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The Defeat of Time at Sonic Acts: Pitch Police says “Respect the Hertz!”

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The drone. An unmanned aircraft, flying over enemy territory by itself. Secretly photographing enemy targets. Session moderator Mike Harding vividly explains to the audience at De Balie, during Sonic Acts XII, the properties of the drone, which is, in the first place, this information based weapon system. The drone now has numerous references in modern culture, of which drone music is one.

Harding pours out a hard to find drone of the midshipman fish, courtesy of BBC, which finds its source in the animal kingdom. It is what Harding calls a ‘true drone from the animal kingdom’. It is a continuous sound that doesn’t change much, but Harding is ‘not content with that definition. A sound can change radically but still retain drone qualities. There are no temporal limits on a drone, how short can a drone be? A starting point for a drone could perhaps be, that it is longer than your natural breath.’But drones are not just that. The role of the drone can also be to ‘underpin, or underscore, a composition an an essential part of the orchestra’. A drone can also be a part of a musical instrument in itself, as is evident in Leif Elggren’s Royal Organ.

Von Hausswolff
Definitions of drone music are still fluid, a member of the audience for example pointed that throat singers can not be forgotten in the discourse. But what is drone music according to its musicians? Carl Michael von Hausswolff says: ‘It is silent and beautiful, it can make you stop skiing in the middle of a forest and in that moment you achieve a certain kind of rest. A state that you would like to be in for a long time. You lose a lot of the separation that can stand between yourself as human being and nature. There are no cars rushing by and its a personal dialogue. if you want to use it as a tool for practical living: It helps me understand the processes of life and being alive’.

Von Hausswollf also mentions a connection with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: ‘There is no start, no end. A kind of eternity. You become aware of a flood in your life. It is really stimulating and perhaps a positive way of trying to… well… live’. According to Von Hausswollf, this even applies to a live performance situation, where faders tend to remind you of time. Harding responds by asking if it is perhaps a kind of metastate. Von Hausswollf: ‘If you look at a concept such as transcendental meditation. Perhaps I could do it too, but I’m too western… And I’m too f*cked up to be able to list myself. I try to find other methods to achieve this kind of calm, or… whatever’.

Nordwall
Joachim Nordwall tends to touch upon the other side of the drone music spectrum. Nordwall: ‘How do you make drone? The drone is an illusion of safety for mankind, I like to recreate a certain feeling I had when growing up. The only fun thing of growing up for me was: cheap drugs and some place me and my friend could experiment with analogue synthesizers. There was this mix of drugs and analogue drones. In my work I have realized that I wanted to recreate that room where we grew up. Yesterday (during the Paradiso performance, ed.), I wanted to fill the room with the sound. A drone is convenient to fill up the room, and filling up the room creates a kind of safety. And moreover, that specific room where life was in front of me’.

During live shows, according to Nordwall, a ‘loud volume is important and the physical aspect of the drone is very interesting. To physically feel a change can be more interesting than the mental change. You get a feeling in the stomach. You can feel some parts of the body that sometimes do not exist’. Nordwall mentions Sunn as an example of a band that is enormously loud: ‘It has an effect that will get stuck in your bones for days after’.

In the discussion afterwards, volume levels at live performances sparked an interesting discussion. Is the artist responsible for exposing people to that kind of volume? Undoubtedly, there are physical consequences of sound. However, these consequences are largely unknown to the artist. The Pitch Police says: RESPECT THE HERTZ!

Links
Crossposted at Masters of Media and Sonic Acts XII Blog
Photography by Roos Menkman – http://www.flickr.com/photos/r00s

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Written by newmw

February 26, 2008 at 11:56 am

Participatory Culture at Video Vortex: Cutthroat Capitalism, Foodmarket Piracy and Asian Perspectives

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Do you think Participatory Culture is all about friendly cooperation? Fans flocking to Star Wars conventions or squad based play in the latest MMORPG? The Participatory Culture session at the international Video Vortex conference in Amsterdam, proved that practices such as “cutthroat capitalism” also belong in this category. And how can, from an Asian instead of a Eurocentric perspective, the changing concept of authorship be understood when everyone can build new meaning upon an original work? This session provided practical examples as well as theoretical context. The Masters of Media of the University of Amsterdam were once again present to cover the whole event. Full reports, including this one are available from the Masters of Media blog.

Tilman Baumgärtel: Cutthroat Capitalism in South East Asia
First presenter Tilman Baumgärtel, currently teaching at the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines in Manila, discussed piracy and intellectual property in South East Asia. Having organised the Asian Edition conference, which deals exactly with this subject, Baumgärtel can be regarded as an expert on these ‘social economics of piracy’. Surprisingly, however, these questions do not involve Internet and P2P data communication. Baumgärtel explains: ‘Asian piracy is still largely based on disk because there aren’t a lot of fast internet connections and modems’.

