In Summary: Lamentably not Stephen Fry

 

 

Stephen Fry: Comedian, Blogger, Polymath, self-described Whoopsie

 

It has actually been quite difficult for me to maintain a blog, something I rather scoffed at before this course. I was unprepared for the constancy with which you must express, elaborate and reference ideas and sources, and engagement in the online world. I don’t how Stephen Fry manages it on top of everything else the annoyingly brilliant polymath takes on.

Maintaining weekly posts has been hard for someone accustomed to wordy assignments, toyed with over several months, and while my performance on this particular assignment has been less than stellar, I’ve learn a lot and keep that with me, not least a new found appreciation for the web as a creative, intellectual and social resource.

My new found interest in Net Art continues and grows, as I am a regular visitor of netart.org. Funnily enough, Net Art was a limited subject to base my whole blog on in such a short space of time. I hope it is but the tip of the iceberg. I hope I conveyed my passion in my last post.

I really did suffer from a touch of writers block with this assignment, and the lateness of my entries shows that. I have been very impressed with some of my classmates’ blogs, and fascinated too. Sorry if I have not engaged as much as I’d like, but I was always more the observer than the performer.

On the topic of Stephen Fry, while I have lazily combed his website over the last months, I have noticed a certain voice, a certain leisurely comfortability with his blog that refreshes me. Naturally, you have to have a degree of recognition, as he does, to be so. One of his entries retreats from the opinion and examination that we often feel obliged to maintain as bloggers, and he simply talks about some personal pleasures. He calls them blogusosities, which, I think you’ll agree is a very Fry thing to say.

It starts:

‘Blogging down one’s thoughts can sometimes end in bogging them down. Political events, ideological disagreements, rants, apologies, defensive screeds and coverage of techno launches, political scandals and general media excitements have often been the meat, drink, potatoes, peanuts and popcorn of my blogging space, which is fine and well and high and dandy and adorable in its own way (one hopes) but it leaves little time for dilating on the subjects which really move and enliven me. So here is the first of a series of blogulosities in which I try and share a personal delight.’

I’m going to remember to think about some of my personal delights as well, from now on. As varied and humble as they are. Only because Stephen said I could.

Truism: Interactivity and the Artist

We are all so familiar now with Jay Rosen’s dogma, ‘The people formally known as the audience‘. It has become something of a truism in how we can now look at media and culture in an online world.

Art is no different. As I hope you’ve gleaned from my previous look at net art, interactivity is potent and primary. Not just because of an inherent cultural disposition to Rosen’s truism, but because of an awareness of it, and ability to comment on it. This has been the role of art throughout history, and especially the twentieth century, already.

net art is such a mash of images, words, code, sound, and software, that it seems to me to be the natural and inevitable road of artist commentary. To be interactive is to be the art of a new world. To be interactive is also the best way to deconstruct and critique that world.

Put another way, a healthy, digital world demands a healthy, subversive and critical art movement to be complete.

I hope my previous entries have displayed a little of that, whether by questioning the accepted norms of sites and information, or offering a little absurd fun and playfulness with aspects of the internet which might often be taken with an unaware seriousness. Such are the ‘truisms’ of the net, that we sometimes not dare fool around with them. ‘Why?’ net artists like jodi.org will ask. Isn’t a little bit funny, in a rascally, mischievous kind of way, to scare the day-lights out of people with fake virus, and frustrate them with absurd interfaces, if only to highlight the seriousness with which they are approaching there world.

At the end of the day we, the artists, are like jesters in that sense. Art works so well with a sense of humour, and none more so than net art.

And so, the user ‘formally known as the audience’ becomes something of an unwilling participant in the process, in a culture where ‘willingness’ is the Prime Directive. – That’s right, people, I can be an artist and a Trekkie!

Why???? you are asking. What’s the point. To be aware is the point. I could rattle off some art theory about the intrinsic value of art in culture, and it does have intrinsic value, but I won’t. If the least a work of art has done is offered an alternative, however absurd, understanding of a norm, it has done its job. In my view. Of course, I’m coming at this from a practicing artist’s point of view, not an art theorist. We tend to have more fun.

And so, in the spirit of Truism, I’d like you to explore adaweb, a complex, interactive art site that allows you to change wisdoms and truisms, play with facts and just generally get lost in absurdist interactivity. Enjoy.

