transience and media consumption.

I've recently gone through a birthday, a move, and my last undergraduate exams, so things have been a little scattered in the broken gent world, of late. What I'm finding interesting is the change in my habits that has come with less ease, and less personalisation, in my media consumption.

Put simply, when I lived in a tiny room, in a house filled with university students, I was online constantly, never behind on my RSS items, speedy with response to emails, and generally as active as is reasonably in online life. This is apparently something that those who know me had grown accustomed to, as I'm not unfamiliar with being mocked for always being online, and to responding to links and forwards with 'saw that last week'. I'm an information junkie, and the way I use my time is inarguably a response to that.

Moving, and having wrecked the wireless card of my semi-functional PC, means that I've become a tech nomad, using my parents machines, only being online when sitting at a desk, and reducing myself to binges on information when I can find the time. It baffles me that I've gone from waiting for RSS items to appear and devouring them, to having hundreds piled up by the time I get to them. This wouldn't be shocking if I was busy, but at the moment I'm doing a credible sloth imitation before I redecorate my space, and begin the job hunt.

What is shocking is that the internet is no less accessible, but the loss of MY machine, MY bookmarks and presets, and MY hard drive has completely changed the way I read, watch, and listen. I suppose this would only come as a surprise to someone like me, who has only been deeply addicted to this lifestyle for the last 4 years, coinciding with my ownership of the same computer. The current situation is a nice window for me into the inadequacy of publicly available terminals for a computer literate society.

This situation, I think, is why there are so many people convinced that one laptop per child is going to be a driving force in the future of Africa. However, there is something interesting that I've noticed. I'm still keeping up with the online section of my life, but at the same time, I'm getting more done (not in terms of blogging or writing, but in terms of physical tasks) as man-without-pc, than I would as man-with-pc.

This was more rambling than intended, my apologies. It's also got me thinking, as someone who has always been desktop bound, how a laptop would change my consumption patterns even more.

[Expect a post about mobile internet access, cell phones, etc, and media consumption shortly.]

[EDIT: Upon reflection, some of the content of the above post could make it seem like I'm against the OLPC (one laptop per child) concept. While I like the idea, part of me wonders whether this is directly beneficial, or whether it is a case of trying to skip ahead in international development and give another society the tools / toys that are arguably essential in ours. Basically, I wonder whether making laptops and ad-hoc networking available to the children of the developing world makes sense at all when in so many cases drinking water and food are in short supply.

It's like giving a drowning man a car. It's nice, but it really isn't going to fix the immediate problem, regardless of how useful it will be if he can get to land.]

domain move.

So, we've moved. As such, I'm not sure what still works, and what's broken. This is mostly a test post.

Carry on with your lives.



[Disclosure: I love the Gorillaz, fictional though they may be. I have all four releases (which should point out the level of obsession, because who digs for dub remix albums that no one else knows exist), two of the dvds, and the book. ]

So, it's all ending. Hopefully it will end with us getting an animated Gorillaz movie, and the score to it, as indicated here, but ending all the same.

I found the theory behind Albarn and Hewlett's experiment more intriguing than the music at first, but only at first. The idea that pop had become so fictional and so false that cartoons were the perfect basis for the music. The idea was held to so strongly in almost all press related to the band, and it was stunning to read the two competing narratives behind the music, the 'actual' one according the the band itself, and the reality.

The amazing thing was how well it worked, at least in my eyes. Not musically, but as a means of distraction from all the other crap that comes with pop music these days. Albarn was already massively famous for his years in Blur, but it felt to a somewhat objective observer that the taking of a step back from the 'role' of artist as pitchman for the music made it all a glorious play, instead of the usual picking apart and tabloid style coverage. Albarn and Hewlett created fake people, fake lives, and did so artfully and intentionally. Murdoc, Noodle, Russell and 2-D are messed up fictional individuals, a mixture of parody and homage for the music worlds stock personalities.

