Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy New Ear


Banksy does it well at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Hippy New Year and peace to all.............

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Reading Tracking Telling

For the last month or so I have been deeply immersed in the theories of reading. What it is to read, how we read and what we experience when we read? This will be the main concern for a chapter in my thesis (ohh so far away it seems). Anyway, something that struck me the other day was the idea of reading a game and playing a game. They are two different things I think. Then came the idea of the way a tracker reads tracks. In the 1860's my great great gandfather successfully tracked a man who had murdered someone from the Condamine River in central Queensland to the South Australian boarder, a distance of over a thousand kilometers. He read the signs all the way as he attempted to reach his goal, finding the man. This I can see as having similarities to a game.
Then today I saw this:

Ice Age footprints tracked in NSW national park

The world's largest collection of human fossil footprints have been found in a national park in western New South Wales.

The prints are 19,000 to 23,000-years-old and date back to the Ice Age.

They were found in the Mungo National Park at Willandra and the site contains more than 450 well preserved footprints of men, women and children.

New South Wales Environment Minister Bob Debus says the site shows a large group of people walking and interacting with one another.

"We see children running between the tracks of their parents, the children running in meandering circles as their parents travel in direct lines," he said.

"It's a most extraordinary snapshot of a moment or several moments in the life of Aboriginal people living on the edge of the lake in western New South Wales 20,000 years ago."
ABC News

This is reading the tracks to tell a story. Emotions are evoked in the running children, a "snapshot" is provided (just like the ones any family takes on holidays) but we will never find the makers of the tracks. We do however have their story, from reading the tracks.

Race, Culture and Livelihood

Yesterday I had the chance to attend a lecture by David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and Professor of African-American Studies and of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California at Irvine. It was an intense experience as terms such as 'Race', 'Racilization' (a term we were advised not to use by Professor Goldberg), 'Racial' and 'Racist' were examined in the contexts of history, society and conflict.

The title of the lecture was Racial Europeanization. The title is a part of a five region study looking at racial regionaizations that also included racial Americanization, Latin Americanization, Palestinization, and South Africanization.
In the European context post-1945 race has been constructed as externaility. Such situations as the South African apartheid state and the segregation and inequalities of the United States provided the expression for Europe in regards to race. Meanwhile in Europe the "touchstone for race" was the Jewish holocaust of the 1930's and 1940's perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the often forgotten (and numerous)collaborators to the regime.

Goldberg explained a little of his method in 'reading' race in society. He stated that social structures often contain "inflections with racial meaning". In reading these inflections one must distinguish between the normative/evaluative and what is being intended.

This was expanded later in an answer to a question in regards to methodology:
1. Look at demographic representation (population make-up, groups, etc.)
2. Compare this with difference in representation of elite areas of the labor market. Also with representation at universities and within other institutional structures.
3. Look at where people live. Where they are being made to live and where they are choosing to live.
4. From this inferences can be drawn on who 'belongs' and who does not 'belong'.
5. Finally how to displace distanciation and overcoming exoticisation.

(more on Goldberg's Lecture Here)

Following the lecture I came home and in the course of the evening I watched the Swedish program Uppdrag Granskning ("Mission Investigate") about a local court case between the Sámi reindeer herders and land holders. It seemed to be a life example of many of the points David Theo Goldberg was making in his lecture earlier in the day. One of the land holders, when asked about the survival of the nomadic culture of the Sámi said that it was good if it survived just as long as he did not have their practices (particulalry the driving of reindeer to seasonal pastures) near him. He wanted it to be invisible but present. This seems like a contradiction and a racially based one. Indeed the example of nomadic life practice seems to cross over the boarders (pardon the pun) between race, identity and ethnicity. Maybe this is why the Swedish state is having such a bother with it. The governemnt has largely ignored the whole issue, refusing to legislate in regards to "ancient land use", and to help with the huge financial cost to Sámi communities when they must launch cases against the land holders (the situation is the reverse in Norway where land holders must initiate cases against the "orginal people"; the Sámi). The communiites must borrow money from their own funding bodies to protect their material culture. Several of these cases have already been lost by the Sámi communities.
Meanwhile the Swedish government refuses to become involved, even continuing to use paternalistic terms such as "our Sámi" in parlimentary debate, and refusing to sign the United Nations Charter Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (my homeland Australia has not signed either). Debate from the television documentary was large. Opinions expressed circle around themes of difference and likeness, who gets to say which is which and even non-Sámi peoples saying what is a Sámi (language, technology, and location seem to be important).

