Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Irrepressible Campaign by Amnesty International

I have just pledge support for the Amnesty International campaign to support freedom of expression on the Internet. On their website they note:-

"The web is a great tool for sharing ideas and freedom of expression. However, efforts to try and control the Internet are growing. Internet repression is reported in countries like China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. People are persecuted and imprisoned simply for criticising their government, calling for democracy and greater press freedom, or exposing human rights abuses, online.

But Internet repression is not just about governments. IT companies have helped build the systems that enable surveillance and censorship to take place. Yahoo! have supplied email users’ private data to the Chinese authorities, helping to facilitate cases of wrongful imprisonment. Microsoft and Google have both complied with government demands to actively censor Chinese users of their services.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is one of the most precious of all rights. We should fight to protect it."

You can pledge support at -

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Firefox 2.0 is go!

I have just downloaded Firefox2.0.

I can not say that I have got to grips with every aspect of this browser but I can see already that it is going help my workflow when I am blogging and developing. I have just added the 'performancing' add-on and as you can see it is good for posting. What I like about this free add-on is that it is blogging (with a text editor) in a drop-and-drag 'browser-based' environment. It has the ability to save notes and images so that it possible to build up the assets for a post during the course of the day in a scrapbook kind of a way. For example, I dropped and dragged the image above into this post which meant that I did not have to think about URLs or image tags. The webpage is in the upper pane and the blog editor is in the lower page. Perhaps my only worry with this way of working is that it is almost too easy to post. I am going to forget all the html I have learnt. I am also worried that I will have to remind myself that when I am repurposing other peoples text and images that I need to acknowledge their contribution.

The other features that I like about Firefox2.0 is the web development toolbar. This should make testing quicker and more effective as you can disable cookies, cache and javascript within the browser. This will, at least, quantify the many issues to be considered when testing a new site.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seven Ends of the World by Tobias Rehberger - Venice 2003

Venice in Pictures

I came across a description of this interesting internet work in 'Art Incorporated' by Julian Stallabrass. The light in the different glass balloons reproduce the current light levels in different parts of the world. Stallabrass notes: "This piece is both a technically accomplished, spectacular and appealing object, and the manifestation of an idea".

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Are you addicted to the Internet?

The BBC article 'US shows signs of net addiction' reports that a recent study by medical researchers at Stanford University Research Centre in which the headlined claims are:
The results showed that nearly 14% of respondents found it difficult to stay away from the internet for periods of several days.

Almost 6% said they felt their wanderings in cyberspace adversely affected their relationships with other people.

Nearly 8% of people said they went online to escape real world problems.
So am I addicted to the internet?

It has to be said that I like to check whether I have any new e-mails on a regular basis. I experience a sweet sense of delight when I get a personal e-mail from someone I know. I also like to post my most recent images on Flickr (and check on any comments or new views by my friends and family). I see this as being part of who I am. I have a network of friends distributed across the world and I invest some of my social time in keeping in contact with them (this blog often helps in this activity). Many close to me would argue that I don't spend enough time investing in this activity and that I spend too much time with my back to my family reading work-related articles on the BBC website. Furthermore, I feel that there are a number of historical precedents for this social activity. For example, Jane Austen describes her heroines writing regular letters of their daily doings to their dearest but not nearest as a way of keeping up a close friendship or family tie. Did anyone talk about Lizzie Bennet being addicted to paper and ink?

I don't think I am compulsive about my use because I really enjoy spending holidays away from my machine. I don't experience anything like cold turkey. Far from it, I get my eyesight back and a renewed delight in the wind on my face. Of course, if I was an addict I would probably be in denial about my use. The first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem. But I don't think I have a problem. I have a life (of sorts).

