by Nancy Mauro-Flude
This is a text I wrote during my MA Media Design at Piet Zwart Institute, in response the Thematic Project *Command Line Culture* September-December 2006 led by Florian Cramer, (the course director). From the perspective of a performing artist, and as a developer of the /eclectic tech carnival http://eclectictechcarnival.org/ I discuss my observations on how using the command line interface may be seen to possibly co-constitute one another in everyday life, operating as fields of embodied reflection.
* Introduction *
My central thread in this text is the Linux computer operating system(OS)#1 and more specifically the use of the command-line interface within this OS and its relationship to embodiment.
Since bodies and machines are often seen in opposition, I suggest that they are better perceived complementary in nature rather than antagonistic. For people who have never worked with command line computing on a standard *nix machine#2, – especially for people who are already conditioned to point and click methods cultivated by Graphical User Interfaces or (GUIs) such as Windows OS or Mac OS #3 – this involves sensitising procedures, (i.e. like one may endure with any new instrumental skill acquisition) for the operation of code as a series of interrelated programs. I will discuss how using the command line interface may be seen to possibly co-constitute one another in everyday life, operating as fields of embodied reflection.
I propose that body, like any organism, is a protean reality in constant flux and in this sense I’d like to consider some of the OS applications from GNU/Linux#4 community, I specifically am referring to the non-proprietary tools that are developed to use in a command line interface. I position myself along the same vain as Martin Hardie who reads ‘Unix as consistent with more philosophical descriptions of thinking or of living life itself.’#5 Indeed the spreading development and use of Linux operating systems and free software has political implications, as Alan Sondheim (writes ‘linux is, if not art, at least fashion, wearable, at problematic variance with capital (punk for example), useful for intruders, the mouth and tongue for some’. I hope to elucidate about how the regular use of a computational interface, command line or GUI, has deep physiological effects. I question why it is mostly the case that the GUI is presented as a *given* to the regular computer user. Since information feudalism affects not only information society and subsequent issues of ownership, privacy, sharing – clearly seen in the overabundance of patents and agreements to _harness the user_, which in my view, is an attempt to strip humanity of all civil freedoms; what products to use, what plants to grow and consume, what seeds to cultivate, and to an extent our how ability to even engage with molecular living matter is being restricted.#6
*Long live the amateur and eclectic hacker!*
Custom, that obscure crossroads where the constructed and the habitual
coalesce, is indeed mysterious.
In light of Merleau Ponty’s method of phenomenological description and dealing with experiences in raw reality, I choose to write this paper in a personal register, because general divides between practice, theory and the self-referential, replicates harmful objectifying, and empirical models.#7 I’ll also acknowledge my own corporeal complicity in the way in which I view the subject, as Kathy Acker so aptly stated ‘Politics don’t disappear they take place inside my body’#8, _political_ for me always comes through the personal. It is my belief that this perspective has authority, because I talk from my direct experience. A critique I have is that a large majority of people who contribute to the discourse about *nix have a desire to produce totalising accounts without any regard to cultural difference. As in all situations, I believe there are varying ways or modes of participation. In the following section I shall trace out some of the more salient benefits in relation to approaching learning in the spirit of an amateur.
I consider if Linux tools can instigate, as well as create, represent and respond to intuitive working methods for a broader community – outside the field of free software developers and end-users and not as a way of living or being separate. I also will to propose that engagement in thought, as in any repeated action where the body is foregrounded, the regular use of technology both hardware and software, has physical effects on who we are, on our sense of self. I focus upon the intercorporeal and sociological aspect of user rather than the cybernetic debate.#9 My basic premise is, if we consider that genuine and meaningful communication with other humans is a necessary and gratifying part of life, as computers begin to take the centre stage of many of our daily lives (for those of us the metropoles), I emphasise we may want to be aware of the consequences of the decisions that we are (perhaps not) making, in our choice of OS as communication apparatus.
