Archive for June, 2009

Declaration Of Independence Of Cyberspace

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

It seems apropos of current events to re-post this remarkable piece of writing, originally composed back in 1996 by John Perry Barlow.

The Declaration Of Independence Of Cyberspace, crafted as a response to America’s Telecommunications Act of 1996, still resonates very strongly today as we see corrupt governments and grasping corporate authority from all around the world attempt to assume ownership and control of cyberspace. As various laws are passed at the behest and urging of dying media monopolies, designed to shape and constrain the flow of information throughout the internet, depriving citizens in the real world of their basic rights and freedoms, we also see an increasing outrage and awareness on the part of the citizens who inhabit both the real world and cyberspace.

If you are reading these words you are a citizen of cyberspace.

Keep reading.

Three strikes laws that would give corporations the governance under law to decide who is allowed to have access, punitive lawsuits to enforce proscribed consumer behaviour, control of information access through filters and firewalls, disabling entire systems to prevent free speech and informed discourse, unwarranted and unlimited spying on all communications – all these affronts to the democratic rule of law are happening right now and they affect you directly.

There are numerous groups and individuals working on your behalf and you should certainly support their efforts but it also helps when you yourself know what the hell is going on and why these issues are so important.

Read this declaration with a mind to our current events. Maybe even print out a copy and stick it on your wall. Slap your favourite passage on a t-shirt. Share it with friends. Help in whatever way you can to ensure the continued evolution of Cyberspace, the new home of Mind.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

It’s a beautifully written document, isn’t it?

Cheers.

Ming Chang’s “Muhammed P. I.”

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

A buddy of mine, Ming Chang, is a very talented young filmmaker and he’s just posted what he describes as A Fake Trailer For A Fake Movie.

It’s Muhammed P. I. – Islamspolitation at its best.

Well done, Mingus!

Cheers.

Ze Frank – Webstock

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Ze Frank spoke at Webstock ’09. His talk, entitled: The Explicit is described as being about the value of contribution to the challenges of feeling a virtual audience.

Listen to the man.

Embedding has been disabled for this video by the Webstock folks at Ze’s request. You can click on the video above and it will take you to the page to view it. You can also download different versions at the main Webstock Vimeo page.

Cheers.

The Twitter Re-evolution

Friday, June 19th, 2009

UPDATE: - I added a relevant TED talk at the bottom of this post.

The past several days have seen great upheaval in Iranian society and this has drawn the attention of the world. There have already been many blogs, articles, cartoons and op-eds posted about the protests, the crackdowns and the innovative use of internet social media in response to the clumsy and blatant subversion of an already flawed democratic process in Iran. I was among those online, within the Twitter community, watching and commenting in real time as these events unfolded – astonished and inspired by the level of participation in helping people to continue to communicate their experiences of the situation in the streets of Iran, to travel safely and to find relative anonymity and escape from immediate persecution.

The major news media, complacent with their level of professionalism and their entrenched foreign bureaus remained blind and mute for an extraordinary length of time whilst the online community rallied to provide the means to evade censorship, pass along reports, photos & videos, facilitate communication amongst allied groups and demonstrate a disruptive solidarity by not only turning their Twitter avatars green (the emblematic colour of the protest movement) but by also altering their Twitter location & time-zone to create a mass of Twitter traffic from Tehran in an effort to dilute and confuse the efforts of the authorities to track down vocal dissidents.

Some of it was, admittedly, childish stuff. It was fun and it was thrilling for the most part – and downright scary and tragic from time to time as reports came in of beatings, shootings, arson and thuggery. The overall tone within the Twitter community was one of somber determination to keep the lines of communication open. Those efforts continue as I write these words.

iran tank twitter

Last night CBC television aired a report on the events and, as the major news media so often do, characterized the protests as a battle between candidates – carving out the tired icons of good guy and bad guy in their dramatic scenario that attempted to pass as news. In doing so they entirely missed the point of what the protests are fundamentally about.

