Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Dream of Neverland

As I stumbled yesterday around one of my two local grocery providers I noticed that they now play the radio quite loud in the shopping space. As I tuned into what was being played the words of the song stuck me:

Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair
In 77 and 69 revolution was in the air
I was born too late into a world that doesn't care
Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair

I listened while watching the many young shoppers milling around me buying their dinner. I should note here that I live in the student area of our town, the suburb right next to the university and as a result I share my space with lots of students. Where we all buy our food is a central shopping plaza, the reading of which deserves a few words before I return to the dreams of 77 and 69.

There are two grocery shops in the plaza, one a cooperative (well the remains of one, when I speak to Swedes they all say..ahhh Konsum it was great in the 1970's), the other is a multinational company (ICA) that has surpassed sales of the co op long ago. The atmosphere in each of the these shops is very different. In Konsum there are many ecological products, prices are a little higher in many areas, the idles are not so stacked (things are often not available), there is no music being played, when they have a demonstrator on site it is usually for something like bread or a type of new soy product. In recent years Konsum has been fighting a loosing battle with the providers of cheaper imported products. We get bonus points, vouchers and bonus cheques home in the mail from our membership in the co op.
ICA is flash; it is crowded with young students buying cheaper food that is usually in a packet, they have a good selection of vegetarian foods but none of it is fresh, they have a good deli, prices are often 25% cheaper than Konsum. I shop at ICA when I am broke or when we are looking for dessert or a packet of dairy free muffins. The isles are stacked high and thick in ICA and they are not so wide between the shelves.

Back to 77 and 69.....The song I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) really irritates me but it is nonetheless interesting. Why it is interesting, the lyrics seem to be a sort of cutup from the late 40 years of cultures of dissent (that quickly became fashions), focusing mainly around the "Hippies" and the "Punks". This fits well with what Stuart Moulthrop described as "molecular culture" (After Levy 1997): "a shift from narrative to ludic engagement with texts and from interpretation to configuration as a dominant approach to information systems" (S. Mouthrop "From Work to Play: Molecular Culture in the Time of Deadly Games" 2004). I would add to the ludic classification; remix, cutup, mashup, and detourement. Whilst 'ludic' is a useful way to describe a textual practice, it does not in itself aid in the analysis of the results of the practice. When one actually looks at the lyrics of I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) they make little sense but Sandi Thom the singer of the song has such a powerful voice that she could be singing about the prices for spam ham and lunch sausage and it would sound alright.

The next reason why "Punk Rocker Flowers" is interesting is its reference to the P2P file sharing dilemma and general digital media from the perspective of the majors:

When record shops were still on top
And vinyl was all that they stocked
And the super info highway was still drifting out in space

Now this is interesting because back in April Sandi had burst forth from her basement where she had been sending a webcast of herself to sign a deal with RCA. So the "info highway" has been, up till now has been going very much in Sandi's direction.

So to conclude, if you really want to be a 'punk rocker with flowers in your hair' and join the people who do care it is going on all around you. First think about what it is you eat, where you shop and what media you take in. Then get active. Here is an example of activity, Squatting, the occupation of unused space for creative purposes: HOW TO SQUAT. Here is more:


"I was born too late to a world that doesn't care
Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair"
Sandi Thom "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)"

"The essence of your ignorance is the aesthetic of my anarchy"
Amsterdam Grafitti 1998

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Alone with the Text

While I have been spending a lot of time being a pappa to an energetic 14 month old boy over the last 3 months it is amazing how much reading I have managed to get done. Further to this is that the reading I have done has been my only communicative activity that moves outside my immediate surroundings. It happens that quite often i do not speak to another person other than my partner and children for two or three days at a time. The result of this equation; lots of reading and social isolation, has been a feeling that I am playing at being a humanist scholar in the old sense of the title. I am immersed in texts at the moment. To give you some idea here is my reading of current and recently completed books.

Yochai Benkler, "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom"
Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy, "Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media"
Adalaide Morris and Thomas Swiss (Eds), “New Media Poetics Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories”
Lars Qvortrup (Ed), “Virtual Interaction in Virtual Inhabited Worlds”
Marie-Laure Ryan, "Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media"
Marie-Laure Ryan "The Avatars of Story"

Of course if I was sitting in my cell alone with my piles of manuscripts I might even get more reading done...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sleep oh where art thou.........

