November 29, 2008

Pathetic, Really (not Really, actually)

Category: IP Law,Politics — Biella @ 3:39 pm

So in my first year Human Culture and Communication class we will soon be having a class on disability and communication. I wanted to show a video on eugenics to provide some historical context but I just found out that all decent videos (or ones that I have seen and thought were decent) have been pulled down.
The one I am looking for in particular is a 10 minute video by Liam Dunaway.

I find it beyond despicably pathetic that an educational video, under 10 minutes long, is not available for people to watch. For x’s sake, if one cannot easily circulate this type of video, whose whole purpose is to educate, why even bother make it? These are times when I find copyright completely totally, fully, and also absolutely ludicrous. If you are going to make a 10 minute video on a political/educational subject like Eugenics, and you don’t consider freeing it up, then there is something really contradictory driving your creative desires.

update: I wrote the filmmaker and got the word that someone had uploaded the video on their account and inappropriately connected himself to the video and so the film maker has uploaded the same video here

Guide to life

Category: Humor — Biella @ 9:13 am

This is a great little book filled with everyday wisdom though I have to say, this is patently untrue (at least for me).

November 28, 2008

Delivering a message

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 6:37 pm

Russell I know this is odd but I have an email message for you (from someone else who can’t seem to successfully get it to you). If you would like it, drop me a line and I will pass it along. (I have no idea why they wrote me but..)

The worst of US cosumer culture

Category: Politics — Biella @ 12:31 pm

The very worst of the United States is summed up in this tragic story.

November 26, 2008

Hacking Spaces, the Spaces of Hacking

Category: Hackers — Biella @ 11:52 am

Space and place has long been important to hackers. Whether it was/is the university lab, the workplace, the hacker con, or the particularly high-tech city, hackers congregate and meet face to face, often and everyday. One semi-new development has been the explosion and proliferation of hacker labs and spaces, such as Noisebridge located in the Mission district of San Francisco Foulab in Montreal. I recently got back from San Francisco and was able to spend a few nights at Noisebridge and was jaw droppingly impressed. The space is, well, spacious and nice (and located right by the Bart, a real +++++), but more important is that it is a thriving collective with all sorts of geeky participants and they have just souped up the space with all sorts of equipment, from the usual suspects (lots of computers) to lots of electronic gear such as oscilloscopes.

What I also was impressed by was not only the blizzard of events but the open and accessible nature of the organization, which seemed to sit in some contrast to NYC’s hacker collective, NYC Resistor. Like so many organizations in this metropolis, they apparently are lacking in space to grow and the word on the streets (which I cannot confirm or deny as I have had very little contact with them but have heard this repeatedly) is that the organization has had a tough time letting in new members. Some folks are understanding of this given their space limitation, others have been less kind, and have referred to the group as a clique. There are already a few other initiatives under way to find a larger space so as to accommodate a more open, participatory atmosphere for a hacker space (sign up for the email list here but I imagine that over time the culture and developments of NYC Resistor will also change as new spaces develops and do hope that this creates the conditions for more access rather than less (and again, I know next to nothing of the situation though I suspect space plays a real limiting role as it does with nearly everything else in NYC).

And thankfully Rose White, a NYC-based sociology graduate student at CUNY, is paying close attention to the rise and development of these hacker spaces. She is well underway doing her dissertation dissertation on these hack spaces and I really look forward to her work.

update: The Axis of Awesome is a hacker space in L.A. and as far as I am concerned, dons the best name.

November 22, 2008

In San Francisco for the AAAs

Category: Academic,Travel — Biella @ 7:07 pm

, originally uploaded by the biella.

I have been in the beautifully dramatic city of San Francisco for a few days now to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and present at the AAA meetings, probably the single largest gathering of anthropologists on Planet Earth. I love seeing the friends, I love going to (some) of the panels, but I (totally) loathe trying to say something of substance in 15 minutes. A lot of my work in mired in esoterica (legally, technically, and culturally) and I am giving my short talk on protests against Scientology, the Lulz, etc. etc. and well, if you are in the know, I think I can pull it off in 15 minutes. If you are not in the know, it may strike as completely odd, esoteric, opaque but at least I can say I did it for the Lulz

November 16, 2008

The Quality of Time, Timeless Quality

Category: Quotes — Biella @ 7:56 pm

I love collecting quotes but I file most of them away in some file on my computer or distribute them in class. I thought I might start sharing some of my favorite passages/quotes. This one, which I read 3 years ago, reminded me of the craft-like spirit in Debian and Free Software in general. I like how the author brings together the themes of labor, time, quality, mistakes, intimacy and tools all in one swoop.

