[-empyre-] back to business

Hi all

Concerning the issue of audience movement between blogs and popularity of nodes on networks generally, some people might find the following of interest. It's an extract from a paper I presented at the recent Blogtalk Downunder conference in Sydney.

Full paper here: http://incsub.org/blogtalk/?page_id=107

I criticise the power law distribution model as neglecting cultural and in particular gender issues, by the way, but it's still an interesting theory.


Following the lead of physicists such as Barabasi, many researchers have noted that there appears to exist a severe imbalance in the distribution of web and blog linking patterns (see Huberman 2002, Hindman et al. 2003, Shirky 2003, Drezner and Farrell 2004). They characterize cyberspace as a ‘scale-free network’ in which some hubs (highly linked nodes) have a seemingly unlimited number of links, and no node is typical of the others. This inequitable distribution of links is said to follow a ‘power law’ distribution model, that is, one where there is a finite probability of finding sites extremely large compared to the average. Shirky’s (2003: 2) analysis of 433 blogs in the Blogosphere Ecosystem found a power law distribution where 3 % of the top blogs accounted for 20 % of the incoming links. As on the web, the distribution of inbound links in blogspace pushes users towards small numbers of hyper-successful sites.

This is because the number of websites (as of blogs) has been growing exponentially since the start of the web: as a result, there are many more relatively small young sites than relatively large older ones (Huberman 2002: 5). Thanks to the growing nature of real networks, older nodes have had greater opportunities to acquire links (Barabasi and Bonabeau 2003: 54); moreover, historical links contribute to gross link number. The linking decisions of actors is also said to contribute to the skewed distribution of links. As is the case on the web, bloggers know of the most connected sites because they are easier to find. By linking to these hubs in blogspace, originally known as the ‘A-List’, people exercise and reinforce a bias towards them, a process Barabasi and Bonabeau (2003) dub ‘preferential attachment’, meaning that the rich tend to get richer (54). In this scenario, linking patterns are an inherently conservative force, leading to the reinforcement of authority. As Shirky (2003) observes, “diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more the inequality” (1).

Adamic, Lada and Natalie Glance. “The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog.” Mimeograph. Accessed 15 Apr. 2005 <http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/idl/papers/politicalblogs/>.

Hindman, Matthew, Kostas Tsioutsiouliklis, and Judy A. Johnson: “‘‘Googlearchy’: How a Few Heavily-Linked Sites Dominate Politics on the Web.” Mimeograph, Princeton University. Accessed 10 Feb. 2005 <http://www.princeton.edu/~mhindman/dissertation.htm>.

Shirky, Clay. “Power laws, weblogs and inequality.” Clay Shirky’s writing about the Internet, 2003.Accessed 29 October 2004<http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html>.

On 17/06/2005, at 10:00 AM, Christine Goldbeck wrote:

Henry wrote: "but practice is a good thing as it creates consistency. I think the author gains more from a practice than the audience."

I have to agree with this. Although I do learn from interaction with varied audiences, practice builds qualities important to and for the artist: knowledge of craft, skill with craftmanship, comfort with disciplines and mediums, etc ...

In Art and Fear, Bayles and Orland say something like ... in time, experiment gives way to expression. I have found this to be true of acting, writing, singing, painting, making photographs and in the intermedia of new media.

As for what the heck has been going on with this list: I believe we are all adults who need to think about building knowledge through debate and discussion rather than getting into pissing matches. I also think humor is a useful tool.

With the last few posts, I am reminded of the limitations of email. Use one wrong word and all hell can break loose. Let's get back to business, eh? This board and all of its contributors are important to our work.

Sincerely, respectfully, with no cynicism and a smile on my face,

----- Original Message ----- From: "Henry Warwick" <henry.warwick@sbcglobal.net>
To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre@lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Cc: "Tom Moody" <tommoody3rd@comcast.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2005 2:17 AM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] rewind the video star

On Jun 15, 2005, at 6:11 PM, Tom Moody wrote:

Chris is doing his best to answer questions and gets these "I dunno... I
dunno" answers from this blowhard.

Gee. I guess I should take insults personally, but I have better things to do with my time. Instead, since you pointed the spotlight at me, I'll just grab the mic here and elaborate on my posts and analyse from there:

(tap tap - is this thing on?)

