An interview with 0100101110101101.ORG about life_sharing
Q.: In your text describing the project, you mention that ‘A computer, with the passing of time, ends up looking like its owner’s brain’. Do you mean this in the way that any collection of objects of a certain type (ie books; bathroom cupboards full of half-used and failed rejuvenating cosmetics; boxes of toys; etc.) begins to provide material from which ideas and generalisations about a person can be extrapolated? Or, do you go further and suggest that in the augmentation of human by computer, the particular collection of data objects provide at least one of the means by which a person is ‘themselves’?
A.: A computer is less and less an instrument of work. With a computer one share time, one’s space, one’s memory and one’s projects, but most of all one shares personal relationships. This flow of information passes through the computer – all our culture is going to be digitised. Getting free access to someone’s computer is the same as getting access to his or her culture. We are not interested in the fact that a user can ‘study 0100101110101101.ORG’s personality’, rather in the sharing of resources, it’s a matter of politics more than of ‘psychology’.
With life_sharing, 0100101110101101.ORG reveals its mechanism. It sets its kernel free and all the functions that concern it, in the same way as a programmer who frees the source code of their software.
It is not only a show. It’s not like looking at Jennicam. The user can utilise what he finds in our computer. Not only documents and software, but also the mechanisms that rule and maintain 0100101110101101.ORG: the relations with the Net; the strategies; the tactics and the tricks; the contacts with institutions; access to funds; the flow of money that comes in and goes out. All must be shared so that the user has a precedent to study. From this learning, concrete knowledge – that normally is considered ‘private’ – can be transformed into a weapon, a tool that can be reused.
Q.: Following on from this, I/O/D has a slogan, “Stop the Anthropomorphisation of Humans by Computers.” By this we mean that the pattern of ‘personalisation’ that users effect on the computers they use are pre-empted and formatted by software designers. The kind of person allowed for by the personal computer is a rather limited version of what we and computers might be. What do you think the consequences of becoming networked are in this context?
A.: life_sharing is an evolution in comparison with the traditional “Anthropomorphisation of Humans by Computers.” One of the ideas at the roots of life_sharing is exactly the abolition of one of the levels of simulation which separate one user from another: the website. A website, except in rare cases, is an interface that simplifies the exchange between users, making the contents ‘easier’ to use. This trivialisation is called ‘user friendliness’, and it is often inspired by paper: the format of pages, indexes and so on. life_sharing proposes a deeper relation. It’s like a ‘lower level language’ that abolishes this simulation, allowing the user to directly enter one’s computer, to use the data in their own time-space.
The abolition of this particular simulation opens many possibilities for using the data contained inside the computer. However, it is naive to think that it is possible to completely avoid simulation. Any language, for programming or not, is symbolic. It exists to mediate, to communicate.
Websites are only periodically updated, generally via ftp. The bulk of the contents of the Internet are not accessible in real time. There is a strong ‘delay’ from the time a file (a piece of news, an image, a sound) is ‘produced’ to the time when it is actually accessible from the Net: the time of formatting and upload. life_sharing avoids this ‘delay’, permitting access in real time to its contents. The user can even get to know some data (i.e. e-mails or logs) earlier than 0100101110101101.ORG, by connecting to life_sharing while we aren’t at the computer.
Q.: In comparison with the project to generate a mythopoesis about the invented Serbian artist Darko Maver, pulling a multi-authored hoax on the art-world, this work seems to be a very gentle and beguilingly simple intervention – which is very welcome. It clearly follows more closely from your work duplicating the data from various internet art sites but shifts, moving data from one context of availability into another, but instead proffers up the data from your own computer. It seems that these projects offer a form of work that is not concerned with representation so much as directly creating new arrangements, of patterns of life, of the availability of data, and so on. What possibilities does operating in this way open up?
A.: Until now, 0100101110101101.ORG has attacked what in general seemed to be in open contradiction with the evolution of the Net, focusing on cultural production and on the inaccessibility of information. The websites involved were not targets for attack but instruments to highlight some paradoxes of the Net. The duplication of hell.com, for example, provoked a radical change in their approach, avoiding password protection and the pay-per-view method.
With life_sharing, 0100101110101101.ORG launches release 2.0. In other words, passes from a critical position to a positive one. From this moment, we will propose new ways for the production and distribution of culture, furnishing alternative models to the current ones and bringing together the cultural, political and commercial aspects of life. life_sharing is not the ends. It is the means.
Q.: A clear implication of the life_sharing project is the breach of the boundary between personal and public life and between personal and public data. Is there any risk in this, or have you entirely sanitised, or even fabricated the data you make available? What are the consequences for the way you work, communicate, and live generated by this openness of process?
A.: life_sharing is 0100101110101101.ORG. It is its hard disk entirely published, visible and reproducible by anybody: public property. 0100101110101101.ORG will not produce material explicitly as ‘content’, except where it is technically required. We will use the computer as we have always done. Naturally, it is impossible to ignore that we are so ‘opened’. Any internal or external connection modifies the entire structure and thus affecting the project itself. For example, in the manner of acting and expressing.
