[-empyre-] on feminism and the cyclical nature of tools and technologies

Tracey Benson tracey at bytetime.com
Fri Feb 27 05:24:53 AEDT 2015

I think you make some interesting points Davin. We are currently looking at 'decision making tools' as part of a large project at work and one of the things that has made the conversation verchalleneging is trying to land on a definition. On the topic of the notion of 'tools"  creating creative barriers: when I have taught web design or digital photo manipulation at a community level, particularly with older participants, getting them to think about these technologies or tools as creative mediums is a good strategy. Many of the participants are artist and to shift the thinking from a scary, technological alchemy to something they can know and master (like painting or ceramics), changes the dynamic from fear to play.

Also like your point about keeping things small, adaptive and cheap - much more accessible and equitable - one of the reasons I love open source… Also one of the things I really like about the technology of the OLPC XO machines is that users can come to it at any level, including as programmers, working directly on the OS itself - another great example of play as learning.


Dr Tracey Benson

tracey at bytetime.com

On 27/02/2015, at 1:02 AM, Davin Heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I'm enjoying this thread a great deal.  I think it is worth repeating: "So tools and technologies don't need to be new, specialised, expensive or complex, and often the more straight fwd the longer lasting and more far reaching their outcomes."
> When we the think about our use of the word "tool" to describe a proprietary set of processes which create a barrier to access at the creative level and converting them to users, we are witnessing a system of inequality desperately trying to preserve the privileges of capital while letting previous regimes fall (and even actively participating in their dissolution).  I think about this discussion alongside the pattern of hiring faculty from a handful of elite institutions in the US.  Even the "soma delivery" system of social media, points to this big pivot: the master handing us the keys to his castle, only to find us happily walking into his dungeon.  Even this wonderful point, “WHO you learn with is as important as what you learn,” is fraught with peril as the rights sorts of people drift into the right sorts of positions, and the right sorts of people learn to defend the machinery that is trying to remain central at a time of decentralization.  
> I think it is important, whenever possible, to keep our "sticks" to use Rackham's example.  Keep things small, multi-functional, adaptive, and cheap…  because if we use resources to achieve access to higher order tools (like buying iPads for school kids), then we communicate democracy, but in practical terms we achieve the opposite.
> Davin
> On Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 1:04 AM, Melinda Rackham <melinda at subtle.net> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> hey thanks for your thoughtful responses..
> Randall if you build it they will come  -  Randall is co-chairing Art of the Networked Practice an Online Symposium NTU are hosting in the beginning of April using Adobe Connect, with presentations in Powerpoint (i imagine for its ubiquity after our discussion on better presentation tools!).  Contributors to the discussions include people we have heard from so far this month on -empyre- Anne Balsomo and myself as speakers and Helen Varley Jamieson is performing.  While I think the Keynotes Steve Dixon, JonCates, Peter Looker and Lev Manovich will be located in Singapore, most participants are online, which is far more environmentally sustainable than all that air travel, and its free to attend. However using those technologies we don't get to do that incidental stuff which makes geographical meet up such a powerful tool -  like the sensory stimulation of roaming the alleys behind Arab Street (where my favourite perfumed oil comes from) or hatching projects with new colleagues while sharing great Singaporean food. http://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/symposium2015
> As I suggested and Murat has responded, we don't see social media platforms promoting in-depth dialogue especially given the dominance of the instant response on smaller hand held devices. But will that be cyclical as well -  and who knows how we will be accessing our communities and networks in 10 or 20 years time. Despite VR's failure to materialise as promised and Ben's earlier experience of being totally underwhelmed in an Oculus Rift demo, the fantasy of VR as a creative, social, game and educational space still persists. The good old Holodeck on Starship Enterprise created the benchmark; the avatars of Avatar afforded hard-world mobility; and the hacked game worlds accessible via holobanding in Caprica, life and death consequences. Their continued presence as the imaginative otherworld assures me we want them and as a consumer society will work towards perfecting Virtual spaces.
> But then again maybe I'm thinking too narrowly. Maybe new technologies will get less visually/immersively sophisticated and more socially inclusive than social media suggests. Outside the English speaking internet and our networked media art world there is a plethora of media platforms in use for political and social activism. The new phenomenal Spanish Podemos political party is built from an online member base - transparently crowdfunded, a Citizens Assembly, Agora voting, utube broadcasts, online circles disussing policy, and bringing forth the party agendas and policies.
> http://podemos.info/
> http://wire.novaramedia.com/2014/11/8-reflections-on-the-rise-and-rise-of-podemos/
> And in Argentina the Net Party co-founded in May 2012 by Pia Mancini, and run from her laptop on the go, have created DemocracyOS, an open-source platform for voting and political debate. It works on smart phone, tablet and laptop - anyone can download, install and repurpose much like WordPress blogging software. Its now being used in Tunisia as well.
> http://democracyos.org
> https://www.ted.com/talks/pia_mancini_how_to_upgrade_democracy_for_the_internet_era?embed=true
> more later./..
> Melinda
> On 26 Feb 2015, at 10:47 am, B. Bogart <ben at ekran.org> wrote:
> >
