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ISEA 2004

Approaches to Collaborative Production

The next day at ISEA 2008 has started. The first presentation this morning, by Susan Kerrigan, is about a creative research PhD project related to Fort Scratchley in Newcastle, New South Wales (which went through a number of names before the current name stuck). The fort guarded the harbour entrance for some time before being shut down and becoming a public space; it was recently restored.

The story to be told about it is both a military and a broader story, then. The approach to this work, then, is a rational, not a romantic approach to creativity, rejecting the auteur model and instead adopting a confluence model that brings together the individual, the field, and the surrounding culture. Susan came out of ABC TV, bringing those individual skills; cultural aspects included the body of knowledge already existing in the context of her project (not least also the local history relating to the fort); and the field within which she operated included the cultural intermediaries acting as gatekeepers, stakeholders, and collaborators. She also had to work with various institutional stakeholders, of course - from Newcastle City Council to various other bodies with a connection to the site and its history.

Goodbye Helsinki

Well. So that was Helsinki then - a good if exhausting experience, and a wonderful conference space to boot. I'm still coming to terms with the city itself, though - it reminds me a lot of my home town Hannover somehow, especially in the style of buildings. Helsinki Train Station Portal with legless lightbulb gods(Not the train station, though, whose portal is positively weird.) There seems to be no real city centre (especially compared to Tallinn with its well-preserved 1400s old town), and I understand this is partly because a fire destroyed most of the original old town some time ago.

Open Source and Software as Culture

The last keynote here at ISEA2004 has now begun. I'm actually watching this on the big video screen in an adjoining room because otherwise I'd run out of power on the laptop. The positive aspect of this is that I have far more space around me - but in exchange I'm breathing second-hand cigarette smoke. Makes you appreciate Queensland's anti-smoking laws all the more!

Artistic Tools and DIY Networks

Finally met Jill Walker during the break! Now on to the next panel - but it's very dark in here so I'll apologise in advance for any typing errors. Mary Flanagan and Ken Perlin are presenting on their RAPUNSEL project. The motivation is that very few of the programmers and other IT professionals in the US are women (7%), so the project is to develop a game to attract girls to the area. The main drop-off point for interest amongst girls is around middle school, but they are and remain very interested in online gaming (over 60% of the gamers in Sims Online are women). The project builds on this by using 'computer clubhouses' in poor and ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in New York (which are sponsored by Intel). The combination of everyday desires and technology enables the expression of a possible world (building on Deleuze). So how can hacker and middle-schooler cultures be connected in this way?

Wireless Keynote

The second keynote is by Nina Wakeford of INCITE at the University of Surrey. Her topic is "The Identity Politics of Mobility and Design Culture". She builds on queer theory and suggests that we might take from it the break with an understanding of identity as fixed - this then is directly relevant to studies of mobility, of course.

Critical Interaction Design

We're on to the next keynote (which we've delayed through our question time in the previous panel). Wendy Hui Kyong Chun from Brown Univerity makes a start here. She talks of the tendency to take work at interface value - to fetishise new technology as cool rather than look beyond the interface itself. What conditions, what makes possible an experience of use?

Open Source Panel

Early Start...We've now started the last day of the conference proper here in Helsinki - with a session on open source cultures that also contains my own paper. I'll blog most of this but of course not my paper itself - I'll upload this to this site soon. Not a bad turnout for a 9.30 start on a Saturday morning, either!

Mark Tribe has now made a start on his panel, beginning with a brief history of free and open source software (FOSS) and its ideology. But Mark's own interest is in open source as a broader cultural phenomenon, which also occurs in the domain of art (and he quotes Stravinsky as saying that "a good composer doesn't imitate, he steals"). This of course is a key development of the last century - the conscious building of new art on existing material, be it ideas or actual found material (as also in the emergence of collage as a new art form - take the dada movement for example).

Structures in Virtual Worlds

On to the next presentation: here we're dealing with the development of virtual worlds and the world ordering that is part of this process. Most of these worlds are very sophisticated and involve a kind of 'imagined habitation', which expects certain actions and forms of interaction as well as represents an internal ideology of these worlds.

In particular, of course, 3D virtual worlds involve a particular form of visual representation which include the representation of the self as avatar as well as the representation of fundamental elements (sky, clouds, ground, etc.). She focusses here on the virtual environment of Alphaworld, which enables its participants/inhabitants to place new objects anywhere in the virtual space - this has given rise to the development of a highly developed 3D environment, yet remarkably resembles suburban America.

New York Prophecies

We're on to the next session - with Richard Barbrook from the University of Westminster. His talk is about imaginary futures. The way we conceive of the future is actually an old idea, and some decades old - artificial intelligence is a good example, based as it remains on ideas like Asimov's work or even older concepts. Like communism, the arrival in such futures is always 10-20 years into the future.

Fripp Was Here


Well, not really. But looking at this rack you might be tempted to mistake it for Robert Fripp's lunar module... On the far right, Richard Barbrook also seems impressed.


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