Roy Arden’s “Bike”

At the CAG. Roy Arden. I am riding the art.
At the CAG. Roy Arden. I am riding the art.

I don’t recall the name of the work, but the show is called Under the Sun. It is on now at the CAG until March 27. I carved out a couple of hours from a busy weekend full of family obligations to stop for a visit. The “bike” does not go anywhere; the “windmill” (it might better be called a pedal-mill since it is not moved by wind, but pedal power) does not store energy.

Arden’s collage work was the main focus of my visit, since I am working on some ideas related to collage.

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Current Explorations

On the wall in my studio right now are three paintings. Each 42 by 52 inches. My aim is to use up every last bit of acrylic paint that I have collected over the past 4 years of school. A sort of homage to my BFA.

These are completely different than anything I have yet done, aside from the obvious tree theme ( I took the photo last year up near Paradise Meadows),

2010_02

A little while later…

2010_04

And finished in April 2010.

One of triptych, acrylic, 42×52 inches.
One of triptych, acrylic, 42×52 inches.
As a triptych. 126×52 inches.
As a triptych. 126×52 inches.

Maria Hupfield

Thursday, I had the opportunity to go to an art talk given by Maria Hupfield. Hupfield has a diverse practice that includes performance and photography. I especially appreciated the work she did called My Evil Twin (as discussed on her profile at ECUAD). The set up, though seemingly simple at first, brings the viewer to a place where they are asked to consider two things. One being the way in which we view images and ideas – through what lenses do we choose to look, and the other being the degree to which we are removed from the “real”. First, the photographer has stepped in between us and the “event” followed by the process of the image making, resulting in a two dimensional representation, covered with glass and set in a gallery. This representation is then filtered further through the sweet little lenses of the bird-house spy-glasses. I enjoyed the whole idea and it’s presentation – well … viewing it as a projected representation, sometimes through a bird house lens, of a representation.

After the talk several students were treated to an on campus studio visit. It was encouraging to hear her fresh take on our work. As students we benefit from the discernment of instructors who know our work and our persons, but fresh eyes and insights can make for better work. Provided the student can hear, of course. All in all, I had a great and valuable time.

See More: www.ecuad.ca, mariahupfield.com
Images: images.google.ca

What Tony Scherman Says

An encounter with the new book Carte Blanche v.2 has given me some new artists to study as well as some new quotes to ponder. For example, a featured artist Tony Scherman is noted with the following text from the book.

Artists are always asked questions pertaining to the ‘what’ and really only want to talk about the ‘how’. The ‘how’ cannot be spoken about without the ‘doing’, and the ‘doing’ cannot be spoken about without ‘being in doing’. This leaves artists at a great impasse in talking about their work, which quite often leads to tedium, boredom and, finally, irritation. This explains at least in part why so many artists in their maturity elect to say little or nothing. I am getting close, but not quite there yet.

On one level, I found this to be very funny. Scherman is not there yet, obviously, because he has made a submission to the book for printing. I did notice a couple of artists with far less to say than Scherman.

My other thought, based on personal experience, is that it is indeed very difficult to talk about my work. How do I put into words what is happening in my mind and my body when I am doing?

Tony Sherman’s site: www.tonyscherman.com

Design Class Poem

Not sure what poetry has to do with a design class, but I was required to write one. I chose to write in a Burmese climbing style.

The Rim

Design in the pacific
rim, embrace prolific nations
Chile, hieroglyphic Maya idea
to Canada, China, along
through India, Singapore, Vietnam
there’s no damn before
Maori clam. Sharing by
love or defy, bamboo
beside bonsai, cedar foundation
or stilt elevation, hewn
stone fabrication, temple, pagoda
and earthen stupa, sing
beautiful coda for eyes.
Mountain shrine wise/supplies retreat
while prize worthy chiampas
give food grass, again
terraced mass toward delight,
Zen gardens invite serenity.
Early bright gold red
hanfu, ikat thread, batik
kimono wed, aboriginal skin
cloaks to begin, native
cedar thin weaves. Calendar
of moons confer passing
time, occur proceeding new
from old, through marking
deity debut with parade
and sweet laid/prayed on
ceramic trade blue white,
to salmon might and
chocolate excite careful stand,
upon fired sand celebrated.
Indigenous grand who live
within fire alive, god
animals thrive, spirits unseen
superstitiously appeased queen goddess.
From serene Buddha, schism
arise of Hinduism, Islam
Christianity prism Shinto enthrall
hear bugle call, today
no stonewall, the Rim of fire has it all.

Already October

The summer flew by, no post.

Finished the Spring course and did well. Spent time with my youngest son who was home from school and started a reno. I guess having it finished by the time the fall semester came along was far too optomistic. Did not consciously make any art works, which I think means that I did not make any.

Either way, I am into it now. I am taking Drawing, GEVA (a general proposal based studio class), and an online course. This term my instructors are Nancy Bleck, Wendy Doberenier, Sam Carter (who tells us studied with Buckminster Fuller), and Sara Vipond.

Aside from making three “objects” I am also working on three paintings for the GEVA class. Here are two at the current stage.

invaders2

This one is four feet wide, I think.

theBoat

And this one is 75 inches by 34 inches.

