Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rocky Horror Picture Show in Second Life

"How d'you do, I see you've met my faithful handyman
He's just a little brought down because when you knocked
He thought you were the candyman......."
Tomorrow at 21:00 CET or 12:00 in Second Life, Piratbion (The Pirate Cinema) will be showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show inworld. The URL for the Pirate Cinema inworld is
More details for those fortunate few who understand Swedish are HERE.

Recent Postings on the HUMlab Blog

I have been making a few contributions to the HUMlab blog recently. I decided to link them here just to keep things rolling along during an uninspired moment of blogging.

The Life Part 1.

The Working Life of Links

Creative Commons: Choice and Trust

Monday, February 26, 2007

News at Seven

Machinima news complete with voice simulation is News at Seven:

News at Seven gives you the news you want, the way you want it. Each day, News
at Seven automatically generates a virtual newscast pulled from stories, images,
videos and blogs all linked by a common news topic. News at Seven presents news,
point/counterpoint, opinion, celebrity gossip and the occasional foray into the
world of 3D gaming. News at Seven isn't just the future, it's the future of the
I first caught News at Seven last week where I saw the "Now from the Blogosphere" in the current main news segment. An avatar speaks straight to camera in a street filled with dark figures moving away from us as a faceless crowd. It struck me as a stunning piece of visual poetry. Mashup news video are looped in the background as the avatar news reader presents a story. News at Seven is created and hosted by Infolab at Northwestern University.

My Life of Dreams on Jumpcut

This is a mashup video I made on Jumpcut, a new online video editing site. It is in beta (isn't everything) and is pretty shaky at times. It took 4 attempts to get this video together. But it is a good start, has lots of remix and networking features on the website. I recomend Jumpcut (the remix button on every video is cool) but be gentle with it. Perfect for a day stuck at home looking after one sick child with another child who is at home due to me looking after the first one......

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fox Attacks

In my following of the new media content for the 2008 presidential election in the USA it seems a major particle has entered the field:

This is video is produced by Brave New Films which "made the documentaries Iraq for Sale, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed and Uncovered." Now in Fox Attacks they take on the treatment of Barack Obama by the conservative Fox Media Network. In three days it has been viewed 205,967 on YouTube.

Friday, February 23, 2007

What a PhD can be

Through an invitation to link on my site I was made aware of the fact that Gavin Stewart (poet, academic, digital artist and Bakhtin follower) is now a Doctor of Philosophy. His thesis A Homecoming Festival: The Application of the Dialogic Concepts of Addressivity and the Awareness of Participation to an Aesthetic of Computer-mediated Textual Art is online as a written text and as a stunning multimedia work. I still harbour dreams of making a multimedia document to accompany my PhD thesis but I am afraid the time alloted to create the work is maybe just enough for me to struggle through writing a text and nothing more. The fact that Gavin Stewart has achieved such a standard in his PhD project is impressive.

All and a Little More

This new extension of the library at Umeå University was opened today.

Many people may follow the email advice sent out by the bots on what they should be reading. Myself, I read based on the 'Please Return this Book Immediately' notices I get from the university library. We have a great system here at Umeå University Library; no fines, unlimited re loaning (all done over the net), a huge collection and (unbelievable) they buy books if I make good suggestions (so far I have not been refused a purchase...maybe 100 made over the last few years). But if someone else has ordered a book then I cannot re loan it and must return it. If I fail to return it they send out one reminder and if that is ignored then I can be shut off for 6 weeks. Which brings me to last night; I was up until 1am reading Yochai Benkler The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, as it must be returned by last Monday. I finished all 473 pages and I am so happy I did. I plan on using section III chapter 11 of the online version in the HUMlab short course Copyright, Commons and Creativity that I will be teaching on 12th April (book now...will be great).

