Is The Future Forked?! On Rob Myers’s cryptocurrency-sci-fi

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Feb 20th, 2017

DOWNLOAD BAD SHIBE BY ROB MYERS HERE with illustrations by Lina Theodorou

Such future. Very crypto. Much catastrophe. Wow.

Bad Shibe is published as the Internet of information (the World Wide Web) is being superseded as the next big thing by the Internet of value and assets (the blockchain). It invites us to imagine what kind of society emerges when a system designed to verify the transfer of digital assets is combined with a world where reputation is based on “followers” and “likes”. It is a tale of loss of innocence, and it is also packed full of good jokes!

Information isn’t what it used to be. Once regarded as an infinite resource and wellspring of universal emancipation, decontextualized information now washes through our societies like toxic waste, glutting electronic superhighways and neuronal byways, and confuzzling global populations. And so, the cryptocurrency evangelist speaks to a present-day yearning for a global system that might provide a trustworthy structure — an economics of information, and an informational economy.

The story deals with the implications of a new wave of fully financialised planetary-scale automation and the struggle to discern right from wrong when human and machine agency merges. It also invites us to think of humans and societies as much as the effects of technology as its beneficiaries.

About the Author

“In a post-truth world, authenticity and accuracy are the twin chambered beating heart of communication” Karla Ptáček, Avatar Body Collision

Rob Myers is an artist, hacker, and writer. For more than two decades his work has probed and clarified the significance to society of practices in expressive and engineering cultures, from the apparently mundane and bureaucratic to the deeply mysterious. Through his artworks, many of which take the form of software, he plays with concepts of art, value, authorship and creation in the age of digital networks. My appreciation of Rob Myers’s oeuvre has developed and intensified over the last decade. And it is no exaggeration to say that his art and writing have made it possible for me to endure the difficulty (and with it sometimes boredom) of learning about the emerging technical protocols of our age that lie beyond the candy coated surfaces of the social web, and the new analytical approaches and techniques for exploring their consequences.

Bad Shibe is typical of his work in many ways. The text is packed with delicious references and jokes that derive from high, low and pop cultures; from art, literature and computer science; from “maximally pre” and since-net. It is simultaneously high art and high geek. Its time-of-writing is encoded in every utterance of its characters, the topics of their conversations, and the structure of their grammar and syntax.

World Shibe Web

“My mouth goes “Ew!” and my face is totally onboard with that.” – YS is disgusted by the Salesbro’s display of antique money.

Bad Shibe is a meditation on the emergence of ideologies propounded and executed by an elite of technical experts who are also free market believers. YS lives in a post-gender, post-fiat (government backed) money era in which tweens work in orchards to pay for school.- YS is a little wrapped up in themselves and gives a running commentary of their every action, in a way reminiscent of MUDs and MOOs – early virtual worlds in which you write your world, relationships, and passage through them into existence. In the tradition of some of the best dystopian literature (by for instance Russell Holborn, Kathy Acker) the mode of language is fundamental to its worlding. The categories of speaking, thinking, intending and acting overlap for YS in ways that conventional language doesn’t allow. This overlapping affects how bodies, beliefs and consciences work in this future anarchic higgledipiggle of dustbowl landscapes, green shield stamps, milk crates, apples, wraps, blue hair, drones, phones and 3D printers, and a city that resembles circuits. A symbolic world as much as a material one.

Concepts of sin, illegality, hazard, faith and social embarrassment are interchangeable for YS – a confusion that plays out in subtle yet profound ways in the story. It is also possible YS is not entirely in control of their phone and is able to affect the world in ways they have not yet understood. The narrative is powered by a surge of jealousy which causes YS to doubt the integrity of the reputation market that is their whole world, and to feel bad.

