Hacking the Bogota Book Fair

Today I got a little sidetracked from my project in the sense that it wasn’t necessarily linked to my project at Antena Mutante. In no case was it useless though as I spent the day with my newly made friends Camilo Cantor, from Cartografías Sonoras and Andres Melendez at the “Feria del Libro” (Bookfair).

I knew that especially Camilo was up to something, though I wasn’t quite sure what it was yet; something with tiles and hacking the Bogota book fair, but the how or what remained in the dark. So driven by curiosity, I met both Camilo and Andres at 3 o’clock this afternoon in Andres’ living room. As soon as I arrived I was put to work and unexpectedly, I spend my whole afternoon Photoshopping a QR code (picture). Now for those who wonder what that is, the term only became clear to me as well while doing my ‘homework’. Apparently, for the less media savvy under us, there exists a technique to transform all text into a matrix bar code, called Quick Response code (QR) and which can be generated through the Kaywa Reader website amongst others. Once you take a picture of this code with your smart phone (or a special barcode reader), it will automatically convert the code into text, for example a PDF file. And that was exactly what it was, a PDF file of “Free Culture” by Lawrence Lessig, as well as “Free Software, Free Society” by Richard Stallman. Shortly said, both authors criticize the new way of making law which is often influenced by the large corporations that care more about their profits than about the free exchange of ideas.

Now why choose the bookfair as there are already so many books available? That was exactly it, all the books “available” were for sale and in that respect they were not really available to many people. That afternoon, Camilo told me many of the college kids were forced to visit the bookfair as a school trip, all nice, but probably none of them would have the money to actually buy a book. It was all about copyright and therefore the Book fair was the perfect place to do a small intervention such as this one. Camilo wanted to promote the idea of shared and free culture and as a real Dutch, I was thrilled by the idea of ‘free’.

From 3 o’clock in the afternoon until 7 o’clock in the evening we spent time designing, printing, cutting and sticking paper on tile, then tile on wall in order to complete our mission. Once we entered the fair, we’d have to make sure there were no cameras or security people watching us, as we would probably be kicked out of the fair immediately again. But all went smooth and we managed to stick four tiles on the walls of the toilet, near a waiting bench and on some random pass through walls until we were out of the glue of which we were dependent for our action.

But how effective is such an action really? I couldn’t find concrete numbers of Smartphone users in Bogota, but considering that in the whole month that I was here I saw only a handful of people actually using a Smartphone, I figured it couldn’t be that many. The problem according to Camilo was rather that people that do have a Smartphone in Colombia often do not know how to use it. They still use it to call, text and surf the Internet, but do not know how to profit from it to the fullest. So the aim of the interaction was, apart from the fact that people could download the books for free, to maybe create some awareness as well about the possibilities of smartphones. And just in case, we added the link to download the book as well. Another thing that might be interesting is to automatically generate some sort of tagcloud from all the people that would actually use the QR code in order to retrieve the book, or create a platform where people can leave messages, so you can see the effect of your action. but I guess that will remain a challenge for the next intervention.

In the following video, you can get a quick feel of what or day at the fair looked like:

Hacking the Bogota Book Fair from Fei An Tjan on Vimeo.

And for the next time, Amsterdam, interested?

On being seen naked in the bathroom by his pet cat, Derrida likens the feline’s stare to “… the gaze of a seer, visionary, or extra-lucid blind person,” (372). I am compelled to thwart such clairvoyance by putting my laptop to “sleep” before lying down myself, often as surprised at my self-consciousness before this medium as Derrida before his cat. Derrida intends this cat as his own rather than allegory, and professes the singularity of its response in juxtaposition to their shared situation (377). His cat gazes at him. Human self-consciousness and capacity for shame empower nonhuman entities. If matters of endowment may predicate cognizance, then the human fabrication underlying new media should not exclude them from our collective bathroom audience.

Édouard Manet, Olympia (1863)

Olympia, however, does not blush before the cat perched comically on the end of her chaise lounge. Discomfort emanates, rather, from the viewer, aware not only of Manet’s archetypical gaze of the male artist, but also that of his female subject. In his seminal essay “Olympia’s Choice,” T. J. Clark describes Olympia’s peculiar gaze as “…candid but guarded, poised between address and resistance—so precisely, so deliberately, that it comes to be read as a production of the depicted person herself,” (133). To empower Olympia’s gaze, however, is to strip it of its femaleness. “It is sometimes said –it was already in 1865– that Olympia is not female at all, or only partly so,” (Clark 131-132).

Titian, The Venus of Urbino (1538)

Manet’s Olympia (1863) responds to Titian’s The Venus of Urbino (1538). In the leap from Venus to Olympia, the protagonist loses some feminine flesh and gains a woodenness of posture. Olympia’s countenance is reminiscent of a cadaver or a prosthesis; indeed, on the meridian between lifelessness and animus, Olympia embodies a fault that outraged her contemporaries and a fault line that shakes conceptions of the cyborg, so often gendered as if it had found Olympia’s refuted femininity in the detritus of Art History and, like a garment, tried it on.

Olympia, like Derrida’s cat, embodies an Other composed of both thingness and animus– an image that is not the passive receiver of a gaze, but whose own has been signified by the failing of human control in the male viewer at the 1865 Salon. If, as Derrida asserts, “Nudity is nothing other than that passivity, the involuntary exhibition of the self” (380), can one passively present the self before new media and digital culture? Not, for example, on the Internet, but before the Internet: not the webcam, but the screen?

The poems, short stories, and novels by contemporary writer Tao Lin answer in the affirmative. In 2009, New York magazine deemed Lin the new “lit” boy, a young writer whose use of digital media to maintain simultaneous images of eccentricity and apathy, erudition and colloquialism, empathy and detachment, humor and depreciation in his literary works and personal, public, and virtual lives have become a maxim of post-millennial, 2.0 culture (Anderson). The gaze, specifically in relation to a computer screen, constitutes a dominant force in Lin’s works. His sophomore novella, Shoplifting From American Apparel, opens with the passage, “Sam woke around 3:30 p.m. and saw no emails from Sheila. He made a smoothie. He lay on his bed and stared at his computer screen,” (1). The poem “Opposite of Song of Myself” includes the lines, “I click the mouse and I despair/ staring at the computer screen.” In Lin’s most recent novel, Richard Yates (2010), “Haley Joel Osment stared at the computer screen. He rode the N train to his apartment.”

The omnipresence of computer-staring, like Lin’s literary works themselves, is semi-autobiographical. “Now I know that it doesn’t really matter where I go. If I go to Japan I’ll still be in a room staring at the computer screen,” Lin says in a Blookslut interview. And Lin does not stare in isolation. “It is 10 PM now, and Godzilla has been sitting at his desk in front of his laptop for six to seven hours. He has accomplished hardly anything today,” writes Brandon Scott Gorrell in a short story titled “Minimizing and Maximizing Mozilla Firefox Repeatedly,” published by Lin’s electronic and print publishing initiative, Muumuu House.

