Brett Stalbaum
Since the beginning
Works in La Jolla, California United States of America

Brett Stalbaum, Lecturer, LSOE
Coordinator, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major (ICAM)

Department of Visual Arts
9500 GILMAN DR. # 0084
La Jolla CA 92093-0084

C5 research theorist ( 1997-2007
Graduate (MFA) of the CADRE Digital Media Laboratory at San Jose State
Professional affiliations:
Electronic Disturbance Theater

Latest: The Silver Island Bunker Trail, possibly the first time humans have walked like a game bot. The trail is open to the public for outdoor recreation and enjoyment.
Discussions (117) Opportunities (2) Events (7) Jobs (3)

Re: question unrelated to new media

Richard Misrach and Lewis Baltz

On Thu, 12 Dec 2002, Rachel Greene wrote:

> what photographers, or artists working with photography, do rhizomers find
> over-rated? just curious... thanks, rachel
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Re: As Logic of Assembly

I think the strength of this text is that is drives the analysis of new
media closer (directly really) to its formal (computer science)
foundations. I appreciate this cultural analysis of new media's formal
basis in binary logic, and its modularity, even though it seems that the
outcome of both the Deis and Manovich arguments (Assembly vs.
Variability), ends up in very much the same place: new media is an erector
kit for identity. Is it only a matter of difference of analytical tact
here? Deis holding that Assembly is an exponetial extension of the
marketing of identity, and Manovich holding that variability represents
a cultural shift in the marketing (and making) of identity? Some of
Lev's other work, for example, seems to place emphasis on both the
marketing of identity through tool kits and the space within that space
for autonomous identity to emerge. (I'm thinking of Generation Flash.) Eric
may place a little more emphasis on new media as an identity producing
machine that controls its borders by reabsorbing and remarketing identity
as it is produced.

On Thu, 5 Dec 2002, eric deis wrote:

