Notes, Quotes, Provocations And Other Fair Use I
The load of this information is slowing down due to its size. I should have split up the document when it exceeded 50k. When time or space do not limit the agenda for this medium, communication speed does (we don't live by the date or the foot, but by the byte). So expect to find a new document soon, with a link to the first 67,507 bytes delivered. When ADSL will be the standard, I'll reiterate.
ST(*)boretum hard copy was designed. So much information being lost when materializing in invitations and flyers. Next: the site.
Yesterday I received two remarkable emails: one through theobvious 'retropush', replying to its anchor man Michael Sippey, by artist and former creative director of adaweb, Vivian Selbo ('Michael, Are You Serious?'), another by QS Serafijn: 'Art and Commitment'. An attempt to link the two. Before my intervention in Vivian's text I will summarize and critique Serafijns argument:
He states that, unless the artist is prepared to (re-)accept a capital 'deal' in his practice, (s)he is likely to remain obligation free and truly aloof from any cultural importance. (S)he will operate gratuituous within the symbolic order of contemporary cultural production: splendid isolation revisited, all money spent on this format is wasted. So: for any commitment to be delivered seriously, outside the white cube, it should be well paid. To incorporate the deal in the heart of the artistic process, the artist needs to charge large sums. QS, am I wrong or are you misguided? I'd say to both you and Vivian that in a 'one-to-one' future outside the institutional market, the artist will have to re-invent art's economy, in order to both escape representational exchange (Vivianwho calls this 'communication') and capital exchange (Serafijnwho calls this 'engagement').
- Michael, Are You Serious? by Vivian Selbo
With regards to "The One to One Future, Part IV", the first premise worth scrutiny is the assumption that we will someday want everything customized, or to make it a question, what will "customization" mean in the realm of art? Dictate meaning in advance? I don't think so.
The best critique of customization is by Neal Stephenson in the Diamond Age, where those in power share their Times newspaper, while a general public receives it customized... Who Want Customization? Those who are Prepared to Serve.
- Art has always been about examining the way we see, hear, feel, and know the world and ourselves in it, which to my mind is counterintuitive to calling those shots before they're fired. It may sometimes address our need for control, but generally speaking, disrupted expectations are the payoff, even if it's simply "that noise with that yellow!?"
Contrary to "unique needs and wants," much of what we desire is hugely influenced by what others have, and whether or not we want to have it -- or can get it -- too. Choosing "the daily me" will also include inventing "who do I want to be today?" There's no accounting for taste, and there are buyers of art who only want it to match the couch, but that's a different kind of investor than one who looks for work that challenges ideas, a medium, history(s), our perspectives, experience, or understanding -- in short, art with a long-term return.
So what's the big difference? Form (the couch) and content (long term return)? To my mind the difference is not in the tired form/content dichotomy, (since on the net the map equals the territory and the art/life gap is closed for good), but in the relationship management (a role play) of the artist and his/her constituency. Indeed like Vivian suggests further down, "how will (...) art be found, seen, and ultimately generate support for its makers". But rather than with the 'how' we will be dealing with a 'who'. We know how. We are practicing it since around 1994. The how will only get better, faster and cheaper. But as long as the who are the SOW we know too well from their repeated visits to the White Cube and www.adaweb.com, we'll be stuck with:
- customization -- with a twist -- is already out there: see Andrea Zittel's "A-Z prototypes", in which the collector helps "finish" the work through their personalization, James Turrell's site-specific "light" rooms, Rikrit Tiravanija's dinners, in which one is served a meal prepared by the artist and then owns the aftermath, or "Safe and Secure" surveillance installations by Julia Scher. These artists create very personalized experiences while simultaneously asking, "what does this mean to you?" It's also already the case with much conceptual work that instead of buying an art-object, you participate in something and then have the option to purchase a fragment, the documentation, or something "in remembrance." Jenny Holzer's art spans that spectrum from her participatory online piece "please change beliefs" to her "truisms" carved in granite benches, or printed on pencils available in most contemporary art museum stores. Like video, it's sometimes hermetic, sometimes environmental, and sometimes complimentary to a tangible object. This work is based more on communication than representation, emphasizing auxiliary meanings over skill and craft.
These works are not about 'customization' but about abundant availability'with a twist'. The act of communication from a confinement in representation.
- "The One to One Future" or "what's in it for me?" will become a different question in artistic practice precisely because a narrowed space between creator and audience -- not to mention the difference between "high and low" -- brings that gap into the work, if not becoming the piece itself. Art has always looked at the peevish question "what do we want?" and at play with technology will simply ask it in new, more entangled ways.
