March 30, 2009

Pure Data: FM Sprint in NYC and Berlin

Category: Events,New York City,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 5:32 am

FLOSS Manuals is proud to announce a three day book sprint for the Pure
Data FLOSS Manual. This sprint will take place simultaneously in New
York City and Berlin from Saturday 4 April to Monday 6 April.

The Pure Data FLOSS Manual:

There are possibilities to participate in person by coming to one of the
locations below, or remotely via the IRC interface built into the FLOSS
Manuals editing interface. Video conferencing may take place between the
venues as well.

To participate, create a login at the PD FLOSS Manuals page:

Discussion may also take place in the Pure Data mailing list:

If you are in New York or Berlin, please join us at these locations!


* Contact:

Hans-Christoph Steiner: 718 360 4872

* Location (bring ID, you’ll need to sign in):

ITP/NYU Conference Room
721 Broadway, 4th Floor
email me or call in case you can get past security: 718 360 4872

* Schedule:
Saturday: noon-midnight
Sunday: 10am-midnight
Monday: 9am-5:30pm (if we go later, we’ll be in a different room)


* Contacts

Derek Holzer: +49 176 2812 5845
Adam Hyde: +49 15 2230 54563

ElsenStr. 52 (2.Hof)
Berlin, Germany
+49 176 20626386

* Schedule:
Saturday: noon-late
Sunday: noon-late
Monday: noon-late


Events on IP

Category: Academic,New York — Biella @ 5:21 am

If you are in the greater or lesser NYC area, there is a conference on IP and circulation that has a pretty nifty line-up as well as a international perspective. If you are in the Montreal area, IP reformer James Love will be giving a talk “NGO efforts to reform the World Intellectual Property Organization and there is a semester long series (almost over) sponsored by the Columbia Society Fellows on IP with a fantastic line-up

March 27, 2009


Category: Other — Biella @ 8:16 pm

After telling my friend about a talk on flow charts, brains, and psychology I attended today, my friend pointed me to his amazing art-a-gram of relationships as well as this even more out of this world biblegram. Damn.

March 23, 2009


Category: Academic,Geekitude — Biella @ 6:36 pm

Memefactory! :

What do you get when you combine a lecture, vaudeville and Double Dare? Memefactory! Three gentlemen with five computers and three projectors take the audience on a fast-paced, whirlwind tour of every major Internet meme, famous piece of Internet media and YouTube footage imaginable. The modus is not depth, but breadth, and constant audience participation is required. Over the course of the evening, the audience will produce an entry for every internet phenomenon possible, including but not limited to: LOLCats, Bouncing GIFs, Me Singing [blank], Reaction Videos, Folk Covers of Hip Hop Classics, FAILs, Redubbed music videos, and more. Some will become famous like Boxxy, most will drink beers and a brave few will be nude.

March 22, 2009

You don’t need to choose one over the other.

Category: Epigenetics,Politics — Biella @ 6:07 am

So, one of th raging debates in medical science over the last two decades concerns the importance of genetics vs environmental factors for diseases: Are diseases genetically based or due to environmental factors, such as pesticides and toxins? This debate is one that might soon change its course (and collapse) due to the fascinating field of epigenetics, which blows this binary to pieces, by examining how lifestyle and environment can alter the expression of genes. Nova has a fascinating video about epigenetics, which is definitely worth watching.

March 19, 2009

MIT approves open access

Category: Academic,Open Access — Biella @ 7:38 am

The more stuff like this happens, the harder it will be to pass this stuff.

March 18, 2009

FLOSS Manuals in Cambdrige, MA March 21-22nd

Category: Documentation,F/OSS,Politics — Biella @ 4:12 am

I recently got to spend some time hanging with part of the FLOSS manual crew and they basically are as busy as ever holding sprints across the US and Europe to write documentation and manuals for Free Software. They are holding a mini sprint in Cambridge, MA and along with the FSF will be writing a manual on the command line in about two days. If the idea of writing documentation makes you feel warm and happy inside, then this is the even for you. They are always looking for volunteers and I assure you, the experience will be well worth your time, effort, and participation.

