[-empyre-] introducing Jason Freeman and Patrick Lichty

Kazys Varnelis kazys at varnelis.net
Tue Oct 20 23:30:14 EST 2009

Jason makes an important point. I am sure that there are good excuses  
for the world of walled gardens that makes up contemporary academic  
publishing, but it exacerbates existing inequalities.

Small schools, such as art or architecture institutes and those in  
developing countries, generally can't afford subscriptions to Jstor or  
the New Left Review. Meanwhile, large schools offer greater access to  
journals than ever before. I am now privileged to be in one of the  
latter after a decade at one of the former and the impact on my  
scholarship is huge. On the other hand, blogs, networked books, and  
sites by authors who post their own work, are frequently used by  
faculty in excluded universities.

This is, simply enough, a crime against the development of thought.


On Oct 19, 2009, at 12:26 PM, Jason Freeman wrote:

> Anna,
> Thanks for including me in the discussion this month, for your role in
> moderating it, and for the introduction and thoughtful questions.
> Before I get to your specific questions, I just wanted to follow up
> for a moment on the more general threads that have been floating
> around the list about the idea and motivations of a networked book.
> I'm of course interested in the participatory nature of the book.
> Unlike most of the other authors, I have very little experience with
> networked writing, but I view this as a great experiment for me to see
> how I might extend my ideas about participatory artistic practice into
> my writing as well.
> But even more important to me (and also a necessary precursor to that
> collaborative writing process) is the openness of the book itself.
> Most of what I write ends up in journals that are trapped behind pay
> walls, and for those not affiliated with a subscribing institution,
> access usually costs around US $30 per article. (In fact, on one
> occasion, when I needed quick access to my own article while
> traveling, I was myself forced to pay that fee to download my own
> writing!) While I don't want to shift the debate on this list into a
> question of open scholarly publishing, I do want to note that the
> access limits on most scholarly publications make it so much harder
> for the kinds of conversations and contributions surrounding this book
> to take place. Thus, one reason I am so happy to participate in this
> project is simply that the book is available to everyone. If others
> take the additional step and contribute to the text, that's just a
> wonderful bonus.
> Now, on to your questions:
>> I'm wondering whether you think a lack of  acknowledgment or under-
>> acknowledgment of storage as a vital aspect of the infrastructure of
>> networks has made music a territory both easily transmissable (via
>> peer-to-peer) but also open to a potential re-capture via vested
>> interests in the music industry (post-Napstar, Kazaa etc)? In other
>> words might one of the implications of your conceptual framework be:
>> we need to take basic networked infrastructure much more seriously?!
> I think that we do need to pay more attention to the implications of
> the network infrastructures we use. Following from your context, for
> instance, there are some major shifts underway in digital music
> distribution, from more pay-per-track models (e.g. iTunes) to stream-
> what-you-want models (e.g. Spotify). This shift of storage from the
> local disk to the cloud, combined with the new generation of
> smartphones and fast mobile broadband, makes some cools things
> possible (e.g. my 8 GB smartphone can now access hundreds of terabytes
> of music wherever I go). But there are other implications too: just as
> we finally seem to be burying DRM, we're moving to another model where
> we don't really own the music to which we listen. If it's stored on
> the network, we still can't decide how we want to use it; e.g. burning
> to a CD or (more importantly) being able to remix/reimagine it. We
> must be vigilant about this risk as music distribution moves towards a
> streaming/subscription model. More broadly, we could think of a whole
> ecosystem of networked art "mashup" works which scour a network for
> data and reconstitute that data into the work in some way. The move of
> content to the cloud can open up new possibilities for such works, but
> if the systems are too restrictive in the ways in which that data can
> be used, the ultimate effect could be the opposite. If I may state the
> obvious: when corporations design use-case scenarios for their
> services, they don't usually have media artists in mind.
>> Coming off the back of this, what are the implications of this for
>> mobile networks and media practice (I am thinking here of the
>> potentially proprietorial aspects of cloud storage/computing)?
> Again, I think there are some great opportunities, but we have to be
> careful. As networked artists, we usually don't have access to tons of
> (computing/storage/bandwidth/hosting) resources to realize our work.
> As networked storage and database and hosting services multiple, there
> are some incredible opportunities to take advantage of enterprise-
> level tools at little or no cost. Bicycle Built for 2000 (discussed in
> my chapter) is a great example of that: they use Amazon's Mechanical
> Turk service to distribute the task of singing each note of the song
> to 2000 participants for a couple of hundred dollars in expenses.
> Google App Engine is another potentially transformative tool: free (to
> a limit) web app hosting and an incredible, reliable distributed
> serving and database architecture. Back in 2001, I realized an early
> mobile work of mine using a popular telephone voice-menu computing
> system; it was all free, and I even got a toll free number at which to
> host it! Because my needs are so small compared to big corporate
> applications, I'm just a little blip on the radar screen, and it's
> easier to give me these enterprise-level services for free than to
> start managing billing and accounting.
> But the problem comes when the situation changes. My great voice-menu
> company ran into trouble financial times, and they decided they only
> wanted to work with customers who paid them $25,000 per year or more.
> I would have happily paid (less) for the services I had been
> receiving, but to them, I was (again) just a little blip on the radar
> screen and it wasn't profitable to deal with people like me anymore.
> Google and Amazon may at some future point make similar decisions with
> their services. And if that time comes, people like us will be stuck
> either reimplimenting our work on the next free/cheap platform or just
> giving up and shutting it down.
> Maybe I'll just turn things full circle to close here with another
> thought that might bring some of these threads together: how could a
> book like (networked) get onto an e-reader? It seems like an ideal
> platform for this kind of participatory structure -- devices like the
> Kindle are already connected to the Internet all the time and they
> have little keyboards on them. I would be much more likely to engage
> in reading a long-form chapter or book and to contribute to it if that
> process unfolded while I was lying in bed rather than sitting in front
> of my computer.
> But...for the moment at least, such a possibility seems pretty remote.
> Amazon is open to just about anybody publishing content on the Kindle,
> but only within the business model they have envisioned. There's no
> way to create a participatory structure on the device and no way to
> write custom software to make that possible. To Amazon, books are
> static content, and they've built a device that supports that idea to
> the exclusion of all others. In fact, there's not even an
> infrastructure in place for giving a book away for free. And I don't
> think there are any open-source e-book readers on the market...
> I've got to run now, but hopefully there's some useful thinking
> somewhere in here...
> --Jason
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