The Web on Film

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Tomorrow night, erstwhile Rhizome contributor Tom McCormack will present an illustrated lecture at Brooklyn's Spectacle Theater. Titled Netsploitation: The Internet Through Movies, the talk will explicate the history of the Internet as depicted in big-screen Hollywood fare.

The inspiration for the talk came from McCormack's realization that many of biggest movies of his childhood — movies like War Games and Hackers— were thrillers that toed the line between ominous, ridiculous, and realistic anxieties about the Internet. He added that presenting an illustrated lecture now seems relevant and not forced: "With YouTube, a lot of my hanging out time is spent interspersing segments of whatever's being talked about throughout a conversation." Netsploitation will try to mimic that feeling while providing moments of revelation between humor and analysis.

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Occupy the Internet

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This essay was originally published in N+1's Occupy! An OWS-Inspired Gazette

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images via The Big Picture

A Tumblr of user-submitted handwritten signs with bleak personal testimonies first captured the internet’s attention. Presented are the lives of real people, unmistakable hardships, ready to reblog and retweet. But implied—by the faces, the faces, the faces —is that to sympathize you must show up. This time a Facebook “like” is not enough. 

There is something twisted and belittling about the momentary act of tapping on Tumblr’s like button — a heart icon — when you are looking at the face of someone who has itemized his debt in magic marker for you to calculate. How much we have and what we owe is what we are typically raised never to discuss openly in polite company. These images of persons denuded of financial mystery request from the viewer something just as human; not a thoughtless mouse click. To properly commiserate with the enormity of this curated series of individual misfortunes, one must in person participate.

Around the globe, the “99 percent” sloganing rings effortlessly. This is a generation accustomed to encapsulating arguments into 140 character messages. It is also a generation experienced in negotiating private entities for public means. Zuccotti Park’s tenuous standing as a privately owned public park seems an inevitable metaphor for the questions of free speech, assembly, and property rights posed by so many virtual spaces. Brookfield is like Facebook, Bloomberg like Zuckerberg: their threatened park closure is like the ever-present possibility that Facebook will suspend activist accounts and group pages used to plan rallies and activities, for vaguely specified reasons.

"We must occupy real and virtual spaces,” Reuters’ Anthony De Rosa tweeted, quoting an occupier at the second Washington Square park General Assembly. Without one there couldn’t exist the other.

 

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Connecting at ContactCon

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Last week, Douglas Rushkoff hosted ContactCon at the Angel Orensanz Foundation in the Lower East Side. This unconference model symposium, co-organized by Vanessa Miemis, aimed to put into action ideas that challenge censorship, corporate ownership, and other unfree aspects of internet technology. As Rushkoff explained to Alternet's Sarah Jaffe, the event hoped to "reify the 'net values of 1992 back up to 2012."

Douglas Rushkoff's Keynote at SXSW 2010

The event started with "provocations" from participants representing progressiving technology organizations like FreedomBox and Telecomix (videos), in addition to well known speakers like Eli Pariser and Laura Flanders. Afterward, participants organized into small groups discussing issues ranging from the highly technical — mesh networks and coownership of the physical layer — to a proposal to organize hacker spaces in libraries (which was well received by the audience, for, as Rushkoff pointed out, the idea is clear and actionable...

 

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W139 Amsterdam: TruEYE surView

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W139 Amsterdam: TruEYE surView with Yngve Holen and Anne de Vries, curated by Katja Novitskova

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Wired Misses the Marx

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Can behavior in space as large and diverse as the internet be assigned an ideological marker? Kevin Kelly tries to do that in "The New Socialism," an article in the June issue of Wired. The premise is that the widespread use of technology that harnesses communal activity—whether on Wikipedia, Reddit, or Yahoo! Groups—heralds a major shift in the way people think. To define what he sees as a new phenomenon, Kelly repurposes an old word, “socialism,” a choice that deliberately spites both twentieth-century U.S. propaganda and Marxist philosophy.

The resulting essay brims with missteps, fallacies, and self-contradictions. Kelly lists Google among his examples of a place where “digital socialism” flourishes, but “The Secrets of Googlenomics," an article that shares tease space with Kelly’s piece on the cover, gives a detailed description of how the company operates as a fast-paced auction house. Another example of communal activity is that “tagged snapshots of the same scene from different angles can be assembled into a stunning 3-D rendering of the location”—which, interestingly, echoes Russian critic Ekaterina Degot’s theory that Soviet public spaces and events were constructed so as to be impossible to view in full from an individual vantage point—but Kelly gives Microsoft’s Photosynth as an example of a program that enables this, even after kicking the piece off with a quote from Bill Gates casting Microsoft’s founder as the arch-nemesis of leftist action. Open source software is another keystone of Kelly’s argument, but he neglects to mention that many companies use open source as a stage in product development, a low-cost investment in refining a good for later sale. Wikipedia, an example that crops up several times, is a non-profit, but as many critics of the site have noted, the self-appointed editors ...