Net Art part 3 – Jodi.org

I would like to introduce you to Netart collaborators Joan Heemskerk of the Netherlands and Dirk Paesmans of Belgium, otherwise known as Jodi.org.

 

Jodi's map of the internet

 

Jodi creates interactive arts work through a deconstructive disassembling of interactive software such such as games and interfaces. The programs are stripped down to their bare coding and then rebuilt to reveal the essential format of the program, but drastically or subtly changed to reveal a structure that does not make intuitive sense . The idea is the same as deconstructivist art and architecture in that it seeks to question and elucidate the role of structure and purpose. As a critique of gaming, the absurd nature of the constructs reflects an absurd idea inherent in virtual gaming itself and internet conventions.

In this 1997 interview, they discuss the early years of their art and net art as a concept.

Examples of jodi’s work includes a reconstruction of games Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. The Quake-deconstruction has become well known in netart circles. It reassembles the game format, via coding,  into abstract, dysfunctional and haunting digital spaces leaving very little control to the user.

 

Still of 'Untitled Game', a reconstruction of Quake.

 

Jodi’s most well known works involve decontructing user interfaces and websites-as-art, at first unbeknownst to the browser, who slowly becomes aware it is the product of an artist having fun, not a glitch in their own computer. This is wwwwwwwww.jodi.org, a series of links and browsers that display varying levels of absurdity and deconstruction.

 

Screen view of wwwwwwwww.jodi.org

 

Other sites service as beautiful interfaces for their own sake, combining imagery and interactivity nicely, such as g33con.com

My personal favourite is globalmove, a play on google maps that is frustrating and clever. Enjoy.

Ps. A great site to keep up with and discover great art that is happening on the web can be found at net-art.org

A late,quick amendment

I haven’t done a blog in a while, due to some pretty severe writer’s block, and it will take away some marks, but I will persevere to catch up , regardless.

I want to start with an amendment. Last blog I spoke about literary magazines and their websites, and offered some small criticism. But what I didn’t mention, as I have only just found out about it, is the site Meanland, a coordinated blog between Overland and Meanjin. This blog is actually quite wonderful and makes everything I said in the last blog completely irrelevant. Its a great source of articles about digital publishing and literature. So, sorry Meanjin and Overland, I spoke to soon.

Literary Journals, Standing to Win

 

Going Down Swinging

 

Last weekend, as part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, I went a saw a talk by the editors of Going Down Swinging, Overland and Meanjin. For those that may not know, they are three highly acclaimed literary magazines based in Melbourne. They were speaking about the past and future of their publications, including the potential digital changes that have and could be embraced.

In the spirit of our recent assignment, in which I look at two websites made for pre-existing print-publications, I thought I might spend some time looking at how these three have done just that.

Meanjin‘s site baffles me a little bit. It contains a blog, and a way to subscribe, but little else, as far as I can discern. I’m not really taked in by the design, either. Overland the better of the two. For a start, it feels like a real site. There is content, an accessible layout and successful, not-overbearing design. But the online content was still lacking in varied content.

I believe literary journals could achieve a lot by creating sites that stand on their own, using interesting web tools and creating successful online content that is independent from the print version. The editors themselves admitted at their talk that journals stood only to win from digital media, as they tend to not be profit driven, and run purely on the love of the content of the staff. journals could create amazing sites that gain greater readership. They could maintain the literary content, and also tackle new and interesting forms of writing evolving through the web medium. I’ve been reading more Publishing 2.0, the blog that has come up in our readings, and Scott Karp in particular has some interesting things to say about this in his blog.

I am a devotee of a lot of print journals and magazines, and I don’t want them to change. But I feel some interesting parallel material could be created for the web, using the same editorial instincts and passions, but for a new medium.

Going Down Swinging admits to actually not providing any new online content, or even replicate any printed content online. This would make sense as it is an annual publication. However, I think that their website is still really great, for two reasons. Firstly, it looks great. It changes its design to coordinate with the current issue, which pretty much always has amazing cover art. Secondly, its links page is a terrific resource for finding interesting, related sites of art, writing etc. I’ve found so many great things through it, I can’t image not having stumbled across GDS when I did.