So, of the intructors I have, the following have web sites:

Nancy Bleck
Sam Carter
Sara Vipond

A Thought on Simulacra

I have heard a few times recently how we (our society) are engaging in practices that are not real. I have even contributed to such discussions by agreeing, but I have been re-thinking this.

For example, during the last course I took titled, Modernist Visions: Form and Utopian Narratives with Holly Ward, (not the one I am currently enrolled in), we discussed the image by Guy Debord, Couple stretched out on a sofa, Watches television (1968). Invoking Baudrillard’s theories about Simulacra we noted how the couple is dressed in yachting clothes and watching a program about boating on the television set, yet they are sitting on a sofa – not actually sailing or boating themselves. What we discussed was that the couple’s experience of boating is simulated, or fake, in-authentic. As viewers of the work by Debord, we could also say that we have a simulated experience of watching the couple, watch the television program of boating.

If Baudrillard’s Simulacra implies that there is no such thing as reality, then what is it?

In giving this some thought, I would argue that the couple is indeed having a real experience of sitting on a sofa and watching television, and engaging with Debord, as photographer, directing their movements on the set in the studio. Can we really say that their experience is simulated?

A Morning at the SAM

Inopportune: Stage One

This past weekend, my significant other and I spent the late morning and early afternoon at the SAM in Seattle. While being thrilled to see so many works I have previously been observing in ink on paper, such as Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune: Stage One, Do-Ho Suh’s Some/One, Glenn Ligon’s Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7, I was especially interested in the work of Titus Kaphar in the show History in the Making.

Again a fascination with the work of non-white males. I thought the work had the best of both worlds: great skill and great ideas. The quality of the painting draws me in while the cutting and tarring keep me engaged with what Kaphar is trying to tell me.

Really you should see it for yourself:
http://tituskaphar.blogspot.com/

Better yet, head over to the SAM while it is still on.

Yes, No (Arbitrary Bible)

Yes, No (Arbitrary Bible), Altered books, rice paper, acrylic paint, 12.7 x 17.8 x 7.6 cm (5 x 7 x 3 in), 2009
Yes, No (Arbitrary Bible), Altered books, rice paper, acrylic paint, 12.7 x 17.8 x 7.6 cm (5 x 7 x 3 in), 2009
Yes, No (Arbitrary Bible), Altered books, rice paper, acrylic paint, 12.7 x 17.8 x 7.6 cm (5 x 7 x 3 in), 2009
Yes, No (Arbitrary Bible), Altered books, rice paper, acrylic paint, 12.7 x 17.8 x 7.6 cm (5 x 7 x 3 in), 2009

About Yes, No (Arbitrary Bible)

In response to an idea in Michael Euyung Oh’s work I chose the Bible to apply an arbitrary decision making process. For example, in Oh’s 200 Sex Offenders (2000) he used his own standard of attraction to rate the photos. His work employs a ranking system that is meaningless and absurd, asking the viewer to question ranking systems.

While I have used my own personal preferences for choosing the text that remains legible in the YES volume as well as the NO volume, I have intended to expose in the physical what a reader does in their own mind when approaching any text, or even object. Promoting those parts that appeal, feeling elitist about those we dislike, and ignoring the rest.

Bogus

Bogus, paper on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Bogus, paper on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Detail
Detail

About Bogus

Many race theorists include in their discussions a quote from Melville’s Moby Dick, “a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink”. Bogus consists of each occurrence of the word “white”, or variations of it, carefully cut from a copy of Moby Dick, glued onto a sheet of white paper.

Pontiac

Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.
Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.
Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.
Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.

Humn 311

I am currently taking a 6 week, 3 credit Humanities course about the physical and the psychical. Although the course pack is ginormous, the readings so far have been very intriguing. I think I am really going to enjoy the learning.

However, I do have a personal beef. There is not enough time in the class to really digest points or opinions that are brought up during the class time. I have decided that I am going to post my own responses here…after they have been rolling around in my head, keeping me awake half the night.

Bell and Ah Kee

The third year is over, the spring has taken hold and I am gearing up for another class to begin next Monday. Getting a jump on some fourth year credits. I have completed some scholarship applications and have my second born home from university (a visual arts and design university no less) for the summer.

Basically I have been re-organizing my studio space (a spare bedroom) and purging much of the past three years worth of exercises. Some of it has even been selected to become under-paintings for new works. I have also been reading a few books, playing games on Facebook, and watching TV.

It just so happened that last night I tuned into an art program featuring Vernon Ah Kee and Richard Bell.  Again non-white males. (I am beginning to have issues with the label white, black etc., but that is for another conversation.) Ah Kee and Bell are Australian Aboriginals and have found their voices by exploring issues through text based works. What is so interesting to me is how pointed some of the work is. I am wondering if I am up for creating work with the same type of strong messaging.

