we are not bored, we are amazed

gates-devilArdent watchers of the Goldsmiths CCS website (get a life) will have seen that the student generated images we used to have up have been replaced by some sort of corporate gimmick-cum-hack. Possibly designed to upset us and cause controversy in some sort of twisted viral marketing scam. I’m sorry, I think its crap. I’ve written the ‘webteam':

For the CCS pages we used to have a set of student generated images appear on our website. These have been replaced by some corporate images that we do not approve. Could we please restore the images we had, and please advise us of how we can update these in due course.

We are quite amazed that anyone at Goldsmiths would think Bill Gates was a suitable representation for any part of the college, but the other images are fairly dire as well (though this last is my personal opinion – not backed up as yet by surveys and a campaign: though one could be arranged).

Your rapid attention to this would be welcome as it is causing us some embarrassment.

It has also been pointed out that Gates is the emblem of proprietary corporate software and there is insufficient support for freeware in the college. We would like to see some discussion of this on the part of IT – what is your position?

Fun huh. Did you ever read Kafka’s bank clerk correspondence – its what I aspire towards with this letter (but do not reach the heights). Yet with regard to this, there are some who do think this is a good opportunity to raise questions about IT support for Linux and other freeware. I agree, but am also concerned that we lost the good images we had before and it clearly emphasizes – despite our many moans against this – that we have no say in our representation. The default strategy is towards centralization and cretinization. I include the offending picture of gates as a cut-out-and-keep dartboard target, but also note some of the other images are appalling. Go have a look and help viral marketing do its job – pah!).

The point is that we used to provide the images – there were several great shots from students from a few years ago. So one of the main problems with this is that the images we had before by CCS students are gone and now once again we have no control over our own site. Today it would make sense to have a series of images from our publications – from the CCS nocturnal journal Nyx and from our books etc.

Its either a hack or there has been a centralized coup which must be reversed immediately. I personally have nothing against Gates, just his god awful charitable do-gooderness, his smarmy philanthropy, his rampant greed, his well-ugly fashion sense, and his vampire-like operating systems (and I do not mean windows, I mean capital).

Someone should start a facebook group to get him off site! That’ll work huh. And we are not even talking about the fine print – some sort of strange cut and paste about Hitler. If you search long enough also a swastika juxtaposed with the logo of IBM circa 1924 (about when William Burroughs dad had sold his shares in the company).

So I should also say: if this is indeed a ‘clever’ hack, or what for Goldsmiths art-types passes for a ‘political’ intervention, well more power to you. But go spend your time hacking the G20 Govt site, or the UK Border Agency Education devolvement plan (where we are to be asked to be the front line of the immigration crackdown). Double pah!

Update 27.3.09: Not a hack but Graham’s intended conversation starter. The criticisms stand though, having swastikas above our heads is offensive in the extreme.

Update 28.3.09: So thanks to Lisa, the webteam’s Tanith McCrindle has taken two of the images down: the Gates/Hitler text one and the IBM/swastika one (I am not contesting the validity of the intended critique of IBM or Gates, just its effectiveness in the context and the unintended juxtapositions it thereby achieved with staff photos smack underneath swastikas etc). I’m pleased these are gone but still pretty pissed I/we have no immediate control over what juxtapositions appear over my/our name/s and that I got calls from family, emails from college staff and questions from prospective students about this. It has only been, I think, a mildly damaging exercise for CCS – but its certainly not our most glorious chapter. That said, I agree the old images needed work, and also think Darren is right to ask, as he does in the comments below, ‘what happened to the new images that he and other students submitted for the CCS site just a few months ago, following a public solicitation from the department?’.

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Comments

  • James  On 25/03/2009 at 2:33 am

    Must be a hack. Surely even Goldsmiths wouldn’t advertise by posting pictures of Hitler, along with several textual references to Nazism?

    (Unless this is a bizarre experiment in raising Goldsmiths’ online profile by attempting to get mentioned on as many blog and online citations as possible…?)

    Like

  • We do not impose corporate imagery on departmental sites. The departments choose their own images to best represent their ethos. They requested the removal of student images in place of the images created by Graham Harwood, Lecturer in Interactive Media Practical Methods.

