Monday, December 18, 2006

Final #2

Comparing and Contrasting of Brin versus Steffen
Nicole Ziedses des Plantes

The world is constantly in a state of change and reformation, and we, as human beings, are faced with decisions that we must think about today in order to have a vision of a better future. There are two essays that I will be talking about that have a global perspective of change in the near future, Alex Steffen’s essay of George Monbiot’s Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning and David Brin’s essay Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society. These readings talk about two different world changing debates, but they also share similarities in the direction of saving humanity for the future.

In David Brin’s reading he discusses how the technological world is creating more and more ways in which to take away our right of privacy. There are new ways of innovation that could liberate human civilization, but more likely disrupt it. There is a new technology called RFID’s or radio frequency identification which is made to replace the simple, passive bar codes. These RFID’s would be inexpensive chips that would make every product part of an automatic inventory accounting system. Supermarket checkout would become as easy as only walking through the line to check out, instead of taking each item out to scan. The problem with this technology is that it could be used in everything, including tracking people, lamp posts, trees, etc., anything that people wanted to keep track of could be marked with RFID’s. The government would love it if they could put a tracking device on every human, because they could control us that much more. We couldn’t run away, take a shit, or breathe without them knowing where we were. By pumping us full of fear and the idea of the need for better protection is in turn taking away our freedom.

Alex Steffen’s essay is about how this world has to think about how we need to reduce the carbon emitted so we don’t have a dramatic climate change in future years (and yes, I didn’t say decades, but years). We are in desperate need of a 90% reduction in carbon by 2030 or we will inevitably have a climate change that could kill millions or even billions of people if this issue isn’t dealt with. Steffen talks about the vital need to change the way we build homes, and using renewable energy for power generation instead of fossil fuels that do horrible things to the environment and also cost a ridiculous amount as well.

These essays share a joint understanding that a speedy change is necessary. They also share a similar strategy on solving the issues at hand. Both articles say that a lawsuit would be a good way to enforce the level of compliance needed. To prevent the soon to be climate change Steffen offers the California lawsuit as a political enforcement, and for Brin’s surveillance rejection he pushes for people to read up on the certain laws (like the Patriot Act that Bush tried to pass recently) that the government is trying to instill in our society for a jumping off point for future technologies and tracking devices to be used. Another similarity that these two articles have are the consensus of the importance of “being there.” That the journalist’s of the future should involve both professionals as well as people who just happened to be there with the opportunity to record what they saw. This is important globally so others are informed accurately and to make sure that the every day person is individually influential.

The two articles contrast in the way that the one on surveillance is a problem that can be stopped before it gets to a “no turning back” type of problem that civil society human beings can’t prevent once it is in progress. The article on the dramatic climate change is a problem that is already effecting the environment today, and a crisis that we have to do something about now in order to prevent future destruction. They are two different disasters that human kind can’t ignore and that we have to face and be actively assertive about what we want the future to bring us.
Reading both of these essays enlightened me on how much more aware people need to be about the changes ensuing on our society, and that for people to keep their privacy and to continue to live in a world that is healthy (in the landscape and with personal freedom) we need to be active in the beliefs that we hold. We can’t just sit back and watch our world change into an elitist driven cage that is deteriorating into carbon induced hell.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


One feeling I took away from the Leapfrogging readings was how wonderful this sort of development could be, but with hesitations about how it will actually unfold. Like many other ideas, they seem so humanitarian in their motive, but in all reality it will most likely be the profit-seekers looking for a new market or some good PR who will implement it. How this will effect the development in 3rd world countries seems unclear (to me, atleast).