> Eric Deis
> e-mail: ericdeis[at]
> "New media objects assure users that their choices - and therefore, their
> underlying thoughts and desires - are unique, rather than pre-programmed and
> shared with others. As though trying to compensate for their earlier role in
> making us all the same, today descendants of the Jacquard's loom, the
> Hollerith tabulator and Zuse's cinema-computer are now working to convince
> us that we are all unique."[1] - Lev Manovich,
> In his book Language of New Media, Manovich theorizes variability as the
> epitome of digital media and consequently the reflected logic of
> post-industrial society. He equates historical changes in media technologies
> to be correlated to changes in industrial mass society as a philosophy of
> conformity brought about by mass production, and thus deducing the logic of
> digital media as governed by variability to be reflected in central values
> of individuality within post-industrial society. [2] In contrast, I will
> argue that the logic of assembly governs digital media and mass production,
> and is intrinsic to the social logic of industrial and post-industrial
> society, where variability along with numerical representation and
> modularity exponentially enhance the means of assembly. Both digital media
> and the assembly line rely on two main principles, the standardization of
> parts (Binary, CPU, Hard Drive, Operating system) and discrete units
> performing specific repetitive and sequential tasks (in essence
> programmable) without having to comprehend the totality of the process,
> At the core of digital media lays a simple rule that governs all
> processes, on and off. This method of on and off is called Binary, and is
> constructed by an electronic device called the transistor. The state of on
> and off of the transistor constructs one Bit of data (1 or 0). On its own,
> one Bit of data has very little significance in terms of conveying
> information. It is through the assembly of multiple Bits where the totality
> of these states of on and off constructs significant value. By assembling
> Bits such as - 01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 01110111
> 01101111 01110010 01101100 01100100 00100001 - the phrase "Hello World!" is
> created. When a computer is turned on the microprocessor begins by executing
> a series of repetitive and sequential tasks from instructions stored in a
> microchip of read-only memory containing information on how to interface
> with different hardware devices called the basic input/output system (BIOS).
> The instructions on this microchip are written in a language called
> Assembly. An assembler translates word commands written by human programmers
> into sequences of Bits, and then the output of the assembler is placed in
> memory for the microprocessor to execute. From the BIOS the computer is able
> to locate the hard drive and fetches data from the boot sector of the drive,
> where it is then stored in random access memory (RAM) after reading it off
> the disk. The microprocessor then begins executing the boot sector's
> instruction set from RAM. The microprocessor continues to fetch data and
> execute commands from the boot sector until the entire operating system is
> loaded.
> Computers are constructed with a combination of standardized
> interchangeable parts, each of which performs a specific task. On average,
> personal computers running in homes around the world today have processors
> ranging in speed from 100Mhz to 3Ghz, and hard drives of sizes from 200mb to
> 200GB. There are thousands of different manufactures, and thousands of
> different variations for each part, ranging from details such as capacity,
> speed, or materials. At any given time a consumer can add an additional
> part, remove a part, or replace a part. The list of parts that can be
> assembled within the computer keeps growing day by day as technology
> evolves. Through all of the possible combination of computer parts each
> computer has the potential to be unique.
> The application program interface (API) of the operating systems allows
> software developers to write applications for different computers, even if
> they are unique. The main principle of the operating system is to manage the
> system resources of the computer (processor, device drivers, memory
> management, hard drive, etc), to provide a consistent way for applications
> to deal with the hardware without having to know all the details of the
> system, such as all the instruction codes, data types, and response codes
> for every possible hard disk on the market.
> "New media follows, or actually, runs ahead of a quite different logic
> of post-industrial society - that of individual customization, rather that
> of mass standardization."[3] "In a post-industrial society, every citizen
> can construct her own custom lifestyle and "select" her ideology from a
> large (but not infinite) number of choices. Rather than pushing the same
> objects/information to a mass audience, marketing now tries to target each
> individual separately. The logic of new media technology reflects this new
> social logic. Every visitor to a Web site automatically gets her own custom
> version of the site created on the fly from a database."[4] - Manovich
> The means of a custom interchangeable practice suited for unique individuals
> developed out of the invention of C. de Dunin's mechanical tailor's dummy.
> The mechanical dummy was fitted with over 6979 standardized parts, all of
> which were "dedicated to adjustments away from perfection toward the
> peculiarities of form of any individual"[5]. Once the dummies were
> mass-produced "with several [dummies], boasted Dunin, you could fit uniforms
> to an army of several hundred thousand men,"[6] How does a custom version of
> a website aid to construct a unique individual in post-industrial society?
> The method of customization in post-industrial society embodies the
> contradictions of made to measure individuality brought forth by the dummy
> in industrial society. A custom version of a website does not constitute
> individuality or uniqueness. It is method of integrating control over a user
> to integrate her within the system. Soldiers are fitted with custom uniforms
> set to the particularities of their body like users fitted with a custom
> website set to their demographics and personal interests. Here digital media
> employs the logic of mass standardization and conformity of an industrial
> society, in contrast to Manovich's claim that digital media has moved beyond
> conformity and constructs uniqueness. In this case, Individuality is that of
> a marketing ploy to try to push their objects/information to a mass
> audience. Uniqueness hence "freedom [comes] without interference,
> manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially from any large
> organization."[7] It is the assembly of thousands and thousands of choices
> consciously and subconsciously within one's daily life that defines an
> individual's ideology, rather than a single choice garnished from a source
> dictated by another entity.
> It is in the realm of mass production and mass culture where ideologies as
> subcultures emerge as a response to the dominant cultural environment as a
> means of constructing an identifiable functional unity. In relation to their
> cultural surroundings the visual ensembles of subcultures are obviously
> fabricated. It is the way that mass-produced items are used in the
> construction of a subculture, which distinguishes it from more common
> cultural formations. As a means of making themselves distinct from the
> dominant culture the subculture takes "the rubbish available within a
> preconstituted market .[to] generate viable cultures, and through their work
> on received commodities and categories, actually formulate a living, lived
> out and concretized critique of the society which produces these distorted,
> insulting, often meaningless things."[8] It is through a system of
> connections between assembled elements, which allows for the construction of
> meaning. "Together, object and meaning constitute a sign, and, within any
> one culture, such signs are assembled, repeatedly, into characteristic forms
> of discourse. However, when the bricoleur re-locates the significant object
> in a different position within that discourse, using the same overall
> repertoire of signs, or when that object is placed within a different total
> ensemble, a new discourse is constituted, a different message conveyed".[9]