More on Ah Kee:
http://www.daao.org.au/main/read/6995

More on Bell:
http://www.kooriweb.org/bell/man.html

Final Crit

If I had more time, I would write a bit more, but I have to get some sleep before the Crit, which will last from 8:30am to 5pm. I might rearrange them yet.

group1

Sandra Doore

My friend and fellow artist, Cam Reid, is curating a show titled, Human Body: Dependence on the Physical, which opened tonight. While there were some very interesting pieces, the work that had the greatest impact on me was by Sandra Doore. After looking at Quotidien Daydream and taking note of my thoughts and feelings, I read her statement. I felt and thought the things she had intended, or at least she pointed me in the direction where they were lying. Rather than touch the piece, I thought about doing something else to it, which wouldn’t be suitable in a public gallery. Need I say more?

More on Sandra Doore:
www.sandradoore.com

Words

I am in the middle of a project involving the arbitrary approval and/or disapproval of passages in the Bible. Something people, at the very least, do in their minds.

This is the wrong side of the volume cover that will be titled “NO.”

no

Three Non-white Males

Two weeks ago I attended a talk given by David Khang. He discussed his ideas and some of his projects. While he stated that his work deals with language, gender, and identity, I was struck by some of the concepts floating around in those ideas. I find his work to be subtly humorous and powerful at the same time. Though not all of it engenders an internal smile, it is intelligent.

During his talk he introduced Richard Dyer and his White: Essays on Race and Culture, which I thought was particularly interesting since I had just completed a presentation on Glenn Ligon. Ligon used Dyer’s essay as a jumping off point for some of his work. Khang also discussed his feeling surrounding his own ethnicity. Here in North America he is an “Asian man,” but in Japan et. al., he is a “man.”

Today the talk was given by Jackson 2bears. 2bears uses music and cinema and combines them with the notion of scratch video, producing sound and video performances that point at stereotypes surrounding native North Americans. I found some of his work to be thought provoking.

So here I am looking at the work of three non-white males and feeling angry and inspired at the same time. I feel as though this is a topic that is definitely going to need more time, study and research. Have I mentioned yet that my skin has hardly any melanin in it (my legs are virtually transparent), I’m a natural light blond, and female?

More on David Khang: http://www.davidkhang.com/

More on Glenn Ligon: http://www.diacenter.org/ligon/

More on Jackson 2bears: http://jackson2bears.net/

The Center of the Art World

Sarah Valdez writes in In the land of make Believe from Art in America, November 2007, “Antin’s, Hershman’s, and Lake’s challenging agendas and high-quality work make their status as lesser known feminist pioneers bewildering. Perhaps their unjustified lack of recognition stems from the fact that each established herself outside of New York City.”

Reading quotes such as this one, make me wonder if a successful art career (what that means is another 500 posts worth of discussion) is to be had while living on a semi-remote-ish island. Except that the world has changed since then. The Internet gives me the opportunity to share work via my web site and share opinions and ideas through two blogs. Even though I don’t post to them nearly enough. Maybe I don’t physically have to be in New York or Berlin or the next great center of the art world.

Finished Number Three

The third painting in the series. Acrylic on canvas, 34×75 inches. I think there is something funny about the face on her right side (not your right, her right). Since I can’t put my finger on it, I am forced to leave it as it is for now.

shannon3

About Kathë Kollwitz

Kathë Kollwitz is an inspiration. Through her own suffering, and empathy for those around her, she was able to find expression and a voice through her art-making. Leafing through a book from the library I was very impressed by not only her strength, but the human emotion that she was able to bring to paper.

Particularly outstanding for me are Woman with Dead Child (1903), The Parents (1923), and Call of Death (1934), while her self-portraits record, unashamedly, the progress of age on her face. A striking contrast to the vanity surgeries of our culture. In Woman with Dead Child, which she repeated in several versions, she captures agony and despair. Again in The Parents she does the same, but this time the figures are shrouded and all we really have to gather emotion from is the hands of the grieving parents. She was an amazing artist.

See the Kathë Kollwitz museum:
http://www.dhm.de/museen/kollwitz/english/home.htm

And more at the Galerie St Etienne:
http://www.gseart.com/artists.asp?ArtistID=67

Another Girl

I have started another painting. My goal is to complete one every two weeks, for a total of six. I made a couple of adjustments to the first one, so it has changed slightly, but it was very well recieved by the class and people seemed genuinely excited by it. So it is onward with this series.

zoe11

zoe21

Acrylic on canvas, 34 x 75 inches.

Otto Dix

I first became interested in the work of Otto Dix, when required to write a paper, which was titled, “Iconography & Iconology, Otto Dix: Der Krieg.”

I was most interested in Dix’s unflinching portrayals of war. Although Dix was not a pacifist, if I remember correctly, his paintings and prints told it like it was and certainly did nothing to glorify the horrors of it.

Also fascinating is the fact that Dix was part of the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) show at Munich in 1937. Although when looking at the list of artists included in that show it is really no surprise that Dix should also be included. He created work that criticized the Weimar Republic, was stylistically unique, and raw.

Read more about Otto Dix at:
http://www.otto-dix.de/

See Der Krieg at:
http://www.skd-dresden.de/de/presse/pressearchiv.html?id=276

Teachers

This semester promises to be interesting.

