Monday 26 November 2007

Two Big Pictures

Had a brilliant couple of art moments yesterday, Sunday, and got to watch the Santa Parade as well! The first piece of art didn't so much sneak up on me as knock me down! It is The Ponsonby Madonna by Tony Fomison, recently acquired by the Auckland Art Gallery, courtesy of an anonymous benefactor. Whoever it was, can I offer my huge and grateful thanks. It is wonderful, and all I can do is urge you to go and see it yourself. I'd give you a picture but the database of Auckland Art Gallery seems to be down

It was as Hamish Keith the art consultant would say a great conversational moment. By this he means that wonderful moment of alchemy when you the viewer stand in front of a work of art and start a conversation - not so much with the artist, as the work itself.

Hamish Keith has his own version - beginning with his first encounter as a child with a Colin McCahon painting, The Marys At the Tomb. Of how , in contrast to his previous belief that all art was made by foreign people, not only could it made right here, but that the New Zealand landscape was a rich part of the story.

Curiously, this work is also show at the Auckland Art Gallery's stripped down version of itself while it camps in the New Gallery for the next couple of years.

Potato Eaters
Mine, although I doubt if I knew this was happening at the time, was with some of the pieces of the Potato Eaters, by Van Gogh - one of his early dark brooding numbers from his time in Nuenen, South Holland, before, as he famously put it, he went to Paris and found colour.

I saw it in the National Gallery of Scotland which sits on the foot of the Mound nestled under the castle, hard up against Princess Street, and the Gardens. I'd go there on a Sunday listen to Wendy Wood and her pals from the then deeply eccentric Scottish Nationalists, most of whom could double as James Robertson Justice on a bad day.

Caroline - Giacometti
I had another mega moment 20 years later with Caroline by Giacometti in the Tate Gallery on the Thames Embankment. It was the 80's, I was knee deep in a deeply introspective phase of my life living alone but in constant demand as one of the possibly interesting but uncomfortably haunted figures who colonised the kitchens of the almost famous of 1980's London.

I also ran a music pub which gave me lots of time off in the day. Occasionally I took myself off for a long walk along the Embankment and so to the Tate.

On one of those days, I got there, parked the hangover, and strolled along the corridor and met my match. Her name was Caroline. She didn't so much bowl me over as effortlessly swipe me to my knees.

That look! This was real haunted. This was genuine introspection. This was the business! And if I was serious, then sure she would have a conversation, but only if I would learn something from it. And I did. And, best of all, even although she has moved house, she is still there for me , waiting for me to pick up that conversation any time I like, here.

The Big Picture
Hamish Keith is still having that conversation. and we can share it, courtesay of his totally brilliant insights in his six part TV series, The Big Picture.

The second episode played last night. It was great - especially the totally riveting piece on the painted [as opposed to carved] whares of the East Cape.

The first episode was even better - it opened with the magnificent confidence of someone who didn't so much know his subject as breathe it as part of his reason for being in the world.
It's for others to call it seminal, or definitive - for me -its a masterwork by virtue of the authenticity of the voice, the strengh of its opinions, and the beautiful way the camera gives room for the works to come alive on the screen.

I've also managed a sneak preview of Episode 3. And, yes, again, he hits the mark straight in the middle - a judicious mix of his strong signature lines - art and culture is made by people not institutions and their masters - art is best served free and without interference or direction - and, best of all, that the artist speaks not just for us, but to us, if only we take the time to listen.

Well, I'm up for it. As for Mr Keith, though there is a book, its to hoped the DVD is out soon. As for the web rights - who knows - that dark pit remains as yet, undrained.

As for you gentle reader, if you haven't caught up with it, then 'tis time you did, because believe me, this series will travel.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Death of the Book foretold - again!

The news that Amazon has got into the electronic book trade with the launch of the Kindle has provoked the usual discussions as whether this is another step towards the death of the book - the demise of the printed page, and of course, the inevitable decline of literacy as electronic media takes over the world.

In short, bah humbug all round, as we stumble into another episode of the century old soap, The Good Old Days. On the note, I still take heart of the old monk who bemoaned the arrival of paper ["made from germ laden old clothes, you are kidding me!"] and that nothing would replace the smell of parchment.

Closer to home, and with considerable more focus, BookMan Beattie, rightly, has a pop at Pearsons/Penguin's determination to kill the old Reed publishing brand in New Zealand., and the replacement with the awkward Raupo Publishing.

For myself, the modest wall of books in our apartment is one of the great treasures of my life. However, I'm equally clear that this wall is it. If I want another book on the shelf - then something has to be taken of the shelf and put in the stack downstairs in the storage area. Occasionally I cull these, with Jasons Books my favorite stop.

And there's the rub. Books are always being culled - books are always going out of print - books are always being thrown out and abandoned. In short, they don't last for hundreds of years, unless they end up in the likes of the Turbull . End of story.

