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29th Apr 2013

Discussion: Internet Archive Tumblr Residencies

Facebook Thread

by Nicholas O’Brien and Anthony Antonellis

image

The Internet Archive Is Accepting Applications for
virtual “residencies” at http://internetarchive.tumblr.com

Discussion with Ian Aleksander Adams,
Volunteer Community Architect at the Internet Archive
via NetArtNet.Net on Facebook

Nicholas O’Brien 

why bother with tumblr? just do this in your own platform…?

Ian Aleksander Adams

for us, the result is a lot of people putting out things from the internet archive and showing different unexpected ways the resource could be used - for them, it’s a challenge to make something creative with the medium that says something, culturally and by design, about what they think is worth sharing and saving. Just archiving information isn’t enough, if we never use it or make it accessible.

Tumblr allows people to very easily take something they are excited about and add it to their own collection, their personal url, kind of a personal archive - while still linking it back to the source and through a path of other people. This allows content from the archive to go through not only the visual and curatorial sensibilities of the person who originally posted it, remixed it, re-contextualized it, etc, through their residency, but also through anyone else who decides to add it to their personal tumblr.

Also tumblr has an interface that makes it easy for even coders just starting out to create a template (and for expert coders to quickly create something amazing) - we do not have this built into archive.org and it’s not a function we’re looking to add to archive.org - in terms of our platform, we’re currently working on overhauling a major system that hasn’t had a redesign in 15 years and currently gets 3million uniques a day - that we don’t want to confuse or redirect too badly - so that’s a major project we’re working on, this is a side project that we hope will allow some community engagement and learning opportunities.

and finally, all our real funds go towards archiving, storing information, etc - all the hours put into this project helping others and getting it working will be volunteered by myself outside of my normal commitments. (though maybe we’ll get a grant or something that will allow me to put in more time and put aside some freelance work.) 

Nicholas O’Brien 

uggg… so many missteps in cultural programming by using tumblr… using an engine that homogenizes aesthetic and content for the sake of individualistic/narcissistic “curatorial sensibilities” is IMHO a sorry excuse for “spreading the content” of the yesteryear web

Ian Aleksander Adams 

Honestly, I’m not sure I see exactly what you’re saying there. this netartnet.net post (and conversation) is on facebook, isn’t it? 

I’m interested in putting out the archive’s resources and mission (universal access to all knowledge) through any platform people are using to access information. People use tumblr to access information, therefor I’m doing a thing on tumblr. People are excited about it and enjoy it and have made beautiful and unexpected things on it. 

Actually, I’m not exactly getting how tumblr ‘homogenizes aesthetic and content’ at all - any more than any other information dispersal system.

Also, please explain what you mean by ‘yesteryear web’ in this context?

Nicholas O’Brien 

wtf does facebook have to do with my serious misgivings about this project, I can voice it where I please and this post made me realize i hadn’t in previous opportunities…

also, “universal access to all knowledge,” seems hubris at best, and naive at worst, looking at contemporary net-activisism can give some perspective on the difficulties/problematic of such access. Unilateral exposure to information does not guarantee beauty, and this assumption that access to information spread beauty is also a dangerous presumption…

Ian Aleksander Adams 

yeah, of course you can voice it here - i was mentioning that we are using an engine right now, that’s all. 

Universal access to all knowledge is an ideal that is inherently unattainable, and like all idealistic ideas, if pushed to extremes becomes dystopia. We’re not interested in ripping thoughts from people’s minds, Nicholas. We’re interested in allowing people easy access to educational and cultural resources necessary for society to move forward - and have had recent successes with JSTOR finally donating articles, just scanning a big collection of 1400s (I think, might have been 1500s) manuscripts, and archiving a bunch of software and manuals from the 90s. This seems like a good thing to make available publicly, which is what we do. 

As for tumblr, it seems what you are talking about are restrictions. Restrictions are inherent in any platform and sometimes extremely restrictive systems encourage creativity. A haiku, for example, is a restrictive form many people continue to use to varying amusement. Tumblr is what it is - and we are going to see what comes of it.

