Sunday, December 14, 2014

Living/Dead spaces and the distracted death

Fascinated by After, a video by Victoria Lucas showing Sheffield's Castle Market shopping centre, now waiting to be destroyed. (Via Some Thoughts on the Unbecoming of Places) The video is haunting, but gorgeous. Seems to despair, yet revolve with love. Is empty and silent, yet lets something else speak.

I've noticed that this emptiness and silence of space has a particular hold on me. "After" is, in one world, of exactly the same ilk as Titan City in Minecraft - a realm that is not quite sure if it is alive or dead. However, where Titan City was always built in order to be built - and to be populated is merely a bonus - Castle Market is on the way out, a place in the same state, but going in the other direction.

(In contrast to other forms of unpopulation, such as Candida Höfer's Architecture of Absence, which are simply in between people.)

Looking back, even a small photo/haiku project A World of Corners opened with an empty room, and seemed to mainly consist of rooves. Some of my favourite memories are of wandering round libraries after closing hours. Letting a space speak for itself - that's the challenge. People are so terribly noisy.

This moment between not-quite-populated/alive and not-quite-unpopulated/dead (and someone must be there to experience either) is perfectly underrated. We think of spaces as places for people to go, to gather, to function. Indeed, a "function room" can never simply be just a room ever again - it has been named, and designated its ultimate lot. It is only a space which is living up to its name at a moment in time, or failing. The humble "dining room" suffers the same fate. Don't even think about "living rooms".

We seem to struggle with silence and with emptiness these days. Empty rooms are filled with noise or pictures. Quiet can only be achieved through massive institutional influence - such as religion for cathedrals, culture for theatres, knowledge for libraries.

Contrast this to other, distant worlds which are less upset by minimal outlooks. (Kakuzo Okakura's Book of Tea is a good place to start.) To 'retreat' into silence is actually nothing of the sort. In reality, we use noise and distraction to force the mind into submission, to retreat back into its shell. We cannot allow ourselves to enjoy the space we're in - and by extension, we cannot enjoy the enjoyment either.

This is not a call for silence with one finger held to the lips, but a call for an appreciation of the environment - a humility that the world exists without humans, that it can exist, and moreso that it will continue to exist as such.

Might as well get comfortable.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The unreal space of censorship - Protocols vs Companies

One


I'm kind of fascinated by the technical approaches to community "censorship" - in quotes because the word has taken on too many connotations to use casually.

Twitter has just announced new tools to discourage harassment, obviously in light of GamerGate. In the announce, they say "We are nowhere near being done making changes in this area." Along with Facebook's constant revision of privacy tools and policy, it's clear that controls over communication are being fought out in the realm of service provision (rather than, say, being user-controlled). The masses of users are, in all cases, totally dependent on the people providing the service.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's just a fascinating thing given the history of this realm of control. It is fascinating having grown up with mailing lists and IRC as a collection of yardsticks, for instance.

In the "olden days" as my son would call them, you didn't have service providers. (Well, you had AOL. I'll come back to that.) You had protocols, and the protocols let anyone set up their own space. Sometimes there are spaces within spaces, such as IRC channels inside a particular IRC network. The protocols were vital - by being open standards, anyone can jump anywhere that uses them. Protocols encourage liquid connections. This is important.

Under normal protocol rules, the spaces that interactions happen in are real and not real; they can form and unform in a moment's notice. They are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere - easy to be established forever, and equally easy to be destroyed on a whim. Real ghosts.

Contrast that with Twitter. Twitter is a "thing" in itself. It is not a Twitter protocol. Twitter must survive because people need to make money from it. Twitter cannot be cloned nor destroyed. It must be preserved.

Two


The cypherpunks mailing list was deliberately chaotic. Email is inherently non-authenticated, and the list added to this by attempting to preserve pseudonymity through a series of remailers that masked sending locations. Censorship - blocking - was purely the preserve of the receiver. If you didn't want to read missives from someone, it was your own filtering - usually a 'killfile' - that handled it.

It's possible to spend all day talking about killfiles, but the essential thing is that they were yours, no-one else's.

On IRC, things are different again. Anyone can set up a channel, or a chatroom. The "founder" of the channel has deity-like powers ("operator" access) over who can be or speak in the room, and can extend powers to others. From this simple set of rules, a system of reputation forms - those who gradually earn trust in the channel may eventually receive ops powers - or not, it depends on the way in which the channel was set up, and runs.

However, it is not the IRC protocol that sets those rules, or even the IRC network. It is the channel itself. If you don't like the rules, create your own goddamn channel.

I'm not saying any of these are good, or better. I'm just saying this is how things are in other places.

Three


Twitter has a responsibility to its users that a protocol can never have - it is the provider, the police, and the politic. It defines how you interact as much as whether you can interact. It sets the terms. It determines the functions without a vote. How much does it define you?

Think back to AOL, which runs off the same lines, the same model as Twitter. It is the policed space that attracts a certain trust in its users. Without that trust, it is nothing more than a technical spec. Its business model is trust, and letting that slip results in debacles similar to Habbo Hotel in 2012. For a company, trust is everything.

But if that trust becomes the raison d'etre for a technical service, what does that mean for its users? Do they trust themselves any more? Are they disempowered? Or is the force wielded by the service they use something that they could never hope to impersonate anyway? What does it mean if they can't vote on the rules, or even work they way into the ranks, IRC-style?

You can blacklist but you can't whitelist. You can leave but that's it, you're out.

Either way, you're on your own.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Memes and Money and Bitcoin and Bits and Me and You

One


Money is many things to many people - a memory system, a way of sustaining civilisation, a game. At worst, it is a religion. No, wait. At worst, it is a cult.

Money is too real these days, too alive for its own good. People stress about it, feel good about it, die for it. Money buys you food, but it turned into a simple medium for buying food later on into an entire industry in itself.

Not just an industry - a cult. Or a culture. A theme park that is more real than what it is being exchanged for. “Value for money” became a Thing. A gradual acceptance of Greed in the 80s turned into a long-term, ingrained study of personal economic efficiency. The trendsetters set the terms. Everyone else tries to fit those terms into the square hole of their lives, and gloats when a corner seems to fit. Supermarkets have become purveyors of “money hacking”.

Two


The net was always a fictional world for me. Disembodied words from strange countries I would never visit. People spilling their lives out like a book in real-time. It was more real than real, and it was never real. Real-time wasn’t real because time is warped on-line. Words do as they want.

The net was, and is, a plaything. Identities come and go. Groups gather and disperse. Websites appear, mutate, lose their way, get eaten by wolves and come out the other side as just shells. The path between idea and reality is shorter than ever, as distant as registering a domain name.

But reality itself is being forgotten. No, worse, it is being subsumed, reflected, reanimated. The illusion of the net is more powerful than the red dust of what we had before. The “twats of David (@david_cameron) Cameron’s world were born from a hyperreal society that inherently hypervalued media and attention already. We are all political leaders now. Democracy is a game, a dangerous, deadly, fucked-up game of Russian Roulette.

I was drawn into the net because it was and wasn’t real. It had weight without substance. Power without force. Violence without guns. I love living there.

Three


Bitcoin is a money that I can understand - a faith system founded in bits and rules. It is an open-source hydra, free of any responsibilities to itself, and yet self-contained to the point of nonchalance. It is sage-like in its independence. It will live or die, but care not.

It was reading about Slenderman (via James) that got me understanding: Bitcoin is a myth.