Net Art – part 2

 

midnight

 

I want to continue my exploration of Net Art this week, because the more I search, the more startling and fascinating individuals and collectives I found attempting to utilise the internet for artist purposes.

I’ll start with this quote I found from Joachim Blank, an internet curator:

The "Internet myth" is the result of a massive
self-referentiality of our media landscape. Unlimited
communication in a yet unknown conglomerate made of
machines, cables and people. The exclusive networld of
cyberpunks, scientists and artists has been superseded by
the thirst for information of the industrialized mass
consumption. Nevertheless, the cultural "stylistic howlers"
of communication in data networks continue to exist not only
in the underground.

Artistic projects, strategy projects, discussion forums and
autonomous network structures within the vast Internet, but
remote from the glossy, dust-free surfaces, show interesting
beginnings for an alternative use of this medium.

He goes on in length to distinguish Netart (I’ll start using one word to describe it as a specific category) and art on the net, i.e art made in the non-digital world, for the non-digital world , that is simply accessible on the web.

However, netart differs from art on the net. Art on the net
is mostly nothing more than the documentation of art which
is not created on the net, but rather outside it and, in
terms of content, does not establish any relationship to the
net. Netart functions only on the net and picks out the net
or the "netmyth" as a theme. It often deals with structural
concepts: A group or an individual designs a system that can
be expanded by other people. Along with that is the idea
that the collaboration of a number of people will become the
condition for the development of an overall system.

For me this all rings true, in several ways. As an art school graduate I am aware of the different forms artistic expression can take, and how, historically, it has adopted and adapted different media in order to do evolve and remain relevant.

In other words, it seems inevitable to me that the internet, web 2.0 and digital media like apps and software will create a flurry of artistic endeavours.

What has surprised me is how early some of this art came about, pre-dating 2.0, in the late nineties.

I’ve hit something of a wall trying to find some newer, innovative ways of art making for the web. keep me posted if you find anything.

On a final note, I delved into the links provided by Olia Lialina, whom I mentioned last post and seems to be a trail blazer. She does a lot of political work based on victims of war and the site Victim’s Symptom hosts a broad range of interesting collaborative works, working with the viewer as much as the artist. WDWTW (who did what to who?) is a great project, an extendion of Olia’s work that I mentioned, My Boyfriend Came Back From the War, that collects interesting adaptions of her original work into disperate narratives.

Net Art

net art by Olia Lialina, 1996

What does Web 2.0 mean for art?

When I say that, I mean many forms of artistic expression. So what happens to the artist with this medium?

There seem to be the obvious benefits of ease of exposure and networking. Most major artists have websites and blogs. Myspace has become a great tool for musicians to create a digital source for fans and connecting to other countries. Never before, it seems, has it been so easy to find art and music from any place in the world. And then there is net art.

I want to know what the class thinks of the internet’s role in creating art.

Firstly, I have found an artist’s blog that I think is absolutely perfect. The design, interaction and content is amazing in its simplicity and aesthetic. It’s called Blu and it showcases the drawings and film art of Blu in an interactive scrapbook design. Some of you may be familiar with the stop-motion street art which is mind blowing!

This is a great example of an artist, or artists, that have not only used the internet to increase exposure but also gain initial fame with the internet. A really wonderful site.

Net Artists

I have started to discover some really amazing art which uses the internet as its primary medium. These are artists that create their art solely for the internet, using web based software. It is fascinating! It tends to be interactive, to an extent, and very clever!

I started by looking at the very early online net artists of the late nineties, such as Russian Olia Lialina. These early artists were very low-fi, but still really fun. Her works some universe and My Boyfriend Came Back from the War are really interesting.

Alot of her work can be found on Pages From the Middle of Nowhere, an incredible online ‘museum’.

Net art explores the consequences, possibilities and detriments of the internet in various abstract ways. An example is English artist Heath Bunting, who’s Own, Be Owned or Remain invisible addresses commercialisation of the internet. His page irational.org has links to a variety of similar art.

I’d like to know if anyone else has found some interesting ways to utilise web software for artistic purposes.

That’s the beginnings of Net Art, and I shall delve further and see what I can uncover. I think I’ve found a topic I can cling to!

