Friday, May 31, 2002 More on the same theme.

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Staring Into The Singularity by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
The short version: If computing power doubles every two years, what happens when computers are doing the research? Computing power doubles every two years. Computing power doubles every two years of work. Computing power doubles every two subjective years of work. Two years after computers reach human equivalence, their power doubles again. One year later, their speed doubles again. Six months - three months - 1.5 months ... Singularity. It's expected in 2035. (Oops, make that 2025.)
Ok, so that is what it's about. There is an old idea that the soul is infinite. Things can go at any damn rate they like the soul will match it. In fact these perhaps dubious scientific notions have more power as a metaphorical expression of our psyche than they do as actual events in the world. Hence we have Carl Jung writing about UFOs. If they did not exist we'd have to invent them! Singularity is like that too. Or is it?

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The Singularity I came across the idea in Vernon Vinge's True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier Here is a list of links. This concept seems worthy of pursuit.

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2.03: The Economy of Ideas Last line from the JPB item linked before:
And finally, in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns.
Stuff that dreams are made of... there is the clue... to psyberspace. BUT... Information is as much a real product as material goods - it arises not only out of dreams but hard work. I think it un-psychological to not see the real thing and then to see into it imaginatively. It is particularly skewed to selectively imagine. That is central to my whole way of doing therapy. It goes back to the "seduction theory". Must dig up an article I wrote on that. To put it simply: just because it really happened does not mean we should neglect our dreams. One thing I loved about this article is the opening quote from Jefferson. JPB certainly found the right bit to quote.

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The Economy of Ideas WiReD 2.03 article: A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age. (Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.) By John Perry Barlow
Throughout the time I've been groping around cyberspace, an immense, unsolved conundrum has remained at the root of nearly every legal, ethical, governmental, and social vexation to be found in the Virtual World. I refer to the problem of digitized property. The enigma is this: If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can't get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work?"
So begins this classic from Wired 2.03 March 1994. He had insights then we still grapple with now:
The other existing, model, of course, is service. The entire professional class - doctors, lawyers, consultants, architects, and so on - are already being paid directly for their intellectual property. Who needs copyright when you're on a retainer? In fact, until the late 18th century this model was applied to much of what is now copyrighted. Before the industrialization of creation, writers, composers, artists, and the like produced their products in the private service of patrons. Without objects to distribute in a mass market, creative people will return to a condition somewhat like this, except that they will serve many patrons, rather than one.
He was speaking about this early in the digital story... where has this discussion gone since then... Some of that is on this blog in earlier items - I will keep surfing...

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Thursday, May 30, 2002

Free Software and the Psyche What are all these posts on open source and free software doing on my weblog? What is the link with psyche? Well there is a link with my psyche, in that I gravitate to the of edge. Free software is on the edge of some sort of cultural social advance. It may peter out like the "counterculture" or it may actually be a continuation of something of that spirit. More directly there is a psychological side: identity in a virtual realm relates to ownership. In the early says of the well there was the phase You Own Your Own Words. The theme has a powerful presence on the Net, relates right back to notion of "free speech" with its elevated, sacred, archetypal complexities. I'm not all that clear, I know. I just have a sense that probing the noosphere here involves fully grasping the free software phenomena, with its associated stories of cathedrals and bazaars etc. Anyway, I run Linux for that reason, to travel into the different realms of the cyber-world. I think of it as a journey into the psyche!

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Open Source Software: A History David Bretthauer
The Open Source Definition allows greater liberties with licensing than the GPL does. In particular, the Open Source Definition allows greater promiscuity when mixing proprietary and open-source software."38 This is Richard Stallman's objection to OSS - that it allows the inclusion of proprietary software and ignores the philosophical issue of software freedom. Without these freedoms, there is no philosophical imperative to improve one's community. Nevertheless, "[w]e disagree on the basic principles, but agree more or less on the practical recommendations. So we can and do work together on many specific projects. We don't think of the Open Source movement as the enemy.39 This is a point reiterated by many who are active in various competing open source and free software packages. While this article has focused on a number of differences between operating systems, approaches to collaboration, and the evolution of various license agreements, this focus is at the micro level. At the macro level, nearly everyone mentioned in this article would prefer a competing open source or free package to a proprietary software package. In the future those who have blazed new trails will continue to argue the finer distinctions between their respective works. However, the various groups involved are willing to work with and support one another's right to choose a different approach to solving a problem. And it is clear these individuals look forward to another generation building upon the successes of the past thirty years.
A useful history - with a valuable conclusion which I have quoted above. Another item from the Information Technology and Libraries site. This link is to a special issue of the magazine: Volume 21, Number 1, March 2002 - SPECIAL ISSUE: Open Source Software - JEREMY FRUMKIN, Guest Editor.

