Stepping down as Director of Technology

Posted by Francis Hwang | Tue Nov 22nd 2005 1:33 p.m.

Hi everyone,

I'm writing you all with some news: Rhizome is looking for a new
Director of Technology. Early next year, I will train in my successor
and then step down. There's no need to say goodbye just yet, since I'll
be around for a few more months. But now is as good a time as any for
me to talk about why I'm going, and what it means for Rhizome.

Mainly, the reason I'm leaving is to pursue other projects. I don't
want to say much more than that: Some of what I've got in mind is so
nascent that to even describe it publically would be to give it too
much credit. Working at Rhizome has been a fantastic experience, and a
tremendous education. Now I want to take what I've learned and apply it
to different kinds of problems, and unfortunately, that means I won't
be able to give Rhizome the attention it deserves from its Director of

I've been at Rhizome for more than three years, and it's been a
tumultuous time: Three Executive Directors, five offices (if you count
the "virtual office" as one), three web servers, two membership
policies. Somewhere in there I managed to write more than 20000 lines
of Ruby code, not to mention the snippets of PHP and Perl required to
stitch my new ideas into the code inherited from my predecessor Alex

It wasn't for nothing. For one thing, we kept ourselves afloat
financially--no small feat given the arts funding climate of the last
few years. And we continued to innovate, with such additions as
improved search, the front page reBlog, our Location feature, and
commissions voting.

But the challenges aren't all behind us. The environment that Rhizome
operates in is currently shaped by a number of broad questions--not the
kind of questions you can ever answer definitively, but the kind that
you ask in order to force yourself to see the landscape anew. We've
been quite active in letting these questions inform our mission, and
we'll continue to do so after I'm gone: What's Rhizome's role in a
critical atmosphere that increasingly accepts new media art as just
another facet of mainstream contemporary art? How will the art world
take to the next wave of emerging technologies--be they blogs,, GreaseMonkey, or VOIP--and what part will Rhizome play in
their adoption? And given our shoestring budget and staffing, how can
we improve the feedback and participation we get from our thousands of
Members and users?

These are difficult questions, and Rhizome will continue to face an
uphill climb to financial stability, but I'm still optimistic about
Rhizome's future. Our two-year-old affiliation with the New Museum of
Contemporary Art provides us with much-needed administrative support
and sound advice. And Rhizome is lucky to have a phenomenal staff. I've
enjoyed working with Marisa Olson remotely, and she has already brought
a lot of great ideas to Rhizome. Furthermore, Rhizome will be in
excellent hands with Lauren Cornell. Since coming on in May, Lauren's
been working tirelessly to absorb everything she can about this
tremendously complex organzation, and already her drive is starting to
pay off--whether in this year's energized fundraising effort, new
collaborations such as our Open Call with free103point9, or the
upcoming redesign. I'll miss working alongside Lauren, but if I'm
lucky, from time to time she'll let me come around and make her nervous
by watching her type. She loves that.

So, a little about how the transition will work: We'll be posting the
opening today, at and other places, and
we're hoping to begin the selection process immediately after the
application deadline of January 1st. I'll be pretty involved in the
selection process, the better to weed out candidates who don't possess
the l33t h4xx0r sk1llz. We're expecting to spend a lot of time
training, and I will write lots and lots of documentation. Those 20000
lines of code don't explain themselves, you know. Then I'll step out of
the way, though I'll be around in some form or another.

If you know anybody who'd want to be our next Director of Technology,
please send them our way. Who are we looking for, exactly? Hard to say.
We want somebody who's smart and nice and who knows how to communicate
and has the aforementioned l33t h4xx0r sk11lz. Somebody who'd give this
job the energy and creativity it deserves. Somebody who wants the
chance to make a difference in the lives of artists, curators,
students, and teachers here in New York and around the world.

What else? Oh, yeah: Rhizome changed my life, so that's who we're
looking for. Somebody who's in the mood to get their life changed.


Francis Hwang
Director of Technology
phone: 212-219-1288x202
AIM: francisrhizome
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