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ICA Feedback

James Harkin, the Director of Talks at the ICA, in London, and the man who has spearheaded the Feedback sessions there, has published a piece (I think it’s an excerpt actually) from/based on his new book, Cyburbia, called Our new home Cyburbia.

In the article, he outlines the notion of cybernetic feedback as being intrinsic to the principle of what the Internet does and how it is affecting us. He cites the early work on cybernetics of Norbert Wiener who developed the notion of cybernetics as a feedback system. To quote from the above link to his biography:

The idea of “cybernetics” came to Wiener at the beginning of the forties, prompted by his work on anti-aircraft defence and by contacts with colleagues in Mexico (“Behavior, purpose and teleology” with A. Rosenblueth and J. Bigelow, Philos.Sci 1943). lt was made known to the world by the book Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, published in l948 after contacts in l946 with M. Freymann of Hermann et Cie (Paris). Coined from the Greek “kubernetike” (the art of the steersman), cybernetics involves the theory of regulation and of signal transmission applied to technical devices, living beings and even societies. It may also concern the art of government, or “cybernétique” as Ampère conceived it in 1843, which Plato, using the already existent Greek word, compared to that of the captain of a ship. Two main ideas play a part in cybernetics: negative feedback with its stabilizing properties, and transmission of information, which helps to make a whole of the many parts of a complex system, whether living or not. The metaphor of the computer, with the role of Boolean logic, is also present in cybernetics. It is of interest to note that Wiener, remembering Leibniz’s “calculus ratiocinator” and his construction, after Pascal, of a mechanical computer, considered him a patron saint of cybernetics, whereas Warren S. McCulloch favoured Descartes.

Harkin feels that the Internet is a product (or a model, at least) of this cybernetic loop system and goes on to discuss how it will change the way we as humans think and behave . I know that others are already talking about this, but more in the negative (I can’t find any links at the mo). But I like the idea and also, I think it’s about time for a cybernetic culture revival again. I haven’t seen Sadie Plant for over a year at any Birmingham events, but it would be great to see her step up to the (cybernetic) plate again and, along with Nick Land (see also Mark K-Punk and Kode-9 et al), return to save us all from the drab Silicon Valley evangelists.

Cybernetics has brought us a long way, but now that its global information loop is fully built, it is in danger of leaving us lost and directionless. Now we need to spend some time thinking about the message – what it does to us to have the new communication technologies around, and how artists, culture-makers and everyone else might harness that new sensibility and turn it to their own advantage. The humble book took off, remember, not because its early evangelists went around waving them in people’s faces or attesting to their incredible power, but because talented authors took the trouble to master this new way of working and write great books.

I’m not sure we have to ‘start’ thinking about the possibilities because, many net.artists have been doing that for a while, and of course, there is a whole genre, if that’s the right word, of e-Literature that explores the networked nature of the web. But perhaps he is referring to the broader cross-section of artists.Incidentally, the ICA caused a ruckus a few months ago, because they shut down funding for media arts activities. Not that Harkin is directly responsible, but it does make you wonder if the different depts. speak to each other?

In his role as Director of Talks at the ICA, James Harkin is trying to make real this feedback loops of growth and development. Maybe ICE:cubes can play a small part in that as well?


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Web 3.0

I guess part of the problem (or let us say, issue) around starting to comment and think about any new developments or memes, is that you immediately begin to be a carrier of that meme/virus yourself. You become part of the hype and the reason that everyone else is talking about it. So it’s with a certain amount of hesitation that I even write this post.

There’s already much talk about web 3.0 and people are mentioning it without necessarily engaging with the broader picture. Trying to find out some more information, the best report I’ve found so far has been this one in the TimesOnline: taking a nice overview and interviewing one of the people involved.Web 3.0 and beyond: the next 20 years of the internet. I have a feeling that as thing progress and the term gets taken over by the corporate sector, it’s meaning will become more wrapped up in marketing values and business speak, as Web 2.0 has done.

In essence, Web 3.0 is going to be about taking the current web (and all of our user-generated content and everything else we’ve been posting) and adding another layer on top of that. Making it more semantic (which many people ahve been talking about for a few years now). So, instead of just having that content there in place and using tools like Google to search, there will be the ability to aggregate content based on what you know and what you might also be interested in. Sounds familiar already? It is a bit like the Amazon function of suggesting that if you liked one thing, you’ll love something else similar that others enjoyed. It is also about ‘knowing’ more about your requests or needs in an intelligent way. As for the Web 3.0 moniker, here’s one of the best explanations of the use of 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 that I’ve heard so far, from Nova Spivack, the founder of Radar Networks:

“We have had the first decade of the web, or Web 1.0,” he says, which was about the development of the basic platform of the internet and the ability to make huge amounts of information widely accessible, “and we’re nearing the end of the second decade – Web 2.0 – which was all about the user interface” and enabling users to connect with one another.

“Now we’re about to enter the third decade – Web 3.0 – which is about making the web much smarter.”

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The Influence and Impact of Web 2.0

The Influence and Impact of Web 2.0 on e-Research Infrastructure, Applications and Users.

The number of Web 2.0 services and applications, widely used by Internet users, academics, industry and enterprise, are growing rapidly, which demonstrates Web 2.0’s solid foundations. These technologies and services are based on the open standards that underpin the Internet and Web, and are used in many forms, e.g. blogs, wikis, mashups, social websites, podcasting and content tagging. This field is having a significant impact on distributed infrastructure and applications, and on the way users and developers interact. The area needs to be thoroughly investigated and understood to encourage the development of new services and applications for e-Research.

Target Audience

We wish to engage the e-Science, and e-Research community, as well as those in the arts and humanities, and other researchers who have not been funded under the e-Science Programme.


This event is provisionally scheduled to start at 09:30 Monday 23 March 2009 and close at 17:00 on Friday 27 March 2009.

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Jock McQueenie

Last Thursday at ICE, we had Jock McQueenie come in and present to us, and afterwards hold a workshop for students. Jock has been working in Australia for many years now, engaging business and the creative sector (creative sector/industries: discuss) in working on projects that are mutually beneficial. Artists who perceive themselves as being ‘pure’ and having no truck with industry (afterall, that’s part of the reason they didn’t go into industry in teh first place: it’s not for them) often struggle with the notion of engaging and seeking funding through industry. However, it’s a reality that for most work-a-day creative folks, this will be at least one source of income for them.

Part of Jock’s talk was about projects that he has been involved with, and it certainly got us at ICE:cubes thinking about how we go about presenting the ICE folks through social networking channels.

Jock McQueenie has previously published a paper on his work so far. This quote was relevant to my own thoughts:

The emergence of concepts such as the “triple bottom line” – or “quadruple”, god help us – identify social and environmental outcomes as being as important to good corporate citizenship as purely financial ones. The social, political, economic environment is more complex than it has ever been. The greatest demand from those who need to navigate this complexity is not for art or finished cultural product but creativity itself – and it is the creative sector to which the economic and social sectors are turning to supply it.

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Stewart Home on web2.0

The writer Stewart Home is a complex, intelligent guy who has always played around with perceptions of identity and dissemination of cultural ideas through both print (his novels use genres such as Bovver Boy/Skinhead culture to then critique and discuss ideologies of marxism etc) and the Internet (he has blogged on MySpace and plays with Facebook accounts). I’ve tried to summarise what he’s about on my own blog previously, but never really succeeded. In a recent post he talks a little about artists using web2.0:

when I first looked at MySpace a little before O’Reilly published that text, rock bands clearly knew how to promote themselves to a new (as well as their existing) audience via this site, but writers and artists on the whole didn’t. The later two categories of would-be culture industry ‘professionals’ tended to use the internet as a means of advertising (largely ineffectively) what they were doing, rather than integrating their activities into it.

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ICA Feedback Series

Peter Greenaway

The ICA in London are currently running a series of talks within their Feedback program, that allows attendees to record and document, then distribute the content on the Internet.

Last night on an extremely wet Monday evening, I attended the Peter Greenaway talk, The New Visual Literacy. In the talk, Greenaway discussed his own evolving use of cinematic tropes and presentation. There were a lot of people photographing and making notes during the session. I’m yet to see any result of all of this on the Internet and on the ICA’s own feedback pages, but it’s still early perhaps. What was of interest, was the fact that Greenaway showed some of his film clips and I’m wondeirng what the copyright

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Digital Research Tools (DiRT)

The Digital Research Tools (DiRT) Wiki is definitely a valuable resource for anyone trying to do a number of tasks using digital technologies in the Humanities. It has sections on qualitative data analysis and staying current with research as well as a number of more hands-on creative digital tools.

Taken from their About page:

Reports on digital scholarship have called for a resource like DiRT. For instance, participants in the 2005 Summit on Digital Tools for the Humanities found that “the most valuable aid for collaboration would be a clearinghouse to inform and educate digital scholars about useful tools” (17). DiRT aims to serve as a central “clearinghouse” for information about tools useful to scholarship.

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