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Karen Coyle's Home Page The author of the article linked in the previous item - great stuff! Karen has a powerful message - well put. Heaps of references here about copyright, libraries, the net and Why Librarians Should Rule the Net.

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Open Source, Open Standards An item by Karen Coyle Information Technology and Libraries vol.21, no.1
When people speak of open source software they are referring to computer code - programs that run. But code is only the final step in the information technology process. Prior to writing code the information technology professional must do analysis to determine the nature of the problem to be solved and the best way to solve it. When software projects fail, the failure is more often than not attributable to shortcomings in the planning and analysis phase rather than in the coding itself. Open source software provides some particular challenges for planning since the code itself will be worked on by different programmers and will evolve over time. The success of an open source project will clearly depend on the clarity of the shared vision of the goals of the software and some strong definitions of basic functions and how they will work. This all-important work of defining often takes place through standards and the development of standards that everyone can use has become a movement in itself: open standards.
A great overview of the whole business of standards. What a great complex human endeavour this is. In the blog right now I am entertaining the idea that free software is significant in a political sense; people taking ownership of the product of their labour and making it socially available. As I read this article the idea of "use value" came to mind. Use value was the term used by Marx for things that we need and are valuable but not commodities. Air, the work we do around the house. It seems that these open free products create huge use value, but to be useful they need to be of little commodity value. The reason is that the products become more useful through use. The reward for creating such value needs to also come from social sources. I saw an item by Richard Stallman where he compared creating non-free software to polluting the air. It is shocking that the use of things naturally free can be prevented for profit.

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Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism
Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism (1999) provides an analysis of information-age capitalism and the movements currently dissolving it. The text version is available from University of Illinois Press, and can be purchased from the UWO Bookstore or on-line book stores.
The book is online, each chapter in one pdf file. The opening is intriguing. Nick Dyer-Witheford (the author) refers to the sf book The Difference Engine by Gibson and Stirling. Babbage's mechanical computer in this alternate history works - and is steam driven. Here is a quote from Chapter 1:
For in the world of The Difference Engine, Karl Marx is alive and well. His employment by the New York Daily Tribune (for whom the actual Marx worked during the 1850s as a foreign correspondent in the biggest `information industry' of his day) has clearly resulted in migration to the United States--a visit yielding momentous consequence. For, in a North America wracked by regional separatism and civil war, revolutionaries have seized the "means of information and production" of the largest city of the New World.2 And the Manhattan Communards now provide a nucleus for an international ferment of dissidence which, combining re-emerged Luddites, renegade clackers, anarcho-feminists, Blakean-situationist artists and immiserated proletarians, boils beneath the surface of the bourgeois universe, waiting for the next calamity to burst into revolt.

In what follows, I propose a Marxism for the Marx of The Difference Engine. That is to say, I analyse how the information age, far from transcending the historic conflict between capital and its labouring subjects, constitutes the latest battleground in their encounter; how the new high technologies--computers, telecommunications, and genetic engineering--are shaped and deployed as instruments of an unprecedented, world wide order of general commodification; and how, paradoxically, arising out of this process appear forces which could produce a different future based on the common sharing of wealth--a twenty-first century communism.

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The Political Economy of Free Software A link to my own writing: If my proposition about this fundamental nature of the Free Software Movement has merit it certainly puts the struggle around its survival against the commercial and legal opposition into a context with very high stakes.

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Copyleft vs. Copyright: A Marxist critique Abstract "Copyright was invented by and for early capitalism, and its importance to that system has grown ever since. To oppose copyright is to oppose capitalism. Thus, Marxism is a natural starting point when challenging copyright. Marx's concept of a 'general intellect', suggesting that at some point a collective learning process will surpass physical labour as a productive force, offers a promising backdrop to understand the accomplishments of the free software community. Furthermore, the chief concerns of hacker philosophy, creativity and technological empowerment, closely correspond to key Marxist concepts of alienation, the division of labour, deskilling, and commodification. At the end of my inquiry, I will suggest that the development of free software provides an early model of the contradictions inherent to information capitalism, and that free software development has a wider relevance to all future production of information." Now that is along the same lines as the thing I wrote after the discussions with Josh - will link to ot in the next item. It all sounds plausible to me, but nothing is a sure thing.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Conversation with Manuel Castells, p. 5 of 6 Castells is famous for the thesis that this *is* an Information Society. A sample quote: "Absolutely. You see, and it goes both ways. On the other hand, as much as I think the Internet's an extraordinary instrument for creation, free communication, etc., you can use the Internet to exclude, because you can exclude in terms of the access to the network, the digital divide. But you can also exclude in terms of the culture and education and ability to process all this information that has happened on the net, and then use it for what you want to do, because you don't have the education, the training, the culture to do it, while the elites of the world do." Hmm... books require an even more elitist culture?

