The Institute of Network Cultures has had a site refresh, and it’s a good excuse, if any were needed, to look through their amazing resources for anyone with a critical interest in the internet and digital networked technologies. Many of the books are available as download.
Monday 31 August, 6pm, Barnes Lecture Theatre.
A screening of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
Highly recommended. Chance for a monday night catch-up.
“In a sense, an “immoral” and a “moral” approach to data attribution are equally difficult to justify. When we make anything in human culture, we’re using the whole damned apparatus. We should either thank everyone, or thank no-one and just get on with making the stuff and putting it out there. Bending the semantic rays as they pass endlessly though our machines.”
Recently I have been hooked on two websites which are (un)related real-time updates of digital (mis)communication.
The first is a site created by Norse, an internet attack intelligence agancy (very Neuromancer but without the rastas in space). The site is a real-time visualisation of a small percentage (apparently <1%) of cyber attacks. It shows where the attacks originate, where is being targeted and the type of attack. It is pretty incredible. If you watch it for long enough you’ll see the map quieten down and then, boom, a massive coordinated attack will fire off. Usually against the USA.
The second site is a real-time visualisation of every emoji being used on twitter. I find it mesmerising. It follows on from an article I read in The Observer last weekend which was interested in the popularity of Emoji and how it has become a ubiquitous virtual language, with pictograms replacing words and combinations of these symbols replacing whole sentences but adding a multitude of increased interpretations. As the author of the article writes at the end of the article, “Barthes would have had a field day.”
Both of the sites are socially interesting and although at first glance I think it seems that the Norse one is the more ‘important’ of the two, I am fascinated by the Emoji one and by the questions it raises about how we communicate digitally, why are we always more drawn towards using pictures (pun intended), what does this mean for words and writing, is the majority of written language superfluous to communicative needs, can we call emoji a recognised language in its own right, and how would a shift towards a pictorial-based language system affect things like journalism, poetry, books etc, and physical interaction? Its a highly unlikely thing to happen but it is interesting to think about.
Concrete Flux 流泥 is a multi-media, multi-disciplinary online journal, (edited by Solveig Suess, Vis-com-des person), which takes as its subject matter China’s hyper-fast emerging urban spaces, their meaning and one’s everyday experiences of them. They believe that a new configuration of space through urbanisation will lead to a new configuration of society. Their aim, then, is to contribute to some understanding of or gain insight into what these spaces, which seem to emerge faster than our minds can log and assess, may mean. Issue 1: Beijing is now live.
this is a fantastic resource that has a wealth of information on topics relevant to modern society and globalised culture.
“There’s already a lot of information on the Internet, so our goal is to cut through the noise and garbage, to present valuable information in a clear way, so it’s accessible, useful and easily digested. This still may not be an easy undertaking though, and we can understand that — especially considering the complexity and interconnectedness of the topics, as well as the crossing over of sources; but also for the fact that the information here can be incomplete, sometimes contradictory or even controversial. But this is the point. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do: provoke critical thinking, questioning… and doing.
We’ve fundamentally built this resource to inform and inspire action — and no, we’re not talking about clicking the stupid ‘Like’ button on Facebook, signing online petitions or letter writing — we mean informing and inspiring real-world action; taking this information away from the computer to rejuvenate the strong networks with the people around you in the real world, to discuss, plan, act. This is not a symbolic action or clicktivism website, nor is it a simple collection of popular content, like the other websites available. It’s a resource that aims to inform, inspire and provoke action; to generate a multitude of responses and reactions. This is just some of what is needed to break paradigms, subservience, acquiescence, and to cultivate inspiration to continue work on the plethora of puzzles and problems addressed in the information published here.”
From the comments; “…the benefit of living in an urban environment are the social discrepant events that propel society forward – these “collisions” between disparate power structures and groups that shape our cultures and social innovations – this proposal effectively wants to eradicate this necessarily messy conflict and “negate authorship” – which is extremely alarming – because then it becomes impossible to pinpoint who is really behind the green curtain.”
Will Wiles offers some salient observations on the ‘New Aesthetic‘, countering some of the more short-sighted and blunt critiques (generally from art and architecture directions) that the New Aesthetic’s role was just as a collection of glitchy tech-artifacts, and that *yawn* we’d seen it all before in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
Talking about Bruce Sterling, and helping define what role the ‘New Aesthetic’ might serve, this passage perhaps best sums up its potential value: “He called it a ‘gaudy, networked heap’, and better than that, a wunderkammer, a cabinet of curiosities — geodes, two-headed lambs, bits of coral — that were assembled by hungry minds in Enlightenment Europe. The wunderkammer is part of the first act of modern science — astonishment at the oddities of the natural world, which whets the appetite for inquiry. ‘A heap of eye-catching curiosities don’t constitute a compelling world-view,’ Sterling wrote. Perhaps not, but it’s a start.”
Mariuz Watz, in the video below, does a good job of addressing this issue. He also rather succinctly addresses algorithmic laziness, but what I think is useful is that this critique could be applied to any creative technique or tool, applied unthinkingly. The same goes for assuming that the New Aesthetic’s only value is as a sort of visual amalgam of modern digital ephemera, rather than as a signpost for a way of processing the world that has further to run and far greater depths to be investigated. All these tools, collections and observations offer us a lot, but only if we thinkingly engage with them, use them as a starting point, and make up the distance ourselves.
In this RSA Animate talk, Manuel Lima, author of ‘Visual Complexity‘, talks about a shift, over the last century, from trees to networks as a way of understanding the world. This is significant if we’re starting to talk about ourselves as a ‘distributed academy’ (for which we could read, or at least reflect on, the ‘distributed network’).
Graphic Scotland is an independent Community Interest Company aiming to bring together Scottish-based writers, artists and publishers in international collaborations to create diverse and innovative new graphic fiction.
“…a revolutionary new way to collect art by the world’s leading contemporary artists in digital format”
Interesting that this is happening in the advent of ‘Cloud’ storage… do we actually own our digital content? Do you actually own the limited edition artwork if it’s stored online? Ego-massage via your iPad?