    Like

    • john hutnyk  On 25/03/2009 at 10:35 am

      I thought this might be the case, but given the context – small images, no contextualising discussion, and the timing (admissions process) I think pretty mad. Graham, what gives?

      Like

  • pajeh  On 25/03/2009 at 1:00 pm

    I do not think that the images should or could ‘represent’ CCS nor illustrate our ‘intellectual capability’. It is actually, as Jennifer mentioned, a practical issue. Provocative and instigating pics can be more clever than representative ones…

    Aesthetically, I really prefer the previous images than those ones. But is also not about that. I do not like to watch adam smith, charles darwin or the queen every time I go for a beer, but still, my money works for buying it. Frank Zappa in the 20 pounds note would be nice….

    I though that those images were, at some sort, agreed to be there. Did not know that it was a surprise for all…. But anyway, my point – since we know they are Graham’s – is a discussion of first, why didn’t we know before and second, are “net-monsters”(1) a concept on which CCS agree in terms of its research and interface ?

    paulo

    1 – “NetMonster” is designed to generate, edit and continuously update a composite image made up out of the results of internet searches guided by various keywords. It allows people to collaboratively build up a composite ‘networked image’ out of the images, text and addresses returned. The ‘NetMonster’ will continuously rebuild itself based on users edits and changing search parameters, offering up new content and configurations. In this way the empty gesture of a political icon (e.g. Abu Gharib) can learn to detect the context of its own existence, automatically creating dialogue between itself and its users

    http://netmonster.mongrel.org.uk/

    Like

  • breakingtherulessouthend  On 25/03/2009 at 2:00 pm

    I would like to apologise for my part in the total lack of communication in CCS about the images used on the website. I was not aware that they had gone live, but on reflection I did see them yesterday in Lisa office and I should have immediately asked Lisa to put them on the temporary site until such times they could be assesed in the context of a web site development meeting.

    The webteam have been both professional and supportive in the work Liza and they played no part in the choice of images. Goldsmiths has decided in it’s wisdom to continue along it’s radical path by creating a new website completely outside of the web 2:0 para-dime disregarding the last 10 years of social and cultural development around the internet.

    A meeting was held between Scott, Lisa and myself on the 23-02-09 at which time it became apparent that CCS had no web portal strategy and that Lisa had been completely unsupported in web development. CCS did not know what our web statistics were, nor what search phrases were used to enter the CCS website. The text on the site had not been created with any critical understanding of how search engines work.(paragraph ordering) and with no idea of marketing potential.

    Primarily I was concerned with the MAIM site as I wanted to increase student numbers and knew through talking to students that the website was our primary interface to recruitment. On 02-03-09 Scott, Lisa and I began work primarily on the CCS-MAIM web site and to give you some idea of the problems we face:

    The CCS site got 3,772 visits for the month of 12 Jan to 11 February, with 10,632 page views with only 54.88% % of those being new visits. To compare this to a site from which some of the images are taken – the work “Uncomfortable Proximity” on the Tate web site received over 100,000,000 a month. The mediashed.org website has over 6,500 a month and the little known SoSlug (Southend Linux Users Group) with 15 members equals the CCS site.

    Due to the total lack of knowledge and apparent apathy in CCS about creating an interesting web presence that is capable of reversing such appalling web stats. I thought it might be useful to try and replace the stayed, untroublesome images that ask no questions of the viewer with something a little more contemporary.

    The images are created by a floss robot netmonster.mongrel.org.uk that interfaces the internet and selects images in line with keyword pairs – so for instance a key phrase such as “Nazi IBM Hollerith” would return thousands of images and texts that reflect the links between IBM’s machines and Nazism and the holocaust at a particular time on a particular day. (A snapshot of the network). The images themselves are assemblages of propriety images and text that are reassembled into non propriety ‘fair use’ by the autonomous engine.

    Whilst I would like to again to apologise for my part in this lack of communication at CCS. I must admit to being more then happy with current widespread interest in the website and hope this marks a knew, better informed enthusiasm for getting our web strategy together and increasing our profile.

