Cut up workshop March 30


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Independent Media Center

Information is free

Excerpts from "Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice" and "Future Active. Media Activism and the Internet"

"The Internet developed through both deliberate design and unintended consequence." (p55, Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice)

"In response to the launch of the Russian Sputnik in 1957, the Us Department of Defense formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to develop superior military technologies. History: "In the early 1980s, for instance, community groups in New York established computerized databases to calculate the risk of arson attacks by landlords intending to claim on insurance policies, number-crunching such variables as a landlord's fire history, tax arrears, and record of building code violations." (p91, Future Active. Media Activism and the Internet)

"In the 1970's, a number of of community-based groups began to use the new information technologies for social justice and social development." p57

Projects included "Berkeley Community Memory" and the Chicago group that developed the bulletin board system (BBS).

"By the 1980s, a number of international non-government organizations had realized the potential of linked international networks. During the late 1980s, a coalition of national and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the northern and southern hemispheres acted to develop their own linked computer networks including Geonet, Worknet, Fidonet, Econet, Greenet, Labornet, and Peacenet- allowing social movements of labor, ecology, pace, and women to share text-based information. This network of networks "preceded and long remained parallel to the commercialized Internet."

(p58, Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice)

Dorothy Kidd's essay " A New Communications Commons" addresses the role of after September 11, 2001. Kidd listened to mainstream reports as well as alternative news. There was a lack of reports on the peace vigils and demonstrations; a lack of focus on international issues that contributed to the crisis etc. 60 autonomously operated websites in North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Corporate media are limited in what they present.

"You are your own journalist!"
(Israeli IMC site)
(Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice)

example of indymedia video broadcast and this video report from Critical Mass action in London

and this post-September 11 report

"Don't hate the media- become the media!"
(Italian IMC site)
(Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice)

The IMC was officially launched on September 7, 2000. The software code originated from Sydney, Australia. It was first successfully employed in Seattle.
(p92 Future Active. Media Activism and the Internet)

A physics Ph.D. student at Sydney University (Matthew Arnison) took on the programming while many ideas came from Gabrielle Kuiper.  Matthew is the founder of Community Activist Technology group (CAT) in 1995 with the slogan "pedestrians, public transports and push bikes on the information super hypeway."  "The IMC example is a key example of the Internet version 1.0 in its commitment to openness." (p91 Future Active. Media Activism and the Internet)

All people in the IMC movement share a concern with issues of globalization. "We wanted people to be active participants, not passive readers." Gabrielle Kuiper (Active Sydney) IMC's main feature is a website that automatically publishes submissions from participants, who can contribute text, photo, graphics, video clips, ad audio files. Its database automatically updates the site to make each new submission the lead item.

"A new class of knowledge workers operates in centers all over the world with a concept of collective intelligence in which they share a 'common code" that is antithetical to proprietary ideas of intellectual property."
(p57 Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice)

The first IMC site was set up in Seattle in 1999 at the occasion of the meeting of the World Trade Organization with a massive presence of social movements. Groups had called for an "end-run around the information gatekeepers" to produce autonomous media. Very few papers had discussed the WTO meeting beforehand. In only three month and $30.000 from donations the IMC organizers in Seattle created a "multimedia people's newsroom." The IMC is non-hierarchical and based on networked distributed decision making.   Journalists were able to use print, radio, video, and photos from the perspective of the perspective of the democratic globalization protesters. Ex-Microsoft employee Rob Glaser donated technical expertise and equipment to make this happen. IMC had the latest streaming technology to distribute video, audio, text, and images.

"Open publishing" was also introduced allowing all to upload their take on the events. Activists challenged the enclosure of the communication commons. Some economists talk of the "tragedy of the commons"  by which they mean a lack of control over the unregulated exchange of resources (file sharing).  They argue that non-conforming practices should be criminalized. Communication meant to "make common to many," and democracy originated in the 16th century, when it meant "the rule of the comminaltie," the popular power of the multitude, implying the suppression of rule by the rich.  The commoners of the IMC see their mission to liberate information: allow information to circulate freely.