In order to unpack the relationship that takes place within the shared gaze of human and nonhuman bodies such as cats, paintings, and computer screens, one must consider a certain amount of universal sentience– what Jane Bennett calls “material agency” or “thing-power” (Vibrant Matter). One must ask, as does Derrida, “Ashamed of what and naked before whom?” (373). One must ask, as does W. J. T. Mitchell, “What do pictures want?” Introductory wordplay such as “(corpo)real” and “eyes (I’s?)” foreshadow Trey Conatser’s argument that the experience of the human body retains the authority to authenticate reality (365-366). Yet Olympia’s “eyes” made her an “I.” As Mitchell writes, “The widest implication of the metapicture is that pictures might themselves be sites of theoretical discourse, not merely passive objects awaiting explanation by some non-pictorial (or iconoclastic) master-discourse.” Bennett currently researches hoarders as humans with the ability to relinquish their master-discourse, or, as Bennett qualifies, “people who seem to be preternaturally attuned to things” (Powers of the Hoard) in the way that Tao Lin seems attuned to digital text. Lin has embarked on a task that Bennett describes as her need “to fiddle around with language in the hopes of tuning my senses toward the frequencies of the thing-powers inside and around me” (Powers of the Hoard). Developing a language where language is lacking has always been the charge of the writer. Whereas Bennett speaks of “utility screens of perception” that block access to thing-power (Powers of the Hoard), I suggest that Lin’s discourse is one with the computer screen as a permeable entity.

Tao Lin’s object-oriented ontological approach to new media literature and its surrounding culture understands Bennett’s command: “Don’t think, just do, and by doing, you accept that you yourself are a piece of vibrant matter,” (Vibrant Matter 14). Lin seems aware of his own thing-power in an article written by himself about himself for Seattle’s The Stranger:

He prefers to view himself not as a “novelist” or a “serious novelist” or a “great American novelist” but as a “human”—or, in his stricter moments, “organism” or “thing.” He’s a physically tenebrous guy, 5 ft., 7 in., with straight posture and a slightly zombielike expression one imagines to be the result of an imperceptibly rapid deviation, like a wave-particle model, between “almost crying” and “almost asleep.”

temp_h, Opera-tan

Conatser seems accurate in his identification of a “… dualism of mind and body that is enjoying a strong patronage, whether resisted, unintended or embraced, in new media studies. Such dualism, as it is (re)produced by new media discourse, indicates a theological undertone in which the body is a prison and the mind (or spirit) is intrinsically ‘free’ and would be so if it were not trapped within the body,” (368). Conatser distinguishes between corporeal and affected action (369): his aforementioned“(corpo)real” verses, for example, action resulting from Lin leaving his personal cell phone number on blog comment threads pertaining to himself as a literary figure, as he is known to do. For Conatser, a gap exists between the human body and Otherness. It is this gap, perhaps, that disturbed viewers of Manet’s corpse-like Olympia. It is this gap that Opera-tan, the moe anthropomorphism of the Opera browser, works to reduce.

It is this gap that Jillian Weise references in her book of poems, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (59):

The nape of my neck is a tell.
Otherwise you wouldn’t notice
with the layers of clothes: shirt,
vest, scarf, coat.

Undressed, it’s a solitary hole
in the middle of a white wall, you
can’t help but stare, what picture
hung there, what of, what color?

Tao Lin, pink hamster (2011)

Tao Lin, however, writes from a position of corporeal passivity within digital culture, and no such questions characterize his work. Lin is neither Olympia’s necro-prototype to a cyborg, nor is he the metaphor of tedious hybridity that may be interpreted in Weise’s gaze toward a posthumanist horizon. Digital technologies such as G-chat do not serve as the prosthetics of (corpo)real social interactions in Lin’s writing, and his resulting books are not their inert attachments. Intentionality does not enter a discussion of Tao Lin’s new media with the same urgency that a stylistic reading of Joni Mitchell would call attention to her attributive lyrics, “You turn me on; I’m a radio.” Lin’s gaze exists within the context of the culture he helps to create with literary works and intra-diegetic, “in-game” extensions such as his techniques for funding and self-promotion. Lin has falsified advertisements for interns, sold shares of a novel- in-progress, used pen/maker, Microsoft Paint, and Photoshop to render a viral amount of simple drawings for Ebay auction, and developed email campaigns with the doggedness of spam.

To illustrate its lamentation of Lin’s electronic fercundity, New York City-based media news and gossip site Gawker published the following email:


I am a hot young (b. 1983) writer who went to NYU. My forthcoming books have ironic covers. Miranda July is inside the novel. I’m ambitions, sexy, and intelligent. My IQ is 173. I recognize both existential truths and the necessity of politics for a meaningful existence.

Though all meaning is arbitrary it can still be used as a tool just like arbitrary rules can be created to make life “better.” I hope you understand.

I hope you recognize that I’m hot, young, that I went to NYU, and have ironic book-covers. I think you know what all this means.

Tao Lin

The deadpan syntax, repetitive vocabulary, and minimalistic discourse of this email are indicative of Lin’s works. Direct descriptions of his characters’ thoughts and feelings are sparse; often “no reaction” or “neutral facial expression” constitute a viable response. Lin is more apt to invest in hamsters, organic smoothies, and other nonhumans reoccurring in his milieu. Taken within Lin’s overarching persona, close readings of his work contribute to his contextualization of himself within a new media machine, endowed with only as much or as little judgment as human sentience or spam filters are capable.

Public readings of the poem “I Went Fishing with My Family when I Was Five” often end with Lin repeating the poem’s last line, “the next night we ate whale,” for the duration of several minutes (3:44 in the video below), toeing the brink of discomfort, placing one foot in glitch territory, and balancing on his capacity to hack his own poetry:

Through the cultivation of language, aesthetics, and practice, Lin echos Bennett’s query, “What if things really can, in some undetermined sense, hail us and open a window onto a complex, throbbing, alternative universe uninhabited by either subjects or objects?” (Powers of the Hoard). The universe Bennett describes may well be virtual, and eventually actualized by the trajectory of contemporary efforts such as Lin’s Muumuu House, the submission policy for which reads:

Muumuu House does not accept submissions for acceptance/rejection. All work published on the site was first read on people’s blogs or in emails or on Twitter or other websites for purposes of personal enjoyment or simply as work being shared among friends or strangers. Those interested in Muumuu House are encouraged to communicate with people involved with Muumuu House (commenting on blogs or messaging people or being involved in some other manner) for purposes of friendship or relieving boredom or having fun. Muumuu House strives to avoid engaging in business-like relationships.

Bennett’s vision and Lin’s utility lean new media literature toward an ontological approach to itself: a new media literature that is, simply, literature. As Derrida writes, “The animal, therefore, is not naked because it is naked. It doesn’t feel its own nudity. There is no nudity ‘in nature.’ There is only the sentiment, the affect, the (conscious or unconscious) experience of existing in nakedness,” (374). Tao Lin writes within the framework that, as a digital culture, we are all already naked.

Just pretend the audience is naked: Amsterdam-based, indy-folk band Spilt Milk perform “Neutral Facial Expression,” with lyrics composed from the first page of Richard Yeats by Tao Lin.

Works Cited

Anderson, Sam. “New Lit Boy: Tao Lin.” New York. New York, 11 Jan. 2009. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

Bennett, Jane. “The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter.” Political Theory. 32.3 (2004) : 347-372. JSTOR. Web. 9 Sept. 2011.

—. “Powers of the Hoard: Notes on Material Agency.” ICI Berlin. ICI Berlin, Berlin. 24 May 2011. Keynote Address. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

—. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. Google books. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

Conatser, Trey. “There’s no “I” in Information: some naysayings for new media studies.” New Media & Society 12.3 (2010) : 365-378. SAGE. Web 10 Sept. 2011.

