The Missing Open Standard: How can we unlock the drone's social potential?



Chris Anderson has famously compared the nascent drone market to the early days of PCs, comparing it with the Homebrew Computer Club, the Bay Area hobbyist meetup where the Apple I was first unveiled. It may seem an odd comparison—the drone is thought of as military technology and (more recently) luxury plaything, while the Homebrew Computer Club is remembered for its utopian beliefs about putting technology into the hands of the people. But while Apple's forays into personal computers were groundbreaking, the "PC" abbreviation historically referred to its greatest threat, the IBM PC standard, a revolutionary form of computer architecture that was easily licensed and copied, and which shaped the personal computer market for over a decade. Drones do not yet have a "PC standard," but if they did, it might be the tipping point that could catapult drones into the mainstream and unlock their social utility.

We have yet to see what this social utility will be. Militarized drone technology has a well-established place among the many tools of the surveillance state. Looking at the history of the computer's shift from an awkward, heavy, military and commercial engineering project to something we carry in our pockets, one wonders how drones might make a similar transition. Some of the first ideas for non-military drones, such as catching poachers, have some way to go in development before they will actually be useful. So far, one of the best uses for drone technology is in the field of cartography. Drones like senseFly's eBee can map a large area very quickly, and rectify imagery to GPS maps. But drones like these cost thousands of dollars and run proprietary software in order to work so seamlessly. What if drone technology were to be transformed in a similar manner to computers, so that standard architecture and operating systems allowed cheaper, more universal hardware and software?

In the late 1970s, desk-sized computers were typically terminals linked to mainframes where the real processing was done. But with the miniaturization of transistor functions into integrated circuits, desktop computers became possible.These early personal computers were sold as kits, and required a hefty investment as well as technical know-how to assemble and operate. When the Apple II was introduced in 1977, it was one of the first "out of the box" personal computers; BYTE magazine called it the first "appliance computer". But the Apple II was still expensive, and with an operating system and architecture limited to this machine only, all compatible software had to be designed specifically for this system. In 1980, less than 10% of 14 million small businesses in the US had personal computers, and of large corporations, less than 3% used personal computers on a regular basis.1 Investing in a limited hobby system was not a priority for most companies.


Rhizome is Open (Source) for Business


Stop reading. Go pull this post up on your mobile device. We'll wait.

Is the experience more enjoyable than you remember? These new mobile styles (*gestures encompassingly*) are courtesy Jason Huff. His April 27th pull request—a GitHub-centric way of submitting potential improvements to an open development project—was the first outside contribution to the site's code since we open-sourced earlier that same month. (If you still have display problems on your browser/device, create a new issue for us on Github). 


Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus (video)


Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus


The Future of Art


The Future of Art was shot from the 1st through the 6th of February 2011 during Transmediale. The short film asks the following: What are the defining aesthetics of art in the networked era? How is mass collaboration changing notions of ownership in art? How does micropatronage change the way artists produce and distribute artwork? The creators behind The Future of Art describe the project as "an immediated autodocumentary" where "immediation is immediate mediation – an instant transfer of experience into media, enabling self-reflection and perspective shift. Immediation enables collaborative storytelling via frameworks of participation. Autodocumentary; auto as in autodidactic + documentary. Autodocumentaries are made by the people they are about."

Originally via


Videos from Wikitopia Festival


Videos of the keynote speeches by scholars Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Hector Rodriguez from September's Wikitopia Festival at Videotage in Hong Kong have been posted. The event examined the Free Culture movement and its impact on practices of knowledge sharing and networked creativity.

Originally via Networked_Performance

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun "The Possibilities and Limitations of Open Content"

The Possibilities and Limitations of Open Content by Prof. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun from Videotage Unlimited on Vimeo.

New media has made possible new “vernacular” archives of knowledge—from wikipedia to—that are challenging their standard top-down counterparts. These archives are usually either celebrated as democratizing knowledge, or condemned as destroying it. Refusing either of these positions, this talk asks: what does opening up content do? What does the open both make possible and close down? Is open content enough? How, in other words, should the open be the beginning rather than the end of the discussion?

Hector Rodriguez "The Principle of Reciprocity"

The Principle of Reciprocity by Dr. Hector Rodriguez from Videotage Unlimited on Vimeo.

Marcel Mauss’ classic study of The Gift introduced the principle of reciprocity, which has played a fundamental role in the evolution of modern social anthropology and critical theory. Mauss regarded the giving and receiving of gifts as a widespread cultural phenomenon. Although the gift often appears to have been spontaneously and freely offered, it is in fact obligatory. According to Mauss, it consists of “three obligations”: the obligation to receive, to give, and to return. The exchange of gifts thus exemplifies a complex procedure of ritualized exchange.

The principle of reciprocity can be understood in at least two different ways. First of all, the study of gift exchange constitutes a prehistory of the modern contract. Mauss showed that modern market transactions grew ...


"Decode" at the V&A: Digital Reflections and Refractions


A large installation in the Grand Entrance of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum clatters away, registering its presence in this historic hallway. Jointly commissioned (by the V & A and SAP), bit.code (2009), by Julius Popp, consists of a large panel of black and white blocks which appear to represent a curious, indecipherable code as they rotate around their frame. Periodically its units align, clearly depicting popular terms streamed live from news site feeds. In this physical form and location, this is real-time made somehow more timely. Looming over visitors, a literal staging of data being decoded, the work asserts itself as an apt entry portal to "Decode", the V & A's inaugural exhibition of contemporary digital and interactive design.