Over the past 5 semesters I have had the pleasure (or torture as a few classmates might describe it) of learning from artists who, for the most part, do not have any presence on the Internet. While I acknowledge that this should not indicate their importance as artists (history will tell us that), I think it does speak to a possible lack of vision on their parts. On some level, I think, they want their work and their experience to be shared, that is why they teach. It is possible that they do not see the value of the Internet as a conduit to share their work and ideas. Two instructors who are search-able are Stephanie Aitken and Douglas Senft. One, David Maclean, has a work in the Canada Council Artbank. Others are referenced in school materials.

Currently, I have three classes (12 credits) and am studying with Holly Ward, Kevin Schmidt, and Scott Bowering.

Edited on Feb 8, 2009: I neglected to mention two more, or should I say three. One, who is very interested in the Internet and all it has to offer, and teaches a class on Web 2.0, is invisible upon initial searches. Strange. The other two co-instructors, Hadley+Maxwell, yield a proliferation of links to choose from.

William Pope.L

A couple of weeks ago I encountered the book, William Pope.L: The Friendliest Black Artist in America. William Pope.L inspires me.

He’s not afraid of tackling social issues and he does so in a way that is humorous at the same time. His process also fascinates me as it takes place in his mind first. He is quoted in Crawl for your life by Isa Tousignant (Hour, Nov 4, 2004) saying, “Initially the crawls came from me noticing that there was an increase of homeless on the street. At the time, some of my family were on the street […] I wondered what I could do. […] So I asked, well, is there a way to show the energy that’s really there? What if all these people lying on the sidewalk began to move as one mass? That would be a way of doing it, to show that in this inertia, there is a real energy, a real struggle.”

I need to work on moving my questions and observations into workable ideas.

For more on Pope.L’s work see:
http://theblackfactory.com/

Art & Criticism

Like a fellow classmate, I did enjoy reading Round Table: The Present Conditions of Art Criticism published by The MIT Press Journals. I fantasized about people sitting together and discussing without interruption and wondered if I would ever have the pleasure. (oops was I being sarcastic?) I did also note that this article is just the beginning of what could be so many discussions about art, artists, critics and writing (and magazines and their audiences). There is a goldmine of topic starters.

As I read I made notations and these are some of the main ones and based on my understanding of the discussion and context.

The role of critic has been diminished. The reasons, as far as I can tell, are complicated. Art has become more about investment rather than commentary or visual discussion among other reasons. Storr mentions (203) that the language in criticism is difficult and I agree. I would not go so far as to say it should be dumbed down, but sometimes that is exactly how it makes me feel, like a dummy. What I conclude when I approach difficult articles is that someone like me makes the art and someone else writes the criticism, but I may not be the person it is written for. At least not at my level. Ha, no one is writing about my work anyway! lol.

I appreciated parts of the discussion where teaching (at least for me) was occurring. The delineation between the economic and intellectual markets, for instance. Or the way in which writing legitimizes certain art practices. And the discussion around judgment and interpretation was useful. Also helpful was Buchloh’s explanation of academic criticism versus the artist critic. I agreed with Molesworth’s comment (207) that “there is always a benefit to a discursive.”

I wondered where some comments leave me. Baker says “a younger generation that has not had as much public discourse to develop that their criteria are (210),” and Miller repeats it with “the invocation of the youth culture…either older artists are affirmed as quasi-masters, or the artist is young and their work has to have some kind of relation to D.J. Culture or something similar. (218)”

I was interested in the discussion surrounding collaboration as I am also just finishing the Web2.0 class which discusses peer to peer networks and mass collaboration as culture creators. Buchloh (215) points out that thinking we are actually collaborating is a false assumption based on the way power is, in reality, distributed. Something that I realized in the other class too is that mass collaboration is only democratic when everyone has a computer, has an Internet connection, and has the tools to create. Hello, there may be 1 billion people like that, but that leaves over 5 billion of them without. Poor and illiterate (and mostly female too?) people would be my guess.

An affirmation for me was the discussion surrounding site-specificity and context. For round-table participants, as writers, it is important, but also for artists. As Fraser says (223) “I do believe that artists have a responsibility to think critically about their contexts…” Storr also comments (224) that for writers it is important “not to get stuck in one register.” Ditto that for artists!

Purely fun was the comment by Storr on 215 where he says, “No I don’t. And that is insider or coterie talk, because you’re saying, ‘Yes, you know who they are,’ and I don’t know who they are. So tell me.” I laughed so hard.

I suppose that critics could be helped if I subscribe to October magazine?

George Stroumboulopoulos & k-os

I watched the Hour episode that aired on Nov 19th. What was interesting about this particular episode was that I was even allowed to watch it. (No one else was home) But also that George discussed the way music is marketed these days after his talk with David Foster. George said that musicians were choosing to release songs and albums over the Internet. In particular he talked about k-os offering free downloads of sections of music tracks, which k-os then encourages users to remix and send back. If k-os likes what you did and decides to use it, he’ll pay you.

Is this a totally cool example of mass collaboration or what?