Charlie Brooker is Funny, So Are Vampires

Ok, I’d like to talk about my new favourite blogger. Well, my first favourite blogger. Charlie Brooker.

His posts on the Guardian are hilarious and intellectual, and his most recent post might help everyone think about their writing. He makes a point about writers’ competition on a forum such as the web. How do you get noticed? and How do you keep up writing?

I know that distraction is one key factor in my productivity, and attempting to write and research for a blob while distraction is only a new tab away. It’s driving me insane, the will power I must muster to not bring that arrow over to the Jon Stewart Daily Show bookmark I have conveniently placed at the centre of my bookmark bar, between Facebook and Women’s Weekly Cookbooks.

Can I really depend on myself to productively write and edit on a digital forum when I have a backlog of Charlie Brooker to read?!

On that note, he wrote a very funny critique of Twilight and vampires in modern fiction worth reading.

Another recent post of Brooker’s links to our last lecture, regarding identity, defamation and Facebook. He makes some interesting and points similar to Sarah. He starts:

‘One of the chief joys of the internet is the way it has liberated millions of anonymous hecklers, strikingly few of whom had hitherto risked sharing their coruscating views in public because people tended to yawn, or ask them to shut up, or physically attack them.’

I tend to think, for the most part, that the internet is large and complicated enough to drown out these lunatic voices. But it is a worry that given the impersonal barrier offered, people can so easily loose a few ethical points on their score card. And, of course, that barrier doesn’t stop the usual predators, becoming the impetus for Facebook’s ‘panic button’.

Diagrams and Letters

Typical Feelings Man from thediagram.com

But First…

While combing the internet on a quest to uncover outrageous news coverage and interesting examples of internet journalism, I got bored. Allot of buzz about Labor’s flailing campaign, both sides of the political aligned media establishments agreeing things were getting farcical.

Two very interesting posts, however. Firstly on The Age‘s site I had the displeasure of reading this rather vitriolic commentary of Bill Henson’s lecture at the Melbourne Arts Fair by Michael Coulter. He goes on to accuse Henson of immorality, double standards and arrogance. I was not at the lecture, and have only read segments online and from articles such as this. But I fail to see any arrogance in Henson’s defence of himself that I have gleaned or heard of.

The commentator surely had an axe to grind and then tries to display objectivity with this:

‘Let’s be clear that Henson’s ability is not in doubt. His use of light is superb, as is his ability to create a mood of intimacy and revelation. Morally, though, he has revealed himself to be a void.’

Did you cut and paste that from Wikipedia, Michael?

This is great: Fake, from Crikey as Fake Andrew Bolt got into seeming trouble with a fake twitter account. Its really quite funny, let me know your thoughts, as this is an interesting example of internet commentary, of a kind, and its use of social media.

And Then…

As I said, after these, I got bored.

I made a deal with myself. I would allow myself to do some fiction reading, but I would do it online, goddamn it!

And found some wonderful literary fiction sites. I came across them via the links of some of my favourite literary journals’ websites, such as Going Down Swinging.

Firstly there is Diagram, an online journal of stories, poetry and…schematics. Random schematics, it’s great! And it has a really wonderfully, pared back aesthetic:

It’s an online journal from the US that is simple and interesting. I am still getting through some of the fiction, which seems pretty standard for this sort of thing, some good, some not. I found the poetry very good.

Inspired by this find I decided to seek out Timothy McSweeney’s, Author Dave Eggars site representing his many publications such as True Believers and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Eggars’ simple style and investigation of the mundane is clear throughout the site, even from other contributors. I particularly like ‘Open Letters to People or Entities Who are Unlikely to Respond.

This is not to everyone’s taste, and I know of some valid complaints about Eggars and his publications, but I find it personally to be a good read.

Let me know of any interesting online ways to collect and display good fiction and poetry and remember to use that helpful chart to determine your man’s eye clues.

I’ve Never Written a Blog Before

Sometimes I really must throw myself forcefully and blindly into a thing to gain an understanding of it. It comes more easily to some. It has been the same in my attempts to understand and utilise the world of digital media and the web. I wonder sometimes if I lack engagement, or simply have an abundance of distraction.

What distractions, you ask? You could argue I’m being forced to find new forms of interest thanks to the flood of mindless and shamelessly transparent stuff that passes for television and Print news.