If this combination is insupportable to some readers, pray let him/her stick with my explanation, rather then we should part company here, as I explain how the infusion of different fields of discourse can create new ones. Opening up normally closed circuits can create a myriad of new parameters, which may presage an emergent paradigm shift…
I write here as a *nix machine neophyte or _ newbie _ although for at least a decade I have been involved with human machine interaction, for example, inter-mixing dance theatre pieces with software for live and/or online telematic performance situations, or circuit bending#10 electronic toys in punk bands to push the instruments into other dimensions.#11 This could be called _hacking_ because I feel the need to extend materials (and situations) beyond their particular given limitations.#12 Usually this action is an improvised reaction that unfolds itself as a sensual process and spontaneous desire rather than a reverend discipline, so therefore I am not a geek#13. Probably, I do not deserve define myself with the term _hacker_ since I did not discover circuit logic in a sophisticated way, nor do I look for how connections complete their loops in order to then break them or think in terms of ‘problems’ that need to be solved. I usually just start playing wasting a lot of time dreaming and aimless wandering, until someone with that knowledge points out the fundamentals to me and then I try and absorb the information whilst continuing in my own idiosyncratic experiential manner.
I am enchanted when I look inside machines and I like to touch their inner parts, I guess this stems from my childhood, as when someone would turn the T.V off, I’d run to see if I could catch the people leaving from behind, curious and mystified. According to Baudelaire ‘This is the first metaphysical tendency’, who in the ‘Philosophy of Toys’ suggests ‘In their games children give evidence of their great capacity for abstraction and their high imaginative power.’ I come from a cultural tradition where personal creative practice is done for the eventual benefit of society to maintain the prosperity and health of all of the people, not just the atomised individual (your profession here…) artist#14, or movement, so it is mainly in meaningful collaborative contexts I find such acts profoundly thrilling.
Apart from the black box in the theatre, I did not ever expect there to be another vessel deep enough to hold all these moments and abstractions of experience and potential until I experienced the dark magic space of the shell. However, first and foremost, I must claim I find much of Linux geek rhetoric far from affable, my own conviction is that such a revision in attitude carries concrete and far-reaching implications beyond our understanding of the *nix operating system. Calum Selkirk in a concise and elegant description of ‘shell basics’ admits that ‘These concepts are often difficult to grasp for someone completely unfamiliar with programming.’ He continues ‘It is for this reason I spend probably more time than is perhaps necessary explaining them, often with the most simplistic of examples.’#15 Does this explanation ensures to the reader they must be a moron if he/she should not understand his detailed simple explanations of the command line interface? No, apparently these are regular humorous antics of the field, as hacker Eric Raymond reminds us, ‘To do the unix philosophy right, you have to value your own time never to waste it’.#16 A most extreme case of tech-humor (or is that megalomania?) we can witness here in an interview with Radia Perlman, an expert at networking protocols and distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, tells us of her stringent desire to abolish an intimate social custom that extends back to 6th century BC; Frauenheim recounts
“Thinking about smart communication strategies is something that comes naturally to Perlman. She even sees room for improvement in the way people clink glasses during dinner toasts. ‘That actually drives me crazy’, Perlman said, ‘because it’s an inefficient protocol’.”#17
Steeped in superstition and self-preservation, a toast for many people is a spontaneous and congenial tradition, which binds us to each other. It is outrageous to overplay the intellectual aspect of collective human experience, and define knowing as strictly a function of the rules and categories appealing to the cognitive mind, to the exclusion of sensory factors. The body is not a programmed machine but an active and open form, continually improvising its relation to things and the world. Moreover, Matthew Fuller states ‘Free Software is too internalist. The relation between its users and its developers is so isomorphic that there is extreme difficulty in breaking out of that productive but constricted circle.’#18 I advocate that geeks should leave these structures of discourse behind them! Otherwise by now all of the experiences with command line tools and all their responses in the shell would already have been anticipated from the beginning, already programmed, as it were into the initial Unix kernel.
What fascinates me is that for a significant amount of us, which is a massive majority of world population who actually use computers, do not even know there a spectrum of OS choices are even available! Let alone about the GNU/Linux or free software foundation (FSF), which exists to insist people should have the freedom to choose and modify the technology they use in the way they see fit and not be restricted by economics or reductive proprietary laws. If people are talking about greatly enhancing our communication models, I suggest that users and/or creators of free software, or *nix developers, who until now habitually operate in isolation, need to appreciate different modes of being, in order to share the potential of human development in regard to embodiment, language, information and communication technologies. The teleological attitude, conventions and the allocation of roles, of some hardcore technocrats is intimidating and in regard to optimizing smart communication strategies it seems rather disingenuous (and also a total come down).