Transparent Culture

“It makes culture more transparent to its inhabitants. (275)” Benkler in The Wealth of Networks discusses the way the average person with a connection to the Internet and a few simple tools (mostly free if one scouts around for opensource) can create and participate in a resurgence of folk culture. It may not be mom and pop strumming a guitar in the living room, but it is being created by the regular “folk.” According to Benkler what is significant about this is the mystery that used to surround production is now able to be understood by those participating in the creation of new artifacts. With this new understanding comes the ability to critique it and in turn critique our culture. (Perhaps this is the reason that I respect a critique about my own work coming from another artist rather than those who are not – although non-artists (you know what I mean so don’t give me any flack about my term) sometimes offer the most interesting observations.)

I really appreciated Benkler’s explanation and treatment of background knowledge or shared assumptions and meaning making in the shaping and changing of our collective culture. Benkler describes culture as the collective understanding of who we are, the way things ought to be, and our attempt at making sense of the world we live in. This is made possible through dialog among people. Which is where all this participation in the creation of artifacts is so important. No longer is it the only the elite who have access to understand and use the tools necessary, but (as we have heard 5 billion times now) anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

Creative Commons definitely has a role to play in fostering this transparent conversation. For example, I could be one of those special elite people with bags and bags of money, but I might feel quite comfortable with the fact that someone might have more to “say” based on what I “said.” Why not allow them to copy, paste and remix. I can then copy, paste and remix a response. We can engage in an open conversation and change our minds about meaning, thus changing the culture. At any rate, whether I explained that very well or not, Creative Commons allows me to use artifacts from the culture to create new works.

Fresh on my mind though was the story yesterday about the girls in Afghanistan who were attacked with acid for daring to attend school. How does everything I have been reading in Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks apply to them? They don’t have any computers that I could see in the empty class on today’s news. The Taliban and/or other terrorists don’t care if I post some remix denouncing what they did. I wonder if the Taliban would be up for a little remix of their ideas. I am pretty sure that it is in our background knowledge (the big bad West) that throwing acid on girls and women is unacceptable. Or is it?

Tools in the Public Sphere

Ah yes, Utopia on earth. It has been discussed, debated and philosophized about for centuries. Personally, I don’t believe that in our present condition that we humans will ever achieve said Utopia. Benkler in The Wealth of Networks also acknowledges that the dream of  utopia through the Internet was a naive notion (215). What we are dealing with now is a maturation.

First, it is important to note that this does not mean that things cannot change for the better. Improvements can come. Benkler discusses two great examples of the ways in which the tools, i.e. the Internet and the tools for use within it’s framework, create a public sphere where change and influence can and does occur. I appreciated the real examples of how this so-called democratization would actually look. I had been struggling with some of the concepts without concrete stories. The first example deals with Sinclair Broadcasting where tools on the Internet were utilized to exert pressure on the network to stop an airing of an apparently biased documentary. The second dealt with Diebold, a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, and the trouble they ran into when internal documentation was found to be accessible to the Internet and the implications of impropriety within those documents. What is significant, I think, about this story is that when threatened with legal action to remove Diebold information, students at Swarthmore College engaged in “electronic civil disobedience. (230)” I am taking notes on how they did that.

Secondly, I think the argument that the Internet could possibly be a great equalizer is misplaced. Benkler acknowledges that “this does not mean that all these statements [ones we make on the Internet] are heard by the relevant others to whom they are addressed. (216)” While we may have computers, connections and tools available to enter and engage in the public sphere as never before, we do not all have the influence, stature, or writing abilities of, for example, Ariana Huffington. I mean, how many people read this post? Benkler then adds that achieving the success of those involved in the Sinclair and Diebold cases had is “something a single committed individual could choose to do. (225)” I’m not sure I agree.

Thirdly, I think it is very interesting in both the examples that the “blogosphere” influenced the mainstream media. There was enough buzz about those issues on the Internet to make the editors take notice and make decisions to run stories, further influencing events. While I have always held the belief that we are responsible for what the media dishes out (I will explain my thinking in the another post…someday), it is heartening to see hope in others that they can have influence over what they read, see, and talk about. Or not.

In closing, I leave you with a Benkler quote.
“Understanding what we will lose if such changes [redesign of computer equipment to make it harder for end users to exchange information] indeed warp the topology of the network, and through it the basic structure of the networked public sphere, is precisely the object of this book as a whole. (261)”

Women & Autonomy

This weeks reading comes from The Wealth of Networks, by Yochai Benkler. I have to confess that sometimes I feel that I am taking in more information than my brain can actually digest. It might have something to do with taking 18 credits, but maybe not, maybe I am just getting older, but then I am told that is crazy.

There are some very interesting concepts in this reading. For example, Benkler describes autonomy (as I understand it) as an individual having the options before him and deciding for himself which to choose. Benkler points out that this is only possible if the person is presented with all the options in the first place. Kind of like being in a bar and the waiter looks at my clothes and decides to tell me that they only have Lucky beer on tap. When meanwhile they also have Anchor Steam beer in bottles. I may want Lucky beer, but the waiter is not giving me the option, reducing my autonomy, thereby exerting a kind of control over my decision. Benkler writes that “a law that systematically gives some people the power to control the options perceived by, or the preferences of, other, is a law [or rule, standard, usual way of operating] that harms autonomy.”