Process.

Regardless of which candidate may be favoured by one group or another the major source of discontent within the protesting Iranian citizenry is how the results of their votes were ignored and a winner was decreed. The process of voting – regardless of how skewed it may have been by virtue of a ruling theocracy – was negated. Therein lies the justified fury of the public. It’s not one group getting snippy cuz they lost the election – it’s a pantload of people getting outraged because there was no fucking election at all.

We live in an age of ever increasing transparency. You can’t get away with shit anymore. Want to abuse your authority and taze someone to death? Okay – just be prepared to watch your sorry guilty ass doing it over and over again for all the world to see for all time on YouTube. You want to run a dictatorship? Go ahead – call it that and carry on about your business – lots of big companies will continue to invest in you – and eventually, inevitably, you’ll be eaten alive by those you oppress. You want to call it a democracy and get folks involved? Great! Just don’t be surprized at how pissed off they get when you dick with the results.

It was first shouted during the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests & police riot but it has never been so true as now: “The whole world is watching.”

We must always remember that the internet isn’t about LOLCats and funny videos and porn and gossip and pirated music & movies – well, it is all that – and more. The internet is communication; the ability to see, hear, speak and act on a global scale instantaneously. The repercussions of that ability are only just now being felt in the way it is dissolving old media business models, triggering new economies, crafting new cultural works and entirely new cultures and, perhaps most importantly, forever altering how politics is conducted.

I’m under no illusions that Twitter or Google are some sort of progressive saving force for humanity. They’re not. They’re just part of a larger and growing process we are experiencing that is the direct result of increased communication amongst all people.

The idea of democracy is still relatively new to most of the world – hell, America is still trying to figure out how to make that one actually work. It isn’t something that can be imposed or imported from one country or culture to another. It is, at it’s most basic level, the will of the people. When people have the ability to communicate freely, democracy – true democracy – flourishes. When people have the ability to communicate and act freely, imposed authority will be challenged.

Many wags will refer to this time as being The Twitter Revolution. Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. While revolutions may occur around this world as our abilities to listen, speak and move as one continues to increase, a more important singular event is emerging and we will come to recognize this slim period of time not as a revolution but as part of our evolution.

All part of the process of growing up.

Growing pains will, without doubt, be experienced. The child cannot be commanded to stay a child and once youth finds a voice it will speak and demand to be heard. And then we will put away our childish things.

And that’s when the process really gets interesting.

Cheers.

viva la evolucion


P. S.
– If you want to participate more directly than just eavesdropping on Twiiter conversations you should check out iran.whyweprotest.net.

UPDATE: Have a listen to Clay Shirky speaking at TED just this past May on how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.

Almost apropos of something, every time I hear someone speak intelligently about the net I keep getting reminded of McLuhan and his observation that old media becomes the content of new media. Fascinating.

Ze Frank’s “Our Art Art Hour”

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Ze Frank is so flippin’ good.

I loved the homage to Orson Welles and the infamous radio ad outtakes:

Thanks, Ze.

Cheers.

Craigslist – Weird Al Does Jim Morrison

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Weird Al Yankovic’s new single “Craigslist” – done up in style as Jim Morrison from The Doors and featuring Ray Manzarek himself on the keyboards.

You can find all the lyrics on Weird Al’s YouTube page.

Always gotta love Al.

Cheers.

Singularity University

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Ray Kurzweil spoke at TED earlier this year and announced the formation of Singularity University, an educational and research institution devoted to addressing the impending meeting of man and machine.

I’ve blogged about Kurzweil before – he’s a brilliant garden gnome of a philosopher scientist with a seemingly fantastical take on how our exponentially evolving technologies will eventually (ie. soon) meet and overtake us – but in a good way. He has been scoffed at for years despite the unimpeachable litany of statistics he presents to back up his claims. That was then – this is now.

