Dyske Suematsu
Since the beginning
Works in United States of America

I think, theorize, and write about highly irrelevant matters.
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Re: Where is the Rhizome?

I might have argued this several years ago, but the specific characteristics associated with Rhizome RAW are the results of its technological architecture and its policies, which is basically anarchy. Being open to everything and anything does not create or foster diverse and open discussions. Anarchy is simply one of many organizational structures we can have, with its own specific results.

In anarchistic email lists, we often see the pattern of power law where something like the top 5% of members do over 90% of all the talking. And, as you would expect of any anarchistic organizations, what you see on the surface does not represent the majority views. In most anarchistic email lists, those who are most vocal dominate the list and set the course of discussions. Even if their opinions are a small minority, that’s what everyone sees, and naturally everyone comes to associate those opinions with the organization itself.

What is more influential than views and opinions is attitude or tone. Most of us are not capable of seeing arguments solely for their truth values. Emotional content in fact plays a bigger role in deciding to agree or disagree with someone. The small minority of vocal members not only sets the content of the list, but also sets the attitude and tone. This has a snowballing effect of attracting others who share similar attitudes and tones. Eventually, those who cannot relate to the attitudes and tones of the list would leave. The list becomes increasingly homogeneous in this manner, and eventually the remaining members get sick of each other since they are essentially looking at themselves in a mirror. This is expressed in Curt’s list of why’s:

“1. We've already argued about all there is to argue about, and we're tired of arguing about the same things.”

I personally do not like anarchistic structure for an online community. Since the Internet itself has the anarchistic structure, it seems natural to have one, but it can become useless for the same reason. Imagine in a big department store like Macys, a section where it sells everything and anything. Since having a variety of products is the idea of the department store itself, having a section with the same idea is useless. Each online community, I believe, should be more structured. Marisa said: “We can't be all things to all people.” True; trying to be all things to all people ends up serving no one.

A good interviewer would make the interviewee believe that, after a great interview with lots of interesting opinions and stories, he did it all by himself. Free flow of great ideas is usually not so “free”; it only has the facade of freedom. It is actually the invisible structure and control mechanism that lets the ideas flow in a useful and productive manner, which is what a great interviewer does. And this can be controlled with simple technical and/or presentational devices.

As New York Magazine noted once, the online discussion boards at UrbanBaby.com does not display user names. This can cause a lot of confusions because you have no idea who is saying what. But because of the total anonymity, people feel free to say whatever they have on their minds. Some mothers, for instance, started confessing their regrets for having kids. In this way, a simple thing, like the lack of user name, has a big effect on the content and the tone of an online community.

It would be interesting, for instance, to see what happens to Rhizome RAW if there was a simple and easy voting system for each comment posted. Suppose the system automatically kicks out members who get more than 10 lowest votes in a month. Or, it would automatically give more presentational significance to those members who are consistently voted high. I am not saying Rhizome should implement these ideas; I’m only curious as to what would happen if they did. How would it influence the attitudes, tones, and content of the discussion on RAW? It would be interesting to see because it would reflect better what the majority of Rhizome members are thinking and feeling.

People who are not vocal on RAW are not necessarily quiet because they are shy. I believe the number of people who are actually shy is as small as the number of people who are very vocal on the list. The vast majority of the people are more than capable of joining discussions, and offering interesting opinions and insights. What determines their participation is probably more about attitudes and tones than it is about the content.

In email lists where lively discussions still go on, it is usually because the lists are carefully moderated in some way. Discussions on blogs, for instance, are usually moderated and organized by the owners of the blogs. The topic of discussion is set with each post on a blog. This forces everyone to stay on topic, and has the effect of automatically categorizing all the comments. If the topic is interesting, the discussion could go on forever without digressing too far. Or, on popular blogs, discussions are often closed after a certain number of posts, so people do not start arguing about the same thing over and over. In this sense, discussions on blogs are more useful and interesting.

So, in my opinion, the reason why not much is going on within RAW is because its structure is too general and wide open. As the Internet grows in size, each site or community needs to become more specific. Again, the analogy to a department store would be helpful here. The bigger the department store gets, the more specific each section should be. Rhizome RAW simply hasn’t adjusted to that reality.



