Presentation for Fubar 2021
Ethical dilemmas ( burning down the house)
|Skinner box Andreas1, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons|
My working name is crash-stop, those who know me will know my given name, I’m an artist working with digital media with an emphasis on Glitch art , creative commons and open-source software .
The theme for this years Fubar https://fubar.space/ is sustainability and in that spirit this talk comes out of my experiences over the last six months having decided to leave Glitch artists collective, Facebook and Instagram and to go on a search and destroy of most of my social media accounts and to take on a pseudonym ie Crash-Stop as a buffer between me and the world of social media its also about my exploration of sustainable and more socially equitable alternatives to big corporate social networks, the dilemmas I faced in that search and ideas around nfts and their sustainability or otherwise , ecologically and socially, plus a look at the ethical dilemmas of software and hardware and a look at what social media might actually be and its effects on us as artists and thus the effects we contribute to by our use of it.
Why did that happen and why would I want to in effect destroy whatever presence or influence I had In the online space?
One of the problems with social media ( and its primary strength) is its ability to reach everywhere, we are constantly asked Follow me on Instagram/Facebook/YouTube etc. etc. etc., if you become well enough known your work can be shared and re-shared multiple times across groups and even across platforms ( for example Reddit to Tumblr or Instagram to Facebook ) there is a kind of critical mass you reach which draws in more and more likes and re-posts , so far so obvious, one post can spawn a thousand re-shares ( apologies for the Helen of Troy analogy).
Online communities can be supportive inspiring and sustaining, I’ve certainly learnt as much as I’ve shared technique and idea wise.
But also people are mean. Things can go downhill very quickly, for me, literally over the space of making breakfast on a quiet Saturday morning.
The argument in Glitch artists collective that fateful morning was about the burgeoning gold-rush around Nfts ( Beeple had just sold his work for a gazillion dollars) and someone had started an interesting thread on what people thought about this, it got heated fairly quickly and I answered from my personal perspectives and then I got stomped on by a bunch of nft-bros.
So all of this happened in the time it took to open Facebook on my laptop , make breakfast and ultimately deciding to leave Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn ( yes I managed to delete a LinkedIn account ), Quora, Ello, Pinterest and pretty much any account I’d connected with Via Facebook . And started looking for other places to post my work and reform my social network, mainly in the Fediverse but also in places like Reddit or Tumblr, realising that going completely underground might be total career suicide but basically looking for the least evil alternative.
|Your account will be deleted Instagram|
|Your account will be deleted Facebook|
Accusations were levelled at me in that moment as being both against artists earning money , telling people what to think and do , being a poser and also being an artist who didn't know how to market themselves. To this day I still don’t know who the guy was or what I did other than point out inconsistencies in their argument to make them mad , they treated the whole thing as a joke with a certain amount of cruelty, this was a group of randomers that I’d never seen post in glitch artists collective before who basically jumped me and at that point in the pandemic I was spending a lot of time there so I knew that they weren’t regular posters.
Given the things that had been happening online during the pandemic and witnessing otherwise sane people suddenly turn into gibbering conspiracy spouting mental cases, and after a run in with an artist I previously had great respect for with them accusing me of lifting their work ( a common danger of using readily available sources from archive.org) an accusation they retracted and apologised for after a very heated exchange, some of it in plain view some via messenger I decided that as reason seemed to have left the room, as the room itself had suddenly become darker and more sinister, to leave the room myself.
But where to go , part of the solution was obviously to investigate the possibilities of the Fediverse.
|Map of the fediverse|
I spent a good while exploring this network and looking for places to sign up to , for each big tech social network there is an alternative within the Fediverse, some of them good , some of them not quite ready yet, or lacking in users.
What is the Fediverse ? ( Wikipedia article on the fediverse here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse )
Essentially the fediverse is a group of social media platforms which attempt to replace the big social media platforms in a decentralised way . There is no one big organisation – anyone who wants to set up their own video platform (instance as they are called) just download the software from github or wherever its hosted, for free and run your own server. The Fediverse is tied together by using protocols which allow each instance of whatever platform you are using to federate with others so user names and identities can be used cross platforms and instances . The downside to taking back that control over your content, avoiding advertising and also to some degree being tracked via cookies and your data harvested and sold and profiled is that at some point it has to be paid for , the model is completely different to that that Google et al admit to you either pay for it or you are the product – there are some , well actually many instances that allow open sign ups such as Mastodon.online , pretty much the poster child for what a decentralised open source network can be ,
If you don’t know what it is , its a bit like twitter but better . There is no algorithm pushing up posts with the most likes, its possible to sign up with an anonymous username ( unlike Facebook and Instagram ) and it still has pictures of cats !
