Monthly Archives: September 2005

Birthday boy

My birthday is this Wednesday. And I’m throwing a little party the following Saturday. Because of this people seem to feel a need to reciprocate in some way, and continue to ask me for some sort of wishlist or ideas for what I should be needing or wanting.

Generally, I feel that I’m quite well off, and not in much need at all, but even so, there are things that I’d like:

Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

– Mew: And the Glass Handed Kites

– Devendra Banhart: Cripple Crow

The Edukators (DVD)

– Sigur Rós: Takk

– José Saramago: Blindness

Paul Feyerabend: Against Method

– Desktop PC microphone (something like this).

A portable player which supports Ogg Vorbis, and can do voice recording as well (for field studies, y’know). Preferably with at least 512 MB of memory. Maybe something like this (which even is guaranteed to work with linux – crazy!).

– Maybe even tickets for extremely cheap flights all over Europe this autumn.

… hm. That did prove to be quite a lot of various objects. I must stress that you should not feel obligated in any way to actually purchase any of these items for me. It is solely because people keep asking, even threatening to give me home made earmuffs or equal silliness which I sincerely hope to avoid.

As you can see, almost all of these things are found and linked through Amazon.co.uk, which is a nice place (well, non-place, I guess). I’ve made my own wish-list there, which I’ll try to keep updated (look out, Christmas!) with other stuff.

Looking forward to seeing all of you on Saturday the 1st of October! 🙂

EDIT: Re. the strikeouts: Read the comments.

Depth Probe One

As part of my Digital Rhetorics course, we’ll be expected to undertake several “Depth Probes”, exploring the dank deeps of internet, maybe, hopefully, finding something of interest.

As a starting point, the lecturer has added a few links to our online schedule. These can be considered doors, each opening into a different part of a vast maze of online digital text. Rather than notes, I left behind virtual breadcrumbs, enabling me to retrace my delve into the deep afterwards.

Appropriately enough, I began at the trAce website, an online centre for digital writing, where I found a short overview on the State of the Art.

There are lots of opinion on the state of digital writing, including on what it actually is. Maybe it can indeed be as simple as “Any writing that requires a computer to access it.”

The article also provided a generous list of various favourites within the field, including Blogger itself. But instead of following the links, I was caught by an article about Alt-X – the oldest website dedicated to the new ways of expression made possible by the new media.

Among the various parts of alt-X, my whim took me to the blog gallery, that contains a vast list of interesting blogs, including Post Secret, a blog to which people can send in their innermost secrets on anonymous postcard and del.cio.us, an index of popular links, offered and rated by the users themselves, allowing any websurfer to share any of her bookmarks with the entire world. The interesting ones will be recommended and slowly float to the top.

From there, I stumbled onto The Book after the Book, a strangely wonderful mix of text and links. As the book writes at one point:

From any point of the site| you can go back to | The Book after the Book index.|Nevertheless, the index does not send| the reader to all pages.| After all, again recalling Borges,| is there a better place than a forest | to lose a leaf?

Indeed, having made it this far, I began to appreciate the labyrinthine, explorative aesthetic of the websurf itself. The unending hopping from page to page, never knowing what you may find, again and again turning leaves in this digital forest. And as you explore, you slowly get a swimming sensation from considering all the paths unexplored, all the links unclicked, all the texts unread. As you go along, a clot of undigested information builds up in your system, and in the end, each new page passes by in a blur.

As the authors of hypertext novel “Unknown” puts it:

It is, as Borges might write, a ??library of Babel? in which there are so many books all in one place that one is tempted not to read at all.

Again and again, throughout the websites, Jorge Luis Borges is mentioned as the stylistic inspiration and the father of the metaphor of digital writing. To lose oneself in the text, to drown in a sea of ideas and thoughts of millions of people – was all thought out by Borges, long before it became reality (if that, indeed, is the right word).

I saw more, but will stop here. As I write down these notes, I am slowly and belatedly digesting that clot of information, thawing it open, and peeling off the layers, only to find that it has no core.

Taoism

By the wondrous ways of procrastinative web-surfing, I came across the work of Raymond Smullyan, mathematician, writer and, rarely seen, genuinely humorous.

I can’t appreciate the maths much, but the philosophical humour is spot-on. I’ve only read this one piece called “Is God a Taoist?“, which cheekily tackles the big questions of free will, morality and the nature of God in an absolutely irresistible way.

I don’t know if he really is a taoist, anyway.

Apropos taoism, I also came across a nice interview with, or, rather, a big bunch of random questions answered by, Ursula Le Guin. Le Guin has written a good number of the best anthropologically speculative Science Fiction novels I know, and she is also very inspired by taoism. She’s even produced her own translation of the Tao Te Ching – apparently by comparing 20 different available translations and combining the various translations and paraphrases to her best liking.