'What do we want?' is always answered by the wrong players, who disregard the difference between high and low, as long as there's to be gained from its bluring. When reconsidering an economy of the arts, we'll have to consider austere elitism: the ultimate goal of customization is one-to-one elitism. Giving away the power to construct consensus reality (which is what the power elite also does in the Diamond Age), is a traditional price to pay for an information/interest driven alternative. The flaw of contemporary art is just so (and again) in the ambition of any 'alternative', to rule from its ideological confinement: 'join us in our difference, by conformity to it'. [(re-)read Max Stirner's 'Der Einzige und sein Eigentum'].
- Instead of considering the unruly imponderable "what will artists make in response to a changing marketplace?" I wonder more about how will that art be found, seen, and ultimately generate support for its makers. A key question is what will be the critical context, since even, or especially, on the web context is critical. Attention will be the initial currency spent, so the first purchase to worry about may be getting a good strong grip on the viewer.
Contrary to popular relativism, "it is not the context, stupid!" It's the rules that will connect the artist and his 'viewer', not their aggregate, nor their objects. It's the 'who' to connect, not the 'how' or the 'what': we know that the how is by rules that can be designed, for information to be distributed differently from the way the what was spread, in its scarcity economy. Abundancy overrules context. Abundancy is unruly, unless made to respond to designer algorithms: instruction sets that can guide attention, to defy context, and focus on content in networked, procedural ('communication') media. Serafijn's new 'deal' can only come true, when it recovers art from old habits that stream it from those in need and servility to those in power and wealth, without any information being fed back. As one-to-one artists of the future, we will not need money in exchange for our informationjust more information.
After the normal Sunday leisure-or-die confusion the family broke out to Bakkum, on the coast, where the 40 year old all-polyester caravan had just been wheeled in and left crooked. I give it one more year. Nature's still rather shy, but bold strokes of yellow and blue (tulips and grape hyacinths) pierce through the dunes. On the way back a very short thunderstorm came over, never even blackening out the sun, leaving a brilliant rainbow embracing the nature reserve.
Tonight I got into the ST(*)boretum flyer and invitation. Data sifting and shifting, printed media first.
While finishing these notes Roemer starts his exact 2am cough. Better join him.
Got them ol' cosmic blues again... ST(*)boretum is pressing the agenda. Get a half-life! The site'll soon gear up.
At the Netherlands Design Institute Tilly Blyth enters the Doors 5 scene from London, Illuminations, for research. Jan Abrams, Michiel Schwarz, Dick van Dijk and myself sit together to play poker. Instead of narrowing down the research task we broaden it. We started this Doors early so we could play with it before getting it out there. I tracked the competing Benedictine monk who met with Esther Dyson in Denver last week, at the Monastry of Christ in the Desert.
Amsterdam at last, with a Glasgow detour and two hour delay. Tonight Joke Robaard opens at the Paviljoens. Gilberthe goes there, leaving me with the boys. We huddle around Toshio Iwai's SimTunes untill late. This Maxis CDrom alone is worth the purchase of a PC! (Could be the only reason). Doors of Perception 1 premiered it in 1993. Last year it became commercially available after shelf life at Nintendo. Rolf engages in SimTown too. He stamps in swimming pools by the dozens... Happy Sims.
New York 1998
March 29-April 1
Trans World Express got me back to NYC. Andrea's place felt like home. NY felt like home. Interesting how one could mistake major cities for their countries: Paris isn't France, London isn't the UK, NY isn't the US. (Amsterdam isn't NL). We always travel the international backdrops of the megapolis. So was Central Park, when we walked it Tuesday and witnessed a 'Cops' helicopter scene shooting. So was Manhattan and the Empire State, from the Rainbow Bar, where I remembered the final scene of 'Sleepless in Seattle'a movie I would never have seen, unless on board another flight to NY, last January... It's a comfortable loop that seems hard to escap, untill you meet your friends, hear their stories and take their picture, dig up a notebook from your luggage, step into daily lives different from your ownand get hit on the head by the shrill contrast to consensus reality.
So when I left NY Wednesday night I left home to return home.
In a true information society the 'user' is the 'actor'. So far in information design (s)he is positioned at the receiving end of all transactions, and named accordingly, reflecting different scales of submissiveness: 'user', 'reader', 'viewer', 'audience', 'public', 'consumer'. As the prime information and attention provider, the individual connected should be known as the actor.
To better understand and act on abundance, we have to look where the scarcity is.
In the final panel, Brenda Devin from Ohio State University woke up the conference to the inequalities of communication. She too put a 'user' in the center of action. As soon as she'll have sent me her paper I'll publish some of it here.
VisionPlus 4 made clear two things: information design is a distinct discipline and should organize as such: skip 'web design' and other derniers cris, unless some real navigational/organizational/computational differences are made. Zolli, Mueller, Keeley didn't deliver. The Internet/www needs information design for mark up. But it should be based on media specifics and not lean heavily on the corporate agenda of an industry that will settle with second and third best concepts and solutions.