To judge by the BBC article, I am a little too old to be a typical computer addict and I certainly do not clock up enough the hours on the computer. They note:
A typical addict is a single, white college-educated male in his 30s, who spends more than 30 hours a week on "non-essential" computer use, it found.
What alarms me in that statement is the idea of "non-essential" use of the computer. Are we to characterize computer-use by a work-based hierarchy. Is it better to be a work-a-holic than a play-a-holic? Is it better to post next year's accounts at midnight rather than relax within Second Life. It seems to me that two quite different ideas are being roled/rolled up in this idea of an addict. I am not denying that it is possible to be harmed by too much computer use or indeed to use the internet in a compulsive way. But it seems to me that human beings are capable of being compulsive about almost anything or anyone. It would make sense, to my mind, to try and understand why they are harming themselves as well as noting their method of harm.

In the Stamford research abstract they note that they asked their respondents to report on their:
unsuccessful effort to reduce Internet use or a history of remaining online longer than intended, Internet use interfering with relationships, and a preoccupation with Internet use when offline.
I think that the binary opposition between offline and online is what I am objecting to in this kind of thinking about the internet. I can fully recognize that a certain sort of internet use can interfere with relationships. We also like to feel some sense of control over our actions. Furthermore, the internet modulates the kinds of self -control and relationship possible. However, it has to be said that MySpace, YouTube and all the rest are also part of the development and maintenance of relationships. It is our intentions towards our relationships that has been modulated by these kinds of technologies.

As a final thought, you might like to ask yourself why you are reading this blog. You might know me and want to keep up with the confusion that I call myself. You might be interested in what I have to say. The erudite wit or my writing style might appeal. I very much doubt that you are reading this for work. Does that mean you have an addiction? Or do you have some much more complicated and nuanced relati0nship with the medium/ia you are engaging with.

Please post comments with a bottle of wine!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New University: New Job: New Sign

I have been so busy of late that I have not had chance to blog all my news. The first bit of gossip about yours trully is that I have a new part-time job. I am now the Researcher in New Media Writing in the Research Institute for Media, Art and Design at the newly-formed University of Bedfordshire. The role is really quite an exciting one for me as it will involve me in developing some interesting new work for a research project that I am calling 'Writing(s): Not for WIMPs'. I have decided that role is sufficiently interesting and demanding that it will require a blog all of its own. It is my aim to use this new blog as an artist's book to keep track of my process. The blog has the same name as the project and details can be found at

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Living History Day - Leighton Buzzard

There was a good range of activities and a nice festival spirit at Living History Day 2006. It was good to celebrate the history of the region's Italian, Polish and Czech Communities. I particularly enjoyed the displays about the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile during World War 2 and the Wawel Polish Dance Troupe. I also enjoyed the elementsfrom the 1950s - the collections of old cars and bikes, the Razz Classic 50s ladies trio and the Pink Cadillacs Rock and Roll band ( there are plenty of images on my flickr site at

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Affective Imaging; Uneasy Spaces: Goldsmiths - October 20, 2006

Symposium: Affective Imaging; Uneasy Spaces.

Contemporary Arts Practice and Research Exhibition: Crossing the
Atlantic; Uneasy Spaces.
Curated by Liz Wells and Ann Chwatsky

Goldsmiths Digital Studios, University of London will be hosting a
one-day symposium on contemporary arts practices and research entitled:
Affective Imaging; Uneasy Spaces. The symposium brings together artists,
theorists and historians in five one-hour sessions. Affective Imaging;
Uneasy Spaces features presentations, responses and discussion of
current artist practices and research concerned with Photography and
related media. The work of the invited artists, theorists and historians
demonstrates a wide range of interests and production dealing with the
'spaces' of engagement of the artist or viewer, the influence of global
markets and the conceptual frameworks of creative and critical practices.

