I've stopped publishing interviews a long time ago but once in a while i stumble upon someone whose work and ideas sound so relevant to my interests that i immediately get back on the interview track. A couple of weeks ago, Rui Guerra answered one of my facebook rants (which usually target museum press people who refuse to give me access to press images because i'm a blogger therefore 'images are not safe" with me) with a comment so smart and informative that i wanted to know more about his opinion about online strategies for cultural spaces.
Guerra is teaching, working and collaborating with the likes of V2_, Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre, Piet Zwart Institute and the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. He is also the co-founder of ʻItʼs not that kindʼ (INKT), a studio focused on developing online strategies primarily for the cultural and creative sector. Besides working commercially, INTK develops artistic projects that explores the intersection of art, technology and society.
You're working on developing online strategies for cultural institutes. You've recently worked for two institutions that are beacons in the world of new media art, V2_ and LABoral. Can you explain us what you did for them? And if working for a cultural institute specialized in art and tech is any different than working for a more 'traditional' cultural center? Do they have different expectations and requests?
Rui Guerra: Cultural and heritage organizations, including new media art organizations, often regard their online presence as a marketing strategy. Their website and other online activities are traditionally run by a communication department (or public relations). This led to the current situation where websites are regarded as announcement platforms or brochures. Surely, there are exceptions but the current rule is to use online technologies as a marketing tool to attract visitors to physical locations. This scenario is changing rapidly. In 2001, the number of people who visited the four Tate museums was approximately twice as large as the number of visitors of the Tate website. In 2004, for the ﬁrst time in history, the number of online and ofﬂine visitors was comparable. Five years later (2009), the number of online visitors was three times as high as the number of people that visited all Tate museums combined. The rapid growth of a 24h/7 online audience is awakening organizations for the fact that websites are much more than just mere ﬂyers. An online platform with a growing world wide audience might very well be an extremely valuable ʻvenueʼ. Wouldn't it be ironic if in the near future, ofﬂine exhibitions would be just a marketing strategy to attract visitors to websites?
Online platforms have changed so rapidly that it might be important to revise current strategies. The online strategies that we at INTK develop together with organizations start from the point of view that a website is a platform in itself and that it is meant for an online audience. This is not a unique point of view, see for example, the ten principles that John Stack published at the Tate Online Strategy for 2010-12. The resulting online strategies can be quite comprehensive covering aspects in terms of content, context, business model, identity, interaction, communities, software and maintenance. So the changes that might occur due to a new online strategy are not just in terms of software but also organizational. Based on my experience, the ability to adopt new technologies does not depend directly on whether organizations include technology in their subject of interest but rather how fast and ﬂexible they are in adapting to changes and new ways of working.
In a previous online conversation you mentioned the catalogue issue and how institutions invest time, money and energy to print beautifully designed catalogues but pay little to no attention to the possibility of publishing the same content online.
What arguments do you use to convince them to modify their attitude? What can art institutions gain from providing their web visitors with an online catalogue? Does the catalogue have to be available for free?
Rui Guerra:I was often surprised how efﬁcient institutions are in collecting information to print in catalogues and how clumsy they are with publishing similar content online. Most of the organizations we've worked with do not need to be convinced to publish their content online. It is well-known that via the internet you can reach an audience that would be unthinkable 10 years ago. The urge to publish online is already there, what is missing are online publication models ﬁne-tuned to the speciﬁc needs of cultural organizations.
Let me describe some of the challenges my colleagues at V2_ and me have encountered while developing their online strategy. V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, just like many other organizations, had two different websites: one used to announce news and events and an online archive where all activities are documented. This approach not only divided the visitors, it also doubled the amount of work for the already scarce human resources. The solution passed through merging the two websites. The announcement platform and the archive platform had to be one and the same. Now it sounds like a no-brainer but it was not obvious back then. How can you present fresh news while at the same time show a rich archive of the last 30 years? How can you stay light and engaging while at same time remain informative and interesting? These were some of the questions we had to answer. New content needed to be historically contextualized using archived information while at the same time visitors searching for historical content should be informed about recent developments or events.