A long hot day in which our attention shifted. We had both more hard core information design topics, as well as critical thought and reflection from different fields. Yet reactions are devided as to where all the information design is: not only in this conference, but in general practice. It has a remarkable divers constituency, with backgrounds varying from rhetoric to law, from technical writing to the fine arts. Its interest zooms from the local to the global and back, and pans a full 720 degrees, from automating the design of the MacDonalds maintenance manual to the writing of new applications for the (then) Newton for the use by midwives in rural India.
I presented a 'lite' version of D=I from the McConomy blackboard. I weaved in some reactions to the conference so far. My general observation is that the pivotal position of the individual 'user' is (even in this community) dramatically underestimated, while a genuine information republic thrives on his/her production: of attention. The ruling perspective so far is corporate, but that could change tomorrow.
Met Laura Vinchesi and Robert Swinehart at the University Center. Handed Laura 200+ Doors 5 postcards of which one returned in my conference folder. The sun shines bright on the campus, with its newly built Center, temperature is as high as 74F. Both CMU's and next door University of Pittsburgh's campuses swarm with students enjoying spring break outdoors. Discussed the Netherlands Design Institute's interests in information design and knowledge mapping with IIID's Peter Simmlinger. International exchange is on the agenda. Technology to FTP to my server is available so I am back at the hotel to prepare for the coming days in which I hope to at least give some quick and dirty reflections on the conference.
Whenever I travel back in time (even when it's only six hours) I profit the first days by waking up with an excited anticipatation that I remember from childhood: the promise of a new daywhat will it bring? Let's get the hell out of bed and look out the window. Where am I? What's happening? Who can I go play with? Grown-ups call it jetlag, but I had the just described good old feeling when I stood beside my 18th floor Pittsburgh hotel bed at 4:48am this morning and looked outside, to see a late moon rising over an unknown landscape.
Spent the day scanning the new territory. The US is dataholic's heaven. The amount and especially the distribution of information reflect a well established habit, a daily need to be fulfilled, though in old media. Flyers and hand-outs on every subject at any corner. Written in any hand. My reality check took me from La Prima Café (just around the corner of the hotel, best latte and sandwiches, heaps of local information, open 6.30am-10pm on workdays), over the Allegheny River to the National Aviary, the Children's Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum and back downtown, to Barns & Nobel for April's Wired, Atlantic Monthly, Utne Reader, Mother Jones, Scientific American and Life magazine... collecting a huge pile of flyers in the passing.
Contacted Carnegie's Laura Vinchesi and agreed to include the Doors 5 postcard in the conference folder tomorrow.
Which information to pair in distribution, from disparate sources, with specific audiences in mind, needs more investigation. I remember somebody offering advertizing space in personal email messages years ago. Then there's the recently offered Dutch free telephone service that adds advertizing to your calls at two minute intervals. The Andy Warhol Museum has a happy hour every Friday, with 'occasional celebrity guest hosts' ('shake up your social scene'). This coupling, connecting, is a challenging intermediary action. I'll talk about it with reference to the work of Joke Robaard at the Paviljoens in Almere, May 10.
Leaving thought: let's assume with John Doerr that the Internet is under-hyped. (to be continued)
Departure for Pittsburgh to present at the VisionPlus 4 information design conference. Return via NY to wine and dine with Andrea Blum and Barbara Bloom (- let's do all kinds of liquids, solids, and animal, vegetable and mineral together) and drown Silicon Alley in Doors 5 flyers. Some stuff you schlep, some you leave on your server and access from out there: the VP4 paper for example, or my family.
As usual had to finish packing in the wee hours. Since I now only use my PowerBook on trips like this it needs major synchronizing everytime. I copy this site, my latest Fetch and PageSpinner, some Eudora and Frontier Paul keeps reminding me of the latter. Throw my Mavica in the new 25ltr. FjällRäven and head for the Double Tree Hotel where you can reach me at T412-281-3700 or F412-227-4500
Launch of www.ciw.net. By far the best quote to give some weight to the start of this venture is my all time favourite on attention,
- If You're Not Confused, You're Not Paying Attention.
(confusion as an attention currency)
Late late last night I looked up my 'Collection of the Artist' text, for its conclusion:
- The greatest cultural transformations therefor take place where the material world doesn't save itself from being turned into information.
Decide to delay the informatic license document. Instead built this one from scratch.
Lots of activity over the past weeks. Email discussion outbursts on the future of cities with the Amsterdam 2.0 group; on the Doors 5 Play theme, with artist Michael Samyn and webmaster Kristi van Riet; and on the InfoDesign-Café list, on 'what is information design'. The latter discussion pops up ever once in a while. My VisionPlus paper stretches the envelope on the topic, so I thought I'd give the discussion some attention.
