Sources & events

Fibreculture

Networks of Excellence? 2nd Annual Fibreculture Conference, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, November 22-24. http://www.fibreculture.org

Getting Enough Fibre?

What do you get when you fill a museum with the nation’s brightest new media artists, theorists and educators for a weekend of debates, discussion and brainstorming? Find out when fibreculture converges in Sydney for its second annual conference at the Museum of Contemporary Art (November 22 – 24). Following the success of last year’s meeting, and as the lively fibreculture list goes from strength to strength, this year’s event promises a program bristling with fresh ideas on the cultures and politics of new media.

Fibreculture at the MCA

This year will see a special focus on public network policy, alongside the community’s usual fascinating collisions between art, IT and politics. After a screening of recent new media works on the theme of border transgressions (curated by Anna Munster), the event will kick off with an evening public debate on the theme “Networks of Excellence”, investigating the role of the latest “Centre of Excellence”: National Information and Communications Technologies Australia (NICTA). Is NICTA playing to Australia’s strengths? How do its activities in computer science research relate to broader knowledge—of media-makers, artists and other ‘creatives’? Where are the spaces to address the ethics and politics of innovation?

Panels at the 2-day ‘round table’ conference will feature discussions such as: Convergent cultures of new media; Who says online education is the future?; Assessing the great challenge of open source; Globalisation and the net. Broad participation is a goal of all fibreculture activities; so too at the conference—expect punchy panels, short presentations and a lively floor. No sermons allowed.

Fibreculture is expanding the traditional models of academic collaboration and publishing by involving the entire list community, in a kind of open-source model, with a greater transparency of the processes of intellectual labour. This year’s meeting will see the launch of 2 new publications: a refereed electronic journal to support the public policy debates; and a free fibreculture magazine–exploring the cultural, political and philosophical dimensions of new media. (To contribute work, join fibreculture now and watch www.fibreculture.org).

What is fibreculture?

Fibreculture began as an e-mail discussion list in January 2001. In the last throes of ‘New Economy’ boosterism, the economic skies were still blue, ‘new paradigms’ grew on trees, and all our institutions—governments, businesses, the media and even universities were poised to snap up their share of the Fast Money. However, few were carrying the notion of networks as public infrastructure, as public assets, as public space.

While a lot of net-related research, criticism and theory was being done in Australia, it was happening largely in isolation. The list began as a nexus for the exchange of this far-flung idea-work, and within a year there were over 300 subscribers, an invigorating off-line meeting at Melbourne’s VCA, and the first fibreculture book, Politics of a Digital Present, a wide-ranging inventory of net criticism and theory.

Fibreculture is an independent, evolving network for thinkers, writers, new media artists, activists, teachers and policy makers. It initiates events, publications and dialogues, and fosters these through an unmoderated mailing list with over 500 subscribers, predominantly in Australasia. The list is administered on a no-budget basis by a team of facilitators across Australia and New Zealand. It is maintained as a completely open channel alongside all of our activities. It remains a non-institutional, certified public space.

The languages of net-criticism

From the beginning, fibreculture faced the linguistic challenges that emerge within convergent media spaces. It’s difficult for a list with a largely ‘arts/humanities’ background (that’s enough discourses already!) to engage propeller heads and programmers. Although many subscribers have university affiliations, the list has developed its own ‘tone’ of discussion in a sort of liminal zone: neither conversational nor academic. We encourage subscribers to post more substantial stuff: articles, reviews or research papers. A separate announcements list (::fc::announce::) is dedicated to up-to-date postings about new media happenings.

A trawl through the list archives (see the website) reveals a wide range of approaches to network politics and new media cultures. Recent threads have included: the perils of ‘cyber-junk’; ‘globalisation from below’; all you need to know about blogs; cybersquatting and culture jamming; taxonomies of spam; and debates about online education and broadband policy.

For all its diversity, the fibreculture network is a collaborative space in which to develop ideas and projects. Every new subscriber means new opportunities so visit the site, come along to the meeting, and sub into the network!

Fibreculture facilitators

Fibreculture’s 24 page Networks of Excellence? will appear as a supplement in the next edition of RealTime.

Prefiguring Cyberculture

Eds. Darren Tofts, Annemarie Jonson & Alessio Cavallaro, Prefiguring Cyberculture: An Intellectual History, Power Publications, University of Sydney, Australia, MIT Press, USA, November, 2002.