Consider the increasing tendency towards intrusion in the private sphere – not only by big corporations – and the consequent efforts of people trying to preserve their own privacy. 0100101110101101.ORG believe firmly that privacy is a barrier to demolish. life_sharing must be considered a proof ad absurdo. The idea of privacy itself is obsolete. A computer connected to the Net is an instrument that allows the free flow of information. This is its aim. Anything blocking this free flow shall be considered an obstacle to be overcome. 0100101110101101.ORG solves the dualism between public and private property. It proposes an empirical model that fosters the free distribution of knowledge that grants, at the same time, its fruition.
From now on, the product of 0100101110101101.ORG will be its own visibility. life_sharing is the root under which will come other services, all directed to show to what degree our life can be monitored. We want to show as many forms of data as possible on us: not only in the transparency of the hard-disk, but also by analysing economic transactions: the use of credit cards; physical movements; purchases. 0100101110101101.ORG will show the enormous amount of information that it is possible to find on a person in the present society.
Q.: Further in this vein, some of the material is relatively intimate information, forms for the avoidance of national service for instance. How do these forms of personal information conflict with the anonymous collective form of manifestation, which you adopt as a group?
A.: In all probability, by activating life_sharing our anonymity will fade, since in our computer there are many documents, e-mails or contracts, which contain our real identities. In any case, life_sharing has the priority over anything else, anonymity as well. It is an operative system under which an infinite number of other functions can run, never compromising this one. The war of secrecy (cryptography, anonymity and so on) is unfortunately a losing battle. The big corporations will always have at their disposal more sophisticated means than the average user, more calculation capacity, more control through satellites. It is possible to maintain anonymity only to a superficial level. After a certain level it is no longer possible. Any economic transaction, any purchase or sale, any human relationship, is based on documentation. The more this society grows to depend on computers the more this process will be facilitated. 0100101110101101.ORG’s real strength is its visibility. The only way to avoid control is data-overflow – to heap up and multiply data to the point that it becomes extremely difficult to isolate and interpret. Any time you switch on your computer, any key you type, any file you save, something is automatically written somewhere in the maze of your computer. Everything is logged. In systems like Linux this is visible. You only have to look at the bash history or to the access log. Each action is potentially reconstructible with absolute precision. This must be considered.
0100101110101101.ORG uses and makes visible the aesthetic of this flow of data. The functionality of a computer is an aesthetic quality: the beauty of configurations, the efficacy of software, the security of system, the distribution of data, are all characteristics of a new beauty. life_sharing is the result of aesthetic discipline applied everyday. It is the actualisation of the idea of ‘total work of art’ – gesamtkunstwerk – in other words, the dream of modelling reality through aesthetic canons.
Q.: Do you intend life_sharing to become an extensible system, one that can be taken up by other people or is it a one off?
A.: The diffusion of life_sharing to anyone who wants to adopt it, as an operative system, is surely one of its potentials. However, the total sharing of one’s computer is not, nowadays, easily achieved. To entirely share your computer you need a server and extremely expensive fast network connections.
Some operating systems and software (i.e. MacOs9, Napster and Gnutella) are developing this sharing potential. At the moment, the biggest technical problem is the cost of telephone lines. It is predictable however that these costs will come to be more within the reach of the average user. (As happened with the modem connection.)
Q.: In life_sharing, you invoke the GNU Public License (GPL) a particular form of license for software developed by the Free Software Foundation. This license allows users of a piece of code to make changes to it, to adapt it for their own purposes, so long as they then make those changes publicly available to other users and do not ‘close’ the code as it develops. The GPL is a document that has excited interest outside of programming circles, providing a link to other takes on collective or open authorship, redefinitions of copyright, intellectual property and so on. It is its particular status as a document that I’d like to ask you to comment on. GPL seems to be formed at the meeting point between two different dynamics which, in another context, Toni Negri names ‘constituent power’ and ‘constitutional power’. The GPL is a technical document that forms the basis of a particular range of working practices. As a form of constituent power, it is both a manifestation of the fecundity of collaboration and – at the present time – an insurgent reinvention of the form of property. Equally, existing as it does in the form of a license, a contract, GPL relies on the constituted power of social stasis and normalisation. It is based on an immediate appeal to Law. It is this latter aspect of it which meshes so well with the determination to treat software as simply another variant on capitalist forms of property and GPL as simply a more useful means of generating such property. Constituent power on the other hand is the amorphous and ambivalent power of change, of the social in the process of mutation. (This at once means that it also encompasses emergent sections of the bourgeois, what is inventive and seductive in the rhetorical figure of the ‘entrepreneur’ deployed so much around e-commerce for instance.) For Negri there is no lasting accommodation between constituent and constitutional power. There is no synthesis onto a higher plane of compromise. I suspect that it is this sense that there is more to it, that there’s more coming, more mutation, more space for profound invention that makes GPL and other systems like it attractive to take up as models for development in other contexts. Given this, I’d like to ask a couple of things. Firstly, is your use of GPL in the description of the life-sharing project accurate, or (besides the project’s explicit use of software released under GPL or open source licenses) is it more along the lines of an allusion? If so, what is it that you use GPL to point towards? What do you see lying beyond it? (In the case of life_sharing and other projects, I suspect that although they use GPL as a ‘model’ they may actually do something rather different, rather more. One of the ways this happens is that they do not make an appeal to Law as a basic condition for their function. Here I mean Law in both senses, that of ‘absolute right’ in that GPL is somehow seen as being transcendentally correct in some circles, rather than as being something operating within a specific historical setting; and the more direct sense that, as it exists in the form of a legal document, it allows a route into this apparently ‘freely’ constructed relationship for the state.)