*The shell vs. terrestrial gravity, and inertia*
The rubric of GNU/Linux is a vista of permissive, open-ended medium as the source code is free to be used, developed and extended. Specifically, users of command line tools have endless variables, executed by programmers, inhibited and impatient with the limitation of the GUI. Martin Howse suggests
“Alternatively living coding at the command line; that horizontal prompt proving a horizon for contemplation…And thus to the application of a new discipline, expanded software; endophysical interface and Alice in Wonderland. (another beginning marked)”.#19
When I first discovered the power to delete the file in my OpenBSD terminal that the OSX finder could not trash I felt was no longer a prisoner inside my machine, only possessing knowledge of a GUI, I was formerly stuck in a holding pattern. Using *nix you keep moving all the time, discovering always new executable codes sensitive to commands.
In the shell I find a marvelous mess of constellations, nebulae, interstellar gaps, awesome gullies, that provokes in me an indescribable sense of vertigo, as if I am hanging from earth upside down on the brink of infinite space, with terrestrial gravity still holding me by the heels but about to release me any moment. An example is /dev/null – a special *nix file where you pipe your unwanted data flow through this output. When I first experienced viewing data disappearing into this file, I immediately had an epiphany about the black hole and how the theory of the event horizon might function in an every day context.#20
Sondheim has a similar perspective on the abyss like nature of the shell,
“2. The graphic interface opens to shells as well, and since the inter- face devolves from a _blank screen,_ there is simultaneously _potential_ (click anywhere on it) and absence (nothing visible), reflecting upon the human operator / monitor interface as well”
The experiential in the *nix world is truly an unvalidated mode. I believe that the meaning of life is to be uplifted, to be in a euphoric state and make art that reflects this experience of traveling through the manifold of time. All you need is humility and imagination for the ‘baroque protocol’ as Howse suggests;
“All patches, software encodings, algorithmic elaborations for either space should prove readily extensible (in the codified realm, heavily abstracted and based on message passing, in the social realm driven by baroque protocol) and concerned with an extreme escalating overmapping of expanded and reduced software domains. The problem states itself as that of the practical and the experiment. Substance.”
In the *spirit* of the awe inspired or amateur, a very particular experiential learning aspect, and protocol is set in motion, especially in the mode and register of collaborative communication when you working at this level you have a massive advantage, not only do you enjoy a certain level of freedom – when you don’t *really* know what you are doing – but you do things with tools that other people would not do, whereas a professional attitude has all these constraints. Ironically *nix experts or in general technocrats who have certain defined methods and formulas, end up becoming completely unintelligible to people in outside the Information *Communication* Technology culture.
*Vessels of infinite veracity*
You seek for knowledge and wisdom as I once did; and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been.
– Mary Shelly, Frankenstein
Perception is precisely about this reciprocity, the ongoing interchange between the body and the entities that surround it, and can be seen as a form of ‘expanded software script (human)’ (Howse). Therefore, I am curious in the development of the human form in regard to long-term computer usage. Since we experience our world as fabric woven together out of inextricable sensory threads, not as individual sensory media, nor as individual data. Whatever account we give of experience not only must take this synaesthetic motif into consideration, but also begin with and from it. As Howse explains,
“On the other side, the human, and within a narrow context the meta, the xxxxx/PLENUM experiment attempts a simultaneous overmapping of both realms using operatic, logical and holographic technique dressed up in the emperor’s new clothes; the expanded software script (human) translated into machine and meta-human-machine operation. We would rather view interface in terms of a Gunter Brus incision than a question of design and GUI.”#21
When operating a computer we are connected to the machine by means of our human body, including its movement and skills as well as the senses and linguistic activity. As a Linux user we are a creator, engaged in a dynamic, symbiotic dance with the computer. In _Matter and Memory_ Bergson confirms the process of affect with all that we encounter, he writes,
“…we have to take into account the fact that our body is not a mathematical point in space, that its virtual actions are complicated by, and impregnated with real actions, or, in other words, that there is no perception without affection. Affection is, then that part of aspect of the inside of our body which we mix with the image of external bodies.”
From the perspective of the actual machine, Sondheim affirms the uncanny nature of Linux referring to its physical like form,
“Beyond the traditional division of graphic user interface (GUI) and text-based interface, the unix and linux system/s create a unique environment problematising machine, boundary, surface, and structure.”