People aren’t scoffing any more – they’re listening – and they’re participating in the creation of what could possibly be our best hope to stop acting like a bunch of fucking jerk-off stone-throwing chimps. The Singularity Univeristy is backed by NASA and Google. Not bad, Ray, not bad at all.

I don’t know if we’ll be able to meet Kurzweil’s prediction of the Singularity by 2020 and I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to upload ourselves into a technical construct and thereby live forever (or until the warranty expires) – what do I know, I’m just a drug addled puppeteer – but I do know our very near future is going to make our very near past look like the frickin’ dark ages. It won’t all be slick and shiny and happy – but it sure as shit won’t be boring.

Consider Kurzweil’s words when he says:

What used to take up a building now fits in our pockets; what now fits in our pockets will fit in a blood cell in 25 years.

Even if we can never crack that leap of wholly integrating ourselves into our machines, as Kurzweil predicts, we will still be fundamentally changed; changed in how we think, how we sense, how we feel, how we comunicate, and how our bodies grow and develop; we will have accomplished a major leap of evolution not through any process of natural selection but through the practical implementation of our own technology.

Don’t snooze while it happens – when you wake up you might not recognize anyone.

Cheers.

Bandwidth Throttling In Canada – or – Bell Canada = Douchebags

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

I’ve written before about Rogers and Bell playing their lying-arse, smarmy, two-faced, greed bastardly bleats and pronouncements of how they have to throttle bandwidth of users in order to better manage the internet. I got so fed up with Rogers interference in my network usage I shit-canned my account with them and signed on with TekSavvy.

This is how Bell sees you in their world.

TekSavvy, which wholesales bandwidth from Bell and provides far better service, is now subject to the same throttling practices Bell uses to give their own customers incredibly expensive and uber-crappy internet access.

Of course, Bell is reserving the right to decide what gets throttled which, coincidentally, doesn’t include their own priority products and services and recent forays into IPTV. This has been a bone of contention among the re-sellers of access and has made Rocky Gaudrault, CEO of TekSavvy, a major hero in the dispute with his efforts to get the CRTC onside and finally come up with rules, regulations, controls, policies or something that will tell the fat-headed lard-arse fucktards of Bell and Rogers that the internet is not owned by them and they should bloody well be prepared to open the doors for equal access under law and allow for a true state of Network Neutrality to be established in Canada.

It’s said best in an email Gaudrault sent out to TekSavvy customers yesterday and which I am posting here for you:

Dear Customers,

In March 2008 Bell started throttling its Wholesale Customers (TekSavvy among a group of many) without notice. We attempted to have the CRTC force Bell to stop as it removed our ability to do business and give Market choice. The throttling was done in the name of congestion, even if Bell, at the same time launched higher speeds (which they did not share with their wholesalers) and also dabbled with launching IPTV, which consumes even more capacity.

The CRTC sided with Bell in November 2008 but launched a Public Hearing to discuss Network Management Practices, clearly showing they made a decision on throttling without having all the details in hand to do so. As a result we launched a request to reverse their decision from November (The Review & Vary) in May 2009.

The only way we are going to make a difference at this point is to get full public support to stop companies like Bell from bullying the market and the regulators! The Telecom and Cableco Monopolies control 96% of our marketplace, so if we don’t stand up and voice our concerns, this will become a two party dance where choices and services are going to be completely removed and rates raised to unreasonable levels!

Here are the details on how to submit your comments:

1) Go to:
http://support.crtc.gc.ca/crtcsubmissionmu/forms/Telecom.aspx?lang=e

2) Select “Part VII / PN “ from the drop down list and then click “Next”

3) In box entitled “Subject” line, insert “CRTC File #:
8662-P8-200907727″

4) In the box entitled “Description / Comments / Questions”, insert any comments that you may have on the review and vary application.

5) If you would like to attach a document, select “yes” and follow the instructions for attaching a file.