Tilman Baumgartel Anne Helmond

To give the audience an impression of the context, Baumgärtel shows a trailer of Malaysian film Ciplak (translation: Fraud). This independent film deals with the subject of piracy and it is one of the few comedies that is accessable to audiences in the region, also because indie films usually deal with ‘more serious subjects’. In the production process of Ciplak, creativity was necessary because of the low budget. For example, everyone worked on the movie free of charge, a camera was bought that came with 10 free mini-DV tapes and IKEA lamps were used for lighting.

Malaysian piracy started in the 1980s with the advent of VHS pirating and continued in the 1990s with VCD pirating. Baumgärtel: ‘Piracy started as a counter-movement against poor distribution. In Europe you can find almost anything, in Asian countries, however, films are hard to find.’ Only Hollywood films, or films starring Jackie Chan, make it through to cinemas and the legal distribution circuit. Baumgärtel: ‘This changed with VHS and BetaMax piracy. Some of the film makers feel that they are so indepted to the pirates, that this group is already thinking about contacting pirates so they can use their distribution channels. Internet is not a factor in this yet because of low speeds’.

These distribution channels are inventive and constitute a grassroots movement. In order to provide consumers with product, fishermen are smuggling masterdisks in the belly of tunafish. Global piracy is a consequential response to global economy, Baumgärtel: ‘The recent process of privatization has taken its part in facilitating piracy’. And continuining: ‘This is globalization from below. It is not about legal organisations, but illegal outfits. This movement represents globalized business and takes advantage of infrastructures. It is the counter image of legal illicit globalization we are seeing right now’. A term Baumgärtel mentioned in response to questions afterwards, perhaps exemplifies this movement most vividly. This is about ‘Cutthroat Capitalism’.

Ana Peraica: Food markets and copyright infringement
In her presentation, Ana Peraica, freelance curator and theorist mostly engaged with video and new media, gives an analysis of the growin archive of illegal material with a focus on Croatia. Why this region? Peraica: ‘Croatia is a really interesting region, because piracy is not really regarded as a crime’. She continues: ‘The problem of copyright was introduced to Croatia in 1991, before that it was still silent online. Today you can find illegal copies, for example, on the food market’.

On a more personal note I came across this example on a recent trip to Split, Croatia. Boulevards were crowded with stands selling illegal copies of the newest computer games and Hollywood films. Once installed, games were often older versions of the same franchise and films turned out to be bad recordings of cinema screens. Peraica: ‘I would like to show some examples in my presentation today, but the problem is that this would be illegal here. There is no agency that hunts down piracy in Croatia, they simply don’t bother about objections of copyright’.

Ana Peraica CrCom Anne Helmond

Continuing, Peraica asks herself the question: ‘Is everyone who possesses a video camera and publically exposes video, automatically a video artist?’ Both an interesting and strange case, exemplifying duality in this question, is that of Croatian popstar Severina. She recorded a pornographic video of herself that got published online without her consent, she claimed copyright and stated that is was video art. Severina’s lawyer also stated that home video pornography is video art. The court’s response was that it was nothing innovative and therefore not video art. Severina lost this case, but at the same time she saw her popularity rising. The lawyer also put forth that it was invading privacy, the court responded by stating that she recorded it herself.

‘What is still video art?’ Peraica continues. Does it have to be innovative and perhaps even elitist? Peraica: ‘Popular culture is recycling elite culture, but is it still art?’ In her final words, Peraica concludes that is hard, if not impossible, to define art as something downloaded from YouTube versus institutionalized art.

Dominick Chen: Redefining Authorship from an Asian perspective
In his presentation Dominick Chen, who leads Creative Commons Japan and is JSPS Fellow Researcher at the University of Tokyo and NTT InterCommunication Center, aims to propose a redefinition of authorship itself: ‘How can we gain understanding of data generation and distribution in the light of systems?’ And more specifically, how to go through this Eurocentric idea of individual authorship, or commons? Chen aims to redefine the ‘commons’ from an Asian point of view. Especially with regards to the chain of creativity, where Asian culture differs greatly from its European counterpart.

Chen starts with an example of piracy and participatory culture in India: ‘When you buy a DVD in India, through a Chinese hack, you can get three stories: English, Chinese and Indian. Because translation of subtitles is really bad, you get three different stories based on one film’. Another example of a big Japanese market where you can secondary work of comics, anime and novels, Chen: ‘ There are about 50.000 participants who are selling product themselves, they gather to buy eachothers works that have been derived from original works.