Reading this book is an exercise in reconfiguring how we see how we are in this formation called cyberculture. In the process, readers enjoy what binds the authors and editors together—the capacity to be surprised in the belly of the monster. Donna Haraway

Prefiguring Cyberculture looks to literature, science and philosophy for antecedents of the informatic culture of the late 20th and 21st centuries. Within 3 thematic sections—broadly, artificial life, virtuality and futurology—leading philosophers, media theorists, critics and historians of science were asked to examine seminal texts that anticipate key aspects of cybercultural theory and practice, such as Descartes on the mind/body split, Plato on the cave, Turing on thinking machines, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Philip K Dick on androids, William Gibson on cyberspace and Arthur C Clarke on the technological future.

The many contributors include Mark Dery, Margaret Wertheim, Gregory Ulmer, Erik Davis, McKenzie Wark, Damien Broderick, Elizabeth Wilson, Scott McQuire, John Potts, Russell Blackford, and Zoe Sofoulis. In addition, cyberculture artists Stelarc and Char Davies explore how cybercultural themes have been taken up and critiqued in the electronic arts.

Culture and Technology

Andrew Murphie & John Potts, Culture and Technology, Palgrave, November 2002

Culture and Technology is a comprehensive overview of theoretical developments and debates concerning new media technology. Its emphasis is on the creative uses of new technologies. Chapters include “Digital Aesthetics”, which considers developments in intellectual property, the changing status of the image, and other ramifications of digital media. There are also detailed discussions of technology, thought and consciousness; virtual ecologies; war and sovereignty; cyborgs and information technology; and the various forms of science fiction. Artists discussed in the book include Robyn Stacey, Patricia Piccinini, Stelarc, Rosemary Laing and Nigel Helyer.

Very Strange Weather

Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Tues Nov 19, 10am-6pm. $30 / $20

Very Strange Weather is a one day conference and symposium addressing artists’ use of media technology to create environments as alternative spaces or as commentary on existing social/cultural spaces. Speakers will consider the ways artists create media ecologies, expressed as dynamic and emergent environments.

Presenters and speakers include: Blast Theory (UK), Robyn Backen, Ross Gibson, Martin Friedel, Edward Scheer and Andrew Murphie.

Future Active

Ian Meikle, Future Active, Media Activism and the Internet, Pluto Press Australia, 2002

“Like Naomi Klein’s No Logo, this is a fine book which may end up being in the right place at the right time.”
J ean Poole (see review).

Femmedia 02

Femmedia 02 is the multimedia program of the WOW International Film Festival organised by Women in Film & Television and screening this year at the Paris Cinema at Fox Studios, Sydney October 17-20.

Curated by Danielle Karalus, creator of the interactive CD-ROM Shocked (see page 17) which lets loose your worst fears about medical intervention, the program includes:Tatiana Doroshenko’s Shot—“In this game, some of us find there is no such thing as looking”; Emma Byrnes Constructing Cyburbia, one of a number of works on the city theme; Stand Your Ground, an interactive documentary on an inner-city arts project by Julie Masterton, Michaela Pegum and Tandi Rabinowitz; and Zoe Horsfall’s The Wedding, “a black comedy about the happiest day of your life.” In Fate 187, Kate Davitt plays with interactive cinematic narrative.

Interactive web-based works include Melinda Rackham’s intimate investigation of viral symbiosis in the biological and virtual domains, Carrier (www.subtle.net/carrier); Homeless by Rose Hesp (www.abc.net.au/homeless) which offers the vicarious experience of “one homeless day around the clock, around the world.” From the US Jody Zellen conjures an ever-changing Ghost City (www.ghostcity.com) and Krista Connerly collects those accidentally intimate moments we all experience on public transport in Transitory Contact. Isobel Knowles (Australia) invites us into her Shockwave shopping gallery at http://ik.rocks.it [link expired]. Animations include The Way to Venushill, a road movie completely produced in Flash by Sabine Huber (Germany) and The Nerve Game by local girl with her finger on the button, Van Sowerine (see page 5) in which you’re invited to “Watch your stress and depression rise to levels never seen before. Watch yourself collapse, then explode!”

This year’s WOW Festival is put together by the team at WIFT led once again by the indefatigable Jacquie North and looks as generous as last year’s with a huge range of features, documentaries and shorts.

RealTime issue #51 Oct-Nov 2002 pg.

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2002