Monthly Archives: July 2021

Protocol of the Test Pattern?

ESTAR(SER) researchers have a longstanding interest in the ways that new media forms shift attentional behaviors and dynamics. The Order of the Third Bird has been, of course, directly affected, across history, by changing media regimes.  The work of Rein Narma, for instance, is a notable and well-studied instance of the intersection of new technologies and new forms of Bird Practice (in this case involving audio processing systems in the 1940s-1960s).  Television, too, had massive implications for the attentional regimes of mid-century America, and can be assumed to have reverberated through volées of active Birds.  Unfortunately, this remains an under-studied aspect of the history of the Avis Tertia — in large part on account of a paucity of relevant source material.  An ESTAR(SER) researcher living in Royal Oak, MI, wrote recently to the Corresponding Secretary concerning a possible lead in this ares.  She has approved the posting of the following anonymous query/announcement:

Working in the archives of the Hudson Theater, in New York City, I came recently upon a body of documents suggesting a connection between the Order of the Third Bird and the modestly successful 1950s television gameshow Feather Your Nest.  Each broadcast featured a pair of contestants who endeavored to “feather their nest” (i.e., acquire various domestic appliances and furnishings) by means of successful answers to quiz-questions. These were notionally posed by an animatronic “bird” who transited from branch to nest as a kind of countdown timer, pressuring the respondents to make their guesses briskly. The actress Janis Carter, who served as an assistant on the show, and handled the physical “feathers” that served as currency in the game, has long been thought to have been associated with a community of aesthetes operating in the museums of New York City in the mid-1950s. Be that as it may, I have come to suspect, on the basis of documentation I hope soon to publish, that a number of the Feather Your Nest broadcasts made use, surreptitiously, of “Test Pattern” interruptions that were structured to create mesmeric moments of immersive televisual attention — a kind of attention made “pure” via the dramatic attenuation of narrative or graphic “content.”  I believe I can show that a cohort of Birds, working playfully within the studio structure of NBC in those years, experimented with specific protocols geared for use on television Test Patterns.  Consider the attached sample as a suggestive instance.

We attach the video she sent along, which is indeed very striking.  More research is surely wanted in this area, and those having additional information are encouraged to convey it.


Two ESTAR(SER) Researchers Discuss Their Work

While Communiqués generally serves as a clearinghouse for specific attention-related research projects (announcing archival discoveries, reporting preliminary findings for larger works-in-progress, floating queries to the ESTAR[SER] research community), there is also some precedent for using this forum to share updates about ESTAR(SER) itself, as an association (its history, personnel, and doings).  In keeping with that tradition, we provide here a link to a recent PODCAST, produced by the Glasgow International.  In it, ESTAR(SER) associates Sal Randolph and D. Graham Burnett, both of whom have served on the board of the Milcom Memorial Reading Room and Attention Library, discuss how they have collaborated on several ESTAR(SER) undertakings over the last decade.