From the Archives

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In 1993 Howard Rheingold wrote a remarkable book called The Virtual Community. In this book he gives what might best be called a personal account of the expanding culture of people communicating via computer networks. I asked him some questions about the relationship between virtual and traditional communities, most appropriately, via e-mail.

Howard Rheingold has been publishing books and articles on computer culture for many years. He is the multimedia columnist for Publish magazine and editor of Whole Earth Review. He has also been a consultant to the US office of Technology Assessment, and recently he took charge of Planet Wired a network project that will document the digital revolution with local examples, made accessible via the Net to a world-wide audience.

More than merely informative, his book The Virtual Community is above all a highly personal account of the way in which people are using computer networks as communication devices, or rather how they are engaging in Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), the term Rheingold prefers. Rheingold maintains that Computer Mediated Communication creates a new sense of community; people from around the world are linked together in public discussions, people who exchange ideas and messages, share interests and work together, outside of the constraints of geographical space and across social barriers.

In his book he provides us with a somewhat formal definition of virtual communities, which he describes as “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace”. Rheingold has himself been actively involved in one of the early network communities in the US, The Well, based in San Francisco.

Using networking technologies within the context of traditional geographic communities produces Community Networks. I began by asking Rheingold to explain ...

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Elements of Vogue: A Conversation with Ultra-red

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Ultra-red is an activist art group founded in 1994. The group proposes an alternate model for art and activism, one in which it is not the artist's critical intervention that serves as the source of cultural action, but rather that art might contribute to and challenge the process of collective organization and relationship building itself.

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Turbo Sculpture (english) (2010) - Aleksandra Domanovic

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Required Reading

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What do you mean by ‘crisis of the unit of measure’?

It is as if the metre, the standard set to measure cognitive and affective experience, no longer works. We see the same crisis in the fields of politics and history: social prosperity is no longer produced by labour time, but by knowledge, by a general knowing, by ‘general intellect’, and as a result social prosperity and labour time are no longer directly connected. 
The new standard to measure prosperity is within the domain of intelligence, language and collaboration. The problem is that social prosperity is still measured by the old standard of labour time, while realities have changed and it is actually determined by ’general intellect’. 
We can see the same thing happening in 20th-century art. It demonstrates the inadequacy of the old standards and suggests, in the formal sphere and through the formal work of poetry, new standards for the appraisal of our cognitive and affective experience. This is a point that brought the artistic avant-garde close to the radical social movement and in this sense there is a kind of brotherhood between the two: they would like to explain that the old standards are no longer valid and to look for what might be new standards. 
Another way to put the problem is: how can you locate a new public sphere, which has nothing to do with the state? Avant-garde art proved the impotence, the inadequacy, the disproportion of the old standards through a formal investigation. The common ground of art and social movements is never about content. Art that relates to social resistance is beside the point, or rather art expressing views on social resistance is not relevant. The radical movement and avant-garde poetry touch on the formal investigation that yields an index of new forms ...

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Blogrolls, Trolls, and Interior Scrolls: A Conversation with Natacha Stolz

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Last spring, Natacha Stolz, a performance artist and a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, performed a piece called Interior Semiotics at an apartment gallery in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Stolz had the piece videotaped, and soon after the performance it went up on YouTube, where it remained unnoticed for upwards of four months. On August 5th, someone posted the video to 4chan, and it started to spread.

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Videos from Wikitopia Festival

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Videos of the keynote speeches by scholars Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Hector Rodriguez from September's Wikitopia Festival at Videotage in Hong Kong have been posted. The event examined the Free Culture movement and its impact on practices of knowledge sharing and networked creativity.

Originally via Networked_Performance



Wendy Hui Kyong Chun "The Possibilities and Limitations of Open Content"

The Possibilities and Limitations of Open Content by Prof. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun from Videotage Unlimited on Vimeo.

New media has made possible new “vernacular” archives of knowledge—from wikipedia to del.icio.us—that are challenging their standard top-down counterparts. These archives are usually either celebrated as democratizing knowledge, or condemned as destroying it. Refusing either of these positions, this talk asks: what does opening up content do? What does the open both make possible and close down? Is open content enough? How, in other words, should the open be the beginning rather than the end of the discussion?



Hector Rodriguez "The Principle of Reciprocity"

The Principle of Reciprocity by Dr. Hector Rodriguez from Videotage Unlimited on Vimeo.

Marcel Mauss’ classic study of The Gift introduced the principle of reciprocity, which has played a fundamental role in the evolution of modern social anthropology and critical theory. Mauss regarded the giving and receiving of gifts as a widespread cultural phenomenon. Although the gift often appears to have been spontaneously and freely offered, it is in fact obligatory. According to Mauss, it consists of “three obligations”: the obligation to receive, to give, and to return. The exchange of gifts thus exemplifies a complex procedure of ritualized exchange.

The principle of reciprocity can be understood in at least two different ways. First of all, the study of gift exchange constitutes a prehistory of the modern contract. Mauss showed that modern market transactions grew ...

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Required Reading

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Marina Abramović, view of The Artist is Present at the MoMA. Photo: C-Monster.

Inevitably, the fast pace of consumerism is accompanied by the tantalizing promise of slow time—Allen Ginsberg once complained of a heart attack en route to his weekly meditation.

Just as the arts were reinvented in the age of the camera, so too must they be in the age of accelerated time. If the internet and the touch screen represent the apparatuses of our age, then the material and the prolonged have become a niche for the discursive and formal role of the arts. Much like a spa, the arts play host to a malnourished subject eager to experience something nostalgically other. Slow time and tangible bodies become so rare experientially that their aesthetic value finds a home in the cul-de-sac of scarcity that is art.