Money is a myth. A religion. A cult. It has value because people talk about it.

Bitcoin is a meme. It has value because people pay attention to it.

The net has power. It has value because people can trade words on it.

My attraction to Bitcoin is the same as my attraction to the net. Bitcoin is to money as the net is to democracy. It is real and yet not real. It is no more real than what it pretends to disrupt - or to mirror, to parody, to usurp. Reality is a bunch of crap. Reality on the net is just more obviously a bunch of crap.

Four


Bits can be destroyed at any moment, and yet simultaneously they can be created, copied, cloned endlessly forever. How can this be? No, that’s not important. The important question is: Which is the real copy?

In the real world, democracy and money are made real through guns and bars. Counterfeiting is possible but discouraged. Power struggles are contained within grandiose halls.

In the net world, counterfeiting is a way of life. Open source projects are forked like staring through a series of kaleidoscopes. Power struggles are moved into new spaces. Same problems, different approaches. Was the colonisation of America merely a fork of Europe?

If money is fungible, is creating new money a form of cloning?

Five (because four is a symbol of death)


What is real? Nothing? No, that’s not possible. Something is real because the word “real” exists. You are reading this now, aren’t you? So there is something here. Perhaps it is just that what we think of reality needs re-pointing, re-grounding.

If bits are real and not real, and the things those bits reflect are real and not real, do the bits and the things they reflect both ultimately refer to something real? Is that reality merely “us”? You? Me? Should I define democracy in terms of myself, or myself in terms of the democratic system of political inter-struggles I was born into?

If money is a memetic system, are all memes equally valid forms of defining the substances that make us up? And if so, can I choose to jump between such memes just like a can choose to convert all my Pounds Sterling into Euros?

I wish I could draw this to a halt, an artistic conclusion that leaves the reader with a sense of fulfilment. Sadly, I think there are only empty highways, scarily open fields, and the void of a space yet to be truly discovered. It is worth packing blankets at this point.

I have run out of things to say. There is only the speed of thought, and beyond that, the speed of the heart.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Open Notebook Project

About a year ago I bought a small notebook. A few weeks ago, I bought a second. The first had filled up - initially with shopping lists and to-do items, but then increasingly other notes - haiku, ideas, doodles, tiny plans for world domination.

I've always run off paper, but usually scraps - backs of receipts and the nearest postal spam to hand. Holding a completed notebook in my hand was a new experience - a chronology of cognition, of moods, of divination, of places I'd been and people I'd met.

In short, I found it too interesting an object - in itself, lying before me - to immediately throw away. Its pages were me.

I asked around on Twitter - what should a person do with such a thing? The ever-co-conspiratorial Bookmore assisted:

"Scan it all, frame your favourite piece, donate ideas as gifts to people they remind you of."
Wise advice, and it struck a chord. Recently I'd installed some camera-scanner apps on my phone, so I fired one up, and started scanning in any interesting pages. I skipped the shopping lists.

It took a few days, but it got there. Scanned, sorted - and now shared. I wondered, is there anything to gain from an "open notebook"? I always love seeing other people's notes (science ones, graf artists, &c.), so maybe there's a small chance that my own are of interest some day or some where. I also kind of like the idea of being able to discuss current ideas between a circle of people as well - a form of "open source
creativity".

If you're interested, you can view scanned the pages via Dropbox (BTSync was in the planning, but need to run some tests/checks on this):

Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zn6jnsxapmdnfvt/AACXpHF4uj9YcHdmadOwI7STa?dl=0

Haven't deeded if I'll send any pages yet. But I've enjoyed the "digitisation" process and the questions it leads to, such as:
  • should I transcribe text or not? Is it the text that's the content, or the presence of the page itself?
  • should pages be sorted chronologically, or into categories?
  • should these notes be kept apart from other notes, eg. email, test messages. Why / why not? Is the idea of a "notebook" significant in itself?
  • should notebook 2 get digitised as I go, or at the end?
Drop me a line with any thoughts on any of this!

More broadly, I'm doing a lot more with paper still - the tangibility of the medium along with the absent virtuality inherent to the handwritten form seems to hit a gap that the online world is designed to leave behind.

More paperwork soon. For now, the open notebook is out there, at least. Would love to know if any of it is useful or interesting, but at the same time is it also a personal project that just happens to be "out in the wild" as well?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Minecraft vs Brutalism

"Titan City", a Minecraft map that took someone 2 years to build on an XBox (direct link to video) (Via BBC):



vs Brutalist Architecture, eg:



Block-buildings are block-buildings. Or are they? I'm fascinated by the seemingly-overlapping world of Minecraft and Brutalism, but which seem never to meet over society's agreement on how "awesome" they are. I think the split comes down to a couple of things:

1. Computer interfaces are inherently brutalist, whereas analogue is not. Pixels make sense when you're seeing things through a screen. There is a continuity here which our brains can cope with, less so in real life.

2. Individualism is beauty - in general, the "impressive" Minecraft "art" is more about appealing to our sense of scale. In Minecraft we think "one person (or a few people) built this by themselves." In the real life, everything is automated and easy to a Nth degree. In an online space where scripts rule, effort is rewarded. In real life, the equivalent would maybe be the Minack Theatre.

3. Titan City is empty, devoid of purpose other than to exist purely as "something that somebody has built". It is not infrastructure, it is not dynamic, it is not inhabited. It is a thing in and of itself, nothing but form. Real world buildings rarely have the same luxury.

Pixels. Funny things, really.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NewHive and the evolution of paperspace

Not sure why but I really love the openness, emptiness and madness of NewHive. Here's a quick haiku page for you that I put together to try it out.

In recent online/offline comms with Bookmore we've been discussing the linearity of the digital form vs the formality of paper; on one hand, why does the 'advance' of email end up in a single, unwavering channel of thoughts and words? Why are footnotes so difficult in e-text? On the other hand, letters are unrestrained in direction - the blank page contains no inherent rules on where text should run - and yet we conform to the same restriction as email, a single line of thought. Why not embrace the margin, love the annotation?

I love paperspace, it's something that's driving me at the moment. NewHive is a bit like paperspace, just like a bad desktop-publishing program (remember them?) - but unlike such software, it's easy to play around with, to mess with the space you have in front of you. It's a 2D thing, unlike the 1D world of email, blogging, etc. (And no, hyperlinks don't (inherently) count.)

I'm looking forward to where 2D paper-like space goes next. Is hyperlinked paper really the nearest endpoint, a local optimum? Or are we able to push past that into something actually original - something that manages to somehow transcend paper, online paper, and bad Word Art?



Bollocks to GamerGate, bollocks to check boxes

I've been lurkingly following GamerGate for a while - enough to know what the debate is about, if not the intricacies and specifics. I'm deliberately not linking to it, for reasons I'll hit below. I figured I wanted to blog about it.

Or not it. As ever, I'll pick a subject apart to see what makes it tick. To see what I'm *really* thinking about it. The world is pretty confusing to me these days - I'm rather a simpleton, but one out of choice than luck. So I like to break things down a bit.

On the one hand, Gamergate is a discussion we should have been having 20 years ago. It's a discussion we should be having all the time. 20th century western culture (yes, it is very much a post-WW2 phenomenon I think) is not one that any person can be particularly proud of - and here I mean mainstream culture. Games yes. And TV. Magazines. Advertising. Cooking. Everything you enter into by venturing out into the street. Let's have this discussion. Let's at least start now.