Some more links to David Theo Goldberg should be recomended to anyone trying to articluate a race based agenda:
Post-Racial States
Review of David Theo Godlberg’s lecture The Death of Race

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age

"The humanities provide the social and cultural contexts of the creation and application of knowledge, the critical reflections upon how knowledge is created and what its effects and implications are. The humanities promote a broad range of social and cultural literacies. They offer critical civic competencies, ways of comprehending cultural and technological values, and the worlds such values conjure; in short, ways of world making. A world without the humanities would be one in which science and technology knew no point of social reference, had lost their cultural compass and moral scope. It would be a world narrowly limited and limitlessly narrow."
David Theo Goldberg, "A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age"
Seminar, HUMlab 13:15 (CET) Tuesday 19th December 2005.
I will be watching the live stream from HERE beginning at 1:15pm due to a simultaneous medical appointment (child vaccination).

Friday, December 16, 2005

We are Family



From the local paper. How we are looking these day. Notice extra person to left of center. Benyamin James is his name.

24 Hour Blog Jam



To kick off the opening of the exhibition southwestNET: techno, on December 17th, 2005 (TOMORROW), artist Rick Silva will be in Scottsdale for a 24 hour, international "blog jam" event called 24 Hour Count. Along with artistic collaborators Mark Amerika (in Sydney, Australia) and Nathaniel Wojtalik (in Boulder, Colorado), Silva will record, mix, interpret and respond to current events using technologies that include the mobile phones, digital video, mini-disk recorders, musical instruments and numerous computer software programs. As the artists record images, sounds and other information, they will send their findings in the form of digital messages and files back and forth to one another, continually mixing sound, images and text, like DJs. Hour by hour their mixes will be uploaded onto a blog, which will document live their intercontinental "jam session."


Visit the website http://www.djrabbi.com/24/ to read more about the project and explore the blog as it transforms!

EU data retention law passed

Well they did it. The European Parliament yesterday passed the law (voted 378-197, with 30 abstentions) which requires internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile phone operators to retain data such as "incoming and outgoing phone numbers, the duration of phone calls, IP addresses, which identify a computer's coordinates on the internet, login and logoff times and email activity details - but not the actual content of communications." (from SMH). The retention period is a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 2 years. Poland wanted data to be stored for 15 years! There will be "effective, proportionate and dissuasive" penal sanctions for companies who fail to store the data or misuse the retained information (noticias.info).

This will be tough for many smaller ISPs with the costs for storing such large amounts of data being high. I cannot conceive how mobile phone operators with huge customer bases are going to manage it. Even a single day of phone activity in Sweden (a low populated EU nation) is enormous. These costs may be passed on to customers as the EU authorities have said they are not footing the bill for this;

"ISPA (Internet Service Providers' Association) cites estimates from one large UK-based ISP that it would cost £26m a year to set up data retention kit on its systems and £9m a year in running costs to service law enforcement requests." (from The Register)

So it looks like the users of the technologies involved will be paying for the surveillance. It does seem like the music business has been delayed in gaining access to the data, as they wanted to use it to prosecute file sharing:

"Only the competent authorities determined by Member States should have access to the retained data from phone or internet providers. Furthermore, each national government will designate an independent authority responsible for monitoring the use of the data." (noticias.info).

It does however raise questions regarding the commodification of information. Having just spent time at a data mining workshop I am coming to realize the value of "raw information" and how large quantities of demographic data can have great potential for modeling of correlations, patterns and trends. Would the EU authorities be prepared to ignore the fact that they have access to an enormous resource in the data retention system they have just created?