Interview with Ele Carpenter


Image: Open Source Embroidery Window Display at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art
(Photo credit: Travis Meinolf)

The exhibition “Open Source Embroidery” opens tonight at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco and it will be on view until January 24, 2010. The show is part of an ongoing project, initiated by Ele Carpenter in 2005, which examines how both embroidery and code can be used as tools in participatory, open source production and distribution models. “Open Source Embroidery” brings together artists, crafters, and programmers to explore this topic in the form of workshops and exhibitions. I spoke to curator Ele Carpenter further about the evolution and multiple realizations of the Open Source Embroidery project. - Ceci Moss

How did your larger research into socially engaged art and new media art evolve into Open Source Embroidery?

Socially engaged art and new media art practices share the language and concepts of social networks, participation and collaboration but they also have distinct histories and operate within very different social spheres. In the world of media arts people have been excited about the potential of the internet to be used to connect communities of interest for a long time. But new media didn’t invent participation; people who work with social networks on the ground already knew how much time and genuine involvement is needed to facilitate meaningful interaction. New media seems to have pulled ‘participation’ into the culture of ‘cool’ technology. But the most radical impact is the politicized culture of digital media testing the legal and ethical frameworks of production and distribution.

I was looking for a way to make tangible some of these ideas: to make visible older forms of collaborative production such as patchwork, and newer collaborative projects such as open source software. I wanted to ...


Tools of the Trade: Albert Hwang's WireMap


In this installment of Tools of the Trade, tech writer Melody Chamlee describes Albert Hwang's project Wiremap. - Ceci Moss

In a combination of software development and 3D interface design, Albert Hwang's Wiremap is a multi-view map created with strands of fishing wire that refract 3D projector scenes and bounce back the revolving imagery to viewers - producing a representation of an object in 3D space.

According to Hwang, from the projector's single-point perspective (at the very front of the installation) all the wires appear evenly spaced. Move off to the left or right however, and by degrees the randomized dimension of depth settles on the wires at different angles to create a topographical form.

Hwang says he would like to explore wire displays in a broad range of new installations and is already working on expanded tweaks on the current design to have a bigger, more detailed display framework. In his Wiremap installation at the the 2008 Last Hope Conference in Midtown Manhattan, he was able to produce a green and blue globe with topography and directional changes according to keyboard and mouse input.

To create Wiremap, Hwang used the open source programming language Processing, and says it was an ideal platform for the project:

"When I began...I had very little computer programming experience. Knowing what I needed, I waded through Java GUI tutorials only to be continually faced with frustratingly confusing Java jargon - I needed a programming environment designed to give graphic feedback instead of visual feedback. Processing, an open source programming environment built on top of Java turned out to be a perfect fit for the project."

Since this is open source, Hwang provides his downloadable source files on his site and encourages others to develop their own Wiremaps and contribute to the evolution of ...


Knitting Circles Around the War


Cat Mazza is a practitioner of what sociologist Betsy Greer has called "craftivism." She's used knitting and other needlecraft-related processes to address pertinent political issues. Her projects are particularly adept at effecting a tactical turning of the tables on issues; for instance, using hand-made (though often computer- or software-assisted) processes to address labor conditions. Her latest project is similarly successful at fighting fire with fire (or should we say "fiber"?), parodying a US government program--even using its own explicit instructions--to critique the ideas behind it. Stitch for Senate is a contemporary take on the historic practice of charitable knitting. During WWII, women and children supported the war effort by knitting clothing and protective gear for soldiers abroad. Following the US invasion of Iraq, Americans were encouraged to make similar efforts for soldiers stationed in Iraq and Aghanistan. However, as Mazza points out in a video on her site, this war is not as popular as WWII, consequently neither is the knitting initiative. On the fourth anniversary of the invasion, in order to spur more thought and dialogue about the war, Mazza launched Stitch for Senate which encourages users to download patterns and knit helmet liners not for combat troops but for every member of the US Senate (the legislative body that votes to declare war), giving them the responsibility of distributing the fuzzy armaments. Meanwhile, the website is a space for documentation of these efforts as well as posts by users about war-related discussions and acts of charity, patriotism, and activism within radius of their own local knitting circles. A few helmet liners won't unravel the war, but as with craft groups before them, projects like these do provide a safe platform for approaching (or stabbing a needle into) bigger issues. - Marisa Olson

Link »


Social Notworks


Organized by project.arnolfini, "antisocial notworking" is an online hub for critical and creative practices appraising the contradictory agendas of many of the internet's most popular websites. As Art & Social Technologies Research member Dr. Geoff Cox persuasively argues, in an essay accompanying the project, websites like Facebook and Myspace have amassed tens of millions of users through a promise of providing virtual spaces built upon user-generated content and geared towards positive interpersonal relations. While a peer-to-peer (p2p) system engages the same democratic project in the web's public realm, these social networking sites exist in the private sector, operating through a top-down, server-client relationship with its membership and harvesting social relations towards their own economic benefit. 'antisocial notworking' does not propose abandoning these programs, but rather seeks to elucidate the process by which social positivity became a marketable tool of capitalistic enterprises, and to consider how antagonism (to Cox, a necessary component of politics) may be constructively introduced into the virtual demos. Notable among the current projects on the site is Linda Hilfling's "Participation 0.0 - Part I" (2007), documentation of the 112 billboards the artist installed throughout "Second Life" that collectively display the full 7,000 words of the Terms of Service which users traditionally skim and agree upon before gaining access to the program. By planting this text on "Second Life" land, Hilfling allows users to recognize their tenuous position in a virtual world in which they may develop businesses and purchase land, but from which they may also be erased, according to Hilfling's reading of the terms, "for any or no reason." In keeping with its critical agenda, "antisocial notworking" will retain a dynamic, open-ended structure, to which people can add further texts, projects, and documents of their own navigation through similarly fraught online ...