On the other hand (or perhaps it's the SAME HAND) let's not call it GamerGate. Let's not turn it into a meme, another internet fad that is sealed off, another hyperlink. It deserves better than that. "GamerGate" as a term stinks of everything it is trying to blow apart - trademarked brand phrases to lodge short-lived ideas in the wandering minds of people raised on headlines. It's not even sexism. Or it is, but it's bigger than that. I'm with Foucault on this.

Let's switch perspective briefly. I feel lucky to have had a son born recently. He's my second son, I have two boys. I'll skip the gushing parental adjectives. This isn't about me or them. It's about that bit at the back of your mind that sees two sons and thinks "wow, you two kids are damn lucky." It's about the "luck" they have because of who they are, not my luck for having them.

Except it's bollocks all to do with luck, isn't it?

Son 1 is big into superheroes these days like all the kids. Spiderman, Superman, Hulk, Batman (a bit) - even Iceman. That's a lot of men. They like to fight other men.

Iceman is on the list because I'm cheap and just watch the old 60s cartoons on YouTube with him. I'm aware American comics generally are pretty rubbish models for targeting both genders. But 'Spiderman and his amazing Friends' does at least try - alongside Iceman there's Firestar, in fetching yellow and red. She does fire stuff and fights ... men.

Fast forward 2 hours to the Lego Store up the road, packed with superheroes. Spidey is there, plus all the current favourites - Hulk, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America Man. Ice Man is sadly gone. But so is Firestar.

IT'S ALL MEN.

FIGHTING MEN.

But wait, don't get distracted. It's not about the fighting. I'm not saying kids shouldn't fight, that's a different discussion altogether.

What I *am* saying is This: Our culture, our stories, our lens onto the world, is one in which "males are inherently powerful" and "females are lucky/special/token if they're powerful". It's a story which turns into an expectation of privilege - or anti-privilege, if you're looking down on someone on the other side. In our mind, the story becomes a *right*. Go into the Lego store, and you know what girls' rights are? Big yachts and pets. The fighting gets replaced by throwing a party. LIKE BOYS CAN'T THROW PARTIES.

It's not just American comic superheros, which we know are a bad model business. It's what we buy - as boys. Robots (male ones), dragon slayers (male ones), turtles (male ones). Female ones are thrown in, as a gesture to post-modernity, but you're damn lucky if your ratio is more than 1:4. And they always just ... stand out from the others.

On the flip side, girls get to do cool stuff like be doctors, vets, and cleaners.

(Personally I love a lot of Eastern stories because the women kick arse. The Heroic Trio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heroic_Trio) is a truly amazing film.)

This is about *received power* and the *expectations* of what you are *entitled* to do because of who you are. It is a list of check boxes for your own attributes that gets turned into a cultural image, which in turn gets converted into the sleaziest thing of all - a *product*.

So far I'm not saying anything new. That's for a good - no, a *vital* reason: THIS IS NOT NEW. Not by a long shot. The only thing needed is for anyone that thinks it stinks to say so. That's what would be new.

It's not about gaming, or coding, or banking, or cooking, or driving, or fighting, or saving money. It's about one thing: an individual being able to feel they can do whatever they've decided to do without pre-vetting themselves just because they think someone else won't like it. Re-read that until you get it.

On my own parental behalf, I'll do my best to get gender balance into stories - others and mine - where I can. And to not dissuade anyone, kids included, from doing something because they have different check boxes. I'm proud that Son 1 wants the dinosaur-catching guy toy he just got to be a girl. I'll happily leave the Heroic Trio lying about for when they're the right age to watch it. I'll make sure we have plenty of cooking and cleaning stuff around the house - including the simple act of me doing it.

Cooking is awesome.

Bollocks to check boxes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The glow of the zine

Warren Ellis on the Death of The Magazine.

Interesting reading as I'm playing with the idea of a digital zine at the moment. With words and pictures. What *is* the zine "experience" these days? I'm tempted to make it available as a PDF, but also to offer print-outs or photocopies to anyone that wants to get it in the post. I love the post. But more and more these days, I'm blurring offline paper with online. More to come on that later.

Is there something other than screen or paper? A digital physical object? 3D-printed zines?

Monday, October 06, 2014

Butterflies and Sand random haiku: Last edition

Oh yeah, the 12th and final edition e-book of randomised haiku Butterflies and Sand is out now. I decided to move on from it because I think entropy requires more thought. That, and a new son turning up. The experiment was really interesting though, and I'm definitely hoping to carry it on in another guide one day.

(In a way, I realise now that the project carried on from a series of seasonal photosets way back in 2010/2011 - 1, 2, 3, 4. Are seasons more interesting than entropy?)

Autumn release notes pasted below:

It's 8.30pm and I'm passing time waiting for my second son to be born. The stars are out and the air is recently cooled. A mug of tea is sitting on the table.

This is the 12th edition of Butterflies & Sand - and also the last. Probably. The timing is right - it's Autumn, a time for the established to wind down, and to prepare for new growth. Changes are coming, but they take time and effort.

I've learnt a lot from running this series, and hope to bring the haiku with me to some new incantation somewhere else, somewhere later. More things could be automated, and I want to return to the question of 'why entropy?' in a clearer way. If anything happens, I'll let you all know.

This edition, which you can download freely now, seems to sum things up well though. On an evening when it's hard to say what the night will bring, the chapter headers are well picked. There are 6 this time too - one to say goodbye for now:

1. Tremble
2. Son's
3. Waiting
4. Train
5. Fresh
6. Morning

Maybe there's a message in there somewhere. Both the markov mashup and the Exaiksis sections also seems strangely... personal, for something so detached.

I also wanted to add some more thoughts on haiku and the haiku moment to the book. They're in there towards the end, but if you want to read them directly, the Dropbox links are:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/nf2ckttvg2logog/the_haiku_moment.txt?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/kw8ciuyx3e5hhpx/things_i_have_learnt.txt?dl=0

Finally, a quick thank you to everyone who's been reading along the way. I'd be very interested in any feedback, but otherwise just hope I've inspired someone to try writing a haiku once upon a time.

They're amazing things.

Best,
Scribe
@6loss


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The sage and the skateboard: a #TaoPunk investigation

What’s skateboarding got to do with ancient China anyway? This is pretty much where I find my life right now, in big picture terms. This post is a stab at drawing so many different strands together. It probably won’t work, but I guess that depends on the reader.

HASHPUNK


I spent a few minutes reading Skateboarding As Religion by Sean Wilsey. By the end, tears were rolling down the inside of my brain. (It’s been a long week.) I’m not a skateboarder, but I do skate to work and back a fair bit. I love it.

I first got a board when I was about 14, and trickled round the park - too scared to stand up, I knelt down and jumped off whenever a dog came near. I probably quit a couple of weeks after taking a tumble onto my face. Glasses are pretty unforgiving. About 10 years ago though, I can’t remember why but I wanted a board. I was out of Uni and had a life ahead of me. Buses were getting slow and expensive, and it was flat to and from work. That was when I started standing on boards.

Sean’s essay took me back to both of those lives. I repeat, I’m not a skater - I’m closer to a commuter. But I like to think I’m not too old yet, and he touches on all the reasons I still keep my board, and why I still think about buying another, and why I hate the arrival of road gritters in winter.