Or is it? Perhaps not - take a bow the Electronic Text Centre, et al who have just posted the following:

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
Collaboration between Victoria University's New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, the University Library's JC Beaglehole Room and the Alexander Turnbull Library has brought back to life some treasures from New Zealand's literary past.

As Associate Professor of English at Victoria University, Jane Stafford says, the collection of nineteenth century 'Maoriland' literature represents an important part of our cultural history.

She goes on, "Although the term 'Maoriland' can evoke a world of saccharine fantasy in which heroic Maori warriors and seductive Maori maidens inhabit outmoded Victorian literary forms, this colonial literature is lively, complex and significant, and marks the beginnings of a self-consciously New Zealand literature."

The hope is that by increasing access to these texts, the project will stimulate further scholarly examination and a wider appreciation for the importance of this period of New Zealand literary history.

The first thirty-two titles from the digital collection to have just been made available online and can be accessed along with an introduction by Jane Stafford.
Wonder what they will look like on a Kindle. Would be fun to find out!
If anyone has one can they let us know?

First Monday - first class source

I just received my monthly hit from First Monday, the ever excellent peer reviewed journal on Internet issues. I can get a little pomo on occasions, but it still a source of some thought provoking material.

Volume 12, Number 11 - 5 November 2007
The current version is here, and boasts the following:

The dynamics of Web–based social networks: Membership, relationships, and change by Jennifer Golbeck

An organization of impersonal relations” The Internet and networked markets by Holly Kruse

Trust but verify: Caution in the application of Internet–based research by R. Michelle Green

You have been poked: Exploring the uses and gratifications of Facebook among emerging adults by Brett A. Bumgarner

Hub and terminal: Developing a method for textual analysis on the World Wide Web by Christopher Paul

Machines in the archives: Technology and the coming transformation of archival reference by Richard J. Cox and the University of Pittsburgh archives students

Friday 16 November 2007

Pew on Globalisation

This report just came acorss my desk. I have a lot of time for the Pew People, so feel fine about recommending it without having read it properly. I for one am interested in the tie between technology and globalisation.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project: 2007 Report What does the world think about globalization and its many manifestations, economic or otherwise? Asking such a question is akin to opening up hundreds of cans of worms simultaneously, but the Pew Global Attitudes Project isn't afraid of taking on this topic. The latest Pew Global Attitudes survey of more than 45,000 people around the globe asked participants what they thought about economic globalization and its effect on their own country and others around the world. The survey also asked participants to offer their views on immigration, social issues, and various aspects of technology. (144p)
SOURCE: The Scout Report, 3 November 2007

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Internet Governance - waking the tiger

I'm in Wellington this week playing inside the beltway. It's a fascinating space, especially when, as in the past few days, you get to watch the various policy juggernauts position their rocket launchers around the Beehive, as they all jockey for preliminary pole positions for the upcoming budget round.

Inside the Beehive the politicians do what they do best - talk - argue - fight - annoy - and then try and settle for the best they can. And here's a secret. I like them. Yep - you heard. I actually like politicians, and can even , on occasion, be heard to say I respect a few of them.

I alsao know the alternative is Bagdad. I've always known this, ever since I was 14 years old. Two years later I was one of the youngest civil servants in the Scottish Office in Dover House, Whitehall. The Secretary of State for Scotland was Willie Ross.

He also had five or six other Minsters who reported to him. They in turn were constantly being briefed by senior civil servants who had come down on the night sleeper from Edinburgh to coach their respective masters on Scottish matters - including , education , health, development, and of course, the oldest of the oldest old trumpets, agriculture and fisheries.

I used to make the tea for all concerned, plus do the filing, plus run messages for one and all including picking up a new fishing net for Sir Douglas Haddow. It was a great time to be 16, espcially as a precursor to 60's London. And I learned heaps! Not least being, if politics matters - people matter more.

As for brains - they were a present - a gift - a lucky bag, and something you had no right to keep to yourself. And if you didn't use them properly, then you were wasting a gift that should have gone to someone who cared! I know - a wee bit over the top for the 21st post modern world, but hey, that's the Scottish way - end of story!

Peter Dengate Thrush
Wellington based Peter Dengate Thrush is someone who I suspect would need no introduction to this kind of thinking. He has just been elected Chair of the board of ICANN, the US-based organisation that globally coordinates the Internet’s unique identifiers.

Peter has been involved with ICANN since its inception in 1998. He has participated in the international working groups that lead to its formation, and has served on numerous ICANN committees. He is also a member in Internet NZ

I think he is a perfect person to help negotiate the future of ICANN. He is also going to need all of his well known supply of tact and patience to negotiate all the egos who will be popping out of the woodwork when the vexed question of Internet governance comes back into pay.