Now, I always take things to the realm of women, The realm I live in (I live in other ones too, but there are too many to discuss here). I try to apply these principles to this realm. The high school I went to had a process where each student would take an employment aptitude test and then would be counseled as to what types of jobs they should consider for their future. Exciting I thought, now I will know what I will be best at. What do you think the counselor told me? You guessed it, it is 1976, and I am being told that I should be a nurse, or a frikin secretary! Where was police officer, or pilot, or prime minister, lawyer, or urologist? Why, when I look at the school I currently go to, is the president of the school a male and his secretary a female? I know it is possible that the people in those jobs are genuinely suited to and love their work, but I also wonder why most of the jobs with big control are held by men and the supporting jobs to those men are held by women.

I don’t have daughters, so I don’t know what young women are being told these days. Are they being given the option to be what they want and more importantly encouraged to do so? If I as a woman am encouraged to choose to be a stay at home mother and/or to be an engineer equally, and I choose the first, then I made that choice with all the options in front of me and keep my autonomy. If I gauge it by what I see in the media then things do not look good at all. If the dominant option placed in front of a woman is to cut herself in order to get and keep a man, then she is certainly not autonomous.

All that said, I do acknowledge that I may not have thought all this through well enough. Am I missing something? Or did I get it?

PS 5 billion people don’t have computers.

Punctuated Equilibria

The first chapter of The Wealth of Networks (How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom) by Yochai Benkler was very interesting reading. I am looking forward to reading more.

In an earlier post, I talked about how mass collaboration is only possible for those with a computer and an internet connection. It does not include many in the developing world and those that do have it in most of those countries are not girls. It is hardly inclusive at this stage of the game. Benkler too points out that the “declining price of computation, communication, and storage have, as a practical matter, placed the material means of information and cultural production in the hands of a significant fraction of the world’s population – on the order of a billion people around the globe. (3)” This still leaves over 5 billion people without that means. My guess is that it is primarily those who live at a subsistence level. Why guess? Check the Number of computers per 100 inhabitants by Country. The top five are Switzerland, United States, Sweden, Canada and Australia, while the bottom five are Cambodia, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Malawi and Chad.

Benkler also says that the marks of what a society’s freedom looks like is based on “how we make information, how we get it, how we speak to others, and how others speak to us. (7)” If we were to look at women as a segment of any society I wonder if we could use Benkler’s analysis as a reliable test. Let’s look at Switzerland then. Hmmm, women won the right to vote in 1971. 59% of Swiss women are employed while 75% of men are, but that does not tell us if they are seeking employment. Would the numbers be similar for who is making the information? What about Chad then? Women in Chad could vote in 1958. Well before Switzerland. Women in the workforce in Chad? About 44%. I don’t think this is going to work as a test without some heavy duty analysis. Just because women are given the right to vote doesn’t mean they take advantage of it or even have the ability to exercise that right. That is what is so incredibly embarrassing about the latest vote I participated in. Under 60%! Shameful.

What is also touched on in previous posts, as well as posts by classmates, is the idea that these technologies can bring about social change. Benkler says, “The technology will not overcome their resistance through an insurmountable progressive impulse.” It won’t just happen. “The reorganization of production and the advances it can bring in freedom and justice will emerge, therefore, only as a result of social and political action aimed at protecting the new social patterns from incumbents’ assaults. (23)” It is fragile and it requires those who are willing to fight for it in order to preserve it. Benkler also adds to that discussion by pointing out that the tension between economics, institutions, laws and technology is dynamic, yet it is never in tension for too long a period and usually finds a kind of equilibrium. I suppose then that we can and should look forward to the change that is coming as a result of the economic “shock” we are now experiencing.

What will we renegotiate? What will we fight for?

On Closed Systems & Freedom

I have been a busy, busy little bee. Ok I am not that little, but I have been busy.

Part One
Catching up on this past week’s reading in Wikinomics (by Tapscott and Williams), I took note of anything that struck me as I read. On page 238 I made a notation, “Unlimited Growth?” I am not sure in re-reading that page why I wrote that, but it does raise an interesting question, but first an illustration from life.

When I was in grade nine and introduced to the wonders of Biology (by a teacher who reminded us that we should not hold hands because eventually that could lead us to do things we would be sorry about later) and the Pond Experiment. We were required to get a jar and fill it with pond water. We were to make sure we got some plant life in there and a bit of pond muck too. Punching a few holes in the lid top ensured that the only thing in or out was air. Essentially a closed system (I know technically not, but for a bunch of grade niners it was close enough). On a bi-weekly basis we began to make a log of the organism count. At first, there were a nice number of floaty things under the slides. A couple of weeks later the number was skyrocketing, then suddenly a drop off to nill. Nothing. Nada. All gone. No life at all.

Economic systems are like that. I remember hearing an Amway presentation once. What happens if all the people in the world sign up, I asked. It just does not make sense to me. We cannot grow forever. Our economies cannot grow forever. (Unless we can start mining the moon) But, this new openness, peering, sharing and acting globally (is the rest of the globe on board?) has new possibilites. I know there are all kinds of people out there ready to make their bucks, but I think it also has the potential for all kinds of social change. I fear for it though. I think it is pretty fragile yet.