As an urban traveller, it’s about making the most of your greying environment:

...as the world becomes more like America, more paved and less natural, skating improves. ... Despoilment is gorgeous to a skateboarder.

And it’s about efficiency to the point of invisiblity:

In a crowded city, no one on foot or bike or in a car can ever hope to keep up with you. Up and down stairs. On buses and trains in an instant. Kick it up into your hands and it’s a club to ward off danger; throw it back down and you’re gone.

As constant frailty, it’s about keeping your eyes open:

Skateboarding is observing things minutely. ... Looking at the world like a skater means looking down. It means rarely raising your eyes above curb level, constantly monitoring the smoothness of concrete and being alert to the presence of pebbles or grit

It’s about getting on with the shit you love even when you have to bail out:

My shirt looked like someone had thrown acid at me. My chin was sore. The skin was grated off the palms of my hands. I started to run [after my board].

And above everything else, it’s about keeping moving:

The flow of skating ... makes for bad watching. Pictures are deceptive. Videos don’t convey anything. How someone looks doing it has very little relation to the experience. A skateboarder moves like a thought.

Like a thought. Or less, even - by the time you’re thinking something, it’s too late. Everything has to happen and to react just at the right time, just before you’ve judged what’s happening.

None of this even touches on the “punk” side of things though. You have to go and read the whole thing for that. Or look around you - all around you. Not at the skateboarders though, but at the things which you see and ignore because you hate them. All the stuff you “put up with” because it’s too much effort to argue against. The invading flocks of adverts. The endless rivers of cars. The fences and barriers and anti-pigeon devices and the mini-borders thrown up around every property everywhere. The private barrenness and the tiny gaps which the truly “public” are allowed to be squeezed through, and pay for the privilege. Murder, and All-Bran, and rape.

The original title of Sean’s essay was “Using so little”, and you need to read it to see why. But that’s a good segue.

HASHTAO


I don’t really know what most people think of when you say the word “taoist“ to them. Incense and robes and mountains, I guess. To be fair, they’d be kind of right. But wrong as well. There are symbols, of course, and then there are what the symbols sum up.

About the same time that I bought a board for the second time, I also started getting into tai chi, and further into taoism - mostly Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu then. For the first time, I felt like I’d discovered something which spoke to me about being me. Not “me” in the context of “we” - most theories on the self come in the form of “we should be like this”, “we should do that”. The tao texts aren’t like that, they’re more selfish, but to the point of being selfless. They exist to remind you of where you come from - they are texts that emanate from the mind of a child, of a baby, of the forces that make up the human, rather than humanity. Humanity means nothing, absolutely nothing, if you don’t eat and sleep. Taoism is about eating and sleeping.

It’s about getting back to basics - casting off excess, effort, expectations. Eat. Sleep. Go to the toilet. Laugh if you want to. Cry when you need to. Any more than that and you’re starting to get seriously complicated. You’re starting to incur overhead, the overhead of thought. Sounding familiar yet?

Once you have that, you can do anything, because you no longer do anything. This is the magical world of taoism. Symbols appear and disappear, but here’s the sleight-of-hand: anything can be a symbol. Taoism uses a whole bunch of symbols, because they’re often useful for explaining things to people. But again, anything can be a symbol. If a symbol is useful, then why not use it?

The incense? Something to observe. Our nose is the most primordial sense we have - it’s the sense that babies use to find and attach to their mother. It is the difference between fresh food and off food. It’s the sense of survival. Incense isn’t a way to distract the senses, but a way to hone them.

Observe the street. Observe the world. Ride both.

The robes? In a world where parents fret about school uniform prices, the idea of a “prescribed” set of clothing seems counter-intuitive - and it is. Robes, uniforms generally, when done right and not turned into a new symbol in themselves, are a great equaliser. Forgetting your outward appearance is the first, easiest step towards regaining an understanding of your inner entity. Clothes are the most easily changeale aspect of this.

If you want to look good on a skateboard, you’ll fall off.

The mountains? WHO DOESN’T LIKE MOUNTAINS? No, seriously, people like mountains for one reason only - they scare the living joggies out of us. They’re big and you can fall off them and die. And as a result, they’re hard work.

Moving around your environment without fear. Perhaps this is what defines “punk” ultimately, and where #taopunk forms and settles and intermingles. For a taoist, the physical environment is what it is - different places have different forces within them, different resources and affects on the mind. For a skateboarder, the same is true.

And then there is the social environment. Mountains resist the creeping lurgy of urbanisation, and maintain their secrets within deep valleys. They are inhospitable to the point that people stay away.

Unlike cities - the melting pots of civilisation. The inhospitability of cities is on a different level. The lurgy is one of norms and interaction - city “culture”. Cities have their own secrets, but the secrets are of a social nature - icons and fragments hidden in walls that pertain to memories, but get forgotten about as the city cretaes new memories for itself, of itself. The rules over what is both “acceptable” and what is “fashionable” must keep developing. The city is change. You either fit in, or you are spat out.

Both taoists and skateboarders question their role in civilisation. Who are all these “ordinary” people who think they have it all worked out, and yet seem so miserable? How can yet more complexity claim to improve anything, whether it’s a new phone, desirable furniture, higher house prices or anything else? Does keeping up with everyone else really deserve so much effort?

Pursure knowledge, gain daily.
Pursue tao, lose daily.”
-- Tao Te Ching, 48


The mountains are just a way to lose people and to get back to “your”self. Go where people can’t be bothered to go. But at the end of the day, they’re only mountains. Even moountains get “busy”, relatively speaking. The mountains aren’t important. They’re just one kind of filter.

Learn the tricks, get through the filter, and you can live anywhere.

Flow. Detach. #Taopunk.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tiny Secrets

'Left-handed' electrons destroy certain organic molecules faster than their mirror versions.

Fu Xi arrangement of the 8 trigrams:

(via Tony Smith's page on the I Ching and DNA)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Slides from Hove Museum

Hove Museum has a great section on the history of cinema, including a small wall of glass slides. Here's some of my and my son's favourites from our recent trip:





If you're there, don't forget to check out the amazing Amber Cup too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ROTWOT 2014-09-10. "Why do people work?"

"Why do people work?" The child stared up at the father,
and the father looked back. "To make money. To buy food" said
the father.

"Why do people work?" asked the child to the teacher. The
teacher raised their eyebrows. "Well what do you want to be?"
the teacher replied.

"Why do people work?" said the child to the Prime Minister, who
gave a big, bellowing laugh. "So that society can improve for
the betterment of all!" The Prime Minister patted the child's
head, and walked off.

"Why do people work?" The manager took off her spectacles and
cleaned them with a cloth while she thought. Sliding them
back on to her nose, she said flatly, "we have to do -something-."

"Why do people work?" yelled the child, to make sure the giants
could hear. But the billboard just carried on looping its
wall-sized animation of people smiling to each other via tiny
screens.

It was the start of Autumn and the sun was touching the
distant clouds on the horizon. "Why do people work?" the child
said, as she took a seat next to the sage. The sage glanced
at the child, and then turned back to the sun. Pointed flocks
of birds were flying south against the brazen colours developing
in the sky.

The child smiled, and they sat there until the colours faded.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Fantastic Four must be sponsored by clean air

Absorption and interaction play havoc with regular linear modelling techniques. The world is more complex than we could hope for. "It could be that the biosphere is at its limit but we cannot tell that at the moment."