Bad conscience: the 3000+ year old innovation of city dwelling priesthoods that enabled the masses to internalise the techniques of their own oppression now mediated through the Panopticon conceived by enlightenment utilitarianism guru Jeremy Bentham, and the Netopticon via which corporations and states are able to track and monitor our every action online. The Netopticon 2.0 dramatised in Bad Shibe institutes the 360 degree all-dimensional, all-perspectival review, analysis, critique and management of the algorithmic citizen by the algorithmic citizen. As a result, the entanglement of emotional, legal and financial relations is complete. In the near now of Bad Shibe, morality is reduced to what is provable (YS tells us “the market doesn’t care about motivation”), in the service of the market, on the blockchain, and therefore it is forever.

Some readers might like some background on cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, with which the speculations of Bad Shibe concern themselves.

What do we need to know about cryptocurrencies and blockchains?

“Pups love AreWeThereYet, but it’s just a game. It’s the underlying currency protocol and the analytics overtop that matter..” – UnoY

A cryptocurrency is digital, but it can be used and exchanged like other currencies. The “crypto” bit refers to the techniques used to prevent counterfeiting and maintain its security. Bitcoin, the leading example of cryptocurrency was launched by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, just as, and in part perhaps because (there is evidence to suggest) the banks were being bailed out by government with taxpayers’ money. Cryptocurrencies are not issued by a central authority like a country, nor controlled by a central bank. Instead, their value and use as an exchange medium is reached by consensus between its users using blockchain technology. In cyptocurrency, trust in the mathematics of cryptography and the fairness of market forces replaces trust in people and institutions.

The value of a cryptocurrency is set by market supply and demand, just as with gold or silver. Hard metals derive their value from scarcity and the difficulty of extraction, with cryptocurrencies the only difficulty is computational, the only scarcity by design. Miners’ machines run software that uses processing power and lots of energy to compete for coins. To mine new coins, these computers periodically gather up a “block” of new transactions from across the network and then race to solve a difficult mathematical puzzle for that block. The winner is said to have successfully mined the block, granting them ownership of the freshly minted coins and any transaction fees paid by users.

This new block incorporates a reference to the previously mined block (represented by its “cryptographic hash” ID number), and joins a sequential, unmovable chain of blocks. The security and stability of a blockchain is maintained because all users hold a record of every transaction made. Because each new block takes so much computational power to mine, it very quickly becomes prohibitively expensive to hack the currency.

The blockchain solves the longstanding computer science problem of the (delightfully named) Byzantine Generals: “How do I prove that the payment I have received can be honoured, in order that I may release my asset to the payee?”

The initial advertised benefits of cryptocurrencies (there are lots of altcoins now all with slightly different features) included the lack of interference by states and banks, the “trusted third parties” Nakamoto’s white paper, required in all solutions to the Byzantine Generals problem; the low cost of payment processing (compared with wire transfers); and the ability of its underpinning blockchain technology to provide infrastructure connecting transactional apparatus to secure votes and shares holdings. Because of the anonymity of transfers, Bitcoin is also said to have facilitated money laundering, the trading of illicit goods and nefarious services such as assassination markets.

What do we need to know about Dogecoin?

Dogecoin is a real world altcoin, from which the near-future society of Bad Shibe seems to have evolved. It’s not hard to see why Myers would chose this lovable altcoin at the basis for his story.

Dogecoin launched in December 2013 as a joke cryptocurrency based on a dog meme. The central design of the crypto-token is the enchanting face of the shiba inu puppy which exudes trusting, playful positivity. It says “WOW” and is encircled by the words “very currency wow much coin how money so crypto plz mine v rich” in the delightful meme based language of Doge, so satisfying for joking. And as Brett Scott writes:

The Doge is a figure without ego, with cross-cultural, cross-gender, and yes, even cross-species appeal. We can all get something from the gaze of the Shibu. This is reflected in the resultant community that has emerged around Dogecoin, people who refer to themselves as ‘shibes’ and give each other gifts of Doge. While the Bitcoin subreddit has turned into a moshpit of aggressive trolling, Dogecoin forums feel inclusive and accepting, cohering around a surreal world of esoteric slogans and acts of goodwill.

