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I am going through my things tagged “to blog” and this one seems timely. In June of 2008 the CRUMB list was dedicated to a discussion of collaboration. I wrote a long post in response to a post by Steve Lambert, in which he argued that there were multiple forms of collaboration: Master and Apprentice; Collaboration with leadership roles; Totally balanced collaboration (which he admits probably doesn’t ever really exist. He also points out that

The thing is, I don’t think there has to be openness to the outside world. Collaboration ≠ openness. There’s probably people working collaboratively on some weapon at Lockheed Martin or Lawrence Livermore right now that is classified and worked on in secret. The spouses of the engineers have no idea what they do at work. But there are probably great collaborations happening behind closed doors protected by armed checkpoints.

As I get ready for the FLOSSify 1: Digital Foundations event at Eyebeam next weekend, I’m thinking a lot about collaboration, structuring participation, authorship and credit, and team building. So I think it is relevant to revisit some of the things I wrote in my CRUMB post

So here it is, in its entirety, balanced hierarchy for better and faster work:

I am going to talk about a couple of things. One of which is a response to Steve’s post about modes of collaboration. But ultimately the question I think I am answering is “Why Openness?” and also “Why Collaborate?” And my answer is “Faster and Better.”

I am working on a number of projects, almost all of involve working with other people. I work with other people because i have found it is the best way to get the most things done. The best projects happen the fastest when you work with other people. That sounds kind of puerile, but I am quite serious.

The way I work with other people ranges accross the spectrum of working styles Steve has described. I want to point out that the Master and Apprentice, Collaboration with Leadership Roles, and Totally Balanced Collaboration are part of a continuum of collaboration ranging across differing levels of *hierarchy*.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that Hierarchy & Leadership *is* ultimately necessary when people are working together in a significant scale (more than two or three). Even the Park Slope Food Coop, which is my personal paradigm of a successful communal and collaborative organization, has four levels of hierarchy (shift worker, squad leader, coordinator, general coordinator). I see a number of large scale open source projects run out of the OpenLab, and ultimately it comes down to one or two project leaders, who have the vision, the mad skillz, and the enormous time commitment to *organize* the other collaborators. These roles *can* shift over time. This is true for software work and RL work.

I want to describe one of the group-work models I use: I work with two to four student-assistants who are definitely apprenticing under me; they know exactly why they are working with me: they learn TONS and get to contribute to real projects in significant ways. Role-wise I am the creative/technical director who works out ideas with them, and then they are given wide latitude to execute. They return to me with drafts, we discuss, they make revisions. It is often the first time they have been given responsibility for such a large creative project, and they rise to the occasion. Put another way: they have the passwords to all of my FTP accounts. Trust is an important part of collaboration. To suggest that this is a non-hierarchical collaboration would be false, but to suggest that this is not a collaboration would also be false. We are constantly creating things through working together that neither one of us would come up with alone. So Steve, I am going going call it collaboration, and not just b/c I want to feel better about myself esteem (*kisses*)(LOL)

I have also many times attempted to do the perfect-collaboration-where-everyone-has-the-same-responsibility-and-does-the-same-work-and-gets-the-same-credit. _it_doesn’t_work_. someone always flakes out. someone one’s skills are always more labor intensive, or more needed in each project. someone is always too bossy or controlling. nothing is perfect. utopia is the land that does not exist. that is just the way it goes.

One of my favorite instances of a utopian attempt to do this was made by a feminist art collective I knew (and loved) in grad school: when they edited video all three to four of them would sit in the edit lab and edit the video together. sometimes someone on the keyboard, and a different person on the mouse. beautifully poetic utopian attempt to create perfect collaborative balance. two problems: at the time one of them was much better at the software than the others, and ended up doing most of the work (despite the others’ presence at the computer). AND it was phenomenally inefficient: to my knowledge most of their incredible video is still unedited.

Which brings me to my most successful collaboration to date, and also brings me back around to this idea of “openness” and why I work with others to do better work faster. xtine burrough ( and I are writing a design textbook called “Digital Foundations: An Intro to Media Design”. It will be published by AIGA Design Press late this Fall, and already up online here (yikes!):,3110,0321555988,00.html The book integrates the visual principles of the Bauhaus Basic Course into Adobe design software training. In my life as a professor of media art I do a lot of hands on lab based teaching, where I have to teach students how to use the tools so that they can express their ideas. There are no good textbooks to do this with — they are all corporate training manuals without any visual principles or historical perspective, but with a mind-numbing amount of bad design examples (drop shadows and outer-glow anyone?).