Buffering works at all levels though. Food preservation - including pickling - is one form of natural buffering, a slow-playback storage media to distribute effect through time. Squirrels are alchemists in this regard, along with natural acrobatic nature - they are either a race of thieves or our salvation, we need more studies to determine which.

We use everything up so quickly. Our phones last less than a day. Our fridges last less than a week. Our TV series are the only source of longevity left, the endless streams of Simpsons and Doctor Who. We need more studies to embed herring and DNA into our pop culture references. The Fantastic Four must be sponsored by clean air.

It is not a choice betwene life and death, but a protracted life that ends only when our rate of use exceeds rate of generation. A treademille. A reserve systeme. The modern problem of disconnected progress.

ROTWOT 2014-09-09

The WOT of today's ROTWOT is a short one. Short enough to embed elsewhere, like in a blockchain.

Monday, September 08, 2014

ROTWOT: Read one thing, Write one thing

A long time ago, when I was a different person, there was and still is a site called 100 words. Every day, for
a whole month, users write exactly 100 words. If you fill all the calendar slots, your words are published on the site.
Its almost too much work for me these days, but a single, leftover thread remains, sellotaped to my brain. The rigidity, maybe the heartbeat, of writing something each day. Forced creativity.

I am not a writer, but I love to write. I also love to read - books, graphic novels, articles, blogs, magazines, twitter - but hate myself for not reading "properly" among all the screens and devices around me; it takes me months to read the shortest of books.

Some daily practice is needed. I don't know how it'll work, or how long it'll last, but I'm up for the idea. And the name: Read One Thing, Write One Thing. Or ROTWOT. A daily literacy. Choose an output and input.

Unlike 100 words and twitter, there's no limit on writing, minimum or guide to any amount. It might be longer than a book, or shorter than a tweet. It's the ideas, not the word count. It's the practice of manifesting, not the science of measurement. Not all ideas will be great, but maybe something good will come of it. Oh yeah, it's also separate to tweeting and blogging.

I'll be hoping to span media as well - writing a blog is fine, but a postcard is also fun, and a stick through the sand speaks volumes. If we read in so many ways, why do we limit our scribing to "posts" and other endless conveyor belts?

Similarly, reading doesn't have to be anything formal. Maybe it's that photocopy that's been hanging around in a drawer for years. Or a postcard with a haiku on. Or a series of books.

That's me WOTted for today. Time to go and ROT.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Remix Brighton Museum animated gifs

There are some fantastic little animations coming out of Remix the Museum, part of Brighton Digital Festival at the moment. Some favourites:



Nausicaa's God Warriors updated

Studio Ghibli's Nausicaa is one of my - and my son's - favourite films, and the history of the poisoned world in it is grim, but enchanting. So pretty exciting to find an updated version of the back story from a year ago. Even without any subtitles it's great to watch.


Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo by shigure_souma

(On a related note, does anyone know if Laputa is set in the same Universe?)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Don't shoot"

I've been following Ferguson from the Twitter sidelines a little. Is it appalling? Definitely. Is it an uprising? No. Will anything change? No.

What's intriguing me most is the use of symbols, and what assumptions they make. I keep coming back to Foucault and his notion of biopower - and his descriptions of power via difference, rather than power because of difference. In other words, racism, sexism, ageism etc are nothing in themselves, but all just manifestations of people controlling other people.

It's hard to boil the Ferguson event down to an inherently racist society. Race, gender, poverty level, age - these and more are the playing field. Together, they're all factors in deciding that one group, or combination, should have power over another. Concentrating on any of them - even all of them - is pointless. The point is that the split exists at all. It's what Internet anonymity is so powerful at exposing - or rather, unexposing, hiding, obliterating.

That's one aspect which fascinates me - symbols as group definitions. Stick to the symbols to try to find a cause for it all, and you're never going to escape that cycle.

Similarly, the phrase "Hands up, don't shoot" sums up a whole bunch of stuff around the assumptions we make about power.

Firstly, it starts up by giving up all physical power. It is assumed that protest is about stopping those with arms taking action. It starts with the notion that there must be one side with guns, and one side without. As I get older, I'm leaning more towards an anarcho viewpoint which this doesn't fit too well with. If you want "civilised" society that moves towards equality and removing power imbalances, turning it into armed vs unarmed doesn't help. There's that split again.

(Similarly, armed vs armed doesn't help much either. There's still imbalance between who's got the fastest, biggest gun.)

"Hands up, no f***ing guns" might work better. Without the hands up. Tools down. No guns.

Tools. Hands. Surrender. Peace. Feels like we're failing to turn clever thoughts into a real world somewhere along the line. Instead we're just coming up with more catchy slogans - slogans which catch ourselves in our own net.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Portable libraries

Ooh, massive PDF on Radical Tactics of the Offline Library.

Monday, July 21, 2014

FBI-backed terror plots

FBI pushed Muslims to plot terrorist attacks: rights report

"The rights group charged that the FBI often targets vulnerable people, with mental problems or low intelligence.

"It pointed to the case of Rezwan Ferdaus, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison at age 27 for wanting to attack the Pentagon and Congress with mini-drones loaded with explosives.

"An FBI agent told Ferdaus' father that his son "obviously" had mental health problems, the report said. But that didn't stop an undercover agent from conceiving the plot in its entirety, it said."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Critique of Separation: Adventure time

Been meaning to watch Guy Debord's Critique of Separation for a while. Glad I did in the end - watch it if you're curious about the net weaved around us by culture and our media. Embedded below:

Critique of Separation (English subtitles) from 1000littlehammers on Vimeo.


Choice quotes:

"Childhood? Why, it's right here - we have never emerged from it."

"Our era accumulates powers and imagines itself as rational. But no one recognizes these powers as their own. Nowhere is there any entry to adulthood."

"The world of the rulers is the world of the spectacle. The cinema suits them well."

"It is necessary to destroy memory in art. To undermine the conventions of its communication. To demoralize its fans."

"We have invented nothing. We adapt ourselves, with a few variations, into the network of possible itineraries. We get used to it, it seems."

While on holiday, I finished reading a book on encounters with Chinese hermits. It seems very relevant here - as it goes through, it touches on the Cultural Revolution, the "red dust" of modern civilisation (something I'm trying to find more specifics on), and the bending of religious symbolicism to touristic ends - the creation of a spectacle of religion.

Hermits try to escape the "adventures" imposed on them by a society with very specific aims in mind. In the West, this gets captured and branded in itself - think of "Escape to the Country", for instance. Dropping out is a lifestyle, but lifestyles are themselves a product.

What adventures can we really say we are living out?

Fireworks filmed with a drone

Got round to watching an video on the Inter-net. This is another example of quadcopters delivering me another case of OMG: I'm not interested in actually owning one, but quadcopters are probably now up there with p2p tech in terms of important-20-year-tech-stuff for me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Google+ loses the nymwars

Looks like Google+ finally lost in the nymwars.

Wah wah wah. Too late. Disposable content needs disposable identities. Now f**k off, G+.

(Shit, still need to get off Blogger.)

Default Law: Subverting democracy in the face of terrorism

TBH I'm on holiday and haven;t got the time to go into details of emergency laws being passed. But two things strike me as pretty significant:

1. Nobody seems to be discussing safeguards in legislative process. As the BBC article mentions:

A bill's passage through the Commons usually takes a matter of weeks or months, although there are well-established procedures for fast-tracking bills when MPs believe that it is necessary to do so.
So under our democratic system, it's OK to basically route around the democratic system if the belief of the representatives say otherwise.

