Jun 302013

Socialist Alternative – Is people power stronger than the NSA?.

“Since the exhilarating Arab spring, Egyptian activists have often spurned the claim that social media powered their revolution. It came from grassroots organising, mass action and good old fashioned class struggle, they insist. Similarly, they shrug off arguments that secret police can stop a revolution. They point to the fact that as the masses took to the streets, the Mubarak regime shut off the internet and mobile phone networks. Clearly Mubarak didn’t think internet surveillance could save him, and in the big scheme of things the cyber shutdown made little difference.”

There’s truth here–and it should be added that, with technology in the hands of the people, more innovative new ways of organizing digitally beyond the prying eyes of the NSA are sure to result from this mess.

 Posted by at 4:41 am
Jun 302013

Two_women_operating_ENIACI didn’t set out to become a programmer. Believe it or not, I didn’t even own a computer until I was 30–it was a beat-up E-machine that a college room-mate sold me for a hundred bucks. At the time, I was an English major, after having gone through a brief period in which I had the hilarious idea to become a public school teacher.

My intention with regards to becoming a teacher were never wholly pure. Yes, I wanted to make a difference–having grown up in an impoverished community, and having attended some fairly recognizably shitty public schools, I did indeed have dreams of reaching that kid in the back of the class who was keeping herself distinct from the rest of her fellow pupils. But I never really thought I had the personality to teach. It looked to me that teaching well required a zeal and a patience that I knew deep-down I lacked. And it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.

I wanted to write. Had been writing for a long time, since before I was a teen-ager. I had grown up surrounded by books–my parents had a nearly full set of the Harvard Classics, volumes of which I would pull out and flip through with awe. In the same set of bookshelves, on the bottom shelf, was a full set of World Encyclopedias. When I was nine or ten I attempted to read the entire set, A-Z…but, being nine or ten, my attention wandered.

By the time the Internet was first really seeping into public consciousness I was lucky enough to have been immersed in it for a some years. My first encounter with HTML was in Geocities–I had just discovered that on this world wide network of machines I could read not only the literature of the past but also contemporary, bleeding edge work by people who, like myself, were all hunched over little keyboards, all over the world.

There were, indeed, literary schools and movements being born on the network, and while everyone else I knew was just discovering the possibilities of this instant distributed global media web, I had already become an avid admirer and self-styled participant in all the turmoil. Net art was showing me some of the possibilities of using the computer and the network itself as art. Like many of that era, I learned Flash. But I wasn’t content to simply animate and link–I was ambitious. I taught myself ActionScript, and set about flailingly experimenting with what could be done with the network, automation, algorithms, and the data on the network itself.

I wasn’t very good. In the end, aesthetics took a back-seat to my new-found power. I had learned how to program, and I had learned to respect application architecture. I built things in a way that were easy for me to change–because I had gone through the pain of learning how scope worked, learned that multiple copies of a function were damned hard to maintain.

A fellow net artist suggested I learn PHP. I taught myself PHP and, slowly, by extension, I learned about web servers. I taught myself basic Linux System Administration, because I hosted my own work, and I wanted to know as much about the frame my stuff was in as I wanted to present my stuff. There was language to be explored there, too.

Lately, I’ve engaged a lot with HTML5, and a lot of JQuery. JavaScript was something I learned along with HTML and CSS, but when JQuery was first introduced I thought was beautiful. Selectors! Chaining! AJAX! By the time HTML5 was commonly supported by the major browsers I had long left Flash behind, and I was ready for a new web.

 Posted by at 4:17 am
Sep 092012


via Apple Patent Would Disable Smartphones by Location [VIDEO].

Imagine if this had been available during the Arab Spring.

And, of course, the movie industry will probably back it. Stop those pesky bootleggers in their tracks.

Working as a technologist, one of my biggest fears about today’s increasingly connected world is centralization of control. That includes vendor/platform hegemony, the creaky and corporate-owned infrastructure of the internet itself…and now this.

There’s a delicate dance between standardization and centralization of power. It’s a knot of complex issues, and anyone who tries to sell you black-and-white  visions of the role of technology in our lives is naive. “Technology” will not save our grasslands, or stop the arctic ice from melting. And, with this, coming from Apple (who aren’t exactly on my list of companies trying to make the world a better place)…let’s just say I won’t be buying any Apple products anytime soon.

 Posted by at 2:40 pm
Sep 092012

Are All Young Artists ‘Post-9/11′ Artists? : NPR.

There’s a certain point beyond which these handy labels become absolutely stultifying, as well as useless. This is one such case.

The works themselves are fascinating, though, which is why I include them here. Cat Mazza’s work Knit For Defense would almost be a new media work were it actually rendered using network resources or machines; instead, it’s more subtle than that, incorporating new media into the process of the work itself, but tying the technique to older, hand-stitched media. Part of me wants to dismiss this as more conceptual wankery, but the idea is intriguing.

Anna Von Mertens’ quilts, depictions of the night sky on fateful, violent dates in history, are provocative works, though without the conceptual backstory they fall flat. For me, this illustrates the danger of art that strays too far into conceptualism; the work begins to rely more on it’s documentation than on its own experience. Despite these misgivings, such glimpses into the artistic process fascinate me, and I have much respect for conceptualism.

 Posted by at 1:52 pm
Sep 072012

Manifesto | The Dark Mountain Project.

“This response we call Uncivilised art, and we are interested in one branch of it in particular: Uncivilised writing. Uncivilised writing is writing which attempts to stand outside the human bubble and see us as we are: highly evolved apes with an array of talents and abilities which we are unleashing without sufficient thought, control, compassion or intelligence. Apes who have constructed a sophisticated myth of their own importance with which to sustain their civilising project. Apes whose project has been to tame, to control, to subdue or to destroy — to civilise the forests, the deserts, the wild lands and the seas, to impose bonds on the minds of their own in order that they might feel nothing when they exploit or destroy their fellow creatures.

Against the civilising project, which has become the progenitor of ecocide, Uncivilised writing offers not a non-human perspective—we remain human and, even now, are not quite ashamed — but a perspective which sees us as one strand of a web rather than as the first palanquin in a glorious procession. It offers an unblinking look at the forces among which we find ourselves.

It sets out to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own — a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare — might recognise as something approaching a truth. It sets out to tug our attention away from ourselves and turn it outwards; to uncentre our minds. It is writing, in short, which puts civilisation — and us — into perspective. Writing that comes not, as most writing still does, from the self-absorbed and self-congratulatory metropolitan centres of civilisation but from somewhere on its wilder fringes. Somewhere woody and weedy and largely avoided, from where insistent, uncomfortable truths about ourselves drift in; truths which we’re not keen on hearing. Writing which unflinchingly stares us down, however uncomfortable this may prove.”

 Posted by at 3:53 pm