Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Download Day

It is strange to admit but… every so often I like to play with new software.

I know that it can be a source of pennies for the swear box.

I also know that it can be a great way of kidding oneself that you are being productive and doing cutting edge stuff. However, I also find that cranking through tutorials for the new features and functions is a great way to challenge my pre-conceived notions of what I can and can not do on my desktop.

Today I have downloaded Studio 8 by Macromedia and Skype. It is interesting to note how I got on.

The Macromedia download went well…at first. I have used various versions of these pieces of software for a while now and I quickly recognized that both Dreamweaver 8 and Flash 8 offer some functions that I will actually use on a regular basis. I decided to invest a little bit of my hard earned by buying both these products bundled up as Studio 8.

It is moments like these when I actually like being a PhD student. The commercial price for Studio 8 is about £380 (don’t quote me on the exact number…as I am not a consumer magazine). However, for a mere £65 or so (80 something Euros at today’s exchange rate for those who like to be exact) this new version of the software was mine (in theory). The only restriction on its use was that it should NOT be used for commercial activities. I should be so lucky!

You would have thought buying online from a computer software company would be simple. Not so Neddy! Firstly I had great deal of difficulty finding a link to the educational version of the software (it is at the highly memorable - if you are interested). Then the site would not allow me to buy the software online. Being persistent, I rang up Macromedia to find out what was going on. It turns out that, indeed, the educational version of Studio 8 was not available through the online store to someone living in the UK but I could, however, buy it over the telephone.

Buying over the phone was kind of nice as the Macromedia-oid at the other end of the line was very friendly. However, much as I enjoyed chin wagging with sales I found myself surprised as this rather old-world charm experience does not fit with the lean-mean image that e-commerce and software sales likes to portray of itself (where my database talks to your database/ low friction capitalism). Is there something amiss in Macromedia land?

The telephone was not the only piece of retro tech that I had to use. The friendly Macromedia-oid also asked me to fax over a copy of my student ID so that they could make sure that I was indeed a bone fide brain box. I was interested to know why I could not e-mail an image. The Macromedia-oid told me it was due to problems with viruses. It is an odd turn of events when one can not e-mail an image to the makers of Fireworks – a respected piece of image manipulation software).

Skype proved to be less problematic ..though rather more costly in turns of online time. I found the skype and the download without too much trouble. I also managed to download the software without too much difficulty. The set-up wizard, however, seemed to take hours as it chuntered its way through the online contacts list held by skype.

I am now ploughing my way through the online help, getting to grips with VoIP and Internet Telephoning. I am also praying that I actually have some one to ring at the end of the day. In a way, this experience reminds me of setting up my first e-mail account…when I had a headful of hopeful ideas for the new technology but a completely empty address book.

Some thing rather special happened as I started to fill up that address book with e-mails and @s. I can’t imagine that skype will change me in the same way…but you never know!

Friday, September 09, 2005

CFP: An End to the New?

Vol 12. no 4.Winter 2006

An End to the New? Re-assessing the claims for New Media Writing(s)
Guest-edited by Simon Mills, Gavin Stewart & Sue Thomas

The focus of the special issue

This special edition of Convergence marks the tenth anniversary of the trAce Online Writing Centre, UK. To commemorate this landmark event, the guest editors are seeking to evaluate the state-of-the-art of new media writing(s).

This special edition will seek to re-assess the claims made for these forms over the last decade, to challenge the dominant ideologies and terminologies of this maturing field, and to provide a critical re-evaluation of new media writing(s) in all its forms.

We encourage discussion of the following:

The institutional settings of new media writing(s)
The relationship between academia and new media writing(s)
Re-assessments of the claims made for hypertext, new media or digital writing(s) over the past decade
Art policies and development strategies for new media writing(s)
The audience for new media writing(s)
The economics of new media writing(s)
Pedagogical approaches to new media writing(s)
The historical context of new media writing(s)
The relationship between new media writing(s) and other digital arts

Copy deadline for refereed research articles: 30 January 2006
All proposals, inquiries and submissions for this special issue to:

Gavin Stewart, Artistic Project Manager
Address: trAce Online Writing Centre
Nottingham Trent University
Clifton Lane
NG11 8NS
United Kingdom

phone: ++44 (0)115 848 3569

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tax Return Day

I have been beavering away over my tax return to day. Well to be brutally honest...I have been beavering away at not filling in the form!

I find myself amazed at the banality of the activities I get busy on in order to avoid filling in half-a-dozen numbers. Today, for example, I cleaned the bath...I got the broom out and swept the kitchen floor twice...I then leapt on the bike and went shopping for loo roll before I finally called time on my avoidance procedures having caught myself reading an 'all-important' tech spec ( that I would not dream of reading on any other day of the year).

I am also amazed at how very sweaty I get when I am faced by an Inland Revenue form ( It is probably a good job that I cleaned that bath). I have always seen this as evidence that I am an Honest John. More likely it is just an indication of how middle class and cringingly conformist I've become. However, I am sure that I am not the only one who gets nervous filling in forms. It must smell like the fishing fleet is in port when they open up the envelopes over at Tax Towers.

The truly amazing thing about this avoidance saga is that I am always pleasantly surprised at how little time it takes to fill in the relevant boxes when I actually do it! My partner and I have developed a system over the years...and it is all such small beer at the end of the day that it does not require a rocket scientist ( or an accountant) to get it done.

I am off to the post box now.

Currently, I am working myself up into a needless funk worrying about whether I have put enough postage on the envelope!

Feel the Fear....and Fill the Form!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Mystery Museum is up (....and running?)

I have spent the last few days hacking together a trial version of Mystery Museum. This is my Big Arts Week 2005 collaboration with Heathwood Lower School (see earlier post).

It seems to have taken me ages to get the project to this stage. It needs a little tweaking...particularly the sound. However, I always find it useful at this stage of a project to recruit a few new media buddies to try and break the program.

Let me know what you think!