Linux engages in a dimensional model, it leaks, each program is bound up within the other. The vast amount of command line tools and *nix concepts filenames, paths, wild cards, input and output redirection, regular expressions apply to many different commands. The recurring concepts seem to transcend most kinds of simple breakdown. As my command line experience grows, I find myself returning to these. Slowly I delve deeper into the possibilities, specific tasks and commands seem more like membranes, because they define a surface of metamorphosis and exchange. The entire system can be controlled and tweaked by the user, in this sense; the OS has a subjective aesthetic by its very substance, which blurs line between two self-contained realms of human and machine.
This is why I advocate that the GNU/Linux shell is an OS in flux responding to the output and needs of a living community, for the user awareness is not locked up with in the density of a closed and bounded object, the ability for the machine to extend itself to a network are also open and indeterminate. Since change and transformation in every aspect of human life is imminent, to such extent that life itself is being transformed, as Loss Peque–o Glazier has remarked, ‘The language you are breathing becomes the language you think’.#22 As Howse expands
“The domain maps over the idea. The real. The idea of. Mapped by multiple domains. A holographic style transform across domains/of terms. Transform of idea/real/feedback.”
This is the inter-corporeal level of using a networked computer, since I even begin to experience myself in an expansive networked or socio-centric sense rather than an individual egocentric sense. If the human intellect rooted in, and borne by our contact with the multiple shapes that surround us, what is the impact of the computer, that is becoming more embedded in the daily lives, (at least for those of us living in the metropolis), having upon our bodily membrane?
You need to approach the Linux OS as a continual learning process#23, as such, (for the command line *nix user), you need to initiate the system maintenance operations, it requires the constant need to monitor and intimately understand the functioning of the machine. Under the surface of the computer’s interface, processes seethe with undiscovered activity. Since an OS runs many daemons and services, many of these processes merely wait for actions to occur – one example is a cupsd process, which is a background daemon of the CUPS printing system. This process waits for you to call it to work, it lies back stage in the wings#24 just watching to see if it is needed, and this passive activity that uses very little processor time or memory. But only the linux command line will show you the actual parsing of these processes and at least with my experience with the Gentoo distribution it will not spoon feed the user informing them when updating their world needs to be done.
Therefore I believe that the constant need to monitor and intimately understand the functioning of the Linux machine also deepens our kinesthetic awareness about our own anatomy, physiological and kinesiology systems. Further, Hofstadter in _Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Brain_ recounts a moment when he was showing some friends the PARRY program, when some of the OS information came up in the terminal after a mistyped mistake, they asked ‘why are you overtyping what’s on the screen?’ in which he explains;
“The idea that ‘you’ know all about ‘yourself’ is so familiar from interaction with people that is was natural to extend it to the computer – after all, it was intelligent enough that it could ‘talk’ to them in English! Their question was not unlike asking a person, “why are you making so few red blood cells today? People do not know about that level – the ‘operating system level’ – of their bodies.”
I propose that after prolonged use of Linux, people will begin to develop more of sensitivity for their own need for inner maintenance because of its labyrinthine architecture; this is “expanded software, a timed response.” (Hawse) This information can be experienced as dwelling within the body apparatus. Having awareness of our inter-cellular processes leads to a change in physical experience, a change in sensation.#25 No doubt from my experience experiential movement techniques I am more open to this.#26 But what I am implying is this is the sort of silent conversation that we carry on with things with our proprioceptive facilities, a continuous dialogue that is a proto-linguistic state, for instance, when the hand readily navigates the space between the fingers and the keys on the computer.
With Linux I begin understand the processes and have an idea of the most important processes and how to manage them, for example, with “top” command I can get information on my system and its operations. When Sondheim writes in point 4 in his tenants: —
“Phenomenology of Linux / Unix -; — 4. It is easy to assume that source code is equivalent to bones and oper- able binaries to flesh; or the kernel as fundament, and file structure as slough. I would rather argue for a system of cubist plateaus of intersecting information regimes, with vectors / commands operating among them. In this sense it is information that is immanent within the operating system, not any particular plateau-architecture.”