The notion of Leapfrogging seems like an great description for ways "late blooming" societies can develop, and I find it hard to believe that people would argue that it might not be occurring (as alluded to in this blog post). As anyone who has worked on creating a project using a computer program new to them can tell you, if asked to do it a second time (or if forced to by some computer crash or other error) their are always steps they can skip to get the same, or better, results ...and almost always in less time. When doing something for the first time, whether it be constructing a model in Maya, or developing a communication or transportation system, there are developmental steps that are taken that don't need to be repeated. Mistakes are made that can be learned from for future iterations, and various attempts at solving problems lead to clear (or not so clear) better choices. The example of the cell phone use in India bypassing the land line infrastructure is one great illustration of this. You don't need to mimic the progress made by others in the past when the final product is what matters, and the steps along the way only matter now for what they did to produce the final product. Sometimes things evolve to serve separate purposes, which would be better suited if they had been originally designed for the altered application. Some of the roads in towns and cities in the North East don't make the best use of space. Streets are too narrow and often too indirect. This is because they evolved from trails and then smaller roads and then larger roads, and since this was a gradual progression there was no single point when developers could say "hey, lets rearrange the buildings to widen the roads, which are really just widened foot trails, for these new 'wagon' or 'coach' or 'car' things we've got." When settling the East Coast they were pretty much developing from the seat of their pants, but it is obvious today by the layout of cities in the Mid-west that as we later expanded West and developers designed towns as towns, not as camps, then outposts, then villages, then towns. Imagine if we just discovered the peninsula of San Francisco twenty years ago, and decided to develop it. Geary and Van Ness might actually be wide enough to have a bus only lane. Maybe all the buildings would have underground parking garages so we wouldn't have to deal with DPT. Ofcourse we wouldn't have any of the older buildings we have now, but if they just started developing SF in the 80's they wouldn't say "hey, lets forget about all the advancements in architectural safety and design and make some old Edwardian looking houses because we have to do that before we can build the newer ones." Building from the ground up using only the newest technology or knowledge with no remnants of previous systems could be a huge benefit.

Final #1

One Half of the Colossus Investigation

In Jaron Lanier’s essay One-Half of a Manifesto he is opposing the idea of a cybernetic totalism. He explains how there is a fear of a cyber-Armageddon. This comes from the constant progress of more and more intelligent computers. People are afraid that there will soon be a creation of computers that will be able to design their own successors, which will initiate a process that will lead to a God-like force which will make them the masters of matter and life. Lanier points out that most of these people who believe in this fear confuse ideal computers with real ones, which behave differently. Real computers break down for reasons that are not always clear. We make cybernetic systems that are supposedly perfect, but in reality we seem to only build fairly dysfunctional ones. We fool ourselves when we think that we fully understand something, a computer, just because we were the ones that modeled and digitized it. Humans are not perfect, and it is inevitable that the things we create will have flaws as well.

In the movie “Colossus: The Forbin Project” this fear was made a reality, when the mechanical brain of Colossus begins to only answer to himself and would punish the humans that didn’t obey “him”. The creator of Colossus didn’t expect it to evolve to a point of Godliness, and this flaw had a mortifying effect on human existence. Obviously this is an exaggeration driven from the fears of a growing digital world, but Colossus became Godlike, not because of a flaw in the original networking, but because he took on human-like attributes that are impossible to create in a high-class toaster over.

Lanier points out that humans’ put the function and existence of computers in a cultural context which makes them hold more of an importance to us. Lanier gives the example that “Marians wouldn’t be able to distinguish a Macintosh from a space heater.” We put computers in a cultural context by using them to get information and to perform everyday tasks, instead of using them to heat up a room. It’s the dependency on what we use them for which gives them more of an importance and ultimately drives us to a fear of a digital dependant world. Lanier believes that there is no difference between artificial intelligence and the acceptance of badly designed computer software, and the people who believe in AI are more likely to put up with bad software. In Colossus, the digital inspired human brains that created the Godlike computer brought on their own devastating fate by being stubborn about shutting the system down. They ultimately didn’t want to admit their failure in the initial software, and their pride got the best of them.

It is definitely true that we are confronted with nonhuman and metahuman components in our lives on a consistent basis. Should we make decisions based on our needs and wants as human beings, or should we give more consideration to the outside components that we have learned to live with, but don’t fully understand. This question ultimately depends on whether you are liberal or conservative in your beliefs of the future. In the movie, the humans had a lot of faith in the computer they created in the beginning (therefore being liberal thinking), but when Colossus started to control his creator with video cameras and unbreakable rules, the humans looked for ways of tricking the machine into a more submissive role (conservative). Experience is the only thing that isn’t reduced by illusion, even though illusion is itself an experience. The people in the movie had the illusion that this computer they had created was perfect and indestructible, and the experience they had was one of disbelief and reception.