This, in a very round about sort of way (welcome to my mind) brings me back to the seed from which this blog post grew; Steve Jobs crying foul on DRM which I mentioned in a previous post. It seems Steve may not be being completely honest on DRM as it is standard in all iTunes and does not look like changing. He blames the music industry:
the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI.
These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s
music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to
distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required
Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to
create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store
in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized
Apple doesn't sell music because of DRM -- it sells music in spite of DRM. The
iTunes Store proves that you can compete with free. People have bought billions
of dollars worth of music from Apple because it offered a better user
experience. But no one bought for the DRM. Some people bought in spite of it,
some bought in ignorance of it, but there's no customer for whom DRM is a
selling point. No one woke up this morning wishing for a way to do less with her
And who does Jobs think should be doing something about DRM locking? The Europeans that's who:
Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European
countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect
their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music
DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are
located right in their backyard.
This is a bizarre attempt at "International Harmonization", except in a reverse way. Rather than saying that exclusivity of rights needs to be brought into line over national boundaries, it is saying that "if they stop we could stop". But no one is really going to stop unless the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) changes. A new treaty on IP is not likely. So, my final words are; aren't libraries great. Imagine a world without them. Where everything had to be paid for in order to be experienced. I am going to return my overdue library book right now.....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Council Apolagises for Destroying Grafitti

What a difference a Los Angeles show and £100 000 makes in the life of a graffiti artist:

When council cleaners spotted graffiti 24 hours before the official opening of a new London square, they enthusiastically removed every trace of the offending drawings.
Unfortunately, the two stencils they wiped out were drawn by Banksy, the subversive artist. One of his works fetched more than £100,000 in auction at Sotheby’s this week.
To make matters worse, the street cleaners did not deem the graffiti worthy of being photographed before destruction, as is their usual policy. Nor did they seek permission from the building’s owners. The council has now admitted its blunder and apologised.

The Times

From the can of Banksy:

A Torrent of Oscars

Those cheeky lads and lassies at the Pirate Bay are having a party this weekend. Its being hosted at

OscarTorrents is the Oscars as it should be -- everyone can download the year's nominations using the popular BitTorrent service, watch the movies, then use our rating system to choose their favourites. Why restrict the voting to a few bought-off jurors when the whole world can have their say?
I can understand their point but I think it is a bit of a case of "poking-the-old-blind-lion-with-the-stick". This is, I think, only going to reinforce the perceived threat that P2P networks are endangering civilization; very much the Hollywood line. Benkler in The Wealth of Networks (which is incidentally freely available for download in a variety of formats from the wiki that supports the book) writes that:

[...]peer-to-peer networks, and what Fisher has called “promiscuous copying” on the Internet, have created a perceived threat to the very existence of the major players in the industrial cultural production system—Hollywood and the recording industry. These industries are enormously adept at driving the regulation of their business environment—the laws of copyright, in particular. As the threat of copying and sharing of their content by users increased, these industries have maintained a steady pressure on Congress, the courts, and the executive to ratchet up the degree to which their rights are enforced. (p409 in the paper text)
Of course these efforts have largely failed to stem the flow of P2P copying but that is not stopping any of the paradigm players involved from giving up and abandoning their parallel industry of copyright protection, violation and detection. It would be better to abandon the whole Oscars circus and start something new, using the power of torrents to bring it into the lives of millions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The New Me

After 5 months of thinking about it I have re-explained myself in regards to my thesis. Here is the story from my university website:

My thesis is being developed under the title Cultures of Reception in Digital Literature: The Implied Respondent In(ter) Action. My project is a comparison between the characteristics of digital works in terms of the figure of the implied respondent within the text and the rules which frame the text in various types of preface. My research in digital textuality centers around three fields, that of the spatial, the author/writer/reader, and the interactive. This is intended to achieve:

1. A better understanding of how digital works are 'read' or interpreted as literature

2. The tensions and inconsistencies between the possibilities of the story and the rules made in the prefaces.

3. To discuss the remixed form in digital contexts as a literary reality.
Hybridity in the Bakhtinian sense of heteroglossia (many voices) is a central concept to my understanding of how such digital texts as represented by my corpus function. This corpus is composed of six digital works:

Ftrain by Paul Ford (
Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day by M. D. Coverley (
Alleph by Sakab Bashir (
Dreamaphage by Jason Nelson
Last Meal Requested by Sachiko Hayashi (
Façade by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern (

My research looks at the corpus texts from the perspectives of:

* Defining a digital text in terms of reception

* The 'implied respondent' (developed out of the ideas of Wolfgang Iser combined with the dialogism of M. M. Bakhtin) as an active participant in the interpretation and formation of the digital text.

* The laws of the digital text as embodied in such preface forms as the End User Licence Agreement (EULA), the FAQ, and the Help sections, which attempt to define possible receptions. This is performed through addressing a particular responsive image of the interpretant throughout the text; the implied respondent.