Finally with national boarders becoming increasingly transparent how effective will these laws actually be in monitoring communication traffic for those targeted ("the terrorists"):

"In a statement, the EU's electronic communications industry said it regretted the move and lamented that it did not take into account the Internet world and its global nature. "This directive will impose a significant burden on European e-communications industry, impacting on its competitiveness," said five major European telecommunications organizations in a statement. "However only a fraction of the email services used today would be covered by the EU directive as the world largest email providers are not in Europe, allowing criminals to easily circumvent the rules," they said." (discwrite)

On our local TV news last night Hans Wallberg said (in Swedish) that it is private people who are not committing any crime who will be most effected by data retention. Anyone who is serious about committing crime can easily circumvent these new controls but the average communication technology user would not bother. Once these vast bodies of data have been created they will need to be secured themselves as they provide a valuable resource for such things as industrial espionage, marketing demographics, and multinational business concerns. Not to mention any sort of oppressive state authorities that may come in the future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Screen Theory: The Early Years


Phantasmagoria (collection of phantoms)

Although I have vowed earlier to cease reading like a shark at a barbecue I could not stop myself when I came across Literature and Visual Media (David Seed, Editor). The first essay Optical Recreations and Victorian Literature by John Plunkett was a fascinating journey through a world of visuality, literature and the popular imagination of 19th century Britain.
Having long been interested in the sources of trope and meme in digital representations Plunkett's essay provided excellent background for early constructions around both the visual and the virtual. On the tromp l'oeil effect of the early panorama shows which were both traveling and stationary in specially built buildings (one from 1793 was 10 000 square feet of canvas!) William Wordsworth was already cautioning against "the opportunity for the spectator to become immersed in its virtual world" in the 1790's in The Prelude (Book Seven). However the caution of the lake bard did little to stem the tide from a cascade of visual entertainments. The relationship with gaming was also early in regards to the virtual:

"The success of large scale panoramas led to hand-held versions, children's games, and miniature toy theater panoramas that could be performed in the parlour. In the early years of the panorama's novelty small hand-held panoramas were published as luxury tourist guides-cum-commemoratives. Among the many produced were panoramas of Falmouth (1806), Brighton (1831), Sidmouth (1821), Weymouth (1820), and the Isle of Wight (1820). Scrolling panoramas were used also to portray public events such as the coronations of George IV in 1818 and Queen Victoria in 1838.. Numerous games based on the aesthetic form and instructional value of the panorama were also produced: examples include the Myriorama (1824), Panoramacopia (1824) and Nautorama (1832). The convergence between print and optical media was thus only part of the latter's capacious influence." (Plunkett:13)

Continuing the trace of material metaphor between such present day technologies such as GIS, augmented reality and the image, the Aeronautikon (1841) provided " images of Mr Marshall's flight from London to Germany in the Aeronautikon balloon, including: the balloon being inflated; leaving Vauxhall Gardens and ascending over London; flying across the channel by moonlight; and flying over the Rhine at sunrise. It also introduces panoramic views of China, Afghanistan and the Khyber Pass"


Advertisement for the Aeronautikon, Manchester, 23 December 1841.


It is clear from Plunkett's essay that the visual field was developing fast, coming out of Enlightenment concerns and thought. He goes on to cite examples of its influence on such authors as George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Amelia Opie and the works published by Dean and Son.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Struggle for Words When you have a Mouth Full.


Home is where the Books are.