How does the IMC sustain its resources? Who can afford to share their time? Dependence on volunteers is hard to sustain. How can you sustain long-term collaborations without stable financing, production facilities, and mechanisms for distribution?

Follow this link, the web presence of a symposium on open content


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P2P File Sharing vs. Anti-Piracy Debate

Video Clips:

On Trusted Computing

RIAA comes to your home

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The post-war era was marked by the development of the computer but also by discourses that define today's digital culture. Artists and composers made work and addressed questions of interactivity, multimedia, networking, and telecommunication. John Cage, Alan Kaprow, Fluxus artists and others involved in Performance, The Lettrist movement and Mail Art. Cybernetic thinking and the interest in communication systems in that era were determined by the Cold War. According to Gere, the most profound influence on current digital culture  was John Cage. His artistic pursuits of the 1950s and 1960s opened up space for the development of ideas of interactivity within digital culture. Cage was by no means a computer artist but his ideas had viral quality. His musical experimentation influenced the German composer Stockhausen as much as they influenced Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk, Techno, and  electronic dance music. Fluxus ideas were often related to different options for iteration. We can reference here Manovich's idea of cultural software: the artwork is executed similar to an algorithm but with many possible iterations.   

4'33" was performed in 1952 in Woodstock. Three movements of silence. This piece could have been influenced by Cage's experiences in Harvard's entirely soundproof chamber. He could hear the noise of his own body, the bating of his heart. True silence was not possible. The piece was also inspired by Robert Rauschenberg's all-white paintings.  Cage made interaction available as  artistic medium. According to Gere, Cage stripped art of elements such as content. He focused on interactivity. 

Umberto Eco, in the essay The Open Work, written in the 1960s, describes the artwork as being completed by both the artist and the audience. They engage with each other. 'Open works' are open to various interpretations and are to some degree unfinished.

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K. Ludwig Pfeiffer: The Materiality of Communication

This essay makes us look at the loss of the object. It pays attention to the influences that our communication devices have on the way we communicate. The text sets out with Jean F. Lyotard's exhibition "Les Immateriaux" (1985). (German description of exhibition.)

Pfeiffer claims that new technologies are as much technologies of distribution as they are technologies of production. For Manovich this ties to the definition of new media altogether. For him, media that are not produced and distributed digitally do not "qualify" as new media.  He proposes new media as a paradigm, a process, rather than in reference to a specific media.

"The entrance hall to the new world now seemed to be constructed of 'immaterial' materials." Noted by many there is a cultural move from the object ("substantial things")  to communication ("information codes"). "Less tangible things" are of growing importance.

Jean Francois Lyotard (1985) suggests that we now focus less on objects but are faced with information overload, a new performativity of things and bodies. "People themselves become surfaces 'to an almost obscene degree.'" Brian Holmes refers to this phenomenon in the realm of culture. He argues that artists become managers or even entrepeneurs of themselves.  Performance is the most important core element of the contemporary subject. Communication/language becomes the key faculty.

Pfeiffer: "Performances are judged in terms of their "felicity," that is, rather in terms of rules and styles than of meanings."

"Communication is envisaged less as an exchange of meanings, of ideas about..., and more as performance propelled into movement by variously materialized signifiers." p7
Have you ever seem a speaker who impressed the audience deeply but left you with nothing to think about? We are witnessing the cult of affect, and charisma, and signifying style. These codes place content and meaning in the shadow. Today, it is performativity that resonates in culture.

In his book "Discourse Networks" the German media theorist Friedrich Kittler looks at the influence of the materiality of the machines of communication (typewriter etc) on the formation of discourses. What are the technological potentials that frame our communication? A gap emerges between information overload and interpretational sophistication.  "Feelings of self are soaked n the images of others, petrified into an uncanny world or museum of images and statues." Pfeiffer argues that highly technologized cultures have been the target of conservative cultural criticism.