Dominck Chen CrCom Anne Helmond

The result is ‘fifty million Yen of economical effect in just three days’. Contributing to an original artwork, going from monologue to dialogue, is an essential part of Japanese culture. Chen: ‘Creativity is considered as reflective to the original author, contributors don’t care about being part of the chain of creativity’. This is exemplified in the fact that on Japanese Wikipedia, 80% of users are acting anonymous. This is the exact opposite of Wikipedia use in the United States. Chen: ‘This chain of creativity, based on anonymity mous is very characteristic of Japanese culture.

Looking back, Chen remembers 2007 firstly as the year of the fight between users and existing shareholders of the broadcasting industry. Secondly, 2007 saw the birth of the metadataplatform, which Chen calls ‘a critical point in classical User Generated Content’. Envisioning 2008, Chen firstly sees an explosion of open contents and, secondly, the rise of the ubiquitous platform of data and creation, such as the iPhone and the Nintendo DS. A third essential vision for 2008 is the recursive stratification – indefinite division into subgroups- of web API with the appearing of “API’s of API’s”. Fourth, Chen predicts a ‘war over openness, which platform can be more open than the other one?’

As an example of Japanese culture and the chain of creativity mentioned earlier, Chen shows Japanese videosharing service Nico Nico Douga. By analyzing this video service, Chen wants to clarify what creativity is in this whole situation. He concludes that comments are ‘becoming constituents of the original work, affecting both authorship and spectatorship. It is a shift from dialogue to symlogue, because narrative control is shared and over time content is nurtured, fermentative’. As examples of symlogue, he mentions M.C. Escher’s Drawing Hands, where both hands share narrative control and are also fermentative of nature. On Nico Nico Douga, a movement has emerged that uses original material and builds upon it by using, for example, the VOCALOID sound plugin.

Chen emphasizes that he doesn not want to focuss on the horizontal effects, or the chain of creativity, but he asks himself the question of ‘how to open this up on a vertical level?’ For a recent exhibition, Chen cooperated with a well-known Japanese author, who wrote a new book on the spot. New chapters could be downloaded through the Internet. Chen: ‘Normally it is considered embarassing to show how a writer writes. By showing this process, a new relationship between reader and author is created’. Chen also shows a recording of twenty-four hours of editting on a single Wikipedia page. This ‘opening up of revision’, is what Chen regards as the next step in opening up the ‘commons’. It exemplifies the ‘open ecology of digital contents’ and ‘fermentative ecology’ that Chen mentions in his final words.

All photography, copyright Anne Helmond

Warming up for Picnic ’07

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Picnic ’07, Amsterdam’s annual event organized by the Cross Media Week Foundation focusing on creativity in cross media content and technology, is only a month away and the list of speakers is nearly finished. Between the 25th and 29th of September, Amsterdam’s Westergastfabriek will once again host the event after the succes of last year’s edition. But with such a diverse and wide-ranging programme, where will you go? In order to get into the mood and warm up for the event, it is worthwhile to highlight some of the fascinating speakers and take a more in-depth look at what they are all about.

Reuben Steiger (Former Linden Labs Evangelist and founder/CEO Millions of Us)
scion2ndlifeAt Picnic ’06 Philip Rosedale of Linden Labs / Second Life presented his take on ‘the empowerment offered by Second Life of the average citizen to not only create but monetize their own content and design’. This year former Linden Labs Evangelist Reuben Steiger will take the stage at Picnic’s Virtual Worlds, which is all about virtual worlds becoming central to the future of marketing, technology, entertainment and brand-building. After his work at Linden Labs, Steiger founded and became CEO of Millions of Us, a company dedicated to helping businesses understand and harness the power of virtual worlds. An example is the Toyota Scion car in Second Life.

Being an evangelist and clearly someone who believes in the power of virtual worlds, Steiger fights of recent criticism of Second Life as a branding tool at influxinsights.com by saying that ‘some of the criticism is partially warranted, but a lot of it is poorly contextualized and opportunistic, in the sense that pundits love to tear down technologies that have ridden a wave of hype. IT analyst firm Gartner calls this the hype cycle – new technologies spark a wave of initial excitement, expectations inflate, the technology is found to be imperfect in some ways, and there is a backlash – but in the long term, a good technology will overcome the hype cycle and enjoy long-term adoption.’ Are virtual worlds all that Steiger says they are, or just a big bubble? Are you a skeptic or an enthusiast? Not sure? You can find out at Virtual Worlds. In the video below Steiger answers questions on his personal interest in Second Life and if virtual worlds are a response to alienation in real-life.