Lanier’s essay lightens the thought of not wanting to understand the problems that occur, but rather hope for the software that evolves itself. The people in the “Forbin Project” wanted Colossus to evolve itself, and encouraged it, so human kind could advance its’ knowledge of understanding. They made the mistake of not trying to fix it before it evolved into something that was supposedly uncontrollable. It poses the idea of there one day being new creatures that have a greater intelligence than human beings. Creatures that live amongst us, that rule over us to make us the subservient ones. That would switch things up in a radical way, to diversify our world over time. Being ruled by our own creations doesn’t seem to be the hardest thing to do (it could easily happen with a virus, or disease, but a computer? You would have to have made multiple wrong decisions over a period of time to end up in the situation that they did. A physical machine is something that can be destroyed, and they could have made a choice to destroy it when they realized that it was reaching a destructive point that they hadn’t planned on evolving from what they had originally programmed for it to do.

It is part of human nature to want to further themselves, and gain knowledge. Colossus was a way to get information that was unreachable at that time which put it in a specific culture context that the people held higher than themselves, which allowed them to be controlled. Computers are vehicles and storage facilities for information. If we use them to find what we want and need, and don’t give them brains in which they can evolve on their own, then the human race will be safe from cybernetic totalism.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Don't be discouraged

Since the 70's people have been more suseptible to the idea of precarity in their working life. People want more flexible hours, and a change from the day to day routine. In wanting these needs, they would be giving up the security of predictable hours, better pay, and welfare so they can have the freedom to be innovative with new forms of creative organisation. The human need to be innovative is strong enough in people that they are willing to give up the stable jobs they could have in order to live a life that is fulfilling in the way of advancing human thought and practice, individually and socially. This brings me to the question of whether or not people would be able to create a political organisation by themselves and by having collective experiences of permanent insecurity? Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter would say that this is nothing but a fantastic dream that people revel in to think that they have a power which is influencial enough to change existing conditions, but is really only white noise in the ears of politicians and authority figures.

They would support their thoughts by bringing up the enormous protest of 2003 where there was a global mobilisation of people protesting against the Iraq war. Politicians ruled it as an example of an informatised society, which to Neilson and Rossiter would mean that there is little chance that a coherent political opposition could arise from organised activities of civil society. They believe that protests are similar to the orgainisation of a networked governance, and therefore it could never amount to anything more than a relational and political conversation.

I believe that the internet is becoming a more and more influencial force in society. People rely on certain websites and constructive debates with other political activists to get better informed on the political status of our society. You can't rely on the news and media to give you the correct information, and people have realised this, so they get it from the web. Neilson and Rossiter say that networks can be looked at as non-representational modes of organising political and social relations but that they still have expectations and discourses that are surrounded by notions of networked governance to deal with. They say that these political organisational networks wouldn't work because they couldn't account for the "exploited workers" that are being used for their intellectual property. People who are having these conversations on these networks are sharing their intellectual property for free! This is trying to put a type of copyright on intellectual conversations which are being produced from an innovative, precarious type of labor. These people aren't having discussions with each other for a salary, but to express their innovative ideas about other modes and solutions to the problems that our political heirarchy can't seem to come up with and address. By having a networked organisation also allows people to all be on the same page which is a more structured and more powerful way of getting your voice heard than protesting.

So instead of being discouraged about network organisation, I think we should embrace it and use the collaborative creativity that comes with the relations and information provided to enlighten us to be as innovative as we can. This will fulfill the human need for creation that we all have, even if we are pulled into the non-precarious jobs that we try to avoid. I think people care enough about the political disasters that are being created by the elites in our society, to collaborate on a better way of running things. It's about coming up with a unanamous decision on what our society needs most, and then be a constant driving force towards the same goal so this organisation could work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hey class
I know he already posted what we were supposed to read, but I just wanted to say that I wanted to discuss the Precarity to Precariousness and Back Again reading. This is mostly for the other people who need to facilitate a discussion tomorrow. Hope finals week is going well for everyone. It's almost over.

