Contextual Villainy

June 8th, 2005

A group of young Canberra artists - the Contextual Villains - have just launched a rather spiffy Internet site. Amongst other interesting items, a standout feature is that they are offering to collaborate with anyone to produce an artwork, in the form of a freely offered and mixable multi-layered photoshop file. Once they have received all the mixes, they will remix them, then produce an e-zine as well as a print publication which will be sent to all participants. Kind of a new twist on the old APA-zine format, and something which we thoroughly endorse. Deadline is 31 July, so don’t delay!

The Art Life ruminates on the nature of the blog and the Life of Art

May 29th, 2005

Read the anonymous critical terrorists of the Sydney art world on their theories of blogging and reflections on themselves at This is the Voice of the Art Life. This is serious and scurrilous at the same time - the flip side of ethics and moderation - but such scepticism has a real purpose in the study of the costumes of the Empire. Clearly on the Dark Side we are…

Blogtalk: Blogs and Higher Education

May 27th, 2005

OK, it’s now been a week since the Blogtalk Downunder conference, and I’ve procrastinated long enough. I’m going to follow Adrian Miles’ assertion (or should I say: prescription) that blogs are granular so, rather than post one large account, I’ll break things up a bit. Mind you, there’s something to be said for large blocks of data, in terms of putting an ordered argument across… I’ll do this in reverse chronological order i.e. start at the end, with Sebastian Fiedler’s presentation. It dealt with the issue of blogs in higher education. Now, I understand how people want to shake things up and experiment with new forms that will “empower” students to do great things. I’m all for encouraging people to think and act independently, I’m all for DIY (except when it’s used in the context of “remixing” TV with your remote control - grrr! - as Sebastian did). Moreover, there is something undeniably good about emergent, self-regulated forms such as blogs and wikis. But I can’t help thinking that, well, not all blogs are great. What has value in being expressed, for the author, may have less for the reader. It takes effort, and honest feedback, to make things interesting. And also: an objective of education, as I understand it, is to attain some kind of certainty of meaning (used to be called “truth”). I suppose I’m talking about quality control, signal-to-noise. What if the emergent conversation needs to be moderated? Someone needs to take responsability, I think. Someone needs to point out constructively when ideas are unformed, banal, or just wrong. In short, I don’t think teachers should be blogged out of existence.


May 27th, 2005

A new twist on the litblog genre? This blog is publishing Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the next six months. Individual pieces of the novel will appear on the calendar dates indicated in the text, starting with Jonathan Harker’s May 3rd Bistriz journal entry, and finishing up with November 6 and the final Note.

Measuring the Impact of Blogs

May 24th, 2005

The New York Times > Technology > Link by Link: Are Bloggers Setting the Agenda? It Depends on the Scandal

There’s a story today by TOM ZELLER in the New York Times on a report published last week on “Buzz, Blogs and Beyond”.
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authority and tracking bloggers

May 17th, 2005

Yesterday I dropped in on a undergraduate lecture given by Mathieu O’Neil and Robert Ackland which covered aspects of their blogtalk papers being given this Friday in SydneyRobert’s paper. Mathieu’s paper. It was interesting to see Robert’s visual mapping of blog linking using an application he has built in open source software. Spatially he draws on the concept of hyperbolic space to track and collate data on blogging. Mathieu’s paper focuses on the concept of authority in blogging. He contests the notion that the Internet is a-hierarchical and analyses authority structures in blogspace. He concludes by defining two different spaces and uses of blogs – a female one, based on ‘intimacy’ (exemplified by LiveJournal), which is stigmatised by another male one based on ‘quality’.

rss insights

May 11th, 2005

I discovered this link on Getting Started With RSS on Danny’s 2nd blog on digital media. If you are looking for a no fuss entry point this article provides some useful background.