As indicated in the Title, I believe the deadline is June 22nd, so don’t wait to long

PS – R&V details here: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/recherche-search/?q=8662-P8-200907727&n=e&m=

Regards,

Rocky

Rocky Gaudrault
Chief Executive Officer
TekSavvy Solutions Inc.

Even if you’re not a customer of TekSavvy – or any of the other smaller, more effective, companies getting cornholed by Bell – you must step up to the plate and let the CRTC know how you feel about this very important issue. Network Neutrality equals Free Speech. Your ability to see, hear, sense, & speak to and about the world is in danger of being held under the control of a bunch of small minded cretins who only care about their bottom line and the twisted MBA ethics that guide them on that crumbling path which leads us all away from the future.

Fuck Bell. Talk to the CRTC. Make that body relevant again. Use it.

Tom Perlmutter, head of the NFB, brilliant man and possibly the world’s nicest guy evar, stated recently in Banff (and I’m paraphrasing here) that we need to regard the advent of the internet as being akin to the industrial revolution; the changes to business, politics and culture are that far reaching and that profound; and we need to address this with a national strategy and not just leave it up to the marketplace – cuz we all know how well that shit shakes down, don’t we?

You want to live in a free world? Speak up.

Cheers.

P. S. Thanks to Ted for the Perlmutter reference.

In Teh Toobs – New Episode

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I just posted a new episode of In Teh Toobs. In this latest report from Commander Riley, he takes us on a tour of his ship, the STFU-1138, and shows us where he lives and works.

It took me quite a while between episodes which was frustrating because I’ve been wanting to put them out at the rate of one per week. The trouble with that plan is the way I’ve been attacking the work. Rather than organizing myself as I would for a regular television or film production I’ve been treating this as more of an art project – which is just another way of saying I’m a lazy ass procrastinator.

As the show develops I’ve been discovering other themes that I want to explore with it and what was once supposed to be a simple talking-head vlog with a dog puppet has evolved into something a little more – ambitious.

Hopefully, as I continue to iron out the various technical and masturbatory artistic wrinkles associated with my supremely fat headed vision for In Teh Toobs the process of making the shows will become more of a routine – a fun routine – allowing me to post new episodes each week. The effort that went into this show was not in the shooting or the editing or the creation of the CG elements – the bulk of the time was taken up with thinking.

So I guess the lesson is: Don’t think about it, Mills. Just fucking do it.

I do plan on doing a video post here showing off how I make In Teh Toobs but I figured actually making the show was more of a priority at this stage.

Cheers.

P. S. I always appreciate your comments here but please be sure to visit the actual show site and leave a comment for Riley there. Your participation will make the show come alive. And be sure to tell your friends. Thanks.

P. P. S. And a special thanks to Ze Frank for giving me permission to include his mug design amongst the trappings of Riley’s ship.

Pachube – The Web World Gains Sensation

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I found this video and a link to a site called Pachube over on Bruce Sterling‘s always mind-wrinkling blog Beyond The Beyond and was overwhelmed by yet another leap forward in the growth of the web as an extension of not just our mind but also our consciousness.

I’ve ranted abut this before but everytime I stumble across another piece in this unfolding evolution of ourselves and our technologies my mind can’t help but start shoot out the top of my skull with the inherent possibilities of it all.

Ray Kurzweil likes to focus on the Singularity, that point in the not so distant future when our technology and ourselves will meet as equals, and Kevin Kelly has spun off in his writing of The Technium to explore the seemingly inevitable rise of the web and its attendant technologies as a real world metaphorical mind. My friend Bryan and I trade related news stories we find on the web alternating between “This is so fucking bizarre and cool all at the same time!” and “OMFG it’s Skynet! We’re all gonna die!”.