An understanding of these processes will no doubt help me to practically manage my Linux OS, but perhaps it also may help me relate to my own physicality. After a while, I suspect I may find potential problems that vampire my machines processing speed, run away processes, broken sessions which never properly terminated and simultaneously detect blockages in cell movement in my body – which slows down my nervous systems ability to provoke or control the release of hormones and in turn may diminish nerve impulses.
Understanding the internal micro choices and actions our automated nervous system performs every moment of our living existence, is the same as the instrumental process of learning tools, writing scripts for managing programs and processes; getting information on process and shutting down processes, just as there are kinetic techniques that are often used for longevity. Neil Stephenson observes this complexity;
“Many Hackers have launched more or less successful re-implementations of the Unix ideal. Each one brings in new embellishments…Thus Unix has slowly accreted around a simple kernel and acquired a kind complexity and asymmetry about it that is organic, like the roots of a tree, or the branching of a coronary artery. Understanding it is more like anatomy than physics.”
Delving deeply into the myriad tools available in Linux and exploring possibilities of the entire file system, this concentration and imagination can actually stimulate facilitate material, physical change in the human body. I advocate this may have more benefits then just powerful processor speed, script automation and multitasking. As it seems at the moment, prevalent is a strange sort of vanity based on identity, form and high end graphics, which is becoming more and more removed from actual living human organism.#27
Perhaps over the years the long-term use of GUI’s may see its end-users becoming like the pathetic monster’s of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, their walk staggering and jerky, their reach clumsy and inaccurate, reflexes spasmodic; unaware of his labyrinthine space of the middle ear, careening about the environment, every movement a source of danger to himself and others. As regular computer users I fear we are losing our ability to sense our own inner communication and physiological processes and conject, using Linux OS might be a way to return to this. So early in history Mary Shelley recognized this danger and predicted the perils of the technological society and the GUI!
Perhaps her fiction was not about the easy Hollywood version of the uncontrollable man made monster, I have a hunch that this great work was about the horror of a human who didn’t have the capacity for imagine realms of abstraction or even their very own inner veracity. The body I here speak of is very different from the objectified body where the emphasis is on the Skeletal-muscular system, that complex machine whose broken parts or stuck systems diagnosed by westernized medical doctors. Underneath the anatomised and mechanical body that we have learned to conceive, dwells the subjective body as it actually experiences things, this poised vessel that initiates our projects and suffers our passions.
*Protect me from what I want…?*
You said it, my good Knight! There ought to be laws to protect the body of acquired knowledge. Take one of our good pupils, for example: modest and diligent, from his earliest grammar classes he has kept a little notebook full of phrases. After hanging on the lips of his teachers for twenty years, he’s managed to build up an intellectual stock in trade; doesn’t it belong to him as if it were a house, or money?
-Paul Claudel, Le soulier de satin, Day III, Scene II
If bodies are complex systems embedded in the environment, what does this mean when we experience a saturation of media images on a dally basis? In fact I often feel my communication has been so corrupted, to that extent that I hardly ever watch television, yet its sound bites have infiltrated my own speech. Here Stephenson makes a connection between the mass media and the GUI;
“Disney is in the business of putting out a product of seamless illusion — a magic mirror that reflects the world back better than it really is. But a writer is literally talking to his or her readers, not just creating an ambience or presenting them with something to look at: and just as the command-line interface opens a much more direct and explicit channel from user to machine than the GUI, so it is with words, writer, and reader.”#28
The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is the most commonly used OS and for most people perceived as an efficient and effective tool because of its point and click interface. However according to Nielsen & Gentner if people opt for the GUI it ultimately limits human communication and even our ability to imagine the intangible,
“The see and point principal states that users interact with the computer by pointing at the objects they can see on the screen. It’s as if we have thrown away a million years of evolution, lost our facility with expressive language, and have been reduced to point at objects in the immediate environment. Mouse buttons and modifier keys give us a vocabulary equivalent to a few different grunts. We have lost all the power of language, and can no longer talk about objects that are not immediately visible…”
Internalising enough of what seems inscrutable and cryptic commands that can be used quickly at appropriate times, is indeed an arduous initiation process; especially from the seemingly decadent but limiting life of the GUI. In due time as in any learnt routine, working with the command line, or so I am told, the keystrokes will become hardwired in my fingers and I will learn to automate maintenance and do backup commands with cron, or combine commands in hundreds of shell scripts. The material limitations one faces in any instrumental process and indeed when using the notoriously powerful *nix core, is certainly unapproachable for most of us, especially when one encounters a black hole when syncing and updating or then having to unemerge blocked packages.#29
After about three years of listening to the multiple and vexed opinions about what Linux distribution to actually use, in general most people tried to protect me from installing Gentoo Linux, which arguably, brings one closer to understanding the OS intimately, than most other distributions (that is, apart from Linux-from-Scratch).#30 Eventually the installation, even with experienced support people guiding me, felt similar to that of a rite-of-passage. However, no learning is easy and in fact it should be frustrating, as when things are frustrating, that means we are learning – frustration is a necessary part of the learning curve. As I have said, the operation of Linux is a continual process, which, like most developmental patterns give rise to new situations with each new stage of sensory information and language integration.