* A comparison between the implied respondent of the preface/s and of the figure located in the story/ies. This combines the material properties of the texts with the content such as addressivity, spatial navigation, visual rhetoric and the politics of access to the text.

* Remix as being a serious form of literary creation. Remix in digital texts is conducted along numerous interlocking spheres. I look at the remixing

- Genres
- Media channels in the multimodal text
- Reception (e.g. using the text as a musical instrument)
- Other texts in assemblage

* The remixing of language in dissident and creative ways.

The first two years of my PhD research (2004-06) were funded by a scholarship from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Fund. I was appointed to the staff of the Department of Modern Languages at Umeå University in June 2006 as a doctoral candidate. Much of my work is conducted in HUMlab, an interdisciplinary humanist-lead digital laboratory and studio, where I began working as a Masters student in the northern spring term of 2003.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Second Life in Sweden

Tonight at 22.00 CET the national swedish television network on SVT 1 will host a discussion on Second Life. From the website;

Vet du att du kan tjäna dina pengar och leva ditt liv helt på webben? I den virtuella världen Second Life kan du leva, bygga hus och starta ditt egna företag. Och du kan tjäna penga, helt verkliga pengar! Är detta framtiden? Eller är det ett nöje för insnöade datanördar? Vi träffar invånare i Second Life som diskuterar varför de föredrar den andra verkligheten. Följ debatten i Argument!

Did you know that you can earn money and live your life entirely on the web? In the virtual world Second Life you can live, buld a house, and start your own business. And you can earn money, completely real money! Is this the future? Or is it pleasure for those trapped in their computers? We meet inhabitants of Second Life to discuss why they prefer the other reality. Follow the deabte in Argument!

Some of the assumptions behind this description are clearly very very dodgy, but that is the idea I suppose as the program is called Argument and debate is the goal. I made a comment (in my own dodgy Swedish) in the thread for Second Life, but I am alone as the only one so far. Maybe Second Life has not caught on in Sweden as it has in other countries. Perhaps we shall get a better idea after the program tonight.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A shortage of Work for MPA and Federal Agents?

It seems that there may soon be a shortage of work for MPA and Federal Agents involved in hunting down file sharers in the USA. EMI, it seems, is in talks to negotiate dumping all Digital Rights Management (DRM) from its products:

Major label EMI — home of Coldplay and Norah Jones — is in discussions with online music stores about selling its music without copy protection, or digital rights management (DRM), according to two sources with direct knowledge of the talks who would not speak for attribution because discussions are ongoing.

The we have the outburst from Steve Jobbs:

"The labels understand that DRM has to go," he says. "It's nothing but a tax on digital consumers. There's good momentum behind DRM going away."

So what are these modern day Sam Spades going to do without the crime to solve? Come to Sweden perhaps:

Den amerikanska lobbygruppen Motion Picture Association, MPA, och agenter från FBI har undervisat svenska poliser om upphovsrätt och piratkopiering. Enligt MPA var syftet att "lära och träna" svensk polis i hur piratkopiering ska bekämpas.

TRANSLATION: The Ameerican lobby group Motion Picture Association, MPA, and agents from the FBI have lectured Swedish police on copyright and pirate copying. According to the MPA the goal was to "teach and train" the Swedish police in how pirate copying shall be fought" (whole article in Swedish)

When the crime "goes away" where do the crime fighters go?

HUMlab seminar Designing Culture: A work of the technological imagination

In twenty minutes I will participate over the net in the HUMlab seminar Designing Culture: A work of the technological imagination by Anne Balsamo, University of Southern California.
I wish I could be in the lab for Anne Balsamo but today Benyamin started his preschool. Here in Sweden (well maybe also in the rest of the world but not when I started formal education in the 1970's) there is a two week 'in-schooling' period where I go along to the center with him and hang with him until he feels comfortable. Today went brilliantly, he played and checked out the space, smiling most of the time. In fact the only time he got a bit upset was when it was time to leave!
If you happened to be reading this post before 13:15 CET on Monday 19 Feburary then you too can watch the live stream of Anne Balsamo HERE (opens just before the seminar starts) and join in the simulataneous chat HERE.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet

The author is a process not a person in Remix Culture

Our Lives in the Bush of Disquiet: A dozen remixes (2006) of Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Network Politics 2008

I just did a quick comparison of Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's campaign websites along side the defending champion George W Bush's web presence. What a difference:

First Obama's whole index page fits on a singe screen, no scrolling needed. Then we have the dynamic network stuff; Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube all linked (no it a Murdoch bias??). There is also log in at where profile, network, forums and blog server are available. There is also barackTV, packed with vids of Barack, his family and supporters. The code for videos is copyable so streams can be embedded in blogs and so forth. There is also the Obama blog linked from the campaign website, which is a group blog run by the "New Media team at Obama for America". The blog has links to much of the online content for media coverage the Obama campaign is getting.