In the last month I have begun working on my PhD thesis proper. For a year before this I had been reading the 'course literature'. Reading is something I am good at as I have been trained in it since I was a young child. To read long and deep, to read vivaciously, to read is never wrong. I was never denied a book when I was growing up, and I grew up in a house with thousands of books. This probably rings true for many and I am not saying it is a bad thing. Reading is good, but how you read is an important consideration.
Just now I am struggling to find my voice in the writing of thesis work. For the whole of my education I have been taking in and regurgitate the arguments and observances of others. I swim in the warm waters of sparkling words and adroit phrases. The mental gymnastics of French poststructuralism is something I actually enjoy (sad isn't it). I am a glutton of the reading world. But I have never really paused in my reading and begun thinking reflectively and critically, really divorcing myself from the avalanche of beautiful books and make my own word space in reaction to my reading. Although I do write from myself (poetry, stories) this is an easy recourse to an imagination that has been with me since childhood (like reading)and would have been so even without reading but perhaps expressed differently.
In a sense this reader spectrum is the difference between what could be described as active and passive reading. The active reader may read only one book a month (or even parts of books) but it is digested and sustains the mental life of that person for the whole time, the book is pondered on and recalled (perhaps read several times), and is recycled in thought and action. The passive reader can read several whole books a week, reading fast and even deeply but spend little time in the worlds of each book and have largely forgotten the book 5 or 10 books later. Both readers are reading but it is done differently. Neither is 'better' than the other, just different. Where I am at just now requires me to stop so much reading and start building with words my own "world of discourse" (there's that bloody poststructuralism) and just to make it that more difficult, it has to be based around the story worlds of other authors. So, as my supervisor says, focus, calm down, and build up your argument using simple terms of your own IN YOUR OWN WORDS. This last one, 'in your own words' is what really stumps me. Really trying to think for oneself is very very difficult, trying to describe it in a clear and concise manner is even harder. I think I have to stop reading and start thinking.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

HUMlab Nominated for EDUblogs

The Humlab Blog, for which I write and helped create, has been short listed for the EDUblog, educational blog awards. We are nominated for Best Designed/Most Beautiful Blog and Best Group Blog. Please vote for the HUMlab blog, cause it is the best!!! Ya ya ya!:-) The winners will be anounced on Sunday 18th December...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sedition and Technology

In 1901 the government of Turkey banned typewriters due to their power to produce anonymous seditious material with the rational "in the event of seditious writing executed by the typewriter being circulated, it would be impossible to obtain any clew [sic] by which the operator of the machine could be traced." Sedition and technology have played happily hand in hand throughout the history of media reproduction. Johannes Gutenberg completed a printing press technique in 1448. In Elizabethan England (1533-1603) the laws of sedition and treason were strongly enforced and enacted and included offences such as:

"writing or printing texts denying Elizabeth's ecclesiastical and temporal authority; advocating the rights of anyone else to that authority; advocating rebellion; calling her a heretic or usurper; slandering or defaming her. Writing, publishing or printing texts with rumors, libels or slanders against the Queen"


From 1997 MIT conference Technologies of Freedom we have this synopsis:

"Let me turn to the question of state control, the history of censorship. This relates to the question of state power and monopoly. The English government from the advent of printing is interested in controlling this new technology. There are various acts, usually called licensing acts, that impose control. You begin to read these statutes and your blood chills: sedition and heresy are common terms; anybody who imports or circulates a book will be drawn and quartered. And there are occasions when people are hanged or burned or their books burned.
But there is another agenda operating here as well, perhaps more centrally. The Licensing Act of 1662 begins with a series of ghastly clauses about suppression of freedom of thought, but suddenly it turns into a series of commercial privileges, guaranteeing a handful of printers a monopoly over the trade. The real issue is not sedition or heresy; the real issue is piracy. How can you prevent your competitors from printing your book, to which you have some right?"


Which brings me to the present deliberation of the European parliament, of which I have written below, on data retention, traceable information (remember the Turkish typewriters)and digital rights management (DRM).
Finally what inspired this brief tour through sedition and technology is that the Senate chamber of the Australian parliament began debate today on anti-terrorist legislation which includes 5 new sedition laws and a revision of the existing ones.
These are:

1. A person encourages another to violently overthrow the Constitution or any Australian government.
2. A person encourages another to violently interfere with federal elections.
3. A person urges a racial, religious, national or political group to use violence against another group, where the violence threatens; "peace, order and good government".
4& 5 Urging a person to assist organizations or countries fighting militarily against Australia; even if Australia has invaded another country unlawfully. Countries or organizations need not be formally proclaimed as enemies. Australians may be prosecuted for condemning illegal violence by their government, or for seeking to uphold the United Nations Charter.


Taken from the excellent review: BRIEFING ON SEDITION OFFENCES IN THE ANTI-TERRORISM BILL 2005 by Dr Ben Saul (University of NSW Faculty of Law).