In the interview, she says that Taoism is both a religion and a way of thinking, the latter “is profoundly subversive and permanently anti-establishment. It’s a tough act to be a radical for 2000 years, but Lao Tzu did it.”

Combined with the ideas presented in the Smullyan text, it presents a curious thing on which to ponder: Can God be anti-establishment?

The Danish Clown Army

I went to a demo tonight arranged mainly by the Danish chapter of CIRCA – an abbreviation for the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army.

The Danish chapter is called Klovnehæren which is a direct translation of “the Clown Army” and they’ve been trying to brighten the mood in Christiania, the hippie township commune of Copenhagen which has more or less been laid under siege for the past year and a half.

This has led to a series of encounters with the so-called “Blue clown army” who haven’t been to appreciative of the Christianite clowns’ goofery and pranks.

The demonstration tonight was called against “police brutality” but seemed more or less as an attempt to bait the police into hitting the protesters. Rather silly really. Yet the police played their part to break up the demonstration, surrounding the black-clad protesters (apparently a Black Bloc independent of the clown army).

It all had a rather surreal feel to it, as the middle-aged police officers in charge of the operation attempted to talk to the enraged protesters (maybe as many as a hundred), while the clowns were banging their drums and ringing their bells, one clown even playing the Imperial March on his trombone.

It was mostly for show. Both parties showing up, going through the motions, but none of them getting any wiser. There was a sense of overbearing “they-can’t-help-it” attitude among the police, and a naive, passionate frustration among the protesters. They revelled in their rebellion, grasping at the chance to shout “pigs” at the police.

I sincerely hope that it is possible to find more constructive, exciting and bold ways to vent all this idealistic passion. More on this as it develops..

The beginning of a new semester..

So, the new semester has started, and my courses are well underway. I’m taking my final anthropology course – Field Method – the purpose of which will be to prepare me (and help me prepare) for my exciting fieldwork next year.

The specifics of this mythical fieldwork is still not completely clear, but it will involve some the problems hinted at in my essay on various ways of perceiving computers (I’ll get around to uploading that essay shortly).

In order to prepare myself for this challenge, I’ve managed to be allowed to take two courses at the IT university of Copenhagen this semester. One is the Digital Rhetorics course mentioned below, the other is called Interaction Design.

Originally, I had planned to take the Digital Culture and Sociologycourse instead of the Interaction Design one, but it happened to take place in exactly the same timeslot on Tuesday afternoons as the Field Method one, so that was a distinct “no go”.
But I don’t mind much – the Interaction Design course seems very promising, among other things focusing on how ethnographic methods can be used to further the design process: Basically by talking to the users instead of just imagining what they might want. Brilliant.

All in all, my courses look very promising, and will keep me busy. The prospect of going on fieldwork is still quite daunting, but I guess it will lose its intimidating demeanor as I manage to make it more concrete and focused through my choosing the research questions and a specific setting.

We’ll see.

Digital Rhetorics: Future Perfect

As part of my Digital Rhetorics course at the IT University of Copenhagen, I’ve written this little assignment on my personal goals for the course. Since it is a Digital Rhetorics class, I thought it best to do it proper blogging style with lots of hyperlinks.

Fast forward to January 2006, the Digital Rhetorics course will have finished by then, and I will have learned fair bit through it:

I will have discussed the major elements of style and delivery in Digital Representations, including websites, blogs, MOOs and other online games, IRC channels and other message fora, flash games and movies. I will have had a chance to discuss how the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory affects on Digital Rhetorics, both in the most thoughtfully composed texts as well as the most rude remarks in a random IRC channel.

I will have realised some of the extent that hypertext and hyperlinking can revolutionize the way that we conceive and navigate through digital texts and tested and discussed some of those wider possibilities ?? as suggested by Ted Nelson . And as practised by, among others, Cornelius Holtorf.
I will have taken part in varied and bold discussions on communicative technology, drawing on and drawing in everything from Langdon Winner and Ivan Illich to Lev Manovich and Gonzalo Frasca ?? a discussion that hopefully will introduce me to a lot of new and interesting ideas and theories concerning the rhetorics of the digital realm.

I will have had a chance to explore elements of the still nascent idea of artful computer code, maybe specifically Perl Poetry and other ways to mix the language of the computer with the languages of the people using them.

I will have tried to create montage from some of all these ideas and possibilities, combining them through hithereto unseen or unexpected connections, seeking Apophenia. Unlikely as that will have proven to be.

Finally, through this course I will have made a bunch of new friends and acquaintances, who may share or come to share my fascination with all these aspects of communicating through digital means.