Part Two
Another thing I noted was the use of all the adjectives used to tell the Geek Squad story, beginning on page 241. As a former employee at a small tech company, I was one of three females (one web site designer, two programmers) among 15 males, I have the feeling that there are not too many female Geek Squaders.

With descriptions like, “Global domination,” “special agent badge,” “black clip-on tie,” “black ops,” “James Bond,” “all play Battlefield 2 online,” and “simultaneously fighting each other,” what do you think?

Part Three
Email at the workplace sucks. On page 252 Tapscott and Willimas quote Mayfield as saying that the average Fortune 500 employee spends 4 hours in their Inbox! Wow! The upside is that apparently many employees are using wikis to communicate without approval coming from up on high first. This is a good thing and I think it is also something that some of us have achieved in this course. Hey, how about a Ning, sounds good let’s do it, and poof there it is!

Part Four
Another section where I made copious notes was in the section titled “War on the open internet.” Again I am reminded that freedom is always bought at a cost. It never comes without a fight. I don’t mean a guns and blood fight (although that is sometimes necessary…my parents were freed from dictatorial occupation by people who used guns and spilled blood to do it), but one must be ever vigilant. If we want freedom, we will have to fight for it.

Re: Return of the blog

This is an open message to my instructor. (I would have left a comment on your blog, but alas, it did not allow me to…) Anyway, I think this class is great! In talking with another student they confessed that if it was not for this class they might never have started a blog and now they are so happy that they did. They, as will I, will continue blogging after the course is finished. As a matter of fact, I even have some ideas on how to make the blog into a work.

Here is my mashup to cheer you up:

Don’t worry about the F’s…I mean I don’t sleep at night anyway…

Youtube & Mashups

One of my assignments required me to make a mashup of sorts. Windows Movie Maker turned out to provide just enough functionality to put something together.

But, the most fun of all was remembering that someone I know has been doing animation and posting to Youtube. Doing a search revealed this little gem.

Wonder how I can use that in my next mashup?

What Would Walter Benjamin Do?

Being a total amateur, I had to look up Walter Benjamin after the question was posed in relation to this week’s reading of Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics.

So, Benjamin (naturally I looked him up at Wikipedia) was a “German-Jewish Marxist literary critic.” His main contribution to studies in Humanities is reputed to be his essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility. Once I researched a little further, I realized that I had indeed been exposed to his ideas during some of my studies. Benjamin talked about the “aura” to refer to the charisma, a work of art might have, and the feeling one would experience in the objects presence. For Benjamin this did not mean that the “aura” was present because of the actual object, but was felt because of the association the work has with the artist (their status), its perceived cultural value, and its authenticity. It is also present because of restricted opportunities to see or access the work. Take for example the Mona Lisa. When it was stolen from the Louvre in August 1911, the Louvre experienced a surge in visitors to view the salon and place the painting was stolen from (Leader, 3). Patrons could not see the actual painting, but they could see the place it had be taken from; the spot that might still have its “aura.” Benjamin argues that this “aura” is removed in the age of mechanical reproduction, which he viewed as a step in the right direction as art (i.e. cultural objects) was now accessible to anyone. Ironically the police distributed 6,500 photographic reproductions of the Mona Lisa in an effort to find the painting (Leader, 172).

Well, I suppose that Benjamin would be welcoming the changes. Benjamin might concur with Lessig when he says, “You have got to make the clueless politicians aware of what nineteenth-century law is doing to the twenty first century…They don’t get it. They think they’re stopping ‘pirates’ when they stop all sorts of creativity. (124)” Benjamin may well start his own blog to publish his ideas, give his support to those who are fighting for ‘copyleft,’ and join people like Doctorow on the boards of Participatory Culture Foundation, or the Open Rights Group.

Tapscott and Williams point out that there is a new surge of creativity, which might give the Renaissance a run for its money. What with all those prosumers out there, just waiting to get their hands on the next thing they can reconfigure…

—–

Darian Leader, Stealing the Mona Lisa, 2002

Trust, Web 2.0 & Relationships

Trust. In the context of Web 2.0, our readings and podcast lectures have been very revealing. Web 2.0 products enable people to become part of vibrant communities that do everything from create and build new software, publish podcasts and books, create entertainment, share knowledge, get a weight loss buddy, to helping people solve global problems. Some people (you know who you are!) have even suggested using mashups to create and vote on public art projects or develop re-purposing plans for buildings. While many of these contributors may never meet face to face, they are part of a shared ownership and shared responsibility to make things work. To make the world a better place.

The part that resonated personally was the statement made during one of our lectures that trust in a Web 2.0 networked environment was about, “trusting the communication process.” How true.

As a young person I did not trust, …anyone. As I began to mature (and I don’t have a fat head about that; I have a looong way to go), I realized that if I was to have any sort of meaningful relationships, it was going to be necessary for me to become vulnerable. I was going to need to be open and to share in order for the other person to feel comfortable and to enable them to trust me. I would need to take a risk.