I see a relationship between technology and sedition. The nature of sedition has changed considerable since the days of Elizabeth Tudor , the state is no longer a personality, but rather a set of documents and practices that may not even be necessarily revealed to its citizens. It exists over national boarders and within the private meeting places of organizations. Indeed Saul states the same in commenting on the 5 "good faith defences" placed within the sedition bills in order to "protect free speech":

"The defences are also anachronistic, since they are based closely on the defences to English common law crimes of sedition found in a famous English criminal law text book of 1887 (Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, A Digest of the Criminal Law, 3rd ed, 1887, article 93). They are defences for a different era; less rights-conscious, and eager to protect the reputation of Queen Victoria. Such narrow defences have no place in a self-respecting modern democracy."

This is a digital state. The defences set in place by the Australian and European attempts to guarantee right to information and expression are those largely based upon the state as a national representative body within defined geographic boundaries. While the attempts to control the flow of information and opinion are transglobal, such features as the absence of a United Nations recognition in the Australian legislation illustrates the focus for concerns in the laws. This is related to the difficulties of any sort of decisions regarding the free flow of information to be made at this level. I am thinking here Tunis, where the

"USA, Australia and Canada proposed that the FIG [Forum for the Internet Governance] be convened by the Internet Society; an association that supports the ad-hoc bodies active in the growth of the internet -- thereby suggesting that the UN should have absolutely no role and competencies in internet-related matters." (APEC-WSIS Blog)


So the debate continues. It is not always clear whose interests are being argued by whom, as is usually the case with power and media. There seems to have been some gains made at WSIS is regards to the flow of information but these are perhaps being countered by local legislation, such as the resort to sedition by the Australian government. Of course there are such things as terrorists, as there have always been. But as Dr Saul points out in his review of the sedition laws, most things that are outlawed as terrorist acts or intents are already illegal in civilized societies, including threats and planning. Surveillance may be necessary in this context, but sedition seems a bit out of date.......

Sunday, December 04, 2005

An Eye on Ma Ganga

In 1996-97 I lived in Varanasi, India for three months. It was an experience I will never forget and I hope to repeat some day. Here is a New York Times photo essay on the city and the river that brought back many memories for me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Lennon Talks



John Lennon gave Rolling Stone magazine a classic interview in 1970 shortly after the Beatles had broken up. This has never been broadcast before.
John Lennon - The Wenner Tapes: 1900GMT, Saturday 4 December, BBC Radio 4

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shamanistic Homing Pigeons: Urban Eyes

This is wild:

Urban Eyes at V2_
"The urban rock dove (columba livia) is part of every cityscape. More hated than loved due to malnourishment based on fast food left-overs, the "flying rat" is very likely here to stay in our urban scenario. The urban pigeon population can be seen as an indicator of the city's atmosphere. Bottomline is, just as every other behaviour pattern and network in the city, we are connected to it as we share the same space. In a mixture of revived shamanism and panoptic view that might challenge the artificial network of CCTV cameras, the pigeon population's unpredictable movement patterns offer a set of eyes that could offer a unique view onto unknown places. Based on the Bavarian Pigeon Corps from 1903, where homing pigeons were equipped with tiny cameras to take aerial shots from behind enemy lines, Urban Eyes uses RFID and wireless technology to turn the once able urban pigeon into a chaotic agent and messenger of visual impressions from the road you never took.Perceived as a critical design concept and public art installation, Urban Eyes accesses the live network of pigeons to expand what you know about your own city and reclaim the exploring stage of citylife. In 2004 the project proposal of Urban Eyes won 3rd prize at Fusedspace, an international competition for innovative applications for new technology in the public domain.On Thursday 24 November at V2_, media artists Marcus Kirsch and Jussi Ängeslevä will present Urban Eyes with an introduction to the project's origins and concept and the findings of Kirsch' research during his V2_residency. The presentation includes an example run of the prototype built in and with the help of the V2_Lab over the last two months as well as perspectives on Urban Eyes' future".

Via Doors of Perception.