[-empyre-] Question

Jeremy Douglass jeremydouglass at gmail.com
Mon Jun 23 14:33:41 EST 2008

If the manifesto needs to be in praise of distributed fiction, I'm not  
sure I would know how to write it - partly because I don't fully  
understand the nature of your cynicism to answer it. Not all spam is  
commercial, nor propaganda - in fact, not all spam is spam.

Spam as it is founf in the wild world is a category of (generally)  
algorithmically identified unwanted messages, where the algorithm is  
(generally) extrapolating from a lot of pattern and a little  
feedback.  If for example someone was subscribed to the empyre  
listserv by a third party, and then received this message in their  
inbox, that someone might rightly mark the message 'spam'. It IS spam  
in that instant - but only for this someone, and not for, say, you. My  
subsequent messages to the list might then arrive to this someone auto- 
marked as spam - arguably accurate - but would continue to arrive to  
you unmarked, even when a common service (e.g. Gmail) handled the  
marking. Most importantly, a second hypothetical inductee to empyre  
might find the message interesting and continue to listen in. This  
reception itself determines that the message is not spam (at least for  
that inductee) because spam is a catagpry of reception, albiet one  
heavily conditioned by machine receivers. Some people receive messages  
about morgages or porn or Orange County electoral politics daily and  
value them, even though I do not - my trash is their treasure (or job,  
or hobby, etc).

All this is to say that I disagree 'spam is still spam' in any easy  
sense. This doesn't mean that unsolicited and potentially unwelcome  
fiction can't be a kind of ethically dubious social violence - but I  
wouldn't connect that potential controversy directly to market  
economies. I personally might head towards the ethical discourses over  
hoaxes.  For example, we might for example compare the current empyre  
experiments to Stern staging the death of a popular psychic in  
letters, flyers, and newspaper articles, or Ben Franklin embedding a  
fictional character and the fiction death of a real competitor in the  
medium of a (conventionally and purportedly factual) almanac.  Another  
comparison that comes to mind is the artistic flash mob, which  
appropriates utilitarian public space for fanciful ends without the  
incormed consent of audience or institution.  ARGs are yet another  
catagory that comes to mind which, like distributed fiction, seems to  
push at the edge of the magic circle, defamiliarizing the familiar  
catagory of art which is presumptively to be found on demand, clearly  
marked, and in its proper place.

  -- Jeremy

On Jun 21, 2008, at 2:58, "sdv at krokodile.co.uk" <sdv at krokodile.co.uk>  

> Jeremy,
> Understood.
> However I think that spam, whether it is art or not art remains  
> spam. And spam is the perfect representation of the autocratic reign  
> of the market economy, an irresponsible soveriegnty, as Debord (one  
> of my favorite marxists) put it.  The question it seems to me is  
> whether the artistic intention does something more than just  
> generate more spam, more consumptive rubbish.
> The argument I'd like to read, a manifesto if you prefer, is to  
> explain why this action, this event, has some greater meaning than  
> the cynicism that I after Debord feel towards the idea of spam-as-art.
> steve
> Jeremy Douglass wrote:
>> To (hopefully) clarify my position, I don't claim that *all spam is  
>> art*, but rather that *some art is also spam*. That unsolicited  
>> messages can be artful isn't really a radical redefinition of art -  
>> it seems to me more a commonsense observation on the facts of art  
>> history, in every medium, whether rag broadsides or digital  
>> bulletin board posts.
>>  -- Jeremy
>> On Jun 19, 2008, at 12:19, "sdv at krokodile.co.uk"  
>> <sdv at krokodile.co.uk> wrote:
>>> Jason/all
>>> One of the now defunkt net-art lists was once inhabited by a net- 
>>> artist who used to glory in the idea of spam-as-art, s/he had no  
>>> reason, logical or otherwise for declaring that the spam and porn   
>>> was  art but did so anyway. I suppose your justification is better  
>>> than his, but if seperated from the in-joke it still seems to  
>>> suffer from the same problem that 'spam-as-art' did, namely that  
>>> it vanishes into the ever increasing amounts of endless rubbish  
>>> that constitutes the net.
>>> However this snail mail joke is charming and might be suitably  
>>> random  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/help/4162471.stm...
>>> s
>>> Jason Nelson wrote:
>>>> Sure......I suppose the same could be said for much of experimental
>>>> fiction or abstract art etc....the idea that unexpected posts might
>>>> appear to be spam at first is a valid concern.....
>>>> but much like graffiti or other tagging, the art comes from posting
>>>> something that both "fits in that net space" and creates an  
>>>> interesting
>>>> part of a narrative or simply a pretty micro fiction or even a non
>>>> sensical poem....
>>>> these places where users can enter data and briefly express  
>>>> themselves
>>>> are quickly becoming a powerful form of written communication and
>>>> therefore we creative types must begin to explore those conduits
>>>> as venues/canvasses for interesting words....
>>>> so I suppose I would throw it back to you and say write something
>>>> that doesnt seem spam like.....
>>>> cheers, Jason
>>>> --- On Wed, 6/18/08, sdv at krokodile.co.uk <sdv at krokodile.co.uk>  
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> From: sdv at krokodile.co.uk <sdv at krokodile.co.uk>
>>>>> Subject: [-empyre-] Question
>>>>> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>>>> Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 11:44 AM
>>>>> All,
>>>>> Reading a few of the notes that have been written on the
>>>>> net, I realized that I could see no difference between the
>>>>> text and the average piece of spam that is automatically
>>>>> deleted either from emails or sites.
>>>>> What justification can you produce for this proliferation
>>>>> of text?
>>>>> s
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> empyre forum
>>>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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