21 Oct 2006

Paint blogging

I have been thinking for a while that blogs could be used pretty effectively to show the process of art in the making. I came across this today on bb, and although I can't say I'm crazy about the subject matter (yeah, go on, call me a humourless feminist and then go watch this.) I think it's really cool to see the the work in the making.

I was pretty impressed with ArtisanCam when I came across it about a year ago. Back then it was a lot less polished and was in the process of featuring it's second maker. I though there would only be a small number of artists that would be happy to work with a webcam trained on them in their studio. Going back to ArtisanCam now I find that I really prefer the paintblog entry as a model, because though it lacks polish it also lacks a third party mediating and interpreting between the artist and viewer.

Years ago (mid 1990s)I went to a conference in Aberystwyth about the National Electronic Archive for the Crafts (NEVAC) . It was at a point in it's development where it was at a bit of a crossroads. Either it could have gone down the road that it seemed set on, (high quality film interviews with aging craftspeople - rescue documentation in effect, a model doomed to always play 'catch-up') or it could have widened it's remit to include more participation. I had traveled up to the conference with a documentary filmmaker and we had been discussing the fantastic opportunities that digital technology was presenting to democratize the process. We were both on the same page, but sadly the rest of the conference wasn't.

I remember comming away from that conference feeling disappointed how low on the agenda the idea of encouraging participation was, it seemed strangely elitist and at odds with the unerringly down to earth attitudes of most makers. It also seemed to buy into that idea that technology was scary and not something that crafts people should be encouraged to do.

On the upside, I also came away with exceedingly fond memories of a good meal finished off with really fantastic summer pudding with cream, eaten at the table with Marianne de Trey.

14 Oct 2006

How I hacked wikipedia

originally uploaded by utilly.
I read a book the other day about brickmaking in North Wales. As a potter/geek, I was delighted to find reference to hacking in a ceramics history book. The author had already said that without bricks there wouldn't have been steam engines, blast furnaces. It also talked about the role of bricks in the construction of mineshafts.

It all seemed pretty obvious once I had read it, but I had managed to get to the age of 39 with a MA in Ceramics before I realised how little i knew about such an important strand of Ceramics/Industrial/Engineering history.

Then I started thinking about why I didn't know that. My guess is that brickmaking lacked the 'drama' of iron smelting, the mystery of 'mining' and the sheer 'drama' of the steam engine to engineering afectionados. Crafts people would have seen it the crude rough end of the industry (when does something stop being a craft and begin to be an idustry?). As for art, look at the outcry over Carl Andre's pile o'bricks at the Tate. It's still used as a shorthand for the absurdity of modern scultpture.

The amiguity of the place of ceramics in engineering history kind of mirrors the ambiguity of the modern usage of the term hacker. My prefered usage of the term in the computing context is someone skilled. To create multiple hacks of bricks, outdoors in the early brickyards, in a climate prone to rain required skill and patience. Hack too high, and bricks stick or crumble under the weight. Protect too well from the elements and they dry slowly, leave exposed and risk rain damage.

But, the real reason I decided to 'hack' Wikipedia is because I think it's an awsome project and I wanted to look behind the scenes. B's next season of Cast-On is going to have an open source - open knowlege theme. We went back and forth quite a bit on whether to set up our own wiki or whether we should get knitters (and any other crafters that might be listeners) contributing to Wikipedia, but in the end it was a no brainer. We want to encourage knitters to flesh out the knitting stub in Wikipedia, but before we go down that path, we have to 'road test' it.

I am impressed that within 37 minutes of my article on A hack being uploaded, it was 'wikified', tidied up by Catharine Munro , a dedicated idealist, wikipedian and amongst other things... artist and knitter. I have a good feeling about this...

1 Oct 2006

finding fragments

I have been revisiting my past this weekend. I was forced to perform a cull on my 'big box of computer stuff' that lives under the bed. During the process I came across a couple of floppy disks circa 1993. On one desk was unreadable and labeled 'dissertation'(I already new in my heart that I lost the digital copy having tried it out in other PCs and heard the drives go crazy).

The other disk was labeled 'mydis / report'. I am working my way through those files this weekend. A lot of them are corrupt, but there are also a number of intact files, they mostly seem to be notes that never made it into the dissertation. (which I recently dusted off and scanned as a PDF, available here) .The writing is pretty patchy and many of them come to screeching halts or just kind of trail off... but after Graham's recent blog posts about storytelling I found myself re-reading through different eyes.

I will be uploading a few of the fragments to my Wikispace, starting with the tale of two scientists. It's a true tale and one that made me re-evaluate the path my life was taking. It helped me realize that in order to be in any position to comment on or change technology, I really had to engage with it. I do cringe at the earnestness of my angry twentysomething voice, but growing up in Thatcher's Britain I thought I had every reason to be angry. Hothead Paisan had nothing on me...

I have to say that I am *LOVING* my Wikispace. Ok, in some ways it seems a little sad that I am rattling around in a wiki, designed for collaborative working all by myself, but I find that I am using it as a digital equivalent of a notebook, but it has the added advantages of being easily accessible, dead easy to edit and customize, has the facility to export as a HTML site and you can download a zipped backup of the site to your PC at the touch of a button. Fab.

The bonus of the day is that I kind of caught up with Nora O'Baoill (who I had studied with in Cardiff) who was recently awarded The Teaching Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year in Northern Ireland . I also found a podcast interview with Nora and Joanne Murray about their experiences with ICT and Animation in school in two parts, here and here.