The Dogecoin currency is “dug” at high frequency, for low financial value. Users both express and inspire generosity, through extravagant tipping, showing their appreciation, or admiration of others. This proved to be a remarkably successful community building strategy. In 2014 (at the time that Myers was writing Bad Shibe) the fiat-value of the currency blew up unexpectedly, and by January it had achieved a market capitalisation of $60million. Shibes adopted the phrase “going to the moon!”, which originated with Bitcoin, using it ironically to describe the coin’s rising value (making everyone holding it rich)

Two years is a long time in Doge years

Rob Myers wrote Bad Shibe in 2014. Since 2013 blockchain-based platforms like Ethereum have been under development to enable software programmes known as “smart contracts” to perform actions and administer capital across digital networks without human user verification. The result is Decentralized Autonomous Organisations, and Applications (DAOs and DAPPs), that act like computer viruses with wallets in their pockets. They have ambiguous legal status, and therefore operate outside of government regulation. While this is one of the main attractions to people whose political complexion we might describe as anarcho-capitalist and who ask “what has regulation ever done for us?”, there is growing concern about the impact of these technologies. As Dr Catherine Mulligan puts it “The redefinition of society will happen in smart contracts and these kind of places unless the law courts are actively ensuring that people aren’t getting disenfranchised” and the worry is that society is being restructured by a small unrepresentative group of technocrats while “it’s something that everyone needs to participate in – the discussion about society and economy and also governance, how we rule ourselves.”

Bad Shibe explores a number of threats to a society operating on the logic and infrastructure of cryptocurrency systems, smart contracts and DAOs and anticipates “The DAO hack” of 2016. The software fork that followed was highly controversial and split the community in a moment reminiscent of the theological schisms of medieval Christianity. Breaking with one of the core tenets of blockchain ideology, that all actions on the blockchain are immutable and sit forever and into eternity outwith potentially corrupting human influence, it prompted a true crisis of faith in the blockchain community. It is also the subject of one of the best jokes in Bad Shibe (look out for the Claes Oldenberg reference).

Some final thoughts

Bad Shibe is fiction based in fact.

It helps us to feel our way around some of the consequences of the global infrastructure under construction. This is conceived by one blockchain start-up, BackFeed as “a social operating system that enables massive open-source collaboration without central organisation” for a world free from the tiresome daily deliberations, discussions and negotiations of both ethics and politics. One in which we could avoid all conflict (from the horrors of war to blushes of social embarrassment) simply by hard-wiring social softwares for justice and good manners. In this universe the only limits we face are to our powers of imagination, innovation, organisation and coordination. We could do away with the need for trust, by creating and maintaining a shared open record of all actions and transactions, and mechanising all incentives and punishments, from now to eternity. A universal, decentralised and frictionless infrastructure to facilitate the productive forces of free markets – to satisfy every desire of every shibe?

Ruth Catlow February 2017

Exhibiting Networking the Unseen at Furtherfield

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Jun 25th, 2016
Gretta Louw and Jampijimpa Patrick in the Yama installation. Photo by Pau Ros

Gretta Louw and Jampijimpa Patrick in the Yama installation. Photo by Pau Ros

Last Friday we opened an exhibition curated by Gretta Louw, and featuring Yama, an installation she has made in collaboration with Neil Jupurrurla Cook, the Artistic Director of the Warnayaka Art Centre, along with other artists and members of the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu, in Central Australia.

Networking the Unseen is the first exhibition of its kind to focus on the intersection of indigenous cultures and zeitgeist digital practices in contemporary art. While digital networks manifest physically as tonnes of cabling, and electrical or electronic devices, the social and cultural impacts of the networks remain somehow invisible, eroding clearly felt boundaries of geography, place, culture and language.

With the Warnayaka Art Centre, over 4 or 5 years Gretta has formed an extraordinary artistic bridge. The Yama installation is delicious, respectful, bold and provocative, in the face of social, political and environmental stress, and an exchange fraught with potential ethical and etiquett-ical bear-traps.