Some may say that we hand our electoral power over to our representative not as the power to vote, but as a token of trust. I'd say a democratic system which doesn't put in safeguards against inefficient and minimal debate and evidence is pretty lacklustre. Which comes on to...

2. Emergencies create their own default law. In other words, it doesn't matter what a specific law pertains to - if it relates to a "higher purpose" ("safety" in this case, but any significantly hyped meme could be substituted) then the details can be assumed to be mere bagatelles. It becomes about the intent of the law, not what gets trampled in its way. The details will default to the intent.

That intent stems from two things - the threat of a specific incident (such as a building being blown up), and an emotional response to the idea of a form of power (such as people threatening to blow up buildings).

In other words, our MPs are happy to bypass their democratic role when the idea of terrorism frightens them. They are happy to skip their responsibilities on a responsive whim.

Not only that, it is easier for them to do this. It is easier to take the safe route at whatever cost. "Nobody ever got fired for voting for more surveillance."

Remind me again how exactly we don't bow down to terrorist threats? If subverting your entire legal system isn't bowing down, I'm out of ideas.

"If we delay we face the appalling prospect police operations will go dark, that trails will go cold, that terrorist plots will go undetected.
"If that happens, innocent lives may be lost."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The National Trap

Values? Who has values these days? Or do we just have values, but we don't notice them because we just see them as part of everyday life?

WTF are "British" values? Should I feel un-British because I question the very idea of "British values", let alone the merit of "teaching" them? Or should I feel un-British for trying to distance myself from some of the shit that British leaders seem happy to foster? Maybe "Britishness" is akin to "normalness", and remains defined by whatever the majority of people would like to be, rather than what is.

Truth is, I have no idea what a nation is any more. Boundaries seem fairly arbitrary - and practically, dividing things up along geographical lines is less and less useful. Connections get stronger between global entities - from transnational corporations down to individual interactions. And on the flip side, splits within national boundaries get more uneven all the time - between the 0.1% and the 99.9%, between the top 50% and the bottom, between the baby boomers and the young, between the North and the South(-East). "National" doesn't cut it any more.

"National" is, I would say, now defined at the level of a straw man - a romantic ideal intended to summon up feelings of bulky togetherness. It is akin to a referral to the great "general public", "the masses", or even "immigrants". It is a stereotype being turned into a myth. It is certainly not to be trusted.

This Chinese media article, for instance, goes to great lengths to near-mock the arrogance of the British nation:

Britain's national strength cannot be placed in the same rank as China now, a truth difficult to accept for some Britons who want to stress their nobility. If they refuse to recognize this fact and find fault with China on purpose, even at the cost of bilateral relations, they will not find any mental comfort. Chinese society is more and more relaxed in dealing with Sino-UK ties, while the British could not be pettier. 
I was actually going to blog this as a "yeah, they're right" thing. But I realised it was impossible to blog it as a British blogger without some element of paradox. (And as a Sino-Saxon myself, also some element of personal dichotomy.)

(Perhaps this personal dichotomy is at the core of the confusion though. Britishness is nothing constant because Briton itself has changed so much in the last hundred years - or more. The proof is in my blood. It is like trying to describe the Beatles' musical style - when in fact, they merely absorbed everything they could. Is there, in fact, anything called Beatles-like music?)

I'm about to give a talk on Bitcoin, and one of the key points will be around the emergence of global platforms, and global trade systems - welcome to the world of the net. Sure there are similar lines - if not even more entrenched - on the Internet. But culture jumps the gaps quickly when it wants to. Finding a new set of values is as quick as creating a new account. Language is its own device.


The debate on values needs taking apart. The debate on nations needs to start. Before we fall into a trap, and it's too late to get out.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Broadcasting via Bitmessage

Been trying out Bitmessage a little bit recently. It's a messaging/broadcasting system based on top of Bitcoin, which seems to run a temporary blockchain for storing messages in. After a few days, they get lost if no-one picks them up, I believe. Still need to read up on it a bit more though. Easy to install.
Anyway. Public address there is BM-2cWwEi8e6Q6W1M9B2XRyJfu7LzTJGhjAuf - subscribe to get any broadcasts, or drop me a message under a highly amusing pseudonym.
Here's a sample of some of the stuff being broadcast currently (OK, like, 1 post in a fortnight):


http://phys.org/news/2014-05-west-antarctic-glacier-loss-unstoppable.html

One of my big motivating factors of emerging tech is how they can help us survive and get more resilient in a changing world - one in which the rules of the last 100 years are no longer useful. Things like Pirateboxes and distributed network tech seem to really chime with a fundamentally fragmented society.

"Network" is a funny word. In a post-apocalyptic world, there are probably 2 kinds of divergent definitions of what a network is:

1. Your *trusted* network, or people you regularly communicate with, and
2. Your *opportunistic* network, or people you bump into/have weak ties with, and need to "interrogate" quickly.

Currently most services which deal with the arbitration between these two levels are pretty centralised - someone, somewhere is holding a trust list. Twitter, Facebook, Google et al. Even things like the Bitcoin WoT are pretty centralised (due to the network effect and positive network externalities).

In a world in which centralised services (both web companies *and* governments) are an "inefficient" mode of trust (ie. slow and/or too much of a single point of failure and/or potentially inaccessible to everyone you need to network with), what modes of "proving trust" can exist? And how can they be formalised into something technical, eg. protocols, projects?

OK, this post has strayed a little further from the idea of climate change than I intended. Maybe I'll tie it together a bit more some tim soon.

WAIT AND SEE.

--
Disclaimer: This post is made available under an ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL Creative Commons licence.
Feel free to share and adapt this content for any purpose, even commercially, so long as credit is given. For more info, see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pictorial Notes from a Museum

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery has been a staple visiting point for years. When my son was born, it offered free entertainment, changing facilities, and a cafe. It's still a great place to wander round. These days I pay more attention to the small detail though - there's some fascinating stuff there.

Mugs adorned with freemasonry symbols:


Two Dogs Heads staring into your future:


A jug celebrating the guillotine. "View of LA GUILLOTINE or the modern beheading machine at PARIS by which LOUIS XVI late king of France suffered on the Scaffold Jan 21 1793".


I couldn't get a good picture of the chamber pot with Napoleon's head in, so here's a better version taken from Peter Kenny's blogpost:




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Cyberfootprints of Autonomous Identities

Part 1: Beyond Nomads

"Digital Nomads" are defined, it seems, as people that use a mixture of lightweight hardware and connected software to be free to travel, yet carry on doing what they want to do.

You could say it's inevitable as the physical world gets more crowded - "work" doesn't have to be done in the same physical space as co-workers (or at least the cons now outweigh the benefits); we aren't tied to really-specific locations to send/receive comms (the rise of the personal device saw to that); and, TBH, software-dependent working (anything that can be done digitally) just has significantly lower barriers to entry than other "traditional" hardware-based jobs.

Software is a platform of its own, and it's got unlimited space.

But what if we take the Nomadic idea further? Simply shifting everything from meatspace into cloudspace, and relying on technology to get smaller and lighter, isn't nomadicism - it's just more of the same but in a virtual way. We still accrue stuff, we still depend on the infrastructures (everything from wifi standards to cloud services) that permit us to relocate our corporeal selves. Are we really any more "free"?