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After the Amateur: Notes

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Film, video and photography once fell easily into two categories: professional or amateur. Professionals mastered their crafts, often through guild-like programs of training, and sought to make a living from their abilities. Amateurs learned on their own, or through informal clubs of like-minded aficionados, and pursued their arts for reasons other than money or wide-ranging prestige. Professionals pursued careers. Amateurs pursued hobbies.

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On Sale!

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Video: "Forms of Melancholy" Video Tour

What would Marx make of the internet? The man who envisioned future communists hunting and fishing by day and writing criticism by night would probably appreciate blogs, but think less of groceries on demand. Marx also believed that alienation stems from the worker's lack of control over the distribution and use of his product -- a theory that informs the exhibition "Forms of Melancholy," organized by Chris Coy at Sego Arts Center in Provo, Utah. Coy had about thirty of his artist friends submit designs to Café Press, the online store selling over 150 million user-generated goods. The full catalog of "Forms of Melancholy" can be viewed on a Café Press site. Coy said he wanted to show all of those products at Sego, but the order would have run over the show’s budget. His edited display can be seen in a deadpan YouTube gallery tour. It looks like a souvenir store, full of the sort of useful trinkets that, in advanced capitalist economies, function as vehicles for announcing social affiliations -- the mug with the insignia of the coffee drinker’s alma mater, the T-shirt with a bald eagle proclaiming that the wearer is a proud American. But “Forms of Melancholy” tweaks these conventions. Jeff Baij’s black hoodie reads "I hate U Mom & dad & School & Town" in Gothic script, making the message implied by a surly teen’s wardrobe bluntly explicit. There are several mugs with vacation pictures of strangers, or pictures made strange. With so many everyday things, “Forms of Melancholy” almost looks more like a novelty store rather than a gallery show. When Eilis McDonald puts the "pinwheel of death" -- the spinning Mac icon that signifies a forced pause -- on crude, animated wristwatches, it’s a pure play of signs ...

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White Box Testing

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Addressing the American Association of Museums in 1941, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, then curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, put forth a fundamental question: "What is an Art Museum for?" He proposes that the answer is contained in the term "curator," which implies that "the first and most essential function of such a Museum is to take care of ancient or unique works of art which are no longer in their original places or no longer used as originally intended, and are therefore in danger of destruction by neglect or otherwise." Significantly, Coomaraswamy's concept downplays one curatorial activity otherwise taken for granted today: "This care of works of art," he writes, "does not necessarily involve their exhibition" but if an institution does choose to exhibit works, "this is to be done with an educational purpose." Moreover, he adds, "it is unnecessary for Museums to exhibit the works of living artists, which are not in immanent danger of destruction."

Coomaraswamy's antediluvian pronouncements, predating both the development of the modern computer and the institutional embrace of contemporary art, nonetheless provide a way to think about the assumptions underlying the twelve essays in Christiane Paul's collection New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art, recently published by UC Press. For even if Coomaraswamy's skepticism about the value of exhibiting living artists now strikes us as thoroughly outdated, his general concerns continue to inform the questions posed by Paul and her contributors. For new media, the problem of how to deal with artworks "no longer in their original places or no longer used as originally intended" remains salient -- albeit for technological rather than antiquarian reasons -- and all of Paul's essayists propose some version of what necessary "educational purpose" curators of new media must embrace.

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the age of aquarius (2012) - Anne de Vries

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waves from the web re-photographed as a multi media ocean.

-- FROM ARTIST'S WEBSITE

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Turn On, Tune In, Zoom Out

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DREAMCAPTCHA #006 from blackmoth on Vimeo.
Video: Dreamcaptcha #006, 2008

Kari Altmann is a Baltimore-based artist who initiated the collaborative project Netmares and Netdreams. She agreed to do an interview ahead of the project's residency on Sunday March 15th at Capricious Space in Brooklyn as part of the program In Real Life. - Brian Droitcour

Netmares and Netdreams is going to be featured "in real life" at Capricious Space in Brooklyn. How is this going to be different from the first incarnation of Version 3.0, at Current Gallery in Baltimore? What were some of the challenges you encountered when displaying an online project in physical space?

The opportunity to do version 3.0 of the show arose very suddenly. Current gave us just two weeks to put everything together. But I knew that if we didn't accept that challenge, we might never do the show at all. It wasn't ideal, but it was also perfect luck, because it needed to happen in a space like Current while we had some momentum. We just said yes and pushed through the limitations, which is how we do a lot of things.

Some netdreamers were confronted with the question of how to present things offline for the first time, and they needed to experiment with the options. We didn't have computers for the show, which I was okay with, but we also had zero budget and very limited gear. We wanted to make it the most “real” show we could without all the resources. A lot of things ended up as prints or videos. We debated over whether or not certain pieces still functioned in the way they were presented. If someone didn’t answer an email or send their piece in time, it would affect the way everything ...

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