Re: Where the Rhizome went...

For the first time in a few years, I decided to read postings on RAW, and the first one I picked was this one where Patrick says:

"In addition, a lot of the Third Wave have families and careers now, and
doubly do not have the time to participate like they used to."

This is true in my case. I have a 2.5 year old daughter now, but the busy adjustment period is more-or-less over. I have a bit more time now. My wife and my daughter are now vacationing at some beach for 6 days. I don't like going outside of NYC, so for me being able to spend time by myself is a vacation.



How to Display Digital Artwork in a Gallery

Hi all,

I have a friend who needs to show her digital artwork in a gallery. As she consulted me about it, I realized that it is an interesting problem.

Now LCD monitors are quickly becoming the norm. They are no longer a novelty item that connotes future. I feel like this shift in public perception has happened just this year. The problem for cost-conscious artists is that they can no longer use CRT monitors to present their work in a gallery because they now have the connotation of being retro, or just-past. Unless your work is about being retro or just-past, they are inappropriate.

But on the other hand, LCD monitors are still quite expensive, especially large ones. On top of it, they do not withstand well the abuse of the public users who tend to poke their fingers at it. Most gallery shows last about a month. You cannot afford to sacrifice your own monitor for a month, unless you happen to be going on vacation at the same time your have a show. Unless you are Cory Archangel, you do not have shows every month to make it worthwhile to buy one specifically for exhibition purposes. Renting it for a month is quite expensive too.

So what do most artists do in this situation?



Re: Re: Blog vs Board (re: Blogging Survey)

> I'm still superuser (for now) maybe I should post it to RARE?

No, you shouldn't. It's a test to see how many people would read an ordinary



Re: Blog vs Board (re: Blogging Survey)

Speaking of preferences. If I were in charge of the technology at Rhizome,
my strategy would be this: I would try to define the objectives of Rhizome
first, and then try to use technologies that best serve those objectives.
What I end up choosing as my solutions may be nothing exciting, old
technologies or something everyone uses.

To define my objectives, I might ask questions like:

Do I want to encourage thoughtful discussions that can be shared with a
large audience?

Do I want Rhizome to be a casual place where people can express their
opinions freely whether they are intellectually or emotionally motivated?

Would Rhizome members benefit more by encouraging intimate inter-member
communication or one-to-many communication?

Should Rhizome place its emphasis on supporting its own members or the
general public who are interested in digital art?

If one of the objectives is to raise awareness of digital art among the
general public, what sort of content should Rhizome foster? How could we
foster it? What would the general public want to see on Rhizome? How should
the site be organized for that purpose?

Should Rhizome be completely undiscriminating about what constitute good
art, and collect everything and anything? (convenient for artists) Or should
Rhizome use its own judgment and highlight works it deems as good art?
(convenient for the audience)

And so on...

After answering these questions, I would find the best technologies for
them, and implement them specifically for those objectives.

I find that some technologists are too experimental without having specific
visions and tangible goals. They experiment, and they describe the results
of those experiments: How certain technologies ended up being used. What
sort of social implications they have. What it is good for. How it changed
people's lives. Etc.. That is, always after the fact. Their thinking is not:
"We want to achieve this; so let's use this technology this way." Instead,
they think: "Let's try this new technology and see what happens." Thus
technologies get used for their own sake.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that this is what Francis does. I'm aware
that he is concerned about some of the questions I raised above. I'm
illustrating the two extremes in how technologists think. Everyone falls
somewhere in between.

In fact, someone does need to experiment with new technologies, for the rest
of us to be able to use them appropriately. The question as a director of IT
is: Is my role to explore the possibilities of new technologies, or to use
them to serve a certain purpose? I find that many directors of IT end up
doing the former because it is more exciting, better for their careers, and
offers more recognition for their achievements. It is rare to see IT
directors who put objectives before the allure of new technologies. I've
personally witnessed millions of dollars go down the toilet because of these
tendencies of IT directors.

Again, I do not want to sound like I am criticizing Francis personally. This
is simply my own personal philosophy of managing IT.