Now to George:

Its an odd shape isn't it. The gold swirls, braid and stars mark it as very official (which I suppose it is), plus a third of it falls under the width of my browser window (bad design). Then there is a lot of links on the history of the White House, government policy and actions, 'A Video Tour of the White House by President Bush' ("The first thing I see in the morning is the sun shinning through these big windows. These windows are magnificent. They let in the sun light...") which is not possible to link to from outside of the web page, and links to media reports on Bush provide us with our content. The "Interact" possibilities are only two; Ask the White House: "online interactive forum, the first of its kind in politics, allows you to interact with Bush administration officials and friends of the White House." Well it seems like only selected people can ask the White House with nothing more controversial than; "I believe many Americans are still paying a lot of income tax". The other choice to "Interact" is "White House Interactive" which links to the same page as "Ask the White House". there is an RSS feed on the page, which is kinda progressive. Bush's website is the only site that is bilingual, with a Spanish version linked. I suspect this is more to do with government policy than anything else.

Finally Hillary:

It is the middle of the road style of the three I would say. It does fit on the screen in its entirety. It has some of the monologue staid functionality of the Bush site but it also leans towards some of the interactivity and social networking of the Obama site. This is typified by the Hillary Blog First Post Competition:

Soon we'll launch the official blog of, a crucial part of our exciting national conversation about the direction of our country and the place to go to learn more about Hillary.

We know our readers are going to have a lot to say, so we want to give you the first word.

We're looking for your ideas on how we can work together for change. If you'd like to write the very first guest post on the blog, submit your entry in the form below.

This is sort of halfway between what blogs are supposed to be and the rough realities of public opinion and politics. Clinton's site has no YouTube, Facebook or Flickr links. The blue frame is powdered, whereas it was solid and darker on the Obama site. Here we can "Join Team Hillary", become a "Hillraiser" by resgistering for an account and joining the community of supporters. Clinton's videos are mostly public speaking events with no code or blog embedding posssiblities.

It is interesting to look at the privacy policy from both Obama and Clinton as they are quite different. Clinton's states that:

On occasion, we may also use the information that you provide online to contact you for other purposes or to solicit you for contributions. When you register or sign-up online, we may share your contact information with successor organizations and other like-minded Democratic candidates and organizations, and they may contact you. When you make a contribution to us, we may also exchange your contributor information with successor organizations and other like-minded Democratic candidates and organizations, and they may solicit you (see below for additional information regarding your contributor information). However, we will not sell or exchange your credit card information to any other third party under any circumstances.

Obama's states:

It is our general policy not to make Personal Information available to anyone other than our employees, staff, and agents. We may also make personal information available to organizations with similar political viewpoints and objectives, in furtherance of our own political objectives.

While on first reading I got a more negative feeling from the Clinton site, the Obama statement seems to leave it all wide open to what may be done with any personal information. The Bush Privacy and Security Statement is not surprising; they gather information and if it is necessary they will disclose it.

I am reading Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (a review by Ravi Purushotma) which I think is an excellent book. In it Jenkins describes the 2004 presidential elections in the USA as a break through for media convergence in the contexts of politics and popular culture. I wonder how the lessons learnt from 2004 will be adapted in 2008. With each website already so different just between these three candidates, how public opinion comes to be built around each will be interesting indeed.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

RIP Wolfgang Iser

Having been on father leave for almost 6 months now I am just starting to get back into seriously working on my thesis. I am putting together a detailed Table of Contents/Chapters Plan at the moment, ready for my return to full time study nexy month. It was while doing this that I became aware of the very recent death of Wolfgang Iser. While he was 80 years old, it came as a shock to me as I was holding The Implied Reader in my hands at the time. Iser is one of the central mentors to my thesis. Here is the obiturary from his employer, UCI:

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Professor Wolfgang Iser, Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature. At the time of his death, Professor Iser was one of the most prominent literary theorists in the world. A founder of the "Constance School," along with Hans Robert Jauss and Juri Striedter at the newly established University of Constance on the German/Swiss border, he shifted the focus of German literary theory in the late 1960s from the author to the reader. Rather than ask what a work of literature means, he turned his attention to what a work does to the reader. His own works of theory and criticism had a major impact on literary study in the United States with the publication of THE IMPLIED READER (1972) and THE ACT OF READING (1976).
In 1976, Professor Iser came to UC Irvine as a visiting Professor of German. In 1978 he became a permanent member of the UCI faculty in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, dividing his time between Constance and Irvine. Along with Murray Krieger, J. Hillis Miller, and Jacques Derrida, he helped make UCI one of the most important centers of literary theory in the world. Expanding on his groundbreaking work on the effect of literature on the reader (Wirkungsaesthetik), he explored new territory by developing the field of "literary anthropology," which speculates on how literature functions in the human experience. This phase of his career resulted in PROSPECTING (1989) and THE FICTIVE AND THE IMAGINARY (1993). Noted for his excellent readings of individual works as well as for his theoretical positions, he also published a major book on Shakespeare's history plays, STAGING POLITICS (1993), and numerous essays on Fielding, Pater, Joyce, and Beckett. In 1991 he retired from the University of Constance, but continued to teach at UCI until 2005. In 1994 he delivered the Wellek Lectures at UCI. (
Extremely productive even after retirement, in 2006 he published HOW TO DO THEORY and lectured in nine different countries, playing, as he had done for over 25 years, the role of international ambassador for UCI. Born July 22, 1926, in Marienberg, Saxony, Germany, he was 80 years old when he died, January 24, 2007.
-- Ned Raggett (ne...), January 27th, 2007.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Space is the Place

The Vice Chancellor of Umea University Göran Sandberg is presented with a well travelled banner by Swedish astronaut Krister Fugelsang.

Krister Fugelsang is a Swedish particle physicist who works for the European Space Agency assigned to NASA. He flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in December and since then my son Silas has been very fixated on space. When we heard Fugelsang was coming to Umea to speak and show some film of his mission we entered a draw to get some tickets. We finally (much organising on my part) got two tickets and today we set off on a bicycle in minus 18 degrees cold to 'go see Fugelsang'. It went well and Silas got to ask him a question.

The question and answer can be heard HERE (its in Swedish). I was very proud of Silas as he had wanted to ask this question for weeks and he was determined to ask it. The whole presentation, including some very cool videos from the ISS can be seen HERE.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Freedom to be Free

This image is copied

"Fildelning" is Swedish for file sharing. It is a topic in the mass media in Sweden but it is a difficult one. The problem is that Sweden has a high density of broadband connection and 1.3 million Swedes have shared a file sometime in their lives....OH MY GOD! This is according to a recent article in Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) where they explain:

"File sharing is illegal foremost when one shares a file that someone else has the rights to"

Now this is debatable but I just want to look at my real life today and see how it contextualises this statement. Today I was sent a file via email from a gifted author living in Tasmania. Anyone can download his latest book, Before Country by going to his website. Presumably I can post a copy of the PDF text to anyone who wants it. We are sharing a file. Next I uploaded a file to FreeSound. A 20 second sample of didgeridoo that anyone can download and use under a Creative Commons licence. I own the rights to the sample but it is free to use when not for financial gain. We are again sharing a file. Finally I uploaded a video of a talk given by danah boyd in August last year at the University of North Carolina to Google Video. I did this because the talk is a brilliant introduction to social network media and should be widely available. It is already available as a bit torrent and a direct download from the web but it is so slow to download, even from my fairly fast connection. It is the property of ibiblio but it seems that the videos of their speaker series are free for all (although they are not very well kept with older links broken and pages mashed up). Now back to the world of policy and law.

The Swedish government is discussing allowing access to IP numbers by private interest organisations from the recording and film industries. This would allow them to track those that are hosting material, but I am not sure they could do the same for those downloading unless they entrapped those downloading by hosting material themselves. It could be a nightmare for the legalities of it all. At the same time as my recounting of my evil file sharing day today shows, in this technology there exists a potential for knowledge sharing that we have not yet had the opportunity to develop. By smothering it in its cradle we could be making a mistake that will change the course of our development as a society.