List of things not at all suitable for distraction:

  • Endless repeats of Two and Half Men (or as I prefer to call it, Let’s Kick the Shit Out of the Modern Idea of Male Identity and Leave it Bruised and Battered on the Cultural Floor)
  • The Coles Hour…I mean Master Chef. Really? Cooking?
  • The re-birth of Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Good Grief! Not even a thought to creating a new vomit inducing variety show for seniors?

For me television as a form of entertainment died with the advent of something:

The option to download or buy the DVD of decent shows that would otherwise be shown on Ten at 1.15am without advertising (yay, digital)

Then there’s the News. The Age last week featured a front page story on Julia Gillard’s sister, and the editorial of the Australian couldn’t have more of an agenda if it was owned by a biased, arch-conservative media mogul lacking any scrupels or ethics…oh. I find it increasingly difficult to rely on Australian news media for anything informative.

It’s possible that I have run out of good old-fashioned distraction.

Time to Get Started: taking to technology like my grandmother sips her scotch.

I will admit, I take to technology much like I did to drinking alcohol: slowly at first, but once I did, there was no stopping me; come Saturday morning I’m skipping down Nicholson Street without pants, a testament to the consistant success of alcohol in making me stupid.

I don’t think web-based media will make me stupid, however. Well, not yet.

So replace ‘alcohol’ with web-based media, and ‘stupidity’ with an increasing acceptance of the future and potential of digital communication, and you have my self-appointed task. Ok, I may have been drinking when I came up with that analogy, but I promise I’m sincere.

In tackling this task – that is, maintaining this blog – as with the course itself, I am definitely, though not profoundly, stepping out of my comfortable zone. Use of Web content is not foreign to me but I will admit I have not been as engaged in thorough use of the medium like many of my friends have. Regardless, I am yet to have the internet as a cornerstone of my intellectual and social life.

But, I am convinced of four things:

1. That the web – and digital media as a whole – is a profound part of the future of publishing, journalism, entertainment and communication.

2. That we need not fear the disintegration of reliable print and news companies to the oceans of individuals lending all manner of lunacy and incompetency into the role of reporting in an open forum (I suspect reliable sources will organically form as the new media grow and reputations and resource find a home). Although I have no idea about good business models.

3. That I will find something entirely enjoyable and lastingly beneficial in my new embrace of all this.

4. It is possible I am wrong about everything I’ve just said.

I thought a good place to start my new embrace of digital media would be to analyse journalism on the web, and its effect on and difference to mainstream media. This is as good a place as any  considering until now news websites have been my first benefit from the internet. I may change my mind at some point, but let’s start there.

Superficial impressions

Can I say I’ve never understood the need for a broadsheet format for newspapers.

Digital news surely is a practical format for delivering content.

I’ve started by visiting two sites I know about:

the Australian Crikey and the American Slate. Hopefully I can seek out the more unusual and mad sites in later blogs, as well as the sites of pre-existing print newspapers.

The first thing that greets me on Crikey is an article titled Fake Fielding: Hey Hey I better get some election policies

I don’t know what’s funnier, making fun of Hey Hey or Stephen Fielding.

Slate delivered one article worth noting regarding Wikileaks and its affect on journalistic endeavour.

‘I didn’t think it was possible, but Julian Assange has now done it: By releasing 92,000 documents full of Afghanistan intelligence onto the laptops of an unsuspecting public, the founder of Wikileaks has finally made an ironclad case for the mainstream media.’

Although I’m not sure I share the same faith as the author in the ability of some news organisations to offer objective interpretation and contexts for leaked information. I would like to hear some thoughts.

Personally I think whistle-blowing alone cannot make informative news. My other impressions of Slate are of it’s concerted Leftist (Ah, I hate the terms Left and Right) slant, for lack of a better word. I tend to be wary of either political extreme when it comes to journalism and commentary. But, again, I may be proven wrong.

Well, this post is late, and probably not written in the appropriate form, so perhaps in the end I am part Ludite, part lazy. But hopefully not too cynical towards a digital forum. Unless it mistakes Hey Hey it’s Saturday for a valuable thematic concern.

Let my new life online begin. I’ll be running down my proverbial Nicholson Street with my proverbial pants down, drunk with digital enlightenment in no time.