When? 27th September 14.00 – 17.00
Where? WesterUnie
What? Virtual Worlds at Picnic ’07

Cory Doctorow (SF novelist, blogger, technology activist)
doctorow overclocked Cory Doctorow, co-editor of popular weblog BoingBoing and contributor to the likes of New York Times and Wired, explores the benefits and consequences of online systems in his latest (fictional) book Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (free download). This provocative collection of six previously released stories shows Doctorow extrapolating todays user experiences towards a futuristic vision and creating fascinating stories in doing so. An extensive review can be found at The Uberreview. For his writings, Doctorow has already been compaired to ‘Cyberspace’ godfather William Gibson by Entertainment Weekly. In the Authors@Google series Cory Doctorow himself presents and discusses the book, if any questions remain be sure to go see Doctorow at Fab, or the personal fabrication revolution.

When? 28th September
Where? WesterLiefde
What? FAB, or the personal fabrication revolution

Pablos/Paul Holman (Futurist, IT security expert, notorious hacker)
From an interview with Pablos “Paul” Holman at DLD ’07, shown in video below, comes the following provocative quote on creativity in companies: ‘Especially large companies tend to be poor at doing new things. They have lots of resources, lots of people and a lot of infrastructure . But all that gets in the way of when you’re trying to be creative. […] Ideally for me, I’d be able to wake up in the morning and dream up something I’ve been dreaming about. Then go build it by lunchtime, launch it in the afternoon and see if people like it. And then maybe fix some bugs by dinner.’

hackerbotpablosContrary to Doctorow, Holman does not read science fiction because he doesn’t want to be accused of plagiarism. His views however are, as the Picnic website also mentions, unique. With his design studio Komposite he ‘consults on bizarre invention and design projects that assimilate new technologies’. To give you an idea: Among his projects is the Hackerbot, a WiFi seeking robot that can find you when you’re using a wireless network – and drive up to show you your password on its screen. According to the Hackerbot website, the robot is really quite friendly and tries not to show your passwords to anyone else. Interested? Be sure to check out Holman at Picnic ’07, also if you’re interested in salsa dancing!

When? TBA
Where? TBA
What? Pablos Holman

Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic designer and typographer)
sagmeisterYou might have seen Stefan Sagmeister‘s design in your local record shop on the covers of Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Talking Heads recordings. The Picnic website mentions that just as film, art, music and literature have the power to move people, Stefan Sagmeister’s innovative work shows that graphic design, too, can cut to the emotional core. An in-depth interview with Sagmeister can found at designboom.com. The image is courtesy of Grafik-freunde Stuttgart.

In 2004 Sagmeister spoke in Monterey, California about how design can make us happy and more specifically design that made him happy on a personal level. Telling stories ranging from billboards and museum exhibitions to pictorial language, Sagmeister is able to show how design can touch a nerve. Design never felt more personal while listening to Sagmeister’s presentation and his words seem far removed from corporate thought. Anyone intested in the emotional side of creativity, and creative industries in general, should see Sagmeister at Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far at Picnic ’07.

When? 27th September 16.50 – 17.20
Where? Zuivering West
What? Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far – Stefan Sagmeister

Various Meetings and (Un)Common Ground
Like last year, Picnic also hosts various meetings such as Virtueel Platform’s (Un)common Ground II: An expert meeting that brings together all the top thinkers in the industry. This year the sub-title is Scale and Intimacy. At the meeting experts will take a close look at the complex issues arising when practices and models of collaboration move across different scales. Like Stefan Sagmeister in his presentation, questions such as ‘how to maintain the emotional connection that people make to the ideas that are promoted or the services or products that it delivered’, are asked. Although the meeting is ‘invitation only’, be sure to check out Virtueel Platform’s publication (Un)common ground. Creative encounters across sectors and disciplines for more information.

For information on all Picnic ’07 events (25th – 29th of September) go to the Picnic network website. Oh… and did I mention Andrew Keen (see my previous post) will also be there?

The Cult of the Amateur: Everybody is Gutenberg in Web 2.0!

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Web 2.0 City by eBoy.comWhile browsing through the Virtueel Platform website, I came across the Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto (Adorno for Idiots) by Andrew Keen. The manifesto pinpoints in a very accurate way my sceptical, pessimistic thoughts on the whole Web 2.0 affair we’ve been living in for quite some years now (and perhaps also the up and coming semantic web). Like Andrew Keen’s book The Cult of the Amateur (a phrase he borrowed from fellow Web 2.0 criticist Nick Carr), as he admits himself, this blogpost is biased. Very much so.