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Friday, May 24, 2002

O'Reilly Network: Essential Blogging Public Review [May 23, 2002]

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Thursday, May 23, 2002

O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference Journalism 3.0 Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News "Until very recently, modern journalism was mostly a lecture -- journalism organizations told you what the news was, and you either bought it or you didn't. Today's professional journalist needs to understand, and capture, the fact that our readers/listeners/viewers know more than we do. That's not a threat. It's an opportunity. Digital collaboration and communication tools are helping us all create a new kind of journalism, something resembling a seminar or conversation. The tools range from e-mail to weblogs to peer-to-peer, and they all add up to something genuinely new in news. Don't ask about the business model, however; no one knows what it is." That all you can see from this talk but it says it all. Journalism 3. Is he right? I think so.

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Smallworld "Can anyone in the world reach anyone else through a chain of only 6 friends? "With your help, we intend to find out." I registered.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2002

"You're sitting in one place when you use those things." "Same as writing a novel. You don't write your books standing up, moving around." He's backing away, looking to speak with some of the other folks congregated around him, "it sounds sort of like ham radio, people use that to talk all over the world." And he's absorbed elsewhere. I write in my notebook, underlined, "He's old school."
Nice piece by Justin Hall.

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"Cyberspace as Place, and the Tragedy of the Digital Anticommons The conception of "cyberspace as place" leads to the implication that there is property online, and that this property should be privately owned, parceled out, and exploited. Though private ownership of resources of itself is not problematic, it can lead to the opposite of the tragedy of the commons: the tragedy of the anti-commons. Anti-commons property occurs when multiple parties have an effective right to preclude others from using a given resource, and as a result no-one has an effective right of use. Part IV argues that this is precisely where the "cyberspace as place" metaphor leads. We are moving to a digital anti-commons, where no-one will be allowed to access competitors' cyberspace "assets" without some licensing, or other transactionally-expensive (or impossible), permission mechanism. The Article shows how the "cyberspace as place" metaphor leads to undesirable private control of the previously commons-like Internet, and the emergence of the digital anti-commons. As we all come to stake out our little claim in cyberspace, then the commons which is cyberspace is being destroyed." I still need to read this long paper but it looks interesting.

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Creative Commons » Home "Cultivating a New Creative Commons: Creative Commons is a non-profit organization founded on the notion that some people would prefer to share their creative works (and the power to copy, modify, and distribute their works) instead of exercising all of the restrictions of copyright law." This could be good: somehow taylor making licences to suit. That will bring out the range more clearly & we will see a range from open to free - and learn the difference.

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Mediamatic: Tofts, McKeich: Memory Trade. A Prehistory of Cyberculture "In his book Memory Trade Tofts tries to show that in cyberdiscourse - the discussion of computer technology's influence on communication and culture - there is nothing new under the sun. According to him, the technologisation of the word was not brought into being just by the arrival of the computer (as is sometimes short-sightedly claimed in cyberdiscourse); the word was always already technologised. The subjects Tofts handles in Memory Trade make this clear: alphabet, writing and language as technology; the origins of cyberthought in mnemonics; Finnegans Wake as the original media theory book. These form Tofts' (pre)history of cyberdiscourse."

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Theology in a Digital World "Theology in a Digital World is a collection of essays and lectures dating from 1984 to 1987. It was published by the United Church Publishing House and can be obtained through that source. Published here as Web documents are subsequent reflections on technology from a theological perspective. All of these are copyright © David Lochhead, 1995." For example: "A hermenutic of digital technology is likely to resist that direction and to stress in its place a more playful interpretation of what the meaning of the text might become. In the process, our understanding of the authority of the text will undergo a profound shift. Authority will not disappear. But in place of a heteronomous authority of the original context, the authority will one that emerges out of the covenant of our play. " from the Footnote to McLuhan item. Oldies but interesting.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Bulfinch's Mythology Nice to have this online!

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New Zealand News - - Online Therapy "Another local online therapist is Kennedy's mate, psychotherapist Walter Logeman, who started up Psybernet, a site dedicated to "exploring the psyche in cyberspace". Barry says wise things and I am also in the news.