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Thanks to Renata and Melida for the extra context around empyre's
> > history and the motivations behind it. Looking at the archives I've
> > kept, it appears I've been lurking on empyre since 2006, which would
> > have been the year I started my graduate studies. I see I first
> > participated in 2008 and off and on since then. In the spirit of
> > vulnerability I admit I've been quite intimidated by the list, largely
> > because of the academic language and references I have not read. I was
> > at ISEA 2011 but did not have the guts to come out to the empyre
> > get-together in person. I can't quite explain my recent and consistent
> > burst of activity on here, perhaps my own language has changed and I've
> > become that which had intimated me so. This certainly involves an
> > interesting question of access, not just in terms of tools and technical
> > requirements, but also in terms of knowledge and language.
> >
> > I really appreciate the mailing-list format for a lot of the motivations
> > that have been mentioned, access and openness outside of a corporate
> > context being the most important to me personally. If this was a
> > facebook group I would not be involved. While I have been eroded to a
> > degree in terms of my participation on social media, but still find it a
> > problematic space for many different reasons and certainly can't say I'm
> > committed, let alone addicted or dependent.
> >
> > I used to be on the Art and Robotics Group, a listserv hosted at
> > Interaccess in Toronto that focused on robotics, but also electronics,
> > video and other technically oriented art practises. It seems to have
> > started around 1998, and looks to have ended in 2008 or so. Looking at
> > the archives
> > (https://web.archive.org/web/19980615000000*/http://www.interaccess.org/arg/arg-list)
> > it's quite an assortment of the whose who in electronic media art in Canada.
> >
> > Randall Packer wrote:
> >
> > "That said, the tools available today are far more favorable for
> > discussion revolving around new media art and theory, in which examples
> > of work can be more integrated and woven into the discourse."
> >
> > I don't think hyperlinks are a significant barrier to the incorporation
> > of new media art on a mailing-list. I think they give more control to
> > the reader by giving them a choice to follow links or not. At least for
> > me, who keeps his machines for as long as possible, it's nice not to
> > have to deal with an unrequested barrage of images, video and animated
> > GIFs. As I have already said, I think we can attain some virtuosity in
> > older tools, and perhaps we can only understand their implications once
> > they are old or "obsolete".
> >
> > There is also an interesting question of identity here. We talked about
> > gender identity in terms of disclosing one's gender online, but then
> > there is also the question of naming. Do we use our "real" names? Do we
> > have to? I wonder about this mailing-list as an outlet for a particular
> > aspect of identity (e.g. the art scholar persona) that may not exist in
> > other spaces, online or offline. On the question of anonymity, what
> > would a 4chan for media art discussions look like?
> >
> > Randall, I do think the proposal for a RSS network of wordpress sites is
> > a interesting idea and I also think that if empyre did need to
> > transition away from a mailing-list, that such an approach would be a
> > promising direction. I suppose there is one potential issue with empyre
> > and that is its hosted somewhere centrally, its not distributed across
> > the world the way a network of sites could be. Interaccess no longer
> > seems to have any reference to the Art and Robotics Group on its
> > website; if it was not for archive.org, that history would be lost
> > (except in the the memories of the members). So what is the role and
> > importance of the empyre archives, what is the role of centralized
> > archives and management?
> >
> > Aside: The machine I'm typing on right now is from about 2003, As the
> > years go by I forget to update its age in my mind. In fact, it's so old
> > that others are throwing away (hopefully recycling) computers that are
> > faster than this one. The greatest strength of using an old machine as
> > your primary computer is that the newer machines always feel new and
> > fast. It's like getting a new computer every time I turn one of the new
> > machines on. I think this keeps me humble. Of course this is feasible
> > because I use GNU/Linux and not stuck on the continuous upgrade train
> > Microsoft and Apple depend on.
> >
> > Ben
> >
> > On 15-02-25 01:41 PM, Renate Terese Ferro wrote:
> >> Our current moderating team has discussed the possibility of transitioning
> >> -empyre- over to a blog based site.  We have collectively decided thus far
> >> to keep it as a list serve for the many reasons you list but safety was
> >> not one of them. Many of our subscribers are avid readers but choose to be
> >> lurkers and do not post because they fear being judged or perhaps they
> >> feel that more responsive writing and discussion may be held against them
> >> at some point in the future.  Our mission remains though as often as
> >> possible to curate a wide-variety of viewpoints and topics and to be as
> >> inclusive as is possible. We encourage all of our guests not to post
> >> previously published papers or long written conference papers so that
> >> discussion is welcomed and anyone who feels up to it will join in the
> >> discussion.   The hope for a space that can and will work out new
> >> potentials is a utopia but I think most of us do not want to let go of
> >> that ideal. Our own list-serve acknowledges that the tension between
> >> writing as a performative gesture and one that is conversational, probing,
> >> vulnerable or giddy provides an interesting interstitial space. A space
> >> that can be informative but also one that is inquisitive and questioning.
> >> To manage -empyre- is a tremendous amount of work and we really do hope
> >> that younger ­empyreans will step up to take over some of the logistics of
> >> running the list-serv.  Melinda is -empyre- the longest-running list-serve
> >> on new media and networked culture?
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> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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