issue documentaries, cooking programs – rather than the sort of entertainment programming delivered by commercial networks.

The datamoshing and circuit-bending of PBS broadcast signal(s) highlights an intriguing breakdown. The lags, stutters and moshes we are imposing upon the incoming broadcast images, introduce not only a beauty to the image but also an awareness of the limits of a trusted communication system. Will a glitchy PBS news broadcast cause viewers to question the authority of both the information being transmitted as well as the stability of the transmission, itself? Will a datamoshed Elmo cause children to more closely examine the image? What sorts of meanings might we find within digital noise that clear reception might mask?