Cream 2
Latest issue Back issues Definition Contributors editor
Cream 1 Cream 2 Cream 3 Cream 4 Cream 5
Cream 6 Cream 7 Cream 8 Cream 9 Cream 10


                          cream 2


Bath in cream. cream is an experimental collaboration of writers and
curators in the field of net art. cream will come to you as a (sometimes
iregular) bi-weekly newsletter devoted to theory and criticism
concerning art in network culture. All texts and reviews are kept as
short as possible, they are not introductions to larger texts elsewhere
on the net. The idea behind it is to provide a continuous injection of
critical thought into the net art field, to provoke a more prominent
critical and theoretical discourse around art in net culture and to do
this in a way that asks for discussion rather then that it obstructs a
flow of discourse. You can subscribe to cream, yet the first half year
of its appearance cream will also go to the a few mailing lists:
nettime, Rhizome, Syndicate. We invite you to forward this mail to
anybody you feel might be interested in the content of cream who is not
on any of those lists.

Contributors to cream: Saul Albert, Inke Arns, Tilman Baumgaertel,
Josephine Bosma, Sarah Cook, Steve Dietz, Frederic Madre, Tetsuo Kogawa
and more to come.

::::::::: In this second issue:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Report: Tetsuo Kogawa  -  ketai
Review: Sarah Cook  -  hard, soft and wet
Review: Tilman Baumgaertel  -
                        notes on writing the history of the digital 0.1


Tetsuo Kogawa is currently Professor of Communication Studies at Tokyo
Keizai University's Department of Communications. Kogawa introduced free
radio to Japan, and is widely known for his blend of criticism,
performance and activism. He has written over 30 books on media culture,
film, city and urban space, and micro politics. Most recently he has
combined the experimental and pirate aesthetics of the Mini-FM movement
with internet streamed media.

                -  ketai  -

One of the most idiosyncratic phenomena of Japanese media today is
"ketai"[pronounced 'kay-tai'). Ketai means mobile telephone, a tool
which is very popular all over the world. This same familiar technology,
however, creates different cultures and social appearances.
Individualism is unstable and vulnerable in Japanese society but it
looks stable with the support of electronic media. I once called this
circumstance  "electronic individualism" referring to the "Walkman"
phenomenon. People looked independent and selfish where they otherwise
looked shy and hesitating. Ketai boosts this phenomenon and guarantees a
consistent individualism. Ketai is a transcendental subject for Japanese
young people. They are eager to add their favorite ringing sounds
("chakumero") into the machine. While these young people create the
sounds on the computer by themselves, there are professionals who
produce various ready-made "chakumeros". The variety and the number of
them could create a collective music if they got together and sounded
The first personal socialization starts with letting someone know your
ketai number. Quite young people often have two or three ketais. One is
for personal use: this number is told only to special people. This
attachment to the most personal or intimate ketai can go quite far.
Especially young women sometimes throw away their beloved ketai and this
apparently means that there was a separation. When young people get
together for their new project or to prepare for some other event, they
exchange their ketai numbers (supposedly their second ketai's) with each
other and memorize them into the machine. Name cards and business
cards are history.
Few people will borrow other person's ketai. In fact, ketai becomes more
and more personalized: there is a plan to use it as a personal
identification and password for shopping and banking. More and more
personal data are stored in them. Ketai is the completion of the
PERSONAL computer. I think it shows the computer becomes more and more
personalized and miniaturized to become something like a package of
artificial brain cells. But the forthcoming cyborg body with implanted
electronics will need a new techno-otherness. Media art made interesting
use of such an otherness. As long as the computer was not yet totally
personalized (like when it was connected to a network) there was a
shared space between physical bodies, a shared space that was activated
by technology. Media art has ended with ketai, because media art so far
has been pursuing a self-complete package without otherness even if it
relates to the internet. Media art has considered the internet as if it
were a global package of data.


Sarah Cook is a PhD researcher at the University of Sunderland, England
where she coedits a site called the Curatorial Resource for Upstart
Media Bliss ( Having worked in
Canada and the US, she tracks the institutional shifts in curatorial
practice brought on by the introduction of networked new media into the
art world, and wonders how many of them are geographically and socially

           -  Hard, Soft and Wet  -

Melanie McGrath's book "Hard, Soft & Wet: The Digital Generation Comes
of Age" was published in 1997. Considering its topic, that's ages ago
now. It chronicles her experiences discovering networked cultures - from
her home in London, and her friend's house in San Francisco. The book -
while old - is, however, not out-of-date; it testifies to a cycle of
optimism and despair which is always current in the field of new media.
"Hard, Soft & Wet" documents the early days of the online world in a
manner that is equally applicable to the newfound interest on the part
of the museum-institution in the new media art world.