Since the advent of mechanical production, the arts have been the space in which the hard-to-find seeks refuge. And while the art market has been much discussed, we now find another form of scarcity in forms of experience. At times in tension, at times in collusion with capitalist scarcity, the scarcity of experience encourages forms of art that are not as easily distributed as—and thus more distinguishable from—the mass produced goods of the broader market. Massive installations, sculptures, performance, civic institutions (the museum), time-based relational aesthetics all find value in their experiential distinction from larger markets. Museums offer special opportunities to experience the body in space. In this spasmodic era, we find the arts recalibrated as a temporal, spatial, and bodily escape.

This kind of shifted aesthetic disposition resists not only the pace of the information economy, but, perhaps more importantly, our very ability to consume our experience. If we are frantic, it is only because we need to ...

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Required Reading

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Jean-Luc Godard, Voyage(s) en utopie, Jean-Luc Godard, 1946-2006, 2006 (Installation view of the “Aujourd’hui” section. Centre Pompidou, Paris.)

In order to explore the contradictions and the potential of time- based art, especially in its cinematic guise, I trace a number of overlapping and conflicting genealogies of film and video art. I believe that only by creating a constellation of such genealogies can the logic and structural antinomies of film and video art—and of time-based art in general—be brought into relief and related to the wider changes in the political economy of time during the past decades, during which the West has seen a gradual demise of Fordist assembly-line production and a disintegration of the strict separation between work and “free time.” The classic alternation of work and leisure can be called, with Guy Debord, a form of pseudocyclical time, an apparent return to agricultural, “mythical” cycles in a temporal regime built on irreversible, historical time—or rather, on a reified form of such historical time, that of commodity production.

“Once there was history, but not any more,” because the class of owners of the economy, which is inextricably tied to economic history, must repress every other irreversible use of time because it is directly threatened by them all. The ruling class, made up of specialists in the possession of thingswho are themselves therefore possessed by things, is forced to link its fate with the preservation of this reified history, that is, with the preservation of a new immobility within history.7

This immobility is manifested in pseudocyclical time, a commodified temporality that is homogenous and suppresses “any qualitative dimension” or, at most, mimics such dimensions in moments of sham liberation.8 For Debord, time-based art from the 1960s could consist only of such pseudoindividual, pseudoliberatory moments ...

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A Return to Content? Polytechnic at Raven Row

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Britain, under the Conservative government in 1974, slowed to a government-mandated three-day week: not an immense gift of extended vacation, but a foreshortening of the working week based on the amount of electricity available. From January to March of that year, businesses, shops and services were only open for three consecutive days, and television companies were forced to end their broadcasts at 10:30pm. The remarkable visibility of this retrenchment is perhaps an apposite introduction to the fiscal circumstances of Britain at that time, as it was counterbalanced by extreme activity in the visual arts, with a burgeoning moving image practice taking place in various underground clubs and cooperatives in London and other regional centers, and mainstream television ("mainstream" being redundant; except for some regional variations, there were only three channels at the time) airing artists’ film and video, primarily on Channel 4, which was established in 1982.

This is the period revisited by Raven Row’s current show "Polytechnic" - the late 1970s and early 80s, when artists began using the new medium of video to reflect upon and deconstruct codes of representation, politics and social mores. It’s a smart and striking choice for an exhibition, as the legacy of this time is ambivalent and is still in the process of being settled: art-historically, it’s been partially eclipsed by what preceded it (the medium-specific investigations associated with the London Film-Makers’ Co-op) and by what followed - that is, the yBas, who pretty much turned around and rejected the commitment to politics, collective production and art as labor (not commodity) that this group stood for. At the same time, many of the artists included in the show - Catherine Elwes, Susan Hiller, Ian Breakwell, Stuart Marshall - went on to teach in various art schools (many of them former polytechnics, hence, perhaps, the title) and showed their work on Channel 4 during the 1980s, meaning they have had a much more dispersed, though less visible, impact on art and the wider sphere of culture. Have had and have: Elwes, for example, has recently founded a journal devoted to the moving image (MIRAJ), so the territory contested in this earlier period continues, to a certain extent, to be contested.

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Required Reading

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This rich pamphlet grew out of The Internet as Playground and Factory, a conference organized at The New School and held in November 2009. In this seventh pamphlet in the Situated Technologies Pamphlets Series, Trebor Scholz and Laura Y. Liu reflect on the relationship between labor and technology in urban space, where communication, attention, and physical movement generate financial value for a small number of private stakeholders. Online and off, Internet users are increasingly wielded as a resource for economic amelioration, for private capture, and the channels of communication are becoming increasingly inscrutable. The Internet has become a simple-to-join, anyone-can-play system where the sites and practices of work and play, as well as production and reproduction, are increasingly unnoticeable.

Norbert Wiener warned that the role of new technology under capitalism would intensify the exploitation of workers. For Michel Foucault, institutions used technologies of power to control individual bodies. In her essay “Free Labor” (1999), Tiziana Terranova described what constitutes “voluntarily given, unwaged, enjoyed and exploited, free labor on the Net.” Along these lines, Liu and Scholz ask: How does the intertwining of labor and play complicate our understanding of exploitation and “the urban”?

This pamphlet aims to understand “the urban” through the lens of digital and not-digital work in terms of those less visible sites and forms of work such as homework, care work, interactivity on social networking sites, life energy spent contributing to corporate crowd sourcing projects, and other unpaid work. While we are discussing the shift of labor markets to the Internet, the authors contend that traditional sweatshop economies continue to structure the urban environment.

The pages of this pamphlet unfold between a film still from Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer on the front cover and an image by Lewis Hine on the back. Set in the near ...

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