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CRUMB interview

As I get ready to take part in the Transmediale/FLOSSmanuals book sprint for the “Collaborative Futures” book, I thought it was relevant to drop this blog post about an older interview about FLOSS and art.

A bit ago Dominic Smith of CRUMB interviewed me about my practice in relationship to Open Source and Free Culture. This interview is going to be included in a forthcoming 10 year anniversary book about CRUMB’s activities. Posting this slipped through the cracks, but you can find it here (along with a snippet below):

So there is ‘Open Source’ the Noun, and then there are 2 different versions of the verb ‘Open Source’, ‘to Open Source’. So you’re working on a project and you release it Open Source, that’s to Open Source a project. But the other version of to Open Source is a certain kind of reverse engineering, it’s kind of hostile or confrontational, and it’s to Open Source somebody else. I was open sourcing Sherrie Levine in a sense. So I think that a lot of my work comes from that appropriation and that’s a starting point.

Jörg M. Colberg, an accomplished astrophysicist and photographer, created a series of images entitled "American Pixels" in which he applied a self-made compression algorithm to photographs, turning them into artworks of the digital age.

But Colberg's works aren't just commentaries on the state of images in an age of lossy file types. He designed his own compression algorithm that responds uniquely to the contents of each photograph.

For Colberg, the compression becomes part of the creative progress. He explains:

A computer that creates a jpeg does not know anything about the contents of the image: It does what it is told, in a uniform manner across the image.

My idea was to create a variant that followed in the footsteps of what jpegs do, but to have the final result depend on the original image...adaptive compression (acomp) is a new image algorithm where the focus is not on making its compression efficient but, rather, on making its result interesting...As computer technology has evolved to make artificial images look ever more real - so that the latest generation of shooter and war games will look as realistic as possible - acomp is intended to go the opposite way: Instead of creating an image artificially with the intent of making it look as photo-realistic as possible, it takes an image captured from life and transforms it into something that looks real and not real at the same time.

The American Pixel renders are intended for hanging on walls, allowing the viewer to study the different layers of pixelated detail by move closer and farther away from the work.

To see the whole set of these fascinating works, head over to Colberg's collection. [Jörg M. Colberg via Kottke]

I love this timeline, showing the evolution of Crayola's crayons from 1903—eight colors, including poop—to 120 colors today. Now, imagine PC graphics running on Crayola's Law, which states that the number of hues doubles every 28 years:

Let's take the Color/Graphics Adapter as a starting point. Introduced in 1981, the IBM CGA was capable of displaying four colors in 320 x 240 pixels. Back then, it was all black, cyan, magenta, and white, or black, red, brown, and green. The world looked really bad.

The EGA era—16 colors!—would have arrived in 2037. Fast forward to 2149, and witness the arrival of humans to Jupiter, and the Video Graphics Adapter, bringing 256 glorious colors in 320 x 240 pixels. 16-bit color mode and its palette of 65,536 shades would have been enjoyed in 2373.

What about our current 16,777,216-tone palette, the 24-bit RGB color system? Not until the year 2597, people. Terrifying. But then, this slow evolution would have been a small price to pay if our computers always smelled like a fresh box of crayons. [Crayola color timeline by Weathersealed]

During the upcoming week I will be working in Berlin with 6 super smart people (Adam Hyde, Mike Linksvayer, Michael Mandiberg, Alan Toner, Aleksandar Erkalovic, Marta Peirano) on writing a whole book from scratch titled “Collaborative Futures”. The format for this collaborative writing was developed by Adam Hyde and the Floss Manuals community which is devoted to extending the accessibility of free software through the compiling free and liberally licensed manual books. The books are published online and their PDF formatting allow for an easy print on demand option.

Our book sprint is not setup as a manual though, commissioned by the Transmediale (a Berlin based new media art festival) the only piece of information we will have will be the book title. Unlike a software manual (like the one for Inkscape) or a digital practice manual (Like the one titled “How To Bypass Censorship”) this one will not have a solid rational task to bounce off of. Beyond that, throwing “futures” into the mix makes our concrete collaborative basis even thinner.