Those who follow this stuff will know this is one of the issues that nearly derailed the final session of WSIS [The World Summit on the Information Society]. The different sides played the issues for all they were worth - the USA claiming that the Internet was best left with their final say [ICANN's after all, despite their collegiate patina, exists by the grace and favour of the US State Department] .

Over in the UN, some more assertive voices claimed it was high time that the UN took a more active role in 'governing the Internet' - a point of view which however logical on the surface, quickly bogged down in the quicksands of freedom of expression and national identity, with some of energy and tension around this dynamic still on view at the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) site.

Internet Governance Forum
In the event the final upshot at Tunis was a compromise - everything would remain the same [read the USA collective sigh of relief here - and marvel at their arrogance] but that in the meantime, there would be a new international body, The Internet Governance Forum, which was tasked to at least keep the notion of a more collective governance alive, albeit on life support.

So far it has met once. The second meeting is next week in Rio. I'm bringing it to mind for four reasons.

First, the meeting and the isues are important. Second, since Tunis the USA has gone on a devasting ideological fishing trip which has seen all their credit points around global peace and justice go for a holiday. Third, Peter Dengate Thrush's elevation to the head of ICANN feels like the organisation has found someone with both the stamina and the mana to pick up the lost threads of the argument.

Oxford Internet Institute
Fourth, I came across this marvellous set of resources from the OII which puts some welcome energy back into the debate on how we intend to manage this glorious and totally wonderful, 'internet thing' - cos believe sometime soon, it as all going to come centre stage.

So for those who are interested - the homework trail is here - and yep - there just might be an exam down the way.

OII Resources

'Techno-politics, Internet Governance and some challenges facing the Internet'Working paper on Internet Governance by Terje Rasmussen (OII Visitor in 2007): It addresses the Internet as a terrain of 'techno-political controversies' which have influenced the development of the Internet since the start. Download the paper (pdf, 125kb):

Fragments: 'We have entered the fourth phase of the Net's history, characterised
by several opposing tendencies: increasingly advanced technical solutions that bring new terminals and platforms and a greater awareness of what the Net represents in a social sense, but also a closer legal and political intervention in the Net by the IT bureaucrats.'
'The Net's architecture assumed moral surroundings – which the same architecture's success is now in the process of weakening. An increasing number of functions are being installed on the Net to protect users against breakdowns, sabotage and contamination of information, but such measures distance the Net from its original principle.'

'Deciphering the Codes of Internet Governance
Dutton / Palfrey / Peltu: : Understanding the Hard Issues at Stake' Summary of an event organised around the topics of openness, security, diversity and access and providing an overview of the IGF and the issues it plans to address (Sept 2006).

'The emerging Internet governance mosaic: connecting the pieces'
Dutton / Peltu:
Summary of a forum attended by members of the WGIG Secretariat (May 2005).

You can see more OII governance work at:

Webcasts on Internet Governance
Much of OII research on Internet Governance has centred on a programme of seminars, forums and conferences. Resulting webcasts are listed below:

Internet Governance for Development: Focusing on the Issues
Focus: Summary of an event organised around the topics of openness, security, diversity and access and providing an overview of the IGF and the issues it plans to address. Open discussion (rec. 31 Aug-1 Sept 2006)

Recent Developments in FCC Internet Regulation
Focus: Summarising the swift move of the US Federal Commmunications Commission in removing old rules (common carriage) and imposing new ones (E911, CALEA), and assessing the current US debate about network owners' provision of a 'prioritized Internet' (rec. 18 April 2006)
Speaker: Susan Crawford (a member of the ICANN board of directors)

Internet Governance for Dummies
Focus: What aspects of the Internet need to be governed, and how effectively are ICANN, the IETF, and the ITU dealing with the key issues of Internet governance? (rec. 4 July 2005)
Speaker: John Levine (a member of ICANN's At Large Advisory Committee)

The Future of the Internet - and How to Stop It
Focus: What lies around the corner for the Internet, how to avoid it, and how to study and affect the future of the Internet using the distributed power of the network itself, using privacy as a signal example (rec. 25 April 2005)
Speaker: Professor Jonathan Zittrain
Webcast site:

Thursday 1 November 2007

Wiring the Urewera

I'm still processing all the inputs from the big trip to Australia last week. Feels like I just got off the plane, but nope, it's Friday tomorrow!

I'm spending it in Taneatua talking with Tuhoe on their world class digital ambitions, including their plans to wire the Urewera for wireless broadband. There is some government support for this [see here] . But mostly , this is all their own work, and a brilliant antidote to some of the other kinds of stories that have running of late. Oh - and by the by, though it might surprise, Te Ara makes it crystal clear how long the back story has been running!

Tuhoe is also going to be a showcase at the upcoming Digital Refresh Summit. It is worth checking out this event and see if it appeals? I understand there are still places - plus there have been some interesting ideas running around the pre conference build up - including some ideas to use Second Life. See here for the Summit blog.