But if I want my work to be visible I need to have it where people can see it , Mastodon in particular is a good place for general hanging out and making connections, pretty much where I hang out these days and I’ve found some good connections there especially the scanlines people. Interestingly, a a lot of the analog glitch people involved with scanlines seem to hang out and organise on Mastodon as an alternative to twitter . Mastodon good artistic communities of various shapes and sizes. Like Twitter it can be used from the desktop as well as mobile via the Tusky app. One of the frustrating things about apps like Instagram is that they are mobile only, whereas Mastodon and to a greater degree Tumblr are both, so whereas Instagram will only allow posting from a mobile device Tumblr allows both. In the end to replace the functinality of Instagram and Facebook I settled on Mastodon and Tumblr as after my experiences on Facebook I didn’t want the intense pressure I’d come to feel to like updates , share and follow , it had become exhausting.
YouTube wants to monetise your work .
peer-tube video on this subject https://tube.tchncs.de/w/toW6Bwc7fyveB4fVkXvijB
Around the same time as I’d decided to nuke all my mainstream social media accounts and try and move to the Fediverse YouTube decided that it would also announce a change in terms and conditions that meant they would now be able to monetize any account which wasn’t signed up for their partner program, no matter how small regardless of purpose so now anyone watching my work without an ad-blocker was going to be subjected to adverts without my or their consent.
It’s not that I don’t want to earn money from my channel, I don’t monetize because I don’t have enough followers, its more that I wanted to have a channel which showed my work as I intended it to be seen , and that I could link back to my blog and have a channel that I could direct galleries or interested parties too, without interruptions or associations with morally reprehensible advertisements for mortgages and suchlike. This was actually one of my biggest dilemmas because it is the best platform by far for hosting work other than Vimeo ( I have an account there as well ) but it was until this point free and pretty useful or was it free is any of this free ?
In other words what hit me constantly through out this process was the phrase ‘If you aren’t paying for it you are the product.’
You are the product
As it says in this article about Facebook by Edward Morrissey from 2018 in theweek.com here https://theweek.com/articles/761830/youre-not-facebooks-customer-youre-facebooks-product
‘‘The key point is this: When the service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product. If you don't want to be the product, don't sign up in the first place, or short of that, don't load a bunch of personal data in the expectations that it will be kept private.’ -
So I set up a PeerTube account and removed something like 300 odd videos from YouTube which I’ve started reposting on PeerTube and elsewhere. Choosing an instance was tricky, as the content on some is a little dodgy, again you don’t have to join or follow that instance I’d advise checking out instances you are interested in before joining , each instance also has its own policies such as the instance I joined (https://tube.tchncs.de)
Policies from https://tube.tchncs.de policies page
Base rules for everybody:
Be nice to each other
Do not publish advertisements
Do not publish conspiracy myths
Do not publish content illegal in Germany and/or France, such as holocaust denial or Nazi symbolism
Do not publish content promoting the ideology of National Socialism
Do not publish content that is hateful towards specific individuals or groups, or intended to cause or incite harm
As I said if you want to you can set up your own instance with your own policies and thats what Scanlines have done and its worth checking out , theres some incredible stuff on there find that here -
Eventually I Settled here
But then I was hit with an even bigger dilemma in that if I wanted to completely move everything from YouTube, there would be some sort of financial cost, in that although the PeerTube instance I signed up to allows unlimited uploads and doesn’t ask for costs upfront ( there is a link to make contributions to upkeep) , someone at some point has to pay for that and I feel kind of guilty uploading large files to a place that is essentially run on a voluntary basis funded by people who do it for altruistic and philosophical/political reasons. In one sense I’m making a statement against YouTube and its algorithms that push conspiracy theories and ultra right wing views because in the feedback loop that is social media the loudest voice gets heard the most or pays the most to be heard, but until I’m financially able to contribute to PeerTube I feel guilt in some ways that I’m using it.
