Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Spirit of Giving

To keep the gift economy going beyond the hype of christmas I list some great free things online at the moment:

Instal Live
Download muic and stream vidoes from October's Instal festival in Glasgow. Musicians may be new to many people but if you are intersted in hearing interesting music click to.

NPR (National Public Radio) Live Concert Archive
A little bit more mainstream than the Instal stuff. A broad selection of full length concerts including music from the dearly departed James Brown.....

Whilst not the same as the music downloads, in that it breeches serious and often painful topics, the free videos from engage media may expand your world view a little:
"EngageMedia is a website for video about social justice and environmental issues in
Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific."

The mighty UBUWEB continues to define excellence in online archives. A few weeks ago, in the depths of a short cold spell (winter this year is very "mild" as the TV news keeps saying) I watched a video of Terry Riley milking a goat on his farm in 1975 as he spoke about his music and teachers. The sunny meadow and Terry's calm way about things was like a journey for me. Two nights ago I stayed up late watching Peter Whitehead's film Wholly Communion: A Few Poets Trying to Be Natural from 1965. I witnessed something of the beautiful chaos of the Albert Hall poetry reading featuring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Harry Fainlight, Adrian Mitchell, Michael Horovitz, Ernst Jaridl, Christopher Logue, John Esam, Pete Brown, Anselm Hollo, George Macbeth, Simon Vinkenoog, Paulo Leonni, Daniel Richter, Spike Hawkins, and Tom McGrath, as well as the playing of tapes of, and by, William Burroughs. I wonder where the women poets were that night??

onliness 1.0 onliness v1.0.1 is an beat-based exposition of 4 years in
The Life of demon doc in NYC. The entire album is
available for free download, no questions asked.

Famous for 15mb
A lot of Mp3s for download by people you may have never heard of but are often very pleasing to the ears. Tracks are uploaded and removed all the time so check back often.

Internet Archive
Even if you lived to be 300 years old you would not have time for all the interesting stuff on the Internet Archive. Overwhelming!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Removal of Ancient Rock Art in Western Australia

This is one of the pieces of rock art that will be removed to build a liquid natural gas factory

Today Woodside Petroleum says it will begin removing rock art from sites in the Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia as soon as possible.

The refusal by the federal Minister for the Environment, Ian Campbell to protect what the National Trust describes as "one of the world's largest collections of rock carvings, which date back tens of thousands of years." is an embarrassment for every Australian.

Not only are the petroglyphs of the Dampier region the intellectual property of the Yaburara, Ngarluma, Mardudunera and Yindjibarndi Aboriginal peoples, they are part of the cultural heritage of the human race.

There has not been any sort of comprehensive study or catalogue made of the vast storehouse of art in the region (estimated at over a million carvings). To quote from "Archaeology and rock art in the Dampier Archipelago: A report prepared for the National Trust of Australia (WA)" by Caroline Bird & Sylvia J. Hallam:

There has been no comprehensive study of the Dampier rock art. It is clear, however, from descriptive accounts, that the sheer quantity and variety of the art makes generalising about the whole area problematic. The few detailed studies of smaller areas all show the complexity of the art and its intimate relationship with other cultural remains.http://www.burrup.org.au/report

The failure by the both state and federal governments in Australia to protect the rock art of the Dampier is a breech of the UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage:

"A State that intentionally destroys or intentionally fails to take appropriate measures to prohibit, prevent, stop, and punish any intentional destruction of cultural heritage of great importance for humanity, whether or not it is inscribed on a list maintained by UNESCO or another international organization, bears the responsibility for such destruction, to the extent provided for by international law."

The final bitter twist in this nightmare is that what Woodside wants to do is build a plant for a liquefied natural gas project. This fossil fuel producing plant has been described by THE FEDERAL MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT Senator Campbell as "the biggest natural gas project in Australian history". Should he not be describing it as a source of millions of tons of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere?

A petition against the removal of art from the Dampier Peninsular can be found here: http://www.petitiononline.com/dampier/petition.html
More information:
http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/dampier/web/index.html http://www.burrup.org.au/

Friday, December 22, 2006

Get ready to transcend......

