When you hear someone utter the word “unprecedented”, you can be sure they are just filling up space and have no intellectual sensibility to offer you. Plagues have happened before. What hasn’t happened is a plague affecting us. How dare it do that. A plague in the Information Age isn’t even unprecedented. In fact it has happened, it just didn’t affect us as a whole, only a subset. Now that each and every one of is affected suddenly it becomes unprecedented, but the thing is why does precedent even matter. Who cares. Shut up.
We are smarter and more connected now. We should have known better. We should have done better, but the status quo and path of least resistance is a great impediment. Sometimes when things change and we think wasn’t it great back then, how do we recapture that? You don’t, it’s gone, move on. Overcome the differences. Things will never be the same again, and that is ok. This new world will be better.
I hope I shall not return to normal too soon.
Remember the before times? There were Yahoo groups and Geocities and other search engines. People didn’t mind standing next to each other in line. Before that was another time, we talked on the phone more and radio waves didn’t fry our brains. Drugs did that, and it was just fine. Now we just drink wine, and a lot of it is good wine. There are some real craftsmen out there. And women, I’d use a non-gender specific term if English had one. Artisan. There are some real artisans out there. That is better. I found the word by looking for the Chinese translation of “craftsman”. I suppose you could say “craftsperson” as well.
The epidemic will pass and we will be stronger because of it. Those of us that didn’t die that is. The economy will recover. We will recover. The world will be better and more prepared for something like this in the future. If we spend to much time trying to imagine what that future will look like, we will be like the character in Philip K. Dick’s story “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” and not be able to accept it when gets here. If we try to move too fast we won’t like the time-line we are on any more than the one we have been on. Maybe there is some way we can jump back on to the right time-line from here?
If there is one person I will listen to about this, it’s Annalee Newitz, she is one of the artisans out there:
You know that thing they say on the airlines, if the oxygen mask comes down be sure to affix it to your self before trying to help others. That is how I feel sometimes, I’m trying to breathe. I need to be able to breath before doing something else, before working on something. Tonight I got that fresh air from Max Richter’s music. Admiring his craft, it reminded me of my brush with another great artist recently.
Last weekend my wife and I were visiting the Auckland Art Gallery and just happened to walk in as a talk was finishing up on a new installation. Nathan Coley’s piece, “A Place Beyond Belief”. I sat there as the audience asked some questions, contemplating the light bulbs spelling out this enigmatic phrase. I couldn’t get out of my mind the theory I recalled by McLuhan about the electric light being pure information, unless it is used to spell something. I went and looked that up again.
“The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it is, unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name”
I wasn’t suggesting that the art was not pure, or that the message was not pure. If anything I think Coley turned this idea on it’s head for me, and here is an example of purifying something in electric light.
I wasn’t really wanting to get a selfie, but I was holding my phone in my hand, and Nathan seemed amiable to the idea so I thought why not, it would be a good way to get close to him and try to tell him these thoughts. He even pulled me over to the side more so we could get the whole text in better. We took the selfie and I told him my thoughts about McLuhan, but other people crowded in and he did not seem interested in discussing the thought any further. I hope he didn’t think I was criticizing the piece, far from it, I was, and am very impressed by it. And proud of the shameless selfie I have to show for it. We drifted away and looked at other parts of the gallery but I felt like I had already gotten what I came for. Although I didn’t really get it, and now that I know more about the inspiration behind this work of art, I still have questions about what the message really is. But that is what good art does, it doesn’t answer your questions, it just causes more questions.
So my document storage solution at the moment turned out to be this. Mostly because putting documents and things into a flat bed scanner, waiting for the slow scan to complete, saving and then uploading the file is too time consuming, too cumbersome. It makes sense to just scan things with your phone. I’m not completely happy with the solution, of course I have to use a proprietary tool in this workflow at the moment, need to do more resource on any Free/Libre Open Source tools out there for document scanning, there must be some. So I will need to work on that part of the process. For now at least Adobe is a software company I remotely trust and recognize, where there are a lot of dodgy Android scanning apps out there. Let’s look here:
I was surprised I didn’t have f-droid installed on my regular phone but after allowing software to be installed from three new applications I now have Fdroid, OpenNoteScanner, and something called OpenCV installed. I have an old phone where I’m experimenting w/ using LineageOS and f-droid so there is another hand scanner I can use to work with these apps. For now though I’m stuck w/ using the Adobe app and on Android for reliability sake, but someday maybe I’ll be using an all Open stack for this activity.
Installing NextCloud turned out to be a snap. An Ubuntu Snap that is, which is some sort of containerized packaging thing they are doing now, and a good guide here:
So that was easy to get up and running on an Ubuntu VM, but we will see how maintaining it in the long term goes. NextCloud provides the android app where I can transfer the scans into my own personal storage. I’m kind of worried about where the documents go after Adobe scans them in, I haven’t actually found where they are stored on the phone, but there is a convenient shortcut to share a copy of the file with the NextCloud app. It might not be the best solution, this is not the end of this quest, but at least I have something to work with now.
I am one of those people. A haphazard collector of everything from scraps of paper found in the street to bits of broken computers. Ok, maybe I am not picking up scraps of paper in the street very often, I mean unless they look very interesting, but I do have a bit of a hoarder mentality. I once had a file cabinet full of zines and papers and things that I found interesting and wanted to save or preserve in some way. I particularly remember a one page poem with some crude drawings I found laying around a school I was going to back in Chicago, Columbia College, oh this was around 1994 I suppose, that I’ve lost over the years and sometimes wish that I had a scan of it. I just remember the crude drawing of a gun in one part of it, and the poem, I had not read anything similar to it before at that time. It had this sort of hip hop poetry slam kind of rhythm to it. I can’t remember any of it now, but the image and the feeling of it remain. I guess that is what makes a good poem, even though you can’t remember the words the feeling and the meaning of it remain. Really I can’t tell you the meaning of it, other than it meant something to me. Something about youth and hustling and trying to “make it” maybe.
Time is marching on though, I am certainly beyond trying to “make it”. There is nothing to be made. I am here in this place, my home. I have made it. Now I just have to keep it. Keep it over my head until I die, I suppose. I remember those English lessons, to avoid using the word I, but that was before they invented blogs. So shut up English teacher whose name I can’t remember now.
I happened to notice a post on twitter by a person active on the Internet these many years, an inspiration to me and many others especially if you happen to be a Librarian and/or, I want to say Internet Rights advocate? Is that a thing? Well she has a Wikipedia page:
Which made me reminisce about one of the first times I encountered Jessamyn on the Internet. She was writing on some forgotten web platform, really I can’t remember what it was now, maybe blogger? She mentioned an exhibit at the Chicago Public Library on Jorge Luis Borges. I would not have been aware of the exhibit if it were not for her web post mentioning it, and this was long before twitter. When was it?
Well, fortunately I had a way to find out, since one of the things I can remember from that exhibit was a drawing of a tiger that Borges had made as a child. Similar to the “Dream Tigers” piece itself, I can still visualise that crude drawing, me who can’t remember the brow or the face of a woman… heh, I am writing that from memory it’s from the poem, well prose piece, I guess you would call it. Anyway I had purchased a first edition copy of the 1964 edition of Dreamtigers on eBay around the same time, possibly after seeing the exhibit. I stuck the brochure from the exhibit in that book. I have lost, given and sold many of my possessions over the past 20 years, relocated half way around the world, but that book is one thing I will always hang on to. So now I know it was late 2001, September/November, when I went to that exhibit Jessamyn informed me of. I uploaded a scan of the brochure to the Internet Archive now:
Hopefully there are no copyright infringements in me uploading that w/ out the CPL’s permission, I mean I wouldn’t think so, nor do I care really. I just think it’s nice that now you can pop in a query for “Jorge Luis Borges Chicago Public Library” on the Internet Archive and see that brochure now. I don’t know how to put a license on the document, I just left that field blank, but they were giving it away for free so I figure it is in the public domain somehow.
So anyway, there have been so many things I have lost over the years, but that is not one of them and now I have preserved it in some way. There are a lot of other things I would like to digitize in my life. From shopping receipts, bills and other personal documents to art and zines I’ve collected over the years. I used to trade zines, not that much, but occasionally over the years. Many I have lost but some I still hang on to. I’d like to digitize them for myself, and I don’t want to tread on anyone’s copyright, so I’m looking for a self hosted document management software solution for myself. Not to expose on the public Internet. Hosted on a Linux virtual server somewhere. I don’t have to create a list here that I’m looking at, other people have done that already:
I have already used and even tested out a local install of Alfresco on an old laptop and it worked for me. Running your document management on 8 year old laptop w/ a single SATA drive is not a good idea, and it did indeed fail eventually, so now I am ready to setup the application on a virtual server hosted in cloud running on some redundant hardware. I already have a server setup and running a Java application, the open source RSS reader Commafeed, which I have been using and keeping updated for many years, so with a bit more resources I’m sure I could fit Alfresco on there as well. It looks like kind of a bear to maintain, but I’m sure I could manage it. Looking at the alternatives to Alfresco though the licensing and Django based platform of Mayan EDMS is very attractive though, so I am considering giving that a spin as well. It’s just then I have to adapt to managing another “stack” and I really don’t want to. But I should really learn me some Django, so there is that.
And there are many others. But like in the case of this brochure I uploaded to the Internet Archive, I’m thinking about this flow chart, something like:
Is item scanable? Scan it.
Is item probably in the public domain? Upload it to the Internet Archive. Or somewhere like that.
Is item personal? Upload to document manager not on the public Internet.
Yadda yadda. Well there, I wrote something. If I have more time I will report on progress. But I think at least I have narrowed down my document management solution to two things.
I have been wanting to go to this event for sometime, having lived in Wellington for nearly a decade now. The cost to attend is not insignificant and other things have always come up to prevent us from selecting this entertainment option. Last year we were saving for a trip to Europe, and previous years similar circumstances or alternative events prevented us from attending. The day finally arrived though and it was a beautiful day and we headed down to the water front intent on visiting the art exhibit at Te Papa before having dinner and taking in the show. We hopped on the train early in the afternoon and after a coffee decided to stop at the portrait gallery which is along the way. We were introduced to the life work of Jacqueline Fahey.
I had visited the Te Papa new(ish) installation the “Finaled: Bouquet” and the amazing Godon Walters exhibit earlier in the week while attending Nethui. I knew my wife would enjoy it as well, and we had fun taking selfies in front of the installation.
We had recently been to the City art gallery where we learned about Theo Schoon so caught the references there to his friend.
Finally my thoughts about WOW. Wow. It didn’t start of so well because I was annoyed with the band playing Michael Jackson tunes. Obviously they did not get the brief that his music, while being something most people enjoy myself included, is not the greatest thing to throw out there in public any more. I guess they did not get the finding neverland brief. I quite enjoy the early Jackson 5 music, but finding the more modern stuff a bit gross now after watching that movie. Maybe I’m a prude but enjoy the perverts music on your own time. Consider how people who have had similar abuse experiences may react to hearing that music, and the associations it may bring.
Then I realized I had purchased a program and had to go running around from my seat which was like the highest most furthest point from the small kiosk on the bottom floor which was the only place you could redeem your prepaid program coupon. So I had go running around the congested arena and get back to my seat minutes before the show started. Then of course the first thing I did when the show started was spill my nearly full plastic cup of wine all over my program and my pants. And I think I missed the first few moments drying myself off.
After that everything was splendid though. I love the abstract, drifting almost narrative creativity of it all. There is a stage and the human body as a canvas and some great craft weaving magic.
There were a lot of wonderful people there. It was nice to talk with them, but mostly I listened.
The focus was on inclusion and providing a safe space online. There were a lot of things said at the conference that will stick with me, but if I had to pull one out of the air right now it was something Pakeeza Rashid said when making the point that the Internet is an extension of ourselves, of our society and of our world.
Thinking about building an inclusive Internet is really how do you build and inclusive society? Full stop.
Which kind of encapsulates how I feel about the whole thing. I know some things need to be censored they are harmful. I choose not to watch them, even though I know how to circumvent most censorship. So making them more inaccessible for the unwary is certainly good work. Harmful behaviours like bullying online need some more controls. At the end of the day we can not stop people putting ugly and hateful things online. We can’t stop people from saying and doing bad things in “real” life. But we have to try and the work needs to be done in both places.
So thinking about this and thinking about the call for action points, I can’t get over this feeling that a better Internet starts by talking together. By working together. But where can we do that?
Taking some inspiration from Greta Thunberg in a session on “building a sustainable Internet” it occurred to me some area where I might be able to contribute in some small way. We broke into three small groups to cover these topics:
I joined the group thinking about Ewaste since I have some fair amount of experience with this topic.
Memories of the days I have spent volunteering at community technology centres, helping to build computer hubs, lugging heavy CRT monitors onto the backs of trucks to ship off for recycling and generally being knee deep in eWaste came back to me.
I guess it was the low energy “Tamatea Kai Ariki” moon Amber Craig mentioned that put me in this mood. Certainly with the calls for action I hear what she was saying about wanting to plan a meeting like this during a more active moon phase, but the time for reflection worked for me.
I don’t want to say it’s the solution Wellington needs right now, and for certain it’s only a small part of the equation, but I would really like to work on a community technology centre project again. Unfortunately I know the effort involved, and it is quite a daunting proposition, but on a day like this forgive me for being optimistic.
I do support one kind of community technology centre already, a small computer hub provided by and organisation that has another primary mission. This is different though, I’m talking about a full blown physical community centre that exists in it’s own right. This is the place where I feel I need to make a stand, and begin looking for a group of people who would like to start an organisation like this:
Whose primary mission is to create a community around the problem of Ewaste. I’m familiar with the similar computer refurbishing projects out there, but they do not have at their core the spirit which Free Geek brings to the community. Just copying the mission statement from the website:
Free Geek’s mission is to sustainably reuse technology, enable digital access, and provide education to create a community that empowers people to realize their potential
FREE GEEK mission statement
This is what I would like to be involved with. It doesn’t necessarily need to be called Free Geek or be affiliated with the mothership, nor follow their activities exactly but I’m looking for the core ingredients. A non-hierarchal governance body. Some clued in funders. A diverse group of hard working, possibly insanely passionate organisers ready to lay the groundwork for a safe, inclusive and accessible physical environment to create a community around technology. An inclusive technology. It hardly needs to be mentioned that it will be focused around Free and Open source software that is just part of the platform.
So where do we go from here. If you look around the corner anything can happen.
The choice of platform when creating digital art should require some contemplation. The use of commercial software platforms have their place. In some minds that is no place, but in others it is first and foremost. The platform and my perspective is that if you give me the opportunity to contribute, I will use it. Maybe at this time I am too preoccupied to participate, but I want that option and I can at least now use the product of the collective to produce something. Anything.
To honour the efforts of the community who collaborate on these amazing projects only these “Free Open Source Software” platforms are interesting to me. In my perspective the people who are using proprietary software tools are not thinking critically. On the one hand I see they are outcome orientated, only focused on results. Give me the tools to do the job and what process or ideology that put these things into my hand does not matter. The process is so important. The medium is still the message, but now we call the medium the platform. But what is the message. I’ve already stated: I’m not going to use commercial tools, but rather the tools the community provide. This is not a commercial endeavour. This is my free time, and the tools I use will also be “Free”. For whatever it is worth, and at this stage to the onlooker it may seem very little. Oh but it is precious. So very precious.
So much to do and learn in the time that is left to me. Develop an art practice. Writing. Research. Work, work, work. There is so much to do and not enough time. Speaking of time, I spent an inordinate amount of with Pocket Paint today just removing some white edges where the fill tolerance was not low or high enough on this image today, based on the character for xiàng:
I played with two other colour palettes before arriving at some green that felt right. Why spend time on these childlike primitive drawings? Is that what you think? Maybe it is maybe it isn’t. I did spend time on this. I made this, it didn’t exist before I made it. And then it only existed on one very old tablet computer in some memory and on an old sd card recycled from some former phone. Now it’s uploaded to a webserver stored on some replicated storage and cached in a few browsers now. If you viewed it then it’s cached again somewhere else. The image exists and has a life of it’s own now, and I created it. If that is not some form of art I don’t know what is. See you down the road.
Someone asked on Twitter, why are the facists winning? I guess because they are gerks. And most of us have apathy. Things are going good, why change? This machine might not kill facists, but it certainly does not like them. They are in the system somewhere and we can at least try to avoid them.