The consequences for visibility are not so cut and dried, yes nearly everyone uses YouTube but with the right links from the right places that can be overcome, and, unlike Blogger or Instagram, Tumblr and Mastodon are fairly Peer-Tube friendly in that they support embedding of thumbnails etc. Tumblr seems to have a fairly decent reputation in places like Diaspora and Friendica ( sites which seek to replicate some of the possibilities of Facebook ) as well which is a bonus, thankfully the new owners seems to be more honorable than the previous owners. I should also mention that I investigated the ownership and policies behind each Online space that I looked at and that in itself can be illuminating , I settled on spaces that are either owned by a single organisation like Tumblr is now or operates within the Fediverse.
I’m not going to talk about Friendica and Diaspora here because I don’t really use them , part of my process was trying to refine how much I wanted to expose myself to various social media platforms, and how much time I wanted to spend searching out connections and reputation mining and to be honest I wasn’t that taken with Diaspora as there wasn’t much of a glitch art community to be found there, for other things they work really well and it was actually a pleasure not to be confined to an Anglo-American kind of ghetto with people confident ( as they are on Mastodon) to post in their own languages which meant reaching for google translate a lot ( see how hard it is to escape their clutches) but that was kind of refreshing.
Another problem that I encountered was that as my blog is also hosted via Google on blogger and a lot of embedded video on my blog is linked back to YouTube , and my blog is quite important to me as a point of visibility and showing people what I’m doing and thinking in my work, I would have to download a lot of unlisted videos, tutorials and examples and then reupload those to blogger in preparation for removing a lot of content from YouTube and getting ready if need be if I decided to move my blog .
Pluses and minuses = compromises we make
Should I Move My Blog or not ?
But YouTube allows embedding Video to Blogger.
Blogger is free and un-monetized so no ads -
Blogger has features I need and is free
Visibility vs ethical considerations
One of the things that I was surprised to discover about YouTube and Blogger is that you can actually rename your blogs and YouTube channel without loosing the content, so Initially they were both under my own given name but I could change them to my new pseudonym – and keep all the content that was there. But If i wanted the same functionality as Blogger gave me I’d have to look elsewhere if I wanted to also ditch Google and just use Peer-tube and another host. And that's kind of where I hit a brick wall and had to start compromising changing the name of my blog was fine , it would just make it less visible until I could direct people to the new name but I needed something that I could also embed video into in the same way , but WordPress, Wix and everywhere else I looked limited what I could do depending on what I paid ( with the money that I don’t have) , and that's a recurring thing, as I am, like most of you out there, financially challenged, so my current position is a bit of a stand off between affordability and compromise. Just as with operating systems there is often a pay off between fully libre systems and usability . Though this presentation was written and composed on a fully libre OS ( Pure OS, a fully libre software Debian derivative)
There is an alternative in the Fediverse to Blogger called Plume and initially I did set up my new blog there and eventually will probably move there entirely , unfortunately as far as I could tell Plume does not allow embedding of video, linking is easy but for a tutorial or example I need video. But in its favour Plume allows anonymous sign up , is federated and does allow picture embedding. Might return there again.
|Plume , federated blogging|
Looking for alternatives
The Fediverse offers alternatives
Users users users
We are by our nature social beings, we crave connection. Big corporate Social media offers us an illusion of connection without inherent control of our data at great cost socially ( disinformation and manipulation) and dis-empowerment, we become users and consumers rather than creators and administrators. The Fediverse and its various offshoots offer a way out but needs users who are prepared to go back to the original optimism and idealism of the web and early computer hobbyists – its not for everyone but it is a model for the future and one which I think will become more and more important to us. Without going into the details there are things such as beaker browser and retro-share which goes back to ideas of p2p sharing and distributed networks sidestepping big data and the centralised control structure of the web now. More info on beaker browser here https://beakerbrowser.com/
To sum up this section The choices we make as artists working primarily online have consequences, from how and where we source materials, to the places and platforms on which we show and sell our work, down to the choice of software and hardware we use, every choice we make has some kind of real-world consequence and those choices in turn can be influenced by external factors depending on where we spend our time or post our work.
What happens when you deliberately burn down your account on Facebook or Instagram ( given the one month grace period for you to reconsider the error of your ways?).
