June 11, 2003

Collaboration tenderize your thoughts.

Category: Other — Biella @ 12:59 am

Insomniacs rule the night. I wonder if insomniacs as a result blog more? I am definitely more blog-prone both reading and writing when I find myself up late at night while the rest of the house slumbers… Sick of email, chatting, and reading, blogging is the perfect way to wind down.

I also just finished what was my second collaborative writing project. Given voice, style, and particular academic likes and dislikes, it is tough and tough in that sort of leathery, resistant way. You butt heads a lot, there is the struggle of having to explain yourself over and… over again, there is the need to melt divergent desires. But through enough beatings, the toughness is tenderized, and in such a way that even if the piece of writing has a ways to go, your thoughts about a subject reach a new smoothness and clarity. Yes, your thoughts are tenderized in a way that makes them easier to work with. So while I feel a bit worn from the experience, I would do it all over again.

June 10, 2003

New Beginnings

Category: Health — Biella @ 12:40 am

There are a couple of new beginnings ahead of me. One is technical. I am learning LaTeX, the word along which used to cause me great fear and angst because I have been told by every other geek that I MUST write my dissertation in LaTex. They are right. It rocks and though I have a waysSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS to go, I am seriously contemplating using it. I mean, it makes your work look way better than it is! Like I converted my IRC talk into a pdf using LaTeX and it looks so much better.

Otherwise, my life is rightside up and upside down as I try to get out of SF to get to Puerto Rico. I am anxious to go because my mother has been sick for a long time and I have felt out of sorts being so far not knowing really how she is doing in that in your face sort of way. So I leave SF with both saddness and happiness for PR which I anticipate with the same mixture of heightened, contradictory emotions. I am tired from months of the anticipation of arranging my life so I can go home for a long period of time. I am not sure how I will react to my mother’s illness although I also know that being there is where I am supposed to be.

Illness clarifies so much about the human condition and the social condtion that it is a shame that we tend to hide or privatize illness. I think of it as one of the greatest teachers and humanizers. I feel very lucky that I can go home for a long period of time and think about how constrained most people are to jobs so that when illness befalls a family member, there is not much choice one has but to quit a job if one wants to spend time with a person. There is just very little room to make accomodations for people with illness and those around them in this society.

And as much as I can’t stand utopian rhetoric around the net, I do think that when it comes to the experience of illness, net technologies are a great facilitator in so many dimesions that it scares me to think of a net that is any less accessible and user friendly. That is, my politics to equalize access, support community, to promote user-friendliness, is largely derived from a year when I was sick, nearly home-rideen for 6 of those months. I was glued to the net. It was a place to go when I could literally not go out of the house much and it was one of the most significant factors to help me figure out what was wrong with me. And it was truly amazing to have full fledged, fullfilling interaction all the while I felt that my body was failing me. When you are so sick, it is hard not to feel like you are at war with yourself, engaged in an existential battle trying to figure out, what am I? My body, my mind, my self, my emotions. Abstract philisophical contemplation seems so aburd as you struggle through those questions with fevers and fatigue.

There is a lot of anger that emerges often directed at your failing body, while you struggle to heal it and define the self in relation to the out of roder chaos. Sharing this experience with others is a way to get over the personal war. You see and hear and share the stories of others which makes you realize that your body is not just attacking you but that illness is franlky part of the human condition write large, that there is somehting to learn from it and it is more than just you and your body even if that is a reality that should never be denies And then the experience of interacting with others in ways that are pretty intimate given the bodily details of illness and its emotional counterparts, you realize that even if there are limits placed on you, it is not social death, a very important reminder when you are so ill. It is one case on the net in which denial of the physical body is a good thing and it is a denial that teach you that you really are not just your physical body.

June 8, 2003

Painting with Perl

Category: Research — Biella @ 11:34 pm

The geeek writer who brought us “Why Nerds Are Unpopular, here is another good essay Hackers and Painters. As one who likes to compare and contrast to think through phenomena, I enjoyed this essay, although there are limits to his comparison as comparisons are well, of course, never a perfect match. S

o, for example, it is certainly the case that what programmers and hackers create has a strong aesthetic element (one of my main research interests). But while artists and hackers both can admire theit own work (and both prolly have deeper aesthetic understandings), computer programs have more of inner aesthetic that really only the creaters can experience from the aesthetic standpoint even if a user can think that a piece of software rocks.

