Saturday 31 March 2007

auckland writers festival opening for business

The new site for the 2007 Auckland Writers Festival is now live and open to your attention. The festival runs from May 24th to the 27th, 2007.

Creative Directors Peter Wells and Stephanie Johnson initiated meetings with a group of like-minded friends in order to set up the first Auckland Writers' Festival in 1999. The Festival is now run by the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival Charitable Trust. Its now an annual event. This year at the Aotea Centre.

This years web site is at there is a lovely email newsletter, subscribe on site, which is part of the great work down by the festival staff Jill Rawnsley, and Shona Gow.

Believe me, this newsletter has fans .

Christchurch City Library did a brilliant write up on the 2005 festival. THey even sent one of their staff to cover it. I thought this was a brilliant idea at the time, and totally encourage a repeat performance both by them and other libraries.

The Festival organisers, also love volunteers: duties include include backstage, front-of-house and author signing management. It's good fun, and you get to meet plenty of interesting people and, heat, you might want to blog it.

There is also a T shirt! Who could refuse Contact the Festival Office for more details, and to get involved. 09 376 8074

As for the web site - check out the new my festival feature etc. Oh - and by the way - this is a mcgovern online fully sponsored gig . It is our contribution to the world of Auckland books - writers and readers - and yeah - you bet, I'm biased. That web address once again?

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Telecom: privatise the profit , socialise the risk ?

My apologies. I have three major posts in the stack - or at least major to me: first, a piece exploring web 2.0, what it means to me, and how I believe we might be using the tools as a social and public good: second, AK07- especially around the fun and games of Turbulence: third, some thoughts on the next stage of TVNZ Ondemand.

These, however, are waiting for some time, the most precious commodity in my life, to say something useful, and hopefully, interesting.

Right now though, all this can wait while I interject to express my stone cold astonishment at the report in the NZ Herald yesterday on what Telecom might be planning to do with their windfall profit on The Yellow Pages sale .

"Telecom shareholders are in line for a billion dollar windfall from the company after the $2.24 billion sale of its Yellow Pages directories business to a private equity consortium"

This golden [to the Telecom shareholders] shower is followed by a quote from a telecom analyst which also reckons Telecom is considering using $400 million to purchase Powertel, the Australaian network company, and another A300 million ($347 million) to retain its 19.9 per cent stake in Hutchison Telecommunication Australia's 3G business.

I'm not sure if the first $400 is Australian or kiwi - but the bottom line is that about $2 billion NZ [say it slow] is being used for shareholder return, and to fund an expansion plan to Australia.

Just what is going on here? If these figures are correct then Telecom seems to be saying - upgrade the New Zealand network - sorry - nope - upgrading the DSL infrastructure - forget it - sorting out the backhaul bottlenecks? Not interested!

Privatise the profit - socialise the risk.
In short a perfect working example of my title [acknowledgement to David Cunliffe, NZ Minister of Communication , from whom I first heard it] - privatise the profit - socialise the risk.

Sorry -but unless someone can tell me what I am missing here - I think this is a scandal.
End of story!

Friday 16 March 2007

The arts make you smart

Three acknowledgements. first to Hard News for the link to the Frontseat TVNZ arts programme. Second to Frontseat for the interview. Third to the new national arts spokesman, Chris Finlayson, for his enthusiasm, and the great strap line - the arts make you smart! Love it. To bits!

That said, and yep - here comes the caveat - I was totally disappointed to hear an arts spokesperson, of whatever persuasion, still concentrating on critiquing their opponents for not supporting the Venice Biennale - praising up their own contribution in the past to the building of TePapa - talking up symphony orchestras as being "up with the best" - and even praising their opponents for an arts recovery package, which, however welcome at the time, was 100% analogue in its reach and intention.

I can't help myself - I just have to take myself to the nearest cold pond and jump in to calm myself down - its just too too painful to listen to another deafening silence on anything remotely digital - National doesn't have to have a current response to the future of Te Ara - NZLive - NZ Digital Strategy , or whatever - but it would have been some kind of comfort to actually hear the words "digital and online" once!

Saturday 10 March 2007

Hustle for Russell

Way back in the mists of time, okay, circa, 1992/3, the only internet access for the likes of you and me was through a shell account with ICONZ - then housed in downtown Auckland, in a huge first floor windowless cave of a room with a huge table covered in computer terminals. As for the cabling - well let's just say OSH would have had apoplexy.

Sitting at, or hovering around this table, you'd find, many of the faces/names who would, in time, become local internet legends.
Most of them were there because they got to hang out and learn - or had something to contribute; or, like me, really needed to understand this internet thing, because they were convinced it was going to change, as David Merritt, one of the resident legends of the aforementioned cave, would have said, " a whole bunch of stuff".

In those days - says he with an old mans drawl - there was a shell command [which I forget but would love to re-learn] which when called from the prompt line of your own home terminal, would produce a list of the logins of who was online on the ICONZ node alongside you. One of those was almost always Russell Brown.

And yep - he was there for you if you had a question, or something you wanted to share.
Since then, I reckon there must be hundreds if not thousands of logins/users to our local internet who has benefited from his quiet musings, but loud insights, on the internet revolution.
I know I have.

Also, his blogging community, public address, has shown the rest of us what web 2.0 can do in terms of influence and opinion.

So - for me its time to pay some dues - you might like to join me - here's the link - or - click the picture.

Thursday 8 March 2007

Building a New Zelaland digital Library

It has been a very busy ten days since the New Zealand Library summit which I mentioned below. My apologies for the delay in making a post on it. Believe me, it was quite a gig, and definitely created a few conversations, some of which will, I guarantee, continue.

Held in Wellington, the Summit brought together one hundred decision makers and thought leaders, representing libraries (35% of attendees), local government (35%), central government (10%), and business, community, education, media and civil society (20%).

