this is aaronland

A town called Patience

I went to Conflux and all I asked was Do you have an API for that?

I enjoyed Conflux. I would like to recommend it to everyone because I think they are poking at some interesting problems — especially now that the Network and mobile devices are approaching the fast, cheap and out of control stage — but I think it is still one of those events that requires a certain kind of intellectual formal wear (or battle gear) to tease anything useful out of it.

I found myself experiencing the same welling up of hate and anger that defined the years I spent at NSCAD (and I'll get to that in a minute) which meant I wasn't on completely unfamiliar ground.

Hopefully, someone will post the text, or a recording, of Dennis Wood's Lynch Debord! About Two Psychogeographies. It was a very good overview of the terrain convered by the conference participants and helped me feel not quite so dirty saying the phrase pyschogeography, since that's what the whole conference was about. Lynch was Kevin Lynch, an urban planner, and Debord Guy Debord, a prototypical art loafer who founded the so-called Situationalist movement. Pithy comments aside, both were intensely interested in the how and why and the impact of urban spaces. (For example, I spent four days in Williamsburg, New York and barely felt like I'd left the Mission district in San Francisco.)

This is not bad stuff; mostly it's just wrapped up in a kind of banter that makes people suspicious. It is especially interesting to consider as the Internets and cheap plane tickets continue a kind of collapsing of geography, to borrow Douglas Coupland's phrase. It is always worth remembering that Paris' Grand Boulevards were created by government fiat following the revolts of 1848 in order to more easily fire cannons at revolutionaries. Or, put another way :

Political, religious, ethnic or cultural conflicts have affected Baghdad, New York, London, Paris and Istanbul and influenece our perceptions about, and use of, space. Despite its peculiarities, Jerusalem must be considered against this global horizon. Cities are being transformed through government measures against the backdrop of a pervading fear of terror threats — be they real or imagined. In the end, urban diversity itself is perceived as a potential threat: attacks from within are anticipated in the form of disguised fundamentalists, extremists, assassins, and suicide bombers, fueling suspicion of the unfamiliar. Security, control and panic are all influencing contemporary urban spatial production; empty spaces, wastelands, parks or roads can become new frontiers. Suburbs can be transformed into gated enclaves, and suburban shopping centers into fortresses. Jerusalem — once perceived as an isolated case, taken hostage as it were by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — seems to have become now to be an antecedant for other cities' transformations.

City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Architecture of Conflict Urbanism

Units of ambiance was Debord's expression.

So, going on 50 years now we've had the art weenies trying to make a better world by doing performance art in the subway and the urban planners trying to make a better world by herding people in to housing projects and painting the bricks pink. In to all of this come the people who haven't done anything for the last ten years but live and breathe online and who see the emergence of a ubiquitous telecommunications network as completely reshuffling the deck.

(The artist/urban planner split mirrors the split between artists and architects surrounding Modernism. Artists thought it would crush the human spirit and generally lead to the commodification of everything. Architects thought it was good since the commodification of everything makes it easier to get the raw materials to build things and there's nothing like covering a few square acres in concrete to fuel the illusion that you really are God.)

All of which struck me as good food for thought since we just launched maps.

I left Conflux wondering whether the network wonks and the artists will eventually play nicely together. There is still a prejudice among artists whose focus is place towards work that is site-specific, not reproducable (but usually documented as though it were really a piece about obsessive compulsive disorder) and unfettered by technology. To the extent that we're not talking about black helicopters, aluminum foils hats and getting crushed by The Man I can agree that all of these electronic gadgets are devices of control and we should be careful not to let our lives be completely mediated by them. We still bleed and we shouldn't need wars or conflict to remind us of that.

How much of this is born of conviction? How much is a way of compensating for a lack of resources, whether it's time or money? How much is due to a lack of understanding? Where do these motivations intersect and overlap? I've been asking this ever since I got my first laptop in school and was rudely awakened the reality that there is no art in waiting for the newest Photoshop filters or becoming a knob-jocky in Flash. I more or less went off the deep-end at that point and, ten years later, the only painting or drawing I do is on whiteboards or post-it notes during meetings.

I do not recommend this approach for everyone.

On the other hand, it still feels like the arts community is perpetually five years too late to the Internet party; never able to imagine anything more substantive than glorified brochure ware and even that's been a long time coming. Some people get it but, by and large, they are people from outside the fine arts world whether they are media studies weenies or architects or sometimes even computer dorks. To be honest, I am no more confident that there's fine art to be found online now than I was ten years ago (maybe easter eggs of ambiance are the most we can hope for) but at least some people are making an effort to see where the Internet leads rather than waiting for someone to draw them a map.

At least they know what an API is.

Post filtr

NAME
    postfiltr - Post-filtr photos uploaded to Flickr.

SYNOPSIS
     $> /path/to/postfiltr -c /path/to/config

DESCRIPTION
    Post-filtr photos uploaded to Flickr.

    postfiltr will search for a user's Flickr photos tagged with postfiltr,
    retrieve the original file for local filtr-ing before re-uploading (and
    replacing) the photo to Flickr.
                    

I needed this because sometimes there is no time to roll your own : postfiltr-1.0.tar.gz

In other news, filtr 0.21 was released last week, thanks to the many kind patches from Grant Hollingworth and I have finally gotten around to setting up a proper (yeah yeah yeah, other formats to follow...) syndication feed for recent code-y bits.

Hello, computer?

NAME
    s60-locatr.py - display Flickr photos based on your current location

SYNOPSIS
     Phone > My own > Python > Options > Run script > s60-locatr.py

DESCRIPTION
    locatr is a Series 60 Python application to display Flickr photos based
    on your current location (using a GPS device).

HOW IT WORKS
    locatr will try to connect to a Bluetooth enabled GPS device and ask it
    for its current location.

    Then it will query Flickr for recent photos taken nearby.

    Once it has a list of photos it will display them on your phone's
    screen.

    Profit!
                    

Ladies and gentlemen, s60-locatr.py. Details to follow.