D.I.Y. Rules

By Simon Worthington, 10 April 2001

At this, the first revamped and DiY-themed ‘Transmediale .01’, the zeitgeisty subjects of user collaboration and social software enjoyed top billing. Under the aegis that “the DiY approach is now increasingly assuming the form of a cultural movement”, the conference cast a net around a zillion different activities. Subjects for panels, workshops and screenings ranged from the empowering (How to Build your own robot), the romantic (Love in the age of digital nomadism) to the ever-present (‘Music and Internet’, ‘New forms of distribution’). Awards with categories like ‘video’, ‘interactive’ and ‘software’ provided another way into the movement. In the latter category, artistic software, Netochka Nezvanova and Adrian Ward ended up sharing the award. Interestingly, the panel’s remit here was to choose them on the merits of their algorithm – as opposed to their code’s ‘outputs’ (i.e. what you see, hear or feel).

In a sense, these ‘two’ winners (Nezvanova not quite fitting the criteria for individuality!) represent different genres of computer code-based creators: respectively, the collective identity of an anonymous ‘hacker’ network and the maverick programmer. At Transmediale, Netochka Nezvanova was represented by a paid human ‘avatar’ (in code jargon – otherwise known as an actress). The collective she ‘embodied’ for this occasion produce a software application named Nebula.M81 – Autonomous, an aesthetic processor of html code. Co-winner Adrian Ward has created a software package in the style of Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw which works in tandem with you, mimicking features such as those of Microsoft Word where the application attempts to pre-empt your action, but takes even more liberties – corrupting you, making decisions of its and employing generative algorithms to make you both work towards your finished ‘artwork’. What both encapsulated for the panel was a rejection of the utility function of computer code in favour of something more frictious and exploratory.

Simon Worthington <simon AT>