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Yama installation at Furtherfield Gallery. Photo by Michael Erglis

The exhibition also features work by 5 other Australian artists of diverse heritages: Lily Hibberd, Brook Andrew, Curtis Taylor, Jenny Fraser, Sharon Nampijinpa Anderson.

On Saturday Gretta led a tour of the exhibition. Then Warlpiri educator Steve Jampijimpa Patrick talked about the work in the context of the five pillars of Warlpiri culture. You can watch the short video that he showed here.

The discussion of “so called technology” pursued questions of: cultural continuity, churn and loss; in contrast with stories said to pre-date humans; medium-message relations (McLuhan-stylee); the opportunities and threats of openness and sharing in amongst the global flows of capital in the network age.

I noticed as Jampijimpa drew in the sand, how his drawing resonated with the network diagrams that have informed and shaped our work at Furtherfield for the last 20 years, our understanding of the importance of connectedness and especially our DIWO campaign.

Furtherfield DIWO w Warnayaka

The Warnayaka logo incorporated into our new DIWO graphic.

I cannot properly convey the full impact that these meetings and events are having on me and the other people who have attended. It is unfolding slowly, in unexpected ways. Yama, is a Warlpiri word translates as ‘reflection’- sky to land, inward to outward, shadow falling from object across another object. I will write more with more reflections as they arise and as I talk to others.

I urge you to see the exhibition if you can, which is open every weekend until August 14th.

Me and Gretta Louw. I am wearing a costume from  Brook Andrew's 'The Cell'

Me with Gretta Louw. I am wearing a costume from Brook Andrew’s ‘The Cell’. Photo is by Michael Erglis

 

My name is […] and I am an Accelerationist

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Apr 30th, 2016
My name is […] and I am an Accelerationist

April-May 2017 we hosted an online debate at Furtherfield called We Need to Talk about Accelerationism “Back in 2013 Alex Williams…

Blog: Art and the Blockchain

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Apr 22nd, 2016

I recently participated in the Blockchain Beyond Fintech event at the Digital Catapult in London.

I was invited to give a “firestarter” talk in the middle of the day, to introduce a different perspective on the potentials for the blockchain.

I also wrote a blog for the event about how artists are using blockchain technologies and why it is important.

“As the underpinning technology for Bitcoin, the blockchain is widely heralded as the new internet. Alex Puig, CEO of the Digital Currency Summit, calls it the “Internet of Value”.

The blockchain is a decentralised infrastructure for automating, monitoring and verifying transactions, and this promises to facilitate the monetisation and marketisation of all things networked. It is no surprise then that the sponsor of the most recent Ethereum London Meetup was speaking to the room when he said, “We can make finance great again!”

While the technical protocol is now well described, conversations about blockchain’s transformative potential beyond FinTech are yet to attract the same level of debate and development within other sectors – let alone connect with a wider public. This is a problem because technologies develop to reflect the interests of those who develop them. Artists can help here.”
Read more

Time Is Speeding Up

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Jan 31st, 2016
Time Is Speeding Up

I’m just back from Scunthorpe, where I have been installing/performing a new networked video piece at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre…

Situating the Digital Commons. A conversation between Ruth Catlow and Tim Waterman

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Oct 29th, 2015
Situating the Digital Commons. A conversation between Ruth Catlow and Tim Waterman

The negotiation of the commons takes place in two distinct realms that are increasingly reaching into and shaping one another:…

Funding culture- Fire! Fire!

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Aug 2nd, 2015


Last week I attended the NESTA Rethinking Parks event here in London.

Abandon Normal Devices and Metal took the day by storm. Their projects were surprising, provocative and moving and have grown out of extended periods of experimentation with artists. This is the kind of work that points to future art forms and experiences for as yet unformed audiences. Both organisations are funded by Arts Council England as National Portfolio Organisations.

Also present were a number of companies and people offering new systems and approaches for place-based mobile donations and crowd funding for parks and culture. These are offered as an antidote to “austerity”, to provide alternatives to public funding. They appear to raise more money when they promise novelty but within established forms. They are also shown to have most success when they are able to harness a moment of emotional intensity. And so the fire at Battersea Arts Centre is described as a unique fundraising opportunity.

