Friday, October 31, 2008

America Where are You?



I put my back toward the screen, then spun and let the momentum carry the panel through the screen and window with a ripping crash. The glass splashed out in the moon, like a bright cold water baptizing the sleeping earth, and I put my hand on the sill and vaulted after the panel, Into the moonlight. -Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest


As my children arrange their Halloween costumes and Obama and McCain are mediated all around me I reflect on what is 'America'. Throughout my younger years I was as cynical and critical as many left-leaning Australians. I was raised both on Sesame Street and the "overpaid, overfed, oversexed and over here" jokes of my grandparents generation who lived through the crises and tensions of World War II in Australia. My parents were involved in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s. When I went to university I read The Eagle and the Lotus; Western Intervention in Vietnam 1847-1968 by Jim Cairns. The book made a deep impression on me. Since then I have lived a dual life when it comes to the USA. On the one hand I have watched in horror with news reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the past decades the many locations where United States military intervention was used. I even marched in the streets when Kuwait ("No Blood for Oil") was invaded in 1991.
At the same time I have consumed more American culture than probably many American's have. I have read authors from Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne to the beat writers and on to Brett Easton Ellis, Alice Walker and many more. I have listened to, and bought music from many many American musicians as well as tracked miles and even once sold my clothes (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion 1994) in order to attend concerts by them. I could go on about my addiction to American television and films but I don't need to (we all live with it). I have never set foot in America, but I have been raised on its myths and ideologies all me life.
It is this divided quality to the products of American cultures, politics and society which I pondered when I saw the 30 minute 'infomercial' (such a horrible word) put out by the Obama campaign:



The mythologies at play in the infomercial American Stories, American Solutions, reminded me of the myths that were central in the so-called beat generation. The video which opens this post is taken from the Chuck Workman documentary The Source, the central figures which were associated with the beat generation. Neal Cassady even worked at a tire retread plant for many years, like the first of the 'ordinary folk' Obama introduces us to in the infomercial. Both Cassady and Jack Kerouac were poets concerned with 'the dignity of work', a phrase Obama uses in the film. Both were fierce nationalists, unlike the other more anarchistic members of post-war avant garde in the USA who associated with them. The 'common sense mid western way' which one character in the informercial describes as suiting Obama, is a good summary of Ken Kesey, who was born in Colorado and grew up in Oregon. Kesey believed "a man has the right to be as big as he feels it in him to be." I think this can be related to the central myth of the Obama campaign as indicated by the infomercial. The achievement of status and wealth should be measured not so much by magnitude but by community, specifically American middle class community.
Maybe it comes down to that the generation controlling so much of the wealth in the USA today (born post-1940) is the same generation forty years ago that followed the advice and art of the 'beat generation' artists, writers and musicians, spawning the mythology and legacies of the 1960s. In opposition to this the McCain campaign is perhaps representing values that were challenged by the mythology and legacies of the 1960s. But both are concerned with how the 'American Dream' can be realized. As were the 'crazy coots' represented in The Source. "The story of America" is a narrative that does not go away but is recycled in various forms. The control of the narrative of America seems to be in the hands of the Obama campaign at the moment. A story which we outside the USA meet so often, react to, embrace, reject or are even murdered in the name of.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Web 2.0 Story Telling



Bryan Alexander has published a text online, Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre. While giving a number of criteria for what this new genre may involve, Bryan seems to be also aware of the depth that the murky waters of online tech tools can hold:

To claim that there is now such a thing as “Web 2.0 storytelling” invites risks. For one, some media reports suggest that this type of storytelling could be either hype or a danger. In addition, trying to pin down such a moving target can result in creating terminology that becomes obsolete in short order. Moreover, claiming that storytelling is happening online and is developing in interesting ways contradicts some current assertions about a decline in reading.


I am sure I will return to this text for reading and reflection, but at the moment my thesis is eating my brain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Combat Game for Isreal Vs Iran


Raising Eagle, a free download first person shooter with a high propaganda rating. The image shows a in game spray of the president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a monkey. Inset: the games ' financier Sydney businessman Kevin Bermeister.


The game, which contrary to its setting does not include any Palestinian fighters, is an update to earlier versions of the game set in Paris and China. It pits the Iranian Revolutionary Guard against Israel's elite Golani Brigade in a first-person shooter setting.

In an interview with Fairfax Media's Jerusalem Correspondent, Jason Koutsoukis, one of the game's Israel-based designers, Yaron Dotan, said it would be "taking things too far" if the game had Israeli soldiers fighting against Palestinians.

But Dotan, 34, was delighted at the suggestion that his game, which includes billboard-size photographs of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looking like a monkey, might cause offence to Iranians. He describes the Iranian soldiers as "the Waffen SS of today".

"I want this to upset people. I hope it causes the biggest shitstorm in history," he said.

In the game, players can choose to play either as the Israelis or the Iranians. Bermeister said in an interview he hoped this would encourage people on both sides to log in and communicate with each other in a non-threatening, virtual setting.

"People will get to know each other in a competitive battleground environment, get to text each other, speak to each other, connect with each other and figure out that they're human beings and they can get on with each other," he said.

