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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  April 2008

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING April 2008

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Subject:

Re: Open source first steps

From:

aymeric mansoux <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

aymeric mansoux <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 19:44:27 +0100

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Hi Beryl,

> Thanks Aymeric for a very good and focused question - it's something
> I've been wondering about myself for a long time, and I should say up
> front that I don't think I have the answer, but have been unpicking some
> examples that might come close.
>
> So, as you say, only projects which are about a group of people
> producing something usable (like software) over period of time, using
> the _production methods_ of Open Source would come anywhere close, which
> kind of rules out examples like performance art, happenings, etc.

Well it doesn't have to be usable, but yes, if we want to build a
theory on this, or just attempt to analyze things such as FLOSS,
we need to be quite strict on how things are defined to limit
miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Of course, the downside effect of trying to define this as precisely as
possible will then lead to only spend time listing special cases and
prevent any form of theoretical unification.

This is particularly true for areas like this one, which are obviously
transdisciplinary and where conflicts of definition/interpretation are
due to happen depending from which point of view things are defined
(economical, artistic, political, social, technical...).

However, no matter how difficult it can be, it is in my opinion very
important to take time to merge or separate some of these definitions, as
the announced openness varies greatly from one field to another.

If we want to build up something that makes sense in terms of
philosophical openness, we need first to focus on the structure (which
seems contradictory for openness).

In that respect, http://freedomdefined.org/ is a good example of this
effort, while at the same time it shows the complexity of doing so even when
things are narrowed down as much as possible. (the discussions tabs of
the site are very interesting in terms of witnessing the process).


> So, examples where groups of people produce things (not necessarily
> software) with degrees of openness of the source code, such as recipe
> sharing and adapting recipes for food might work to a certain degree,
> and I like the parallels that actually sometime recipes are guarded
> secrets, and there is still competitive behaviour and hierarchy of
> expertise involved, just like programmers. And, too many cooks spoil
> the broth. However, the parallel breaks down at a certain point, because
> cooks are not actually taking somebody's actual cake, and changing the
> ingredients, because by that time it is already cooked and can't be
> dismantled.

The recipe parallel is interesting because it shows the difficulty and
limitation of using metaphors to describe one area with the lingo of
another.
But there are some similarities that cannot be ignored. In your example I
think the "secret recipe" part is really on topic.

For example, If you look at the evolution of early digital art in the
demoscene, the aesthetic is really evolving block by block to the point
where one could separate them in terms of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, ...,
generations. This was due to the fact that this aesthetic was heavily
relying on "hacks" that were kept secret. The software being
distributed as a binary, it was not easy to reverse engineer the hack
and that would allow a programmer and his group a bit of fame for a
while. Until the hack was found or he/she decided to release the code
and as a consequence allow other groups to reach a similar level... until
another hack was found etc...

Some years ago some groups decided to start releasing the source code of
their demos, and while it is still not today a common practice, it had the
immediate consequence to boost the aesthetic evolution of these creations
and encourage others to do the same.

There are many more examples that could be similar in other fields,
starting with alchemy turning into science, once it decided to leave the
worlds of secrecy.


To come back to the initial question, I do not think FLOSS per se can
be a model for anything else but FLOSS, but, there is, on another level
of abstraction, something which is common to many fields and that should
be simply called openness.

And from the community point of view, concepts such as circularity,
p2p, distributed, mesh, ad-hoc and such are much more likely to help
understanding new ways of working and sharing than focusing on open
source models which are mostly relying on meritocracy and the governance
of code.


> So, maybe the closest thing would be a genuinely collectively produced
> (not interactive, not participative, but collectively produced) piece of
> art, where the methods of production were public, and equally
> understood, would come close, but these things are rare, and the group
> would usually be very small. And I can't think of an example ..... any
> ideas?

In terms of software art I do believe, this might happen in a near future.
We haven't reached yet the critical mass of
<artists>programmers</artists> to make it possible (although I would not
be surprised if something has been already tried).

A similar thing which could be really interesting then, is the branching
and forking of such an art.




Best

a.

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