We needed a model that would be simultaneously temporal and semantic. We implemented a system that allowed editors to relate content in a semantic manner and presented it in a well structured page. Besides that it was also important to include relations that only emerge with time. With that purpose in mind, we developed a ʻrelated contentʼ system that is presented in all pages and is driven by meta-information. All content is documented with tags but instead of showing the tags to the visitors, we use them to search for archived content and to generate a related items list. This is not much different from youtube related videos or from what a lot of bloggers do by manually linking new blog posts to previous related ones. It sounds like the obvious thing to do but when you think about it, you realize that such systems are not commonly used. The new website was developed using existing open source software (Plone) and new functionality was added as open source modules. The new software was in place within the ﬁrst 3 months followed by progressive adaptations until we achieved a quite stable system that can be downloadable from http://www.culturecab.org Currently, you can use V2_'s website as a research tool or at least as a comprehensive catalogue of their activities. Since the new strategy has been launched, V2_ online audience has tripled last year and recently, they had a video on youtube that has reached more than a million views.
About making content freely accessible online, we think that each organization needs to carefully think about a sustainable business model. Overprotecting content might drive you to oblivion and exclude society from a fundamental part of culture. On the other hand, you do not want to see others deriving proﬁt from your assets at your own expenses. There is a beautiful publication freely available online that is a great introduction to business model innovation for culture heritage (PDF.) Business models are an important part of a thoughtful online strategy.
How about the audience? Do we already expect to ﬁnd PDF of catalogues? Would we be curious enough to visit the online version of an exhibition? Or do we still cling to our old habits?
Rui Guerra:There are fundamental differences between an exhibition, a printed catalogue and an online platform. They have different goals and serve different needs therefore they are not mutually exclusive, in the contrary, they complement each other. You could say that exhibitions and catalogues are like snapshots of a given cultural context, they happen or are published at a certain period in time. Online platforms have the potential to be dynamic to evolve along with time. Theoretically, websites offer an unlimited amount of information and multiple views offer that information. With so much potential, one wonders why websites that offer a great cultural experience are so scarce? Again, I think we are lacking beﬁtting models. You can ﬁnd online exhibitions modeled after a book, after a DVD, after a physical space, after a geographic map, even modeled after an archival database. Applying old models, or dumping catalogues in PDF format online, is not going to get the job done.
We've recently launched the new online platform of LABoral, Art and Industrial Creation Centre, in Spain. LABoral exists only for approximately four years. In such a short time, they have organized more than 40 exhibitions, presenting more than 700 artworks and invited approximately 600 artists. During that period thousands of images, texts and videos were created. LABoral exhibitions are overwhelming in terms of information. The new online platform had to reﬂect that proliferation of content while at the same time take in attention the visitor's online experience. The website that resulted from their new online strategy uses a minimal design, basically it lives from its content. The pace of the
What could be the beneﬁt for a museum or an art gallery to have their online audience grow? Why, for example, would they want to reach people who might never be able travel and visit their shows?
Rui Guerra: The main beneﬁt of having a large online audience is surely not to attract visitors to ofﬂine shows. An increasing online audience might lead to a raise of the number of ofﬂine visitors but we think that is just a side effect of something more relevant. There is a clear interest in consuming information and in experiencing art online. In 2008, people under-25s already spent 36% of their leisure time online. Art organizations realize that it is essential to tap into this audience in order to reach a younger and broader public. To adapt to this new audience is their urge. The beneﬁts are diverse and might be not only for the organizations but also for the public in general. For example, the artworks that are accessible to the public represent just the tip of the iceberg when compared to the collections owned by cultural organizations. Either from space limitations or any other reason a large amount of our culture is not easily accessible. Organizations are already publishing much of their collections online, the process has been slow mainly because most works need to be digitalized. Currently digitalization techniques are relatively cheap and governments have been funding a big part of this process so you can expect an increase in speed. Nobody can predict the impact of this process but you can expect big changes. Think for example what Taschen has done in its early period when it published less known artworks in a magazine format.