Blogtalk paper: Blogs and authority

May 4th, 2005

Here is the abstract of the paper I will be presenting at Blogtalk Downunder. It attempts to bring together my perennial interest in social hierarchisation processes (influenced by Bourdieu’s ideas on taste distinction etc) with concepts derived from social network analysis.

Blogs and authority: The promise of the mass use of the internet was that it would create a participatory political culture, where ‘netizens’ practised many kinds of liberating grassroots activities. Indeed, the Internet is often described as a horizontal and open structure which resists any kind of hierarchical organisation. A network, goes the argument, is by definition devoid of a centre, and hence of a central authority. This vision of the Internet and of blogspace as anarchic or heterarchic systems fails to account for a basic fact: if social networks have migrated online, it is logical to assume that the processes of differentiation, hierarchisation and control which, by all accounts, structure offline human interactions, have also done so.
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material thinking

April 24th, 2005

A book that the new media artist Keith Armstrong is reading at the moment. Material Thinking by Paul Carter explores connections between theory and practice - Paul Carter introduced ideas from this book at the speculation and innovation conference 2005. A brief description of the book…from the site:

Material Thinking is a ground-breaking book for artists, and for those who study or teach in the arts.”

datasets – opening a fridge door

April 13th, 2005

Sharon Boggon (SB) presented some of her PhD research on blogging as part of the art theory lectures at the School of Art last week. I really enjoyed not only what I learnt, but also Sharon’s ‘blogging’ type obsession towards the subject matter. Following is my recollections of the lecture and what I picked up from some of Sharon’s presentation…Looking at the webcam website icepick, Sharon started her argument with the way the ‘icepick’ family who have 24:7 surveillance cameras on just about every activity in their house (including what goes in the rubbish, or when the fridge door is opened…) – in Sharon’s words, “they use technology to authenticate who they are…” On ‘icepick’ not only is a family member recorded in the act of putting a teabag in the rubbish using webcams but also the frequency of this act and other rubbish drops are recorded in the form of statistical graphs. The icepick website is a mass of statistics or banal datasets. Interestingly, SB described blogging as a “subset” of webcam websites – which on reflection both share the diary type recording of events. But blogging originally cultivated as a form of logging and sharing links, along with a vision towards creating linked webs outside of the website - although blogging does reveal similar narcissist overtones. Paradoxically, from my perspective the webcam website in a many ways draws you into all the nooks and crannies of a personal world (an offline environment in a way…) The lecture then moved quickly onto more recent developments that have come about due to the formation of blogging as an internet genre. A fast growing language of blogging related terms permalinkssyndicationRSS feedsAggregatorstags A background that paved the way for insights into the way that some of these technologies are being developed by individuals or groups as part of the concept of sharing information online (including bookmarks delicious or a academic version Cite-U-Like and the sharing of images or photos flickr) Photos are given tags and like in the bookmark app. Delicious this sets up a number of metadata categories (I watched one of my students recently bookmark in delicious and he gave one bookmark maybe 5-6 different categories.) Also, in a recent essay by a MA student - metadata categories (or tags even…?) where provided at the end of each section, re-visiting in broad descriptive words what had been covered in their argument. This classifying of information both offline and online got me thinking about the concept of an emerging metadata language where larger volumes of information or even single images in the case of photos on flickr are identified by key words. Words in this new language would represent a large body of information. Ironically, SB pointed out that the process of tagging or in the broader sense of classifying metadata terms can become problematic - because one person’s idea of classification could be quite different from anothers… A simple example on a weblog even is looking at the way different people set up categories for their posts – often one post in terms of subject may belong in a number of categories. Some bloggers get around this by having a long list of categories because often it is hard to classify a post in an existing category. All in all this new metadata language in a way is still being determined and it will be interesting to see how some type of known standard is reached in terms of classifying data. Overall, the interesting aspect is that all these new technologies are being picked up by individuals or collectives and developed in different ways, independent of larger corporations. But as SB pointed out towards the end – many of these corporations are rushing to buy up these initiatives like flickr for example.