I refuse to be in such a hurry that I squeeze the aesthetic value out of everything just to gain a few minutes of time—time which will then just be filled with more rushing and more mass-produced, soulless junk. In the drive to achieve instant gratification, we have spent a century trying to shorten the learning curve and eliminate the chance of error in every human activity. There is much good in this, but something has been lost in the process. The Galoots are the guardians of that which was almost lost: the challenge of trying to master a skill that can never be fully mastered, the creative freedom that comes from intimacy with a medium as complex as wood, the sense of self-sufficiency that comes with knowing that you can make a useful object with tools so simple that you can make the tools too, and the peaceful mediation of trying to bring eye, hand, and wood together into harmony through finesse and understanding rather than brute force.

Quoted from Hohn (2005), The Romance with Rust, a Harper’s article on tool collectors. A Galoot “is a person with a deep passion for old hand tools, their ways, workings, and their history.”

Where have all the women gone?

Category: Academic,Geekitude,Gender,Hackers,Politics — Biella @ 5:54 am

Today, the NYT has an interesting piece on the declining numbers of women in the field of computer science. Ultimately the article presents a bleak picture but does not give a firm sense of why this is so (I think because it is so hard to answer).

I do agree that if girls are not hopping on the computer at a young age and are not using it as a tool for production (they do use it a social tool), they are always going to have trouble catching up to men. Many CS majors, not to mention most hackers, develop quite intimate relations with the computer from a young age and thus have a level of comfort and expertise they have is nothing short of astonishing. If women are not developing that expertise as children but only much later in life, there will always be two classes of citizens in computing. Men, in other words, are native speakers, while women learn computing as a second language.

The comment I agree with less is the following:

Ms. Cassell identifies another explanation for the drop in interest, which is linked to the pejorative figure of the “nerd” or “geek.” She said that this school of thought was: “Girls and young women don’t want to be that person.”

It seems to be that in fact in the 80s and prior to that, the only word in town to describe computer folks were nerds. But geek arose to take its place and in part to take away the pejorative sting. Geek is cool. Nerd is not. And geek is now associated with all sorts of computer cultures in a way that it was not before. So it seems to be that more than ever, there is a positive geeky association with computing so in fact this would open the doors to more people than before.

Getting the attention of large organizations

Category: Academic,Anthropology,Not Wholesome — Biella @ 5:41 am

A few years ago, I posted a story about my frustrations with Blue Cross Blue Shield. They were not coughing up the dough for a 4000 dollar bill and for the life of me, I could not get them to do it and I could not even get in touch with people in the organization to help me. After that post circulated, the Public Relations director wrote me and this helped me get the access I needed to eventually get all the money (it did take almost 3 years though and I should write about that but later).

Though the ethical stakes and scenario are totally different, I have had equal problems contacting someone, a live body, a person who might reply to an email, a person who might return a phone call, from the American Anthropological Association. Next week is their Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA and I am giving a presentation. I simply want to inquire whether there is A/V equipment in the room for if there is not, I need to do some serious shuffling of my talk because it is currently so dependent on the audio visual components.

Given that I coughed up $ 400 bucks (and some change) to be a member and to attend the zoo that is this conference, given that it costs money to fly there, given that it is a member supported organization, one would think that one could just get a simple answer to a simple question. I realize they are not staffed to field endless inquiries but it is a conference they are putting on and thus, I do expect an answer or basic information about the A/V equipment (which we also requested when we signed up) especially after 1.5 months of trying.

Anyhow, I am frustrated and I realize this is a really silly and small annoyance. But if no one ever calls them on it, there is no way for them to every change their archaic and pathetic ways.

November 14, 2008

NYC Info Law

Category: Academic — Biella @ 4:25 pm

NYC Info Law:

Know everything (nearby).

This is a compendium of news and New York City events of interest to IP, tech, privacy, communications, and legal-minded folk.