Clark, T. J. The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984. Print.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow).” Trans. David Wills. Critical Inquiry 28.2 (2002) : 369-418. JSTOR. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

Gorrell, Brandon Scott. “Minimizing and Maximizing Mozilla Firefox Repeatedly.” Muumuuu House. Muumuu House n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

Gould, Emily. “Now We Also Hate Miranda July.” Gawker. Gawker, 27 June 2007. Web. 10 Sept. 2011.

Lezard, Nicholas. “Richard Yates by Tao Lin— review: Nicholas Lezard discovers the affecting quality of affectlessness.” Guardian, 13 Nov. 2010. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

Lin, Tao. “Great American Novelist: He’s not the richest or most famous. His characters don’t solve mysteries, have magical powers, or live in the future. But in his new novel, Richard Yates, Tao Lin shows us the way we live now.” The Stranger. The Stranger, 21 Sept. 2010. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

—. “An Interview with Tao Lin.” Interview by Ned Vizzini. Bookslut. Bookslut, 2007. Web. 08 Sept. 2011.

—. “Opposite of Song of Myself.” TAO LIN BLOG, 21 Nov. 2007. Tao Lin. Web. 08 Sept. 2011.

—. pink hamster. 2011. TAO LIN TUMBLER PRESENCE. Tao Lin, 30 March 2011. Web. 12 Sept. 2011.

—. Richard Yates. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2010. Print.

—. Shoplifting from American Apparel. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2009. Print.

Mitchell, W. J. T. “What do pictures want?” Interview by Asbjørn Grønstad and Øyvind Vågnes. Image & Narrative. Center for Visual Studies, 2006. n.p. Web. 09 Sept. 2011.

Muumuu House. Muumuu House. n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2011.

Weise, Jillian. “Incision.” The Amputee’s Guide to Sex. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2007. 59. Print.

When I was writing my thesis at the Theatre School back in 2008, I was really excited in doing research and reading more theoretical and academic work about the theories behind the use of video in art and theatre. I liked it so much, that I chose to follow the BA course of Media & Culture and the MA New Media at the University of Amsterdam. Not because I want to be an academic, nor that I want to be a researcher. It was all for myself, to have a broader background and to use different views on public issues (which are often used to make a performance) to create my own (art) work and use it in other projects. I had the feeling that it should work, that it is possible to use an academic view to create artistic and critical stuff. To moment that it actually did work has finally arrived.

For this course, the New Media Practices course, we had to do a project in teams. The result of the project of our team was, as I like to call it, a critical artwork. Everyone had is part in the project, and together we created and build a great first version of our ideas. In this blog post I will shortly tell our idea and than will tell a bit more about the technical side of it, as I was responsible for that part.

Everyone who is active with social media, shares a lot of (personal) information via websites such as Facebook. But not only the person itself is creating a virtual representation about his or her self, but friends (and maybe enemy’s) and family are also responsible for the digital self of their friends and family. When you are being tagged on a photo or in a text of someone else, your digital identity is growing and getting a better shape. But do we actually know what our digital self does look like? Does it look the same as we ‘really’ are? Are we aware of our digital self?

The Facebooth is more or less a photo booth, which is showing the user his or her digital representation. There is not really a camera inside, but a mirror. When people look in the mirror they will be confronted with a digital layer, which is projected at the mirror. The person in front of the mirror will see his or her reflection with the digital information about him or her flying in the virtual world of the mirror. When the person is moving around, the digital sphere is also moving, it is like it is really a part of the one looking in the mirror. With hand gestures, people can even interact with the content projected.

Nowadays a lot of people use Facebook as their main social network site, the information published there is accurate. To use the Facebooth, there is no cash needed. The system is activated as the user logs in with his or her Facebook account. After confirmation of using some information (like photo’s, tagged photo’s and wall posts) the user is able to see the digital counter self. The information is random, and very personal. Users are using Facebook years after years, and almost all the information is somewhere in the world of Facebook. People often don’t really know how their digital self looks like. With the Facebooth, people see different personalized information in the mirror, which may cause a ‘shock’-effect, especially if they see pictures or status updates of ‘that one party a few summers back, which others shouldn’t know about’.

This project was the first project for me to use the power of the Xbox360 Kinect. As most people know, it is developed and used as a controller for the game console Xbox360 of Microsoft. The Kinect is able to track people and their movements. In this way, the body of the player is becoming the physical controller of the game. I can imagine that this will help the player to feel more kinected to the game and the virtual world where the game is about. But luckily for me, some other people liked to get the Kinect to work with a Mac computer, and use it in many different ways to interact with the computer and applications.
One of the most beutufull things of the Kinect is the possibility to see in depth. Because of that, the Kinect is able to see movements in space and tracking them. Distance of the user, but also the distance between the hands of the player can be tracked and can be used to trigger anything. The sky is the limit, or maybe even further than that.

After a lot of research and installing different stuff, I found a few good applications to use for our project. Instead of doing everything ourselves, the biggest part was done by some great guys in the open source circuit. I found two different applications that were able to send information about the tracked user (they call it a ‘sceleton-structure’) via OSC (Open Sound Control) to any other program on the computer. OSC is getting the new standard after MIDI. One of the programs, OSCeleton, is very power full and robust. But is will costs a lot of installing drivers and packages of other software: it costs about an hour of work to get it all up and running. The good thing about it that it’s able to track up to six people! Although we need just one tracked person for this project, for me this program could help me out in some future projects I have in mind. The second program is a lot easier. It is called Synapse. Just download the app and run it. That’s it! The downside is that it is only able to track one person at a time, and that it is asking a lot more of your processor. For me the latter was good enough and easier to work with for the moment.

Quartz Composer
Know I was able to use the Kinect with my Macintosh computer, the next step was to create the virtual world of the person that’s standing in front of the mirror. There were a lot of possibilities, but the fastest way of animating live dynamic content is via Core Animation and Core Image, both part of the Mac OS X operating system. Because of that it is really fast, smooth and not very heavy for the processor. The easiest way to make use of these parts, is to create everything in Quartz Composer. The definition given on Wikipedia is “Quartz Composer is a node-based visual programming language provided as part of the Xcode development environment in Mac OS X for processing and rendering graphical data.” ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartz_Composer))

It wasn’t the first time for me to use Quartz Composer, but it was more complicated than earlier on. So I had to test a lot in Quartz Composer to get everything working. There was one little ‘problem’. The OSC send from Synapse could be received by Quartz composer, but only via a different application (written with Max MSP) to send only the information needed in Quartz composer (e.g. the position of the head). With that number, I was able to activate something within Quartz Composer but the possibilities weren’t very confortable.

Again, I am a bit lucky, some people created a patch for Quartz Composer to use the OSC information right form OSCeleton or Synapse within Quartz Composer. And that’s all I needed. The rest was just a lot of thinking, testing and creating. For those who want to try it out, download Tryplex Toolkit. It contains both the apps (OSCeleton and Synapse), as well as the Quartz Composer plugins and patches. There’s a very good installation guide on the website as well.

I’m very happy with the final result of this project. The mirror is actually there, with the digital information around the mirrored image. But I’m more excited about the possibilities of the Kinect together with Quartz composer. I already have some cool ideas and I hope I will find a way to realize them as well in the near future.

Thanx to Renoud, Joep & Mario.



Carbonmade is a Web application which allows you to create and host an online portfolio. Creating a portfolio can be a lot of work and take up all your time. Carbonmade offers a service which allows you to quickly set up a portfolio without any knowledge of creating webpages. This sounds somewhat like a paradox, since a portfolio is supposed to be a creative expression of your work and templates are usually restricting.