First: I think Chris has been doing a great job -

***I really like reading his posts and viewing his work, when I can.***

Second: I have had intermittent access to the list and the net due to machine failures - making this month rather challenging for me in SO many ways. (luckily that will all change tomorrow at 10.30 AM)

Third: Like you, I have also found the mood of this month's posts getting rather dire and grim, so I figured I would do something positive and :

try to LIGHTEN THE MOOD A LITTLE HERE (hey - what a concept!) with a funny anecdote and then bring in some actual (if small) insight based on his own points. It's public speaking 101 - start with a joke that has a useful point,

wherein I amplified Chris's post about

There was the
early dream by some of the web's democratizing
capability- that citizens will be more involved and
empowered.  If that was the case George W. would not
be president.

by pointing out how the very people who were developing the tools for this Internet-thing (when I was at Macromedia supporting Dreamweaver) anticipated the very same issues that Chris pointed out. I wasn't being condescending to Chris - I WAS AGREEING WITH HIM. A LOT.)


- and then go into other points.

-> Example of other point: the very paragraph you so excoriate:

Chris Pointed out:

 The web has leveled the playing field
for easy entry, but the discipline of practice and the
place of the author filter out the good from the bad.

to which I replied:

I dunno. I tend to think people find an audience or vice versa. Good or
bad - I dunno - depends on the audience I suppose. Discipline is a means
to an end and not an end in itself - but practice is a good thing as it
creates consistency. I think the author gains more from a practice than
the audience.

Where in the "I dunno" refers to my not exactly agreeing with his point, but not completely disagreeing, hence the "I don't know", aka, I dunno. It's something I'm thinking about... like "I dunno..."

I have a lot of problems with people who approach discipline and rigour as ends in themselves, and I see that over and over again in the art world - where obsessive compulsive disorder is rewarded as creativity (viz Stephen King's writing habits prior to his accident).

I *do not* see Chris in that light at all - however, I think the point is worth making, as practice is the shadow or the lining of ritual.

At the same time: I believe practice has aspects of importance: practice provides consistency. Because the audience has random access to work, their only benefit in the artist's practice is in the volume of work produced by the practice. Hence: the real benefactor to practice is the artist. Chris has taken this kind of ritual of daily blogging and provided us all with his art. This is fine for us all, we get his art - but given his statements about "not doing" the blog for a few days, and his ambivalent feelings about that separation, I found quite illuminating, as it indicates the depth of how his ritual has been routinised into his life.

I find that also very interesting, as it indicates the depth of his commitment to the ritual. I find great beauty in that - it's the human stuff that matters. Hence, my point that I feel the author gains more from practice (as with meditation) than the audience.

that his images are abstract only serves to underline that connexion between the ritual and spiritual and daily practice.

So many emails that are rude and condescending to the (remaining) guest.

I would not disagree. However, I generally do not include mine among them. More on that later.

I can't stand reading these emails anymore! Nothing substantive is being
said, it's a nightmare! Release me from this prison!

How does that elevate the discourse?

Since I'm such an utter *Blowhard*, I do hope the moderators will permit my analysis of your own contributions. At first this might seem to hurt, but it will feel better shortly - you'll see that it is actually all to a positive end:

On June 2 you did the following:

1. you introduced people. (very good)
2. you extensively quoted from a website (not as good, but interesting)

On June 3 you:

1. linked to a repost of email I already received mentioning that you discovered now to control text wrapping.
2. You noted that you composed two songs using various softsynths. HipHop Guitar full version and a rhythm only track. Frankly, as a musician myself, I didn't much like them. The sus-like chord stuff in the "piano" fill sound throws the sound off the aggressive bass which sounded like it was completely diatonic. The drums are uninspired (a frequent if not endemic problem with much electronic music), and everything sounds a shade behind the beat, making it sound more lackadaisical than driving. The guitar sound itself was fairly convincing, but I find hyper-mimetics in synthesis less interesting - if I want a guitar, I'll play a guitar or get a guitar player - but that's my personal preference. Drummers are a different story, because they're loud and use up a lot of space, and micing a drum kit can be a tricky business (I've done it tooo many times....) I also know a lot of really good guitar players... Also, the guitar melody drove around flat 5s and seconds and in and out of key in a way that reminded me of some prog rock (which is good) but didn't really go anywhere or develop the melody (not good). Finally, the songs establish a groove and poke at a song structure, but never really arrive at one. I find that problematic with a lot of electronic music - modulating key sig or even simply changing chord or shifting mode - these are all effective strategies for working with melodic music, but it is often sorely lacking in much electronic music. However: I think they're a good start at something, and with development could be very interesting.

Somewhat off topic: by the way: what software are you using? I've been using Ableton Live 4 and Propellerhead's Reason 3. I've been delving into Max/MSP a bit, but I find the results vs. effort ratio less than useful for most of what I try to do. Now that Ableton has MIDI, I don't think I'll have much reason to use Reason (ducks!) as I can toss softsynths into Live that are much nicer than anything found in Reason.