The full beneﬁts of an online audience can only be harvested once organizations realize that websites are not just publishing channels but more importantly they are interactive platforms that allow audiences to engage with art in unique ways. The nature of an online experience is radically different from an ofﬂine one.
It cannot be expected that art originally made to be hanged on a wall will perform equally good on a screen. Adapting artworks that were made with one medium in mind to another medium does not always result well. The full potential of a medium can only be explored by works that have been conceived with that medium in mind. Such artworks are no longer rare and in fact there has been an impressive proliferation of digital artists communities making works that can only be fully perceived once experienced online. These art forms surely deserve more attention.
Over the past few years, curators, artists, other individuals or institutions have experimented with setting up galleries that exist purely online. Is that an experience you'd regard as meaningful and timely?
Rui Guerra: Yes there has been important precedents. Adaweb and runme.org are two examples that ﬁrst come to my mind. Runme.org is an online repository for software art which in a way represents an important generation of software artists. There also have been successful initiatives run by cultural organizations, such as, the Intermedia Art by the Tate and Artport by the Whitney Museum. However, once artists control both the means of production and distribution, as it is often the case with software art, one might question the role of institutions or even the role of online exhibitions. We have participated in an exhibition organized by JODI where these concerns where dramatically expressed. As curators of the show, the duo decided that no computers would be presented in the gallery. Instead a silent manifestation was organized where the URLs of all projects were paraded in gigantic banners throughout the streets of Dordrecht in the Netherlands. Art projects that are available online can be easily accessible as long as their internet address is known. Some of these projects have been created taking in mind an audience that would access them from their own computer, so it is logical to question the typical white cube scenario.
Consciously or not these works are deﬁnitively reshaping the relationship between artists, cultural organizations and the public.
You recently won ﬁrst prize in the competition ARTE 2.0 VOCENTO: the art of exhibiting art online. Your proposal "Everybody is a curator" challenges current hierarchies in the art world and explores new forms of interaction and participation among the general public. Can you tell us more about the project and what you tried to achieve with it?
Rui Guerra: The proposal Everybody is a curator is integrated in a long term research focused on the relationship between software and curating. The prize was quite important for INTK not only in ﬁnancial terms but also as an impulse to experiment with techniques and approaches for which we might not have an obvious business model. We think it is important for artists to explore alternative ways of presenting and distributing their work. In a nutshell, the proposal explored the notion that websites cannot be perceived as isolated islands and in fact they are nodes of a larger network. To give an example, INTK has been developing a series of creative interventions meant for existing websites. So rather than presenting works on our website, we prefer to install our projects in a guest website for a speciﬁc amount of time. This approach introduces several novelties. We can reach different audiences depending on which website the work is installed on. The website regular online audience has certain expectations, they are accustomed to the interface and aesthetics so the changes that our interventions introduce often create a strong impact.
For example, last November there was a national protest in the Netherlands against planned cuts in government arts funding. In order to increase the awareness among an online audience, we released a script that could be included in any website. The code literally tilted the website in order to reveal the national campaign in the background. To our surprise in less than 24h several organizations and individuals had their website tilted. We are quite fascinated about this approach. While we should be searching for a renowned gallery to represent our work, we prefer to spend our time checking websites that we would like to run our scripts on. In terms of audience numbers, it might be more interesting to show our work on google.com than let's say at moma.org but until now cultural institutes have been more receptive to our interventions than other organizations.
Is there any contemporary art institution you think is in need of a serious
Rui Guerra: Haha! Half a year ago, we made a survey of the 100 most visited museums and inspected their websites. You can still ﬁnd the screenshots in a Flickr set. We think that most of them are in urgent need of help. But seriously, creating an online strategy means to work closely with an organization, so rather than pick up the desperate cases we would prefer to work with organizations that challenge us. We imagine that eyebeam.org would be a great place to experiment and try out new models.