Essentially you start at the bottom again, doubly so if you decide to take on another persona to distance yourself from what you were before. You become a stranger to new platforms with no reputation or exposure points and even more you miss the community you were part but as everyone stays in their silos that reach only extends as long as you remain in that silo.
You are never more alone when you leave a place and you have to mine for reputation points again, on some sites you can literally see and hear the hollow as you move around.
If we consider social media in terms of gamification and in games to level up you sometimes have to do repetitive things before you get the shiny things that make it worthwhile then that is exactly what leaving one platform for another entails.
Then of course there is ideology to consider do I go open source/ Fediverse and accept the hit on possible connections and shares, in exchange for better quality of connections and less feeding into the military industrial surveillance state or swap one walled garden for another given that the platform you show your work on says a lot about you creatively and ideologically, the choices we make social media wise have consequences in real life. Choose surveillance state because its easy or build something better outside of that state given that its harder and more difficult for reputation mining.
Or alternatively just shut down the computer and walk away.
Nothing that can be reproduced is unique
Money masquerading as art
At first sight Nfts would seem to answer the question from John Barlows’ ‘economy of ideas’ essay from 1994 ‘How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds?’
In his words :
‘Throughout the time I've been groping around cyberspace, an immense, unsolved conundrum has remained at the root of nearly every legal, ethical, governmental, and social vexation to be found in the Virtual World. I refer to the problem of digitized property. The enigma is this: If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can't get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work?
Since we don't have a solution to what is a profoundly new kind of challenge, and are apparently unable to delay the galloping digitization of everything not obstinately physical, we are sailing into the future on a sinking ship.
This vessel, the accumulated canon of copyright and patent law, was developed to convey forms and methods of expression entirely different from the vaporous cargo it is now being asked to carry. It is leaking as much from within as from without’
Full text can be found here https://www.wired.com/1994/03/economy-ideas/
It seemed to me at the time of the argument on Glitch artists collective around Nfts and the clamor amongst fellow artists for more information and introductions to marketplaces was contrary to what I felt as an artist publishing work under a creative commons licence I could sign up for, and that this was a schism that was only going to get wider between those who drank the Kool aid and those who didn’t, indeed looking at the language used in posts by those who have taken up Nfts there is a distinct before and after difference . I began looking at a lot of the technology behind Nfts ( ie blockchain etc) and found a lot of information about wastefulness and the sheer cost of minting a single nft .
Proof of work vs proof of stake
Essentially there are two models of minting , one, proof of work is incredibly wasteful and the other proof of stake ( as used by hiceetnunc) very much less so.
and the side show of stolen art being minted to make money while the goldrush continues see this article on https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-03-16/nfts-artists-report-their-work-is-being-stolen-and-sold/13249408
And this is just what we know of , and doubly ironic given the topic of Rosa Menkmans’ talk at Fubar last year in which she talked about images and their unauthorized reuse. And it is such a problem that the people behind hicetnunc talk about in this thread https://github.com/hicetnunc2000/hicetnunc/issues/433 in April of 2021
To quote from that particular thread ‘With hic et nunc being an open platform that has no gatekeepers or vetting process we can observe that there is a small minority of people who abuse the trust by minting and trying to sell works that are not theirs. This is annoying and some find it even sheds a negative light on the platform. Personally I think it is a price to pay for the freedom we enjoy and would not like to limit that freedom for everyone because less than 1% of all minters are showing anti-social behavior. But of course we should not make it too easy for them and here is a proposal that I think could prevent or at least further minimize this phenomenon.’
So the people behind the platform recognise the problem and offer a solution. Well thats good but then what about something like Tokenized tweets ? Again from the previous article :
What ? An automated NFT tweet-minting bot with the name @tokenizedtweets.
The bot creates NFTs of tweets without alerting the owner of the tweet. A Twitter user simply has to mention the bot below a tweet, for that tweet to be made into an NFT. I have actually seen something like this in other places on vimeo though I could never track down anything that might have been taken .