Thankfully other countries have thought about this. Canada, which is getting some terrible (and false) press in the USA at the moment as the center for lawless video cowboys who copy films by videoing them in the cinemas, is looking at copyright in a way somewhat removed from the European, the United States and Australian contexts. I present the Copyright Policy Branch:

"Copyright has typically been the concern of creators and a select group of industry players, government officials and academics. But with the globalization of the information society and the advent of digital technology, new issues are coming to light, and the number of people involved in the debate is increasing. The Government sponsors intellectual property studies to clarify its legislative and regulatory decisions."

In several texts I have read from the Copyright Policy Branch archive the rights of the consumers are considered to be equal to those of the copyright holders. This is in contrast to the Australian situation where an amendment to the Copyright Act has just come into effect. The amendment strictly follows the recommendations of the traditional publishing industry and even removes rights held by the academic sphere regarding fair use for research that have been held for decades.

I end with an often asked question regarding copyright which the attorney general of Australia, Phillip Ruddock, took the time to answer on his department website:

Q.Will I be able to share my music collection with a friend or family?
A. You will not be able to sell, loan or give away a copy you make to a friend, but a friend can listen to your music with you. You will be able to loan your copy to a family or household member.

Its nice that we are still able to listen to music together. And loaning a copy to family member is OK...but not to a friend.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lets get Nabil out of Iraq

I know there are hundreds of thousands of 'Nabils' in Iraq today, but I heard his voice on the radio this morning describing the conditions he (and the whole of his country) are living under and felt moved by it. His blog details such horrors as the neighbours being blown away by mortar shells while Nabil and one of his brothers were playing soccer in their adjacent backyard. Murder, torture, kidnappings are just part of the everyday it seems. He writes:

I live in fear everyday, I wake up in fear, and I sleep the night in fear too, few days ago I stopped going to college, because the road to college is very dangerous, fake police check-points are everywhere and at any moment they can stop me and ask for my ID and once they see that I'm a Sunni they would have me killed or kidnapped or tortured, because they can figure it out from my name and my address (my district is a sunni district), and the 2nd reason why I stopped going to college, is that in Monday (20th Nov. 2006) two police patrols attacked our college building, and opened fire on the outer gate of the college for nearly 15 minutes, then they stopped after they injured some guards of the college, and they left immediatly without giving excuses for what they did.

Nabil, who is 19 years old, is trying to get out of Iraq to continue his studies (and being alive) in New Zealand. Both his parents attended Cambridge University in the 1980's and his brother has made it to New York. While there is a flood of refugees streaming out of this disintegrating country we can help one of them ourselves by donating to Nabil's Escape Fund which is also linked to his blog.

A Million Penguins too Many?

Big Tony stretched his arm, yawned, and lazily flicked the channel from world news to a documentary on photography which aroused his interest only because of the scantily clad bathing models currently in front of the camera.

If you are wondering where this is going check out A Million Penguins a wiki novel project that was unveiled yesterday by publishing giant Penguin. This is the opening paragraph of chapter one as of midnight Friday 2nd February 2006. It may have changed by now. It is being presented in the terms of an experiment, but it could be easily called publicity.
I am not sure the term novel should be applied to a wiki that builds on a narrative network. It will be interesting to see if another term emerges along the way. According to the 'About' page for the project:

Can a collective create a believable fictional voice? How does a plot find any sort of coherent trajectory when different people have a different idea about how a story should end – or even begin? And, perhaps most importantly, can writers really leave their egos at the door? Typically, a writer will acknowledge in print the efforts of their book’s editor, copy editor and agent, since they each will have read the work in draft form. But such acknowledgments regularly include a disclaimer along these lines : “Any errors that remain are, of course, my own”.

Oh look, in the time I took to write/paste the above, the opening paragraph is now:

Big Tony stretched his arm and gave himself one final yank. He yawned, and lazily flicked the channel from world news to a documentary on photography which aroused his interest only because of the scantily clad bathing models currently in front of the camera.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Caged in Second Life

Last night in Second Life I and those around me were suddenly locked in black cages that materialised around our avatars. I could not move so I had to log out and log back in again. It was a strange experience, something akin to being arrested by invisible police perhaps.