A.: The fact of adopting Linux as operating system and consequently the GPL license, is absolutely not an allusion, but the result of political choices, and for technical and legal reasons. First of all, it is necessary to make some distinctions. life_sharing contains stuff produced under three different licenses:
- GPL: GNU General Public License. It is the general license created to protect free software. All the software adopted in life_sharing is covered by GPL. http://www.gnu.org
- Copyright: applied only where specified, on files not produced by 0100101110101101.ORG but protected by traditional copyright, i.e. certain articles or texts.
- We are working, together with a lawyer, to develop a license that we want to apply to all the files in which no other license is specified. This license is directly inspired by the GPL but will be extended to all cultural products, granting the possibility of:
- using the product
- modifying the product
- distributing copies, modified or not, of the product (freely or with payment).
This license also prevents the addition of any restrictions – avoiding the possibility of products covered by this license being added to or combined with any other products under any different form of license.
Up until now, 0100101110101101.ORG has not placed any of the things it did under copyright. First of all, because 0100101110101101.ORG has never produced anything.
0100101110101101.ORG only moves packages of information, diverts their flow, observes changes, and eventually profits from it. Visibility is the real problem of the Net. If someone uses your music, your words or images, he is only doing you a favour.
Many people have spontaneously reused 0100101110101101.ORG (www.plagiarist.org, www.geocities.com/maxherman_2000/hell.html, www.message.sk/warped). If someone else profits from 0100101110101101.ORG, it’s because of their own merit. In the end, it is doing the same as what we did: profit is always inevitably mutual.
Q.: Yes, so this is this surplus, happening also in the economy of visibility. Developing this, it seems there are two basic forms of approach to the knot of problems pointed to by the terms appropriation / plagiarism / anticopyright etc. One is illustrated by Hegel when he says, in ‘Elements of the Philosophy of Right’, “To appropriate something means basically only to manifest the supremacy of my will in relation to the thing.” The other approach is the generation of contexts where, not the imposition of will, but the creation of dynamics of circulation and use which have greater or lesser degrees of openness prevail. (A different formulation of this might be found in the statements of anti/copyright commonly used in the underground and radical media in Italy and elsewhere, where copyright is open to further non-profit users, or for participants in social movements, but closed to proprietary reproduction. Thus, on the ‘inside’ an open context is created, but the proprietary weapon of copyright is still maintained for use against for-profit use. The fiction of the will is used in this sense as a legalistic shield in order, in essence, to dissolve it.) Do these two forms correspond in some way to the two modes of operation which you have spoken about?
A.: The fact that 0100101110101101.ORG is explicitly no-copyright is surely strictly linked to commercialisation, but not in the sense in which it is often used. It is common to mistake ‘no-copyright’ for ‘no-profit’. 0100101110101101.ORG is compatible with monetary retribution, under different forms. life_sharing, being a project financed by an institution, is one of these. ‘Free’ software, Negativland’s music, Wu-Ming’s books, are all examples of cultural products that have been able to reconcile the no-copyright model with commercialisation. No-copyright is no longer solely an underground practice, but a wider cultural ‘production standard’.
This means, in the first place, being conscious that your own knowledge is not innate, but that it is a synthesis of different cultural products. Recognising this means making our own knowledge shareable and thus usable not only by ourselves but by anyone, even commercially, imposing simply that nobody can subsequently restrict this possibility to others.
The problem of copyright is increasingly more important. It deals not only with software, art or music, but is invading every field of human life. Let’s consider for example, the field of genetics. In 1987, in apparent violation of the laws that govern the concession of patents on natural discoveries, a revolutionary decree was made in which it was declared that the components of human beings (genes, chromosomes, cells and tissues) could be patented and considered the intellectual property of anybody who first isolates a length of DNA, describes its properties or functions, proposes an application and pays some money for a patent. This implies that, for example, when a person wants to have a genetic code test, they may have to pay a percentage to the company that holds the copyright of one or more of their genes.
“Manifest the supremacy of my will in relation to the thing” This signifies that all the times that it is necessary, every time we found ourselves in front of a distance that doesn’t belong to us, that we share a book, a film, an idea, we can say: “It is mine! I did it!”