[-empyre-] introducing Anne Helmond and Kazys Varnelis

Anne Helmond anne.helmond at gmail.com
Mon Oct 12 00:04:59 EST 2009

Thank you for the introduction and the excellent discussion so far.

What drew me to participating in this project is the multiple meanings 
one can attribute to the idea of the networked book:
First, its open format in contrast to writing publications which are 
often accessible only through an academic wall. But also open as in, 
open for anyone to apply or contribute to the project or to the book.
     Second, the immediate effect of the writing by the automatic 
notification protocols within blogging software. This is where my 
background in networked writing starts. I started blogging my MA thesis 
while I was a student at the University of Amsterdam. Not only did it 
allow me to post short pieces, as a constant flow or update, but 
blogging also allows for timely linking to similar topics and 
conversations. What I mean with timely is the fact that the author of 
that which is being referred to is automatically notified by the 
network. This may prompt an author to respond, which is often the case 
in the blogosphere. Here I also see a major distinction between wikis 
and blogs as forms of networked writing. The software that drives blogs 
is conversational, in the way that it automatically links and notifies. 
What I found difficult while writing my chapter for Networked was the 
fact that I wasn't writing it in my familiar blogging environment 
(WordPress) but because of the format of contribution, I used OpenOffice 
as a writing tool which is in itself not link-friendly like wikis or blogs.
     Third, the way it automatically becomes part of a network. This 
connects to the automatic linking and notification mechanisms as 
described above but most importantly is the role search engines play on 
the world wide web. Previous networked writing experiences on for 
example http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/ showed the major role search 
engines play in creating networked content.

A current project, or rather course I am teaching with colleage Esther 
Weltevrede, is Metareporter:  http://www.metareporter.nl/ (in Dutch)
It's a collaborative blog by third year Bachelor students of the 
University of Amsterdam. Not only is this the first blogging experience 
for most students, it's also a new way of publication for them. The 
first posts hardly contained links and used "old school" MLA references 
but as they grow into the form of networked writing you see that they 
are embedding their argument within a larger discourse online. In the 
age of the networked I think it's important to not only teach New Media 
students how to write papers but also how to participate in networked 
writing. But now I'm sounding too much like a teacher, so I'm looking 
forwad to your thoughts.