3rd post

The 1947 film Desk Set is a feminist film, bringing to the fore the relation between gender and both the anxieties and fears surrounding the introduction of the computer to the work place. At the same time, it makes the viewer aware of gender stereotypes in the work force in the forties. Walter Lang's decision to make William Marchant's play into a film had cultural significance. Desk Set prepared its time for the impact mechanical brains (computers) would have on there lives. One of the first blanket statements on gender in the film is when Sumner (played by Spencer Tracy) asks Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn), "What is the first thing you notice in a person?" Bunny replies, "Well whether they are a man or a women." I will argue that Marchant uses a language of names and gender pronouns to foreground society's fear of women and computers in the workplace. Sumner is hired to install a computer in the reference department, Bunny Watson oversees three other women who take calls and answer questions ranging from baseball statistics to the history of the buffalo. The film continues with dialogue and fear that they soon will be replaced by the mechanical brain. The relationships of Bunny Watson show her role in the work place and how it intermingles with that of her personal life, which places her in a gray gender binary. "Bunny," "Miss Watson," and one of "the girls in the reference department" are the names Katharine Hepburn is given throughout the film. Her friends and co-workers in the reference department call her bunny, and so does Mike Cutler, her boyfriend. Sumner refers to Bunny as Miss Watson, and her boss does as well. However the tone of voice of Sumner is one of respect for her role in the reference department. Mr. Azae's role in the film is to be the typical boss man with no other role than to make the "Girls" in the reference department feel unimportant and easily disposable.

I am not sure where Marchant came up with the name "Bunny" for his female lead. For Bunny is a nickname for rabbits. Bunnies are often used as a symbol of "Fertility or rebirth." The rabbit is also a prey animal and is thought of as week or timid. This would describe the way Cutler treats Bunny, constantly grabbing and groping her. Watson seems to look trapped and to be struggling to free herself whenever he is holding her. The Warner Brothers cartoon character Bugs Bunny seems to have influenced the character of Bunny. Like the animated rabbit, Bunny is a "trickster" who outwits her enemies; Sumner and Emerac. Both Bugs and Bunny Watson plays more than one role, playing against gender stereotypes.

The name of the other main charter in the film is Emerac, also refereed to as a the "mechanical brain." It looms over the "girls" in the reference department. Peg, Miss Blair, Miss Sailor and Miss Watson are under the impression that Emerac is going to take over their jobs and they will no longer be needed. However, Emerac is not your stereotypical male over taker. Emerac throughout the film is referred to as "she," "her," "good girl," or "Emmy" for short. This machine at times is also Sumner's girlfriend and true love. Miss Watson is not only battling Emmy for her job, she is also fighting for Sumner's attention. At times Sumner himself is called Emerac and is treated like a mechanical brain. For no one seems to know what he is doing or how Emerac works. "Emily Emerac's" presence is palpable throughout the film, however it is not until the final acts that she is installed in the reference department. Satirically placed in front of Bunny's office, Emerac looms over the "girls." A group of men including Azae view and marvel at the machine. The ending of the film turns in to a happy compromise: Peg, Miss Watson, Miss Blair and Miss Sailor do not lose their jobs, as Emmie also becomes one of the girls. We are to assume at the end of the film that they are to work together, feeding and emitting information.

Post Three

A few decentralized and non-linear (aka random and other-coherent) thoughts on Leapfrogging:

The technology exchange seems to be two-way, tech created in developed countries feeds into non-industrialized nations and is used in innovative ways, the results are wanted by people in the developed countries who want a more sustainable, simpler, less dependant life. Everybody wants a crank powered laptop, a modular DIY solar setup and water filtration system, etc. Is the exchange equitable in both directions, or just a new means of exploitation?

There may be implicit in the whole concept a rationalization of the idea that centralized capital in the hands of large corporations and individuals creates the kind of technology that makes "Leapfrogging" possible, and that this in turn negates the badness of all previous imperial acquisition of the natural resources of less developed nations. Is leapfrogging just "Trickle Down" economics by another name?

A danger point is when leapfrog technology becomes mainstream enough that corporations want onboard, there will no doubt be a slew of well publicized pseudo-leapfrog thingies (see the Worldstock debate) intended to look leapfroggish but ultimately meant to keep profits and controls in place for the corporations.

Also, because much of this technology was originally developed by corporate sources, is there a greater danger that built-in controls will go unnoticed (GPS, RFID, data mining, etc.)?

In many cases women and minorities have created businesses based on leapfrog related skills. The technology seems not to be taken as a threat to traditional hierarchies (yet), so for instance, if women want to learn linux networking in a highly patriarchal society, they're more likely to be able to do that than say, own a taxi company or become a politician.