Performance artist Ken Hamazaki's annual tea ceremony on the Burning Man playa, 2003

Get ready to transcend......
1. Guided Visualization by Jackie Gordon, musical accompaniment by the 17th street new age jammers
2. Henry Flynt, Central Park Transverse Vocal #1
3. Axlotl, Track 5
4. Caroline Myss - Anatomy of Spririt
5. La Monte Young, Four Brass
6. Miscellaneous Hypnosis
7. Popol Vuh, Aguirre III
8. Kraus, Track 6
9. Ruth White, Hanged Man
10. Richard Pinhas, Indicatif Radio
11. Harry Flynt, Raga Electric

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Baby Scale of Media Interactivity

Subject infant pictured with his brother's games computer (who also finds it an extremely seductive medium)

I've worked out a new measure for the interactivity of media. It is called the Baby Scale: How one adult can interact with a particular media form whilst being responsible for an infant. I have noticed that it is quite easy to watch television while caring for a baby; the infant does not pay attention to the media, but at the same time does not interfere with the media. Television is therefore a passive medium. Related to television but of a different scale is the DVD/VHS player, this is of moderate interest for the infant who enjoys the fact that it has a remote control that has an LED on it (television remote does not) and small objects can be inserted into the device when dad is distracted watching the film being played. The DVD/VHS is therefore a moderately interactive medium. In the case of the computer it is not possible to operate for an adult if there is a mobile infant with an opposing thumb in the room. I suspect that the modem we lost last week was a victim of the infant's curiosity. We have lost several emails as infant is able to turn the computer off if he is fast enough (and boy is he quick). The computer is therefore a highly interactive medium.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dialogic Reality (Indeterminacy)

Remix: Movements relative to discourse. These not so solid arrangements hold brief in the stream. We remix along the crystalline fissures which run with representation and simulation; signs, icons, symbols, images, references and the Real. The Author constructs the space and the Reader enters in to it. We take it on. Such compositions (compos (Lt.), having mastery of) are all around us; overlapping, flowing into each other, banking up into the welts of culture, running away into the evaporating sands of time. By the powers of discourse the genres are gathered. Accompanying this we now have the tools to manage intricate taxonomies, systems of global scale, often in the form of dialogic networks. This has been one hue of the broad and more profound recognitions of complexity since, let’s say, 1927. These treasures we break open and adorn ourselves with.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weaning Ben

This weekend we are weaning Benyamin. An intense experience it is. Last night we stayed up most of the night (I after returning from a very pleasant house warming and glogg fest - glogg is the mulled Christmas drink of Sweden - thanks to Patrik and Stephanie).
Weaning is a very significant stage in one's life. I thought a lot about it as Ben (pictured above in happier times) began to get a bit displeased with the change in routine. Weaning is the next step after birth on our way to being a individual, an identity, a self. There seems to be ceremonies in many cultures to mark the end of the weaning of a child and their welcoming into the community. I think we will have a feast when this is over.
For Silas, Ben's older brother, it took about three days of little sleep and constant attention before he started to move on. I hope Ben will be similar. of course Erika (mum) needs to come back as well, to reclaim her body in a way that has been a 24 hour milk bar for the last 14 months. In short; weaning is no fun.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rothko Weekend

The last few days have been a bit different. On Friday night our ISDL modem went up in smoke...literally...so this weekend was offline (modem now updated thanks to the excellent people at T3). This is the first time in a while I (we) have been so for a long time. It was kind of cool, with the chance to clean up the hard drive and spend more time reading (XXXXX is so good, will review it soon here). The next thing is that this blog has moved over to the Google server. We now have easy tagging and it seems to be very smooth, although the spellchecker is not working at the moment.
The other great thing recently came last week with a documentary on Mark Rothko, a painter whom I have admired for a long time but never realized how relevant he is to contempory discourse. This is really obvious for me in the chapel:

Rothko worked with assistants for three years on the chapel near the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He planned the installation for a total of six years. The documentary took the viewer into the chapel, opened a year after Rothko's suicide in 1970, and into an immersive environment of shades and tones. According to the documentary Rothko stated that he wanted the viewer to bring the light with them. Although he stated in 1943 that "It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way not his way." it seems by the late 1960's Rothko had embraced a gestalt theory of forms and colours that drove the viewer into themselves, to their basic sensations and emotions beyond thought. This is a post symbolic form of artistic communication, and one that reminded me a lot of John Cage. Cage's 1952 performance of 4,33 reversed the performer-spectator relationship in a manner commonly found in digital media where the space it created (in this case at Woodstock New York) allows the spectator to fill it with their own noise. The Chapel and 4,33 both pass the pallet/microphone/page/screen to the viewer/listener/reader and ask what it is that brings them here? Who are they? What is it you feel?