Thom Meens, “ombudsman” (some kind of public relations person any… Any suggestions for translation?) for the Volkskrant is not satisfied with the current structure of the Volkskrant (a newspaper) blogservice. A member of a pro-pedophaelia political party had a blog on Volkskrant blogs for months and, understandably, they weren’t very happy when they found out. To what extend can Volkskrant be held accountable for publications of the bloggers on their service? Thom Meens wants to have some sort of blog control mechanism. Is this in conflict with an important aspect of public blogging, namely the freedom of the blogger to post what he or she wants? Can a newspaper blogservice ever be a place for free, independent expression?

Read the whole article here (in dutch)

As I was getting ready to turn off the computer, I decided to do some last minute browsing through YouTube. Wondering if there would be any drastic changes after its takeover by Google, I came across an intriguing title: internet killed the video star. A video(?) by a band that consists of members who never met in real life, yet jam together via the internet. They are called the Clipbandits. The three band members live in three different states and time zones in USA.



  • Check the codes in the posts if the layout looks messy.
  • Check the comments through Manage > Awaiting moderation (delete spam: “mark all as spam” > “moderate comments”).
  • Update the blogroll.
  • Write a post on a new media related subject that you find interesting.
  • Moderate our joint gmail account: mastersofmedia.


The TMasters of Media presents another audio book review:

Indonesian Transitions. Editor: Henk Schulte Nordholt. June 2006

The book review focuses on an essay by Bart Barendregt: Mobile modernities in contemporary Indonesia; Stories from the other side of the digital divide.

Please tune in:

CLICK HERE to listen to the Book Review

Second Life is a virtual world that exists on the servers of Linden Lab, nothing is real except the value of real money. Players can open an account and chat with other avatars. The avatars start out naked after which you can shop for clothes at for instance Nike. The money that is exchanged is of the same value in the “real” world. Academics are at this time analyzing the influence of the interaction of a virtual economy with the real economy. Stock analysts are examining investment values of virtual property, the IRS is looking for legal ways to tax players/concerns, and criminals are studying new ways to commit virtual crime/theft.

Second Life has been continuously in the Dutch news this month. It all started with Duran Duran four weeks ago. This long forgotten band from the eighties figured it could make a come-back, a second career, and a virtual success by playing their music for half a million Second Life clients. The obvious reason for this is because the dinosaur aged band members can hide their wrinkled bold heads behind a virtual face lift, the 3D avatars of SL.


On Thursday November 16th Julian Kücklich will present his lecture ‘Beyond Narratology or Taking Computer Games Seriously’. Julian Kücklich is co-editor of the latest issue of Fibreculture on ‘Gaming Networks.’
The lecture starts at 4 p.m. In order to allow us to attend this lecture, the session of the New Media Theories class will end at 3.30 pm.

Check out this eleven minute video of a conversation in a waiting room which is entirely relevant in the context of new media (studies). It’s well worth your time!

Network NamesI recently worked at a friend’s house and I was trying to connect to their wireless networked called “GORGONZOLA.” I thought that was a pretty funny name until I noticed the names some neighbors had given their networks. One was called PAKISTAN and another was called Jesus Christus is Heer (Jesus Christus is Lord) which made me laugh out loud (OK it actually it made me LOL.) I had previously imagined a network names flame where one neighbor would name their network something provocative and another neighbor would respond to this with an even more provocative name. I wonder if this happened in this neighborhood (notice: pretty good protected neigborhood).


It’s already old news (that’s what I get for reading the Saturday paper on a Sunday) but I saw this article earlier: “Geenstijlgeneratie bedreigt erop los,” which I’ll embellish in translation as “Generation Geenstijl issues threats like there’s no tomorrow”. Geenstijl means ‘No Style’ and, of course, refers to one of the most popular blogs in the Netherlands.

Never far from one controversy or another, the shocklog has become something of a lightning rod for criticisms of Dutch youth – generally when they’re being charged with narcissism, lack of respect, or worse. This time, it’s been implicated in the growing number of threatening letters sent to Dutch politicians.

The gist of the article is this (part translated, part paraphrased):

A major source of the problem is the group of unrestrained high-school youth known as Generation Geenstijl, which is used to reacting strongly to anything that doesn’t sit well with them. Many of these kids, when confronted, don’t acknowledge the seriousness of their actions. Apparently, ‘making threats has become normal’.

In other words, flaming has arrived in parliament. The issue is familiar enough – youth are numbed to acts of violence through media, whether it’s film, TV or video games – but now there’s a twist. For years, new media scholars have been asking how real our virtual lives might become. Most famously, Julian Dibbell described a virtual rape in LambdaMOO (an early, text-based virtual world), the pain felt by the victims, and the questions the affair raised regarding the Real/Virtual divide. The notion of a virtual reality has since been largely dismissed, if only because our virtual worlds increasingly resemble the one we already inhabit (e.g. consumer culture being simulated in Second Life).* But here there’s a reversal – behavior acceptable online gets ‘simulated’ in real life: Real Virtuality.

Geenstijl, for those who don’t read Dutch but are interested, is really as peripheral as the term shocklog would imply and as notable as the ‘death threat’ article claims. It’s a mix of permanent adolescence – evident in the intentional misspellings that have become a trademark – with some fundamental proto-libertarian beliefs. The site’s response to a previous report on death threats being made by high-schoolers was typically anti-statist: it’s the Dutch education system’s fault (link). Geenstijl and its core supporters are sometimes characterized as (extreme) right-wing, and this is sometimes the case, but it also misses the point. More than anything else, No Style means Nothing’s Sacred. Serious about being unserious, passionate about being unimpressed, the only real commitment is to cultural destructivity – tearing down any form of cultural authority in sight (up to and including would-be heroes like Geert Wilders).

In relation to recent theories of Web culture, Geenstijl can be thought of as the most visible demonstration of the nihilist impulse (Lovink). Or – thinking of cultural precedents – as a throwback to reactionary punk subcultures (the ones that would wear swastikas just to see what happened). There’s a major difference though, and that’s something Alan Liu discusses in his book The Laws of Cool. Subcultures used to exist outside of the mainstream – in the way one would leave society to go ‘on the road’ (or just to a weekend rave). That is to say, subcultures were about enacting alternative realities outside of everyday experience. By contrast, Geenstijl is just another window opened on the office computer. Like a threat becoming virtual, not really meant, i.e. ‘normal’, the nihilism of Geenstijl is itself more or less diffused and defused in the larger media-cultural landscape.

In this light, two reactions to Geenstijl that made my head spin before now seem to make sense. On the one hand, the sporadic attempts by news media and politicians on the Left to engage Geenstijl in candid conversations (via their own blogs, obviously), making a point of treating the site and its members like ‘anyone else’. On the other, a good friend – an intelligent artist and dedicated social democrat – readily admitted he enjoys the site, pausing before adding: “It’s not like I take it seriously”.

*See Steven Shaviro’s article “Money for Nothing: Virtual Worlds and Virtual Economies” (pdf)

On the plane from Cairo to Kampala I met a young Ugandan guy of 19 years old who just flew back from a tennis match in Egypt. He was a real cosmopolitan; he had traveled already all over the world for tennis matches, he studied as well in Uganda as in South Africa and he got a scholarship for next year to study in the USA. He told me laughing he might do some economic studies too, to help us in Europe with our crisis. He uses the laptop of his brother to surf on the Web for news and downloading music.

