May 19, 2011
An interesting library-related paper from MiT7, by a media studies scholar:
Knowledge Experiments: Technology and the Library, Paulina Mickiewicz
In April of 2005, the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec opened in Montreal, a library project of unprecedented scale in the city. This paper seeks to focus on the programming and technologies of the Grande Bibliothèque. One of the main reasons for the creation of the Grande Bibliothèque was to offer Montreal citizens a public library that was capable of not only hosting and managing emergent media technologies but that would provide free and equal access to these new media. In addition to being a highly digitized and networked facility, the Grande Bibliothèque is also a site that offers the most advanced methods of storage, search and retrieval of a multiplicity of collections, be they referential, digital or archival. This paper will serve to explore the so-called “technologization” of the traditional library, how this has transformed the ways in which we use and understand the library as a public space as well as what this may mean for the future of libraries, and how well equipped the Grande Bibliothèque is in adapting to the constant flow of newer and faster technologies.
May 16, 2011
MiT7 was a great conference – intimate, warm, stimulating, interdisciplinary, and cutting-edge. There were some brilliant minds at work. I plan to post a few comments on the conference later. For now, here are links to podcasts from the three topical plenary sessions:
Media in Transition 7: Unstable Platforms
Archives and Cultural Memory
Power and Empowerment
May 11, 2011
Media in Transition 7 (MiT 7), a small conference at MIT, is starting Friday and running ’till Sunday. I will be there; if you will be there too please say hello.
Anyone wanting to follow the Twitter hash tag can look for #mit7.
April 10, 2011
There is an very good article by David Remnick in the February 28th issue of the New Yorker about Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper that has set the standard for accuracy in news there for many years while also providing the main support for pro-Peace viewpoints among Israelis. If you are interested in the role of the press in a democracy, the fate of newspapers, or the fate of Israel, the article is a must-read. It is called The Dissenters.
March 28, 2011
The Culture of the Internet and the Internet as Cult: Social Fears and Religious Fantasies
Author: Philippe Breton
Translator: David Bade
Published: March 2011
Printed on acid-free paper
French author Philippe Breton examines the Internet and the culture surrounding it through the lens of its philosophical and cultural background. Central in his insightful analysis of “the Internet as cult” are Teilhard de Chardin and the New Age, but he looks also at the fears, passions and pathologies of Alan Turing and Norbert Wiener, the imagined worlds of Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, J.G. Ballard and Timothy Leary, the prognostications and confessions of Bill Gates, Nicolas Negroponte and Bill Joy, and the philosophies of Saint-Simon, McLuhan and Pierre Lévy. Breton contrasts the dreams of a transparent and unmediated world, a world in which neither time nor space are relevant, a world without violence, without law, without a distinction between the public and the private, with the reality of propaganda, computer viruses and surveillance; the world in which “sociality in the sense of mutuality disappears in favor of interactivity,” where “experience with another and with the world in general is replaced by brief reactionary relations that hardly engage us at all.” This English language translation is by David Bade.
When the book was first published in France as Le culte de l’Internet: une menace pour le lien social?, the publishers described the book with these remarks on its cover [translation by David Bade]:
For the first time in the history of humanity human beings have created a technical system—the Internet—that allows us to dispense with all face-to-face communication. No one would have considered such a possibility if the Internet had not been the object of a cult offering the promise of a better world, the world of “cyberspace”. The advocates of “the Internet for everything” seem to have carried the day not only against technophobes but more importantly against all those desirous of a reasoned use of new technologies.
These militant fundamentalists call for a global information society in which social relationships will be founded upon a separation of bodies and a collectivization of consciousnesses. Their vision is one that mixes together the heritage of Teilhard de Chardin, Zen Buddhism and New Age philosophies. It is a vision that mobilizes American cultural values such as Puritanism, manicheism, the quest for social harmony and the cult of the young. It is rooted in a religiosity that celebrates the utopia of transparence in the context of a political crisis and the waning influence of monotheism and humanism.
Technical developments since 2000 have brought many new imaginations and practices, but Breton’s description of the imaginations that have surrounded the development of the Internet remains a superb corrective to the commonplace that technological developments are changing our world. The reader of The Cultural Origins of the Internet and the Internet as Cult will come away with an awareness of how our own imaginations, our fears and our fantasies form and fashion our futures, technological, social and otherwise.
March 14, 2011
Librarians interested in intellectual freedom should take note of a case of censorship by copyright lawsuit. Danish artist Nadia Plesner has used an image of a Louis Vuitton handbag in some biting artwork about the genocide in Darfur to show our culpability in not bridging the gap between the tragedy there and our shallow consumerist lives. Louis Vuitton sued her a couple of years ago, and a judged ruled in their favor in January, without giving Plesner a chance to testify in her own defense. You can read about it on her site.
February 8, 2011
“The HMC announces an open call for entries to exhibit at Raday Konyveshaz & Gallery, Budapest, exhibition opening on August 24, 2011. … Submission deadline is March 15.”
How influenced the digitalized area the traditional reading culture? Is it finished the Gutenberg area? We are waiting artist books, artworks on or of paper may be any size, but MUST fit in a 9 X 12 (22.9X30.5cm) envelope. Unmatted, unframed photography, drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, mixed media, cast or folded paper, multimedia or digital prints.
January 31, 2011
January 2, 2011
Folks at the Progressive Librarians Guild have put the full text of back issues of their journal, Progressive Librarian, online. Coverage goes back to issue number one, from 1990. I was on the editorial board of Progressive Librarian for a number of years, and consider them an important venue for library literature that works to strengthen the ties between the profession of librarianship and the left political philosophies that are akin to it. Back issues have been available through Proquest and Ebsco for some time, but their accessibility on the web will give a new level of exposure to the ideas there. Check it out.
November 17, 2010
I was discussing the free press with a Russian friend once, and she told me that the main difference between Soviet Russia and the contemporary USA was that Russians knew they were being lied to, while Americans have naively believed that what the news says is the truth. Amusingly, right wing skeptics are presently doubting the US military line regarding the missile sighting on the California coast, as though today’s Pentagon is a different Pentagon from the one they backed and trusted during the Bush administration. At any rate, it does look as though Americans are in a mood to doubt the honesty of the government.
But what about the news media? If the news media were a branch of government, obviously Americans would doubt it in much the same way that Soviet Russians doubted Pravda. Paradoxically, the American news media has become less reliable at the same time that it has become popularized. News organizations are being squeezed by declining revenues and shareholder demands for higher profit margins, and consequently are weaker in the newsroom than they have been in a long time, less capable of solid investigative journalism. The result is that the news media has to trust and rely more than in the past on the products of public relations people, working for both corporations and government. PR firms and the PR departments of government are responsible for most of what we read as “news” (even more than in the past). The news media is more propagandized and filtered than in the 20th century, while at the same time more “popular” in tone, to appeal to a customer base that increasingly distrusts “elites.” New media, blogs, etc., are often cited as representing a hope for greater democracy, but when democracy means channeling corporate and government propaganda, that hope is rather pale.
That said, the diversity of new media has to be recognized, and the importance of a free press, whether it is relevant to the average person or not, is something that we become cynical about at our peril. Case in point, a post from yesterday’s Machetera blog regarding a meeting at the Capitol building today. The meeting is called “Anger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights and Inter-American Security.” I am not sure whether the meeting will be open to the public or whether proceedings will be publicly available, or not. The blog post talks about players from the Latin American right wing who are scheduled to be present at the meeting. I recognized some of the names and am aware of some of the historical events that others are associated with. (I blogged about a couple of them last month.) The list has quite a few known terrorists, and other baddies involved in right wing coups d’etat and assassinations. For all the Tea Partiers’ assertions that the Obama Administration is socialist, it seems our government has maintained its ties with fascist elements in Latin America. But to say that because of that (or because of the Democrats, which it regrettably needs to be objected) we are a fascist state would be to take for granted the press freedoms that allow the Machetera blog to share this news with us without fear of (ahem) surveillance or harassment. (That statement might need to be qualified, however – you can read the blog to see why. To say that we have a free press that is overwhelmed by propaganda would be to oversimplify things a bit, when American dissidents (radical or perhaps not) sometimes face consequences that don’t make news.)
November 10, 2010
A conflict over intellectual freedom of potential historical import may be taking shape in China surrounding China’s most famous (globally famous) artist, Ai Weiwei.
Ai Weiwei is politically active as well as being a challenging and innovative artist whose work responds to the contemporary world, so it is not surprising that the Chinese government is nervous about him. Just recently, he was placed under house arrest for refusing to cancel a big party to commemorate the government-ordered demolition of his studio. New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos is blogging about the situation from his home in Beijing. News concerning Ai Weiwei is being covered well at the UK Guardian.
November 4, 2010
This article feels like another nail in the coffin of what we thought we knew of the past: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’. Or a ramping-ing up of the general weirdness of the times. Here is the start of the article in the Independent, by Frances Stonor Saunders:
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art – President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex- communists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
October 6, 2010
Sometimes people on the left respond to the “war on terror” by saying words to the effect that “war is terrorism,” to point out that killing innocent people is killing innocent people, whether it is done by a state or by a terrorist group. The main weakness to that argument is that it has an implicit commitment to pacifism, and it is hard to maintain an absolute pacifist position in light of many historical situations in which it seems clear that not going to war would have been a terrible option.
October 6th marks an event that questions the U.S. “war on terror” in a much different way. On October 6th, 1976, a flight on Cubana airlines, flying from Barbados to Jamaica, was brought down by two bombs planted by anti-Castro Cuban exiles working with the CIA. The two terrorists in question are still alive and have been living freely in the United States. Their names are Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. They were put on trial in a Venezuelan court. Bosch was acquitted on a technicality, and came to Florida, where he now lives. Carriles managed to be freed of the charges through political maneuvering, though he faces extradition to several countries. He is currently facing trial on relatively minor immigration charges.
The bombing of Cubana flight 455 was not their only act of terrorism. Both have been involved in other terrorist activities. Yet during the Bush administration they enjoyed official protection. There is conflict over both of them at political levels, as might be expected. Their treatment by the United States raises the question of whether stopping terrorism is the real objective, or if the issue of terrorism in itself is more of a convenient vehicle for achieving other political aims.
July 26, 2010
There was a good article about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Paul Assange, by Raffi Khatchadourian, in the June 7 issue of the New Yorker.
February 19, 2010