The overview of this strange perspective on how the web is putting truth to Marshall McLuhan‘s assertion that our technologies are extensions of ourselves and that media, our communications technologies, are an extension of our senses and if we don’t treat them as such we’re in danger of letting ourselves be controlled – if not by the technology itself then most certainly by those who choose to assume the mantle of power over where we direct our gaze, what sounds we allow to reach our ears and even, ultimately, if Kurzweil is accurate in his predictions, the sensations of touch and taste – perhaps even our emotional responses themselves.

“Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.”

- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964

Freaky flaky shit to be sure but when you see the rapid deployment and ubiquity of these emerging technologies – the web itself is now but a mere foundation for what is coming down the pipe – it’s difficult not to nod in assent that we are bearing witness to the growth and development of a massive, collective extension of our senses that dwarfs the telephone, radio, television, and the myriad of other forms of reaching out to see and speak to the world (and the universe) around us.

Dystopian science fiction parables warning of technology developing the capability to think like and then out-think humanity abound. The Terminator franchise, lifted from a couple of Harlan Ellison tales, is but the latest iteration; along with the Matrix trilogy, the completely fucked up version of I, Robot and the deliriously dated but still delightful Colossus: The Forbin Project. I love all those films and I understand how the zeitgeist of fear manifests itself in such stories. Ripping yarns of zombies are the current fashion just as alien dopplegangers, like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, were the narrative fashion in the McCarthy era.

These stories reflect our doubts and fears; they show us allegories and metaphors so we may better come to understand the changes which surround and confront us. But they aren’t an accurate depiction of any real world truths. Yes, during the McCarthy era (and, to a lesser extent, during subsequent political shifts) there was the real threat of imposed conformity. We live in times of torture and try to acclimate ourselves to that reality with entertaining tales of sadism like the Saw franchise. So too do we craft stories that put our evolving technologies in the role of antagonist, that thing we do not understand and so we fear it and so we must defend ourselves by destroying it. An age old narrative as entrenched in our bones as any fairy tale or campfire yarn.

But here’s the thing: aside from the sometimes seemingly vicious wrath of nature our only real antagonist is ourselves. That’s what we’re really afraid of – who we are and who we may become. McLuhan sought to open our perceptions to this so we can move forward on our own evolutionary path alongside our technologies, comforted and confident that they are not some ‘enemy from the outside” but an extension of ourselves.

That is not the hand of another which lays before me ready to strike – it is mine own hand – and I have the means to direct its action for good or evil.

A whole bunch of fucking words to lay out a simple point with all this Pachube stuff: It is real time tracking of sensorial input for the web mind.

Huh? Say what?

Make the leap with me. The web – an extension of our mind – is learning how to sense – and through that evolution, it will learn how to feel.

What the fuck?!

Oh yeah.

Imagine these inputs expanding (and they will) and becoming more detailed and more varied. It won’t remain as an interesting set of data that is collected, collated and displayed in pretty pictures. It will react and feedback upon itself. What kind of pictures will be displayed when the heart rate, breath rate, body temperature and EEG signals of every person on the planet is displayed in such a way? Will that fantasmagoric display of swirling coloured data show us the planet can blush? Or turn blue with collective sorrow? And what happens when those sensorial inputs, feeding back upon themselves, do more than just make pretty pictures but also trigger real world responses, to help or to hurt, to react. Whether it is by prompting people to act themselves to fix or exacerbate a problem – or providing an automated response with robotic intervention that outpaces our collective ability to say: “Wait a second, maybe we should think about this first.”

Good and bad can come from this.

The thing itself is neither good nor bad – because it is us. We will be very much like the image of the foetus hovering space at the end of Clarke & Kubrick‘s film2001: A Space Odyssey, playing with the world, McLuhan’s global theatre. A collective mind capable of collective thought, independent of each person and at the same time an extension of each person, and capable of real world action. It’s going to happen, folks; and in arriving at that point we would do well to make sure our collective young self has the smarts not to fuck everything up.

Cheers.

P. S. This is the kind of meandering shite I dwell on when I give myself a day off. – “Keep the boy busy, Martha, he’s starting to worry me.”