Since he was a nice guy I asked him if could do an interview with him later on in Kampala, and he gave me the phone number of his sister: ‘Ask for Duncan..’ He himself changed too often of simcard to be reachable.
Once in the country it is not only the humid air taking the attention of your senses. The country is filled with massive advertisement and billboards of telecom companies: ‘connect yourself’…

Everywhere houses are painted in he colours of the telecom companies. The companies see it as free advertisement; the residents see it as free paint. This makes for colourful spectacles, the colour of Zain for example really is as pink as it can get.

(There was supposed to be a nice picture here of a street full of pink houses, but after six hours of uploading without result I gave up…)

My first intention was to shine a light on the dark informal sphere of illegal economic activities conducted on the Internet. Scams, fraud, fake marriages and so on. My first encounter with a Ugandan blog taught me that the scams were typical Nigerian, not African. People in Uganda were warning each other for this foreign Nigerian fake mails. There went my first prejudice.

The Internet is not yet as well developed as the telecom technology is. This is especially experienced in the slow network connections. At some places it can take up to half an hour to open your email. There are a lot of Internet cafe’s in Kampala though, and surfing the Internet is a popular activity amongst the Ugandans. Downloading music is one of the activities. From tomorrow on, I will go into the field to find out what Internet activities more are conducted.

WiMax offers a fast connection, but is still far too expensive to be available for the Ugandan civilians. On the MUBS (Makerere University Business School) there is a large room with 250 computers waiting already a year for a good deal with an Internet provider. In the meantime the computer hall stays closed. It is too expensive for the university to obtain a proper connection. One of the ideas is to form a block with other educational institutions in East Africa in order to gain a stronger position in the negotiations with the providers. The government doesn’t subsidize Internet connections, because they don’t see it as a priority.

Also on the ground most people haven’t discovered yet the possibilities that the Internet offers. A student union of the MUBS did see some possibilities and was planning to held the elections and the voting on a website. Eventually they didn’t, due to the minimal connectivity offered on the university and due to their idea that people are not motivated or used to using the Internet.

One of the professors there thinks that the mindset of the people are a bigger challenge than the connectivity. ‘People still need to become aware of the possibilities it offers.’ On the question how fast this awareness is coming, he answers ‘…very…sloooow…’
‘No hurry in Africa!’

Creating a hoax on Wikipedia isn’t that difficult. Just write it down and save it. But it won’t take long before the Wiki-officials will delete it. This afternoon, I created a fake ‘legend’ and wrote a Wiki about it. Four hours later, the Wiki was removed. Why? ‘Nonsense: there’s nothing about it on Google and there are no sources.’ So, if you’re not on Google, you have never excisted.


Last week all of the Master students where assigned to start a ‘new’ Wikipedia article, which we all did but with which most of us had a lot of troubles. Most articles where deleted within minutes after creation, others where submitted to be deleted for various reasons. My own article about ‘Richard A. Rogers’, one of our Professors, was also deleted very fast – reason? – the article was biased and self-promoting according to the ‘WikiAdmin’ who deleted it.. The fact that the same page already existed in the English Wikipedia (@http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Rogers) and has about the same content doesn’t seem to matter!

Of course I was a little pissed at these developments, you try your best to make an honest contribution and get shot down for apparently no good reason. So when I was presenting my work for class that week I thought it would be fun to mess a little with the system, I opened the page again and put the article back, only this time I didn’t care about the mark-up.. and voilà – the contribution was allowed to live on! While I expected it to be deleted again real soon, it is still up there. Go and see for your self @: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_a._rogers. But I still don’t understand it, maybe someone else could explain the logic behind this?

It has been acknowledged today that geography and cartography are not neutral or objective scientific practices but are ultimately about relationship between power, space and place. Yet, it was only at the end of 80s /early 90s, with development of critical cartography, that traditional definition of maps as scientific artifacts was challenged. It was argued at the time that maps construct knowledge and therefore need to be analyzed in their socio-historical context; they are social documents. Maps are also recognized as a weapon that may be used for both – exercising power and/or resisting it and promoting a social change.

According to Jeremy Crampton, critical mapping which highlights the politics of mapping is one of the current cartography trends. Especially in migration cartography, it has become a tool of counter-knowledge, “a polemical weapon”, in an effort to influence political debates and migration policies (Walter 2007).

To further examine this claim, I will point to an article by William Walters, ‘The contested Cartography of Illegal Immigration’. Walters analyzes in which ways cultural practices and in particular mapping and cartography contribute to the making of (he borrows Ferguson’s concept) “anti-politics machine” [1]. Then he shows us the mapping practice which can contest it.

According to Ferguson, the two aspects of anti-politics machine are 1) expansion of bureaucratic power of the state as the effect of institutionalization and 2) depolitization of both poverty and the state. For instance, expressing social issues such as migration or refugee in statistics terms alienates it from political realm and turns it into something ‘quasi-natural’ “(“like annual rainfall”). In this way, these issues are framed as security issues. They become ‘technical matters’, rather than deeply political or economic concerns.

Walters points to a particular type of migration mapping which adds to this depolitization effort “at the level of every day graphics, images and inscriptions”. Visualizing migration (or making migration visible) is here devoid of any political and economical context which renders economic transformation (deeply affecting migration flows) invisible. This type of mapping practice he calls a phenomenon of anti-political economy. Such map is ‘Breaking Point’.

Breaking Point’ was published in New York’s “Times’ special issue on Immigration, on the 20th of September 2004. The main topic of this issue revolved around alarming ‘permeability’ of U.S. borders (in particular between U.S. and Mexico), despite the state’s massive investment in border securitization. One of the articles was accompanied with the map to help visualize this crisis.

Breaking Point

A striking characteristic of ‘Breaking Point’ is the choice of geo-representation of the border, as a relief landscape which helps framing the border space as passive and inert (natural = indifferent = neutral). Yet, there is no such a thing as ‘objective, scientific’ space. Space is never passive, never inert, as Lefebvre argued, but always produced by human’s socio-political relations, therefore a constructed space. Especially very tense, militarized space of the U.S.–Mexico border.

On top of this ‘neutral’ map space, there are supplementary layers of information (information boxes located on the upper side of the border only). Two of them are of human interest type – informing us about the violation of illegal migrant movement from the South to the North on the surrounding (U.S.) communities (the local hospital is closing as expenses increase from caring for illegal immigrants, the cattle is lost to the broken fence troubling landowners). Bellow the map – supporting statistics of the alerting immigration flow, bar charts and graphs. The map quite bluntly lacks any political and economic context, any complexity. It has no information/statistics relevant to the ‘other’, such as deaths occurring at the border. This selectivity reveals the map for what it is – a social document, a particular way of looking at the world/issue, a cultural artifact.

Walters, however, offers an alternative mapping practice:

‘Cartografía Crítica del Estrecho de Gibraltar’ (Critical Cartography of the Strait of Gibraltar) is very much different kind of cartographic practice. It was a critical mapping exercise that provided an alternative view of migration at Gibraltar’s border. Gibraltar’s border is known by the locals as ‘Estrecho’ (‘the narrows’), but also as ‘Entrance to the Fortress Europe’ due to the shortest distance from Africa and Europe. It has become one of the most controlled borders in the world after Spain joined the Shengen agreement. Besides being severely militarized, the border is augmented with technological surveillance, S.I.V.E. – the Surveillance System of the Straits, and has been increasingly ‘populated’ with detention centers. The flow of migrants is constant and persistent. Small boats and rafts crowded with African residents from multiple countries arrive almost daily. However, the winds and currents around Gibraltar are strong and unpredictable, and many people die of starvation or drowning while attempting to cross the strait.