On the other hand, we have been increasingly interested in online platforms for recurrent events, such as, festivals and biennales. It strikes us, this approach of creating an new website for each edition of a festival. We really would love to see a platform that could evolve along with the festival. Besides that, we think such events are an intensive social experience and that online platforms could play a larger role before, during and after the event.
And one that sets the example?
Rui Guerra: I do not think that there is any cultural organization that can be a role model in its entire online strategy. There are several isolated initiatives that can be praised. The videos published on the Tate channel work really well online. They are short and engaging. I've been watching them for a while now and I can't get enough. Ubuweb, which is not an institution but an endeavor of a small group of people, have done an amazing job in terms of publishing art related content. It has become an essential tool for any art educator. One could say that, they are the art wikileaks. Guys if you are listening; backup all that data and release it on a peer-to-peer network before is too late. Google art project is at the same time encouraging and disappointing. It is nice to see museums open up in this way but quite disappointing to see that google approaches all information with an standard methodology. To google it does not seem to make any difference whether we are talking about the earth, the human body or art. I could go on mentioning isolated initiates but these are just pieces of a puzzle that no one has managed to put neatly together into a cohesive online strategy.
Institute of Network Culturea and NAI Publishers say: We live in a world of rapidly evolving digital networks, but within the domain of media theory, which studies the influence of these cultural forms, the implications of aesthetical philosophy have been sorely neglected. Vito Campanelli explores network forms through the prism of aesthetics and thus presents an open invitation to transcend the inherent limitations of the current debate about digital culture.
The web is the medium that stands between the new media and society and, more than any other, is stimulating the worldwide dissemination of ideas and behaviour, framing aesthetic forms and moulding contemporary culture and society.
Campanelli observes a few important phenomena of today, such as social networks, peer-to-peer networks and 'remix culture', and reduces them to their historical premises, thus laying the foundations for an organic aesthetic theory of digital media.
Vito Campanelli lectures on the theory and technology of mass communication at the University of Naples "L'Orientale". He is a freelance curator of digital culture events and co-founder of MAO - Media & Arts Office. His essays on media art are regularly published in international journals. And so far i had followed his writing on Neural online and paper mag. I opened his book with curiosity. And closed it with the feeling that it was probably the most intelligent publication i had read on media art culture for a long long time.
Web Aesthetics navigates with verve through the idiosyncrasies, rituals, dynamics and paradoxes of web culture. Some of the issues Campanelli brings attention to are well-known, other would gain from getting more attention: spam, the inability of present legislation to adapt to the age of digital media, blogs as stages of self-referentiality, the domesticated forms of dissent offered by facebook groups, the acceptance of a 'disturbed aesthetic experience' when downloading movies, remix practices as new cultural default, the difficulty experienced by new media culture to steer out of its 'underground' stigma, the erosion of the boundary between art and design, interactivity, the codification of website usability, etc.
Some of the points Campanelli makes echo my own preoccupations. Such as when he writes loud and clear what media art festival goers have been whispering for as long as i've been one of them: the disinclination of the community to practice or welcome any form of dissent and external critique. Or when he raises the problem of monolingualism. Most of the conversations in conferences, blogs or on mailing lists are indeed taking place in english with all the limitations this entails. While Campanelli's book is written in english, he refreshingly brings much of his Italian culture on the table with many references to Italian thinkers and artists.
Yes, the book is theory. It is dry. Unlike most of the books i review on wmmna, it contains no picture whatsoever but the writing is lively, the style is sharp and witty, and not matter how complex the issues he raises are, Campanelli dissects them with clarity and ease.
Expect serious reflections along with a subtle sense of humour and a couple of data dandies.
Don't miss Geert Lovink's Web Aesthetics Interview with Vito Campanelli.
Image on the homepage: Marco Manray Cadioli.
A few days ago i was in Bergen in Norway. Where everything is so postcard pretty...
that fast food joints are afraid to stand out from their surrounding.