    Best H

    Like

  • Darren F  On 25/03/2009 at 4:09 pm

    What I would like to know is, what happened to the new images that I and
    other students submitted for the CCS site just a few months ago, following
    a public solicitation from the department?

    Not that I’m particularly incensed by the whole affair, but this is
    getting interesting – and deliciously political.

    Now then…

    “I thought it might be useful to try and replace the
    > stayed, untroublesome images that ask no questions of the viewer with
    > something a little more contemporary.”

    Maybe the *old* images on the site were a little pedestrian. But instead
    you (Graham) replaced them with images automatically created by a bot. Is
    this not a little insulting to the immense creative potential of the
    visual artists, photographers etc. in the department? Especially when the
    automatically-generated pictures used are also in their turn, so…
    pedestrian. Now I have nothing against the kind of web-trinkets that
    generate the content in question, they can be very interseting projects.
    But the images now used on the site are presented outside the context of
    their project, and the isolated images appear bland to my eyes. No, I
    shall be blunt: presented without explanation, they look like they were
    manually designed by an inept graphic artist.

    Moving on…

    “The text on the site had not been created with any
    > critical understanding of how search engines work.(paragraph ordering) and
    > with no idea of marketing potential.”

    Of course I forgot – CCS exists for the extraction of tuition fees from
    unsuspecting browsers of the world wide web!

    I type ‘cultural studies’ into google and CCS is the fourth link – and the
    first link to an academic department. I type in ‘MA cultural studies’ or
    even ‘goldsmiths cultural studies’ and – as if by magic – CCS comes up as
    the no.1 link. When I get there the site pretty much does what it says on
    the tin.

    So what is the point of *deforming* the structure of information given on
    the site *for the express purpose of search engine optimization* if CCS is
    already way at the top of the hit-list? If we (you?) (they?) were in the
    business of selling holiday apartments or boob-jobs I could understand the
    preoccupation with ‘optimization.’ But when I decided to return to study,
    I researched courses relevant to me, heard of CCS MA CS, looked it
    over(online, in the first instance!) and the rest is history. I had no
    trouble finding what I was looking for. Are we supposed to imagine that
    people would casually stumble across the website and then impulsively
    decide to enrol on a PHD? I *highly* doubt that CCS is missing out on
    enrollments (or even hits from ***relevant*** web searches) due to the
    present format of the site. That’s not to say that it’s perfect and should
    remain static for all time, but does it really need to be commercialised
    so cynically?

    Yet coming full circle, Bill Gates is in many ways the ideal poster-boy
    for the issues at hand here. Perhaps his image should stay as a warning to
    us all…

    The mind boggles…

    Darren F

    Like

  • John  On 25/03/2009 at 7:28 pm

    Hi all

    So thanks to Lisa, the webteam’s Tanith McCrindle has taken two of the images down: the Gates/Hitler text one and the IBM/swastika one (I am not contesting the validity if the intended critique of IBM or Gates, just its effectiveness in the context and the unintended juxtapositions it thereby achieved with staff photos smack underneath swastikas etc). I’m pleased these are gone but still pretty pissed I/we have no immediate control over what juxtapositions appear over my/our name/s and that I got calls from family, emails from college staff and questions from prospective students about this. It has only been, I think, a mildly damaging exercise for CCS – but its certainly not our most glorious chapter. That said, I agree the old images needed work, and also think Darren is right to ask ‘what happened to the new images that he and other students submitted for the CCS site just a few months ago, following a public solicitation from the department?’.

    I suggest in the meantime the solicited images from Darren et al be loaded if they are better resolution than these bot generated ones (text is hard to read for starters).

    And then we can seek a more effective website updating facility, which I am told by Tanith is in fact soon to be rolled out. – John

    Like

  • spectropoetics  On 26/03/2009 at 2:01 pm

    The images used on the CCS website seem to have found a particular resonance with many of us involved with the department.

    I don’t get the impression that the images are a legitimate choice for our department to be using.

    There are numerous factors which inspire such a comment. Amongst these are the general concerns I have over the direction of higher education in the general and the specific effects of marketization within education taking place in the UK. I don’t like the idea of our institution being represented, in the first instance, by an image of a man who typifies the mechanisms and processes of contemporary profit accumulation. Inasmuch as it may be claimed that the image has an “ironic” or “irreverent” dimension, I believe such an effort to be a failure.