If anyone can create a puddle of mud in a swamp, it is still amateuristic. You might say to me: ‘Hey, but you’re a blogger! Blogging is web 2.0!’ Sure, guilty as charged! But therefore this post is about awareness and not about creating fear. With that being said, does Web 2.0 provide us only with amateurs or do we still have time to foster real talent? One might think that Esmee Denters, a recent YouTube phenomenon from the Netherlands, might be such an example. But there are probably quite some vocalists out there who can do the same trick (although I do admit that she has a beautiful voice). Her marketing trick however is that the fans, who followed her from the beginning, share the idea that ‘they’ve know her from when she wasn’t famous’. It is no surprise that the slogan that goes with the product is ‘You Made It Happen’. To be precise, it was famous record producer and musical entrepeneur pur sang Billy Mann who made ‘It Happen’. It’s a variation of a classical egocentric quality of humans: Who didn’t brag about that guy or girl in highschool who is now a famous politician, musician, etc.? I know him/her! (…but I wish it was me)

In the Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto, Keen places himself as the opposite of Chris Anderson by stating that: ‘Digital utopian economists Chris Anderson have invented a theoretically flattened market that they have christened the “Long Tail”. It is a Hayekian cottage market of small media producers industriously trading with one another.’ Once again, one might not have to agree, one is perhaps not keen on agreeing instantly with Keen but it can’t hurt to think about it. Keen also mentions ‘a particularly unfashionable thought’ by saying that ‘big media is not bad media’ which put forth the likes of Hitchcock and Bono (I’d prefer to say U2 as a whole). They were supported and fostered by big record labels and the Hollywood studios. It is a small step to return to the example of Esmee Denters, who is fostered by major record label Interscope. Denters, a product of the Cult of the Amateur, was made into a ‘professional’ by the record industry.

Can I offer solutions here? No, because it’s an ongoing debate that will linger for a long time. Perhaps it is important to foster talent at the roots, and not let talent foster in the amateuristic puddles of mud. How long will users keep creating content for the Cult of the Amateur, will they lose their enthusiasm when they don’t get positive comments? When will they stop trying and what are the stories of users who stopped trying. The users who got tired of contributing their hard work to the Cult of the Amateur?

My thoughts are that we should foster talent. The professionals in the business are only fostering ‘talent’ at the top of the chain. A participatory culture, wherein the secrets of the industries are laid out in the open usable for the Cult of the Amateur, sounds like a utopia. But deep inside I believe, or hope, it not to be. In my personal utopia, I’d suggest we create places where people can firstly learn and secondly can contribute and are not stuck in their own puddles of mud of the great Web 2.0 swamp which encompasses a fixation on contribution. Let’s discuss new ideas, like Keen suggests in the video below. Below you can see a presentation from Andrew Keen at (what Keen proclaims to be) the ‘belly of the beast’, being Google HQ in Mountain View.

Google Geoday Benelux 2007 Report

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MarkerWhen the invitation for the Benelux Google Geoday 2007, shaped in the form of the Google Maps marker which has risen to fame in the past years, landed in my mailbox it promised to become an interesting day in Amsterdam’s EXPO XXI this Thursday. With presentations by Bernard Seefeld (Google/Endoxon), Brandon Badger (Google) and Remco Kouwenhoven (Nederkaart) in the morning and workshops on Google Earth and the Google Maps API in the afternoon. With a big thanks to the people at Generation Next who were responsible for my ticket in the first place.

Google’s Geo development (Google Earth and Google Maps) has taken a big step in the previous years, with the coming of Earth and Maps there is a definite focus on adding layer after layer of information on the globe. Like graffiti on a wall everyone can apply meanings to the maps made available by the Google Geo team. As Lev Manovich noticed in The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada when talking about Augmented Space: The 90s were about the virtual, the 2000s will probably be about the physical. Not the infinite Internet, but the finite space of the physical land. And it seems that Google eagerly agrees with this prophecy. Below is my account of the day.

Keynote by Bernard Seefeld
Dangerous dragons were used in the early days of mapping if parts of the map were not known yet to the cartographer. This is one of the examples Seefeld uses from the early mapping practices, which stands for the improving of the image and the filling of the gaps. The early cartographers did not have the information to fill in the holes so they just drew dragons. Another example given is the map of New Holland, or what is now called Australia. The interesting thing is that the Portuguese probably reached this land first, but the Dutch were the first to draw a map of it and therefore being ‘responsible’ for the discovery of the land (a discovery from a Western perspective, anyway, as the Aboriginees were already there).

New HollandSeefeld takes the first example and also the mapping of New Holland, which was not accurate at first to say the least as the shape of the land on this image shows, to the present. He notices that the Google Geo team faces a similar situation in pasting together the best available satellite imagery to create the globe of Google Earth. Sometimes the information is available, sometimes not and in that case lesser detailed imagery has to be used. It is not about drawing dragons, but about improving satellite images.