I was in Bergen to attend Piksel, the 8th festival for Electronic Art and Technological Freedom. If i could participate to events as exciting as this one more often i bet i wouldn't sound so relentlessly blasée. I'll talk later about the exhibition, workshops and live events but i'll kick off this series of report with one of the most interesting presentations i heard at the festival.
In his talk, titled Golden Shield Music - Sonification of IT censorship technologies, Marco Donnarumma spent some time refreshing our memories about internet censorship before presenting a sound project which was directly inspired by it.
The name of his work, Golden Shield Music, refers unequivocally to China's Golden Shield Project aka the 'Great Firewall of China'. This censorship and surveillance project operated by the country's Ministry of Public Security involves the massive use of web technologies such as IP blocking, DNS filtering and redirection, URL filtering, packet filtering to censor specific contents through web search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Msn. Donnarumma noted that it's easy to point the finger at China but internet censorship is fairly widespread elsewhere in the world. Australia has gained fame for its attempts at censoring online content. The UK too. And even Italy. It's been quite infuriating to live there while Berlusconi's government was blocking The Pirate Bay as a 'preventive measure'. The artist informed us of a secret deal that Facebook would have signed with the Italian police, giving them access to the personal data of any user suspected of identity theft, phishing scams and possession of child pornography.
Another website the artist highlighted -albeit with much less enthusiasm- is the very fancy-looking Recorded Future. Funded by the CIA and Google, the project monitors tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts in real time to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents. The goal of their intense data mining is to 'predict the future' by looking at the 'invisible links' between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.
With Golden Shield Music, Marco Donnarumma wanted to use the censorship technology in a creative way. Because it was difficult to find precise information about the targets of censorship, the artist had to go through dozens of papers to finally find a list of websites blacklisted by China.
The generative composition for eight audio channels was created as follows:
Golden Shield Music collects the twelve website's IP that are most screened by the Golden Shield.
IP numbers are listed in a text file which feeds an automated MIDI polyphonic synthesizer. The latter translates each IP in a single note formed by 4 voices with a specific velocity.
Data organizes the musical notation, establishing an abstract relationship between Internet information and musical algorithms which sounds harmonious and "handcrafted".
The objective was not to make good sound but to raise the awareness about the phenomenon of web censorship.
I never paid much attention to the machinima genre so far. The FILE Machinima section of the FILE festival in Sao Paulo proved me how wrong i was. Many of the movies selected by Curator Fernanda Albuquerque de Almeida are indeed little gems. I'll just mention Wizard Of OS: The fish incident by Tom Jantol, a short based on Nikola Tesla's notes on his experiment with a mysterious antivirus device he named "The Wizard of OS" and Clockwork, by Ian Friar aka Iceaxe. Set in the totalitarian Republic of Britain, Clockwork tells the story of a police officer on a mission to track down an "undesirable".
The movie that received most attention from both the public and the members of the File Prix Lux however is War of Internet Addiction, a machinima advocacy production that voices the concerns of the mainland Chinese World of Warcraft community. Although the machinima was created with WoW players in mind, the video strikes a chord with the broader public by pointing the finger to the lack of Internet freedom in the country and conveying a general feeling of helplessness.
The main frustration of mainland Chinese WoW players is that the access to the game has been limited and interrupted for months because of a conflict between two government regulatory bodies. The video also denounces battles and issues that took place in China over the previous 15 months or so: electroshock therapy for purported internet addiction (the Health Ministry has mercifully asked for the treatment to stop); the government's attempts to enforce installations on all new pc sold in mainland China of the Green Dam Youth Escort filter; the competition between the county's primary game servers over licensing renewal rights, etc.
Players are also tired of being stigmatized by mainstream media as 'addicts' because of their love of game or simply because they tend to spend hours in front of their computer. The character of the villain of the film, Yang Yongxin, is actually based on a psychiatrist who used shock-therapy to treat so-called "Internet Addiction."