The project took place in June, 2004 and was a collaboration of ‘Hackitectura’, (an artivist collective “a posse of architects, hackers and social activists experimenting in the emerging territories of recombining spatial cyborgs composed by physical space, ICT networks and bodies”), Indymedia Estrecho (network of Independent Media Centers) and diverse groups of other participants (artists, activists, filmmakers, net-artist and whoever else ‘pluged in’).

Project´s codename was Fada’íat (which is a word game — it means both “through spaces”, as well as a satellite dish and a space ship, in Arabic language). After months of preparation, the ‘no border lab’ was set up in the medieval castle in Tarifa, and was located in front of the detainee migrant camp. The infrastructure was set up (“the tools for counter-hegemonic action”) to interrupt the regulated border ‘flow’ by establishing the Wi-Fi connection between Tarifa’s castle (Spain) and Tangiers (Morocco) through connecting to a satellite dish with the ‘two somewhat special antennas’ (http://flakey.info/fadaiat). The lab ‘circumvented’ a physical divide virtually connecting people on both sides of the border and simultaneously enabling a global activist network. Significantly, this was an unprecedented event in the area.

It was a tactical performance, a gesture of deteritorialization. The space of border was configured as heterogeneous and turbulent (“a temporary battlefield”), contesting the usual representation of a controlled, contained, secured and neutralized border. ‘Hackitectura’ described the project as “an attempt to deprogram the system of automatism in our experience of geography… the flux of aggregated data has generated a geographic algorithm… a multiplicity of counter hegemonic flows, of bodies and data.” (www.hackitectura.net).

As an outcome of the project, a 2-side bilingual map was printed (also digitally distributed over the net). The two sides visualized different aspects of the border: Side A mapped the immigration phenomenon in its complexity (by showing militarization, migration, communication, social movements around the border).

Side A

Side B mapped the network of social movements connecting both sides of the border, sort of circumventing it (by showing their collaborative projects since 2002, and tentative projects for 2005).

Side B

The subversive intent of the map is obvious at a glance –the base map has flipped the Euro-centric point of view and the North Africa is above Europe. The map is ‘rhizomatic’, more of an assemblage, reflecting on the multiplicity of issues around migration. This in particular makes it very powerful, as it renders the geo-political border space into a space of tension, conflict and in a state of permanent transformation.

As part of the Visualizar’08 Database City activities, Medialab-Prado (a program of the Department of Arts of the City Council of Madrid) has invited collaborators of the Gibraltar project to experiment with further developments, expending it into more complex visualization project. The idea is to upgrade it by using the benefits technology offers to make it more participatory, updatable, and ‘live’.

With the rise of digital technology, new mapping tools have emerged opening interesting possibilities for advocacy in promotion of human rights issues and/or engaging communities in the local concerns. The advantages of interactivity such as zooming in and out, real time updates, and information layering have been changing the ways we think about, produce and use maps. New ways of map production and distribution facilitated by technology enables public and citizen engagement in mapping practices. “Cartography is being undisciplined”, writes Jeremy Crampton, “freed from the confines of academic and opened up to the people”. FOSS (Free and Open Source Software, associated with the development of Unix operating system) has been creating a ‘paradigm shift’ in cartography providing the access (for those that have it, which is spatially uneven) to inexpensive mapping tools (Crampton, 2009).

Map hacking, map mash-ups, ‘crowdsourcing’ are some forms of emergent open-source geo-web.They could clearly benefit the project, making into a more effective activist tool. The project is currently in development and here is its Wiki page. The goal is stated shortly: “Representing the Strait of Gibraltar as a geopolitical territory traversed by multiple flows of conflict and struggle and making this representation in real-time so that it can be a useful tool for social movements.”

The reality of contemporary migration mapping has faced the challenge of needing to visualize much more complex flows, as there is no way to isolate dominant fluxes of migration of stable points of arrival and departure as it was at the time of Westphalian states. The migration movement has become unpredictable and random which could be better reflected in interactive rather than static mapping of migratory fluxes.

[1] In his book “The Anti-Politics machine’, Ferguson uses this concept to deconstruct the ways in which ‘development’ works in Africa. By creating an imaginary object, of a ‘less developed country,’ ‘development’ justifies itself, despite its failure to resolve its stated aims, such as decreasing poverty

Crampton, Jeremy. [2008] “Cartography: Maps 2.0.” Progress in Human Geography, 33(6)

Mezzadra, Sandro. [2008] “Between Center and Periphery: The Labyrinth of Contemporary Migrations”
available online: http://www.euroalter.com/2009/between-centre-and-periphery-the-labyrinth-of-contemporary-migrations/

Walters, William. [2010] “‘Anti-Political Economy: Cartographies of “Illegal Immigration” and the Displacement of the Economy’, in J. Best and M. Paterson (eds) Cultural Political Economy, London: Routledge, 113-138.


Firstly, I need to say that I love to read and I love technology. So isn’t an e-reader the perfect combination of both? Isn’t it the perfect compromise between the small screen of an iPhone or iPod Touch and the chunky format of a regular book? In my opinion, yes! I believe that in the future the e-reader will be as popular as the MP3-player nowadays. However, I don’t believe that books will be someday completely replaced by e-books. There will be always nostalgic people who like to listen to their vinyl records, prefer their Walkman with self-recorded audiotapes or play video games on an Atari game console. But that is not the point. I think that we need to reconsider the linear reading of textbooks and to look forward to interactive (digital) books that include video and audio files, interactive diagrams or charts, etc. E-readers or e-book devices can offer this, especially in an educational context. We must understand that students read a textbook differently from how they read novels or nonfiction books. Most students, no matter which age they are, skim through the chapters, look at the graphics, charts, diagrams and sometimes they don’t even read the pure text. So in short, students don’t read textbooks linear. That means that we definitely need to find new ways to present educational content to the students. Luckily, a few companies made an effort to change textbooks into bite-sized, illustrated, interactive pieces of media.

Examples of educational iPad applications

For example ‘Inkling’ by Matt MacInnis. This is an iPad application that allows readers to jump into any chapter, to make notes while you are reading, to share your notes with other people, to highlight text, etc. In their words: “Inkling brings the world’s best content to iPad with interactivity, social collaboration and simple ease-of-use. No more heavy, expensive textbooks to carry around campus. Inkling textbooks are more interactive, more flexible and cheaper.”. Inkling titles are indeed less expensive than the paper versions, because you are able to buy them by the chapter. Moreover, the list of titles continues to grow every semester. But the problem is that it is unclear how many books are available until now. That means, that it will still take time to have a large library of e-books to choose from. Though, it is a step to the right direction.

Another iPad application which could work as a trendsetter for other book authors is ‘The Elements’ by Theodore Gray. Gray made an interactive e-book (video) which is a real must have if you are in any way intrigued by chemistry and the way our planet and the universe is made. It is a graphically pretty table of the elements, telling you virtually all you need to know about different elements like Helium, Oxygen and others; such as those without a final name yet. Another plus is, that it directly links to Wolfram Alpha – another must for people who are interested in science. Unfortunately, this app is quite pricey for students (still cheaper than the paper version) and it takes 2 GB of the iPad storage.

