Daniel Anderson’s piece on the rhetoric of layers in the use of digital image and video composition seemed as though he were rehashing material that stated a profound wisdom found in the varied writings of King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Examining the digital aspects of layering a composition in the terms of deliberate process may be fruitful for the study of graphic design. But as a “novel idea,” it’s hard for me to grasp. Layering goes back through time back to some point where after the dawn of civilization, some guy with a flute, some guy with a drum, and some chick with a decent mezzo-soprano voice decided that they would find a way to make sounds that blended well together.
And the video with stylus text? All I can think of is the scene from the German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari where Cesare the Somnambulist wanders through the woods in the silent film era and the name “Caligari” is repeatedly scrawled across the screen through a process of chemical etching in order to convey Cesare’s desperate search for the man. The processes Anderson cites as being used are nothing new, though they certainly add much to the discussion of rhetoric.
The coherent and cogent point concerning digital spaces that Anderson makes, at least in my opinion, as Trauman suggests: “that the shift to binary modes creates a layer of abstraction in digital texts. Digital spaces are more fluid and open to invention in large part because of their many material and representational layers.” More layers does mean more possibilities, even if most of the possibilities in which these layers are used do not stray far from traditional effects that have been used in the capture of video, audio and still imagery in most cases.
It is my perception that the fact that Manovich states that these layers are a key part of software is as simple as stating, “these are the tools that developed because media has always been layered, but we now have the technology to infinitely layer media elements.”
It’s only natural that they would have developed that way. Silent era films had a sound track or band, all sorts of physical processes for film editing and altering exist and have existed since its early inception, even if they were as unrefined as the Techicolor process, multiple cameras and angles have been used to create reels of film that then had to be spliced together, the first title generators and mixboard editors for live television developed in the 70’s were created to apply layer to layer upon layer.
So perhaps there is a rhetorical change that has taken place because there are more layers, but like much of digital media, it would be best to study the changes in comparison to those that came about with other technologies introduced in film and writing, and with the psychology that came along with them.