Within days of its release the 64-minute video was banned from a few video sites in China, but that didn't prevent the movie from becoming even more popular on-line than Avatar nor from winning the Best Video award in the Tudou Video Film awards for online films and animations in an awards ceremony that some see as China's version of Sundance. The machinima also received an honorable mention at FILE Prix Lux. Not bad for a zero budget film made in 3 months with the help of 100 volunteers who cooperated through the Internet.
Warning! Many of the jokes, memes and references in War of Internet Addicition are hard to grasp if you're not familiar with Chinese net culture. Fortunately, a public document listing the background information has been posted posted online.
Interview with Corndog, director, script writer and coordinator of the movie, on WSJ.
See also: Homo Ludens Ludens - Gold Farmers.
Previous entries about FILE festival: Heart Chamber Orchestra, Scrapbook from the ongoing FILE festival and Feeding the Tardigotchi. The FILE exhibition is open until August 29, 2010. Address: Fiesp - Ruth Cardoso Cultural Center - Av. Paulista, 1313, São Paulo - Metro Trianon-Masp.
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens is currently hosting the painfully timely online exhibition Esse, Νosse, Posse: Common Wealth for Common People.
Curated by Daphne Dragona, the open platform takes a critical look at the economy of the network society and the tension between, on the one hand, a wealth of information, knowledge, code, communication freely provided by web users and on the other hand the market's attempts of to appropriate and exploit it.
A virtual sweatshop, a game opposing copyright and free exchange of knowledge, a documentary about gold farmers, a subversive web browser software, internet art for poor people , etc. Esse, Νosse, Posse offers a thought-provoking mix of artists' projects commenting on the new forms of networked economy, platforms based on exchange and collaboration everyone can contribute to and a series of statements and texts by researchers, critics, theorists discussing art, networks and economy.
In her curatorial text Dragona lists some of the issues at stake:
How is this new common wealth then formed? What are its mechanisms of development and support and which are the new forms of economy that emerge? What is the importance of new terms frequently mentioned such as the attention economy or the gift economy and of phenomena such as the sweatshops, the crowdsourcing or the merging of free and working time? Can free and open source software and knowledge exchange play a significant role?
"Esse, Nosse, Posse: Common Wealth for Common People" focuses on "posse", on the mode of production and being not only of the creators presented within this context but of all the contributors of today's common wealth , as well as on the possibilities of re-appropriation of knowledge that may occur only through knowledge itself.
So far, i've spent at least a couple of hours going through the projects, platforms and texts collected in Esse, Νosse, Posse. I also caught up with Daphne Dragona, the curator of the platform. And i had just one question for her:
This is not the first time you curate an online exhibition for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. I'd be interested to know more about your experience on this particular issue. How do you make this platform successful? How can an online exhibition reach the usual museum audience?
Esse, Nosse, Posse, Common Wealth for Common People follows last year's Tag Ties and Affective Spies, also hosted in the website of the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The two exhibitions connect on purpose actually as they both relate to the digital networks discussing principal questions and issues around their structures and their functioning. Tag Ties and Affective Spies aimed to present critical approaches by artists on the very features of the social media whereas Esse, Nosse, Posses focuses on the issue of networked economies and today's user generated common wealth.
Esse, Nosse, Posse is however more a platform rather than an exhibition. I saw it as a chance to discuss ideas, notions and opinions and not merely as an opportunity to present online art . For this reason, except for "net art" works, also videos, texts and collaborative platforms are included as initiatives that comment on the topic of common wealth in various ways. Moreover, the platform is open, anyone having a relevant project can submit it , enriching the content. It is an ongoing presentation of resources, of ideas, of inspiring efforts.
From this point of view, this platform will be considered successful if people can learn things from it, share the data and use it, if the works and texts by the contributors meet new audiences, if new collaborations and ideas are born through it. I do not know yet if this happens or if it will happen but my aim was to include interesting content against the info - noise of the social web.