March 16, 2009


Category: Academic,F/OSS,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 4:24 am


A little over a week ago I participated in a camp/event/conference/ that threw together 12 different networked based-groups/phenomenon/organizations. They got to do what many often can’t do: spend some time working face-to-face as well as thinking about about questions of un(organizational) growth/ungrowth. Some of us spent some time learning about the nature of networked coordinations and organizations from these groups. There is a lot I could write about but, in part because I was in Amsterdam for a week, I am now playing serious catch up, but there are a few things that really struck me both of which relate to expectations, which I thought worth jotting down.

Generally present were the following types of groups: open source projects (such as Blender), tech-oriented activist projects (Dyne), non-tech oriented projects (such as Free Dimensional), artistic-tech projects (such as GOTO10), artistic projects (Upgrade), academic-activist (Edu Factory) and others which are harder to classify (such as Gender Changes, and FLOSS Manuals).

One thing that came out during the plenary sessions, which is when we got together as a large group to debate and discuss, is that technically oriented open source projects are at times singled out for not being “inclusive.” That is, people pointed out that most projects expect you to contribute technically in order to participate (and don’t necessarily offer people the training/capacity so you can participate). I have heard a version of this many many and many times before and find it to be a curious (and generally unproductive) accusation, though I understand why the confusions arises.

I say confusion because most of these projects are not overtly set up to be inclusive/technically pedagogical, and this is perhaps the key point —they don’t purport to be though many folks think this is part of their overall message/mission. Because these free software projects are open source, this, for some, somehow automatically translates into the political projects of inclusivity (that is, training folks so that they can become part of this world). And yet some other projects, such as Edu Factory and GoTo10, which are run as tight-knit of collectives, are rarely accused of not being inclusive. Why should this be?

I raise this mostly because I find it interesting, pointing to the way certain terms or phrases (Freedom, Openness) combined with the visibility of FLOSS projects, automatically generate other expectations and meanings even if they don’t actually exist. I also raise it because I think it is an unfair expectation to have of these communities only in so far as most of them are full of folks busy hacking up technology and this in and of itself, as I have written about before is worthwhile politically. And yet If one wants to make them more inclusive, then one can go ahead and bring into being such a project for most of them are quite open to various initiatives to enlarge the scope of participation. These projects can be internal to projects or external to them. That is, self-initiative goes a long way in this world, and has helped changed the terrain of participation and inclusivity and I am sure will continue to do so.

Which brings me to my second point about expectations. Many people complain that open source is not easy to use. While this was entirely, 1000% true prior to 1998, every passing day makes this statement harder to stand by. I imagine in another 10 years, there will be many many programs that are as usable for the novice user as proprietary software. They had to play serious catch-up and I think have done a decent job. In some regards, all that was and is needed is time because time has already shown that usability has improved leaps and bounds. And yet there is still something odd about the accusations, which my friend tulpje but in the following way “One would never accuse the Zapatistas for not having their military might/shit together like the US army, so why accuse open source for not being the mightiest software our there?) While I actually think that free software has already and will continue to give proprietary firms a run for their money in a way that a rag-tag guerrilla army can’t do with a national army, it is nonetheless important to couch one’s responses and accusations in terms of the constraints and realities of these projects.

That said, I still think such expectations reflect important hopes and desires. They show us just how profoundly free software/open source has, simply by virtue of its existence, inspired many to follow suite politically, turning to FLOSS as a beacon of possibility.

March 15, 2009

Hyperparenting: The Ethnography

I have a long list (it exists only in my head unfortunately) of various ethnographic projects I would like to conduct. I might start the real list soon but in the meantime, I will just through the half-baked ideas here and perhaps it will inspire others to take it on. I am currently reading a fantastic book, The Case Against Perfection, and am on a section on hyperparenting and well, while I think at a common sense level we know what psychological havoc such controlled parenting can cause, I think an ethnography of some of the practices and institutions of hyperparenting would, nonetheless, make for a fascinating read. If anyone knows of anything that even resembles this, do drop me a line.

Update: Not exactly an ethnography but certainly fun to read.

Obsessing: A Way of Life

Category: Hackers — Biella @ 4:17 am

When I teach my course on computer hackers, one of the first things that students learn is that many hackers are “obsessed”–a viewpoint promulgated by academics and media types alike. I tend to agree with the assessment but turn it on its head a little by pointing out that many professionals (doctors, lawyers, investment bankers and my own profession, which, attracts and houses nerds and geeks alike) are equally obsessed. It is just that the “professional” work is legitimized via all sorts of norms, expectations, and practices, unlike hacking, which is often treated in quite exceptional terms.