1172 NASA Pictures

A few years ago, Jens gave me a CD with some files on it that I needed for a school project. Also on the CD was a folder titled "NASA - 1172 Pictures (Black Magic Alchemy Illuminati Nwo)."

Knowing what I did about Jens at the time, I wasn't super surprised. I also thought that the contents of the folder were awesome and, for the most part, exactly as advertised: over 1000 old-school space and rocketry pictures. There are photos of astronauts, galaxies, and the earth from space. There are diagrams of rocket trajectories, and landscapes of the moon and mars.

Some of them seem to be pictures from magazine articles, while others seem to be scans of official slides. They're all amazing.

When I asked Jens where he got them, he said he didn't even know about the folder, and that he'd originally gotten the CD from another friend of his.

Wherever they came from, they were too awesome to keep bottled up on a hard drive and I decided to upload them to Flickr.

Enjoy them.


BlogCampaigning Is Back (Again)

I think that anyone who has been blogging for a significant amount of time understands the concept of blog fatigue. You get tired thinking up new posts all the time; you wonder where it is all leading. It has happened to me a few times. In fact, when I first started to write the title to this post, I thought it felt awfully familiar. Then I remembered that I wrote a similar post almost exactly two years ago ("BlogCampaigning Is Back") where I said that "Jens has been trying to sort out his life back in Germany, and Espen pretty much went AWOL in Norway."

Some things never change, eh?

The good news is that after a month of contemplation, I've added a fresh coat of paint coding to the ol' blog, I've got some good posts lined up, and we've even got a new author starting in the next week or so.

Added on to the fact that Heather and I both started new jobs, Jens is almost finished his thesis and it seems like a pretty good time to get a fresh start.

Thanks for continuing to read BlogCampaigning!


The Future of Digital Memories

Now that I moved to Berlin I pretty much come across art at every corner. Although digital art isn't really that publicly present. And it is difficult to sustain this art due to rapidly changing technologies. Of course this is a problem of all digital media. Photos for example, the collective memory of generations, tend to be more and more digitalized with no-one knowing whether the formats will still exist in 100 or even 50 years (on the other hand the redundancy of pictures is also increasing, e.g. whenever I shot photos of a party I send them to my friends or upload them on Facebook). This issue gets even more problematic with digital games. Here the main problem is the ever changing hardware. Since the first games we saw dozens of different platforms games could be played on (and do you know where your first console went?).

But then there are still emulators, programmed by enthusiastic individuals (and not by game libraries), but also here several problems evolve. First of all in most cases it's illegal to play games with the help of these programs (unless you own them of course) and we don't experience these games as we have experienced them in the past since we don‘t play them on the original hardware and without the old input devices.

Since it‘s the destiny of every hardware to cash in the chips one day (no pun intended) and we don‘t have any retro specialists who are able to copy whole chips we are very likely to lose something very interesting. But as problematic as emulators are – at least they keep something of the game alive; artifacts of a culture which carry ideas and world views, which get lost just like old movies. Movies which couldn‘t be archived and will never be seen again.

Which made me wonder: Wouldn't one way to preserve digital art be to allow it to run on console hardware? Maybe the console makers could open up some art corner, a (peerreviewed?) museum in the Playstation "Home", a (peer-reviewed?) arts channel on Xbox Live (maybe XNA offers really interesting opportunities in that it turns out to be a viable toolkit for digital artists). And then in 15 years you not only download Bioshock to play on your Xbox 360 emulator, but also the incomparable weird and thought challenging art of my friend Jason Nelson – at a point when the PC based software of that time is long outdated and nowhere to be found, respectively incapable of working on any modern computer. Not an ideal solution though, considering that digital art often also involves unusual forms of input and that converting a PC based program to a console format is involving (especially without development kits). So the console makers would have to play along, but the question is in how far they want to contribute to future emulation now that the commercial interests for retro software grows strongly.

All in all: A step in the right direction– on a path littered with the stones of commercial imperatives.


The German Goes Home

I finally ended my love-hate relationship with the Gold Coast and moved back to Germany – the country with one of the strictest videogame laws in the world. If games burned as well as books I'd probably be able to witness quite some bonfires.So what are the reasons for the Teutonic paranoia and the accompanying hysterical public discourse? First of all new technology is always cause for suspicion since it challenges our usual ways of life; also: things that we don't quite comprehend always cause fears, this is even more true for technologies that convey popular forms of culture: "As Bourdieu… has observed, the denigration of the popular may be understood in terms of its impenetrability. Consequently, popular forms are frequently presented as uncouth, dangerous and harmful by those lacking the knowledge and strategies to make sense of them“ (Newman, James: Videogames). Then there's of course the "hangover" from WWII which causes the public resepectively the political establishment to view violent games or games that glorify military endeavours very sceptically. But I think there are deeper sociocultural reasons. As Norbert Elias explains in his book "The Civilization Process" the German bourgeoisie of the 18th century was unable to exercise political influence and had to find other ways to claim a form of power. It sought legitimation through scientific and artistic achievements which stood in stark contrast to the supposedly superficial values of the ruling noble classes (based on ceremonies and shallow politness based on French patterns). Through this the bourgeois element of the society gained self-esteem although it was still unable to get involved in the political process. But the bourgeoisie was allowed to commit itself to writing and to the education of the self; a vent beyond politics and economics that created a typical German intelligentsia – which in turn became the carrier of the national self-esteem and, very late, the ruling class, turning its social character into the national character. Even though something like a "national character" is always a false, since invented construct I think Elias gives an interesting hint at the possible source of resistance towards forms of popular culture. As Bourdieu points out, highbrow culture is not open to everyone, one needs special tools to understand it (tools delivered through education) and as "cultural capital" it is also closely to the exercise of power. Popular culture on the other hand has to be necessarily open to everyone, it's based on a broad appeal and therefore doesn't allow any distinction from other classes or groups, denying the whole basis of the bourgeois legitimation. Now if you look into German media history popular culture always had an especially difficult time, digital games just being latest victim. In the 19th century cheap pulp novels were shunned, when movies were introduced scepticism arose (one of the catchwords here: the cinema reformation movement), the same happened with television, video tapes etc. (the exception here is radio whose introduction was forced by the Nazis who were devoid of any highbrow cultural ethos). What's interesting here is that this attitude prevailed despite generational changes and changing political attitudes. Take Theodor Adorno for example, one of the main figures behind the German 1968 student movement. In his despise for popular forms of expression (which he saw as a vehicle for hegemonic values and surpression; as standardized culture that intensified the commodification of artistic expression) he's not much different to conservative disdain for mass culture (see e.g. John Sinclair's text in The Media and Communications in Australia, 2002); a 2007 study by the German Sinus-Sociovision-Institute found that postmaterialists and conservatives (= the influential parts of society) both value intellectuality, education and literariness and use these values for self-definition despite having fought an intense cultural war. Such an attitude of course prevents an involvement of the bourgeois deciders with digital games, the consequence of this "media-incompetence" being fear. While younger Germans posses the knowledge to make sense of digital games and their surrounding culture the political elites don't, the consequences being ridiculously strict laws and a lack of support for the industry. While this might (over)simplify the matter I think it's worth to follow this lead, and I'll try to elaborate on this matter in later posts after sighting some more literature.