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Stallman Here is an item from Richard Stallman which I find both compelling and sad. After I have struggled hard with GNU/Linux - I now learn that the kernel nay not be free (in the sense of having all the sources available). I have never seen my foray int this area as soley technical but always as part of a sort of noosphere probe. It still is that of course but what my probe is revealing is how big this battle for freedom is. This is not libertarian freedom either - but freedom for people to be able to work together to be creative. Freedom for one generation to be able to build on the creations of the previous. Which is the exact opposite of the freedom to build private empires. It is very like theological debate isn't it. I am not really up with the history of that but I imagine whole churches split over such finery. I know I can't be that ideologically pure - but I am glad that RMS is. I am not a programmer but I do make web pages and I'd never have been able to do that without the "source" button actually working. Imagine a web that was not open source in that way. It would not have happened at all. What is closed software preventing today?

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Agent History Just upgraded my old Agent as i am back in XP as I am having a few problems in Linux right now. Thhis is a nice story. I can get by in Windows with the likes of Agent and Mozilla - which is a great browser.

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Why I Don't Use the GPL "Do the demands of the GPL cause as much harm as closed-source code?" Interesting discussion on going into the use of dual licences etc. following what is a flawed opening article. I have a great respect for that GPL! That people cheat and close it off is a sad thing though. Apparently it is easy enough to do a string search to see if that has happened.

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Linux in Red, Tux in Blue "Linux will always be more than the sum of its egos" This is a rejoinder to the Metcalf thing. I know these are old articles... but I like that about the web - it persists (when it does not rot).

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Linux's '60s technology, open-sores ideology won't beat W2K, but what will? Sad story - how can a bright man be so thick really. He seems not to grasp Free Software, Open Source any better than Marx Lenin or Trotski - and he wants the Pulizter prize?

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Sunday, May 19, 2002

Horses and Ponies: Zoe Horses with Weblogs

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The Case for the Empire

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Mercury News | 05/11/2002 | Dan Gillmor: Web pioneer looks at ground covered, future Tim Berners-Lee: "Assuming we don't cripple technology, tomorrow's Web will be dramatically different from today's. What we have today is a human-readable system, a good one. The coming Web will also be machine-readable, Berners-Lee says, and the implications are enormous. "This new Web, which Berners-Lee and others call the ``Semantic Web,'' will be an overlay on the current one. Its most prominent feature will be machines communicating with other machines on our behalf, using tools now under development. "After his keynote speech, Berners-Lee was asked to describe his view of the future Internet. It will be vastly more flexible and useful than today, he said. "Our connections will be omnipresent, he said. The context of what we're doing virtually will move with us from one physical location to another. "The potential seems unlimited, he said, provided we give innovators a cleanly designed, unencumbered platform on which to make their miracles. We're in the early days, and that's exciting to contemplate." The context of what we're doing virtually will move with us from one physical location to another. That is the line that intigues me and of course that Tim Berners-Lee said it. It is still hard to envisage - because what if the cat-door opening mechanism crashes phenomena, it might kill the cat. Sometimes it might be best done really simply! I hanker after technology that is simple. I wish Deskview had worked!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2002

E-Mail Notification Management "I like to impose this extra bit of protocol on myself, to underscore that every e-mail is a significant act." Jon Udell is one of the few writers who takes a real interest in how our emails work, how groups work online. His column "Tangled in the treads" for Byte always has a good take on this or that aspect of online collaboration. I don't always agree with the details (or understand the hi-tech stuff) but "that every e-mail is a significant act." is a fine principle. This article is about his first look at Outlook.

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Sunday, May 12, 2002 Technology | Use the blog, Luke "The collective future of blogs lies not in dethroning the New York Times -- but in becoming a force that can make sense of the Web's infinity of links." The noosphere will not be built by the NYT. The shape and flow of the networks of links is not just a big wide web, there are forces in various directions - there dynamic, a struggle for outcome. Blogs are part of the benign side. A force for freedom of expression.

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Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan): The Machine Stops Literature Annotations Another prophetic writer... hit on the idea of movies and email before WW1. Upholds the notion that we are better off not living vicariously with the ais of machines. Does he have a point? Makes me think of the Lunig cartoon of the family watching the sunset on TV while it is happening outside the window. Maybe there is a point to it. As in: Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918 119. Trees I THINK that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the sweet earth's flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, 5 And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. 10 Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree. But what if we reversed the idea: I THINK that I shall never see a tree lovely as a poem. In a poem the tree becomes sacred. We spend a lot of time here in space looking at words - and somehow that seems important... to be in the noosphere. We value nature but travel to see art galleries. We make God in our image of God.