Very tired due to a baby who has no concept of time or that both he and I and most of the people we know are DIURNAL FOR GOD'S SAKE!!! Sleep deprivation as a method of torture should be outlawed as cruel and inhuman by a special sitting of the United Nations, The World Bank, the Red Cross Crescent Sickle Star and McDonald's restaurants...I think I need to sleep.....Who said that?
Something I learnt at 4am while baby played happily away: 51st State is really a very very bad film. Goodnight.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Clones Make Life Weirder in Second Life

This is a demo of cloning using the copybot that has been news in Second Life. SL was also shut down yesterday by a program that created copies of gold rings everywhere. This may be the beginning of the end (as the old fool says in the western film). How can an economy develop (need of scarcity) when everything can be endlessly copied for free (no scarcity). If Linden Labs are going to keep their promise to open source the code for SL wouldn't this be a good time to do it?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Picture of What I Did Last Night

If you look closely you can see my hunched form under the scaffolding to the right of the bass drum.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In the Spotlight Tonight

Tonight at 19:20 I will be playing with the north African musicians that are the band Marakech as part of the opening of Umea's annual Autumn Light Festival. The whole night looks like being a visual feast with light artists from all over Sweden setting up their work around the city. Many of the installations are being sponsored by major corporations, so an expensive spectacle is what it will be. I will be playing at youth culture center HamnMagasinet as part of the "i rampljuset" (In the Spotlight) portion of the festival.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bruegel Winter and UBU

Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69)Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap 1565 - Oil, 38 x 56 cm; Wiltshire, Wilton House

With the weather here lately being white and the trees bare I keep getting the sensation that I am inside a Bruegel landscape. I have been living full time in Europe since 2000 (this is my sixth winter) but I have never felt so "in" the picture before. Is this a sign that I am adjusting to the climate or that I am losing my mind? Maybe both.

During this time of half melted snow (each winter I have been in this landscape it seems to be getting warmer...but we know all about that don't we) and grey atmosphere there is no better way to enjoy you time than the incredible offerings on UBUWEB. Really it is one of the best things on the net; thousands of film, audio, text and image files in a comprehensive coverage of the last hundred years of the most interesting things in art and expression. And they even have streamed content now....Who needs to go outside?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Look mom..I'm on (Gameplayer) TV

Stefan Blomberg and I were among several video game researchers working at Umea University who were interviewed by a while back. The first installment of the interview is now online at Gameplayer TV (around the middle of the program). We give brief explanations of why we are interested in researching computer games and why we think it is important. Most of the segment is in Swedish but I speak in what could be called English.....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Planet

The Planet:
Swedish documentary series from 2006. Part 1 of 4. Global Change. Never before has a single species effected the planet that the way we do today. 96 percent of the earth glaciers are shrinking in size, over one billion people suffer from lack of clean water and total natural disasters have doubled in the last 40 years. 52 mins. Mostly in English but some Swedish. Streamed from here:

George Martin Remix His last Work?

Isn't interesting that at the age of 80 George Martin, the producer of most of the Beatles albums, has decided to remix some of their most famous songs and rerelease them. As he will turn 81 in a couple of months (January 3rd) and he is going deaf this will probably be his last work. I wonder if the remix album, titled "Love" and to be available on November 20, can be read as a sort of final comment on the nature of modern popular music. The Beatles took classic rock and roll and experimented with it, adding bohemian and suburban flavour to it. Now Martin has remixed 26 songs in collaboration with his son Giles. The tunes have taken on a stringed symphonic sound and the vocals have been foregrounded (judging by the four clips available online). The songs will no doubt go on evolving after Martin is gone. This is how it is with music, it goes on and on.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nerves, Copyright and the Web 2.0 Thing

It seems that some people are getting nervous about the "Web 2.0" thing:

"The dust is still settling after Google, a company that didn't exist nine years ago, spent $1.6-billion (U.S.) to buy YouTube, a company that didn't exist three years ago. I'm not a numbers guy, and yet even the casual observer can't help but notice that 1.6 billion is, in fact, a very large number, especially for a company that's been around for a very small number of years......Indeed, the YouTube deal has people chattering about whether we're entering a second great Internet bubble. Hopes are high that anyone with a half-baked idea can score some venture capital, entice a couple of million bored surfers to log in, become the flavour of the month, and hope that some media conglomerate suffering a bout of new-media insecurity will come knocking before the whole thing collapses." (Globe and Mail)

The author, Ivor Tossell, goes on to critique the Web 2.0 thing (I have begin to really dislike the title) as having "spawned an entirely entertaining cult of conformity". Strange, but I suppose if you are only paying attention to what makes the newspapers then yea it could look that way. Even Time magazine has done an article on "Web 2.0" and it was very grim. Time's advice was "AMASS AN AUDIENCE" if you want to make money on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. But if you do AMASS AN AUDIENCE....what makes it any different from the millions of websites (including Time) being watched already. Guys (and there seems to be so many men in this discussion) it is no longer about is about C-R-E-A-T-I-V-I-T-Y. "We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it." (Cluetrain Manifesto 1999)

Back to the bucks. I was also stunned by the price Google paid for YouTube, but what if they paid that price in order to enter into a more forceful dialogue around copyright law with the various bodies trying to prevent sharing of content on the internet (Patents Office, MPAA, IFPI and so on). Sharing of content is the lifeblood of Google; both as a search engine, and with their various archival services (Google Books, Google Scholar and so on). The only chance Google has at surviving the tsunami of IP litigation that could descend on them is to get very big very fast. Adding an extra million users to their database makes sense if you think about it as an attempt to increase the "critical mass" of the organization as a controller of market demongraphics. When he was asked why Google brought YouTube Eric Schmidt, the Google CEO, replied "Because we liked them." SURE. They need them.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Video the Vote 2006