Anna Munster wrote:
> So far we've had some really interesting discussion about general ideas of networked writing, its tendencies toward openness and also closure. A number of issues have come up about the density of the texts in the project Networked and how this might work (or not) for readers.
> I'd like to get into the nitty gritty of the chapters now by introducing two of the authors of Networked chapters: Anne Helmond (*Lifetracing:The Traces of a Networked Life*
> http://helmond.networkedbook.org/lifetracing-1-platforms-for-presenting-the-self-online/) and Kazys Varnelis (*The Immediated Now:Network Culture and the Poetics of Reality*
> http://varnelis.networkedbook.org/the-immediated-now-network-culture-and-the-poetics-of-reality/).
> Their biographies are included below.
> Can I ask both of you what drew you to the project as a form of writing? Additionally, I know both of you have been involved extensively with other forms of networked writing and publishing. Can you talk a bit about some of those past projects and how you have incorporated online forms of collaborative writing/reading in the past?
> Anne Helmond is a New Media PhD candidate with the Digital Methods Initiative at the Mediastudies department at the University of Amsterdam.  She recently participated in SoftWhere 2008, the Software Studies Workshop led by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Lev Manovich at the University of San Diego and gave a lecture on software-engine relations at the HASTACII conference at UC Irvine. Anne continues her research on software-engine relations with the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam.
> > From 1999 – 2003 Anne studied at the Utrecht School of Arts where she received a Bachelor degree in Interaction Design and a Master degree in Interactive Multimedia. As a freelance photographer she works for VPRO 3VOOR12, the Institute of Network Cultures and covered various new media conferences such as New Cultural Networks, the Next Web and PICNIC. Her personal and professional pictures are located at Flickr.
> Besides blogging on her personal blog about new media and software issues she previously blogged for the Blog Herald and still occasionally writes for the Masters of Media blog and the Next Web blog.
> Kazys Varnelis is the Director of the Network Architecture Lab at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. In addition to directing the Netlab and conducting research, he is on the architecture faculty at Columbia and teaches studios and seminars in history, theory, and research.
> Varnelis is a co-founder of the conceptual architecture/media group AUDC, which published Blue Monday: Absurd Realities and Natural Histories in 2007 and has exhibited widely in places such as High Desert Test Sites. He is editor of the Infrastructural City. Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, Networked Publics and The Philip Johnson Tapes: Interviews with Robert A. M. Stern, all published in 2008. He has also worked with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, for which he produced the pamphlet Points of Interest in the Owens Valley. He received his Ph.D. in the history of architecture and urban development from Cornell University in 1994, where he completed his dissertation on the role of the spectacle in the production of form and persona in the architecture of the 1970s.
> His current book project is The Meaning of Network Culture: A History of the Contemporary.
> A/Prof. Anna Munster
> Director of Postgraduate Research (Acting)
> Deputy Director Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics
> School of Art History and Art Education
> College of Fine Arts
> P.O. Box 259
> Paddington
> NSW 2021
> 612 9385 0741 (tel)
> 612 9385 0615(fax)
> a.munster at unsw.edu.au
> ________________________________________
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Helen Thorington [newradio at turbulence.org]
> Sent: Saturday, 10 October 2009 4:41 AM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] An "other" view of writing, performance
> To all: sorry to have been out of it for part of this week.  The below
> is my response to the first of Patrick's interesting comments.
> On Oct 5, 2009, at 9:59 AM, Lichty, Patrick wrote:
>> I have been quiet in the conversation (and on many of the lists in
>> the last year or two) in order to listen more and talk less.
>> It's very strange; some of the points that have been offered in the
>> last week seem to be larger and smaller ones.
>> In regards to the idea of "other" histories, I am a classical Libra
>> personality on this.  The Networked book does create a salient
>> metaphor by framing discourse within a medium and setting its
>> processes upon it.  In so doing, the project acts as a multi-tiered
>> probe into technoculture, and sets up an alternate methodoilogy that
>> suits the authors quite well.  In regards to other voices; I might
>> say that most of us are "regulars" to the New Media scene, and
>> therein lies the conundrum, but unless someone wants to run with
>> that, I will probably say that the 'otherness' of our discourse in
>> the book is with approach and methodology.
>    I haven't been very talkative (yet), Patrick, but I am an "other" --
> in that I may read posts but seldom write them. This has a great deal
> to do with my educational background. I am not an academic; I am not a
> phd.  My education -- in Biblical History (BA) and English Literature
> (graduate studies) -- a long time ago.
> But I accept the possibility that "otherness" in this  discourse is in
> approach and methodology.
>> I also agree with Johannes that there are differing expectations
>> amongst the creators of the project.  Johannes rightly states that
>> in the age where information is rising at an exponential rate, how
>> does one validate the necessity for reflection on any text or
>> another, or to digest the Networked Book and reply to it in the
>> space of a month?  This is parallel to what I am getting at in my
>> essay, that in an age of information overload, artists and writers
>> are forced to read index tags and use trending algorithms or that
>> texts must be legible at the seventh-grade level, given the average
>> literacy in the US (but I am being polemic).
>    I do think you underestimate a not insignificant part of the reading
> public. I'm not talking mass, just educated people with an interest in
> media. The problem  may afterall be on both sides, with the difficulty
> of the writing, the absence of explanations (which when you talk to
> one another you don't need); etc.
>> What I am also interested in regarding some of the ideas regarding
>> performance and media.  We can go back to the death of the author
>> (barthes) and the text as performance, and the performance of
>> completion in reading (Foucault), but I might be more interested in
>> a performance of situation of discourse or habitus.  The Networked
>> Book responds to a culture, and tries to reflect upon it in a
>> McLuhanesque marriage of medium and message.  Perhaps the
>> performative elements are the call to response, as well as the
>> presentation of the propositional form of the book.
>> Lastly, regarding history, I had a great talk witht he people at the
>> Long Now Foundation regarding the Rosetta project, which is an
>> archive of 15,000 texts of different languages etched into a metal
>> disc.  We live in a time where languages are being lost by the
>> month, and as more media is being archived digitally (an inherently
>> media ecologically unsustainable practice), I agree with the Long
>> Now that we will enter a "Digital Dark Age", in which digital
>> archives will either degrade, crash, or simply not migrate over
>> decades. Therefore, i am very grateful, and appreciative that the
>> book will be published after a year, as atoms trump bits every time.
> JRe history: we've been losing languages since humans first started
> speaking to one another. According to Walter Ong there have probably
> been tens of thousands of languages spoken during the course of human
> history -- only 106 were committed to writing to a degree sufficient
> to produce a literature. Most have never been written at all.   That
> apart, the current rush to "archive" everything is either sad or
> laughable, hard to know which way to go. But as we each determine what
> is important to us to remember/to be remembered, it's impossible (or
> should be) for any one person to say: "Keep this"  or  "Throw that
> away".  We all know how unremembered events/people from the past --
> such as women artists -- are given significance at a later time.
> BTW,  In an earlier empyre (June '09) there was a brief discussion of
> our rush to make the present past for the future, which I found pretty
> fascinating....
>> In regards to this, another family member (a tenured historian) was
>> talking to me this weekend about her difficulty in writing a history
>> of artists that were not dead yet, and that their context keeps
>> changing over time.  The traditional baseline for historians versus
>> theorists is that one writes about those who are dead/long inactive,
>> and the other not. While I replied that one merely has to localize
>> their discourse (set a very tight context), her problem compared to
>> the discussion here seems as if we are trying to write histories
>> concurrent with the events,  which is problematic to say the least.
>> It is the greates exercise in control - desiring to control one's
>> own historical context before the other historians get to you. But
>> them one can look to computational culture and Engelbart's idea of
>> the "bootstrap", or pulling together a project from the grass
>> roots... I see what we are doing here as an important experiment to
>> which any proclamations, or declamations about its rel
>> ative worth will only be borne out in time.
>    ... about writing histories concurrent with the events, do check the
> June empyre.
>> To refer to Johannes, who has time?  Well, while I think there were
>> expectations for the book to be a viral sensation, I am much more
>> concerned with it being an importane experiment and good solid book
>> on the subject, a tome that will sit on the shelf with proper
>> gravitas, in a period early enough in the history of new media that
>> it will demand attention.
>> In my opinion, all one can do is to present a proposition that
>> others will see, and hopefully that will resonate with others.
>> Throw a log on the fire, and hope it burns.
> I'm with you.
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