But Bermeister conceded the game would inevitably make a political statement. (SMH)

Raising Eagle joins America's Army and the Hezbollah's Special Force in pitting real world enemies against each other in virtual environments. Spreading the message of hate into the 21st century.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sarah P. in the Big Chair



While it is looking increasingly unlikely that this image will ever find a resonance outside Photoshop, the idea spawns a satirical Flash piece that is really well done. President Sarah Palin in the White House gives you a surreal insight into what it may be like to have Scary Sari in the Oval Office. (HINT: Don't keep opening the door if you have a problem with blood and dying animals)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Slavoj Zizek: What is the Question?

Dangerous moments are coming. Dangerous moments are always also a chance to do something. But in such dangerous moments, you have to think, you have to try to understand. And today obviously all the predominant narratives — the old liberal-left welfare state narrative; the post-modern third-way left narrative; the neo-conservative narrative; and of course the old standard Marxist narrative — they don’t work. We don’t have a narrative. Where are we? Where are we going? What to do? You know, we have these stupid elementary questions: Is capitalism here to stay? Are there serious limits to capitalism? Can we imagine a popular mobilization outside democracy? How should we properly react to ecology? What does it mean, all the biogenetic stuff? How to deal with intellectual property today? Things are happening. We don’t have a proper approach. It’s not only that we don’t have the answers. We don’t even have the right question.
Slavoj Zizek of In Defense of Lost Causes, in conversation with Chris Lydon, September 22, 2008

Click to listen to Chris’s conversation with Slavoj Zizek (1:04:19 minutes, 29.5 mb mp3)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Down and Streaming

Just got some bad news about a funding application. It looks like I may be independent upon completion of my PhD (six months remaining). Exciting in one sense.....sort of .
This week has been spent writing which is good. Next week we are off to Stockholm for Ben.s medical intervention in hearing. Also sort of exciting ......sort of.
A few tips for online media this week and then....have a rewarding weekend.

New Wikipedia for Schools Launched
SOS Children UK, in coordination with the Wikimedia Foundation, has released a complete 2008/9 revision of the Wikipedia Selection for Schools, which is perhaps the most successful "checked content" project derived from the English Wikipedia. Previous revisions have been distributed off-line widely across the globe including by the Shuttleworth Foundation to South Africa Schools, by the Hole in the Wall project to rural Indian children and through SOS offices worldwide. The updated selection has the content of a 20 volume encyclopaedia - with 34,500 pictures, 20 million words and articles on more than 5500 topics. This revision, which can be freely downloaded or collected free from SOS Children is selected and organised around the UK National Curriculum and aimed at 8-17 year olds who broadly follow the UK National Curriculum and similar curricula elsewhere in the world.

The Atlas of Cyberspace (28MB PDF)
The full content of the book can now be downloaded for free.

Fun-Da-Mental: Cookbook DIY

Fun-da-Mental are a veteran rap group based in England whose 2006 song "Cookbook D.I.Y." was banned there because it gave explicit instructions on how to make a bomb. Bandleader Propa-Ghandi is a Pakistan-born Muslim. Though the song is open to interpretation as it is narrated from a number of points of view, Mr. 'Ghandi didn't come off too well when he was interviewed in the new Bill Maher film "Religulous." When Maher asked him about the fatwa against writer Salmon Rushdie, the rapper (aka Aki Nawaz) appeared to condone it. Is he a fun-da-mentalist?
I saw Fun-Da-Mental play in 2003. Hardcore Bangha and rap mixed with techno. Excellent.

THE INVISIBLE COLLEGE-THE LUXURY OF HORNS, TAPE, 1981, AUSTRALIA
This exceptional slice of lost Aussie underground experimentation was both produced by Laughing Hands (whose phenomenal tape "Nights" I posted last week) and issued by the same cassette label that released Nights, namely Rash. The sonic terrain staked out by The Invisible College is a slippery one; their approach leaving the listener suspended in a nocturnal no-man's land between the more rhythmically driven end of Randy Greif's spectral fourth world inversions, Ashra's percolatingly buoyant guitar and synth sequence-y interweavings and the eerie post punk instrumental wanderings of The Anti Group. Some genuinely striking work here that falls between many poles and is all the better for it.


Playwright and novelist Yukio Mishima foreshadowed his own violent suicide with this ravishing short feature, his only foray into filmmaking, yet made with the expressiveness and confidence of a true cinema artist. All prints of Patriotism (Yûkoku), which depicts the seppuku of a army officer, were destroyed after Mishima's death in 1970, though the negative was saved, and the film resurfaced thirty-five years later. New viewers will be stunned at the depth and clarity of Mishima's vision, as well as his graphic depictions of sex and death.

A crazy collagist weekend to all....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Learning in a Networked World



Keynote presentation at Handheld Learning 2008 (many more fine presentations from link) by social media scientist, danah boyd

Games for Change

Gas Zappers is a short animation about climate change. The main character, the ironically overappropriated and fuzzy polar bear, abruptly finds itself in a position to save its home living environment through dextrous maneuvers in an Al-e Gore-ical world. The idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues. Aesthetically, graphical and musical styles from the glory days of video games conjure the triumph and delight of virtual success.

As the bear progresses with celebrity companions through different climate change scenarios such as Venice underwater, confrontations with bulldozers, and anthropomorphized killer oil derricks, it narrowly succeeds each time thanks to its renewable energy defenses. A narrative unfolds that, like the artists’ previous works, waggishly interrogates the spectacular mode of ecological policy.

