Saturday, July 12, 2014

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Oral culture, new media, memes, and porn

On 12.07.2014 18:10, Jon Ippolito wrote:
> That's hysterical, Dragan. Your preservation-via-meme approach reminds me of
> Olia Lialina's Last Real Net Art Museum--perhaps you are familiar with it? ;)

Well Jon, I might have heard about it, indeed :)

But have you heard about Animated GIF Model: Memoirs?


> The Re-collection chapter on Unreliable Archivists asks whether relying on such
> a popularity contest risks leaving posterity a history consisting of Nigerian
> bank scams and Paris Hilton videos. I'll give away our conclusion: the digital
> dynamic of "both/and" offers a way out of the unsatisfactory choice between
> democracy and value.
> Oh, and I amended the subject of this email to make it more likely to be
> archived by future spambots!

I very much appreciate that nothing seems off the table in this mailing list. :)

The meme and myspace comment images were a bit over the top, but I think, as
shown in the Geocities example, it doesn't have to be that frivolous, can be
rather controlled instead. Of course this doesn't work for all kinds of material
all the time. In general, it is not as simple and I made some crucial mistakes
in my examples. For instance, putting names of actual persons on the pictures is
wrong. Nobody wants to see those because they stop the images being useful as
communication tools. Instead, I should have put the authors in a GIF comment

GIF comments are a quite literal translation of a message attached to some other
data that does something else. It is not a hack, comment blocks are part of the
GIF standard, but hardly anybody ever looks at them. Some time ago, I was able
to get in contact with the creator of the famous animated dove, Moss Brooks.[2]
And that's only because he asked in the comment block of his GIF that everybody
should send him 5 dollars. He told me he never received a single donation and in
general nobody contacted him before because of the comment block. But everybody
copied and copied the GIF, including the comment block, and then, 20 years
later, I happened to have a look at one of the copies and found out some
interesting details about its creation, right from the source. The file was
probably small enough that nobody ever 'optimized' it by removing the comment block.

Once Henry Zemel pointed out to me that many old texts carved into clay tables
has survived, while many texts chiseled into stones of buildings are lost. The
usefulness of the carrier material was too high. A building would have been
deconstructed and the included texts destroyed or torn apart to build something
else out of the stone materials, once a building's purpose wouldn't make sense
anymore. But clay tables that are written in some ancient alphabet that is
unreadable: there is no sense in destroying them, they are already trash.

While in digital culture the preposition is totally different, the effects of
usefulness and trash are still good guidelines I believe. A digital artifact
that is very useful, but not at the same time worthless, will be altered. Video
for example is very useful, because everybody wants to see cats playing with
balls of wool, but it is also too 'precious' because of the complicated
logistics of actually handling it. Also, if a user wants to culturally engross a
video, it means to cut and re-encode it into a new version that probably doesn't
include the historic message anymore. A GIF animations of a dove is very useful,
but also worthless. There is no sense in transforming it into another file
format or shaving off a few bytes. If a user wants to use it in another context,
it just means to put one GIF next to another GIF, which is keeping the data intact.

Best greetings,


[1] Or forget about attribution all together, but artists also need to live.

[2] see <>
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