None of us know what format we will choose but all of us come with a pretty extensive experience in collaborative work so I definitely expect it to be insightful. Some of the themes I would be interested in exploring are:

  • Bridging between “sharing” and “collaboration”
  • Possible lessons from code revision technologies (like SVN vs. GIT)
  • The boundries of networked productions (like the challenges to open source design)
  • Networking beyond enemy lines – when “collaboration” is a bad word (in the Israeli/Palestinian context it is often interchangable with treason)
  • What can we learn from Haiti?

Ahhh… thousands more are comin up as I write this… but my plane is about to leave so I’d better publish before I leave NY (writing this on my phone… hard!)

Last thing: This project is open to collaborations beyond the 6 of us, we will publish how to contribute and help probably on Tuesday morning.

Last call… more updates to follow…

The Red Squirrel of Britain (Sciurus vulgaris)

The Red Squirrel of Britain (Sciurus vulgaris)

Here are one-sheet descriptions of the proposals I made for Northumberland, that came out of my research residency in June 2009 at ISIS Arts in Newcastle.

There are three proposals:  a street food cart serving invasive species; a garden feeder in human form; and an animated diptych. In addition, I have proposed a banquet of edible invasive species set on the high moors, pleine aire, in reformation style.


Animation test clips:


test swf excerpt from Friends + Enemies

PeaceLove sez, "The beautiful Wilkinson residence in Portland is a really swanky pad for superrich Hobbits. I haz major wantage."

Located on a flag lot, a steep sloping grade provided the opportunity to bring the main level of the house into the tree canopy to evoke the feeling of being in a tree house. A lover of music, the client wanted a house that not only became part of the natural landscape but also addressed the flow of music. This house evades the mechanics of the camera; it is difficult to capture the way the interior space flows seamlessly through to the exterior. One must actually stroll through the house to grasp its complexities and its connection to the exterior. One example is a natural wood ceiling, floating on curved laminated wood beams, passing through a generous glass wall which wraps around the main living room.

Wilkinson Residence

(Thanks, Peacelove!)

The following is a technique relating to Wintersowing. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Wintersowing is a method of starting seeds for your garden.   No need for complicated light setups or heat mats or any of the bother that starting seeds indoors using traditional methods is usually ass...
By: MonteJC

Pt 2437

West Broad and Alps Bus Stop by Christopher Fennell... via .

The Bus Shelter is made from 3 old school buses, years: 62, 72 and 77. The seat is from one of Atlanta's decommissioned city buses.

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Italy's Berlusconi regime, already known around the world as an enemy of
free speech and popular access to the tools of communication, has now
floated a proposal to require Italians to get an "uploader's license" in order
to put any "moving pictures" on the Internet. The government claims that
this is required as part of the EU's product placement disclosure rules, which
is about as ridiculous assertion as I've heard this month.

"The decree subjects the transmission of images on the Web to rules typical of television and requires prior ministerial authorization, with an incredible limitation on the way the Internet currently functions," opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Paolo Gentiloni told the press conference.

Article 4 of the decree specifies that the dissemination over the Internet "of moving pictures, whether or not accompanied by sound," requires ministerial authorization. Critics say it will therefore apply to the Web sites of newspapers, to IPTV and to mobile TV, obliging them to take on the same status as television broadcasters.

"Italy joins the club of the censors, together with China, Iran and North Korea," said Gentiloni's party colleague Vincenzo Vita...

"It's the Berlusconi method: Kill your potential enemies while they are small. That's why anyone doing Web TV -- even from their attic at home -- must get ministerial approval and fulfill a host of other bureaucratic obligations," Gilioli wrote. He said the government was also keen to restrict the uncontrollable circulation of information over the Internet to preserve its monopoly over television news.

Proposed Web video restrictions cause outrage in Italy

(Thanks, Sal!)

(Image: Manifestazione No Berlusconi Day Cartello in piazza a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Il Foro Giornale's photostream)