A good article on the origins of Nfts and how they’ve gone against the ethos originally intended ie to quote from the article
‘ The idea behind NFTs was, and is, profound. Technology should be enabling artists to exercise control over their work, to more easily sell it, to more strongly protect against others appropriating it without permission. ‘
Full article here and its well worth the read https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/nfts-werent-supposed-end-like/618488/
A really good follow up read to the above article is this article from Rhizome which talks about cryptokitties , licensing strategies, ownership and copyright of nfts in a very detailed way https://rhizome.org/editorial/2021/mar/03/another-new-world/
We can never guard against bad actors , the web as it is is relatively open but plain stealing and profiting from other peoples work or posts ? Furthermore , a lot of artists in the wake of this started to move their work or hide it from view in case this exact thing happened to them, so Nfts are also changing the way people feel about posting their work online, it also goes directly against my creative commons ethos which is basically share and share alike with permission to make derivative works from whatever I post ( non commercially) ie the basis of remix culture and what we do a lot of the time as glitch artists in taking sources with attribution and remaking them, I didn’t feel that that basic licence was going to be adhered to leading to the possibility that work I had made might be profited from even though the licence I publish under is explicitly non-commercial, in the same way that YouTube had announced monetizing channels that had not, didn’t want to or were not able to monetize. So to reiterate what I said before, everything we do as artists has consequences , with that in mind lets talk about environmental cost.
Burning down the house
Current blockchain technology ( other than hictenunc as far as I know ) is based on proof of work which is ruinously computationally expensive and thus resource intensive as well.
From the earth.org article
‘It is difficult to estimate the carbon footprint of minting an NFT because many steps in the process do not have a known carbon footprint, and there are few scientific peer-reviewed studies on this topic. Digiconomist estimates a single Ethereum transaction’s carbon footprint at 33.4kg CO2, while artist and programmer Memo Akten estimates that an average transaction specifically for NFTs has a carbon footprint of about 48kg CO2. Bear in mind that each time an NFT is minted or sold, that’s another transaction. These estimates tell us that one NFT transaction is likely to have a carbon footprint more than 14 times that of mailing an art print, which Quartz estimates at 2.3kg CO2. Despite uncertainties in the calculations, this is enough for one to judge whether a carbon footprint of this scale is acceptable for the act of selling art.’
and this from the same article
‘ Blockchains like Ethereum and Bitcoin run using a system called Proof-of-Work (PoW), which is the main reason behind their high energy intensity. One alternative is to use a blockchain running with a different system, such as Proof-of-Stake (PoS). PoS blockchains like Tezos, Symbol or Polygon (all three support NFTs) do not rely on massive computing power, and thus consume much less electricity. According to Tezos, the estimated annual energy consumption of its blockchain is 0.00006Twh, compared to 33.57Twh for Ethereum.
Just to put that in perspective my computer has a 300w power supply, no add on graphics card, which would raise its’ energy consumption, I live in Ireland ( which has the fourth highest energy costs in Europe) a kilowatt hour is currently 15.29c so to run my desktop for 10 hours a day for a year would use 1096 kwh or around 167 euros per year . to mint one nft would cost according to
on Rarible us$677 or on opensea $100 ( prices as of 19/03/2021)
Medium published an article https://medium.com/geekculture/how-much-it-actually-cost-to-sell-an-nft-1e190a3fb3ce
which runs through the costs in a more detailed way. And to clarify there a a lot of computers running high end gpus running to keep the blockchain that all these transactions are recorded on , that's a lot of electricity
power usage of bit coin from https://powercompare.co.uk/bitcoin/
or if we look to this article https://digiconomist.net/bitcoin-energy-consumption
the implications become incredibly stark , a single bitcoin transaction creates 819.04 kgCO2 , uses 1724.29 kWh and leaves behind 93.30 grams of electronic waste , and this is just bitcoin , this doesn’t include etheruem , monero, doge coin and all the other coins you can think of . To refer back to my own humble desktop pc that costs 169 euros a year to run for ten hours a day at current prices in Ireland of 15.29 c per kwh that would be 263.18 euros in electricity for just one bit coin transcation ! At a time of climate crisis why are we even going anywhere near this ?
The ultimate article on this is here, if you read nothing else read this https://everestpipkin.medium.com/but-the-environmental-issues-with-cryptoart-1128ef72e6a3
And then consider the idea that Nfts aren’t about the art they are really vehicles of speculation and as such have the same problems inherent in the stockmarket . This is not a brave new world where artists finally get paid this is just old world speculation with the artists at the bottom and investors at the top playing their same old games :
This Is from slashdot via theblockcrypto.com https://www.theblockcrypto.com/post/117751/opensea-confirms-executive-used-insider-knowledge-when-buying-nfts
On September 15, OpenSea published a blog post acknowledging Chastain's actions. "Yesterday we learned that one of our employees purchased items that they knew were set to display on our front page before they appeared there publicly," said OpenSea. "This is incredibly disappointing. We want to be clear that this behavior does not represent our values as a team. We are taking this very seriously and are conducting an immediate and thorough review of this incident so that we have a full understanding of the facts and additional steps we need to take." The company has rolled out new policies specifying that team members may not buy or sell from collections while they are being promoted, and cannot use confidential information to purchase or sell NFTs.’
more on that from slashdot here https://slashdot.org/story/21/09/16/1848258/openseas-product-chief-is-out-after-insider-nft-flipping-accusations so not only was he insider trading ie profiting through insider knowledge before the release of art works for sale now he is being sacked .
Or we could fight like apes ( this is a story that has broken in the last day or two ). Just take the money and run https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10062361/Mysterious-NFT-developer-known-Evil-Ape-disappears-2-7million.html
The hardware arms race
Replacing hardware frequently to keep bitcoin mining economical increases waste
Shortage of graphics cards due to mining and general chip shortage
Chia ( poof of space ) leading to hard-drive shortages
More on the environmental cost here https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/sep/17/waste-from-one-bitcoin-transaction-like-binning-two-iphones There is a race for more and efficient hardware to make the bitcoin mining process more economic so hardware is constantly upgraded and replaced –
“The lifespan of bitcoin mining devices remains limited to just 1.29 years,” write the researchers Alex de Vries and Christian Still in the paper, Bitcoin’s growing e-waste problem, published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling.
By comparison if we look at the lifetime of computers in office environments (according to this article on https://community.spiceworks.com/blog/3103-data-snapshot-the-lifespan-of-computers-and-other-tech-in-the-workplace) ‘ 70 percent of companies use desktops for 5 or more years before decommissioning or replacing them ‘ with ‘ with 24 percent of organizations using them for 7 or more years ... pushing the use of these devices in many organizations far past warranty expiration dates.’ There’s a lot of difference between 5 or 7 years of use and 1.29 years
The previous article reported in the Guardian then goes on to say
“As a result, we estimate that the whole bitcoin network currently cycles through 30.7 metric kilotons of equipment per year. This number is comparable to the amount of small IT and telecommunication equipment waste produced by a country like the Netherlands.”
and this is not to mention mention chia ie proof of space which has led to hard drive shortages. And the general shortage of graphics cards for gamers due to bit coin mining in a time of chip shortages with graphics cards going for stupid money and older cards being reintroduced to plug the gap.
From a resource and ecological perspective this is just not sustainable.
The art is irrelevant.
1) An nft is a speculative financial instrument therefore the art is irrelevant
2) They are (in current form) environmentally and socially ruinous
My views on Nfts are my views , some of you may agree, some of you who have bought into this might not, but for what its worth I think nfts are snake oil The idea of a unique one of a kind artwork that you can own in the digital space is a laughable naivety given the inherent reproducibility of any given digital image what is it exactly you are owning, as a blockchain record is essentially a digital certificate of ownership , not the work itself as the blockchain is technically incapable of storing a work its the equivalent of buying a car on Ebay thinking that its a full size car and receiving a dinky toy in return. What is happening here is more akin to market speculation the kind that we see in the stock-markets or the traditional art market where works by big name artists are used as hedges against inflation and as investments hidden away in bank vaults, and I think that’s my favourite way to look at this , the thing that makes the Nft unique is not the artwork, but the speculative value, the art is just a pretty decoration on the face of a coin .
The wealth of networks ,
Creative Commons, vs copyright,
Open source vs closed source.
I’ve always strived to share what I make and how I make it as openly as possible subscribing to something similar to what Benkler describes in his book ‘The wealth of networks’ this is a paraphrase from the wikimedia article on the book
‘Benkler argues that the networked society allows for the emergence of non-hierarchical groups that are committed to information production. Open software is one of the ways we can view the emergence of this new form of information production. "Commons-based" peer production eschews traditional rational choice models offered by economists. Benkler details some of the key components of this new economy based not on financial remuneration but on user-involvement, accreditation, and tools that promote collaboration between individuals.’
