Written in Stone, When All Stones Erode

Often, we think of an artwork as absolute. Picasso’s work, for example, is simply Picasso’s work — unchanged over time. We’re aware that a digital JPEG of a painting will lose all of its tangible resonance, such as its finer brushstrokes. Yet, we still consider it to be a fair representation of an essential absolute. Those with a passing interest in art may even have some peripheral sense that a long life would naturally degrade the brilliance of a piece. But, outside of the exclusive world of art criticism and appreciation, it’s rare for us to consider the ways that an individual expression can evolve.…   [continue reading]

The Work of Art in the Age of Microsoft Paint

This article is a re-formatted extract from Issue #1: Birth, which you can read more about here.

As Microsoft throws Paint into the digital wasteland with the rest of the internet’s abandonware, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about the simple graphical editor that influenced the “shit is good” aesthetic of the early 2000s internet. Its influence on internet culture is huge, with obvious examples being rage comics, stoner comics, and any image macro with awkwardly superimposed text and graphics.

Digital art that looked like shit started out as a necessity, yet slowly became a preference. Even today’s memes hark back to the days where the best material was thrown together on Paint in a matter of minutes.…   [continue reading]

Exploring Power and Public Social Spaces; Why The Network Isn’t New

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

Thomas Jefferson can’t be blamed for not getting excited by historical materialism, given that he preceded its inception, but an optimism for the future doesn’t require a rejection of the past.

The past is not a static entity. The past can be re-imagined and reinterpreted much as the present can experience the same. The past can teach us new things about itself, the present, and the future. Equally, the present can help us re-understand the past. We can create a knowledge loop where each informs each other.…   [continue reading]

Decentralized Social Media and The Fragmentation of Control

The architecture of a social network doesn’t just affect a bunch of invisible server-whirrings and documentation jargon. It’s directly responsible for how the network’s users interact — what they’re allowed to say, what they’re likely to see, and who controls these factors.

A good example to start my examination into centralized/decentralized social networks is Twitter.

The name “Twitter” and the platform’s relentless bird imagery isn’t an arbitrary choice — it actually makes a lot of sense with regard to how the network works.

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Starlings, for example, flock in groups of 10,000 or more, unified and communicating as a network. Birds learn to sing by listening and imitating, which often means that groups of co-existing birds learn the same patterns, inflections, and memes.…   [continue reading]

Blood on the Goban: Exploring the Myths of an Ancient Art

This article is a re-formatted extract from Issue #1: Birth, which you can read more about here.

Go, in its impenetrable elegance, is quite possibly the oldest board game that still sees widespread play. A product of ancient China, its popularity in East Asia far surpasses that of chess. In comparison, I’ve heard Go’s complexity equated with that of a war; opposing the self-contained battles fought on a chessboard. Though exaggerated, there’s some truth to that analogy, which has helped Go to maintain its appeal for over twenty-five centuries. In fact, it was once considered a founding art of the Chinese aristocracy.…   [continue reading]

Issue #1: Birth – The Frame

After the launch of Secret Cave’s online store, where slavering millennials and web-based creatives can, at last, feel the material presence of their favourite online “zine”, I, Lee‘s dad, thought it would be fitting to add to this existential element of the website.

It’s one thing to clatter around on a keyboard and instruct someone to switch on their machines and program them to churn out consumer goods, like magazines and cassette tapes. It is entirely another thing to take materials from your surrounding environment, produce objects to arbitrary dimensions, pre-determined physical requirement limitations and personal aesthetics using one’s own imagination, understanding, logic, practical skills and enough calorific intake to produce the energy required to shape and reform.…   [continue reading]

Archain Interview: Building an Uncensorable Archive of Human History

This article ties in to a podcast we recorded with the Archain team, available here.

Unreliable permanent storage is a problem that most people don’t know exists, but will have likely experienced first hand.

Under my desk, I store my fine collection of bricked laptops with the hope that one day I might salvage them for parts — on the hard drives of those long-dead machines, there are hundreds of gigabytes of lost data. Old music project files, documents, and other things I should’ve been smart enough to back up online.

However, storing files on the cloud isn’t totally safe.…   [continue reading]

Trolls, Crusaders, and Internet Territories

The conditions that enable and encourage trolling aren’t exclusive to the internet, but they are more prevalent online than off, mostly thanks to the ease of anonymity and effects of crowd psychology. Territorial behavior — based either on platform loyalty or tight-knit communities — is amplified when geographical constraints no longer play a part. Internet crusades targeting other groups or individuals have become so commonplace that major platforms like Twitter have had to rethink their stance on free speech.

The internet population is growing, but it’s also fragmenting as real world issues polarize mainstream and fringe subcultures alike. In this article, I’ll examine the phenomena of internet territorialism and those who coordinate trolling on a large scale.…   [continue reading]

Issue #1: Birth: A Final Announcement and Update

Several months ago, we announced our first physical zine. Since that announcement, Benjamin and I have been working hard to make Issue #1: Birth a reality. On the same day as this post’s publication, we’ve made our final order for the complete batch of debut issues. Once we’ve received them, we’ll send out individual copies to our subscribers. With its release just a few days away, this post will take a look at each of the zine’s talented contributors. In addition, I’ll detail a few of the difficulties we’ve encountered in the process, and how they’ve helped us to develop.…   [continue reading]

Computer Vision: How Bots See The World Around Them

In my piece on neural network art, I looked at how bots generate images based on their existing ‘knowledge’ of shape and form. These computers are trained on large data sets of images, all classified and tagged so the machine can make sense of them. Google’s Deep Dream, for example, uses a set of ImageNet material with 120 dog categories, explaining why almost everything it hallucinates has some kind of dog, however subtle.

Projects like Deep Dream are more of an artistic side-project than a useful tool, but the tech it’s based on is a bridge towards computer programs being able to make sense of the world around them — whether that’s an image tagger for a search engine, or a robot with nuanced spacial awareness.…   [continue reading]