With the ever-present threat of cuts to public subsidies, the elements of the cultural ecology under most stress are, on the one hand, those that support the maintenance of valued public infrastructures like parks, and on the other, the kind of artistic experimentation that cannot be preceded by a business or marketing plan because it cannot yet be described or storified, and because the audience does not yet exist. If Tim Berners Lee had had to justify his invention of the hyperlink with a business case, or in terms of a “brilliant idea” for diverse audiences we would not have the world wide web.

Back in 2009 Marc Garrett and I wrote about Feral Trade Cafe an exhibition that was also a working cafe, by Kate Rich. It served edible goods, traded across social networks, and was visited by traditional arts audiences, alongside long distance truck drivers (delivering raw materials to our neighbouring warehouses) and local residents, including the growing community of artists and musicians in Haringey at the time. Rich’s artist-crafted database made visible the politics and social relations at play across the international network of distributors and couriers. “While the work is not a design, formula or practical, alternative business model (either for an artwork or a café) for mass adoption, it can be considered an ecological system for ‘mass diffusion of intellect'” [1] This last phrase came via Michel Bauwens at the P2P Foundation, who continues to promote commons culture in the network age as a way to engage people in different ways of sensing, operating and valuing the world.

Organisations and groups with the ability to nurture practices and outcomes that reach beyond established and (as yet) marketable forms, return great value to the public by offering joyfully grounded experiences that allow new ways of thinking, feeling (and so acting) to emerge for different kinds of people. In this way they generate diverse and lively ecologies of new ideas, occupations and values that are crucial to democratic, social and material renewal.

It works against the interests of arts, and cultural and social innovation to have to constantly be calling “Fire! Fire!” in order to sustain this work.

[1] see here Do It With Others – No Ecology Without Social Ecology

Transhumanists and Vampires

Category : blogging · No Comments · by May 28th, 2015

My friend David has become interested in Transhumanism – especially its quest to stall the aging process and to allow individuals to achieve immortality.

He told me that, at a recent party of the Transhumanist Party, doubt about the imminence of future immortality for humans was regarded as a great joke. I responded with an off the cuff remark about vampires. He asked me about it in an email and this is what I said…

Vampires are undead, living for ever, feeding on the life-essence of living creatures.

Transhumanists focus on how immortality could be achieved through technological enhancement or manipulation of human biology. The body is envisaged as a vehicle for, or obstacle to, the particular individual’s eternal will-to-power.

Less attention or thought is given to evolution of societal, psychological or ecological systems, were such ‘advances’ to be made available to all humans. Unless we ban birth, these would have to be coupled with a plan for a massive programme of space travel and interplanetary colonisation, to avoid a concomittant clogging up of the earth with aging human souls. (It turns out that space travel is one strand of the Transhumanist project that I wasn’t aware of).

Bram Stoker’s vampires are descended from violent overlords who feed on the life-blood of the local peasants (until they travel to Whitby to feast on the English middle classes).

The Transhuman vision is emerging from the centres of Western (and mainly white and male) knowledge and power. It hardly considers the potential cost to the mass of human and other life-forms and is necessarily a vision for the birth of a new hyper-elite (think Count Dracula and vampire descendents) whose survival is prioritised over all others.

This transhuman/vampire outlives their family, generations of human lovers and friends (while they can still be bothered with humans)- the transhuman may outlive their body. Human temporality and spatiality becomes alien to them- the passing of the seasons, human love, everything but the hungry, survival of the individual becomes irrelevant.

100 Women of P2P: Interview

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Mar 28th, 2015

I am honoured to be included in this list of 100 Women Who Are Co-Creating the P2P Society, a collaboration of Penny Travlou, Stacco Troncoso and Michel Bauwens, at the Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives (now open to larger input).

Earlier this month I was interviewed by Penny Travlou for the project here.

Penny Travlou: Dear Ruth, tell us something about your general background and what Furtherfield is about?

Ruth Catlow: In the mid-90s, the web changed for ever what it meant to be an artist. Before that I worked as a sculptor, on my own in my studio, to make objects that sat in designated art spaces, or homes. People could walk around them in galleries, sometimes touch them, understand their scale in relation to their own bodily scale. If I wanted to live as a sculptor I would need to work with an agent or gallery, to circulate work, to get it out of my studio. This was more true of sculpture even than painting because they took up so much space. In the the London Brit Art scene that took off at the same time, the agencies, galleries and media for circulating and promoting art, determined the relationship between the viewer/audience and art experience in a way that restricted what it was possible to do- and who could access it. The art market framed the work.

Around this time New York artist duo MTTA famously made ‘A Simple Net Art Diagram’ in which a lightning bolt strikes in the space between two computers with the header ‘The Art Happens Here’. The computers stood in for people. The art happens between people. The network, taken as a medium and context for art, pointed to the relationship between those creating, viewing, appreciating and questioning art as the focus for attention (in a way suggested by the intermedia approaches of Fluxus artists in the 70s). It connected people across different localities. It’s users made software (instructions, protocols and tools), and files and network content available for circulation and remix as artistic materials in a whole new way. They built platforms and systems for sharing and exchanging these on their own terms.

I met Marc Garrett, an artist with a background in street art, bulletin boards and pirate radio in Bristol. Backspace, an early London cybercafe provided the inspiration for loosely organised, free artistic experimentation. It’s hard to imagine now, in the age of web2.0 (where the major web platforms are provided to offer a smooth exchange, to facilitate commercial interests) the thrill of creating new platforms for art to engage different kinds of people according to artistic intent; where the platform or artware conciously crafted particular social relations.[1] These things, connected with cultures of openness and freedom in the world of software and engineering, and took the focus away from the idea of the individual genius artist, connecting us back with contemporary social and political contexts.[2]

Furtherfield grew out of this context and is an online community, gallery and lab space for arts technology and social change. This video, created by Orlagh Woods by Artquest gives a pretty full description of what we are doing at the moment and why.

Our mission now is to work with extraordinary artists, techies and activists – locally, nationally and internationally; to develop experimental spaces, platforms and programmes; for creative collaboration and peer production of emancipated, thriving communities.

PT: Could you tell us what the Furtherfield Commons is? When did it start? What kind of projects does it involve? How do you link Furtherfield Commons with the nearby local communities?

RC: Furtherfield Commons opened last year in Finsbury Park, North London as a community lab space, for more diverse people to learn more about digital culture; to learn how to work with new technologies on their own terms; to better understand the devices in their hands, on their clothes, in their lines of sight etc; to demystify and open up the black box of technology. Furtherfield Gallery has been based in the heart of the park since 2012 (before this Furtherfield hosted 3-5 exhibitions since 2004 in a warehouse gallery called HTTP). These venues in a metropolitan public space enable us to engage a hyper-diverse public with the work of artists from an international community. Digital culture is changing society: the way we relate to each other; how power flows and politics is done; shaping environmental stresses. And artists help us to feel and evaluate these societal shifts. By presenting the work of artists who focus on these effects, and then talking with audiences and participants, we learn what matters to people and our visitors are often surprised to be addressed in this way by artists.

With Furtherfield Commons we also want to experiment with how a commons might work for an arts and technology led organisation. Discussions of the commons often (unhelpfully) centre around how to manage and share scarce resources – materals, knowledge, praxis – and get stuck on questions of ownership, fairness etc. However for us, at least as an important aspect of the commons, is how, together, we can imagine, devise, maintain and steward, places, infrastructures, systems and communities for a good life for more diverse people and all living things.

When our consumer culture invites us to constantly outsource responsibility for these activities and knowledges, we hope that the events and programmes we host at Furtherfield Commons, in partnership with a network of thoughtful and critical individuals and organsations, will help more people to imagine that a good life is the business of us all.

We link with nearby local communities by connecting with a range of local enthusiasms, interests and needs; working in partnership with educational and criticial technology groups like Fossbox and Codasign we are able to offer accessible activities for young people and those not normally involved with technology. In collaboration with artist and game theorist, Dr Mary Flanagan we have developed Play Your Place, to bring people together to co-create shared visions of their locality through drawing and play. Last year we hosted a series of Class Wargames events inspired by the Situationist Guy Debord’s Game of War. People gathered to play boardgames based on historic battles, in order to learn about and develop revolutionary strategies and tactics from history. We are also developing partnerships with local arts organisations like All Change Arts who have long had their roots in the area, developing extraordinary work with those who might otherwise be excluded from the arts. Last year before the commons opened we worked with Bright Sparks , an electrical recycling and community design enterprise on a co-created, network performance about the impact of e-waste, as part of Helen Varley Jamieson’s We Have A Situation, with 5 European organisations looking at local issues with a global impact. We plan to build on these this year with the upcoming Sex and Security workshops with Fossbox. The Museum of Contemporary Commodities by artist, Paula Crutchlow (Blind Ditch) and cultural geographer Dr Ian Cook (of Followthethings.com) looks at trade justice and how data uses shape our physical spaces and social relations. We are also planning Summer Saturday club for 600 young people and their guardians over the next two years. We will work with partners to devise and share new ways to learn about the principles of programming through artistic concepts and approaches drawing on the ethos of the 70s art school.

We are always interested in new proposals for uses for the space.

PT: Could you please tell us a bit more about your concept DIWO (Do-It-With-Others)? How relevant is it to the ‘commons’ and the ‘peer-to-peer’ values?

RC: We coined the term DIWO – Do It With Others in 2006 to extend the DIY(Do It Yourself) ethos of early net art. This was inspired by punk, in which you used the instruments and bare-bones skills you could muster, to bash out culture on your own terms. DIWO consciously adopted a collaborative approach, using the web as an experimental artistic medium and distribution system to reach people in unusual ways and to foment grass-roots creativity and solidarity.

Applying the principles of earlier Mail Art projects- designed to sidestep artworked gatekeeping and heirarchy – we instigated two E-Mail art projects. “Peers connect, communicate and collaborate, creating controversies, structures and a shared grass roots culture, through both digital online networks and physical environments.”[3]

Participants worked across time zones and geographic and cultural distances with digital images, audio, text, code and software. They created streams of art-data, art-surveillance, instructions and proposals in relay, producing multiple threads and mash-ups. Co-curated using VOIP and webcams the exhibition at HTTP Gallery displayed all contributions in a projected email inbox, alongside an installation of prints of every image, and a running copy of every video and audio file submitted. Every submission was considered an artwork – or part of a larger, collective artwork – for the DIWO project.

From these early events a set of DIWO principles have emerged. It’s DIWO if it:-

  • Uses the metaphors, tools, cultures and processes of digital & physical networks.
  • Is led by experimental artistic processes rather than utilitarian or theoretical concerns.
  • Disrupts traditional hierarchies and concepts of ownership working with decentralized peer 2 peer practices.
  • Involves diverse participants (unwitting and active collaborators), ideas and social ecologies.
  • Generates unruly and provocative relationships between symbolic meanings and material effects.
  • Co-creates the conditions for a more emancipated art context for more and more diverse people.

The DIWO resource here gives more information and links to projects and essays

PT: What is the future vision of Furtherfield? What’s next for the long term?

RC: We have had the good fortune to grow up alongside an international network of individuals and organisations of critical practitioners, thinkers and doers. Our next 3 year programme (of exhibitions, workshops, debates) sets out to properly engage with the social, environmental, financial challenges of our times. We will be actively seeking partners to develop emancipatory cultural infrastructures and projects viable and effective within the Neoliberal context.

Our vision is that through imaginative and critical engagement with practices in art and technology, more and more diverse people strengthen the expressive and democratic potential of our shared techno-social landscape, on their own terms.

