t byfield on 8 Oct 2000 06:06:20 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] [tbyfield@panix.com: [mediafest] a few unstreamed thoughts]

this is a message i sent to the list associated with the
net.congestion conf going on now in amsterdam. the archives
of the list are accessible on the egroups site, i think.


----- Forwarded 

To: mediafest@egroups.com
From: t byfield <tbyfield@panix.com>
Date: Sun, 8 Oct 2000 01:56:14 -0400
Subject: [mediafest] a few unstreamed thoughts

i've been looking over the archives of this list and see
some things that seem to be missing or misformulated.

first, there's a tendency to assume that 'streaming' is,
or at least is closely related to, materials that are in
some sense 'live'--new, breaking, innovative, etc. this
is a huge mistake, imo: one of the most important aspects
of streaming media is archival, precisely *not* 'live.'
at the moment, this isn't so clear, in part because of
the social context in which streaming is used in 'experi-
mental' ways, as a theoretical-practical prosthesis by
people with a broad interest in, for lack of a better
term, technoculure. at present, most 'archival' access
to streamed material takes the form of schedules (what
one group is doing during X period) or portals (what Y
people are doing 'now'). over time, as more materials
accumulate and present organizational problems, i think
this archival aspect will become clearer. it's clear to
me only because most of the streamed material i look at
is from ICANN meetings: in effect, the realfnord provides
a performative library within which to examine the docu-
ments, which in contrast are mute and monologic. these
were originally made available to facilitate at least a
simulacrum of remote 'participation'; but as time goes
by they facilitate something quite different, namely, 
historical analysis. it's worth considering this aspect
of materials produced with a 'live' or 'participatory'
audience in mind. if similar materials were available
for N5M 1-2-3, the metaforums, beauty and the east, and
so on, you'll clearly see what i mean, i think. the re-
sult is paradoxical, at once reifying and distancing 
the events but also making them more immediate; but,
whether one sets out to view something as 'historical,'
somehow capital-P Past, rather than as a 'living' or
immediate predecessor of one's context, the fact remains
that time passes and presents that predicament anyway.
in essence, then, streamed media--which even to those
quite familiar with them are new (hence the conf)--
introduce a subtle modulation to a lived chronotope,
in which efforts to bridge a spatialdivide transforms
into an artifact that bridges a temporal divide.

this transformation isn't new, in the sense that it's 
only a redux of what analog recordings have done for 
some time, decades now. but it *is* new in the sense
that the delivery mechanism is no longer a library but,
rather, a network: as such, it is a distributed library.
there are logistical concerns, sure, but in theory (fwiw),
this means that any streamed document can be anywhere
and go anywhere at anytime. thus, for example, i've
begun assigning streamed video to my classes, half be-
cause of the kontent, half to tacitly demonstrate that
it overcomes or circumvents the 'scarcity of resources'
problem that's such a logistical issue for libraries:
reserved books, photocopies, spatial/temporal/material
organization of texts. but this latter lesson is much
more conceptual, a sort of a footnote to the kontent
itself. but because streamed material tends to orbit--
again, because of the social implementation--around 
kontent, the transition from kontent-lesson to con-
ceptual lesson is quite easy. and it can easily be made
in other ways, for example, having my students figure
out a way to distribute paper documents to each other 
at the same time--a total mess, against which pointing
out the ease with which they can all watch a streamed
whatever stands in marked contrast. that contrast--be-
tween synchronous chaos and asynchronous cooperation--
is what i'm pointing at as a second suggestion here. 
there's lots of 'tragedy of the commons' blabla that
applies here, but the idea should be clear enough.

to pit's concerns about theorizing, which are at once
savvy and lackluster, i guess i'd say that the theories
will come, but only when material circumstances really
drive them. there was a bit of this when the mega suc-
cessful lingerie empire victoria's secret webcast lots
of mostly naked women strutting hither and thither. for
a brief moment, the structural (in a limited way: net-
work usage) fueled some speculation in economic terms.
those speculations weren't very interesting, i think,
because they were up to their neck, almost drowning, in
the compulsive-discursive need to reduce a broader un-
derstanding of anthropological-social-political specu-
lation to 'economics.' but the infrastructure of the 
net is quickly expanding to the point where it will be
able to handle streaming, and then the stronger factors
bearing down on streaming as an 'issue' will become more
visible. one of those will certainly be a central weak-
ness of the net, the push to move servers closer to the
backbone in order to speed things up, i.e., make the
net more 'transparent'--less of the lag associated with
TCP/IP networks as opposed to PSTN telephony, broadcast,
and so on. the bias here is clear: co-location costs a
lot of money, and consequently will tend to marginalize
'marginal' cultural efforts. this factor is strong 
enough to leave a profound mark, where almost everything
but steve jobs's lunacy and verve, has failed: the in-
dustrial design of computers. consumers get their bubbly,
sleek objects, but servers become as flat as a plank so
as to minimize their 'real-estate tax,' as though co-lo
facilities were assessed like buildings were in amsterdam
centuries ago: thinness prevails. this has nothing to do
with streaming media, except that it has everything to
do with streaming media--because those who do it for 
play rather than profit are relegated to the extremities
of the network, and the potential of their work remains
limited as a consequence. so here we find that theorizing
about streaming is limited--cruel irony--by the height
of your average sysop, who needs access to a server. 
if streaming media has a 'live' dimension, that's it, in
practical terms, hence in theoretical terms.

anyway, just a few thoughts. good luck, wish i was there.


To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

----- Backwarded

\|/ ____ \|/ 
@~/ oO \~@ 
/_( \__/ )_\ 

Nettime-bold mailing list