Midway through McGrath describes a scene at an Internet cafˇ in NY where
she is discouraged about "the power of technology to change human
relations for the better" because it all seems to be about how hip you
are and what kind of kit you're using. If you change the words cafˇ
latte for wine, and dollars, deal and dividend for interactivity,
institution and interest she could just as easily be describing the
scene in a gallery 'medialounge' (or, I dread to think, the current
scene at the Whitney). She's subsequently encouraged by the thought that
"back in England everything under the Internet sky will still be sunny.
The backlash won't have happened there." As I left NY for England after
a brief visit a few weeks ago, I was encouraged by two similar thoughts:
one - the crash hasn't hit here yet (we're still optimistic about the
social and cultural possibilities of the next generation of mobile WAP
phones; artists in NY were wondering how they lost the net; artists in
England still have a bit of it as far as institutions are concerned);
two -  Europe's museums haven't made as many new media art curatorial
mistakes· yet. (Is it because they haven't had to?)

Melanie's story bounces from her first e-mail romance to meeting hackers
in Russia (history of technology in the making) and programmers in
Iceland (face to face encounters in foreign towns). The book is in
essence a narrative about the perils of being on to something you think
could be huge and life-changing while others haven't picked up on it
yet, or won't because they're looking elsewhere, or once did but have
since been disillusioned (or nowadays, downsized). Its investigation of
the intimacy of new media remains paramount throughout -- mostly through
its deconstruction of the personal relationships which create the
networks behind it. Institutionally-based curators new to the medium
might find confidence in Melanie's trials as she tries to ascertain the
context of the Internet age (is it to be found in the academic world? At
a conference? In the commercial realm? In an activist demonstration?).
Those who are continually working on the edge of the slippery bank where
new media art becomes mainstream will no doubt just find her story an
interesting deja-vu.


Tilman Baumgaertel is a journalist and writer. He studied art history
and wrote a book about Harun Farocki as his thesis. He published a book
with interviews in 1999 called [], and is working on its
successor. Tilman Baumgaertel has written extensively about net art, and
his work can be found in for example the catalogue of Net_Condition and
the online archive of Telepolis. He now works for the Berliner Zeitung.

       - notes on writing the history of the digital 0.1 -

They used to say that journalism was the first draft of history. With
digital culture it seems that journalism has the last saying (the final
word?) too.

These was the a thought that came to my mind, when reading the book "The
rebel code" by Glyn Moody. "Rebel Code" is a fine book on the history of
Linux and the Open Source Movement. And Glyn Moody is a fine journlist,
who does what journalists do best: he gives a timely account of
important and/or interesting events that he reports to the best of his
knowledge in a readable fashion.

"Rebel Code" manages to do all of these things. In fact, it does even
more: Moody doesn't limit his study to Linux and the other usual
Open-Source-suspects such as Apache, Perl, GIMP and the Internet and Web
standards, but he also covers the many theoretical and philosophical
implications that the Free-Software-Movement has on other aspects of
social life. He adresses questions of ownership and copyright,
originality and collaboration, and chronicles the efforts of people such
as Richard Stallmann, Linus Torvalds or Eric Raymond to not only produce
Open-Source-Software, but also to come up with theoretical underpinnings
for the phenomenon.

So far, so good. So what is wrong with his approach in terms of writing
digital history? Nothing. What's wong is rather that the people whose
job it is to write history, the academics and scholars, at this point
leave the task of recording the development of a digital culture
completely up to journalists and critics.

Not that there is generally anything wrong with these people - I am a
journalist and critic myself, after all. And as such I know that my job
is not necessarily to do long and time-consuming academic research, but
rather to produce - as pointed out earlier - timely results that are
both factual and in a readable fashion. That doesn't mean that people
like Moody and myself don't get their facts straight, but rather that we
don't invest the time to do the research that would lead to completely
new or original findings or approaches towards a topic such as Open

"Rebel Code" tells the story of Open Source in a thorough and
well-researched fashion, but it basically tells the story of Open Source
that has become canonical in the last couple of years (even though his
chapter on Netscapes Mozilla project contains sources and documents that
to my knowledge nobody has published before).

If there is any "other", "alternative", "untold"
"story-behind-the-story", we wouldn't get it from "Rebel Code" - or, I
assume, from the handful of other books that have come out on the topic
of Open Source in the last 12 months. And they don't have to do this
job, because after all they are journalistic endeavours, that were never
meant for eternity or as final historic accounts of this phenomenon. So,
that would all be good and well, if academics in the many departments
that suppossedly do digital studies, "media archaeology", screen studies
and whatever the trendy term might be, would back this journalistic
efforts up with more academic research into the same topics.

Strangely enough, in the academic amateur's hour that is called media
studies etc, there is virtually nobody doing any research, but an almost
exclusive focus on analysis. If that analysis ever bothers to deal with
R.L.-subjects such as Open Source, it relies exclusively on journalistic
material, as if this material has the quality to be final and, well,

Post-modernism has tought us that all history writing produces
"narratives", not final truths. In the field of digital history books
like "Rebel code" will be the final "narratives", because most original
sources will disappear soon, if they haven't done so already. For
example, the first discussion on Linux in the newsgroup comp.os.minix in
the early 90ies are already erased from any server in the world. So
future historians will not be able to access the original source, but
only the edited versions that appear in Moodys book and a number of
other publications.

If anybody would want to write another story of Linux, he won't have any
other material than the canocial quotes that have made it into books. In
journalistic books, that seem to be the final word on this topic.


Subscriptions to cream via


cream would not be possible without the work and hospitality of the
House of Laudanum, .