Although it is common that people now want things to be neatly packaged with a snazzy logo and even we see that now education is catering to the terms of economic rationalism than a deep pedagogical function, Nielsen Gentner suggests the inevitability of computers in our daily lives; —
“Today’s children will spend a large fraction of their lives communicating with computers. We should think about the trade-offs between ease of learning and power in computer-human interfaces. If there were a compensating return in increased power, it would not be unreasonable to expect a person to spend several years learning to communicate with computers, just as now we expect children to spend 20 years mastering their native language.”#31
What skills are OS users prepared to learn what contexts are they prepared to situate themselves in, really? Indeed end-user alternatives are easy to propose, but difficult to put in to practice, especially when they are presented as natural but exist by forces of habit. Jef Raskin writes
“GUIs have become so pervasive (or is it perversive?) that many computer users can’t even think about anything else as a human-computer interface…But GUIs are modal from the get- go. Now that you’ve read this you know that interfaces which are far less modal are possible, but you should be warned they are habit-forming, even addictive. Start to use them and you are hooked forever…”#32
The actual shifting of inertia that is entailed in asking people to make perceptual shift, is first something we have to come to fully understand and work through, Weber describes this resistance, “because such fixed habits become, by virtue of their very fixity and hence inflexibility, incapable of dealing with changing and infinitely variable circumstances.” #33 I find it remarkable that there has been hardly any research to the changes wrought by the massive use of particular computer OS’s, nor there has been
consideration of the long term impact and benefits for everyday usage.
In the wake of increased computational usage, it is important moment for people to want to continue to actively reinvent language. Yet even in spite of their severity, computer languages have caused a tremendous creativity because there was, so far, no power to discipline them, as Sondheim has noticed ‘for some of us, linux _has_ changed the language’. If I consider the paranoia and the will to fix forms by software patent acts and extend this to the people who make their source code protected by copyright laws and international treaty provisions, it’s clear that the compulsion for this finds its origin in a very particular and limiting view of the world.
It is among other things, also handing over control to a fixed conceptual discourse of the Law. However, language & code is not a fixed or ideal form, but an evolving medium we collectively inhabit, a vast topological matrix in which our bodies are generative sites for it. While individual speech acts are guided by the structured lattice of the language, that lattice is nothing other than the sedimented result of all previous acts of speech, and here we can see how Linux code itself is altered by the very expressive activity it now guides. As Harwood comments ‘It seems software exists in some form of invisible shadow world of procedure…Software is establishing models by which things are done yet, like believing the objectivity of maps, we forget that software is derived from certain cultural, historical and economic trajectories.’#34 In _Code as Executable Text: Software Art and its Focus on Program Code as Performative Text_, Inke Arns specifically attributes code work to an economic class, ‘These works use the poor man’s medium, text which also appears performative or executable in the context of the command line.’#35 Language and implied rules and protocols have always been principal instruments of the control process and unrestricted creativity is considered to dangerous. According to Clive Phillpot it is preventing any major social revolution and he reminds us,
“There is no need to ban books since a significant percentage of the population – usually the most deprived, who have the most to gain from reading and changing the status quo- cannot read them. Instead we have to try to ban pictures and music because even the illiterate people can read pictures and
If we are to take real-life social stratification into consideration, although it costs nothing, for the moment, code work and understanding Linux is definitely not a _poor mans_ tool or _modus operandi_.