Date: October 20, 2006
Location: Goldsmiths College, New Cross London SE14 6NW
Venue: Ben Pimlott Building, Ground Floor
Time: 10am- 5:30pm Symposium

Speakers include: • Jonathan Friday, History and Philosophy of Art
(University of Kent) • Carey Young, Artist ( •
Theresa Mikuria, Artist-History and Philosophy of Art (University of
Kent) • Sarah Pierce, Artist and Researcher (Interface, Univ. of Ulster)
• Kevin McCoy, Artist (New York University) (

Symposium Respondents include: • Janis Jefferies (Goldsmiths College,
Digital Studios) • Simon O'Sullivan (Goldsmiths College, Dept. of Visual
Culture) • Ann Chwatsky (New York University, Art in Media) • Susan
Kelly (Goldsmiths College, Dept. of Visual Art) • John Hutnyk
(Goldsmiths College, Centre for Cultural Studies) Symposium

Convened by: Craig Smith (London College of Communication, Photography

This symposium is FREE and open to the public. Please email reservation
requests for student groups to Professor Janis Jefferies

This symposium is scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition: Crossing
the Atlantic; Uneasy Spaces hosted by Goldsmiths College and curated by
Ann Chwatsky (New York University). Uneasy Spaces is on view in the Ben
Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths College between Oct.19 and Nov.8, 2006. The
Goldsmiths exhibition is the second part of a bi-country exchange
between the United Kingdom and the United States. The USA exhibition of
Uneasy Spaces has been curated by Liz Wells and is on view at New York
University's 90 Washington Square East Galleries through November 6, 2006.

DIRECTIONS TO GOLDSMITHS: Goldsmiths can be reached by train from London
Bridge Station, by underground on the East London Line or bus including
436 and 36. The Ben Pimlott Building can be seen upon entry to the
campus and identified by its trademark "swirlie" sculpture affixed to
the roof of the building. Map:

For additional information please contact Janis Jefferies:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"I'm deeply suspicious of panels that announce the death of anything but people..'

I have been catching up with the latest framed interview ( "interviews with new media artists and writers") over at The latest offering from Simon Mills is an interesting series of insights from Scott Rettberg ( author of 'Kind of Blue' and 'Implementation').

I was very taken with SR thoughts about the state of electronic literature/new media writing. Like both the interviewer and interviewee I have been bumping into all kinds in the corridor recently gleefully declaring the 'death of hypertext'. This seems to me to be odd because it seems to motivated by the same 'geewhizz it's so new' mindset that drew so much attention to hypertext lit. in the first place. SR speaks of the "theory-driven halo" that illuminated works in the 90s. I agree with him that this halo has slipped and hypertext as a practice no longer eclipses all the other interesting practices ( such as aleatoric poetry, Interactive Fiction etc.) that have been going on in the less fashionable ends of the digital muse. I think that this change in awareness is a good thing...but I don't think that it marks the death of hypertext or the artistic exhaustion of hypertextuality as an interesting trope. In my own work I tend not to think in a link and node structure as I am happier working at smaller levels of granularity (the phrase, the word, the letter). Similarly, I relish the opportunity to use code, sound and animation but this does not mean that I don't value hypertext or indeed fiction. It occurs to me that I too might write/right an old skool link/node hypertext simply to piss off the punters. I really can not countenance the idea that we (as a culture) have mined all the exciting possibilities of linking. However, before I embark on any large scale projects I guess I thought might consider how I am going to find the time to create such a work.

SR notes that "the gift economy is an important aspect of the identity of the new media writer". I would agree that my construction as 'new media writer' (in so far as I am one) has come through a number of gifts - including the valuable work of the Electronic Literature Organisation and the trAce Online Writing Centre. I hope that I have recognized this aspect of my practice by placing most of my work on the web with a Creative Commons Licence ('free as in free') and by acknowledging the contribution made to my thinking by a number of key practitioners. However, I believe that the non-gift economies are also present in that construction. More as dark shadow or absence, which can be best quantified by all those blog postings I do not post...all those ideas that have stayed ideas etc. I would say that the no-time economy constructs me most, as I find my brain takes longer to code nowadays. Similary, I don't learn new programming languages as often as I would like for mudane reasons of time and age. A constaint that I share to some degree with everyone else on this small ball of ours.

So maybe that old skool hypertext will have to sit as an idea for awhile longer until I just can't stop myself from putting pad to keys. However, I don't expect that I will be alone in still being interested in the link and I look forward to the mellow middle age of hypertext fiction.