So xtine and I decided to write the one *we* and our peers wanted to use.

Here is where openness and the principles of creative commons come to make it happen better and faster. Many of these things are conventional for a open source project, but not for a book or design project:

1. We are using only public domain and creative commons licensed images in our examples. We did a fair amount of research, and realized that our image costs would be larger than the entire budget for our book ( So we turned to the public domain and creative commons for our examples:

2. We have secured the first Creative Commons license from Peachpit/Pearson. (CC+, BY-NC-SA) We don’t actually have the contract signed yet (LOL) but we do have the go-ahead. This is huge. Not just as a symbolic marker of the acceptance of ‘openness’ in the proprietary media world, but b/c of what it allows us to do. Remember: Better and Faster

(nb: we did get it in writing, and it is on the “copyright page” of the book)

3. What we can do with CC // Better and Faster: Though the book is only half written(!) we are already planning with Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals ( to translate the book into Open Source. “Translate into Open Source?” you ask…? Yes, translate the core exercises from Photoshop to GIMP, from Illustrator to InkScape, etc. And then, we’ll translate those translations into the growing set of languages that FLOSS Manuals are working in. Imagine: Josef Alber’s color exercises as a means of explaining how to use the color picker in InkScape… in Farsi. This is openness because it is Better and Faster.

4. In fact we have an entire chapter (#2) which talks about Creative Commons, Fair Use, and openness. Find another intro textbook that does that!

5. We have been blogging the writing of the book ( to share our research and process. Comments become a key component of judging feedback. Expect a post on “How to get a CC license from your publisher” We share our findings, and others have provided immediate feedback.

6. We are writing the book on a WIki ( so that we can write collaboratively and incorporate feedback directly. This has already had direct positive results.

So, to recap, for me it is about Better and Faster. Openness is a faster route to better work. There are lots of ways of doing it, but I do think that as much as they pretend pure openness, successful OS projects all have hierarchy.

Faster and Better,


I’ll have drawings at Glowlab for the month of February and be the gallery Thursday night February 5th so come by and say hello.

Glowlounge Flyer

Glowlounge: 4 Weeks of New Works, Artist Talks and Late Nights

As Glowlab settles into our new SoHo location, we return to our roots in interactive and participatory artwork with Glowlounge, an exhibition modeled on our original salon-style events that took place in Williamsburg from 2003 to 2005. Glowlounge acts as a platform for artists and the public to connect in an informal, creative setting to view and talk about art, social change and progressive approaches to urban living. Past Glowlounge events have featured cultural change agents including Swoon, Flash Mobs creator Bill Wasik and more.

Shaking up the traditional art world model of the month-long-show-with-opening-reception, Glowlounge opts to evolve over the course of four weeks. Each Thursday night we’ll stay open late with a changing selection of artworks and participating artists in attendance to discuss their projects with our guests. These nighttime lounges will have limited capacity, and reservations may be secured via email to rsvp @ The exhibition will also be on view during our regular gallery hours.

Glowlounge brings long-time Glowlab collaborators Steve Lambert, Sal Randolph and Lee Walton together with current gallery artists CutUp, Beka Goedde, Heather L. Johnson, David Kesting, Roberto Mollá and Mark Price. We’ll also introduce works by Paloma Crousillat, Pablo Helguera, Emily Henretta, Brian Leo, Casey Porn, Tod Seelie and additional artists as the show unfolds in an environment of chance and discovery.

As Gallery Director Christina Ray describes, “We launched this series almost six years ago and it sparked so much exciting conversation and collaboration within our community. We really look forward to bringing it back now.” In the spirit of a true “lab” experiment, Glowlounge offers a continuous opportunity for artists and the public to engage in dialogue and explore the convergence of art, technology and the urban environment.

I’m starting a residency in mid-february at Eyebeam Atelier in NYC. There, I’m going to be working on a project called OMG, I’m on TV. ( spell out O. M. G. when you say it. It rolls off yr tongue better;)

This is an attempt to create a pirate TV station that will go live and analog TV goes dead on June 12th, 2009. But more importantly is the video content, which will be generated by page scraping the internet based on curated code. Through a web interfaces users will be able to select content to be shown the following day. In an abstract sense, this website will act as media aggregator, where people and submit url’s, feeds, and scripts that will curate content of the station. An example might be a script that gathers all of the most commented videos on youtube with the tag “mowing the lawn”, for the youtube show between 7-8pm or the Sunday night movie that will be selected based on the most torrented film of the week. fun…

I installed some new and in-progress work for studio visits. The test installation helped me figure out how to put the work in the gallery, what goes with what, and what doesn’t, and fine tune those details. This is the first time I’ve made objects in nearly 10 years.