So now we have an explanation of Google’s basemap philosophy, pasting together a globe in a way that perhaps reminds us of the patched body of Frankenstein. Building on top of that basemap is the next step and this is also the core of the Google Geo team’s stated mission: Organize the world’s geographic information and make it universally accessible and usable. Which is derived from Google’s overall mission statement, which is actually the same but doesn’t include the term geographic.

GoogleAntInstead of discovering new land, like in the age of navigation and in the second example given above, the user is now able to discover new information, the era of the information age. The emphasis here was especially on the enhanced content applied to the base like web links, reviews of places, photographs and featured content. Seefeld actually went as far as too say that the base is nice and the content makes it great. The base is always the same, just like the physical. But it is information and meanings applied to the physical space that make it what it is. The new idea is that meaning is applied with the use of the virtual, leaving aside the physical. Through the geo applications new discoveries can be done in the physical space, as an example Seefeld showed the Google ant; a species that got discovered with the help of geo applications.

But all this information applied to the surface of the Earth requires a way to search the information. This is the territory of the spatial web, which is all about geotagging, KML and more. Making the meanings applied to the Earth searchable. But nowadays discovering the earth isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. The dragons are gone; discovery has become a safe practice. Boring? Perhaps. You can always try the navigation option in Google Maps and Earth and follow the directions, even if it asks you to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

Dragon Map

What is fascinating is the applying of so many meanings to the finite globe with the help of this virtual reality. I asked Seefeld the question what his views are on potential conflicting meanings. He emphasized the role of the user and also said that it is important to have access to all opinions. Getting everything 100% true is very difficult but the goal is to fix it again and again until it is good, with the help of user opinions. This really reminded me of the already infamous Wikipedia wars, which is more about events, persons, etc. while Google Earth is about space and meaning. As Dorling & Fairbairn say in the chapter Alternative Views from their book Mapping: Ways of Representing the World: ‘Maps have always presented pictures of ‘truth’ and just as many people have many different truths, so there are many maps to be drawn.’

“From API to mashup” by Brandon Badger
The key to presenting all these various views on planet Earth and what a website developer can show his/her visitor are mashups. Using the base map and applying content, meaning, to it. Badger emphasizes the essential role of the user and giving us a rather simple and commercial equation: Google’s tools + You = Victory. A more convincing model for the concept of the mashup was that the sum of the two parts makes for something more valuable than just the sum of the two parts: 1+1=2,53542. I guess it is a good thing Time magazine named us as persons of the year, but it also makes us a lot busier with supplying content for Web2.0 applications. When will “we” get too busy with supplying content until the point that we don’t want to do it anymore? It will probably mark the end of Web2.0: The death of the user.

Mashups by Remco Kouwenhoven
On his website Nederkaart.nl Remco Kouwenhoven shows lots of examples of mashups with the use of the Google Maps API. He showed us some of these on the screen, but the one that struck me the most was this map about the air traffic above Schiphol. What it intents to show is the high density of airplanes at Schiphol airport paired with complaints about the noise.

Schiphol Noise in Google Earth

This reminded me of a remark by Mark Monmonier in the Dorling & Fairbairn piece I already mentioned above: ‘Cartographic propaganda can be an effective intellectual weapon against an unresponsive, biased, or corrupt bureaucracy.’ These mashups can provide this cartographic propaganda in real-time. Current issues can be addressed with the help of real-time information gathering. On Kouwenhoven’s website a lot more examples can be seen and it is a definitely worth browsing and importing some of the examples into Google Earth.

The Workshops
After a morning of presentations the afternoon was reserved for us, the user, to start creating content using the tools supplied by Google as Badger pointed out. Although I’m not sure for how long these links will be online you can check out the small assignments of the workhops at these links: Google Earth workshop and Google Maps API workshop. More technical info is also available through code.google.com. There was one jawdropping example in the Google Earth workshop that I didn’t know about, which is an incredibly detailed 3D city model of Berlin. Definitely a must-see.

Hauptbahnhof Berlin 3D

After spending two hours being immersed in the representation of the physical space on the screen, the pavement on my way to the train station also had some new meaning applied to it. A strange awareness of how easy meaning can be applied to the physical space we navigate each day, or to the places where we live. Being unaware which meaning has been applied in the virtual to the places we call home. What also struck me after this day is the dependence of Google on the user, who is responsible for supplying the content. It makes you think, but for some reason I’m just feeling lucky right now.