Reflecting on Goldhaber's attention economy, I remembered I once considered attention a gift. 'Economy' of course is the metaphor du jour... How can we potlatch attention?
- The main purpose of the potlatch is of course gift-giving. Every player should arrive with one or more gifts and leave with one or more different gifts. (...) Gifts need not be physical objects. (...) However, it should be recalled that in the Amerindian potlatches the gifts were supposed to be superb & even ruinous to the givers.
Deplete your attention!
best bits from correspondencies, attendencies and collected hard copy
the one to one future, part 4 (Michael Sippey) Personalized websites with individualized content. Narrowcasted television programming. Highly targeted advertising messages. One to one commerce. Custom designed information, consumer products and entertainment experiences.
The culture of 'The Daily Me' will lead to the displacement of the creators of mass culturethe newspaper editors, the television programmers, the fashion designers. They will be tossed aside by consumers who demand products that are made-to-order, whether those products are comprised of
bits or atoms.
The one to one future will not only displace the creators of mass culture, but also the creators of micro culturefine artists. When every piece of information we consume becomes customized for our unique wants and needs, we will lose the ability to enjoy, or even tolerate, the singular statement of an individual painter, sculptor, photographer or printmaker. "If they're not going to paint what I like," the consumer of the future will ask, "why should I buy it?"
This means that artists who intend to support themselves with their work will have to adopt market research techniques to make sure they're creating works that targeted segments of collectors will actually enjoy. Alternatively, the art market could become solely commission-based, where buyers work with artists to custom-create a piece that fits with their tastes, their politics, their personalized color scheme.
from the McConomy blackboard
DESIGN = INFORMATION
INFORMATION = DYNAMIC
USER = CLIENT
the biological basis of morality (E.O. Wilson) The Atlantic Monthly April 1998, "Behavioral scientists from another planet would notice immediately the parallels between an animal dominance behavior on the one hand and human obeisance to religious and civil authority on the other. They would point out that the most elaborate rites of obeisance are directed at the gods, the hyperdominant if invisible members of the human group. And they would conclude, correctly, that in baseline social behavior, not just in anatomy, Homo sapiens has only recently diverged in evolution from a nonhuman primate stock."
probably the scarcest resource these days is reason Mother Jones April 1998, "What's certainly striking about American culture today is the great hostility toward science and the decline of respect for rational scientific thinking. People seem to think that we are ruled by the scientific method and that we overvalue reason. If there was ever a period that we overvalued reason, I think it was probably extremely brief. What I see now is a great deal of superstition, as much superstition as there has ever been. There are probably more people who believe in guardian angels than who understand the law of gravity." ('civil libertarian' Wendy Kaminer, President of the National Coalition Against Censorship, New York)
underhyping the Internet USA Today March 25, 1998, 'The Internet is becoming a spiritual haven; Word of the Web' cover story: "Sure you can find pornography on the Internet. But you can also find God." Top religious decision makers meet technology thinkers, including Esther Dyson, and Neil Postman, in Denver, March 25-28.
Quentin Schultze (Gospel Communications Network, 2M visitors a month, $1M donor support per year): "We get mail from people who are crying and accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ sitting right at their computers." (...) "We don't want to be associated with public perceptions of televangelists."
Rev. Charles Henderson (First Church of Cyberspace): "People are inventing their own religions, like a collage... It's very chaotic." (...) "Gay Christians and Feminist Muslims find spiritual community on line, while they felt rejected by religion."
"The Internet as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's 'noosphere'" (Jennifer Cobb, author of 'Cybergrace; The Search for God in the Digital World').
Brother M. Aquinas Woodworth, a Benedictine monk, is setting up a high-tech new media studio 'to produce Catholic web sites compelling enough to compete with Microsoft and Disney'. (Invite Mr. Woodworth as a Doors 5 speaker!)
big bang 'The Little Creepy Crawlers Who Will Eat You In The Night', The New York Times Magazine, March 1, 1998
family server Roemer left, Rolf right
on attention Bionomics President Michael Rothschild at the first Bionomics Conference in San Francisco 1993.
don't save the world 'Collection of the Artist'; Beyond Ethics and Aesthetics, sun publishers 1997, isbn 90 6168 493 5
"On the one hand we see the maximum publicness of a medium like the Internet, in which (as yet) not a single hierarchy can be discerned, and on the other hand we see the possibilities of an endless quantity of minimal publicnesses, embedded in the 'chaos' (intricacies, I would say now) of the net, between individuals who, independent of time and place, meet in the dynamics of information exchange."
gift-giving Hakim Bey: 'An Immediatist Potlatch'; Immediatism, AK press 1994, isbn 1 873176 42 2.