"The narrative of the game criticizes quick-fix attempts and suggests real strategies for cutting down on carbon emissions. The project manages to be entertaining and educational, at the same time--a balance which is its own art". Marisa Olson

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Seminar on Mobile Gaming Culture

The Big Bang: A Case Study of Mobile Media and Gaming as New Media in South Korea

HUMlab
21 oktober 2008 kl. 13:15 (CET)
Larissa Hjorth, RMIT University, Melbourne Australia.
Live Stream available (opens at 13.15)
In media cultures of late, the synergy between two global dominant industries – mobile communication and gaming – has attracted much attention and stargazing. As part of burgeoning global media cultures, gaming and mobile media are divergent in their adaptation at the level of the local. In some locations where broadband infrastructure is strong and collectivity is emphasized (such as South Korea), online multiplayer games prevail. In locations where convergent mobile technologies govern such as Japan, mobile gaming platforms dominate.

In order to address the uneven adoption and definitions of mobile gaming, this paper will focus on the convergence between mobile technologies and gaming in the Asia-Pacific through a case study on one of the dominant locations for the production and consumption of innovative mobile technologies, Seoul, South Korea. Lauded by the OECD as the most broadbanded country in the world, South Korea’s particular technoculture demonstrates a high deployment of online space in everyday urban life. From the PC bangs (rooms), online gaming and social networking sites such as Cyworld mini-hompy, Seoul provides a fascinating study in twenty-first century technocultures. I will begin with contextualizing South Korea as one of the major global leaders in mobile technologies. I will then turn to the South Korean new media group INP who have conducted location aware game projects such as Urban vibe (2005) and, more recently, ‘mobile hacker’ project called Dotplay (2007).

Workshop on Second Life

Yesterday I gave a basic introduction to building in Second Life (I am not capable of much more..) Here are the notes I used for the workshop.


Kowloon Temple by Seb, from The Best of the Best in Second Life.


“Rather than tweak the environment to force real-world styles of collaboration, more might be gained by improving aspects of collaboration that users find troublesome, such as the permission system which currently prevents objects which have been made by different individuals from being linked together.”
Collaborative Building in Second Life


The agenda for the workshop is:

Building:
- Questions
- Prims
- More sites from instructional videos, guide books etc on how to build.
- Textures
- Balancing bandwidth demands
- Coding

Media and Second Life:
- Streaming - audio and video
- PowerPoint
- Linking - websites/URLs, linking to media files
- Parcelling land for URLs and streaming

Prims:
Prims are the objects which are used to build in Second Life. To create a prim, simply right-click the ground and choose Create. This will open the Create Pane on which you will see all the basic shapes available to you. You can also click the blue Build button at the bottom of your screen. Try to keep prim count low.
See Use and Abuse of Prims

Sites from instructional videos, guide books, help etc. on how to build.
Building Tools (includes links for free 3D modelling tools)
A Beginner's Guide to Second Life By v3image (Google Book)
SL Tutorials Blog
Video Tutorials
Support
Building Resources
Ten Tips for Building in Second Life (video)
How to use the Building Grid (Important..maybe I have shown this before...but really important for collaborative building)

Textures
One of the few things that can be easily moved in and out of Second Life (uploaded, downloaded) is textures. These are the JPEG image files that give objects their appearance. A large collection of textures (10MB file) can be downloaded from here: http://secondlife.com/community/textures.php To upload and download a texture into or out of SL costs $L10. You should remember this when moving textures around and only move the ones you think you will need. All groups are running on a budget!
A sick amount of texture tools (many free) plus texture packs and instructions on making texture work well in your projects can be found here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Texture_Tools
JPEG files should be small, be careful when importing textures and make Adobe Photoshop your friend (that is an order)!!
Of course Google Images is good for finding textures. Picsearch is also good. Because this is a university project images must be copyright neutral to be used in the projects, but this is not such a big problem as there are thousands of sources for copyright free images on the web. Look for the Creative Commons License to be sure you can use the images. Flickr has a CC collection online. As well the Internet Archive is a treasure trove of CC images, audio and texts. Finally, suiting the museum theme of the projects, old images (over 70 years after the death of the creator) can be used freely.
I will go through textures further in the workshop.

Balancing the Bandwidth
It is fairly easy to create things in SL, but it is harder to create a project which is visually and aurally pleasing with a high degree of immersive interactivity, but that does not take an hour to load and has more drag than a transvestite bar in Sydney on a Friday night. Good building in SL involves trade-offs between efficiency and appearance.
Think carefully about how you put the elements of your project together. If a prim is not all visible only put texture on those surfaces that are seen. Be careful with running scripts. Work with scale and rhythm of the piece (Ill explain this more in the workshop). Cut corners and be creative.
Here is a short guide to lag/drag issues in SL and how to avoid it. Study the prim count in you area and the FPS reading. Learn the lag meter (video)
Path mapping is important. Think of your project as a three dimensional interactive world and then map out how it is to be experienced. Once you have a series of storyboards for you piece you can plan out how to minimize prims and scripts by only creating what it needed for the experience as you design it. There should not be any holes in the fabric of your SL piece but at the same time it should be smooth, efficient and effective. Read this quote and reflect on its design wisdom:

World of Warcraft’s avatars just have 1.500 polygons (and most of the MMORPGs do the same). They rely on insanely good graphic designers to get the most out of those 1.500 polygons — and get some help from the current generation of graphics cards to do a lot of special effects without any extra “cost” in GPU processing. These games look awesome because the graphic designers and 3D modellers can figure out beforehand what path your avatar will take, and make sure that all scenes are rendered with just 200.000 polygons. Granted, sometimes you get hundreds of avatars in a raid or so, and your graphic card will start to skip frames due to the extra polygons that suddenly require to be drawn, so lag exists elsewhere in the Metaverse, too! IDG Designs


Coding
Everything in SL runs on code. The coding language for Sl is called Linden Scripting Language (LSL). LSL is the Linden Scripting Language. This is the language all scripts in Second Life are written in. Its structure is based on Java and C. A script in Second Life is a set of instructions that can be placed inside any primitive object in the world, but not inside an avatar. Avatars, however, can wear scripted objects.
LSL has emphasis on "States" and "Events". A door can be "open" or "closed" and a light can be "on" or "off". A person can be "hyper", "calm", or "bored". Many real life behaviours can be modelled with "states" and the same can be true for LSL programs. Minimally a script will have one state, the default state.
Getting Stared with Scripts
Scripts can be access, copied or pasted into objects by right clicking on an object, selecting Edit and then choosing the Content tab. Here you find the window for scripts that are attached to the object. Scripts make objects do things.
An introduction tutorial for LSL
The SL Script Portal
More on LSL

Media and Second Life
Streaming is done from the URL channel set to the parcel.
Streaming Music
Streaming Video

STREAMING VIDEO
In the Media tab of your About Land window, you can enter a URL for streaming video. The url must be to a stream that is Quicktime compatible, which includes .mov files, and various other formats too.

To be able to see the movie stream you selected, Second Life has to know which surface you want to display it on. This is done by designating a texture as the "Media texture" in the Media tab of your About land window. Be sure to select a texture that you don't use elsewhere on the same land because any surface set to display that texture will also become a movie screen when one is playing. Once the Media texture is set in the Media tab, all thats left to do is apply the same texture to an object that you want to use as the movie screen, and its ready to play!

With a streaming movie URL set, a small Play button with volume slider will appear at the bottom of your screen, just above the Build button. Once you press Play your screen should play the movie for you. Do be patient, sometimes it can take a little while to get started. If you are having trouble, try testing the URL outside of Second Life in the Quicktime player itself. If it works in Quicktime player, it really should work in-world too.

STREAMING AUDIO
On the Media tab of your About Land window is a space to enter a streaming audio URL. The tick box above it allows you to avoid annoying the neighbors. There are many sources of compatible streams on the internet, perhaps the best known being www.shoutcast.com. Here are some simple instructions to follow:

Point your browser at www.shoutcast.com
Search for a music channel that you think you would enjoy, look for one that is not at its maximum listeners, and keep in mind that the higher the bitrate listed against it, the more bandwidth it will need.
You will see a small yellow button that says Tune In, for the stream you have found. You are now going to save this as a file. In most browsers, simply right-click the yellow button and choose Save Target As.. or Save Link As.. This will drop a .pls (playlist) format file onto your hard drive.
Using notepad or a similar text editor, open the .pls file and look for the URL listed inside it. Sometimes there are several, and they will usually include a port number. It will look something like.. http://12.345.12.888:80. Copy that URL then close notepad.
In Second Life, open up your About Land window, and go to the Media tab. Paste the URL into the Audio field. Close the About Land window.
You should now see a small volume control and Play button at the bottom of your screen. If not you may need to leave your land parcel and return. Press the Play button.
You should now be able to hear the music. If not, do check that your preferences settings are correct (see the Key Points above).

To purchase time on a shoutcast channel go to Shoutcast & IceCast professional stream rental from Jamie Otis
We should be able to set up a stream from the HUMlab servers. Just let us know what you want to do and we can work it out.

PowerPoint
Screens that are built for PowerPoint presentation can be purchsed in world. The script for enabling a Powerpoint object is avialable here:
A video tutorial for PowerPoint in Second Life
If you do not have PowerPoint and don't feel like buying Word, why not try Open Office: a FREE Download which includes Impress. Slides have to be uploaded as textures (JPEG is best) and links are not active in slides. HTML websites can be embedded as images on objects in SL but not as interactive webpages. It is only a matter of time before this happens and when it does something like Slideshare will be usefull as then interactive slide shows as HTML pages can be access with SL. Slideshare is usefull anyway as a publishing and storage tool. While so much of the focus in the course is on SL, it should be remembered that digital museums are cross platform.

Linking in Second Life
The code for linking from objects in Second Life is:



default
{
state_entry() {

llSetText("Click For Info", <1.0,1.0,1.0>, 1);

}
touch_start(integer num_detected)
{
key gAvatarKey = llDetectedKey(0);
llLoadURL(gAvatarKey, "Welcome to HUMlab! View our website for info.", "http://www.humlab.umu.se");
}
}


Just replace the message and URL ("welcome to HUMlab etc.) with the message and URl you want to use. Paste it into the Content window of the Edit Object panel that I mentioned above.

