Tag Archives: art

Open Rights (in Birmingham)

Last night I went to this: https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/94628536/ , the first meeting of the ‘Open Rights Group Birmingham’, to see what THAT is all about.

There was a table full of us, gathered from the worlds of computing, art and politics. Thinking about what happened, I’ve realised that although I’m interested in all three areas, I’ve never experienced them mashed-up before. We were in the cafe at Birmingham Open Media, after closing time, like radicals, ready to change the world.

Our mission from HQ, should we choose to accept it, was to consider what Brum could do to help ORG’s ‘Snooper’s Charter’ campaign: “We demand an end to indiscriminate retention, collection and analysis of everyone’s Internet communications, regardless of whether they are suspected of a crime. We want the police and intelligence agencies to have powers that are effective and genuinely protect our privacy and freedom of speech.”

What fascinated me most was the different intuitive responses of the three groups. The techies saw it as a problem to be fixed or provided with tools. Those in public services and the world of politics saw a policy decision to be campaigned on and influenced, using their knowledge of the tools of our broken democracy and those from the art world saw it as something to be responded to, to influence public opinion. That is a heady combination: identify a problem, motivate popular demand for change to generate political appetite, provide a technical solution. It also demonstrates that politicians are often the blockers rather than the enablers of societal change.

I’ve also watched a video on the societal imperatives driving the move of businesses from hierarchies to networks. Imagine that applied to democracy. Netwocracy?


But is IT art?

What is IT? It’s Information Technology, clearly but why is it that rather than “Information and Communication Technology”, as UK schools call it? Is communication simply information on the move? Are messages only data in transit? Conversely, ‘are’ data messages that have been frozen? Is communication more than messages? Perhaps communication is related to messages as information is related to data?

What are data, information, knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment? Most of modern computer science is built upon Claude Shannon’s Information Theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory

“Information theory is a branch of applied mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science” How would the worlds of applied mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science take it if I publish a book that points out that Shannon’s definition of Information is, at best, unhelpful and possibly wearing holey clothes? Well, I’m sure that because of the enquiring minds of scientists etc.

In ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’:
http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/ms/what/shannonday/shannon1948.pdf, Shannon said,

“The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point. Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem. The significant aspect is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages.”

Shannon’s theory appears not to relate to what we would now call ‘information’ at all but to data or even pattern.

Since we are questioning the foundations of computer science, what is art?  Is art everywhere?

Donald Knuth produced a 3-volume ‘Art of Computer Programming’. Clearly he saw the creation of new algorithms as a creative act.

Does Software Engineering deserve it’s name? Or is it Software Craftsmanship? Agile software development is a recognition that the project management methods from hard engineering cannot be applied to software, where the butterfly effect of uncertainties in requirements can lead to chaos. Agile works by leaving decisions later in the process when a feedback loop from incrementally delivered software better informs the requirements and allows emergent designs. But are Agile/Lean teams doing incremental delivery ever able to create beautiful design? Does great art/design need an architect who owns and drives the creative vision?

I remember going to a talk about Smalltalk where the speaker claimed that “No worthwhile piece of software has ever been written by a team of more than 2, maybe 3 people.” to an audience largely made up of the Inland Revenue IT department.

How to make friends and influence people. You know that Shannon bloke? Pah!

The Construction of a Subatomic Idea Collider

For a while now, I’ve had the idea of artificially generating creativity by deliberately colliding bit-streams at high speed. As reported here, my thinking was refined recently by the charitable donation that ideas may not only exist in atomic form but as subatomic (or “half-arsed”) ideas, out looking to hook up with a partner (whether they know it or not!)

About a week ago, I became aware of the visit to Birmingham by canal and bed of ‘The Artist Currently Known As Bill Drummond’. Now this originally confused me greatly, as I already know a Jim Drummond and 2 Ben Drummonds of and around the Birmingham music scene but consequential tweets by Eastside Projects convinced me that this was not a text-merge but a fourth, unique Mr. Drummond and I was directed to his bed-making activities https://twitter.com/eprjcts/status/451346186814099456

From there, I was sufficiently intrigued by the antics of a fellow loon to go here http://www.penkilnburn.com/paintings/twin/words.php and discover his inventive kettle-twinning project, in the suburbs of Kensington(s).

So, what might look to the casual observer like “a wasted morning” has “in fact” led to the birth of the idea that ‘The Collider’ may not be a solely scientific endeavour but that it has the makings of a polymathematical extravaganza. I don’t know quite what that is going to look like but I’m game if you are.

Let’s look at “The Facts”:

  • I’m already collecting evidence of coincidences during research, to use in my book(s)
  • I want to learn more about web technologies
  • I constantly see connections between apparently disparate areas of my life and the lives around me. I don’t think this is ‘fate’ but an emergent behaviour of the human creative impulse. I’d like to play with that a little, rather than just think about it.
  • I have a visual creative side that is long over-due for a work-out

I don’t know quite where I’m going now but…

This morning, I watched a Status Quo video on YouTube, posted by ‘resting’ God Damn Guitarist Dave Copson. Next to it was a new video by The White Stripes which showed a non-Newtonian fluid on a speaker, as I once saw in a video by Kate Spence in an art piece at Trove. I tweeted Kate to show her, because we last spoke about her organising an air-guitar competition and I think she’d appreciate a bit of Jack White.

My mind is now full of a complex network of past connections and coincidences between the people I’ve mentioned and others who I haven’t. My worry is that I may not be able to keep up. Branch, merge and mutate. You heard it here first.