Is there a difference between a leapfrog technology that helps impoverished people and nations to reclaim resources lost to imperialism and current exploitation, and technology that simply creates a nation of cheap web designers and tech support for developed countries? Does leapfrog tech have the potential to create social monocultures where nations are ultimately more dependent than they were on imported goods because their previous diversity of production has been undermined?

Ultimately though the potential of these technologies is that they form the fabric of their own kind of non-linear social network, linux and solar and low cost cell phones, P2P networks, etc., and membership will eventually have social status and implications capable of shifting traditional power structures.

Tomorrow's Readings

I haven't heard from anybody about the specific selections that interest them in the issue of fibreculture that we'll be discussing tomorrow in our final class. Some of you will be responsible for co-facilitating discussions of this material, remember. Anyway, I've picked three selections myself for the lack of input and that's what we'll be discussing. Be sure to have read them through.

From Precarity to Precariousness
Marxist Theory of the Virtual
Dawn of Organized Networks

I realize that people are putting on the final touches on their finals due tomorrow and so I've given you a fairly short assignment, under thirty pages total. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Chris Kotsovos 3rd Blog Post: Colossus: The Forbin Project

When viewing Colossus: The Forbin Project, you the viewer are treated to a rare gem of science fiction known as Cyber God Complex. The term I like to use to describe when man in his infinite wisdom develop the ultimate defense computer that will protect his or her respected country from outside forces. But at the same time praying that this computer with its advance hyper processing will not be self-aware, but in the end does become self aware. Thus causing the inedible downfall of all mankind, do to his lack of hyper intelligence.
This film is paint by numbers scenario of the C.G.C., Dr. Forbin builds this elaborate super computer Colossus to protect America from the commies. But the computer becomes faster stronger, then self-aware and finally a god that creates a totalitarian utopia. Like HAL-9000, Colossus is fascinated by man and his ability to make love and unlike HAL; Colossus keeps his genocidal aggression to minimum in essence to control mankind. And unlike the movie WarGames, Colossus cannot be defeated so easily by information overload or an elaborate game of deception by deactivating the nuclear warheads. Colossus becomes an all knowing being, mostly to serve as an allegory for man headstrong rush towards technological innovation, mostly without looking at the big picture in the long run.
Personally I don’t believe that mankind will never be destroyed by machines, do to the reason that there are way to many ways to destroy a microchip. However between the various scenarios Dead uprising, Fist of the North Star Nuclear Annihilation, Alien Invasion, and Machine uprising. I would have to say that the living dead and machine take-over are likely prospects; personally I’m more in favor of the dead uprisings. Mainly because it would be interesting to see how mankind will fight off hordes of the undead, given the generous amounts of fictional books and films available

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chris Kotsovos 2nd Blog Post: Desk Set

After viewing the team of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, in their seminal outing that is the film Desk Set. I can only sit back and enjoy the old fashion nostalgia that was the late 1950’s. A time when communism was threat, men were men, ladies were dames, and America was enjoying the new onslaught of the whiz bang technology that is computers.
At the time of the film IBM helped in making the movie; during that time IBM hadn’t quite finished establishing its total domination over the whole world computer market, an achievement that Microsoft would later achieve. But getting back to the point computers during the 1950’s were already starting to replace whole offices of thankless clerical workers, and most Americans knew very little to what computers can actually do. This movie would eventual prepare America for what computers were about to do to their societal workforce, by slowly but surely turning future generations of office workers into efficient, sole crushing, cubicle dwellers.
Although the downside of the film is that computers during the 1950’s, were huge massive monoliths that take up entire rooms. Tracy and Hepburn, roles during the film were to try and make them look as friendly as possible with as much madcap romantic candor as humanly possible. In hindsight, there actions during the film would lay the simple foundation that would lead to the current sexy, sleek, look that contemporary computers have today.
The power of the computer as portrayed in the movie is staggering even by today's standards, and impossible for the time. But now a day, man will build his super computers for the sole purpose of strategic defense, mmorpg, high speed pornography, and battling a grand chest master. I enjoyed the premise and execution of the film of being the modern equivalent of an after school special about technology in the workplace.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Hey Folks I play Allot of absurd video games in my life. This game was so bizarre I just had to post it here for all of you to see.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Class discussions

I found some interesting similarities between Litman's arguments and arguments concerning basic income guarantee, and I wanted to kind of locate their connective tissue. Actually, I guess I should be more specific: there were moments during past class discussions regarding basic income guarantee that could have been applied to today's arguments, so I suppose this is actually more about the particulars of our class dynamic as opposed to texts that make certain claims.