Parcelling Land
In order to run multiple URLs you need to have multiple parcels. Be aware that media streams use a lot of bandwidth, so do not create more than is necessary. It will affect the overall function and appeal of your project. We will go through land division in the workshop today. In the meantime here is a video about dividing and joining parcels. When land is subdivided an extra URL is included with the new Edit Land panel.

Plants and Mobility



Plantbot: Solar seeking botanical augmentation

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Course in Englishes

Yesterday I finished marking the exam papers for a first year course I wrote and have been teaching this term. As part of the course video podcasts were made of each of the six lectures (two hours each). As well there is a website (actually a wiki, which I think I would like to hand over to the students in future courses) which takes up well over 100 pages of text with images and dozens of videos. I suppose in one way it is now a free online course.

Cultures of Commonwealth English
A first year university English studies realia course titled Cultures of Commonwealth English. It attempts to provide a short but rather intense introduction into the the history, cultures and institutions of four nations that were once united as part of the British Empire. These nations are England, India, South Africa and Australia. In each of these nations the English language plays an important role in society. The Cultures of Commonwealth English course is an examination of why English is spoken in these nations and what events and practices led to the situation we have today where the four nations are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. We will discuss some of the cultural and social areas where English is spoken and consider some examples of where it is resisted, perhaps as a sign of a colonial past that still has repercussions today.
One of the aims of this course is to teach you to process information and not just absorb it. You need to look critically at what I have included in this website as course materials. DO NOT USE EVERYTHING!!! Choose parts from each section. Try to make connections between the parts. An example could be that the use of Australia as a prison in the early years of it as a colony gave the churches a special role in education which persists today with the power of so-called private schools in Australian education. There are many similar examples.


I am very glad it is online and freely available to all. I wonder if I can register it with a Creative Commons licence if it is on a University server...I shall have to ask about that. I will be teaching it again next term

Media Tips and New Weekness


An Albino Tiger found in the private zoo of a suspected drug dealer. Police seized weapons, tigers and lions when they raided an alleged drug-trafficking ring in an upmarket neighbourhood of Mexico City.


Download Finished
Download Finished transforms and re-publishes films from P2P networks and online archives. Found footage becomes the rough material for the transformation machine, which translates the underlying data structure of the films onto the surface of the screen. The original images dissolve into pixels, thus making the hidden data structure visible. Through DOWNLOAD FINISHED, file sharers become authors by re-interpreting their most beloved films. Download Finished is a project by !Mediengruppe Bitnik and Sven König.

Songes av Tor Lundmark
Local bard Tor Lundmark has a new website. It has pictures, audio and text.

"Windproject 2008" - Andrea Ferroni - Italia (2008)
18 tracce - Durata totale: 58 minuti
18 brani che raccolgono i brani d'esordio ed altri più recenti tra quelli suonati nei concerti Live di Andrea Ferroni. 16 tracce di SOLO DIDGERIDOO senza alcuna interferenza di altri strumenti o sottofondi. Fanno eccezione un brano di flauto armonico ed uno scacciapensieri (dan moi). Tutti i didgeridoo suonati sono realizzati da Andrea e Giancarlo Ferroni Ulteriori informazioni all'interno del booklet

ABC Online Documentaries
Documentaries from the Australian Broadcatsing Commission

Not much in the way of media this week but I am really busy. Have finally finishe marking student papers, have a chapter seminar tomorrow, have to have a book chapter finished for publication, resume work on thesis chapters, and Ben and we shall be in Stockholm next week for his operation......aaahhhh!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Implanting Ability



On October 29th my youngest son will be having cochlear implants surgically attached to and inserted into his body. He is practically almost deaf at the moment. The implants will not be activated until late November. The prospect of surgery and a demanding and long process of rehabilitation is both exciting and frightening. What really strikes me is the level of technology involved and how much it hopefully will help Ben.

In the context of Ben having implants is the amazing world of the transhuman. Today I was made aware of a new online magazine, h+ (PDF) which deals with the broader issues around the transhuman, I suppose in the sense of posthumanism:

Humanity Plus (formerly the World Transhumanist Association) – in collaboration with former Mondo 2000 editor RU Sirius -- is pleased to present h+. A web-based quarterly magazine, h+ covers the scientific, technological, and cultural developments that are challenging and overcoming human limitations. Recently, there has been a growing and evolving public discourse about new technological trends and possibilities. Scientists and edge thinkers are talking about– and working on -- slowing or ending aging; body and brain enhancement; biological control of the genome and the evolutionary process; and the possibility of a technological singularity brought on by AI… to name just a few of the interests and obsessions of this new edge tech culture. h+ magazine is all over it.

Beautifully designed by virtual worlds artistic legend D.C. Spensley (AKA DanCoyote in Second Life), h+ is accessible, stylish, contemporary, and sometimes playful. h+ aims to provides an entry point for intelligent people to develop an awareness of this new technological paradigm, while also providing an outlet and a voice for those who are already hooked in to the "transhumanist" vision
.

It all seems a bit new at the moment. But a new world may be opening up here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Banksy: The Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill



The Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill

The Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill is set in a faux pet supplies shop, complete with actors playing assistants, and features animatronic fish-fingers swimming lazily around a goldfish bowl, hot dogs frolicking in terrariums, a monkey wearing headphones and watching television and an aged, bald and miserable Tweety swinging back and forth in his cage.