    Firstly, the CCS is not a homogeneous or unilateral space. It is riven by theoretical contradictions and conflicts which condition the ground from within which representations of our space will emerge. These contradictions will ensure that images, ideas, and their representations are incapable of a direct access to a defining truth moment which can conditions all CCS output as clearly standing “for something”. The presence of any representation is a manifestation of the deadlock of this contradiction, not its negation.

    From here, I deem all images to be necessarily participating in this problematic. There are not a completion of a formula but another line of symbolisation or code. There is no innocent, playful way for the CCS to represent itself which will overcome the conflicting political and economically motivated actions of agents within the department. We cannot extract ourselves from the meaning of Bill as if it is possible to assuage ourselves his presence is simply coincidental or arbitrary. Bill is a signifier that possesses meaning beyond the mere appearance of “corporate, white male”.

    Bill is a provocation, a question about what it means to be studying and participating in the CCS as a whole.

    As is pointed out by theorists, Zizek being the first to mind, the idea of maintaining a casual, ironic indifference is a founding condition of contemporary modes of ideological intepollation. Bill’s face on the CCS site resonates for me as a indifferent symbol of a kind of criticism that maintains, and this is at best, a vague commitment to critically engaging with political and economic issues. It comes to close to conforming to easy iterations of critical attitudes which lack substantial commitments to alternatives or a programme of action.

    The interesting thing here is that in the same week that we are here arguing over Bill’s face on the CCS
    site, a former employee of Lionhead Games, a subsidiary of Microsoft, is suing the company for homophobic bullying and discrimination. I for one do not want to associated with a company that is having to defend itself against such accusations… This is also one of many other reasons for seeking to avoid any kind of association with the Gates community. I don’t think irony or innocence can be a defense upon our part.

    http://kotaku.com/5182524/microsoft-sued-over-gay-bashing

    I also think that in the context of our department, in which there are multiple talents available to us from within the student body, that we should be so willfully neglecting the abilities of those who could contribute their work. Should not our site be the first place for the showcasing of students work…?

    Why do we avoid democracy in such a fashion…? Not only neglecting the contributions made by those who have passed through our halls, but also giving those very same people no right to claim any ownership over the space…? Why is it that the very purpose (?) of the CCS is the very thing that is not being presented…? Should we not be documenting and securing the “things” produced by students in such a way that makes of them the meaning of “why” we are here…?

    We currently have a group of former students who met here organising and creating an art based event in Sheffield, is this not worth our eye…? And there is the departments very own journal, also a product not of top-down insistence, but bottom-up intervention…? Why are these things seen as peripheral to the motivations and desired outcomes of “what” we are here for…? Are these events and products not the greatest testaments to out vitality and energy as an institution…?

    I for one think this is about more than just “images” but is about how we choose to represent our endeavours and what we deem to be the most important outcome of our efforts whilst being here. I’m not okay with not having a say in this.

    I hope the outcome of this will be a real attempt to create more space for participatory and democratically ratified representations of our department.

    Like

  • Rico  On 28/03/2009 at 12:10 am

    I can’t help but think that this situation could have been avoided by some administrative forethought, which I think is very much lacking at CCS. It’s a university centre…it has a cycle, and it “repeats” annually. If the website needed to be changed, why not program changes to take place in July/Aug when it’s pretty quiet on campus.

    Doesn’t the application process begin around March every year, admissions around June/July, beginning of school at the end of September?

    Is a calendar too rigid a tool to use to help avoid some of these administrative matters?

    The blame goes to everyone for not working well together. I am bored by this, and amazed I am still here.

    Like

    • john hutnyk  On 28/03/2009 at 9:27 am

      Hi Rico, as you know, everyone works pretty hard in CCS and certainly many hours above the statutory, so these choices happen quickly in between a million other tasks. July is not quiet, we are also supposed to be researchers. We just need more staff – admin and academic (we are three part time admin and 6 academic with something like 50 PhDs and 80 MAs – a little math shows that this is a pretty insane workload for a ‘research’ centre). J

      Like

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,723 other followers

%d bloggers like this: