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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  May 2008

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING May 2008

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Subject:

Re: Open source

From:

marc garrett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

marc garrett <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 10 May 2008 23:11:26 +0100

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Thanks Beryl and all,

I have been so frustrated and have been teased by the discussion on here 
lately, but to busy to contribute.

So I'll use this moment to put my penny's worth into the mix.



 >So, is there a balance to be struck between 'the tyranny of 
structureless' and the tyranny of the matchmaker?

Oh Beryl - I'm sure there is 'a balance to be struck between 'the 
tyranny of structureless' and the tyranny of the matchmaker'.

Yet, at the same time this will not work for others, because it does not 
necessarily suit their remit, circumstance or political belief.

I really do feel that if we try to control things too much we may always 
be disappointed and constantly distracted with the activity of running 
after things because they do not fit into the desired shape, conception 
of pre-perceived realisations. Thus one could end up wondering why they 
bothered to chase those various uncontrollable factors in the first 
place and if it was really worth the hassle?

For me, Node.London - the 2006 festival was worth the hassle. And some 
of the questions raised in regard to 'structurelessness' are 
contextually valid. As you mention, we did try to be as open as 
possible. Information was shared in various ways, most of it was 
accessible on-line through a wiki, or the web site, or a list. This is 
still happening now. Whether people had the time to read this 
information is definitely an issue. I know that us at furtherfield were 
already deeply involved in other projects, not just our gallery but also 
with on-line communities and projects as well. So, Node.London nearly 
killed us because it took so much of our energies, and you would find 
that many others had a similar experience.

 >If I can gently steer you back to the theme of open source and open 
systems,

In respect of my own experience with open source, I find that it does 
demand an awful lot of learning time and it always has done. I use open 
source more for my own personal art projects, such as diwologue.net. Yet 
at the same time because I work at the HTTP Gallery and we have artists 
who use propriotorial software for their works in the shows, as well as 
well as those who use open source; it is better functionally to have 3 
different operating systems available. 
I admire groups like access space in Sheffield who have decided to go 
the whole way in setting up a Linux network and run all computers as 
Lunix, also Cubecinema in Bristol has. I would love to have all our 
machines set up as Linux in our space (in fact, 4 of them are), we have 
a linux network that all operating systems are connected to at the 
space. We have various people working with who use other operating 
systems, and thought that it was a bit preachy to impose new systems and 
language on them, when they have so many other things to do. Having said 
this, it may change. We do use and encourage the use of open source 
applications on all of the computers such as open.office, gimp and many 
more...

Open source to some is a state of mind, a state of being and is as 
important as using it. To be reliant on paying for Proprietory based 
software puts one in the situation as consumer rather than sharing and 
engaging in a progressive thinking and critical culture that is 
proposing an evolution beyond capitalist mechanisms alone. The irony of 
this is that, many of the open source developers themselves are working 
for companies who are extreme in their capitalist ventures anyway, and 
this is usually not a well discussed theme in its own right - so to 
imagine a pure separation from capitalist systems could be considered as 
not totally honest, perhaps it could be seen to be not acknowledging 
certain real life situations and workings in the world, that we all are 
part of larger capitalist society - whether we acknowledge it or not. 
Having said this, there is no reason why we should not challenge these 
structures at the same time as using the open source technology provided 
and shared.

Open systems:

I personally advocate open systems as long as they clearly manage to 
reflect the state and shared will of those in a specific environment in 
a manner which is serving those who experience it positively. I think 
that the context of why one is releasing (potentially) important 
information needs to be considered as well. Sometimes just doing it 
could be irresponsible if one is not conscious of why one is doing it. 
Secrets are sometimes necessary, not because they hold power over others 
but because sometimes a particular circumstance may not warrant others 
knowing about conditions relating to an individual or group that is of a 
sensitive or personal nature, when information about them is shared it 
may harm them.

So an open system could be introduced when it brings about the breaking 
through of gluts, clots of control within those environments that 
actively impose unnecessary states of stress on others, due to a few 
individuals accumulating power over others via unethical processes. To 
define what is unethical, of course has to be assessed in accordance not 
only to the needs of the organisation but in relation to external 
factors beyond of what is being question outside these limiting 
structures. From my experience 'the tyranny of structureless' does not 
have to only apply to those who are exploring open systems but also 
organisations that already have official structures in place. Such as 
many higher education institutions who have such bad management that the 
staff who work for these institutions are unable to concentrate on 
actually teaching because the framework that they work in is so 
oppressive, or certain individuals impose a dominant and sadistic 
attitude to other staff and students, but management are too slow or too 
lazy to deal with it.

I know of some individuals who advocate open systems of working who are 
teaching in educational systems who also forcibly spout their dedication 
toward open systems and all things free, who yet at the same time are 
extremely exploitative and psychologically controlling to peer staff and 
students, bullying everyone and getting away with it most of the time, 
because they are in positions of power. Open systems of working, need to 
be put in place which function to challenge the bad management within 
these environments in question letting this happen, it is urgently 
needed. Also, such questionable behaviours, makes one think that we need 
to expand these ideas of open systems into a more realistic form of 
everyday practice as part of life. Yes, include it in art and theory but 
let some of it out into the daylight, not keep clinging to the abstract 
alone, so to allows others to gain something substantially useful out of 
discussions such as this.

Just one note, to feed back to the mentioned problems of Node.London - I 
noticed that those who were used to and interested in collaboration 
gained an awful lot out of the festival, whether it be through 
connecting with others or sharing ideas to make something happen. It did 
seem that those who were more used to having structures in place working 
for them, as in not having to deal with discussing ideas around working 
with others or building an infrastructure, did have trouble in working 
with its demands. In fact, this lead to certain individuals not being so 
involved and probably feeling left out - whether they were curators or 
artists. Again, it is about what one really wants from being involved in 
such a project and how it fits your own remit. Of course, Node.London 
did not abide to the principles of one curator, or individual voice, or 
a singular concept or theme. This actually confused and frustrated some 
of these infividuals in respect of what the focus was really about. 
Which is fair enough.

What seemed to work regarding openness for node.london was actually 
quite radical in some ways because it broke down the divisions of power 
in respect of who had a voice in media arts itself, and institutions 
were offered a connection to know and meet more groups and artists to 
work with them beyond the old social order of media art cliques. In the 
end it expanded the field, and to be honest made room for up and coming 
and other organisations artists who had previously been ignored. In my 
books, that is an open system even though not a perfect mechanism of 
product, more a process of social change:-)

wishing all well.

marc
http://www.furtherfield.org

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