In 2004 I had the pleasure of spending time with Howard Rheingold, as a participant in a workshop in HUMlab, at a seminar he gave and privately at a dinner and general fun evening (a very hot sauna too). He inspired me with his take on mobile technologies and democratic process giving examples from all over the world and the internet. Today I suspect Howard is watching the midterm elections in the USA with interest. Something that could be a massive grassroots movement is Video the Vote 2006:

"In 2000 and 2004, problems plagued the polls in different parts of the country: long lines, eligible voters turned away, voter intimidation, misallocation and malfunctioning of voting equipment. They were underreported on Election Day. Days and weeks later, a more complete picture of voter disenfranchisement emergedÂ?but it was too late. The elections were over and the media had moved on. Starting this election, citizen journalists, people like you and me will document problems as they occur. We'll play them online, spread word through blogs and partner websites, doing our part to make sure the full story of our elections is told."

The results of this massive media experiment in democratic process will be online in a couple of days. This should be interesting. A video promo is HERE.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century contains 600 pages of tools, models and ideas for building a better future. There are short features on a thousand cool ideas: slow food, urban farming, hydrogen cars, messenger bags made from recycled truck tarps, pop-apart cell phones, and plywood made from bamboo. There are also how-to guides teaching us how to etch our own circuit board, or organize a smart mob.

From the website:
From consumer consciousness to a new vision for industry; non-toxic homes to refugee shelters; microfinance to effective philanthropy; socially responsible investing to starting a green business; citizen media to human rights; ecological economics to climate change, this is the most comprehensive, cutting-edge overview to date of what's possible in the near future -- if we decide to make it so.

Found through The Doors of Perception (subscribe; its free)

Review of Cauldron at Moonshake

A review of last Monday's playing with Jens, LO and Arne has appeared:

The next band on the stage was Cauldron, with members from Umea and Skelleftea, several familiar on the psychedelic music scene. Jens and LO play also in The Spacious Mind, Arne plays with the Holy River Family Band and Jim has released solo records and also participated on the records of others. They began with a long beautiful drone tune where Jim's didgeridoo together with Jens keyboard create a base structure, over this improvised Arne on saz and LO complemented on 12 string guitar. The beginning is extremely atmospheric and beautiful, but when after approx 12-15 minutes they slide over to the next tune and Arne changes to electric guitar and Jim to hand drum, I am beginning to feel it is becoming a little tedious. Above all I am not especially elated by guitar solo and here, while indeed virtuoso guitar playing, after getting close to 30 minutes of 1970's flavored impromptu guitar solo I begin to feel myself gorged.

Mmmmm..ouch...but not too bad. The original in Swedish, with reviews of Cellsam X (Brilliant) and Larkin Grimm (Astounding) can be found at The Culture Newspaper by Krister Mörtsell. I hope to post the mp3 of the Cauldron jam soon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Postdoctoral Positions at HUMlab

Four postdoctoral positions in digital humanities are available at HUMlab, Umeå University, Sweden from January 1, 2007 (the actual start date may be later). The postdoctoral fellowships are for one year with a possible extension of one year. Applicants will be expected to have a Ph.D. in a humanities discipline and a specialty in any of these four research areas: participatory media, digital cultural heritage, digital art, and electronic literature. In exceptional cases, other areas and backgrounds can be of interest as well.
Deatils Here:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006



November on -empyre- looks great

November 2006 on -empyre- soft-skinned space:


Please join Hamed Taheri (DE), Johannes Birringer (UK), Michelle
(UK), Maria Moreira (BR), and Miguel Leal (PT).

subscribe at

Seventy years ago, Walter Benjamin wrote his insightful essay on the impact of technical reproducibility of art on the way we perceive, receive and understand the concept of art in itself. Few articles have had such a lasting impact on debates about the relations among technology, art works, perception and culture as Benjamin's

Trying to take advantage of some of Benjamin's insights, but assuming we are now under a radically distinct social and cultural landscape, -empyre- welcomes some guests' insights on "the work of art in the age of a noiseless world", and the alternatives we may have for the work of art as a practice of perceptual guerrila.

If we assume that technologies are - even if for war purposes, as most of the digital apparatuses have been -, developed taking certain notions of a "better life" as its goals, they carry with them a certain utopia, related to the knowledge matrix and values from which they emerge: they intend to help to build such a world. We ask if there is - and if so, what it is - the utopia embedded on digital informational technology. The cybernetic paradigm aims a world of perfect informational flux - that is, a world without noise. We are faced with the puzzling paradox that, in such a context, even a significant field of art-works and art-activism developed as "social noise" are forced, in order to circulate through digital networks, to formalize themselves in noiseless terms - those demanded by digital apparatus.

Please join our guests for conversation on "the work of art in the age of a noiseles world" at