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CMC Magazine: Technology as a Psychic Phenomenon "Nevertheless, there are relationships, significant but covert, between the psychic and the technological. The key to this relationship lies in McLuhan's idea of the "extensions of man." The psychic and the technological represent two forms of the human attempt to abolish the constraints of time and space. We can, in fact, say with reason that technology represents the material expression or analogue of certain alleged psychic powers." In this 1997 article Grosso, in the end, dismisses the thesis. It seems to me that the trouble with techno-spiritual thesis like most religions is that it is taken all too literally. When that happens, as in this item, the essence of insight is lost. Resurrection is a potent notion - taken too literally it becomes the debate about ontology and the miracle is lost.

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Saturday, May 11, 2002

Michael Grosso in
"Great dreams contain inexhaustible truths, and orient us, like runes, toward our futures. One hesitates to try to explain them; one wants to dance them, act them out in living gestures. The more we put ourselves into a great dream, the more we get back. Great dreams are wells that never run dry." A nice quote from Michael Grosso - who has cropped up in my weblog before. The soul boost site has other nice quotes too for all its new age spiritual feel.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Wired 10.05: Beat Manifestos "I can plug my microphone straight into my laptop, and it's got the best recording quality there is." "A gorgeous thing is happening now as technology becomes more common. It's like years ago, when there was a piano or guitar in everyone's home and everybody would know how to use them. It's excellent, because if one's human spirit wants to write a song, it's more likely to be captured now. Good music always wins." Björk from the current issue of Wired. Björk's comment here is interesting... the laptop becoming a sort of comly ubiquitous thing that somehow destroyes the power of the elite.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2002

What Would McLuhan Say?

Wired 4.10

Derrick de Kerckhove, the man who occupies the same swivel chair as mass media's philosopher king, ruminates on how the Web is creating a newly tribalized society.

By Kevin Kelly

The Web is a new guise of language

From the same old Wired mag.

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Wired 4.10: Universal Personality By Gerben de Graaf "The terrestrial sphere we live on is wrapped in thousands of invisible strands of data, endlessly pouring from its surface. All of these strings of data are parts of who we are, and who we seem to be. When you create a homepage on the Web, that page becomes part of your "universal personality," a personality made up of all representations of you in any actual, virtual, or other worlds - and of the different ways everyone has perceived you. Image-building is precarious. Once someone observes a virtual - or actual - part of you, it is inextricably part of you. It doesn't matter whether this part is truly representative of your being. For now, the only solution is to present yourself as completely as possible. Presenting your data well is presenting yourself well. Gerben de Graaf ( is editor of the online publication News from the Field." The item above is a complete "Idees Fortes" from WiReD while it still had strong ideas... this one from October 1996 The great thing is you can click through all the old issues. "Presenting your data well is presenting yourself well." Interesting on the theme of identity that has run through this blog and my mind over the last few weeks. Of course my cyber explorations of ID relate to my personal life. I am getting more set in my ways, more able to stick with the lines of my character which like the wrinkles in my face wont go away but will only get deeper and mor clearly defined. What choice do have but to accept these lines - ruts even - but with grace?

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Sunday, May 05, 2002

Linux Magazine | Spring 1999 | FEATURES | The Linux Interview "Torvalds: I think that's a great advantage. There are a lot of people who own copyrights on their own drivers or file systems. I happen to be the main copyright owner and I am a copyright holder on a lot of other people's code too. It's a double-bind situation. Say I wanted to be the next Bill Gates, and I thought the way to become the next Bill Gates would be to say, "Linux 2.2 may be out, but I am working on Linux 3.0, and by the way it will cost you $150." I can't do that, because I'm not the only copyright holder. And no one else can do it either. The only way to do it would be to get everyone with their hands in the kernel to agree, and that's not going to happen. This actually makes some commercial companies happier about Linux because they know that I can't be a competitor to them." This is social ownership by those who produce. This has political/social importance of a major kind - or am I being too romantic?

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Appendix I: Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange
And is the Iliad possible at all when the printing press and even printing machines exist? Is it not inevitable that with the emergence of the press bar the singing and the telling and the muse cease, that is the conditions necessary for epic poetry disappear?
Marx on art and rel to technology and society. Of course the possibilities of new forms also arise and he did not know the notion that new media transforms the old... people can still make their Illiad thier oral history in a new way... he net is more oral some have said. Who?

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