Also, while I agree that hackers are not necessarily like mathematicians, his view of science as not being an “art” or being composef of makers I think is also up for debate. Science is completely oriented around making and practicality. It is just that it oriented towards forms of making that are profitable, which is what he objects to because it directs “the makers” away from creating through and by inner vision and pasion.

But if you write code, this is an interesting read whether it is how one learns, the need for empathy, and the fact that there are few institutions (and he includes the academy) that really support hacking, well except the open source project. Oh and finally, he views jobs and hacking as pretty antithetical:

“I think the answer to this problem, in the case of software, is a concept known to nearly all makers: the day job. This phrase began with musicians, who perform at night. More generally, it means that you have one kind of work you do for money, and another for love….”

I have talked to way too many hackers who have found a higher degree of satisfaction in their day job to make this comparison work although there are for sure many forms of dislike against the day job in the form of suits, ending projects, NDA’s, and in this current climate, the job market…. It will be interesting to see how the view towards day jobs among hackers will shift now that jobs are scarce and working conditions are not as fun and flexbile as before.

The Parlor

Category: Tech — Biella @ 11:15 pm

Next time I give my IRC talk, I am going to show this 10 minute movie, The Parlor. I sort of ruined the surprise already but dowload and see it if you can.

June 7, 2003

Swinging Pendulums of Hacker Politics

Category: Research — Biella @ 12:13 am

I am obsessed by the question of hacker ethics& politics. I have written a short piece for the Sarai Reader about what, from a socio-political perspective, shapes such strong and diverse forms of ethics for information freedom among hackers (pretty vague piece as it was published from a talk I gave). And my whole dissertation is about the peculiar nature of hacker ethics and politics and changing forms of political conscioussness amongst FOSS hackers. Here is a short and somewhat outdated overview. Now I am working with Mako on a paper that further explores the underlying legal and philisophical orientations and mechanims that give FOSS a form of extreme spreading power (internal and externall to FOSS and in the Latourian sense ) that works in part by denying its politics (more on that later).

BUT, the interesting thing is that tonight, Danny and Quinn who are full of good information on all things geekish, pointed meto a significant change made in the The Jargon File by ESRthat reflects the changing nature of hacker political affiliations at least according to some.

As reported in NTK:

“Finally (and not included in the changelogs),
Eric has tweaked the Hacker Politics page, from its previous
description as “vaguely liberal-moderate” to
“moderate-to-neoconservative (hackers too were affected by
the collapse of socialism)”. Go tell that to the
Kuro5hinners, Eric. Recalling Raymond’s familiar defence of
previous changes, “rather than complaining that I am
‘rewriting history’, help me write it!”, let it be noted
that if someone did want to fork the Jargon File, now would
be the time to do it. Raymond’s previous googlejuice at
tuxedo.org has been cast to the winds. A new, reformatted
and popularly linked-to upstart could quickly seize the top
Google slot. Ha, ha, as we apparently all say, only serious.”

Although I have concentrated mostly on only FOSS hackers (and I see differences among different types of hackers in terms of ethcs, another paper coming soon), I would say that the tendency has been the complete opposite than that which ESR reports. While there are hackers of every political orientation, affiliation, and fascination, the liberal and left leaning hacker which seemed to be pretty rare pre-2000, has risen to much greater prominence in the last couple of years. I think that Raymond’s need to redefine the hacker political orientation reflects more his own anxiety (as a professed libertarian) over the trends towards widerspread liberalization (made possible in part by the likes of Lessig, O’Reilly, EFF, and participation in sites like kuro5hin and also the cynicism and “reality bites” after the dotcom crash) and to a lesser extent leftizization (thanks again to the likes of kuro5hin and greater visibility of tech activism represented by orgs like Indymedia and yes, I know leftizization is not a word but anthropologists do make up words all the time).