The last iPad application that I can recommend is ‘3D Brainby Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. This app shows you “how each brain region functions, what happens when it is injured, and how it is involved in mental illness. Each detailed structure comes with information on functions, disorders, brain damage, case studies, and links to modern research”. I really like the structure of this app, because it is classified into the different parts of the brain and not into different chapters, as you can find in every book. This structure is more intuitive than the normal chapter structure which is sometimes not logically. And everything for free.

Examples of e-readers

Until now I only gave examples for the iPad but there are more e-readers to use in education. One recently announced tablet is Kno, which is specifically designed for students.

Kno’s mission is to create not only hardware, but also software for students that will allow them to read textbooks, take notes and perform other tasks. In their words: “Kno, is the digital textbook of tomorrow: a transformative single and dual-screen e-reader that artfully blends the intuitive experience of the conventional textbook with a rich digital world of video, note-taking, sharing and more.”

The software system is expected to work not only on Kno’s tablets, but also on PCs, iPads and other devices. So they hope to do something similar than the iPad but without the distracting entertainment applications and with software that enables the student to interact with the textbook. Unfortunately, the makers of Kno haven’t said when exactly the tablet will hit the market and how much it will cost. The company plans to ship the tablet by the end of the year and the dual-screen version was expected to cost “under a $1000.” And here starts the problem with this e-reader. At first, I was kind of amazed that a company makes devices that targeted exclusively students. But which student or parent can afford an e-reader for, let’s say $800? So seriously, who pays $800 for a device on which you can only read textbooks, make notes and so on; this price even doesn’t include the costs of the textbooks? It would be even cheaper to buy a Kindle, an iPad and a textbook together ($500 iPad + $139 Kindle + $100 textbook = $739). That doesn’t sound like a student-friendly e-reader. This is just cupidity for money.


The conclusion of this blog post is, that e-readers and e-books can offer an interesting educational contribution because the interactivity of these devices can support the different learning styles of students. But as long as the price of an e-reader won’t drop, a lot of students, parents and educational institutions will hesitate to buy such devices. Technology and the knowledge about it is not a problem. It is nowadays possible to build tablets for interactive textbooks. The real struggle is to make textbooks interactive. I mean ‘rich textbooks’ not just e-books; digital books with packaged content like videos, quizzes, and other interactive content. It would be even better, if we can build a standard format like PDF or MP3 that could work on every e-reader, no matter of the brand. But as long as this is not the case, e-readers are expensive devices that need their own software and their own book formats. And this is simply not affordable for educational institutions or students. Unfortunately!

Recommended references

http://www.onlinedegrees.org/research/apple-education/ – Info-graphic about Apple in education

http://ipad4edu.com/ – A place to ask questions about using the iPad in education.

What did the web crawler say to Wikipedia? I’ll update you later!

So the question is … just how much later?! I’m wondering because there seems to be a discrepancy between just how fast Wikipedia bots/editors seem to shoot down vandals and how fast Google actually refreshes information to reflect this correction in the search engine.

Today I was doing some research on new game technology and in particular, on a famous game developer who is showcasing it. I typed in my request in Google search engine and up pops a link to the developer’s Wikipedia page. Except it wasn’t quite how I’d imagined the page information to appear in a search engine.

Note: I have removed the developer’s identity for fear of aiding the vandal in his/her smear campaign. The screenshot demonstrates the nature of the problem.

Wow!! This must be so frustrating for those extremely on the ball editors at Wikipedia, imagine shooting down the bad guys only to be taunted by fragments of their evil deed in the inaccessible cached space in search engines. Not to mention the prolonged embarrassment of  the individual who has been the target for the vandalism.

So where does the problem lie? With the search engine information refresh rate. Search engines use web crawling agents to read pages on World Wide Web and extract the keywords. Google also stores a cached version of most of the pages that can be viewed even if the original page is down.

Content on the Web tends to be very dynamic by nature as information is continually modified, added and deleted. The data that search engines store becomes outdated very quickly. To try to prevent these discrepancies, web pages are scanned periodically, this can be once a day, a week, a month – depending on the information provided by the site administrator or search engines statistics. This creates a gap in which we still can see the old content, already removed from the original page, and we still can find a link to it using keywords based on the old content. In this case, if I typed in three inappropriate words the vandal used, the developer in question will appear first on the list (and funnily enough on top of “sexy stripper” who was below).

So can this problem be solved? Is there a way for Wikipedia editors or users to mark a page to be refreshed sooner? That’s a question for Google (in this case) and other search engines as this feature seems to be missing. As of writing this article the issue has already existed for two days and still has not refreshed to reflect the changes.

Thanks to Twitter, I (Janice Wong – cellist and New Media student at the UvA) was given a great opportunity to perform on stage at Melkweg, Amsterdam last night with my idol: UK Grammy award winner Imogen Heap.

Imogen Heap feat Janice Wong on cello – Earth (Imogen and Janice only)

Imogen Heap feat Janice Wong on cello – Aha! (with full band)

Imogen Heap, an avid Twitter user with currently 1,489,043 followers says she uses social media to connect with her fans, to “break up the distance”. Imogen does not only use Twitter to broadcast information, she uses it actively to interact and involve her fans in her life, which she says “can be quite insular (while on tour)”.

At this year’s 52nd Annual Grammy awards, she was awarded Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and accepted her award in her “Twitdress”, which displayed a live Twitter feed and a transparent handbag with an embedded iPhone displaying Twitpic photos that fans sent to her via Twitter.

Earlier this year, Imogen held cello auditions in the North America/Australia/Asia legs of the tour to perform the song “Aha!” with her. 2 or 3 days prior to each show, she tweeted audition times, where cellists would register and perform on VOKLE, a live interactive broadcasting platform (watch Imogen Heap Cello Auditions on YouTube). At the time I saw Imogen Heap perform in Melbourne, at this point in time I did not use Twitter, which I believe would have led me to know about the auditions sooner than I did.

Disappointed that I missed out, I joined Twitter (follow me @thewongjanice) and started following @ImogenHeap.

As midyear approached, I followed Imogen while she continued to experiment with social media and tweeted about the choir auditions on YouTube to perform the song “Earth” with her in her upcoming North American tour.

And then, Imogen tweeted about touring Europe in November. It seemed too much of a coincidence that Imogen Heap was to perform in Amsterdam, just shortly after I moved here to study New Media. She was to play in Melkweg, one of Amsterdam’s most popular music venues. Eager to use this opportunity, I made an audition video and tweeted Imogen about performing cello with her on stage. I shortly received an email to say that I was successful!

See below for my audition:

In conclusion, social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube can bridge the gap between fans and their idols with amazing results, which now I have experienced first hand. I would like to thank Imogen Heap and her crew for giving me this opportunity and a fantastic evening to remember. And where to from here? I’m still not sure. But looking for more opportunities to perform in Amsterdam with local and international musicians. Get in touch with me if you know anything!

Read more about the performance and see some photos on my personal blog, The Wong Janice.

Ndesign is the national congress for design students and professionals in Brazil, it is the largest congress in this area in the country and one of the largest in Latin America. It is organized by a commission made of volunteer students which is elected in the end of each edition of Ndesign based on the proposals that they present, this commission is named CONDe.

The congress happens once a year and each edition is in a different state of Brazil according to the elected commission. For this article, I’ve chosen to analyze the case of the former CONDe, which has organized the twenty-first version of Ndesign, in its campaign to win this election, when it was a pre-CONDe.