That being said, I remember that when basic income guarantee became a topic of discussion, there were a number of reactions that sounded something like this: what incentive will there be to work certain kinds of jobs which "must be done" if the fiscal backing does not exist? Isn't it too close to an idealist, utopian myth that can't function because skill=monetary incentive fueling a desire to develop certain skill=application of skill? Won't there be too great of a leveling effect that will render individualism inactive because we will somehow [based solely on our income] lose a sense of "purposeful work"? Communism? Assimilation? Lack of definable, class and social differences?

All of these assumptions or fears have a definite weight and legitimacy, and should not be immediately dismissed because they are the product of our shared contemporary experiences and make a lot of sense in THIS CONTEXT (the context being contemporary life). What developed out of that argument, however, was the notion that how we identify "work" and what constitutes the process of working and production would have to become or WOULD become radically different because if you are paid simply to exist, then the activities you do everyday can BECOME what work means {a really really really great argument for Artists, with a capital A, D.C.).

Ok, so there's that. That in and of itself isn't the connection I'm trying to make. What connects these two discussions more directly is the ideology shift. There was an almost intrinsic agreement initially that determined what constituted "work" that wasn't necessarily a vocalized claim, but I think parallels could have been made among individual philosophies of what work represented to each of us that could form a sort of general consensus of what we think of as productive labor. Keeping that in mind, it was necessary for us to reaffirm what we dictate to be work in order for something like basic income guarantee to make any amount of sense.

Similarly, I found that the discussion of the Litman piece today required an adjustment of what we believe constitutes property and how we think about the exchange of information. I think it's interesting that Litman explained the history of copyright laws in order to kind of demonstrate that what are consider common-placed notions of intellectual property haven't actually existed for all that long. In the same way that [and this is not the best example, but something relatable to critical theory and the course overall], when we speak about Nature, we need to remember the history of how Nature developed as an ideology, we need to keep in mind that WE, the contemporaries of every historical moment, are the inventors of these compartments. Therefore, we have full license to change our minds.

This is oversimplified, obviously. It's not like flicking on a switch. But it is an interesting, gradual exercise that I feel can free us of a number of unnecessary binds.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm watching me


well, maybe...

after getting past the wrong idea I originally had, I still cant see how the internet is parrelled to Foucault's panopticon. the thing that gets me is the freedom of activity in the participants. in the panoptic prison, the prisoners had no activity, ie- were stuck in a cell and therefore in the mechanism of the panopticon. Internet users however, have a very different experience. they are actively seeking out information to use in each persons own way. theres no coercion or intimidation(unless you bring up the recording industry suits) about viewing or creating websites as long as they confine to the law. true kiddie porn is off limits but I think it's for the best...really. other than that governments and organizations have no power (that I'm aware of) to control what content you consume. every so often I hear about how AOL or some other demon company sold customer activity lists to the CIA or FBI and I say get educated about how the net works, get a floating IP or change web providers! Or better yet lobby the government to change these invasive practices. anyway.

the internet is a decentralized network made up of many large corporate pages but far more personal sites and blogs. in the prison, it' a top down, one way, direct contact, 'oh my god I'm in a fucking prison with armed guards watching my ass' kind of place.

perhaps its something more. maybe its about ISP providers having the power to control content. if the internet is an ocean, then the providers are the boats that get everyone around. what if those boats only went to certain destinations?? destinations that those wanting to keep an eye on everyone wanted you to see and those that they did not. I do not think the latter is the case. there are many out there that have the knowledge of the behind the scenes stuff that really help keep info flowing in the face of restrictions. so log off myspace for once and check out or or or or....hey! cheap DVD players on amazon..........

adam day

Tomorrow's Readings:

Just a reminder, tomorrow is a Law Day.

We're discussing Jessica Litman's Sharing and Stealing and James Boyle's Enclosing the Genome?