My emphasis would be placed on this phrase based not on financial remuneration but on user-involvement which is what made groups like GAC so special in the first place in spite of the knowledge over time of what Facebook actually was or is. And why I’m more veering towards the fediverse and strangely Tumblr ( now its changed hands again) as a solution to the main dilemma I face.
Or even better the libreplanet mission statement ie from here https://libreplanet.org/wiki/LibrePlanet:About/Mission_Statement
libreplanet mission statement
‘As media and technology mediates how we experience and interact with the world, the private owners of software, knowledge, and culture have control over us. With a strong commitment to free software and free cultural works, we work against the exploitation, domination, and oppression enabled by private ownership of technology, media, and communication. While free software and free culture are radical stances against one form of oppression, we acknowledge that there are systemic structures of control embedded in our society which permeate our movement. Therefore, we maintain a Code of Conduct which takes those into account.
But also in the golden rule referenced by John Perry Barlow in his ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’ of 1996
THE GOLDEN RULE – ‘do unto others as you would have done unto yourself’
to realize that what we do online also has real world consequences rather than it being a space that is separate with different rules being online doesn't divorce us from the need to be basically decent to each other ( remember the human as it says in various Reddit forums ) so being online doesn't divorce us from ideas of decent conduct and ethical behaviour towards others.
how many here have installed their own operating system , know the ins and outs of compiling or writing programs or even basic things like command-line use , bash scripting or even using ffmpeg from the command line I suppose what I'm asking is is their a difference between users / consumers and creatives.
User or administrator
In old multi-user computer systems back at the dawn of computing their were users of systems and administrators , users used a system to carry out a task like data entry and had pretty limited privileges , administrators controlled the programs that were allowed to run and could do pretty much whatever they wanted , that paradigm spilled over into operating systems like Linux or mac os and to a limited degree Windows UAC ( more so from windows 7 on and very much so in windows 10 as it converges with the Linux way of doing things) but back to the past, administrators had to know how to install and often compile and troubleshoot programs and the os itself and often times how to troubleshoot or fix hardware problems, users did not.
As computers became more personal there was a moment in time, somewhere between the mid 70’s Altair 8800 in kit form and the release of the macintosh and its gui in 1984 when computer owners were both user and administrator and in the case of computer hobbyists builders as well , which instilled a deeper understanding and insight into the tools being used. Something lost post 1984’s macintosh gui interface and further lost after the appearance of Windows 95 , we became users , customers of an ecosystem built up on selling us things that 'Just worked' rather than explorers working out how to do things for ourselves. This is no more obvious than in the desktop paradigm of Win 95, mac os and later Android and ios where everything sits within virtual folders, a simulacrum of a real office environment which is in effect what the computing paradigm became, a virtual cubicle to contain and constrain our thoughts and ideas.
This desktop as virtual cubicle paradigm can trap us within a way of working and thinking , yes I can change the desktop theme or the shape of the icons and cursors but what If I want to strip away layers of the Gui and say work without a taskbar or redesign the default font completely what if I want to step outside of my cubicle and do something different , something more exploratory.
This is something that open-source tools and operating systems redress to a great degree by being a useful mixture of both GUI and command line.
preset vs process
How much does the interface we use govern or guide the work we make ?
Knowing the intricacies or even flaws of a program or piece of hardware enables us as artists to leverage that into art – using a program on its own such as an app puts us in the realm of user where our actions are constrained and thus our work is constrained as well as we have no way of reaching outside the presets available to us or a way of understanding or altering what the presets do or even the process that led to that preset – if as others have contended glitch art is primarily a process making work with presets denies the innovative , instead making work which reflects an idea of an aesthetic rather than actively working on and innovating and moving on that aesthetic.
I’m not going to rehash the argument that raged for a few years in GAC about the difference between those who actively create their work by investigating software and hardware and those who uses apps or software like Photoshop ,Gitche, or A.E which are one plug-in away from making the glitch art you can afford to make but it is somewhat central to the dilemmas we are faced with as artists, apps and presets are a great way into glitch art and I’ve begun to see them as a gateway drug but they are limiting, reducing glitch art to a look or an aesthetic that can be applied to advertising and as decoration rather than a thing in itself – if glitch art is a process and that process involves searching for new ways to do things then apps are not the way forward, merely the way in, we become users of effects rather than creators of new ideas and new ways of working.