Nuggets features two bite-sized chicken pieces pecking at a single-serving carton of tomato sauce, watched over by mother hen. Big Cats shows what appears to be a leopard resting on a branch in a cage which, on closer inspection, turns out to be an ingeniously arranged fur coat.

Juxtaposed with the animatronic displays are real pet supplies, packages of luncheon meat and odd foodstuffs, such as quail eggs and pork titbits.

The animatronic hot-dogs have reportedly sparked complaints from people unhappy about seeing two hot-dogs performing a sex act. Other passers-by have complained about the lack of space for the caged leopard and monkey.

New York had been buzzing with rumours that the elusive artist was in town, as giant rat murals appeared throughout the city before the show's opening last week. In a written statement, Banksy said:

"New Yorkers dont care about art, they care about pets. So Im exhibiting them instead. I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming, but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing. I took all the money I made exploiting an animal in my last show and used it to fund a new show about the exploitation of animals. If its art and you can see it from the street, I guess it could still be considered street art."


Vege burger anyone?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Downloads and Streams for the Week

I have to prepare a thesis chapter for presentation in a week so time is short. Here is the recommended media for the week from the vast expanses of the internet. As the capital economy fragments the free stuff will rise to the surface.


Yael Bat-Shimon - Improvisations 05.04.08

Genre: Improvisation
Violinist Yael Bat-Shimon play somber but beautiful solo improvisations that are part traditional music, part classical and very creative. The online album titled Improvisations 05.04.08 is a live performance sponsored by ARTSomerville It is a exquisite 32 minutes of solo violin. Much of Bat-Shimon’s improvising is based on Israeli traditional music so there is a slightly folksy and very lyrical quality to her music. This is an album you will want to hear over and over to catch all the subtleties.
The album is available in FLAC, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 format from the Internet Archives through the download link below. You can also get the album through Jamendo.


George Orwell, 1984 (Audio book)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (also titled 1984), by George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair), is a 1949 English novel about life under a futuristic totalitarian regime in the year 1984. It tells the story of Winston Smith, a functionary at the Ministry of Truth, whose work consists of editing historical accounts to fit the government's policies. The book has major significance for its vision of an all-knowing government which uses pervasive and constant surveillance of the populace, insidious and blatant propaganda, and brutal control over its citizens. The book had a substantial impact both in literature and on the perception of public surveillance, inspiring such terms as 'Big Brother' and 'Orwellian'.
You may want to check out Orwell's diary (1938-1942) which is running as a blog at the moment. The entries are so clearly made by a man who was concerned with a time that is agrarian; cyclical, artisan, humanist, and global.

U B U W E B - Survival Research Laboratories - Virtues of Negative Fascination
"Virtues of Negative Fascination" is a documentary covering the performance activities of Survival Research Laboratories, Mark Pauline, Matt Heckert and Eric Werner, from 1985-1986. The performances are organized around the interactions of menacingly reconstructed industrial equipment, scientific devices and a wide variety of "special effects" devices which are used to develop themes of socio-political satire. The tape includes performances from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle in front of a audiences of 2-3,000 people. In addition to the performances, "Virtues of Negative Fascination" features incisive interviews and illuminating non performance footage.


U B U W E B - Film & Video: William S. Burroughs - Shotgun Paintings

During his later years in Kansas, Burroughs also developed a painting technique whereby he created abstract compositions by placing spray paint cans in front of, and some distance from, blank canvasses, and then shooting at the paint cans with a shot gun. These splattered canvasses were shown in at least one New York City gallery in the early 1990s.


Delia Derbyshire - “Dreams” part 4: Sea

Delia Derbyshire’s “Dreams” was made in collaboration with Barry Bermange (who originally recorded the narrations). Bermange put together The Dreams (1964), a collage of people describing their dreams. It was set by Delia into a background of pure electronic sound. “Dreams” is a collection of spliced/reassembled interviews with people describing their dreams, particularly recurring elements. The program of sounds and voices is an attempt to re-create in five movements some sensations of dreaming: running away, falling, landscape, underwater, and colour.


Steal This Film

Steal This Film II in High Definition steamed format

Three Albums by Lou Dalfin
Lou Dalfin is an Italian folk and folk-rock/folk-punk group focused on preserving and modernizing the traditions of Occitania. Founded in 1982 by hurdy-gurdy master Sergio Berardo, the band combines traditional Occitan sounds with modern rock instrumentation.

Friday, October 10, 2008

First Australians



First Australians chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspective of its first people. First Australians explores what unfolds when the oldest living culture in the world is overrun by the world's greatest empire.

Over seven episodes, First Australians depicts the true stories of individuals - both black and white - caught in an epic drama of friendship, revenge, loss and victory in Australia's most transformative period of history.

The story begins in 1788 in Sydney, with the friendship between an Englishmen (Governor Phillip) and a warrior (Bennelong) and ends in 1993 with Koiki Mabo's legal challenge to the foundation of Australia. First Australians chronicles the collision of two worlds and the genesis of a new nation.


In the above video Aidan Wilson speaks about the use of mobile technology in the teaching and preservation of Aboriginal languages in Australia. PARADISEC (Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures) offers a facility for digital conservation and access for endangered materials from the Pacific region, defined broadly to include Oceania and East and Southeast Asia. The research group has developed models to ensure that the archive can provide access to interested communities, and conforms with emerging international standards for digital archiving. The research group is composed of investigators from the four participating institutions.

