Graphics con Libre: Designing tools for design outside and beyond the proprietary

On: July 10, 2010
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About John Haltiwanger
An underliner. An intensifier. A meanderer. A walker in betweens. The gross product of the souls of forebears sliced into ribbons and blown into a clay him. A poetic impulse. An open source advocate. A master of ceremonies. A writer of codes. An interface fiend philandering among operating sytems. Creative nonfiction research artist. Textual mystic. Frequently explicit Function 'popular education' enumerated 03.03-12.6 TESC (Evergreen) WA NW US. Political economics, systems administration, cultural studies, writing, ethnomusicology, computer programming, web design, etc. All part of a balanced liberal arts degree. Socialist high school founded by feminists with a farm (Putney) 01-02 VT NE US. Deserter of West Chester PA. 16 year old proto Perl monger. 26 year old Ruby excavator. New new media student, old new media sponge. Mondo minded year 2000 Millenial Generation American. Of a rare form. Eagerly chewing electronic book reviews, ctheories, and autonomedias independent of any formal Media scholastics. Before the field had a name in my mind. Chasing a thing called 'software studies' through the tubes, across the Atlantic, and into a Nederlands classroom. Playfully aware that this bio, like the medium it exists in, like the life it describes, remains malleable. Yet static in its own right.

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Though I’m following up quite late, I wanted to list highlights of the presentations I attended at the Libre Graphics Meeting in Brussels (about which I’ve blogged before). While I strongly suggest you look at the recorded presentation archive so that you don’t miss any presentations that you might find interesting, I’ll also highlight a few of my personal favorites. If you watch only two videos, make them the joint presentation by Florian Cramer, Aymeric Mansoux, and Michael Murtaugh entitled “How to Run an Art School on Free and Open Source Software” and “Laidout and Desktop Publishing” by Tom Lechner. This will provide you with both a philosophical discussion and a practical instantiation of the power of libre graphics. (Observe the ooo’s and ahhh’s gasping forth from the audience during the latter presentation.)

However, I’ll assume that this will only result in a larger appetite for more on the subject. In order to facilitate your satiation, I’ve assembled a few of my personal highlights categorically for your perusing pleasure.

(For a list of blog post write-ups of the conference, see LGM’s “the review” link.)

Theory and Reflection (FLoSS is ontological)

  • The above-mentioned How to Run an Art School on Free and Open Source Software in which Florian Cramer, Aymeric Mansoux, and Michael Murtaugh describe their reasoning and experience in using FLoSS as the point of departure for critical media design in their program on that topic at the Piet Zwart Institute. Watch this. Now.
  • Reflections from the outside by Aileen Derieg is not a video presentation, but rather a blog post. However, it covers some incredibly salient points of free software and the Libre Graphics Meeting from the perspective of someone who was invited as an ‘outside observer’ for the event. Aileen uses free software herself, and is no stranger to design, yet she did not consider herself a member of the community before attending. The reasons for this are addressed in her post, and should be heeded by the free software community. Gender imbalance and the neglectful non-treatment of this issue within the community are a serious Achilles’ heel. Though this could perhaps be said to be less within the context of libre graphics, it is important for all to take heed. This is the best write-up of the conference that I have seen. A must-read.
  • Graphic Design and the Wide Open Space by Eric Schrijver asks pertinent questions about the relationship of FLoSS and proprietary design.

Typesetting (My personal itch, being scratched)

  • In Elements of Typographic Freedom: Open Sources of Extraordinary Design, Christopher Adams explains the elements of his workflow and discusses the dynamics of typesetting with open source software.
  • How I Made a Free New Zealand Coffee Table Book Using Lots of Free Software by Marcus Holland-Moritz. The title explains it all. Marcus took over 15,000 pictures of New Zealand and managed to take the best of these and produce a seriously attractive book.
  • Styling Tex Documents with Batch Commander by Ricardo Lafuente presents an awesome piece of software that significantly shifts the process of working with TeX (most specifically at this point in the software’s development, LaTeX). This is a rewrite of an earlier version of Batch Commander which only ran on Mac OS X. Basically you can alter margins, fonts, styles, etc., and refresh the document in near real-time to reflect your changes. An “integrated development environment” for TeX, basically.

Tools of Liberation (My idols make these)

Libre Graphics Meeting was a total blast. Thanks to everyone I met and and shared time with there. See you next year!

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