Those of you who have not yet co-facilitated a class discussion really need to figure out how that is going to happen. Next week we will be reading selections from the Precarity issue of fibreculture. Look it over in advance and have a sense of the pieces you might be interested in talking about in class a bit.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Internet and Sex

An interesting NY Times article about the societal effects resulting from men having constant access to porn. A really good read:

Perhaps this technological marvel will have the inverse effect. Could this device cause women to loose interest in real men? Probably not, but it's still funny.

Indexical Exercise

Indexical Exercise

Paul D. Miller’s essay “Material Memories” is written with a stylistic twist. The essay flows as if Miller is mixing and ‘cutting’ the numerous references to construct a song. The essay also disrupts the flow as DJ spins his record against the grain of needle. This type of disruption is the heart of DJ-ing for its technique renders both the ‘sampled’ sound that exists in the world and the ‘violation’ of the sampled into one song. The way Miller ‘samples’ his reference contributes and counters with the way academic essay is often written. I will focus on Miller’s writing technique, both positive and negative (confusing) elements to illustrate how the essay reflects Miller’s questions regarding contemporary way of perceiving time.
Miller’s style of writing best exemplifies his idea of ‘script information’ producing ‘selection of sound as narrative’. His usage of references or ‘selections’ amounts to narrative if not a flow. These various references are artists, musicians, scientists, writers, filmmakers, Greek mythology, programmers, composers, songwriters, and philosophers. In the midst of references, Miller inserts his personal narrative, for example, about his trip that is also filled with geographical names, film festival, Naval Observatory, airport, etc. His thoughts come and go in between references; “somehow it all just works…like that old Wu-Tang song said a while ago “C.R.E.A.M”, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” He leads the essay with complex web of references that support his ideas and thoughts, however interesting shift happens when his references seem bombarded or crowded to the point the author seem to disappear into his references.
The shift happens when the render-ness of references are recognized as both disruptive and cohesive. The essay consists disruptiveness because Miller uses rhythmic sentence structure throughout the essay. It is also disruptive because he does not explain how his references work with his ideas, or amongst references. Poetic quality of his sentences provides pleasurable read as well as disruption. For example, Miller inserts rhythmic sentences; “It’s only a rendition of Breton’s dream, surrealism as a mid-summer night’s scheme, check the drift in the 21st Situationist scene. A scenario on the screen: camera obscura…” This is immediately followed by, “or something like that.” Miller assumes that the reader would go along with his rhythm, however forceful the connection may appear to be. This kind of rendering begs a question; do the references provide enough support to the author? How much is enough? How can these references put together without explanation? His rhythm makes his essay cohesive but it disrupts the flow. On the other hand, perhaps disruption is only the part of necessary component to Miller’s intent, as if the essay is a record on turntable, composing asynchronic flow of time.
The disappearance happens as the essay skims through references and fragments thrown together without explanation. This is the moment when Miller stands as a mixer, a DJ, a person who makes a statement by ‘cutting’ the records, fusing various elements of culture into not only his own interpretation of culture but a new kind element back into culture. The way DJ disrupts a flow of a song is necessary for it can imitate the ‘speedy’ nature of contemporary world and the way time is perceived. Miller quotes Maya Deren in the beginning of the essay; “realization of its purpose through the exercise of form,” in which Miller literary exercise this by disrupting and connecting the materials in his essay, imitating his technique of mixing and ‘cutting’ sounds. Miller imitates mixed sound with words as in rapping and contextualizing the ground for his essay that upon reading his text, one can realize the purpose of essay.
Miller’s style of writing and the effect of writing still beg questions. Can critical theory in academic sense be susceptible to the way Miller wrote? Is his writing too disruptive? Does it imitate the fragmented way one perceives the world too closely? Perhaps it is Miller’s intent to have these questions be asked as his essay move through what he called filmic time. What happens if the author’s usage of references is overwhelms the essay? What is the shift or rupture happen so fast to the point that blink of an eye can no longer comprehend the space between images or words, because they have become one seamless flow of song? Miller may include these questions as he ends his essay questioning the construct of various scenes that are made through computational process.

Note: All references in this essay are taken from Material Memories, Time and the Cinematic Image by Paul D. Miller (DJ Spoody), Articles: a094, Date Published: 5/2/2001, Artur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors.