24 February 2006

Post-Pod: Media Beyong Mp3 - Chapter 1.2

Over the past five years, aggressive internet-driven marketing has helped accelerate the mass consumption of iPods, yet the real selling point is not the device itself but rather the process and culture of portable downloading and file sharing.

Way back in April 28th, 2003, Apple set in stone the future of internet music delivery by launching the 'iTunes Music Store' harnessing what previous on-line music distribution, through websites such as MusicNet and Rhapsody, had already established. The difference between Apple and other free or pay-based music download sites was attributed to an agreement signed between Apple and SONY BMG, Warner Bros, Universal and EMI which sought to reduce pirated and illegal music downloads by creating a pay-as-you-go internet culture at a grass roots level. Since 2003, evidence has shown that internet-user culture has experienced a reduction in illegal downloads of music and a surge in legal, pay-as-you-load consumption.

This highlights two factors: first, integrating the process of downloading as a replacement for shopping in a physical market place and second; establishing financially viable markets through global internet technologies so that new, more advanced methods of online exchange can be developed and from this, integrated into the cultural practice of e-commerce.

Within two years, over one billion songs were downloaded on the iTunes Music Store. In financial terms this is good news for Apple and its record label partners but in technological terms and, moreover, a generational shift into the growing dependancy of download culture, it establishes a dangerous position for other industries to capitalise on existing and potential mass markets.

What might be innocently conceived as a fun way to experience home entertainment could end up as the next type of weapon used to control or inflict coercion. Is it only a matter of time when terrorist groups or military forces use downloadable information through the hand held device as a front-line method of infliction? While this may be, more or less, a matter of science fiction, the fact remains that what has already been established in download market demands has to evolve somewhere and, as the way of all technology, a proportion of this has to end up as a means of destruction rather than infotainment . One only has to look at the London Tube bombings of June 2005 where the alleged terrorists used mobile phones to detonate explosives in buses and the train tunnels, to highlight the fact that simple interactive devices are potentially lethal.

Furthermore, on first glance the concept of new media device turned Hal2000 is frightening when evidenced through the current state of the world, in particular, and more close to my home, Australia, where the activities of hard line governments destabilising democratic pathways/impingement of civil liberties or in reverse, terrorist groups inflicting their onslaught against the innocent, are exposed to, via the internet, high-end computational possibilities delivered through low-end mechanics.

Likewise, new media devices have been used in activities of hate through the practice of mobile phone texting. During the Australia race riots at Crunulla in January 2006, the New South Wales police discovered that text messages sent by individuals gave specific locations and instructions to participants calling for civil unrest. The issue here, apart from the obvious question of moral judgement, gives rise to a greater lesson - that digital gizmos are not restricted to passive entertainment and communication values. One can hardly come to terms with the fact that these kinds of technologies are harmless or that the providers of such devices are simply rolling out ways to make your life more 'fun' as many IT marketing campaigns might lead you to believe. The aforementioned examples dispel this reasoning.

So the issue now is to consider such devices as a productive or creative tool designed for multi-function entertainment yet the flip side of this scenario must be acknowledged as also contributing to a menacing and dangerous position in the hands of fundamentalists: governments and terrorists alike. While I am not, however, advocating that the iPod is an evil invention it must be understood in very clear terms that the contributions of new media technologies through consumer and prosumer driven markets must be approached with caution and from this, respect ensuring that safeguards on existing technologies are not implicated in methods which extend beyong the infotainment factor and into a "destructainment" arena.

22 February 2006

Post-Pod: Media Beyond Mp3 - Chapter 1.1

When Steve Jobs first announced the release of the iPod in 2001, it was unclear just how influential Mp3 technology would be on user-end consumer markets. Within five years, the (now) phenomenon has, literally, taken hold of and, in many respects, characterised a new generation to what I call the 'i-Gen'. This is not to say Apple Computers have single-handedly morphed a generation of people into creating a lifestyle from digitally exchanged and archived music. However, the ‘myth’ of the iPod located as a fashion accessory has driven market factors to seriously reconsider the broader capabilities of this particular technology with applications that far exceed its current boundaries.

The new all-in-one video-iPods are now well circulated amongst digital communities but these are just improvements, and small advances, on a fairly old technology with limited resources. How could the hand held device evolve and would this be different from its current usage? My prediction is that the future of nano technologies will bridge a symbiotic application merging the digital and the biological together and, in doing so, will extend the iPod from media gizmo to post-human receptor.

Image a world where you could download and consume music straight into your brain? Technology so advanced that the division between digital and body are blurred. Plug yourself into an iPod and download antibiotics, or anti-aging nano-agents. Send robots into your body to rebuild hair follicles and limbs, cure acne and grow or repair internal organs, all from a wireless iPod connected to the bio-net (internet turned biological). This is where I see the future of media after the digital; reliant on the nano and its associated currencies that this will undoubtedly develop thereafter.

The major problem with a bio-nanonic iPod is the interjection between device and body. Would the body itself be genetically engineered with connecting ports - like a USB or FireWire - from which to plug such devices into? Could wireless become so advanced that the projection of nano-like robots penetrate the body through receptors, implanted as if some kind of small computer chip or even more advanced, a micro-sized internal port injected into the blood stream or tissue to circulate throughout the body indefinitely?

The ethical issues which surround such a venture are monumental. These far distant iPods could be used for measures of attack – from military hardware, state and religious terrorism, scientific exploitation, torture or coercive interference, to marketing, advertising, communication and fashion.

The future of media – an ‘after-digital’ regime – is surely in development yet throughout the next decade, advancements and investment into nano applications could bare witness to the next generation of human evolution and consumption where people are not only genetically altered but inter-connected, as if some borg-like structure, with one another. What is next for new media consumption? – the collective post-human.

REMIX(1) Authoring the Digital Remix: Images Under Strain.

Throughout 2006 I will publish a series of short discussions about 'remixing' in context to how memory, authorship and the image share an uneasy position.


While it is clear that the idea of 'the remix' is not a recent invention or singular by-product of the Postmodern era and has, in fact, been represented in most facets of human communication for thousands of years, the symptoms of re-appropriation in a twenty-first century context has changed, and from this influenced the dominance of the visual image throughout new media orientated practice.

By the very nature of the digital, transference and manipulation of data occurs through linear appropriation imbedded through narrative structures - from 'A' to 'B', up and down, from here to there. To achieve a methodological process in creative fields, the establishment of images survives because of a remixing of a first image (the original) into a second image (the copy). We can see this when digital photographs are uploaded into a computer: the image becomes a copy of the original file stored from inside the cameras hardrive and transferred to its new location.

Archiving data, whether it be photographs, text or otherwise is dependant on the process of copying. The problem that exists here rests on the image itself — under strain and, to what Australian art theorist Charles Green states as 'under pressure'. Can it be that through the digital there are no original images and from this, what of the ethical dilemmas that attach themselves to a future of generational copies?

If the visual image is indeed under tension from the digital process, then any sense of ethical involvement must address two factors: authorship and deliverance. The first must objectively generate mediation with the second and the latter faces a crisis of authorship through outputting the first. If we agree that the digital process creates a version of the original through the action of ‘remixing’ then one might argue that the authorship of the copy does not necessarily relate to the authorship of the original, it is a new authorship centred on the creation of a version of something else. Moreover, has the originality of an image been superseded by the digital remix? Evidence of this can be found in the manipulation of images through software such as Photoshop giving users the option of collating one image with another to form a third image, and so forth.

Hense, digital technology can no longer be seen as portable photocopiers in filing cabinets – moving, storing and transmitting data between file to file. The strain of the image has taken hold in such a way as to become part of a generational, and accepted, way of life (can a 16 year old imagine life without Mp3 players?) where this fundamental logic is intertwined with the process of the remix: an old dog with new tricks.