It also allowed me to invite in a number of friends, curators, and gallerists who provided some insightful feedback, asked some interesting questions, and generally started conversations outside of the one going on in my head.

All of these works are produced with the laser cutter. The drawings are BFK Rives paper cut at a very low power setting. The cut books are more complicated in their production; we have to secure the book, and cut through about 60 pages at a time. A video is coming soon.

A full set of images here. Here are a small selection:





February 16th 2009 - Tangible and Embedded Interaction - University of Cambridge - UK

This may be totally obvs to y’all, but i just realized I need to be adding my flickr imgs to *pools*

I added six laser cut images and six bright bike images late last night

here’s an image of how that affected traffic:

MAKE pool results

MAKE pool results

plus it got blogged (again)

anyway, lesson learned. lesson shared.

Digital Foundations In Print

Wanna FLOSS?

We are FLOSSing Digital Foundations next weekend. We need help, and we want to do it *together.* We need people of all levels, from the GIMP guru, to the Ubuntu n00b to test it all.

Digital Foundations uses formal exercises of the Bauhaus to teach design software. It was written for the Adobe Creative Suite, but on Feb 6, 7, 8 we are going to translate it to FLOSS apps with Adam Hyde of For more on the book, and why this translation is so important, see the description below.

We are trying ot get people to register via Facebook

And to sign up on the wiki with their potential role

I hope to see you there. And I hope you can spread the word. By the end of the weekend, we’ll have the first decent primer in FLOSS software!


FLOSSIFY 1 : Digital Foundations

For a long time educational courses have been cheap marketing for proprietary software companies. Can a student really afford all those expensive softwares required by the courses? No. Ever hear of a software company kicking up a fuss because students are using ‘unofficial’ versions? Well, it does happen but not often. And why not? Because proprietary software companies know, as the universities know, that once the students leave their training they will be indoctrinated with those tools and simply slipstream into being paid up proprietary software citizens. Simply put, unlicensed software used in education is tolerated because it is cheap marketing.

This is how tools become ‘industry standards’.

FLOSS Manuals is fighting this flow by converting textbooks that use proprietary software to using free software in their examples.

We call this process “FLOSSify”. We convert the book from closed software to Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) hence we ‘FLOSSify’ the book.

Our first text book is the wonderful Digital Foundations book produced by Michael Mandiberg and xtine burrough ( Its a text book designed to teach software by teaching design. The current toolset it uses is the Adobe Creative Suite and we will convert these examples entirely to using free software.

Not only have the authors given the kind permission to go ahead with this, they originated the idea and approached FLOSS Manuals to be involved. We are very happy to get behind this initiative and work with the authors to create a fantastic text book promoting the use of Free and Open Source Software within design courses.

FLOSSIFY 1 : Digital Foundations will focus on a fun 3 day event at Eyebeam, NYC. Anyone is welcome to attend and some food and beer will be provided. Come and meet some of your old geek friends, make some new, and help make a step towards unshackling education from proprietary

FLOSSIFY 1 : Digital Foundations
Eyebeam, NYC
RSVP here
Feb 6-8
starts 10ish
finishes when we are done
fast connection, a table, some chairs, and beer and food provided
540 W. 21st Street, (between 10th and 11th Avenues)
New York, NY 10011

Tel. 212.937.6580 Fax: 212.937.6582


Oz Etzioni’s Unrecyclable logo won the Eco-Vis Design Challenge last (last?) year. He recently made the image available under a Creative Commons license.

We made a couple hundred of these for the exhibition, and they were gone on the first day. Now you can make your own. if someone gets some printed, send me some c/o Eyebeam!

I had been wondering about this. The NY Government paid for it, so it should theoretically be the property of the so-called people, but they are busy suing other people for using it. Milton Glaser did it pro bono. Oh, copyright…

New York officials show no mercy in their bid to protect the “I ♥ New York” logo. The trademark, supplied free of charge by graphic designer Milton Glaser in 1976, helps beckon 140 million tourists to the Empire State each year. As others tried to tap the design over the years, state legal eagles have filed close to 3,000 trademark objections.