Part 2: Carry your own advertising space

This giant truck vehicle has been hanging around Brighton recently. Here it is, ironically parked outside "Mobile Pitstop":


There's a giant blackboard on the back of it (beneath the balcony where the driver guy has his breakfast). The owner chalks up stuff he wants, and stuff he wants to get rid of. When I saw it, he was looking for mixed fuel, and deep tissue massages. He had nothing to offer.

The vehicle itself is pretty amazing - nuff said. But the blackboard really got me. Once your environment becomes your home and your constant transport, your breakfast bar as well as your identity to the outside world, 1) what do you want your vehicle to "say", and 2) once you've got people's attention, how you can exploit that? Part branding, part attention economy.

Unlike the online world where we'd find a place - a virtual bazaar or noticeboard - to pin up a message, and hope enough people were scanning to see it, this guy is his own notice board. It's a "pull board", entirely self-mediated, entirely self-interested, entirely absorbed into the rest of his existence.

(Also, blackboards aren't limited to specific functions. If he wanted to draw a crazy-arsed giant robot on it, what would stop him?)

Part 3: Slimline data, systemic functionality

Over at Empty Technology, I've started building up a "Nomad Infrastructures" section - I've posted my own initial thoughts here, coming out of earlier thoughts on modular personal infrastructures.

For me, this is a way to explore the impact that our hardware and software use have on our dependencies. That is, how much functionality do we need, how much do we want, and how much do we just use because we feel we should - all with an eye on how much power and effort we expend on each of these. The end goal is to feel free-er and more in control of our own movements, by realising what is essential  our own priorities are.

A lot of this question comes down to two things, perhaps: 1) what we decide we don't want to get rid of, and 2) systemic synchronicity - mutual efficiencies - between things that we do. For instance, maybe I can get take advantage of my travels by offering some kind of delivery service between places I frequent - offering a delivery service by itself doesn't make much sense, but a service that's convenient to me is an opportunity. Extra effort vs extra gain.

Deciding what you want is one thing. Deciding what you need to do it is another. Making it attractive is yet another again. (Mental note: Maybe we can map this to the self, the tools, and the other?) But there is a difference between dependency and opportunity. Helping people out, or being helped, becomes a voluntary act of kindness, rather than a reliance on charity.

Part 4: Towards your avatar's footprint

I tried long and hard to think up a catchy name for summing up an approach to minimising and controlling our data online and off - digital detachment, digital simplicity, etc etc. But TBH I just gave up. It's not a movement in itself, it's just a way of seeing. "Inbox Zero" has become a Thing, which is all well and good, but it specifies an outcome, not a rationale.

The closest I got to a Thing was to think of it as a "footprint" - in the same way that people talk about carbon footprints and, uh, that's about it really. A data footprint, the impression(s) we leave behind us. (It's not quite right. Footprints don't get used and mashed up or have any notion of "now" or ownership. But really, I gave up thinking about names at this point.)

But who's footprint is it? Is it ours, or does it belong to the online version of us?

No, rewind. Why are we so intent on leaving footprints behind us forever anyway? Why does my Facebook Timeline go all the way back to my birth? (Last time I checked. I'm not on there a whole lot.) Why is deleting your profile such a big deal?

What does that say about our relationship with our online presence? Or more precisely, what does it say about our relationship with others, when seen through the media channels we choose to engage with? What are you hoping people will discover about "you" when they browse your collection of photos/posts/tweets/videos?

Part 5: Autonomous identities, global avatars

So to return to the question about whose footprint we're talking about. Why do we choose to put out what we put out? Or to keep what we keep? Why is this photo better to post than that photo? Why do you "like" (in a Facebook-type way) this comment but not that comment?

Why did the guy in the huge vehicle paint it all black?

Each space we push data into becomes a fragment of our online identity, a particular facet of our global avatar - except it's an avatar that replaces its face with our choice of words, and its limbs with memes. We become constantly engaged in building this persona, whether we like it or not.

When someone visits one of these facets, one of our "outlets", it forms an image. It is accepted practice, now, that these images are there to be "followed", to be popular. The facets and images get given their own email addresses, homepages, plus signs (whatever would +ORQ have thought?) and are worth billions of dollars. We craft them like the tools that store them.

Each image exists by itself, somewhere out in cloudspace, ready to be dug up and made to perform on request. They are autonomous identities, golems we create to hold our place while we go and check on our other golems. This blog is a golem. It hosts words, wraps them in fabrics, and holds messages for me while I'm away. Leave one now after the beep and I may get back to you.

But the golems can only do so much - they are limited by the space they are created in. So we create ever more spaces. Ever more golems.

Part 6: Your faith in your friends is yours.

There's nothing wrong with any of this, of course. Empty Technology is not about right or wrong. But it is about control - keeping control over your own golems, to avoid them taking on the commands of others. It's also about simplicity, to avoid all those images taking over from the real thing.

How much is "too much", and how much control you want to swap for dependency - these are questions only you can answer.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Trolley graveyard

Trolley graveyard:





Monday, March 31, 2014

My City is not Your City

UnSYSTEM: Wiki page on open-source cities.

Related? Brighton talk next week on an API for a city.

This week's purchase: Paris as Gameboard - Man Ray's collection of Atget's photos exploring another Paris.

What role do/can surrealism, psychogeography, street photography and haiku play in re-admitting and re-building the urban world? How can we reshape our economies, our lifestyles, our dependencies, through picking apart the routes we take every day and the cracks we prefer to ignore?

Here's one of my favourite graf pieces in Brighton:


It's on my way to work, if I choose to go up these steps. I doubt many tourists have ever seen it. But it exists. With a pipe through the middle, and surrounded by steps. It is beautiful. Legally, the steps are private property - there are warning signs.

(Digression: See the Sinna One site here.)

Are data, photos, haiku all just shards and aspects of how each of us see this single city, like the angle of incidence each of see a rainbow at? How can I be sure that if I go for a walk with you, we go for the same walk? Or more importantly, how can I be sure we go for a different walk?

What messages do we leave to each other? What subconscious signposts and invisible guides do/can we embed into the paths we take? How can I tell you which way to go; what I felt here; who I am now because I was here?

And to bring it back to where I set out, how can we make a better world from it?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Every Haiku wants a Partner - Submit Yours Now

It's time to re-generate Butterflies and Sand again, that slim tome that runs off Twitter haiku and entropy. (My haiku tweets are mixed together randomly in some attempt at algorithmic surrealist self-publishing mayhem whut?) Nearly 2 years after it started, it's nice to check in once every few months and have a bit of an egotistical retrospective.

(Half-joking. The seasonal production has taken over from a previous exercise of a roll of film for each quarter. I like the idea of moving from season to season, even if the notion of "4" seasons each with its own character is pretty abstract. Cycles are inevitable and intriguing.)

This time round, I want to do something slightly different for the book, so I'm inviting other haiku poets to contribute to the randomness. As well as couple my own haiku together, I thought it'd be fun to try it with completely different authors, and the contexts they inhabit.

It's an experiment, so there are no rules. Send me a haiku for inclusion via any means - leave a comment here, send me a Twitter mention/DM, or mail me. Whatever. The only rule is the haiku has to be your own work. Generally I prefer haiku that follow the 'ethos' rather than the syllable count, but we'll see how it goes.

I'll wait a week to see how many come in, then come up with a way to hook them together randomly - probably starting in pairs. I hear this is something like how Japanese poetry contests of old used to run. But this isn't a contest. Just an exercise in randomness.