On June 4 you:

post how linkoln remixed your music. I didn't find the remix added much of note to the song. The "break" (the middle eight?), I didn't find much of an improvement - I liked your version better.

On June 4 you:

Sent congratulatory comments to linkoln/jimpunk for their work at a link which now reads:
/stadium/2005/06/4be-linkoln-jmpunk-at-empyre.html fucking doesn't exist on screenfull.net


and then I don't have ANYTHING from you until today's little outburst.

Now, as I noted, I've had Very Squirrely access to the web for the past month or so. I did send a rather nasty post early on (June 4?), but Michael had the very good sense to prevent its appearance (thank you Michael). I will no longer post things at 2 AM after getting hammered on Vodka and Kahlua. I promise. Beer from now on...


And I'm sorry if I have missed some of your posts, but that's all I've seen from you, truly.

Hence, from the bulk of your own discourse as I find it in my inbox, I feel that my comments were actually about as substantive as your own, so I don't understand where all the vituperation comes from.

I am of the opinion that great ideas are best explained clearly and simply, and when the mood of a list gets angry or snippy, someone needs to step in with a bit of humour and an injection of humanity through the use of vernacular - it all helps move things along a good deal.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
I would request from you the following:

(no: you don't have to write on the whiteboard "I will get off Henry's back" 100 times...)

What I think would be cool is this:

If you spend a few minutes, like I did here, and build an analysis:

assemble the things you find offensive (if it's a lot of them, then pick some of the crueller thrusts) and just go point by point. A little self-criticism in the list can be a good thing once in a while, and there is no time like the present. In fact, there is no other time than the present, but that's a philosophical point for my physics list...

Since you're probably still enraged (although I hope not) I'll use the last of my little spotlight here to point out where things seemed to have gone off the rails and into the weeds, to mix a few metaphors...

First: there were some very good posts: Anna Munster, clemos, rich white, and others all had some interesting points for discussion.
First: there were some very incommunicative posts: from abe linkoln, who posted links to screenfull with no description or explanation or introduction, and then a link to David Lynch describing the weather in LA.

Second: jimpunk, for reasons unknown, sends a cryptic "unsubscribe" message.
Second: abelinkoln sends a series of links to works that are, for the most part, not his own.

Third: Abe sends more links interspersed by reply text.
Third: Abe signs off...

So at that point, we had a lot of input, some discussion, and a growing sense of discord, and the disappearance of two of the artists, neither of whom gave a reason for leaving.

Then on June 14, 2005 11:16:07 PM PDT, Robert Labossiere rummaged around in his footlocker, found a hand grenade and lobbed it under the sofa like so:

i find the buzz around blogging is really dreary, really...

shortly followed by Brad Brace opening up with a flame thrower:

or: validated art-online (net.art) is merely/briefly the
default content for new software/applications

Which didn't sit well with Chris Ashley, for what I would think are fairly obvious reasons. His replies were strong and to the point and voiced obvious frustration.

such as:

And you joined this conversation because...?


Is this supposed to be the point at which I say "Hey,
Kominos, fuck off, you cunt!"?  Would that make you
happy?  And then you can say, "See, I was right about
those bloggers."
No, I'll maintain my composure instead.  I think I'll
ignore your posts from now on.

and a few posts later, some of which were actually not unpleasant and a few were nice, (including my own, *sniff*) you (Tom Moody) chimed in with your voice of frustration.

So, I get a sense of a lot of unfocussed anger and frustration from a variety of quarters.

I'm not one to suggest we all stand in a circle around a fire and sing Kumbaya, but I think it would be very good if we, as a collective entity simply focus on the topic at hand, and try to be nice, and say smart things about what we find here. Smart ass is one thing, but cruel and dismissive is another. Be ready to say "Oooops - Sorry." Lord knows I do - at least 20 times a day - but that's because I'm a clumsy oaf who needs new glasses.

In conclusion:

Mr Moody, please do reconsider your unsubscription from this list. I took no offence at your remarks, and while I may have been a tad sarcastic, I do try to choose my words carefully - I try to reduce complete misinterpretation.

I even consider being a blowhard some kind of an achievement these days - given my history of asthma, allergy, bronchitis and lung infection...


best regards,


empyre forum

empyre forum

Dr Mathieu O'Neil
Visiting Fellow
Centre for New Media Arts (CNMA)
Peter Karmel Building
Childers St
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200 Australia

T: +61 02 6260 6124
F: +61 02 6247 0229
E: oneil@homemail.com.au
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