Nicholas O’Brien

the homogenizing happens in the dashboard, where the creativity of any given programmer or user is reduced into the same image display as any other default theme/template….

why bother with this reductive platform, when you can opt for something more radical. also not all information dispersal systems are homogenized, that is why they are continued to be explored and invented, but i know that’s prolly not ur point…

Anthony Antonellis

tumblr, as a network has a pre-existing huge audience. using another platform could allow less restriction, but on a dialogue involving remixing, using a platform uniquely known and used for it makes sense.

especially for things like cloaque, where it uses the daisy chain feature, and all but ignores the appearance via dashboard

Ian Aleksander Adams

I think it’s interesting to note that tumblr gives (at least) two unique views for all your content. Even if people only see it on your front page and in the dashboard, that’s two different ways the information works - then it can also be seen in contexts beyond your control, where it may become something completely different. 

Many of the tumblr projects I enjoy (even cloaque, because you mention it Anthony, which I think is really designed for the front end) still are enjoyable through the dashboard - my cloaque is up right now, actually, and it’s enjoyable to see which pieces of the compositions get the most attention and work the best as individual chunks (and when designing it, I put thought into this, ideally making sure that content I considered ‘important’ wasn’t cut off or awkwardly composed in the dashboard view.)

Nicholas O’Brien

well… idk, good luck, i think that kowtowing to a platform like tumblr just reduces the work to a prescriptive/reductive platform of user generated hodge-podge, or at least I find it that way, and it’s hard to access work (on either the front end or on the dashboard) in a meaningful way given that the demanding quality of the network creates an a user base of instant gratification and surface value research.

In other words, The internet archive deserves better.

Ian Aleksander Adams

Nicholas, I don’t see how we’re kowtowing by letting people use our publicly available resources on a public platform that the public uses. They can also use them on sites they make, or in any other matter - that is why we make them available and why we make them available in a variety of useful formats.

Nicholas O’Brien

as soon as you limit the residency to a specific platform (programmatically, design-wise), you are kowtowing to the demands of that platform’s specificity and fickleness

internet archive is inherently more public than tumblr, why reduce that publicness?

Ian Aleksander Adams

I think that working within constraints of a platform can be inspiring - but we’re not forcing anyone to do so. If someone wants to do this, Tumblr has been very supportive of creative cultural endeavors on their platform and we’re happy to work with them. This particular project is limited to tumblr because it is about seeing what can be done with tumblr - perhaps you wish to see how far you can push the platform. 

If you are concerned with specificity and fickleness, I’m sure there are faults to be found with any system - such as SAIC (or the University of Cincinnati), HTML as a markup language, the limitations of bandwidth, or the confines of material reality itself. We’re interested in working within tumblr for this project. Perhaps our next one will be a residency within a hollowed out oak tree with a dial up modem installed.

That being said, Nicholas O’Brien, if you have ideas for other projects we can do that you think serve the Archive well, I’d love to hear them and/or work with you. We have an artist in residence at our building in San Francisco right now, working under no restrictions as far as I know. We are also always looking for ways to work with creative and educational communities.

Nicholas O’Brien

or idk, good luck, all of this nonsense will float away in the rest of the tumblr hogwash

Ian Aleksander Adams

Nicholas, are you ok?

I’m guessing now isn’t a good time to show you the Internet Archive Vine Residency proposal.

Nicholas O’Brien

omg, it’s sad that when i try to have a honest open discussion it turns into this kind of pithy one-liners

Ian Aleksander Adams

haha come on, I was just trying to lighten the mood post:”hogwash” - I feel like I’ve attempted to address your comments.

I’m available to answer any questions you may have, but it seemed you were done with the conversation.

Nicholas O’Brien

"meh"

Anthony Antonellis

the dominant usage of tumblr shouldnt dictate all future projects (art or non art). and where it might, i see where thats a benefit for some things, and a huge burden for others. but as a project like this, i see tumblr as exactly the platform pre-existing audience, support from tumblr itself, a remix reblog culture its sort of the few projects i see actually making sense for tumblr and i think tumblr can be a dirty word, but i think its about some status, viewed by a specific art audience that has a problem with it but really, i didnt see this as a project meant for current net art /internet art/or even art world audience i thought it was more a library, archives as exploration project.

im not trying to presume the intentions of the archive.org, but i dont think tumblr is limited to the dichotomy of being either just a serious platform, or post-ironic platform

Ian Aleksander Adams

Yes, while I think it is interesting to artists and I’d encourage anyone who works within the arts to apply, I avoided the word art in the call for applicants. Roughly half the applications so far have been from people in non-arts education and librarians - They all have their own tumblrs and post a variety of interesting content, much of it original and to do with their collections. I am very excited to work with many of these people. 

The conversation continues at this facebook thread.
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