Wikipedia would not exist if it were not taking a risk, becoming vulnerable and trusting first. That is why it works, in my opinion. Other people then want to become worthy of that trust and become trustable. (Some sociologist out there probably has a term for it)

It will be very interesting to see how far we can take these ideas. We live in exciting times.

Bradley Shende & Mashups

This morning, I happened to be watching the morning news and the Connected Life feature was about mashups. Fit right in with what we are looking at in class and if you check out the video, you might find some other cool stuff to do.

[http://canwest.a.mms.mavenapps.net/mms/rt/1/site/canwest-globalbc-pub01-live/current/launch.html?maven_playerId=morningnewsconnectedlife&maven_referralObject=3118474]

Ideas & Change

Its interesting how one idea can create such profound change. Tapscott and Williams, in Wikinomics, discuss N-Geners as prosumers. File sharing accounts for half the internet traffic they say (I’ll bet most of that is porn, but that is another issue), and this is “signalling that the Net Generation is renegotiating the definitions of copyright and intellectual property.” (52)

N-Gener? I think I gave birth to a couple of those. While I educated them about how stealing is bad, and hitting is bad, and how to respect women (they’re men), and how to be strong and kind all at the same time, they still had no difficulty downloading stuff from the Internet. Games, codes, movies, music, hacking, it is all fair as far as they are concerned. Stealing from the store is never considered, but copying bytes, no problem. As Cory Doctorow points out, “computers copy, that’s what they do.”

Change is not only inevitable, but I for one welcome it. (I wouldn’t go so far as to say that one period in history is better than any other, because I think each has it’s own set of challenges, ideologies, pros and cons. Just like the one, we are in now.) I like the whole idea of renegotiating meaning. I am sure that some disagree, but I like that the meaning behind the concept of wife, has changed a bit over the last century. Stagnant water just gets, well, stagnant and undrinkable.

It is painful though, and it has never been without pain. Just one example from the multitudes is the pain that came for the early 19th century handloom weavers. Weavers were unable to support their families as textile manufacturing moved to factories, driving down their profits. I’ll bet that even today most of us cannot afford to pay for hand woven blankets, and the deal at the department store fits into our budget better.

And how about living without all those cheap factory made goods?

Wiki Wiki or Get Left Behind

Wikinomics, and the few pages required reading for SOCS300 was thought provoking. Already the margins marked with scribblings, question and exclamation marks.

Tapscott and Williams in their 2006 book, Wikinomics, show us the differences between the old model of economics and the newer models of mass collaboration. Top down management and hierarchies versus community, peering and sharing. A “Do what I say or I’ll smack you” and a “How do you think we can solve this problem?” contradiction. Tapscott and Williams point out that the market place is changing and the change is BIG. While they don’t use the Hadron Collider as an example in their book, the project does provide another picture of mass collaboration. The Hadron Collider project’s shear scope is impossible without the ideas, money and collaboration between multiple countries, scientists, and universities. Get on board, utilize the tools or eat your fear for breakfast.

What fascinates me is the human factor. The theory behind Wikinomics is based on mass collaboration. Not of the type that goes hand in hand with communism where individuality is suppressed, but the kind that wants, respects and values your particular ideas, in order to make the end concept or commodity better. It sounds Utopian. Equality based on your unique experiences and knowledge, not your gender, pigment, country of origin, or level of education.

Meeting together with people from other parts of the globe and sharing ideas will mean that ideas about politics and culture are shared too. Good ideas as well as bad ones can flow in both directions and it’s not like the west has all the good ideas. Or the bad ones.

Importantly we must be careful that we do not remain “westcentric” in our thinking. Case in point, Massively Collaborative Direct Democracy has a web site advocating the exploration of a massively collaborative direct democracy. The problem is that the site is in English only, implying a minimum level of literacy in English. It is on a web site requiring a computer and internet connection. It is “opt-in.” While it may not occur to us in the West, in most parts of the developing world education is still a premium and don’t even talk about the education of girls. I mean have at it, but remember it will not be inclusive, but exclusive.

My Pipe & No I Don’t Smoke

I have been trying to set up Yahoo Pipes to filter blogs for a class (in school).

Frustrating. It takes me back to the day when I was learning to write Java. Write some Java. Hope that each punctuation mark was in place because at 3am after having looked at it for the billionth time you wouldn’t have a chance of finding a mistake anyway. Compile. Frack! It doesn’t work. Drink yet more coffee. Read it backwards. Find an error. Compile…

At any rate, I have been digging around on the Internet looking for a solution. Using the same solution for filtering as my instructor does not work. It returns every article on my blog when only one should be listed. Other Pipes offered hope, but used parameters from the drop down menus on the modules like “item.gd:etag.” Yahoo Pipes should offer a list of each of these parameters and what their function is. “Item.” Is that each blog entry? Is it the entire blog? “gd.” What? “etag.” I’m guessing it calls the tags one adds to their blog entries.

I have ended up using the solution that was used by another student. Each blog is filtered four times. Once each for “description,” “title,” “category,” and “gd:etag.” It works, but…

My Yahoo Pipe.