Cyberkoelies: Buy World of Warcraft characters or experience straight from China

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Cheating has been around as long as games existed. If you fail at something time after time, you just typed in the code and off you went to the next level. With MMORPG’s and a complete social online community, that way of skipping the hardest part is gone. Players are looking at other possibilities offered. One of them is buying character from eBay, or in some other way.

chinese wow playersMade in China has probably been around for as long as mass produced toys are overflowing the markets. And while the West used to get their cheap toys from China, they now get their experience points straight from China where the young people from the countryside who want to make a carreer in the big city -in this case portrayed Zhengzhou- play World of Warcraft for a living.

The Dutch documentary Cyberkoelies by Floris-Jan van Lyun deals with this sensitive subject. He shows us the lives of Jing and Wang, two Chinese youngsters looking for a way to get out of the seemingly never changing life of the Chinese countryside.

Van Luyn shows us that the life of the farmers and the ‘ore farming’ for other users in World of Warcraft isn’t all that different. What makes it attractive is the virtual world. Jing tells us that there are less boundaries in this world, and when we see her walking down the street -in real life that is- she tells us that she just enjoys watching people walking around.

The employer is also interviewed, and this gives us some insight as to who is behind this business but in the end we don’t really get any more concrete information than ‘a contact in Germany.’ Tracing this line back to the players who actually want these ‘virtual tasks’ done would be a very interesting next step. To track the people who make this whole system of supply-and-demand work.

Besides Jing, Van Luyn also shows us the life of Wang. His family doesn’t really understand what he is doing, his brother thinks he is kind of a failure and his father doesn’t really know what the computergame is as long as it is legal: “Because that is what is important for my generation.” If it is legal or not can be contested. According to Chinese law probably not, but the ’employers’ from World of Warcraft -I’d call them the cheaters- are not favored in World of Warcraft.

User GijsW posted a comment on the forum of Holland Doc, the program that aired the documentary. He noticed that these practices are not ‘legal’ in World of Warcraft, because one user can only play his own character which would be very hard to check up on. And he also mentions that some parts of the game actually are becoming too time consuming, causing the users to ‘outsource’ their ‘work’ to the Chinese youngsters at a certain cost. Cheating costs money nowadays.

ore mining in WOWThe documentary didn’t really convince that the older generation in China doesn’t know what computergames are, or that World of Warcraft is the same work as working in the ‘real’ fields. Although these things do exist, they are not specific for China. I found that the main argument to go and see the documentary is the outsourcing of work in the virtual. These are the nasty jobs -ore mining, time consuming jobs- the West doesn’t really want to do. The toys we don’t want to make.

Cyberkoelies is not available -yet- with English subtitles, but if you can understand a bit of Dutch or Chinese then this is definitely an interesting documentary. You can view the documentary online at the Cyberkoelies page at VPRO Holland Doc. Dutch newspaper NRC also ran an interesting story on this, which includes an interview with Van Luyn. The first image is courtesy of VPRO.

Dispatches from the City: Examples from MyCreativity

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mclogoTogether with the Masters of Media crew, I have been covering the MyCreativity convention. An initiative by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter. I covered the last part of the convention and this featured some great examples of the upcoming Creative Industries around Europe.

The closing session of MyCreativity continued the previous session on dispatches from the city: Examples of the Creative Industry -or insert preffered term here- from around Europe. The first session covered Vienna, Dublin, Barcelona and Basel. In this second session we’re venturing into London, Helsinki, Berlin and with Rotterdam we’re bringing MyCreativity back home to the Netherlands. What follows are my observations, thoughts and questions on the presentations.

London by Anthony Davies
“The Evil Empire” of the Creative Industries as Davies introduced his country and city to the audience. He describes the process as being curiosity driven, or “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” In his quite theoretical presentation Davies highlighted two examples from London; firstly the cooperation of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and Cap Gemini, secondly an example from the University of Arts London (UAL). The first is illustrative for the second, so I will explain the first a bit more detailed below.

The ICA is a publicly funded instution and has since the late 90s been looking into cooperations with companies and a new way of financing culture. If we take a look at what both institutions are about, we can see where the two can meet, the ICA is an arts institute and the Cap Gemini the world’s leading management consulting and computer services firm. Business seemed to need creativity at the end of the twentieth century.

creativelondonThis also resulted in certain ‘Clubs’ or networks, including for example Channel 4, Cap Gemini and the ICA. Network culture seems to have quite a lot of ties with the Creative Industries. Networking and cooperating seems to be on of the essences of the new industry, creating cultural entrepeneurs scouting the markets. And through these networks companies can also scout the best of breed and the ICA -for example- becomes a best of breed provider.

This way there is a massive boost in educational funds and literally billions of euros are spent on these contracts. And in the end Cap Gemini of course also gets rewarded for their investment, by being leader of the creative pack in their field. In this light Davies mentioned the adaptibility of the discourse around the Creative Industry.