(This version will feature in a forthcoming Italian publication titled Lev Manovich: 5 questions about digital culture, edited by Vito Campanelli and Danillo Capasso)

21 February 2006

Filmic Memorials i @ Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Filmic Memorials i
Memory Grid
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
until March 6th, 2006.

As part of my ten year research investigation into memory and film, the Filmic Memorials project disects family 8mm home movies through spatially animated and painterly sequences captured as digital video on plasma screens (x6).

The companion work to this exhibition - focusing on 1950s footage of Europe - was screened at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth in September last year. This installment examines Victorian centric locations captured on film and how filmic narratives are generated from such places through the intermediation of the moving image and of self.

The exhibition will be displayed until March 6th.

20 February 2006

NEW06 @ Australian Centre of Contemporary Art

Shaun Wilson 1975 (2006) video still, DV as single cahnnel DVD, colour, sound, 120 mins.

Curated by Juliana Enberg
March 14 - May 14, 2006
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

Helen Johnson
Laressa Kosloff
Natasha Johns-Messenger
Darren Sylvester
Giles Ryder
Shaun Wilson

ACCA's prestigious annual showcase of recent commisions by young Australian artists of national significance will this year feature video, installation, painting, sound and sculpture. Since Melbourne's once hotter-than-hot art prize The Moet Chandon Touring Prize went to curators heaven there has been a lack of Melbourne orientated block-buster exhibitions focusing on cutting edge experimental art — with one exception being the major survey show '2004' that ran concurrently at the NGV and ACMI in 2004.

Thankfully ACCA had the foresight to carry on a program in the spirit of the Moet Prize that has, give or take a few artwork flops, once again put the zing back into public galleries. This is not to discredit the outstanding track record of other galleries such as what Gertrude Street, Westspace, Platform etc and now Kings ARI have given us over the past decade or so, however in terms of major survey shows at top shelf venues the NEW series really takes the cake. If ACCA can maintain a long term perspective on NEW by keeping to the current formula of 6-7 artist commissions then what a superb time capsule of artistic meat and three vegs we will have in years to come. Like Malcom Bywater's art time capsules, the monumental 'Artline' 30 year-long exhibition series, NEW has the potential to present a moment in time, a reflection of a generation and, moreover, a reflection of the society with which such a generation was reared, to be well preserved for future viewers.

It is also worth noting that if this years show can uphold what the others have already established then NEW07 has a lot to live up to - perhaps we might see the likes of UN Magazine's editor Lily Hibberd exhibit her film star paint tins or Brendan Lee screen what is arguably the most nationally significant example of political video art around today, True Blue (where are the Crunulla inspired, or was that horrified, artworks on public display?) or even a good juicy Juan Ford painting ready for conceptual harvest.

What ever this years current artists establish, it is sure to be an interesting exhibition with the likes of Helen Johnson, Makeshift, Laresa Kosloff, Natasha Johns-Messenger, Darren Sylvester, Giles Ryder and Shaun Wilson. As for what I'm doing, well you'll have to come along and see for yourself but think home movies at 3% then you might have some idea.

ebook: Post-Pod: Media Beyond Mp3.

Throughout 2006 I will publish extracts from my ebook Post-Pod: Media after Mp3. You can read a teaser in the project and forthcoming Italian publication Lev Manovich: 5 questions about digital culture [http://www.thenetobserver.net/levmanovich/].

Post-Pod disects what will replace Mp3 technologies from existing media distributions by exploring how nano technology and what I term the 'bio-net' (biological internet) will interconnect and impact on our ways of communicating, terms of identity malfunction, privacy reconditioning and place making. The arguments raised throughout disperse sentiments that Mp3 technologies are simply for recreation and delve into how their distant future cousins will become far more sinistair and interventionalist - nanoterrorism, DNA corruption, computer consciousness and biological/technological mergers.

A full copy of the ebook will be available for sale later this year for $29.95 AUD as a first edition of 20,000 copies.