They came to discuss public libraries, debate, and deliver ideas for the future.

The big draw card was to be David Lammy, the UK Government’s Minister for Culture, but his leave was cancelled by the UK parliamentary whips, leading to lots of speculation as to whether a reshuffle was on the cards. This didn't eventuate.

In the event he still delivered his message, courtesy of an MP3 podcast. It was a great speech - lots of accolades for the key role public libraries play in the UK - with a very strong endorsement of their purpose - recreation - learning for life - building communities - capturing local heritage, and combating social exclusion.

The latter phrase isn't something we hear much of in New Zealand. Instead we have closing gaps, or arguing for, or against, the existence of underclasses.

The Brits, being at heart thwarted train drivers or engineers, with the odd philosopher and novelist for ballast, prefer action verbs, and hearty problems which they give new names - like social exclusion.

Me I prefer good old fashioned phrases like deprivation, inequality, inequity, sink estates, and the poverty of ignorance and discrimination.

Then you can get up a proper head of outrage, and a determination to do something about it, as well as keeping really close to what already works - like well resourced public libraries offering handholds out of the dustbin of deprivation!

I also have no problem with new phrases like life long learning, or learning for life, and think the publication of Learning to Be was one of the few moments of interest in the early 70's - and, yep, I've seen Life on Mars.

Believe me the real thing was far more scary, at least it was in the likes of Pilton in Edinburgh. So no worries from me - if that's what you need to call it to get the attention of Westminster policy wonks , who, in turn, can unbundle Treasury coffers, then combating "social exclusion' and "building social capital", will do it for me any day.

The other keynote speaker was Chris Batt, head of MLA. I have talked of Chris before. He is always a welcome visitor from the UK, especially given his leadership around the UK Peoples Network.

I also totally rate this mans focus - his passion for libraries - museums - archives - and his determination that MLA , under his watch, holds onto "the knowledge bit" i.e. building, protecting and creating what he calls, 'knowledge frameworks'. - i.e. community owned institutions where ideas, imagination, memory, and information are given a space where people can reflect on, and so re/create/make their common purpose/future.

I also admire his grasp of the detail on how to create institutional change inside government. But you also get an impression that when he stops making a difference, he will just step outside and find other ways of pursuing his agenda.

people - communities - digital
Two elements of this bigger agenda I share with him: that people and communities are at the heart of knowledge institutions/frameworks; and that digital pathways, or the opportunity to build new digital institutions as a parallel path to new kinds of community and cultural good, is one of the key challenges to knowledge institutions/frameworks everywhere, including New Zealand.

In this analysis, it goes without saying, that, for me, public libraries, are a part of this.

However, it needs to be a public library framework with the institutional , cultural and professional clout to pick up and run with this challenge. In short, saying it doesn't do it!

To start doing it we need to make sure that the momentum of this summit really does make a difference.

Do we have a roadmap? Not yet - but to get to highroad some paths/recommendations did appear at the summit that need attention at both national and local government level.

-The need for high quality bandwidth in schools and libraries - i.e. join the
KAREN network as a matter of right.
- Support for the Aotearoa New Zealand People’s Network - i.e. get the current pilot up to a national offer
- The need to address equality in services delivered by urban and rural libraries
- The urgent need for common tools and services across local, regional and
national boundaries.
- The need for a national digital library which fits into a
bigger strategy to get New Zealand online.

More on this , of that you can be certain.

death in the matrix

The death of the philosophic father to the Matrix, Jean Baudrillard, came into my view as a set of incomplete alerts - blogs - news reports - journals - as if, in taking it in, I was playing out one of his theories - the news of his death a manufactured and then re manufactured series of hyperlinked layers.

And for the record, as is perhaps not surprising, the UK Guardian bloggers hit the best obituary note, while for loving intellectual density, you have to give it to 1000 days of Theory, from the sometimes provocative, but almost always interesting, . If you go there, don't forget to drop into the digital library.

And if this makes no sense, then I guess, it vindicates that old french philosophic saw, " life - ah yes, its fine in practice, but does it work in theory"

As for me, apart from getting a chance to revisit the sometimes oxygen starved regions of post -post structuralism, it was also a chance to discover yet another of wikipedias many gems - take this entry - and then afterwards marvel at the determination of the author[s] to do , and say something useful with his/their spare leisure hours.

Saturday 3 March 2007

web. 2.0 dissenter?

I subscribe to a curious,and always interesting web newsletter, from Rhizome, whose mission is to, among other things/stuff, connect techology with art. Their latest has just come in. I thought this piece might interest:

March 2, 2007
As the Web Turns
It's safe to assume that artist Seibren Versteeg, whose work deals with the overwhelming amount of information in our lives, was not swept up in the Web 2.0 frenzy that pulsed through the MSM and the blogosphere this past year.

'Nothing Was,' his solo exhibition at Max Protetch gallery in New York, takes a more critical approach to the increase of content online. 'Time Waits For No One' (2007) presents Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year issue with the phrase 'No. 1' written in black marker over the cover's reflective surface -- designed to honor the digital everyman or, officially, 'You.'

The marker, which also selectively crosses out other text on the page, playfully inscribes the persistence of an ego-driven culture onto an issue that celebrates a new kind of 'digital democracy.'

One of two generative videos in the show, 'As The World Turns' (2006) features the artist chain smoking at a small table and holding up cue cards onto which the daily synopsis of the American soap opera is live-fed.

The large-scale print 'Something for Everyone' (2007) features 300,000 Google image results that appear like colorful specks in a landscape that seems to stretch on infinitely. In this piece, and throughout the show, the artist questions what is gained and also what is lost in a culture in which visual information is proliferating daily. - Lauren Cornell March 2, 2007