> It is through the selection and arrangement of objects were the values of
> the group are reflected. An ensemble thoroughly ordered from a plastic
> clothes peg, safety-pin, pogo, swastika, ripped T-shirt, and bin-liner
> served as a point of identification and unity of relations, situations, and
> experience for a group, and chaos, danger, and rebellion to those outside
> it. Once constructed, the subculture as an assembly is recuperated by the
> dominate culture in the form of commodity, then becomes codified and
> returned to the public sphere where they can be used in yet another
> construction.
> "When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed
> alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by
> tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place,
> unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will
> locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover,
> one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path."[10] -
> Vannevar Bush
> Vannevar Bush believed that their must be a better answer to "how
> information would be gathered, stored, and accessed in an increasingly
> information-saturated world" than filing and searching through layers of
> classification, for as far as the act of combining records is concerned,
> "the creative aspect of thinking is concerned only with the selection of the
> data and the process to be employed and the manipulation thereafter is
> repetitive in nature and hence a fit matter to be relegated to a machine"
> .[11] In 1963 Ted Nelson, who was greatly influenced by Bush's article "As
> We May Think", coined the term Hypertext.[12] The hypertext "exist[s] as
> part of a much larger system in which the totality might count more than the
> individual document".[13] The process of assembling information via
> hypertext mirrors the structure of the mind by operating by association.
> "With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is
> suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate
> web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other
> characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are
> prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the
> speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is
> awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature." [14] Hypertext possesses an almost
> unlimited power to manipulate texts through its ability to constantly shift
> meaning by assembling networks of text into new contexts and juxtapositions.
> The notion of assembly is at the forefront of with Josh On's
> prestigious PrixArs award winning project "They Rule".[15] The work is an
> interactive visualization of a database containing information on the board
> members of the most influential corporations in America. The hidden
> structures of social power are made visible by allowing the user to assemble
> visual maps of the different companies and their board members (Figure 1).
> The work reveals the magnitude of elitism among the most powerful people
> within the USA by openly illustrating visual linkages such as the domination
> 26 companies within the Fortune 100 by six men and one woman, and networks
> of power among so called competitors Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. This visual
> interactive form of assembly allows for the otherwise unapparent or obscure
> to become visible in a comprehensible form.
> Figure 1.
> In Flow My Blood the DJ Said, contemporary artist/writer/musician Paul D.
> Miller (aka DJ Spooky) postulates that "To [Miller], assembly is the
> invisible language of our time, and DJ'ing is the forefront art form of the
> late 20th century".[16] His DJ'ing performances instigate the convergence
> and melding of the construction and re-mixing of discrete samples of sounds,
> text, and image to create a unique space which "mirrors the modern macrocosm
> of cyberspace where different voices and visions constantly collide and
> cross fertilize one another."[17] The process of assembly holds a strong
> foothold in contemporary culture due to its enhancement by the development
> of digital media and its mirrored logic of post-industrial society. Like
> their counterparts; Bits of data, workers of the assembly line, or
> mass-produced items, audio samples construct meaning only when assembled
> within the mix. Through digital media, the audio sample breaks from its
> physical bonds of tape and vinyl into a liquidous form of numerical
> encoding. The ability for samples to be copied without degradation, modified
> and assembled mathematically by algorithmic manipulation and automated
> processes - all the while retaining its original structure, and distributed
> across vast digital networks idealizes the sample as the ultimate element of
> assembly. The sample now knows no bounds, and the musician is now free to
> explore her process of assembly as assembly to infinite means. "[Miller]
> doesn't need an orchestra; [He] can simulate one just fine..Technology
> hasn't changed [Miller's] compositional process, it's just extended it into
> new realms."[18]
> Assembly is the fundamental logic of post-industrial and industrial
> society, whether particular elements are manually assembled by a human
> author in a fixed sequence or automatically assembled in infinite
> arrangements by a programmatic software application; the process and
> consequence is of assembly. Digital Media enhances and reinforces the
> dominant social logic of assembly from the basic level of assembling Bits of
> data in order to execute rudimentary electronic commands, to assembling
> samples of contemporary culture to form a new and unique voice. The process
> of assembly is freed of virtually any limitations through digital media's
> ability to encoding discrete elements numerically, which can then be
> infinitely copied; distributed, arranged, and manipulated. Digital media
> exponentially expands the means of assembly by its ability to digitize
> virtual anything from DNA sequences, census data, orchestras, the ancient
> city of Pompeii, to entire galaxies; constructing an infinite databank of
> elements of which human machines alike can put together in infinite
> combinations to construct meaning of unlimited magnitude.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> [1] Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media. MIT Press, Cambridge, 2001.
> p.61.
> [2] p.60.
> [3] Manovich, p.51.
> [4] p.60.
> [5] Schwartz, Hillel, The Culture of the Copy, Zone Books, New York, 1996.
> p.111.
> [6] Ibid.
> [7] Kaczynski, Theodore John, The Unabomer Manifesto: Industrial Society and
> Its Future, Jolly Roger Press, Berkeley, 1995.p.30.
> [8] Willis, Paul E., Profane Culture, Routledge, Great Britian, 1978, p.3.
> [9] Hebdige, Dick, "Subculture: The Meaning of Style", in The Subcultures
> Reader. Eds.Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton, Routledge, London, 1997. p.136.
> [10] Bush, Vannevar, "As We May Think", in Multimedia: From Wagner to
> Virtual Reality, Eds. Packer, Randall & Jordan, Ken, Norton, New York, 2001.
> p.148
> [11] p.144 & p.136
> [12] Nelson, Ted, "Computer Lib/Dream Machines", in Multimedia: From Wagner
> to Virtual Reality, Eds. Packer, Randall & Jordan, Ken, Norton, New York,
> 2001. p.155
> [13] Landow, George & Delany, Paul, "Hypertext, Hypermedia and Literary
> Studies: The State of the Art", in Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual
> Reality, Eds.
> Packer, Randall & Jordan, Ken, Norton, New York, 2001. p.210.
> [14] Bush, p.148.
> [15]
> [16] Mariotti, Francesco, El pensamiento es un jardin hibrido, Venezuela.
> [17] Miller, Paul D., Songs of a Dead Dreamer (CD inlay), Asphodel Records,
> 1996.
> [18] Glass, Philip, Music and Technology: A Roundtable Discussion, Andante
> Corp., 2002.
> Eric Deis is an interdisciplinary artist from Vancouver, Canada. Deis
> received a B.F.A in Visual Arts from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.
> He is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of
> California, San Diego, where he is studying under the guidance of New Media
> theorist Lev Manovich. Deis is also a graduate student researcher for Centre
> for Research in Computing and the Arts at UCSD and a research fellow for the
> California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. His
> work has been exhibited in Canada, USA, Denmark, Ireland, Brazil, and
> Germany where he most recently won the City of Stuttgart Award for New Media
> (2002).
> e-mail: ericdeis[at]