*If you make a mistake with a wildcard the consequences are serious…*
The embodiment process in Linux as relational and interactive Howse writes ‘Code leaks both ways across a broken-world interface.’ I hope it is clear why I advocate for a revision of the discourse, since I believe this knowledge is necessary to understand in order to extricate the discussion of cognitive from the limitations inherent within this presupposition of simply asking everyone to switch to command line computing.
To have a noticeably wider participation in the new developments in language influenced by Linux, is to be fully aware of the current problems of this language and convinced of its extreme importance. Ultimately the human capacity for reflection, planning and manipulation of our environment brings the responsibility of choice, but first and foremost we need to be open and inform people there is a choice. Above all, it seems important to recognise differences within, as well as beyond the borders of the Linux community or people will continue in falling into corporate traps of people like Bill Gates’ idea of what a personal computer is, and Disney’s limiting idea of the what constitutes entertainment.
Furthermore, when source code is made available I think of it more as having reverence for other people’s work. To be able to acknowledge, then copy that work or code and then try to understand how that person thought and felt – but always bringing in my own idiosyncrasies and vision to that, in the understanding that all these efforts are related, and have a larger common purpose. We are always faced with the problem of getting on with our own necessary process of self-discovery, which for regular users of computers, this should also entail finding out how their operating systems work discovering their internal system, language and power.
Our ability to create, plan and code our environment makes us responsible for what we create and for how we chose to live in that creation. Since all of us are, always-already, living on the edge of our own destruction, as Howse writes
“too much knowledge of programming we can see this clearly in programming terms such as continuations, stack and, of course, memory. Yet such simple facts bear repetition; past and future are inherent within computation. The Turing tape moves backwards and forwards, according to specific instructions on that tape. Aside from crash the future of a computation is determined, even with human input within a wider cybernetic equation explored under the rubric of the interface. And finally, it’s not for nothing that Turing and indeed the entire field of computation is obsessed with the halting problem. When will it end?”
Because I keep wondering what happens if these entire systems continue to process even though basic human understanding has broken down?
— 1# Hereafter, I will refer to the computer operating system as OS.
— 2# For the rest of the essay I specifically refer to Linux, one of the many Unix operating systems. I also am a user of the terminal on the Mac OSX based on Open BSD, so I talk from both perspectives. Although both of these operating systems are different from Linux, which is a kernel wrapped in one of the many distributions, there are numerous similarities between Unix and Linux systems. For an account of the genealogy of the Unix machine and its off springs of *nix derivatives i.e. Linux, BSD ‘An alternative history of *nix – machine(s) = person(s) | dev/*nix’ by Martin Hardie,
Linux is specific because it is not proprietary i.e. the source code is made available for users to modify and extend upon. Finally, I am required by Law to write *nix, instead of UNIX as Calum A. Selkirk (2004) writes ‘…I used the term “*nix” to denote Unix, or more precisely Unix-like operating systems, this is due to the fact that “Unix” is a trademark, and as such can not be used in this way. However, as the operating systems we are discussing owe their historical roots to AT&T’s “Unix”, we will describe them generically as “*nix”.’
— 3# Hereafter, I will refer Graphical User Interface/s as GUI/s.
— 4# A description on the “GNU’s Not Unix! – Free Software” GNU General Public License http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.ht.ml
For an example of some the FSF see: Free Software, the definition:
http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html and philosophy,
“Free software is a matter of liberty not price…Free Software Foundation, established in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free software, particularly the GNU operating system, used widely in its GNU/Linux variant. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues surrounding freedom
in the use of software”. http://www.fsf.org
— 5# Hardie, Martin (2005) _Time Machines and the Constitution of the Globe_
— 6# A local example is when I went to the dentist and got my wisdom tooth taken out, I wanted to keep it, since it had a large curl on the root of the bone, like my curly hair, that I was curious about, but the dental institute would not let me keep it due to sterilization laws. I felt it was an infringement on my private body since I cultivated the raw material myself who were they to keep and inscribe a law regarding my own flesh!?…A more broader example of how artists (especially in the USA) are vulnerable the PATRIOT Act which has made freedom of speech questionable is discussed. For instance seen in the ongoing debate about _Critical Art Ensemble_ who by simply communicating corporeal experience in a performance installation settings, are persecuted to be involved Bio-terrorist acts.