Also in line with this trajectory of thought is "Resurrection Co." It delineates in an amusing manner that the devices that we conceive of, often find unpredictable applications. Also well fitting here, is Brecht's  famous text concerning radio's, (written in the 1930s)  limited one-directed broadcasting ability. Brecht calls for two-way communication previously impossible.


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Student Blogs



Timothy Sheenan

Tanvir Alam


Lauren Hettler


Robert Cushing

Scott Douglas Blajszczak

Chris Ferrari

Patrick Sullivan


Staci Holahan ??

Andrew Onofrey

Aaron Smith

Camille Paloqueberges

Joshua Rubin

Michael Farber

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Mattelart writes:
Much of the original language of "communication" was owed to the language of the church. A clergyman wrote: "Any man excluded from a society or a body, and with whom the members of that body no longer have communication, may be said to be excommunicated."

We can draw parallels to Japanese teenagers who show signs of physical sickness when they are out of range on their cell phones. Social organization (meetings,  parties, dates) are all set up spontaneously, not planned. To be out of range of the cell phone signals means to be "excommunicated." Also much of online communication is about special interest. Here you can find the perfect match. You never have to be confronted with opposing opinions again. A third parallel that we can draw is to the general character of labor in North America. As Richard Florida and others pointed out, creativity and performativity are core qualities/skill sets of today's workers. Howard Rheingold suggests that the ability to plug in and participate in the social networks of cooperation is the central competency of the next decade.      

Communication refers to the exchange of goods and signs. Trade was seen as the opening up of *routes of communication.* Consumption and distribution of goods is based on communication and the "technical management of opinion."

Networks of communication can be tools in creating international solidarity. A poignant example is the worldwide protest on February 15, 2003 demonstrations against the war in Iraq.

Mattelart: "It is not by chance that the second millennium is closing with the era of cybernetics, in which communication and information play a central role."

"... one need only point the kinship between the messianic discourses on the networks of steam and electricity in the nineteenth century, and those that in the twentieth accompany the policies of economic and social recovery through information high tech." Through "communication" in all its technological forms, it has been a matter of nothing less than effectuating a return to a primary community." p16

"For long time, a straight line has been traced between communication and religion, each rediscovering the other in order to bind human beings together (religare). Humanity has not waited for the crumbling of certain political utopias in order to invest communication with the function of warden against the threat of disaggregation, and to demand that it create a new social bond. The boundless hopes placed in communication, this technological idealist determinism, existed long before the twentieth-century prophets of the information society. " p17

What determines communication is not always the visible aspect but in fact the protocols that are laying supine underneath the technological channels through which we communicate.

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Audio Recordings

Dr. Judith Rodenbeck Lecture

"The Open Work Since Silence"

mp3, m3u

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Video of Class

Mark Shepard Workshop; Feb 08, 2006 video



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Blogger's Handbook

Blogs shake the media foundations of countries. This class aims to discover the consequences of collaboration-enhancing technologies of communication. Weblogs are usually online, diary-type sites.  A blog gives users  a chance to publish material regardless of technical skill or education.  Opening up a web space does not mean people will come to use it and contribute. We learn to filter information and find insightful sites from which we can learn.

The fact that you write online does not mean that people will read it. Blogs can be private media. Some blogs have three readers or less. Others come close to one hundred thousand daily visitors.
Your blog must offer a unique perspective. Content is king. What do you have to say? Your blog should be personal. It should grab people. Self-involved posts full of spelling mistakes will turn people away. Governments block weblogs that speak truth to power (e.g. China).

You will need to write regularly. Write on topics of your interest and on current affairs. Blogs are more open and transparent than mailinglists. They have the potential to reach more people. But users have to aggregate them or visit the website to access the material. Mailinglists enter your inbox. Every good blog is topical. It asks the web a question. Throughout this course you will come closer to finding yours.

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