Still/Open – ANAT workshops

October 1, 2007 at 12:24 am (conferences and workshops) (, , , , , )

Last week I attended the ANAT Still/Open workshops, which were dedicated to open source education for artists and other practitioners. The workshops consisted of four presentations/activities from four amazing guest facilitators. I can say that I was truly inspired by each session and left feeling very energised and active. In the first morning session with Alessandro Ludovico I learned about the history of the zine, a topic that is of great personal interest to me particularly with my involvement in Borderlands, and was inspired to do a one off paper perzine (a term I hadn’t heard before, though I recognise the concept) just for fun.

In the afternoon Beatriz Da Costa guided us through the making of air monitoring devices using Audrino and what reminded me of good old Dick Smith electronic hobby kits – sadly no soldering required, so my magnificent soldering expertise went unnoticed 🙂 Although technically intense, this session reminded me how much fun it can be to really get hands on into a project, and also that science and art don’t have to be mutually exclusive (which is of course, the ANAT philosophy in a nutshell). I can definitely see how Audrino could be useful, but unfortunately I think the session was too short for me to gain any lasting wisdom on the topic or to make the connection about how I might be able to apply the tools to my own work. Really we could have done a full two-day workshop on this alone.

The next morning was a session explaining Creative Commons, by Elliot Bledsoe. Of all the workshops I think this one probably had the most re-usable information, i.e., that which I can see a direct use for in my current work. I had already read a bit about Creative Commons (the way Cory Doctorrow markets his fiction has steered my interest in that direction), but it was great to have a more in depth look at the concept and to be able to ask a few questions. For example, I learned that in Australia in addition to physical rights one has moral rights, including the right to integrity – meaning that your work can not be used to make it appear that you are endorsing a certain product or philosophy that is counter to your own beliefs – however, Elliot did say that this would be difficult right to legally enforce. In view of this I am finding the case of virgin mobile (Australia) being sued for using a photo of a 15 year old girl, (which had a CC attribution licence attached to it on flickr, meaning the photographer gave permission to use it commercially as long as it was attributed to him), in their advertising campaign very interesting. The comments in the discussion make it very clear (to my surprise) that CC licences are widely misunderstood.

The final afternoon session was an open source programming workshop with Andy Nicholson, which was enough to remind me that yeah, this coding stuff is fun, though I think it was just simply too short a time frame to impart anything much more than enthusiasm to me. We did get to start our computers up using a linux operating system though, which was something I have always been curious about and never quite worked out how to do before, so that was a definite bonus. Again I think this workshop would have benefited from a much longer time allocation.

I was very inspired by the individual workshops and met some fantastic people, but there was just something missing for me. I have been trying to figure out what that was and I think it is ‘context’. While each of the workshops was fabulous, there was a context about open source that was missing – I think the weekend would have been greatly enhanced by an introductory session with general information about open source. At no time throughout the weekend was there ever a discussion that included ‘this is what open source is – this is what open source is not’. Perhaps we were expected to already be beyond that point, but in actuality I think the above statements are not quite as obvious as they sound. There is an excellent article in the current edition of ANAT’s Filter magazine (available for pdf download by navigating from ANATs home page) , by Andrew Lowenthal, that discusses this topic. I think what I was really hoping for was to gain general knowledge of open source – what it is, why would anyone bother to make open source product in a commercial society, how I can make it work for me, and maybe a bit of a showcase of the kinds of open source products that are already available (for example Gimp), and how I might go about using more of them in my current and future projects

Having said that, the weekend in it’s entirety – including lunch time conversations and the open forum on the Friday before – definitely enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of open source, and was a fantastic networking experience. Probably the most important thing that was really reinforced for me over the weekend was the concept that open source applies to much more than software, it applies to an entire open source culture and ethic.

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2 Comments

  1. David Cake said,

    I think you would definitely benefit from making it to TINA/electrofringe (basically, this time of year in Newcastle) some year, it sounds like its the same sort of workshop stuff, just for several days at a time, and with exhibitions (and shows, talks, a fair day, etc) on over the same few days. I actually met Elliott there last year.

    I’d love to talk potential Arduino projects with you, if you ‘d like.

    I feel like I’ve somehow failed if you lived with me for years and somehow didn’t end up learning lots of general info about open source! Bad geek, no biscuit!

  2. Amanda said,

    Great review of the workshops – would you mind posting it on the still/open blog? Would be great to share with participants and facilitators. Let me know if you need passwords.
    Cheers,
    Amanda
    ANAT

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