[-empyre-] Wired sustainability and Ambient Media

pierre at digitalstar.net pierre at digitalstar.net
Sat Apr 12 23:01:55 EST 2008

> Anyone else have any thoughts on open-source software as/ an aspect of a
> sustainable artistic practise?

Hi Ben,

My experience with open source as an artist has exposed me to its long
term goals based on utopian/socialist conceptions of community. It never
ceases to amaze me the amount of good-will that is poured into
open-sourced software projects....a phenomenon that exists in the physical
(often western, digitised) world as scarce commodity. Open source is the
computer equivalent of a clothing or second-hand swap meet - where people
gather to trade personal belongings or goods and no official currency
passes hands, a kind of barter system. This kind of free flow of knowledge
and tools is a threat to contemporary models of commerce, where a select
few make a disproportionate amount of money through little effort. A
friend of mine who is a Linux self-didact once made a wonderful
observation about the difference between MS Windows and Linux. He pointed
out that a relationship with Windows is easy and quick to establish, but
hollow and un-rewarding in the long term. Linux on the other hand is like
the stubborn, unpopular mysterious person standing in the corner that you
end up having a long-term and passionate affair with, despite the various
hiccups and frustrations the relationship serves up....but the experience
is vastly rewarding.

As an artist I rely almost exclusively on open source ideologies. Making
art with technology often involves subverting that technology. There is no
way to subvert a technology that offers itself as a "black box" or
proprietary impasse. What is even more subversive though is the sense of
community and sharing that it generates, virus-like. Sharing is a major
threat to profiteers, not just through electronic channels (peer to peer,
torrents) but through the non-monetary exchange of goods and services in
Open source projects are also often seen to support or revive older
technologies that are no-longer corporate secrets and have become public
domain, or are too outdated to be able to generate market profits (while
still being useful to many users).

Another thought - if you have access to (freely accessible) information
that instructs you on how to fix a broken electronic device, then you are
in a position to possibly fix it instead of immediately throwing it
away....and thus contributing to electronic land-fill.

So in summary - community + freedom of information are two elements
generated by open source that can lead to sustainable practices.


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