Mark Rothko, Red, Orange, Tan and Purple. 1954 Oil on canvas

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mods Machinima and Interactive Fiction

Tomorrow we will be running a short course in HUMlab for which I will be emerging from father leave to help lead. Its title is Mods Machinima and Interactive Fiction and I have been putting together some notes for the sessions tomorrow. Here they are, and if anyone is interested in coming along to HUMlab at 13:15, just turn up (its under the UB library...Umea university):

Moddar och Machinima och Interactive Fiction

Text and the Tools for Story: Digital Culture and its Implications.

Show video:
The Shining (remixed)

What is the difference here?
With digital texts and tools huge numbers of people are now able to peel back the skin of their favorite story or game and 'tinker under the hood' so to speak. We are able to use a game like Sims2 to make a movie calling on practices from animation, gaming, film and theatre. This combines both modding:

"Mod or modification is a term generally applied to computer games, especially first-person shooters and real-time strategy games. Mods are made by the general public, and can be entirely new games in themselves. They can include new items, weapons, characters, enemies, models, modes, textures, levels, story lines and game modes. They also usually take place in unique locations. They can be single-player or multiplayer. Mods that add new content to the underlying game are often called partial conversions, while mods that create an entirely new game are called total conversions." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_%28computer_gaming%29)

With remix or mashups:

"Mashup is originally a Jamaican term used to describe breaking something. Later it became used to describe an event (usually dancehall reggae) that has been done so well that it has been taken to another level. The term has been used in hip-hop especially in cities such as New York that has a high Jamaican population.
Mashup can mean:
Mashup (music), a musical genre of songs that consist entirely of parts of other songs
Mashup (web application hybrid), a website or web application that combines content from more than one source
Mashup (video), a video that is edited from more than one source to appear as one."


This is not always legal and like podcasting, P2P file sharing, and various remix cultures there has been some copyright issues around Machinima. But most games companies are happy to allow Machinima to be made using their products as it promotes them. However the music industry is not so happy about their music being used without license in machinima films.


The concept of Interactive Fiction is most often associated with Infocom style text adventures and later user driven forms of digital story telling. I understand the interactive part of these stories but their design lends more to the fixed elements of "narrative architecture" to use Henry Jenkins phrase, than the more open interactivity of modding and machinima story making. With modding and machinima we are altering, manipulating, but I suppose equally acknowledging, the narrative architecture of the raw materials of story; the game engines, the audio tacks, the human voice etc. How much more interactive can a story get than making it yourself. Combined with the interactive mechanics of machinima is its place in fan cultures. Through machinima fans can act out the stories from their favorite games and modify them as they do it. In this way the story becomes a part of life:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Prime Directive

I celebrate the arrival of a new digital piece by Swedish sound and word artist Johannes Helden. The digital Lit. scene is building in the Scandinavian countries, with the recent launch (last week) of a new and very swish ELINOR site and now Helden's sumptuous The Prime Directive which is published online in both English and Swedish (on a Danish website). The boarders know no boundaries.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mods och Machinima and Interactive Fiction

Male Restroom Etiquette by Overman at Zarathustra Studios won the 2006 Machinima Award for best writing presented by the Museum of the Moving Image in New York on November 5 and 6. It is a clever parody in the style of 1950's sex education films, which discusses how men should behave in public toilets if "the fabric of civilization is to be maintained". It was made using a Sims2 game engine and - oh I'm sorry, maybe you don't know what Machinima is, well in that case you should come along to a short course next Thursday from 13:15-16:00 in HUMlab where Machinima will be discussed, viewed, theorised and even created (a very short segment anyway). The course is titled Mods och Machinima and Interactive Fiction and we will be looking at how tweaking and changing of such digital objects as computer games can result in stories emerging. While interactive fiction is a huge area, in this course we will be pinning it down with the concept of modding; "the act of modifying a piece of hardware or software to perform a function not intended by someone with legal rights concerning that modification" (Wikipedia). Perhaps there is no more "interactive" a fiction than that which is a product of modding, as the fiction is created through a regime of complete interaction with the materials used; code, images, sounds, visuals and even lighting and Point of View. Yours truly, Jim Barrett and Stefan Blomberg will be leading the course in a delightful mixture of Swedish and English.
If you would like to sign up for this course write to: anmal@humlab.umu.se
More information on HUMlab short course can be found HERE (In Swedish).