by Joanne McNeil

  • Notes from Inside the Ecosystem: Joanne McNeil on Apple Vision Pro

    From the late aughts until pre-pandemic times, Apple’s presence in my life seemed concise and easy to recognize. It manufactured the phone in my pocket and the laptop I worked on. I picked an iPhone and a MacBook over the alternatives for the usual reasons: because Apple products were reliable and well-designed with intuitive user interfaces. The company, as a product manufacturer, appeared to have a vastly different purpose than the neighboring Silicon Valley empires extracting and monetizing data like Google and Facebook.  Something changed in recent years. Now, when I think of Apple, I think of the AirTags I…  Read more

    On Mar 18, 2024
    By on Mar 18, 2024 Columns
  • Authoring Your Life Story: Joanne McNeil on Self-Archiving and George Westren

    For any artist who works with digital files in the twenty-first century (that’s most of us), the work—in addition to making the art—is making sure it sticks around.  To both archive and maintain your own work is a reminder of the gap between current practice and public markers of success. It can feel like an exercise in futility: If this work was really worth it—if someone other than you believed in its value—wouldn’t you have the time and money and institutional support to do it right? A library would offer to acquire your letters, no? Or, perhaps, with awards, grant…  Read more

    On Dec 15, 2023
    By on Dec 15, 2023 Columns
  • Invisible on the Interstate: Joanne McNeil on Amy Reid’s Long Haulers

    “Everything in your house has, at one time, been moved on a truck,” says one of the truckers featured in Long Haulers. Amy Reid’s film subtly demystifies what can be a uniquely alienating form of labor, and the film itself has recently emerged from relative invisibility. The titular vehicles are typically driven by men. Reid’s debut documentary follows the lives of three women who are among the nearly seven percent of long haul truckers working in the United States. Completed in 2020, Long Haulers might have then seemed incredibly timely given the global supply chain crisis, which was among the…  Read more

    On Sep 20, 2023
    By on Sep 20, 2023 Columns
  • Allison Parrish's poetry Turning Poetry into Art: Joanne McNeil on Large Language Models and the Poetry of Allison Parrish

    An application like ChatGPT is “taking the last 20 years of the internet and chewing it up, then producing a system that draws from that,” Allison Parrish explained when we spoke over Zoom last month. To the poet and programmer, generating content with large language model (LLM) neural nets is like “powering an engine with the methane that comes from decomposing corpses in a graveyard.”  Few artists working today have Parrish’s depth of experience with generative text. You have likely encountered her work online, especially if you were active on Twitter in the “Horse_ebooks” era. Early on in her career,…  Read more

    On Jun 27, 2023
    By on Jun 27, 2023 Columns
  • A gaggle of partygoers wear fringed rainbow jackets and ornate accessories as they rave. Binge Watch: How Silicon Valley Lifestyles Are Being Portrayed on Screens Large and Small

    A number of recent films and television shows have been set in the tech industry. And regularly, I notice these projects can’t seem to decide: What’s the problem with Silicon Valley, anyway? One might draw a straight line from a character like Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko to jobs lost and houses foreclosed upon, but the consequences of “disruption” can be trickier to distill into lines as visceral and powerful as “greed is good.” I was thinking about this when I watched part of Super Pumped on a plane earlier this year. As it happens, American Airlines is one of the…  Read more

    On Mar 16, 2023
    By on Mar 16, 2023 Columns
  • Prompts for Everest Pipkin's tabletop RPG World Ending Game Beyond the Third Act: Everest Pipkin’s Cinema-Inspired Tabletop RPG World Ending Game

    “Endings are very hard,” said Everest Pipkin. “It’s one of the most difficult things about making anything, and only gets harder when you are collaboratively telling a story with lots of people.” Speaking via video chat from their home in southern New Mexico, Pipkin, an artist and game designer, recently released World Ending Game, a tabletop “falling-action game” designed for players to bring existing campaigns to a close. Say you’re part of a weekly group playing Dungeons & Dragons and everyone is ready to move on. Your party can wrap things up and bring your existing characters — the druid,…  Read more

    On Dec 15, 2022
    By on Dec 15, 2022 Columns
  • Lillian Schwartz's Pixillation Engineers, Artists, Both? Joanne McNeil on Bell Lab’s Pioneering Ken Knowlton

    “Animated movies are usually made by a slow and complex process involving the coordinated efforts of many artists, draftsmen, photographers and other specialists,” begins a curious instructional film Bell Telephone Laboratories Inc. released in 1964. After asserting that with an “electronic computer,” an animator could bypass “tedious” labor, the opening scroll concludes, “this very film was produced entirely by the process which is about to be described.” What follows is a concise and visually fascinating demonstration of BEFLIX (“Bell Flix”), one of the earliest computer animation techniques. Images in the demo—created with a “mosaic” grid of squares, each programmed to…  Read more

    On Oct 11, 2022
    By on Oct 11, 2022 Columns
  • Chris Marker's Second Life island Read Only Memory: Joanne McNeil on Chris Marker’s Immemory Project

    “I’ll find you,” Chris Marker told Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang. The first time they met—New Year’s Day, 1999, at the Café de Flore in Paris—they had no idea what he looked like until he beckoned to them. There weren’t photos of him anywhere; he’d send illustrations of his cat, Guillaume-en-Égypte, if anyone asked for a picture. Krukowski and Yang wished to collaborate on an English language edition of the director’s CD-ROM project, Immemory. He could be difficult to reach but liked musicians and made time for the duo—formerly of Galaxie 500—who have performed as Damon & Naomi since 1991. …  Read more

    On Jul 14, 2022
    By on Jul 14, 2022 Columns
  • Science Fiction in a Time of Crisis

    In 1968, Judith Merril and Kate Wilhelm planned to run an advertisement in a science fiction magazine with a list of authors announcing their opposition to the Vietnam War. But when they reached out to fellow members of the Science Fiction Writers of America to add their names, Merril and Wilhelm were shocked. There were significant numbers of vehement pro-war authors in the community, and they also wished to share their views with the science fiction-reading public. When the advertisement ran in Galaxy Science Fiction, it covered two full pages. On the right, the names of authors including Ursula K.…  Read more

    On Apr 14, 2022
    By on Apr 14, 2022 Columns
  • The Matrix Resurrections Freedom as a Preset: Joanne McNeil on Metaverses Past and Present

    “What we’re selling is freedom,” says a digital media executive played by Demi Moore, of the promise of virtual worlds in Disclosure (1994). “We offer through technology what religion and revolution have promised but never delivered: freedom from the physical body; freedom from race and gender, from nationality and personality, from place and time.”  Based on a Michael Crichton novel, the movie explores in classic Crichton fashion a theoretically possible but highly unlikely scenario—in this case, a 32-year-old single woman who sexually harasses her married 50-something male subordinate; it is also one of a number of features from the 1990s…  Read more

    On Jan 18, 2022
    By on Jan 18, 2022 Columns
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