In many ways, I link this to the promotional campaign for Year Zero, the new Nine Inch Nails album. In both cases, one of the elements of the music business that leads to consumers feeling either cynical or irritated, was replaced with something carefully orchestrated to be useful content that people would want to enjoy. Instead of allowing the Entertainment Tonight / US Weekly style media outlets to define the 'creators' of the music, Albarn and Hewlett carefully orchestrated that element of the music experience. Instead of focusing on billboards to generate interest, Nine Inch Nails (and whoever was in charge of the massive game / conspiracy / promotion) created an experience that had the side effect of making people want the music.

I'm going to miss the Gorillaz, because I didn't really care about the actual, I cared about the fictional (and I'm a massive fan of all of Albarn's work, and Hewlett's comics, illustrations, and animation). The brilliance of it was that it wasn't, in my estimation, about managing interest in the real world creators, or minimalising the association of their real world lives with the music, it was another element of the experience created, with beneficial side effects. The care and detail that went into the creation of the Gorillaz characters is why they work so well, and also the proof, to me, that they were created for a loftier purpose than to do some PR heavy lifting.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch the video for El Manana again and again and again.

on my long absence.

I was distracted by finishing undergrad, and as a consequence haven't posted anything in a criminally long time. The most recent post I deleted later on, partially because I'd stopped feeling the way I did in the writing of it, and partially because I realised later that the stances and opinions I was seeing were more of less to be expected given the probably demographic breakdown of the site in question, and social networking sites in general. This is probably impenetrable to those of you who didn't read that post.

Anyways. I've finished university for now, as of yesterday. So, more content coming forthwith.


well said, nothing to add.

Saul Williams responds to statements made by Oprah, and questions asked, about Hip Hop, and the negative behaviours that are often associated with it.

Saul Williams has always impressed me, since I first read some of his work. I'm not a poet, although I've spent far too much time writing about possible meanings, but he gets to the heart of an issue I was dancing at the fringes of.

Art reflects society, I think in a much larger way than society reflects art. Anyways. He says it better, and deeper, and with an eloquence that can shut me up with awe. Go read it. Regardless of your opinions of the musical tradition in question.


artificial everywhere (2)

AVC: You're a very candid interview. You often speak openly in a way that a lot of Hollywood actors won't. Have you had people trying to rein you in?

SL: [...] Sometimes perception is almost more important than the skill level of an actor. [...] So this [Gestures at himself.] is a representative. This is far too important a conversation, it's far too important, for me to be real with you. It's just too important to my career. Too important to the things that I love. So this right here is just this representative I've created, and I can talk all day in this character, this is just another form of acting. It's closer to what I am, but what I am is too much for any kind of selling of a project. There's too much money riding on this interview going well for me to be completely candid. So it's just a creation.

AVC: But even the fact that you're able to talk about that makes you candid.

SL: Right. Well, I don't know, I know where I'm at right now, it's been pretty successful so far, and this is just what I've been doing. I think it would be strange for me to start shutting down. I don't think I'd enjoy it as much.

from the Onion AV Club interview with Shia LaBeouf.

The thing I find most interesting is that the image of him as genuine is persistent enough that when he DIRECTLY STATES that he is not being a real person in this interview, but a construct, the interviewer still feels the need to ask the second question. This reinforces the idea that the perception of LaBeouf as a candid interview is a reasonable one, although the actor himself basically just said 'I am not going to be myself, because this is too important. This is a role.'

I would also ask that you consider the state of the world we live in where admitting that your persona is artificial is responded to with respect. We've come to expect the people we define as notable to manipulate their identity. When are we going to start expecting this on a basic interpersonal level?

Sooner than you think, would be my guess.

artificial everywhere.

If you like good ideas, or comics, or know who Warren Ellis is, take a look at the teaser page of script for his new series Doktor Sleepless that went up today.

Artificiality is showing up everywhere, because I suppose it has become obvious to anyone who's looking that being real is no longer a viable option given the state of modern media.

I am very excited about this book, mostly because Ellis is writing it, but also because I want to read his take on the benefits of being a constructed persona rather than a 'real' person.

[I really need to get back to the Artificials Manifesto.]


weighing in on imus.

I'm not going to ramble on about this for as long as everyone else seems to be willing to, but someone needs to make the obvious point in response to the backlash on the Don Imus debacle.

What I'm reading in the media everywhere is that the real problem isn't radio personalities making racist statements on the air, and that making this a major issue is a waste of time. What I'm hearing instead is that the real problem is in the perpetuation and commodification of sexist and racist attitudes in the Black community, and especially in hip hop music. To be honest, I've never before read 50 Cent's name so many times in a story so tangentially and tenuously related to music.

The difference is, as much as I agree that there is something poisonous in the self-loathing that I think underlies these images and attitudes, in the music world, comparing Imus to a rapper is a bullshit move. What we are discussing is someone directly insulting a group of students with his racist commentary. He was speaking about individuals. That's a little bit different that a song that suggests disrespect for an abstract group (rarely aimed at all black women, and almost never at a specific few for no reason).

And that is ignoring the very obvious point that music isn't the same thing as talk radio. You can complain that The Velvet Underground encouraged drug use with the song 'Heroin', but if you ask me to believe that I should be madder at him than I am at the guy who is telling people directly to use the stuff, I will have a lot of trouble respecting you.

I have many, many problems with the content of much mainstream hip hop. I agree that the reflection of this in Black culture is something that needs to be addressed (and despite constant reports to the contrary, despite your or my opinions on them, Sharpton and Jackson have been addressing this for years, to far less media attention) but at the same time, I think suggesting that it's hypocritical to go after Imus is a little weak. There are cultural issues that need to be addressed, there is no arguing about that. But suggesting that we shouldn't fight racism in the real world, and instead focus on eradicating it from an art form, is similar to the people who believe that it is more important to fight videogame violence than real violence.

When we start blaming the depictions in art for all of the problems in the real world, we effectively tell parents, educators, and real world role models to give up. Saying that it's hypocritical to ignore sexist and racist arts and aggressively fight racist and sexist behaviour in the real world is saying that art and expression should be limited to what is socially acceptable, because people can't separate reality from depictions. Some of the reasoning behind this is surely based on the authenticity that is a part of hip hop music, the emphasis on these depictions being true to life. I get that. Art is not just supposed to show you how to be. Sometimes it shows you the horrors of how we are. This is where other socialising influences are important. I have good parents, and was raised with boundaries in terms of what behavior was acceptable. I've also listened to Clipse's latest album at least a dozen times, and yet I'm not selling crack.

If I was selling crack, would it make more sense to blame me, or the album?

Blaming the music is no different than blaming the xbox, or the movie, or the comic book. Suggesting that holding people accountable for their statements shouldn't have different rules between art and talk radio (which is essentially opinion broadcast wide) is idiocy.

[For transparency's sake, I should point out that I'm half-Black, and not just rambling about a community I have no connection to, or know nothing about.]

[EDIT: I just realised that I may not be clear to readers who don't listen to much hip hop, than the Clipse album is, in large part, about selling drugs. I was in no way suggesting that this is the defining feature of hip hop.]


just because you should see it.

The last post received a long, thoughtful comment by David Mack about the nature of his work.

Read it here, or go look into the comments for the last post.

It leads me to consider whether almost any art form can be considered complete until it has been interacted with by another individual. This will most likely keep me up nights, in the best way. Communication instead of expression. That's something sure to make me smile for a while yet.

Thanks, this made my day.

[EDIT: Link corrected.]


accessibility versus disposability.

I was re-reading a few issues David Mack’s Kabuki the other day, and if you have ever seen anything he’s painted or drawn, you can understand why I had a moment that could be described as an immediate questioning of the definitions and limitations of the standard public definition of 'fine art'. It’s almost impossible for me to describe what reading an issue of Kabuki is like, except to say that it’s beautiful, engaging, and always feels to me like staring directly into innovation as a concept. The man tells stories in a way that seems completely new regardless if an issue or arc is read once or a dozen times. He mixes media, he shifts styles, and, from the one time I spoke to him at a Toronto comics convention, he does it without becoming arrogant, pretentious, or self-important in the least.

While those qualities alone would separate him from the ranks of ‘fine art’ in the eyes on many, many sarcastic people I know, I would assume he also has to deal with at least some level of ghetto-isation based on the vast amount of his work that is in the medium of comics. This raises questions. It can’t be said that any devaluation is an inherent part of created a reproducible work, because otherwise Starlight Over Rhone wouldn’t be considered fine art, as reproductions of it have been sold hundreds of thousands of times, on postcards, posters, prints, etc. This argument could be taken further (and, horrifyingly, I could reference Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art as Mechanical Reproduction) but I’d rather skip ahead to the current state of the artistic image, which is that anything that exists does so in a state of endless reproduction. Welcome to the digital world.

So, reproduction is out. Access into major galleries is circular reasoning at best (it’s not in the Tate because it’s not Art, which I can tell because it isn’t in the Tate), so the next thing to discuss is whether accessibility is a negative trait, and whether it is confused with disposability.

Kabuki (the last issue I bought) retails for $4.25 Canadian. Collections of past issues are readily available at any truly decent comic shop, and back issues are often still available for order. Kabuki is something that can be owned and enjoyed by anyone who reads it. There are original pages, and from what I can tell they can be purchased. The separation is that the reproduced option, the comic itself, is the intended form for consumption. This might be because Mack is a talented artist who just happens to love comics, it may be for specific benefits of the medium (such as being able to create complex and decipherable meanings while making beautiful static images), or it might both and many other things besides. However, this seems to be the point that people feel lets them argue that such a thing isn’t fine art.

I think this ties into the conflation of accessibility and disposability. I make the same mistake, and often drunkenly explain to people that any band who is loved universally has run out of meaningful things to say. This argument falls apart with the example of the Beatles, who were both insanely commercially successful, and unquestionably of artistic merit. Graphic art has different rules, however. Gallery art, where there is a single ‘true’ piece, fulfills needs of exclusivity and scarcity. There is only one Starlight Over Rhone, and everything else is a copy. The intended form of the painting is only the painting, reproductions are merely that. But a comic book is different. The original art is part of the process of creating the mass material. A comic is, more often than not, a universally accessible work of art, one that many can own, experience, and interpret. What confuses me is the assumption that because something is available and accessible, it must therefore be disposable. The assumption that because nearly anyone in North American society who cares to look can own an issue of Kabuki, it is somehow diminished in value, suggests that ‘fine art’ is not a concern of meaning, ability, or quality, but instead that meaning, like taste, is directly attached to having something others cannot. That ‘great’ artworks are those which only one person can own, attach to themselves as a statement of worth, and then loan to galleries in a gesture of generosity crossed with self-adoration.

I guess, at the end of it, I was re-reading issues of Kabuki, and I suddenly found it very depressing that David Mack’s work could be dismissed by anyone because of his choice of an accessible, available medium, with characteristics that no other has. I do, however, think that the commodification of visual art has lead to a situation where, beyond the confusion of comics as a genre, rather than a medium, there is brilliant work that melds both visual art and story seamlessly, which isn’t getting the recognition it deserves.

Then again, people are still complaining about Damien Hirst, so I suppose definitions of art are even tighter than the idea of exclusivity and scarcity.

[EDIT: David Mack's own thoughts are in the comment thread. Read them, and understand the intention of the artist rather than my own somewhat clumsy ramblings.]

explaining the last post.

1) Definition inherently involves limitation. If a definition crosses cultural or linguistic borders, there remains a limitation of possible meanings. (as in, blue will never equal yellow, if explained properly. Cultural gaps might make blue violet or indigo, but never yellow.)

2) The creating culture of a concept defines it. If that concept is introduced into another culture, that culture will only create an isotope of the original meaning, it will not create something related, but different entirely in explanation. (A culture only exposed to the western concept of time, before a separate one is developed, will not conceive of a meaning of time in which things do not move in a linear fashion, excepting insanely unlikely circumstances.)

3) If a concept is adopted from another culture, it has inherent limitations based on the limitations it brought from the culture that came with it. These may change over time, but they still limit possible meaning. (If up and down are introduced as opposing terms, they may take on different meanings in terms of intensity, but they will likely not become different levels of up. I am not including negative values, obviously.)

4) Just because subtext, and some bias, is lost in translations, in no way means that definition stops having inherent limitations. It just doesn't. This is excepting situations in which things are not explained properly, or not understood properly by either culture.

[Sorry, I just had an excruciating argument with Angus about the last post over msn. I'm sure he was just arguing because he disagreed, but it got beyond irritating. It is bothersome when bringing up fundamental concepts like time as a proof is responded to with a statement that those concepts are fundamental, and therefore different. He might be right, but goddamn is it irritating. The infuriating thing, however, is that Angus is smarter than me, at least most of the time.]


realisation. (i spell in canadian.)

The spelling thing is most definitely not the realisation. But, while watching anime (Speed Grapher in particular) I realised that there is ample evidence of the effect of globalisation in language transfer. I recognise that many languages share a root, and therefore similarities are inevitable, but the fact that I heard something similar to 'mas communica-something' in the japanese audio, while the subtitles said 'mass media' has me thinking.

[EDIT: I'm worried someone might think I'm an idiot, so let me explain further. What I mean is, when the adoption or transliteration of another languages phonemes is used to explain a concept, that makes a point (maybe subconsciously) about the relationship of that language and that concept. This is a wussy version of linguistic determinism.]

The language virus is a beautiful thing to watch in action. At the same time, the french textbooks I remember from grade school considered 'videoclub' french, at least in some capacity.

I will not be at all surprised if Joss Whedon is right, and in the future everyone swears in cantonese.

Still, there's a little fear in the idea that the language of mass communications is english, when the dominant forces of the english speaking world seem to be less than willing to change with the times.


maybe i'm amazed.

Off-topic, but I'm pretty sure I just saw a 9/11 joke on 30 Rock, a prime time network sitcom.


At the same time, the episode dealt with Thomas Jefferson sleeping with his slaves, Black soldiers on the confederate side of the U.S. Civil War, and sneaking into A.A. meetings to stalk a crush. So, maybe I should have seen this coming.

Still. 9/11 joke to close a sitcom set in NY? Ballsy. I am impressed.

this is a gimme.

Maybe it's just me, but there are certain barriers for whether or not I want someone's opinion. At the very least, please don't give me cause to assume you are horribly out of touch before I read a word you've written.

This just popped up in the RSS feed
. [via MIT Adverlab]

I have to ask... Is it really a good sign when a book on in-game advertising, with the words 'next generation' in the subtitle, chooses the frankly ancient Super Nintendo controller as the indicator that gaming is the subject matter?

Come on, people. Work with me, just a little.


on the obvious.

Very, very often, and depressingly, I run into an article that sounds very interesting, but end up finishing it with the thought 'and...?'

This piece, though written well enough, left me with that feeling.

Maybe it's because I'm one of the 20-something university students the article deals with, but it can basically be summarised as 'new methods of distribution change the way people interact with content.' This is, to someone of my generation, similar to a news bulletin that reads 'eating found to reduce hunger', and I hope most people would get the same response.

The article does make the comparison to DVD content, and the difference of experience that comes with watching a story in succession, rather than parceled out by the creators or corporations. Technology is about control, and being able to determine when and how you watch a TV show is worth 1.99 an episode, or 25 bucks a season.

"What will be interesting to see is how the iTunes model will eventually affect these 20-somethings’ viewing habits as they get older. [...] Whether through the “low-tech”method of waiting for DVD box sets to be released, or the instant gratification of the iTunes Store, it looks like viewing habits are being molded."

What's actually interesting, in my opinion, is not just the changing of viewing habits, but the changing of the model of communication, and the alteration of the social experience. Television creates cultural moments because it creates a situation where a large number of people are watching the same thing at the same time. In the 20-somethings of today, you can rarely have a conversation about the episode of heroes that aired last night, because three people are still downloading it.

The article mentions convenience, and scheduling, but misses the larger point. The target audience of many television shows is now unwilling to be told how to watch, when to watch, and even less willing to watch only once. We're used to having control over our entertainment and information, and television is a blip on the otherwise consistent evolution of entertainment content; where, at least to a point, the user decided how and when things will be done. When you see a play or a movie, you pick which showing, fitting it into your life. With a book, you read how ever much you want, whenever you want.

Television networks and cable companies have created a system that works well for them, and that model doesn't shift well. Content on demand means that product placement can't be supplementary television advertising, it means that you won't get viewers for crap just by placing it before or after something of high quality.

It's not that viewing habits are being molded. The issue now is whether the television business model will continue to be adapted to the way people interact with TV shows now, or if they will fall into an embarrassing strategy of harassing consumers to ignore technologies they don't approve of, like another industry based on entertainment content.

[Short commentary on end link: Is this happening? This is beyond idiocy, and far past the border into self-parody. I'd post on it at length, but I don't think I could do it without my head hurting.]


i am fully impressed.

I don't know that anyone outside of Toronto has been covering this, but it is by far one of the most effective forms of activism I've seen in recent memory. When I say effective, I mean that it is notable, interesting, below the irritation threshold, and gathering wider media attention. While there are been some debate about the numbers, it manages to inform, and to cause interaction with both the issue and information around it.

Go ahead, tell me a hundred people yelling in Nathan Phillips Square would have been better.

This is the kind of thing I was rambling about, both in Ground War, and the Fixing Protest posts. Dissent is Advertising. Why not have talented graphic designers working on your solutions rather than just asking them to create a new logo for your sign or site?

This day just keeps getting better, I swear.

my god, steps forward.

This is obviously the best news I have had in a very long time.

Not because I'm going to start buying music from iTunes in a large volume, but because it is, to my mind, the first indication that a major player in the music industry has made that they employ even a single person who understands the changing game. DRM free music is the first step towards acknowledging the object / content distinction.

By this I mean (if I can remember the paper I wrote last term) that technology has progressed to the point where an understanding of product as a unified object / content creation is obsolete. Music isn't a CD, or even a file anymore. It's a reproducible, object mobile entity. DRM is, to me, and attempt to enforce the obsolete unity of object and content. The idea is to keep a CD a CD, and not a music distribution tool, to be played with to the users content. This means, basically, that the music industry is finally admitting that the expectation that consumers will buy one version of a song for a CD player, another for an iPod, and one more for their zune, is insane.

And it is insane. It's so insane that the only way to keep the threat working is nuisance lawsuits that greatly inflate the supposed value of the content, or the 'intellectual property'. Luckily, someone at Apple (who was probably convinced my Norway), convinced someone at EMI, that the best way to reduce piracy is to stop selling your customers broken products.

This is a very, very good day for anyone who has been looking rationally at the future of creative products in our society, at the flaws in copyright, and at the mounting subjugation of technology and innovation to archaic and obsolete business models.

Also, another brilliant strategic move on the part of Apple, somehow managing to position itself yet again as the little guy, fighting against the system for the people, despite it's position as a dominant player is the sales of DRM burdened content online. I am in awe, as always, at how ascending into ubiquity has only caused this minimal amount of backlash for a company that defined itself by asking you to 'think different'.