On the SBS First Australians website there is more than six hours of video available that is not part of the broadcast series. A slideshow presentation of the series narrated by its creators is available on the Sydney Morning Herald site.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lecture in Luleå


Sunset in Luleå.


I have just finished a presentation at Luleå Culture Center on Computer Games and Art.The presentation went fairly well, considering I spoke for almost two hours in Swedish. I like Luleå, although I have seen very little of it. For a town this size the culture center is huge and every second person I speak to seems to be an artist.



Some interested/ing people in the audience and got some good questions. I ended by showing Malcolm McLaren on This Spartan Life, a clip I had not actually seen before but it suited the moment perfectly today.


This Spartan Life - Episode 3 Module 5- Malcolm McLaren Interview

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Greetings from Second Life



Teaching in Second Life today.

Book Screen Tough Touching


Edusim is a free & opensource 3D virtual world for the school or classroom interactive whiteboard.


I am sitting in front of a computer and have been since 8am. I am trying to write about how a book implies response in certain ways. I introduce it like this:

The arrangement of textual materials in a book-like format conditions implied response according to particular lineal and sequential forms of spatiality.


While I am thinking about how I can explain the "conditions of implied response according to particular lineal and sequential forms of spatiality", I check my email (good distraction factor). There I find a link to the above video from Edusim. Now I am thinking.....the book thing is doomed ;-)

Virtual Worlds Lecture

Stone Mushroom Theater, HUMlab Island, Second Life.

Today I will be giving a lecture on an introduction to virtual worlds as part of the Digital Culture and Technique course being taught in HUMlab. I have done a blog entry on the course blog outlining the keywords for my presentation. It may be of interest.

Luleå Art Museum Talk

On Wednesday 8th October at 7pm (19:00) I will be giving a two hour presentation on Computer Gaming and Art at Luleå Konsthallen. I will be showing a lot of works and discussing them under three classifications: Art in Games, Games as Art and Art made with Games. The talk will be presented in the peculiar variety of Swedish which I speak, a sort of Ghetto Swedish with rural Australian syntax. It should be interesting. If you are in the neighborhood come on down and talk gaming and art with me...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Is It Next Week Already?


Last week was so jam packed with activity I have little time for documenting it here. So I thought I would post a couple of things here before setting out on another hectic week come the morn..
The above images are from a presentation I gave in HUMlab on Thursday as part of the ”Creative Space – Människan, Tinget, Rummet” workshop. I used the 3D web browser ExitReality to present part of my talk. I created a blog, Augmented Reality, and switched between a 2D and 3D representation of it during the talk. The title of my presentation was Remixidity: Hybrid Spaces for Exploration, in which I gave examples of mixed reality spaces and embodiment. As well we (HUMlab) staged a small gallery-like exhibition of works and projects dealing with the concept of mixed reality space (second image above). My departure point for the conception of space in the talk was Henri Lefebvre's classic text The Production of Space (I am holding a copy in the first image). More on Remixidity can be found on the HUMlab blog.

Last Wednesday I gave the final lecture for the Cultures of Commonwealth English course that I have written and have been teaching over the past five weeks. All the lectures are online as video podcasts so you can check out my teaching style (or ambiguous lack thereof) here. The exam for the course was on Friday and I expect a great lump of papers to be marked to land on my sorry desk in the next day or two.

On Thursday I heard that a chapter which I wrote in collaboration with HUMlab Research Coordinator Stefan Gelfgren on teaching and learning using the virtual world program Second Life has been accepted for publication. We have to make some corrections but it should be out in the not too distant future. My first academic publication!!

I have also be writing thesis. I received positive feedback on chapter four early in the week from my secondary supervisor, which was very heartening. I have now returned to the third chapter of the text, on design in digital literature and how it implies responses to the texts. The latest realisation, partly provoked by the positive but not uncritical feedback from B supervisor, is that narrativity needs to be a grounding concept in the text, rather than restricting it just to chapter four. A source of inspiration for this line of approach has been
Theorizing NarrativityBy John Pier, José Angel García Landa. Which B supervisor suggested in feedback and I happened to have on my desk, borrowed weeks ago but unread. It has been my companion since Friday and has been very helpful.

The final piece of news from last week is my purchase of three vinyl gems:


13. V.A./ OCORA – MUSIQUE RITUELLE TIBETAINE: “S/T” (Ocora Records – OCR-49) (Record: Near Mint/ gatefold Sleeve: Near Mint/ Attached Booklet: Near Mint). First original Ocora pressing out of 1969 on the dark blue label. The recordings on this album are representative of the music and rites of the various sects of the original current o Buddhism and were made in North-east Nepal. Tow of the most important monasteries in this frontier region are represented here, the monastery of Thami of the Gelugpa sect and the monastery of Tengboche of the of the Nyingmapa sect. The music is varied and consists out of big two-headed drums, providing the rhythm, 2 pairs of hollow cymbals, 2 oboes producing a nasal and tense linear sound, handbells, chanting and other esoteric rumblings. The album is filled with tantric drone-like escapades that seem to capture and magnify images of roaring of torrents, the noise of rocks splintering and sliding down the mountain, violent guts of wind, sudden storms, the tinkling of bells worn around the necks of animals and the ankles of children, etc. Again massive….original 1st pressing.


