June 2009 Archives


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Here's an idea for an art piece. A lot of beer tends to get consumed at the openings of shows. The idea of the piece (which would be called Consigned) is to take all of the empties from the opening party and stack them up in a corner into a pyramid of beer bottles. It's like the huge piles of bottles that collect after house parties, waiting to be returned for the deposit. The pile would also include the consumption of the artist over the course of the show. After the closing party, when the show is being torn down, the bottles will be returned for the deposit, which would then be given back to the gallery.

Lawbot: done.

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I've mentioned Lawbot and the Case of the Missing Copyright Infringers before. Well, now it's done. Or at least, it's in an intermediate state of done. If you click the above link, you'll find a pretty fun (if I do say so myself) text-adventure game that explains certain elements of Canadian copyright law. It may later get either sound or visuals. I'm not sure yet. Here's the little artist synopsis that I wrote about the project:

Lawbot and the Case of the Missing Copyright Infringers is, above all, a pragmatic project. The aim behind Lawbot is to broaden the public understanding of Canadian copyright law. Lawbot aims to do this in an approachable, perhaps even fun, and certainly accessible way. To this end, Lawbot borrows thematic elements from both adventure games and spy movies, weaving a slightly absurd, proto-futuristic kidnap-story narrative. Lawbot employs heavy-handed allegory and a pinch of copyright history to get across the point that a litigious approach to intellectual property protection isn't sustainable. Visually, Lawbot riffs off of early text based computer games. Lawbot is written entirely in HTML and JavaScript for optimal online usability and distribution.

Home is where the power outlet is

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I just came back from an incredibly short trip. In fact, I think I spent more time travelling than at my destination. While travelling, something occurred to me. My packing priorities don't run along traditional lines. I didn't pack any clothing or toiletries. Instead, I packed adapters and chargers. After a little thought, that packing decision makes sense. Toiletries don't need to be packed. They're available everywhere and are extremely standard. Clothing isn't necessary either, other than the bare minimum. But adapters and chargers aren't so simple. They're neither standard nor optional. Laptops eat power and uncharged MP3 players are a death sentence in crowded transport. I'd rather sleep in my clothes than go without data and connectivity. Toothpaste is ubiquitous, but specific cellphone chargers aren't. This is why I've determined that home is anywhere I can plug in my laptop.

Libre Graphics Meeting 2010 venue

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Here's some exciting news: the city for Libre Graphics Meeting 2010 has been announced. According to the good folks at Open Source Publishing (who will be hosting the event), it's going to go down next May in Brussels. They have a very nice press release that deserves wide diffusion.

The Innovation Drinking Game

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I have a problem with innovation. I think the word is overused. It pops up everywhere. Every least thing anyone does is described as innovative. We've picked up this word and won't let it go until we've extracted every last drop of meaning from it.

This is why I've devised the Innovation Drinking Game. It can work in many different ways. You can play it while reading magazines, newspapers, press releases, while watching movie previews or at art openings. Play it wherever you have access to alcohol and words. If you're feeling ambitious, you can carry around a flask and play it all the time. Here's how it works: whenever you see or hear the word innovation, innovate, innovative, or anything else from that same family, drink. It's that simple. Play it with a friend to find out who can best handle the march of innovation.

A troubled bridge over water

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Here's a problem for which I don't yet have a solution. There's a wonderful canal in Montreal called the Lachine. About 20 years ago, Parks Canada took over its management, cleaned it up, built footbridges over it and built a park and bike path next to it. It has one particularly problematic footbridge. It's at the end of Atwater Ave., near Atwater Market. It's a very narrow bridge with little signs on each end telling cyclists to dismount before crossing. Of course, given its proximity to the market and several other attractions, it gets a lot of traffic. The traffic is mixed. There are pedestrians of all ages, cyclists and even tourists on the little electric scooters that can be rented at some of the shops along the canal.

What's the problem? The bridge is wide enough to accomodate two directions of pedestrian traffic. Even so, it gets cramped. The majority of cyclists, who are progressing at speed along the bike path, apparently want to get across the bridge and onto the next path as quickly as possible. All of this means that very few cyclists obey the sign and dismount. The cyclists speeding across the bridge pose a threat to pedestrians. Even worse, the renters of electric scooters don't dismount either. Their vehicles are heavier, faster and take up more space than those of the cyclists. So, because very few people obey the sign, the bridge becomes congested and dangerous.

I've thought up a few solutions to this, but none of them are sustainable. There's the citizen action approach. I could start personally mentioning to cyclists, whenever I happen to be crossing the bridge, that there is a sign telling them to dismount. But that doesn't work because I don't cross that bridge nearly enough to make a tangible difference. Then, there are institutional approaches. They could get bigger signs, although I really don't think that would work. They could install speed bumps, but that might not properly discourage all cyclists, might cause injury to some, and would inconvenience everyone.

Basically, I'm stumped. I can isolate the problem and even explain why it is actually a problem (and not just me being grumpy) but I can't figure out a good, sensible solution.
I quit Facebook a couple weeks ago because I was sick and tired of the obligation it represented. It makes me wonder: can introverts become uncomfortable by proxy? Is it possible that online social networking could pose the same problems for the shy that overcrowding and over-stimulation in physical space do?

Here's the rationale: As a more introverted than extroverted person, I tend to draw my energy from being alone or with one other person, at most. I find that the energy I build up being alone gets drained when I have to deal with large amounts of social demands. A concrete example would be banking up energy by spending a day alone and then using it up by being social at a party in the evening.

Why should this work by proxy, then? When using services like Facebook, I'm physically alone. But that doesn't seem to detract from the social nature of it. In fact, it may be worse. The structure of Facebook in particular requires constant decision making. And those decisions always have social repercussions. I get a friend request from someone I don't know particularly well but went to school with: do I accept or reject? A group invitation for something I don't care about, but the group was formed by one of my friends: join or not? For people who find that making social decisions is a taxing activity, this can be overwhelming. It doesn't have any of the comfortable downtime that comes with more old fashioned modes of socializing. Instead, it's just a constant stream of demands and obligations.

So, can introverts become uncomfortable by proxy? I say yes, and to an even greater degree than in physical interactions.