One thing that I got out of these two examples personally, is the fact that for example medical studies are heavily subsided by companies but that art and creative studies still mostly have to be untied and publicly funded only. Remains of a 70s hippie culture, or an essence of art?

Reading
Davies, Anthony. ‘The Surge to Merge Culture with the Economy.’ Presentation from Copenhagen Free University. 2001.
Davies, Anthony. ‘Basic Instinct: trauma and retrenchment 2000-4.
Davies, Anthony and Ford, Simon. ‘Culture Clubs.’
Davies, Anthony and Ford, Simon. ‘Art Capital.’

Helsinki by Minna Tarkka
Tarkka takes us on a “walk through Helsinki”, showing us mostly images of what changed the creativity of Helsinki in the recent history. Such as the impressive fire which destroyed the Makasiinit -or the VR Warehouses in English according to the Wikipedia entry– the center of Helsinki that marked the end of an era. To get an account of the event, follow this google search link: makasiinit fire.

firehelsinki

This end of an era created the openess for new visions for the future of creativity in Helsinki. An interesting project Tarkka mentioned was Helsinki 2015. Tarkka questioned if in 2015 there would even be bigger enterprises? And she is anxious to see what will happen in the media landscape in the future of Finland, since it was very regulated and now there is new space opening up. An account of Finland looking to the future can be found at this short explanation of Finnsight 2015.

More and more Finland is looking for opportunities to brand itself on the international market. The Eurovision songfestival is seen as a great opportunity to present the new creative possibilities of Finland to Europe, although it is debatable if the previous Finnish winner Lordi is a good example for trustworthy business, but it sure was a creative act.

Reading
Tarkka, Minna. ‘Labours of location. Acting in the pervasive media space.’, Species of Spaces, ed. Giles Lane. Diffusion eBook Series. London: Proboscis. 2005.
Sivonen, Henri. ‘Makasiinit fire coverage

Berlin by Sebastian Luetgert
The critical theory comes back in the presentation from Luetgert called ‘Capital of Failures’; he wants to explain how creative initiatives did NOT work in Berlin. Armed with a whole range of great terms and thoughts he gives a very interesting presentation. What to think of ‘Easy-jettification’ for example, a term he used for the increasing cheap flights in Germany. But also an official slogan of the city of Berlin ‘Poor, but sexy.’ And what to think of ‘Islands of Excellence, Oceans of Dementia’ which refers to the deserting of the countryside in Germany.

simberlinLets take a look at the negative examples he gives of the city of Berlin. To begin with, the city of Berlin has an estimate debt of 60.000.000 euro’s, that is 20.000 per inhabitant. Luetgert compared this with playing Sim City with a constant debet (without the ability to cheat, I’d add). The destruction in the 1950s of the hardly damaged buildings from WWII is another negative, this was part of a plan to actually limit the amount of houses in Berlin to set up a better real estate market. Also the dot.com boom in Berlin started when it was already over in the world, so Berlin only experienced the downfall of it.
What is interesting is that Luetgert gives us a lot of things to think about, but not very concrete answers.

We have to fill in the dots ourselves on the question if being positively f*cked makes us creative. And if there is the capital of failures that actually helps us. Luetgert himself mentioned that the situation will be financially grimm for the next 20/30 years, but personally I really like Berlin for its broken, melancholic feel (amazingly portrayed in the film ‘Der Himmel Uber Berlin’). And the might just be the contradiction in ourselves Luetgert is talking about.

Reading
Luetgert, Sebastian. ‘An Introduction to a True History of the Internet.’
Luetgert, Sebastian. ‘Roaming Producers.’

Rotterdam by BAVO
This presentation started with its conclusion involving a Medea allegory; kill creativity to protect it (like Medea killed her children to protect them).

rdamOne example from Rotterdam I’d like to highlight here a bit, is called the ‘Poetic Freedom Project’, more information in Dutch is available from SEV.nl: De Dichterlijke Vrijheid. In this project the buyers of the houses renovate the whole block themselves together with an architect subsidised by Rotterdam itself. What is interesting about this, is the flow of money around the various networks (buyers, Rotterdam, architects) to create a new creative enviroment to work in.

More information about the work of BAVO architect-philosophers Gideon Boie and Matthias Pauwels can be found at www.bavo.biz. A site that is definitely worth checking out for its content.

Reading
BAVO. ‘Plea for an uncreative city (First draft of a yet to be finalized manuscript)‘. August 2006.
BAVO. ‘Enjoy the Right not to Enjoy!
Boie, Gideon. ‘Design Intelligence.’