A pre-CONDe has a lot of information to transmit for the students and usually has difficulty to obtain their attention for some aspects of the proposal. In order to do all that, this commission needed ways to spread information and they decided to designate a group to develop web games, videos, interactive exhibitions and products.

The first project developed was a hot site to announce the candidature of Rio de Janeiro for hosting Ndesign. It had a quiz and a card game. The quiz had questions mainly about the last editions of Ndesign, some about design in general and even there were some questions about general culture. After beating the quiz, the player would go to a black jack table. It was already a spoiler, because in black jack you have to do 21 points to win, and that was the phone code for Rio de Janeiro.

It was called “where is going to be the next Ndesign”, and already generated a great buzz in the Brazilian design community because the person would have to win both games just to discover who was the city that was going to be candidate to host the event. In the end the player could also subscribe with his email, so the pre-CONDe was able to start generating a mailing list from these subscriptions.

This website was released during a regional congress with two more videos, the candidature video and the recruitment video. The first one was a presentation of the commission and its members by the time.The second one was a parody of another very famous Internet video in Brazil that is also a parody of the military recruitment video. It presented all the things that happened in Ndesigns and called the students to attend to it. It had a comic content and spread a lot among the community.

In the main time the commission was designing shirts, buttons, stickers, bottle openers and a lot of different promotional material to increase the visibility of the event all over the country. They were sold in smaller congresses such as the regional student congresses and some professionals too.

After that, another web game was developed to introduce the visual identity of the candidature. It was based on the classic totem destroyer game, and after a brief explanation about the logo the player would have to build it in each level exploding the blocks.

In this one, a score table was put in the end of the game with the top players, so people played it again and again to try to beat their friends. As players had to put their email to enter their score, the organization could increase a lot the number of emails in their mailing list.

Also with this game a video was created explaining the main concept of the proposal: paths. The main question “where are you going?” and other support questions that were created to help the students think about their academic and professional life were asked to many students, teachers and professionals and the answers became a short introduction video for the theme of the congress. With this video, many people who had not read the proposal of the event could know about it and could start to get interest.

Then the idea of developing an interactive exhibition that could travel from congress to congress with some fun installations carrying the concept of the event arose. It was meant to work as propaganda for the congress and to propagate some campaigns the organization commission was working on.

After brainstorms many ideas came and with the programing knowledge that some members already had the commission was able to start the production of facial recognition interactive installations using web-cams. The exhibition was a success and happened in many different occasions in other events all over Brazil.

In the week before the twentieth edition of Ndesign starts the commission released one last video. It was just a music making fun of a famous software that designers use. At first it didn’t had anything to do with the campaign, but as it went viral the organization gained a big visibility with it.

During the twentieth edition of Ndesign in Curitiba the pre-CONDe had its interactive exhibition happening, they were selling their promotional material, and working as a group to inform everyone about their proposal and ideas. And that was how they worked through virtual and real Medias to achieve the design students and convince them that they could organize the next edition of Ndesign.

The twentieth-first edition of Ndesign happened in July of 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, and the CONDe kept developing videos and games until the start of the event. If you want to check more about it you can go their web site and see for youself.


Virtueel Platform


Since November 2011 I work as an editor for Virtueel Platform, the knowledge institute for digital culture in the Netherlands. I write about Best Practices; good examples of Dutch digital culture. The projects vary from interactive installations, games, apps, media art and digital archives, to theater productions, music instruments and exhibitions.

Every year we choose a couple of topics that we focus on. One of the topics of 2012 is transmedia, and how digital techniques are changing the way we tell stories. Last summer I did research on how transmedia is emerging in the Netherlands and what struggles there are in that field.

Immersive storytelling


Transmedia storytelling is a way to create a storyworld and tell a story across multiple platforms and formats. The different media complement each other and are linked together. An essential aspect of a transmedia production, is that the audience can actively participate in the storyworld.  Therefore a digital platform often has a central role. One example is a tv series where the audience can follow the characters on Twitter and respond to them.

Transmedia arises from our convergence culture, as mediatheorist Henry Jenkins states. We use all kinds of media at the same time. We text with our cellphones while listening to music on Spotify, reading the newspaper, checking tweets and meanwhile writing a blogpost.

Since the audience is getting more and more used to consume different media at the same time and responds to them online, producers are looking for new and creative ways to tell their stories, and use different platforms in order to create a storyworld.

Human Birdwings

design sketch of Human Birdwings (humanbirdwings.net)

Among the Best Practices of Virtueel Platform are a couple of Dutch transmedia projects. One very interesting project is Human Birdwings, by Floris Kaayk.

Human Birdwings is about the Dutch engineer Jarno Smeets, who decided to work on ‘human birdwings’ to be able to fly. For eight months Jarno shared his research findings, design sketches, calculations and video’s of test flights on his blog, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

After a few weeks a lot of people started to follow him online, encouraging him to go on with the project, but also giving Jarno tips and tricks on how to proceed. Universities were interested and asked if they could help doing the research, and even Wired magazine was writing about the project and the possibility of creating birdwings.

In March, Jarno published a video on YouTube containing footage of his first flight. This video got viral within a few days (more than seven million views at this moment) and was broadcasted on television worldwide.

After a few days Jarno was invited for De Wereld Draait Door (a Dutch television show) to explain his project. Jarno admitted that he was actually Floris Kaayk, a Dutch filmmaker who had started the transmedia project. The video of the first flight contained some special effects. Here you can find the statement of Human Birdwings, that explains the project in more detail.


I think Human Birdwings is a good example of how you can involve the audience in a storyworld by using digital media. I’m very curious about future transmedia projects. What kind of media will they use? And what are new ways of engaging the audience? What are the stories we want to tell?

More related video’s

Henry Jenkins – Convergence culture and transmedia

Ted Alkemade – Dutch insights on transmedia

I managed to update an english wiki on the subject of my BA thesis. It’s been annoying me for years that racial stereotypes are widely studies in all media except for video games. Considering the’re very influential and played by millions of kids there should be a moral standard.

Foute moslim!


Some Video games, like the Grand Theft Auto (video game) series, also use ethnic stereotypes. A 2001 study[2] bij Children Now shows that most protagonists (86 per cent) were white males, non-white males were portrayed in stereotypical ways—seven out of ten Asian characters as fighters, and eight out of ten African-Americans as sports competitors, and nearly nine out of ten African-American females were victims of violence (twice the rate of white females). Finally, 79 per cent of African-American males were shown as verbally and physically aggressive, compared to 57 per cent of white males. Other games, like Command & Conquer: Generals stereotype Arabs, which are portrayed as vile, brutal and backward, in contrast to the morally and technologically superior western military.

Besides that you might notice a slight change at http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_en_cultuur

mapkiribati.gifMauri is “hello!” in I-Kiribati. Why are you telling me this? You probably ask yourself. Well, let me explain…

I was just checking out our statistics and the first three countries on the “visitors per country list”were no surprise: The Netherlands is first, then the U.S.A. and then the Indeterminable countries, whoever they are ;-). The big surprise was number four. Beating out France, the UK and China is a small group of islands with the name of Kiribati. Although most of the population does understand English I did think it was a good idea to give all those MoM fans a nice welcome in their own language.

The information I give you now will put things into a different perspective, nonetheless, I learned a new word and found a new tropical island to put on my “43 places to visit before I die” list. Mauri! (more…)