Re: Google's Live Query Is Not Bad Art

On Mon, 2 Dec 2002, t.whid wrote:

> >Although somewhat conceptually derivative of Jevbratt's Stillman Projects
> >(though in a more utilitarian, obvious manner), the work exhibits great
> >conceptual speed, demonstrating its conceptual foundation rapidly, but
> >convincingly, as a digestive interface to a collective behavioral analysis
> >of the cultural context of search. The interface to this digested data
> >(information) is minimalist, but this supports the goals of the work. It
> >proves (reproves: there is not shortage of evidence), that there is much
> >more involved in data and information art than interface. A related
> >weakness of the work is that its object is ontologically unclear for the
> >average viewer: many people think that they are looking at data, when in
> >fact they are looking at highly processed information. But it may not be
> >appropriate to blame Google for this defect.
> >
> very funny.
> one question.
> how is it not data? once the queries are stored and stamped with
> time, date, and geographic position (ip#) is it not data at that
> point?

I was speaking of the presentation layer of the work, which shows the
information generated from the data. However the conceptual speed - or
ability of a work to demonstrate its concept laconically (or at least
congruently) relative to the breadth of its implementation - is what I
think makes it not bad art. I agree with another post, the data is
important to making Zeitgeist interesting, but the raw, unprocessed data
would not be digestible without being processed into information and given
through some kind of interface. (Paper would do just as well in this
case... but I don't see that as a defect. Artists who assume that
interaction is really important may disagree...) But the single html doc
certainly gives a fast view both into the cultural semiosis, and
importantly, the underlying data. As you indicate, you can see in
Zeitgeist insight into the data: "stamped with time, date, and geographic
position (ip#)". But you don't actually see any data - the db records for
the billions of hits.

Of course, this analysis might falter on the grounds that information (by
common definition, is meaningfully processed from data) is just data (by
common definition, raw and unprocessed) for yet another process. This is
an old issue. (Think of the unix '|' operator.) But I argue that the
intention of Zeitgeist as a work is to present information, not data. Not
that we must take a work's intention seriously, however, but it is pretty
undeniable that this is how Zeitgeist wants to be read.