In any case, "success" does not get any easier when you do online projects . The National Museum of Contemporary Art the last few years has shown an interest and a commitment for digital and internet culture. The online exhibitions are also hosted in the physical space of the museum but it takes some time to trigger visitors' curiosity and interest. Some people are still very hesitant when confronted with computers in an exhibition space. Even if technology is part of their everyday lives, even if they are connected at home and at work, still in a museum they are reserved. Maybe it's the remains of the white cube culture but this issue is still open for a country like Greece. On the other hand, no one expects visitors to spend an hour viewing an online exhibition in the museum. The point is rather to get informed and follow online activities at their own place and time. The virtual space does not negate the physical one of the museum or the opposite; they interconnect but different opportunities are given in each case.
Other exhibitions curated by Daphne Dragona: Tag ties & affective spies, a critical approach on the social media of our times, Mark Amerika retrospective at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. She also co-curated Homo Ludens Ludens.
DIGITAL FOLKLORE - To computer users, with love and respect, edited by Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied. Brilliantly designed by Manuel Bürger. Published by Merz & Solitude and available on amazon UK, DE and FR*.
Technical innovations shape only a small part of computer and network culture. It doesn't matter much who invented the microprocessor, the mouse, TCP/IP or the World Wide Web; nor does it matter what ideas were behind these inventions. What matters is who uses them. Only when users start to express themselves with these technical innovations do they truly become relevant to culture at large.
Users' endeavors, like glittering star backgrounds, photos of cute kittens and rainbow gradients, are mostly derided as kitsch or in the most extreme cases, postulated as the end of culture itself. In fact this evolving vernacular, created by users for users, is the most important, beautiful and misunderstood language of new media.
As the first book of its kind, this reader contains essays and projects investigating many different facets of Digital Folklore: online amateur culture, DIY electronics, dirtstyle, typo-nihilism, memes, teapots, penis enlargement ...
Something both good and absolutely irritating happened while i was reading the book. I usually jot down tons notes on bits of paper while reading a book i have to review. This time however, i was so engrossed and entertained, i have only two lines on the notebook. I wasn't expecting that, i thought the book was for real geeks, not Sunday web drivers like me.
Digital Folklore fills a gap in the computer and network culture you'd never know existed if you attend only big tech or web design conferences. Subcultures peopled by lolcats, memes and unsightly fonts are conspicuously absent from these polished gatherings, but that doesn't mean that they are less relevant to computer culture than what you see in the PowerPoint of usability strategists, information designers and other web gurus.
Almost everything i abhor and love about the internet is in this book. I was hoping not to face again those dreadful Blingee cards that many of my french-speaking contacts from Belgium were so keen on inflicting upon me during the Holiday season but the damn Glitter Graphics are indeed featured in the book. My eyes closed themselves at the mere mention of the Blingee but other than that, i learnt so many things that i'm sure i'm a bit closer to satisfying the authors who, while writing the book, were guided by the moto: "You can and must understand computer culture NOW"! I wish my education had always involved so much fun.
The first part of the book is made of essays, articles and observations by Espenschied and Lialina. Computer culture has evolved and been submitted to guidelines and 'best practice' since they started the authors activity of web users and creators in the mid-90s. As they told Marie Lechner in an interview for Libération: "The excitement raised by the Web as a new medium has disappeared. Nowadays every single interest has its own, perfectly-organised online space, communication has become very standardized. The Web is regarded as a tool also by amateurs. The idea of a homepage supposed to communicate from a bright future is regarded as a silly romanticism."
Then come four essays by former Merz-Akademie students about online phenomena.
The last section presents projects of New Media and Interface Design students at Merz Akademie.
Here's one of my favourite, Bootyclipse. Dennis Knopf's YouTube channel archives and loops the few seconds that precedes the arrival in the frame of a girl who is going to shake her booty in front of a camera. Don't pay attention to what youtube writes, This video is suitable for minors.
I found the design of the book particularly appropriate, smart and playful. The objective of the designer Manuel Bürger was, as he wrote himself, to create a real amateur spirit - though you can feel that there's a "proper" design approach which makes everything practical and clear.