Which brings us to the launch of The Netartizens Project. A month of artistic collaboration, exhibition & discussion with 3 flavours of online participation. This runs from March 2 – April 2, 2015 and is a Furtherfield project created in collaobraion with Nick Briz & Joseph Yølk Chiocchi as part of the Art of Networked Practice | Online Symposium.

We invite all artists, scholars, educators, and citizens of the Net to explore, express, and debate the role of the network in our individual and collective practices. Artists are also invited to submit work to the NetArtizens Open Online Exhibition, an evolving showcase of works submitted between March 2 – April 2, 2015. All project activity, questions and issues will be incorporated into the culminating virtual roundtable global exchange.

Questions of environment and economies are going to become crucial. In their introduction to issue #76 of MDC magazine We Grow Money, We Eat Money, We Shit Money, co-editors Shu Lea Cheang and Annick Rivoire write “Money, value, monetary exchange… These concepts have long been excluded from the field of new media, as if the Internet and Net Art were emancipated from these issues, living not on love and fresh water but on silicon and bits, living in a utopia of collective intelligence detached from economic constraints.” I relate to this. It points to a familiar naiveté that is at once, moving, and that is starting to feel inexcusable and unsustainable. MCD #76 provides a survey of theories of finance, and alternative arts inspired currencies (including distributed cryptocurrencies) that demonstrates how this issue is coming to the fore and starting to attract the imaginative and strategic thinking of those, with better minds than mine, who understand how markets and finance work, and who value the role of artists in the ecology of our societies. This is certainly stuff that we are starting to grapple with at Furtherfield. It requires real tenacity and focus as well as an old fashioned sense of trust and solidarity between netartizens.

[1] For instance in 2003 we created with Neil Jenkins, VisitorsStudio; an online place for real-time, multi-user mixing, collaborative creation, many to many dialogue and networked performance and play. This was a social, multilayered space that provided a site for projects such as Dissention Convention in which a collaborative polemic could be simultaneously created, viewed and remixed in different locations around the world.

[2] In 2011 we worked with Rob Myers and Charlotte Frost to produce Collaboration and Freedom – The World of Open Source Art– a collection of artworks, texts and resources about freedom and openness in the arts, in the age of the Internet. Freedom to collaborate – to use, modify and redistribute ideas, artworks, experiences, media and tools. Openness to the ideas and contributions of others, and new ways of organising and making decisions together. This was commissioned by Arts Council England and is mirrored at the Foundation for P2P Alternatives

[3] Original DIWO Email Art Call Out

The Internet Is Here

Category : blogging · No Comments · by Mar 18th, 2015

The Internet is Here: Warms

The Internet is disappearing – from our screens into our stuff.

To try to think about it I have created 9 triptychs. A small start.

The central image is always a drawing made from observation of a thing I own, (including 2 drawings of screen shots of video calls (which are now a feature of my daily life)).

The left and right hand images are the results of two searches made using Google on 17th March 2015.

  • On the left is an image which is the result of a word search, based on an action ascribed to the thing drawn. This word is also the title of each triptych e.g. the first triptych is called ‘Warms’ because a my jumper warms me.
  • The right hand image is the result of a search using Google’s image matching function. You upload an image and it finds images that are visually similar.

And I am thinking harder now about what it will mean for art that we can now make so many different kinds of “things” act as the collection point for different kinds of sense data- heat, pressure, acceleration, radiation, tilt, sound, light, electric charge etc- and then use those same devices to redistribute the data in newly wrangled (as yet unknown) forms.

This emerging “Internet of Things” underpins torrents of rhetoric (from politicians, big-business and entrepreneurland) about all manner of things which are getting “smarter” as a result of these developments: homes, cities, shopping.

I’m interested in how they might also help people, communities, organisations, institutions to get smarter. And whether smarter is the right priority. Perhaps we need our homes, cities and shopping to be more equitable, loving, critical, philosophical, cooperative and wise.