So now he seems to be re-writing history or at least telling his version given a certain anxiety over the diversification of political affiliations amongst hackers. At least that is my theory tonight. And it will be very interesting to see if his version will stick or whether history forking will ensue…

June 6, 2003

At home with friends, on Friendster

Category: Tech — Biella @ 12:15 am

I resisted for over a month to sign up on friendster. And now I request others to be my friend. It is SO odd, it really is. I am sitting literally in a room with Mako and Micah and we are all on wireless, goofing off with “Friendster.” Yes lame, but there is more going on than geeks geeking out. We all play and search as a “joke” but the line between using friendster as a joke and using friendster as friendster is a fine one. We get new invites and we proceed to accept, we add new photos, search for others we know, search for those with shared interests, laugh at people’s pictures, and see who might be in fact be interesting to meet in our respective cities.

What amazes me is that I know only pretty my “tech” oriented friends use friendster. This can mean the hardcore “geek”techies, the dotcom web designers, the apple hardware designers, the indy media activists, the bloggers, etc. Though it is eerie that we all have signed up on friendster I think the fact that we can’t “resist” signing up, even if only as a supposed joke, signals how embedded we are in these technologies and spaces. It is not so strange for us to learn of others via web pages and blogs, and make connection on email and irc and since we are glued on the computer for a good 8 hours a day, why not go ahead to friendster? For some it will just be a joke, for others a fad, but I have this feeling that friendster is not going anywhere any time soon.

It reminds me also of this elementary school technique of “keeping track” of friends, of learning their interests, and in such a way where you could compare and contrast it with other friends. It was called a slambook: a notebook the first page which was a list of numbers which were assigned to a person by signing up next to the number. Then the “user” of the slam book answers the questions which are on each page, the answer which is underscored by thier unique number id. Then you can have insight into people’s inner lives and likes and dislikes and carry it around as personal property in your notebook. Strange too and of course there are now online slambooks.

If only I had an online slambook while in elementrary school!!! The one time I got sent to the principal’s office was in 5th grade because I had one or two mean questions about “Christine Diaz” a dear friend who I routinely fought with. And there was nothing like revenge through codifying everyone’s opinion of her in my slambook. If only I had a password protected slambook site, it would have been harder for her to confiscate my goods and send them over to principals office.

June 3, 2003

Goodbye Biella

Category: Personal — Biella @ 3:11 pm

I am out of Chi-town tomorrow and back in SF till the 16th of June. Come to my goodbye party Sat June 14th if you are in town at 8:00 pm at Ocean Beach. Bonfire karaoke. Think of it as romantic lighting for your singing.

I promise it will be a heck of a time. Here are directions and map

Disciplinary Heretics Manifesto

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 2:38 pm

Trevor wants to write a Disciplinary Heretics Manifesto to keep us academics from DD, disciplinary death, and DR, disciplinary rigidity. Great idea.

I have thought a lot about what causes DR and one thing that contributes is the need to establish one’s credentials and “make it” (aka, fight for tenure) which makes one often rigid or follow the disciplinary path too closely. That is, there is a sort of pressure to conform although one can also make ones mark though revolution, underturning and overturning that which can before you (Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions minimally discusses how younger generations of scientists help to usher in a new paradigm by overturning their views of their mentors as a means to establish their careers). But I think that is the exception. But once one gets tenure, one is supposedly in the structural position to think as one pleases, right? One would at least like to think that

June 1, 2003

Buzzing Beesof DGI

Category: Research — Biella @ 4:46 pm

So looks like everything is ok so I can actually post some new material. I find it hard to keep with the blog when I can’t do it from home and the house I am staying at right now does not have net access so I have to schlep to school to use the computers. So that also explains my recent absence among other things…

But really I have been busy in Chi-town working on a paper for what was a most excellent excellent conference organized by mr. golub who did a fine fine job playing the gracious host (which is what a conference organizer really is, a meta-host of sorts.

OK, so in brief, the conference was great because it was a venue of cross-pollination, bees of every kind buzzing with great talks, words, humor, and insight. Seriously, with theologians, gamers, economists, anthropologists, cultural critics, designers, linguists, and historians you will be stung by different perspective which is key when we analyze the so called net. Being pigeonholed in any hard and fast way to one main viewpoint is, imho, analytical death or at least analytical mundaness. So if anything being at a cross disciplianary conference like this gets you out of that entropic hole.


Category: Other — Biella @ 4:42 pm

I am in the process (or really some friends as this process has been pure hell) of migrating all my MT files to another server (free!!!) so I was not able to post until that was done. It has yet to be finalized so I thought I would post on the DGI conference etc. But first let me make sure this works for sure…