The glitch is a relatively new aesthetic. In fact, the artist James Bridle calls it the new aesthetic. We see glitches everywhere—in art, advertisements, movies, videogames, and more. Occasionally, the glitch is genuine, a real flaw in the digital system. More often, though, the glitch is intentional, meant to signify technological breakdown or to evoke a corrupted digital world.
In our reading, “Glitching Files for Understanding,” Trevor Owens argues that deliberately glitching files can serve a higher purpose. Intentionally corrupting a file can expose underlying metadata of digital objects, as well as defamiliarize the digital media in question. Defamiliarization can shock users out of their media habits, allowing them to see the media from new perspectives.
This lab asks you to put this theory to the test…
There are a host of apps and websites that can glitch image files for you. You’ll be using one of these tools, and comparing that process to glitching a file manually using the techniques Owens writes about.
- Glitch an image file from your computer using a glitching tool like ImageGlitcher or the Image Glitch Tool. You can also try one of the many iOS or Android glitching apps available for phones.
- Play around with the settings to make a glitched image you like.
- Make note of what glitch settings you used. Save your glitched image. You’ll include it on the lab report.
Manual Glitching (Audio)
- Pick an mp3 file from your music library. Don’t have any mp3s? Find one from the Internet Archive’s music collection.
- Change the extension of the .mp3 file to .txt and open the file in a text editor like TextEdit (Mac) or WordPad (Windows).
- Make note of any legible text you can read toward the beginning of the open file. Take a screenshot of the open file to include in your lab report.
- Copy the text from the Wikipedia entry for the artist or musician who recorded the mp3. Paste that text into the middle of the text file you opened in Step 2. Do that a couple times at various points in the file. Save the file and close the text editor.
- Rename the file from .txt back to .mp3 and listen to the file. Make note of what has changed with audio.
Manual Glitching (Image)
- Select an image from your computer or phone. (If the image is on your phone, send it to your computer.) Make a copy of the image for this exercise, so that you don’t destroy the original.
- Change the file extension (which is probably .jpg) to .txt and open it in the same text editor you used to glitch audio.
- Paste text (from Wikipedia or other sources) into the open text file. Or, cut and paste text already in the file in order to scramble it.
- Save the file, rename it back to .jpg, and open it up as an image.
If the image doesn’t open, you’ve probably glitched it too much, or you’ve made changes too close to the top of the document. In general, leave the first 1/4 of the open text file untouched. This part of the file contains information the computer needs to read the rest of the file. Try copying, moving, or deleting smaller chunks of text too. Instead of one big change to the file, try making lots of small changes. You will probably have to experiment a few times before you get a result that successfully reopens as a glitched image.
At the top of your report paste three clearly labeled images:
- A screenshot of your mp3 open as a text file. In a sentence, describe your procedure for changing it.
- Your auto glitched image. In a sentence, describe what program you used to glitch and what your settings were.
- Your manually glitched image. In a sentence, describe the changes you made to the text version of the file.
Next, in a 300-500 word lab report, consider some of the following questions:
- Aside from the actual process involved, what are the less tangible differences between automatically glitching an image and manually glitching an image?
- What can glitching tell us about how files work? Can different types of glitching tells us different things?
- Does glitching a file by manipulating it in plain text form count as a kind of writing? After all, you’re using words to alter the meaning of an artifact.
- Why do you think glitched images have become so prevalent in society today?
- What else did glitching make you realize?
Share the report as a Google Doc with firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, November 1. Be sure to give me the ability to comment on the document.