> i agree that it's information before it's archived.
> what i find fascinating about it is the fact that it is information
> that has always been there and is only now able to be watched in
> realtime. people have always looked for information about what
> they're interested in. they would go to libraries, friends,
> dictionaries, magazines, encyclopedias and etc. now they go to
> Google. all of this collective curiosity captured, it's awesome (no
> spicoli intonation to that 'awesome').
> as to the question of wether Live Query is art or not; it's
> irrelevant in my opinion. my definition of art goes to intent. if
> someone says they're making art, who am i to argue? Google doesn't
> say they're making art. but then, as alan said, if a contemporary
> duchamp comes along and calls it art, who am i to argue? the
> question: is it good art? not, is it art?
> Google's Live Query is only an interface to the real art. Google
> could be called a conceptual work that once you've understood what's
> happening the interface (or visual) doesn't matter anymore. once one
> has memorized a poem, who needs the paper it's typed on?

I'm sorry I am not familiar with live query... somehow I conflated
Zeitgeist into this thread... but it sounds like the now defunct Magellan
search engine's feature called "Search Voyeur", that was included in
switch's taxonomy of web art, 1997.

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> </twhid>
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Re: data-mining from hell

Here is another interesting example of the political use of database:

"But now, for the first time, a spokesman for the new Transportation
Security Administration has acknowledged that the government has a list of
about 1,000 people who are deemed "threats to aviation" and not allowed on
airplanes under any circumstances. And in an interview with Salon, the
official suggested that Olshansky and other political activists may be on
a separate list that subjects them to strict scrutiny but allows them to

On Thu, 14 Nov 2002, joy garnett wrote:

> NYTimes (you know it's bad when safire is worried...)
> Nov 14, 2002
> You Are a Suspect
> WASHINGTON If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage,
> here is what will happen to you:
> Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription
> you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and
> e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank
> deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend all
> these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense
> Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
> To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources,
> add every piece of information that government has about you passport
> application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and
> divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your
> lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance and you
> have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every
> U.S. citizen.
> This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to
> your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the
> unprecedented power he seeks.
> Remember Poindexter? Brilliant man, first in his class at the Naval
> Academy, later earned a doctorate in physics, rose to national security
> adviser under President Ronald Reagan. He had this brilliant idea of
> secretly selling missiles to Iran to pay ransom for hostages, and with the
> illicit proceeds to illegally support contras in Nicaragua.
> A jury convicted Poindexter in 1990 on five felony counts of misleading
> Congress and making false statements, but an appeals court overturned the
> verdict because Congress had given him immunity for his testimony. He
> famously asserted, "The buck stops here," arguing that the White House
> staff, and not the president, was responsible for fateful decisions that
> might prove embarrassing.
> This ring-knocking master of deceit is back again with a plan even more
> scandalous than Iran-contra. He heads the "Information Awareness Office"
> in the otherwise excellent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
> which spawned the Internet and stealth aircraft technology. Poindexter is
> now realizing his 20-year dream: getting the "data-mining" power to snoop
> on every public and private act of every American.
> Even the hastily passed U.S.A. Patriot Act, which widened the scope of the
> Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and weakened 15 privacy laws, raised
> requirements for the government to report secret eavesdropping to Congress
> and the courts. But Poindexter's assault on individual privacy rides
> roughshod over such oversight.
> He is determined to break down the wall between commercial snooping and
> secret government intrusion. The disgraced admiral dismisses such
> necessary differentiation as bureaucratic "stovepiping." And he has been
> given a $200 million budget to create computer dossiers on 300 million
> Americans.
> When George W. Bush was running for president, he stood foursquare in
> defense of each person's medical, financial and communications privacy.
> But Poindexter, whose contempt for the restraints of oversight drew the
> Reagan administration into its most serious blunder, is still operating on
> the presumption that on such a sweeping theft of privacy rights, the buck
> ends with him and not with the president.
> This time, however, he has been seizing power in the open. In the past
> week John Markoff of The Times, followed by Robert O'Harrow of The
> Washington Post, have revealed the extent of Poindexter's operation, but
> editorialists have not grasped its undermining of the Freedom of
> Information Act.
> Political awareness can overcome "Total Information Awareness," the
> combined force of commercial and government snooping. In a similar
> overreach, Attorney General Ashcroft tried his Terrorism Information and
> Prevention System (TIPS), but public outrage at the use of gossips and
> postal workers as snoops caused the House to shoot it down. The Senate
> should now do the same to this other exploitation of fear.
> The Latin motto over Poindexter"s new Pentagon office reads "Scientia Est
> Potentia" "knowledge is power." Exactly: the government's infinite
> knowledge about you is its power over you. "We're just as concerned as the
> next person with protecting privacy," this brilliant mind blandly assured
> The Post. A jury found he spoke falsely before.
> + the best is the enemy of the good
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