If I happen to get more than 6, I'll probably only put 6 in. Anyone getting (self-) published will get a copy of this edition. Copyright etc all remains your own. All feedback is valid. I have no idea what I'm doing.

Send me! Send me!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Sending Reading Material through Time and Space

You know what's rocking my world right now? Apart from turkey sandwiches and books about Paris?

Firefox Sync - but, more specifically, sending tabs between all my Firefoxes.

After hooking Firefox on my Android phone up to my laptop browser, I noticed the ability to share links on the phone via Firefox Sync.

Not sync everything - screw that. Who wants to open 512 tabs on their phone after a long day's work? Who wants to read all that code documentation at home, or see all those "crazy Russian" videos at work?

But sending a particular page across contexts, through time, so you can read it when the time is right? Awesome. Link to share with colleagues? Hell yeah. Page to read on the bus home? Thanks.

And it's a bit hidden from the Firefox add-ons search, but here's a Firefox plugin to send a link from your browser to any other synced Firefox.

Every time you send a link, you get asked which browser to send it to. Easy.

Combined with the Send to Kindle Firefox add-on, I'm really enjoying moving content into other boxes of my life. I can queue stuff up for work, for the weekend, or whatever. And best of all, it seems to just work.

Extra: Read Contexts

What is it about different devices at different times and places? Does content suit a device, a surrounding, or does the device suit content and a surrounding? Why do we insist on cramming the wrong content into the wrong device at the wrong time?

Where are you reading this right now?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

London Road, in pictures and sound

Fantastic street photo series: A-Z of London Road in Brighton (via the Brighton Flickr pool). Stuff like this and the London Road sound map should be included in the new Visit London Road site.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Haiku by Post

Over the last few months I've been sending out a few handwritten haiku (warning: Comic Sans) on postcards. Most have gone locally, but some have gone abroad to places like America and Germany - it's amazing the reach an online network has, when you sit down and think about it for a moment.

This has been separate to my other haiku venture, Butterflies and Sand - until now. About the time that the Winter edition came out, I decided to get 10 one-off postcards printed up to celebrate/advertise. Then I forgot about them. Oops. Until now.

Here they are:


They're a mix of film and digital shots, but all chosen based on the idea of "wish you were here" - where "here" is everyday life (for me anyway). There's a link to how I approach haiku generally there - in that each haiku or photo is a moment, something which I notice and made me take it in for some reason.

One of the cards has been sent out this week, but the other 9 are up for grabs, all for free. Each one features a unique, handwritten haiku not published anywhere else - I won't often know when this will hit me, so they never get sent out immediately on request. Plus I like the magic of getting something unexpected in the post once you've forgotten about it.

If you'd like one, just send me your address (Twitter DM to @6loss, or email to exmosis@gmail.com), and then forget about it until something lands on your doormat.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kiev protest photos

Insane photos from the Kiev protest/riot/revolution going on at the moment.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

When Cities Reclaimed the Network

[TLDR: It's land-grab time for cities. Claim your assets and your friends now, before the lawyers get here.]

In the Guardian this weekend, playwright David Greig puts forward a possible, but realistic knock-on effect if Scotland were to go all indie, namely a backlash against the over-centralised power and authority of London. He goes as far as saying that Westminster itself is now outdated (a viewpoint that seems relevant whether Scotland split or not):

"It's about renegotiating the union in creative, modern terms in the world we live in. We don't need a state built for empire any more. It's absurd. We don't need to reform the House of Lords: we need to start again," he said.
Over on my Bitcoin blog, I've become convinced that national currencies are due for a shakeup (see, for example, the recent impact on China). The centralised powers which wield their national currencies as weapons understand that those currencies still need to be based on resources - theoretically national resources but - increasingly - more directly flexible resources. In other words, the British Pound is depending more and more on the London Poundbrokers. (See also data from 2011 in this PDF for more background.)

Seeing fast results would seem to be a natural path for 4-year democratic cycles to tend towards. Boosting short-term figures - and being able to show that it was your party what boosted them - gives political marketeers something easy to spin. So it makes "sense" for national policy to bolster its "nearest", strongest sectors.

But in the short and long term, people know when they're being left behind, despite politicians' promises about "trickle down". There are two option at this point - two routes for the "unfavoured" to get back a political future: either be really clever about disrupting the status quo (ie. sell yourself well), or be really good at managing yourself (ie. run yourself well).

Brand new, new brand

Is 2014 really going to be the year that power centres fragment? As competition hots up between cities, and as historical symbols become more and more important for tourist-value (assuming a lack of other real growth industries), can we expect to see a land-grab for the nation's most treasured assets?

In the EU, we already have Protected Designations of Origin for "place-branded" foods and drinks - Champagne has to come from the Champagne region, etc. As cities and localities battle for "historical uniqueness", plundering their timelines for stuff to virtually sell, could we see the same for assets? (And if so, but of less interest as it'd be fairly abstract/arbitrary, what would this be based on?)

In short... cities - start trademarking your famous icons now, while you still can!

CoinJoin

Secondly, where will this leave economic powers? After all, the whole purpose of national currencies (these days) is to pretend they're of value to people outside the state (so they buy them and keep the state going), and get everyone inside to generate it so they can hand it to the central power. All very 17th century.

If those in charge of "your" currency aren't particularly acting in "your" favour, that purpose starts to break down. Joining a currency is like learning a language - communication is supposed to be a two-way advantage: I can speak to you as well as listen, and we both benefit.

In other words, currencies and languages are both vehicles for network externalities - more actors and links in the network, in theory, boosts the gain to each individual actor. But uneven networks can also easily lead to lock-in effects, and as the distribution of power across the network starts to form around fewer nodes, the reasons for everyone else being part of the network start to dwindle.

Sub-nets join, the network forks, and splits become jealousy and culture.

I've been struggling to find a place where localised economics - local currencies such as the Brixton Pound - really fit in. Now I get that this is because currencies aren't about place - they're about cooperation. Currencies enable cooperation where other types of link (such as neighbourhood trust) have yet to exist. We've started to see this as part of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) programmes - but not in a fully formed state. Yet.

Cities don't need their own currency. Cities need currencies that will let them collaborate with other, like-minded, well-resourced cities.

In short... cities - know who your friends are sooner rather than later.

Mortal Engines

In the Mortal Engines series of books, cities have become massive, mechanical, roaming Traction Cities which battle to consume each other. While we're a little way off something like that, it's clear that however Scotland votes, times outside London are going to start getting tough. And more importantly, they're going to start getting questionable.

At the end of the day though, it's pretty basic. Know your resources. Choose your friends. It's all very 17th century really.

And watch out for the lawyers.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Men of Focus say goodbye - final track

I've been sitting on this track a while, but the first day of the year seemed like a good point to make the cut. "Sometimes Everything Left Is Somewhere Else (Goodbye Intro)" is the final track I'm going to release under the "Men of Focus" name. You can play/download it from the Soundcloud page, or see the embed below.




Men of Focus has always been an "experimental" banner, but with the release of the Temporary Episodes EP last year, and with Caustic version 3 hitting the streets, it feels like a good time to take making music to a more "consistent" level.


(OK, I'm not really sure what I mean by that, but I do now think of things in EP terms rather than one-off test cuts.)

It'll probably take some time until something new comes out - it usually takes me years to think up a new name... In the meantime, enjoy the tune.