The social Dilemma , we want connection but at what cost ?
In using social media am I in fact feeding in to a system of unseen exploitation that turns all of us into product to be sold on in return for what is in essence a data mining operation and behaviour modification by design. I recently rejoined Instagram after much debate with myself as I wanted to see other peoples work and one of the consequences of social media as it is now is that people tend to gravitate towards one platform cos that’s where you get seen and so that’s where they post their work.
|Facebook is what is wrong with America|
slashdot article via cnn https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/23/tech/facebook-benioff-disinformation/index.html
To quote Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff from the CNN article "Look at how it is affecting the world. You can talk about the political process. You can talk about climate. You can talk about the pandemic," Benioff said. "In each and every major topic, it gets connected back to the mistrust that is happening and especially the amount of it being seeded by the social networks. It must stop now."
And a view from Edward Snowden from a 2019 article in Vox here https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/10/31/20940532/edward-snowden-facebook-nsa-whistleblower
“Facebook’s internal purpose, whether they state it publicly or not, is to compile perfect records of private lives to the maximum extent of their capability, and then exploit that for their own corporate enrichment. And damn the consequences,” Snowden told Swisher. “This is actually precisely the same as what the NSA does. Google ... has a very similar model. They go, ‘Oh, we’re connecting people.’ They go, ‘Oh, we’re organizing data.’”
and on an even more sinister level from the verge reporting on a (pay walled ) wall street Journal article ( but alos reported in the Guardian)
To quote from the verge article talking about the effect on Teenage girls of using Instagram :
‘ For this latter group, Instagram is a powerful engine for “social comparison” — when one judges one’s own value, attractiveness, and success based on comparisons with others. Teenage girls are often blasted with images of idealized bodies on Instagram, appearing as adverts, images in their feeds, and content in the app’s Explore page. This often has a negative affect on these users’ mental health. As one slide from an internal Facebook presentation put it: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” (The figure referred to teenagers who already reported body image issues of some type.)’
And yet we continue to use these places. As I said earlier I’ve recently rejoined Instagram for the purpose of being more visible and to reconnect with people I knew on Facebook and Instagram before to see what work people are making now. Which leads to the question why do we continue to use these or similar platforms even though we know the harm and bad intentions they are capable of ?
|Skinner box Andreas1, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons|
I would suggest that another constraint of the user/consumer paradigm is the skinner box that is social media, our work is posted within groups that reflect our tastes ( or are suggested to us by our reward and reinforcement algorithms) and subconsciously we start to alter what we make and how it looks to gain more likes or more reach thus the work becomes shaped by the environment it is made in as we constantly strive for more rewards, just as that which is suggested to us reflects the biases and mindset of those who run the systems we interact with. I thought about this a lot as I left mainstream social media and sought other places which were less suggestive – that in turn had consequences.
So what is a skinner box ? from here https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-skinner-box-2795875 this
‘A Skinner box is an enclosed apparatus that contains a bar or key that an animal subject can manipulate in order to obtain reinforcement. Developed by B. F. Skinner and also known as an operant conditioning chamber, this box also has a device that records each response provided by the animal as well as the unique schedule of reinforcement that the animal was assigned. ‘
And this is about as accurate a description as I’ve come across for where we are now – social media as skinner box conditioning us to crave likes and reinforcement and exposure points .
In Jaron Laniers’ Ted talk ‘How we need to remake the internet’ ( find that here https://www.ted.com/talks/jaron_lanier_how_we_need_to_remake_the_internet)
he discusses Norbert Wieners 1950's book "The Human Use of Human Beings."
' one could imagine a global computer system where everybody has devices on them all the time, and the devices are giving them feedback based on what they did, and the whole population is subject to a degree of behaviour modification. And such a society would be insane, could not survive, could not face its problems.'
To sum, up every choice matters, as everything is interrelated. It’s hard or impossible to show which dilemma is worse or needs addressing first, some are hard some are easy, each choice adds to a chink in the armour of each problem , the choices you make matter.
* This entire talk was researched and written using completely libre software ( libre-office writer and impress) and mainly a fully libre operating system Pure Os ( as endorsed by the fsf) on systems which are recycled or second hand .