"Traditional Music of Southern Laos," Unesco Collection Musical Sources, Art Music of Southeast Asia, IX-4, Philips 1973


Indianmusik från Colombia. Musiknätet Waxholm, Sweden. 1973.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Remixidity: Hybrid Spaces for Exploration



"Space is at once result and cause, product and producer; it is also at stake, the locus of projects and the actions deployed as part of specific strategies and hence also the object of wagers on the future - wagers which are articulated, if never completed" Henri Lefebvre, The Production on Space (1991)


"In these moments of heterogeneous entanglements of the social, political and technological space the meaning of the game as an entertainment tool transformed into a tool for public opinion expression and reflection." S. Lidtner, B Nardi et. al. A Hybrid Cultural Ecology: World of Warcraft in China (Forthcoming)


Hybrid, mixed or augmented space is produced by physical and mediated means. While anchored in representative technologies, the mediated elements of a hybrid space can be experienced in an immediate and fully embodied physical sense.

Perhaps the public face of augmented space at the moment could be assigned to the Nintendo Wii game console:


"Wii sounds like 'we', which emphasizes that the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii." Nintendo anticipates worldwide sales of the Wii to reach 50 million units by March 2009.

My intention with referencing the Wii is to present a relatively established, although recent, concept as indicative of augmented or mixed reality space. From the fairly linear and demarcated system which defines the Wii I hope to move into more complex, nuanced, distributed and fragmentary examples of such hybrid spaces.


The Ping Body by Stelarc

Primary to space is the body. Inhabiting space as embodied is explored by the Australian artist Stelarc, whose work raises questions concerned with the body.


Players streaming into Astor Hall at the New York Public Library on Friday to play video games on the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and other systems.(New York Times)


Museums, libraries and teaching spaces are in themselves examples of 'mixed reality' space based on the concept of information spaces. How augmented reality can be developed in such environments is just beginning to unfold in the present time.

The Second House of Sweden
In July 2007 the Second House of Sweden, the Swedish embassy in the online virtual world of Second Life opened to the public. The Second House of Sweden functions as an information portal for those living outside the country to access real-time information and events. Guides have been employed at different times to answer questions and promote discussion around things 'Swedish'.

In January 2008 a event with the title “House of Sweden goes Virtu-Real” was staged. A function was held at the actual Swedish embassy in Washington DC, The House of Sweden. At the same time the Second House of Sweden (an exact scale model of the Washington House) held a function. Linking the two where two interactive video walls
in each location and a telephone link allowing for conversation between the two.


Installation of the video wall in Washington's House of Sweden.



Looking through the video wall, with telephone, from the Second House of Sweden.


The Second House of Sweden is an innovative project exploring concepts of branding on the global scale, hybrid space, presence and representation.

Tagging
The concept of tagging, attaching a word or key phrase to a web page or blog entry is well established on the contemporary internet. The use of Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs) to tag objects and places is a way of creating augmented spaces. The use of RFIDs for education, information distribution and storage and art has only just begun to be explored.


Presentation of the Augmented Reality installation at the Open Day of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, The Netherlands - January 27, 2007

Alternate Reality Games (AGRs)

An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.
The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants' responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game's designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyse the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.

The production of space in an ARG can blend the physical with the virtual, or enmesh a mediated space with the familiar physical space of a neighbourhood or work environment. ARGs are geo-spatial, multi-modal, mobile and intermediated. One of the most recent ARGs is Traces of Hope, commissioned by the British Red Cross:

Vicious war in Northern Uganda has destroyed Joseph’s home and torn his family apart. He has one goal, to find out from the Red Cross if his mother is alive or dead.
Now he has arrived in the dangerous refugee camp they call Hopetown, he has 24 hours to track down the Red Cross messenger and he needs you to be his guide.
He has a satellite phone, you have the web – together you’ll make a great team. Time is running out; guide Joseph through sickness, fire and violence as together you follow his traces of hope.
Register to Play


Art as Augmented Reality

Art has long been a source of experimentation and investigation in regards to the potentials and boundaries of reality. In the field of augmented reality art is at the forefront of experimentation with the technologies available for blending and creating new forms of space.

Sheldon Brown (Director of the Centre for Research in Computing and the Arts at UCSD) is in my opinion one of the more interesting artists working in the area of augmented reality. Such projects as Mi Casa es Tu Casa result in a production of space that is hybrid, distributed and networked.


Mi Casa es tu Casa uses the contextual apparatus of museums with adjacent mission scopes to the art world, for bringing avant-garde strategies to engage ranges of social issues to venues that often use more pedantic forms of discourse." (Wikipedia)

Finally I would like to name a large scale project which problematise generally conception of space as physical and static. The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse (AOM) uses augmented reality technologies to articulate subjects as distributed in mixed or hybrid space.


The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse


The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse is a large group of new media artists and musicians which use Second Life as a space for coordinating and staging multimedia performances in real time over distance. These performances are achieved through the use of fast broadband internet connections and HUDs (Head Up Display) devices which allow for the running of samples from a central server. The effect created by the AOM performance creates an impression of shared space and immediacy.