network culture

is gentrification the new urban blight?

Thanks to Archinect for this Psychology Today article on the importance of diversity in cities. Today, the conventional wisdom points to the unpredictability and creativity that one finds in cities as essential for network culture. Outsourcing may work, but not for work demanding innovation.

Alas, as I've been suggesting for quite some time now, we have a new kind of urban blight emerging in places like New York, San Francisco and Boston. In "The Embers of Gentrification" at New York Magazine  Adam Sternberg suggests that the fires of gentrification may be self-perpetuating, but they may also be self-extinguishing.

image of red hook

Blogged with Flock

books and things

Amazon released its oddly-named (Farenheit 451?) Kindle book reader today. On initial view, the device is ungainly when compared to the iPhone or the Sony PRS-505. But with some 90,000 books on offer for the relatively low price of $9.99, the Kindle is a shot across the bow for book publishers. I confess to a certain hatred of books (my publishers wouldn't want to hear this, I'm sure). About 30% of the books that I bring home are elegant objects that I am glad to own. But some 70% are pointless to own in physical form. Why do I need a work of fiction as a book if an e-reading device can serve me as well? Why do I need to own a copy of a textbook when I could get it on an e-reader? This idea attracts me greatly.

Alas, web browsing seems rudimentary while magazines, newspapers, and even blogs demand a subscription fee. This is a big step back from the world of free content that my iPhone offers.

My prediction is that although Kindle will have some degree of success, it will take someone like Apple licensing the content (why does Amazon need to produce hardware anyway? seems like a questionable move) before this technology will really take off.

But see Newsweek for more.


Book Cover



miltos manetas paints cables

Yes, I am a decade late with this post. Nevertheless, check out the work of Miltos Manetas, in particular his classic paintings of cables. Manetas's still lives of network culture underscore the physicality of our virtual world.

manetas cables

the future of the library

At the New Yorker, Anthony Grafton pursues the future of the library. I was shocked to read Grafton recount that a Cambridge University Press editor told him recently that "Conservatively, ninety-five per cent of all scholarly inquiries start at Google." But Grafton's piece weighs the value of the search engine and the scope of the googleplex against other qualities. Libraries—or at least the major research libraries—will continue to have a role in our lives. If Grafton leaves anything out, it's that the Web may miss more than it preserves…and not so much of the physical world of print as of its own domain. Take for example, this littlegirlonline (not safe for work), which had some interesting material on it until it was given up and has now been re-appropriated by a porn vendor. You can still find some, but not all, of the writing at the Internet Archive. Thank God for Brewster Kahle and, but still, are we really keeping track of the good stuff online?

gaming becoming life

In the new issue of Wired, Rex Sorgatz weighs in on the role of gaming today in When Reality Feels Like Playing a Game, a New Era Has Begun. As with many aspects of network culture, it's taken me a while to get this far (I blame architecture, historically the slowest of the arts in taking up new cultural … then again Karl Chu was telling me that games were the future for architecture many years ago), but there's no question that if there is a new cultural form for Network Culture it's software gaming (and yes, I think there are crucial distinctions between software gaming and older forms of gaming). Alex Galloway's Gaming. Essays in Algorithmic Culture is a great introduction to such questions. But games require a huge amount of work to produce and as a conesquence the gaming industry is one of the few big media entities out there today (in fact, we could argue against the idea of the Long Tail, suggesting that operating systems and productivity software, software games, and aggegrators are the new big media). I'd love to see the software game equivalent of early television pioneer Ernie Kovacs, but I fear that period is long gone, something we can only experience today through emulators of 1980s videogames. Still, when AUDC states that the novel is dead, there is no question in my mind that games are the successor.

urban pac man

silent disco

My student Maria introduced me to the the Silent Disco the other day (well, she showed me the site, unfortunately we didn't find one nearby). Pioneered at clubs which did not have permission for loud music, silent discos pass out headphones to dancers who listen to music sent out via radio. See CNN or this Youtube video:

So what are the strangest manifestations of network culture that you've seen? Please, comment away! Your chance to be famous for a day (yeah, right).

whither alt.culture?

Where is alt.culture today? Author Warren Ellis concludes that our curatorial culture is just plain exhausted… This strikes me as true to a large degree, although I wonder if the best work isn't taking place off-line or in secret? Much as I suggest that AUDC is Internet-based, we don't blog about our working habits in public (why?). Rather, we talk to each other relentlessly on the phone and communicate via e-mail. Hopefully some of you will think that Blue Monday is an original and creative work, but yes, there seems to be some degree of exhaustion out there now.

on privacy

On my way to Limerick, I've paused for a minute to read the new issue of the Economist which carries an article on privacy that is, well, less terrifying (although it should be) than symptomatic of Network Culture. It seems hard to believe that only a couple of decades ago, privacy was still important in culture and that giving up all one's intimate life details to overseers was the stuff of dystopian nightmares like 1984. What is incredible isn't that such monitoring is so prevalent, it's that under Network Culture we don't seem to care.

hello, i'm a thing

One aspect of network culture that I haven't remarked enough on is the growing preponderance of things demanding that we interact with them as if they're human. Over the last few days I've been spending an infuriating amount of time with Verizon (I have fiber-to-the-home but my Verizon-owned copper wire cables fell outside…apparently there is no way to convince Verizon to come out to fix these…more later if I don't get them fixed in the next-go-around) and their strangely, slightly sassy voice menu system.
Pigeons that blog? Forget it. We're already dealing with automata with a distinct attitude. Robert Kuttner, at the Boston Globe, reports.

whither the protestant ethic?

Network Culture is predictated on an affluent society, but wealth is increasingly relative. As the New York Times reports, earnings that would once have been considered upper class now seem second-rate, especially if one lives in an area like Silicon Valley. The Times also has a story on Robert H. Frank's Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. Extreme consumption by the super-rich drives us to try to buy larger houses, better toys, and bigger, more powerful cars even as the average family income has stayed stable since the 1970s.

audc : i love you, don't crush me crushed by the burden of possessions

Thus America becomes the very opposite of the society that Max Weber observed in the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (not that the Irish are much different these days, as Chaos at the Crossroads suggests…and the same goes for many other countries) and we work more and save less than ever before.

A "correction" as the Fed likes to call it, or a crash of some sort, seems in the cards, both economically and ecologically. But what other consequences does this have for Network Culture? Is this the last burst of material desire prior to the full dominance of the immaterial? Or is the latter just a superstructure, unavoidably dependent on the former (this might be the argument of the Netlab's research into logistics, for example)?



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