— 7# The idea behind this is to safeguard the phenomenological moment of
analysis whilst juxtaposing a Foucauldian genealogical perspective, for
a discussion of this in relation to Merleau-Ponty’s work read _Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture_, G. Weiss and H.F. Haber (eds), Routledge, New York, 1999.
— 8# Brennan, Karen (1994) The Geography of Enunciation: Hysterical Pastiche in Kathy Ackers’s Fiction, in _Boundary 2; an international Journal of Literature and Culture_. Summer 21:2, 243-68.
— 9# For writings in this area see Hayles, N. Katherine, 2005. _My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts._ Chicago: University of
— 10# Circuit Bending is the creative implementation of audio short-circuits.
— 11# Most obvious way in Toydeath where I performed under the name of s.g.ballerina, ‘Picture a hyper band of aliens channeling through a broken AM radio, and someone’s playing with the speed control. But the Hendrix-worthy feedback wails are actually the sirens of toy fire engines. The spastic beats courtesy of model helicopters. Toydeath proves that punk ain’t
dead, it’s just moved into the toy box.’ http://minorkeys.tripod.com/reviews.html
— 12# http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_definition_controversy
— 13# I am involved in various projects that ascertain that when women-centred activities are foregrounded, people usually expect me to subscribe to the rules or often identify me with a geek, because some of these focus on Free Software based workshops. However for me in these projects I take visceral pleasure in exposing women to computers, my desire is driven by sharing information to people who
don’t get access to it or cannot afford it, and to those women do not have the confidence or even think they deserve to learn anything because
they were brought up in extra ordinary, challenging environments. See:
To see if you are a geek you need to take ‘The Geek Test’ http://www.innergeek.us/geek.html—
— 14# As opposed to physical conditioning disciplines that became techniques to generate rules and exercises in order to produce functional escalation in the army and finally in civil society.
— 15# Calum A Selkirk, (2004) _Shell Basics.v1.1_
I want to confess that it has taken me 1.5 years to fully understand this text. However, should my confession prove me low in intellect? I am a graduate of the University of Sydney obtaining first class 1:1 honours, which placed me in the top 5% mark of Australian University for the year 2000. I could not possibly have destroyed all my brain cells since then, so this might then perhaps give some kind of legitimate proof that I am considered, by not only by myself to possess adequate mental ability. *The point I am trying to make is* -if I give this text to a person who has never even heard of *nix, and only grew up thinking Windows machines are available and was to be introduced to the world of free software rhetoric they have no way to enter such discourse.
— 16# Eric S. Raymond (2003) ‘The Art of Unix Programming’ http://www.faqs.org/docs/artu/
— 17# Frauenheim, Ed and Gilbert, Alorie (2005) _Opening doors for women in computing: Harvard president’s comments re-ignite debate over women in computer science, with reformers trying to reverse guy-centric patterns_
— 18# Matthew Fuller (2004) ‘Behind the Blip, Essays on the Culture of Software’, Autonomedia: New York.
— 19# Howse, Martin (2006) ‘Version Control 1.6’ in _[the] xxxxx [reader]xxxxx_ OpenMute Print-on-demand services at http://openmute.org
— 20# In response I made a /dev/null Doll see:
— 21# PLENUM was a project in March 2006 as audience you are also apart of an emerging expanded exchanged where the interaction via the software is reflected during the dialogue itself. http://kop.kein.org/plenum/html/documentation.html—
The software used was Pure Data, as Howse (2006) writes, ‘We could begin
to unravel expanded software (the realm of PLENUM) using the example of
a network to be mapped within our software; mapping the connections of
Alice (in Wonderland, through the Looking Glass)…’
— 22 #Glazier, Loss Peque–o (1997) ‘Jumping to Occlusions’ in_ Digital Poetics_
— 23# I first heard the concept ‘operating system as process’ in the 2006 Thematic Project Command line Culture at Piet Zwart Institute lead by Florian Cramer.
— 24# The Wings, an area of the stage not visible to the audience.
— 25# The feeling of such change is then reported back to the central nervous system by the proprioceptive apparatus. Nancy Udow (1977) refers to psychological research studies by Washburn (1916) and Schilder (1950) which, through “the use of electromagyograms and electro encephelograms have shown the presence of muscular activity and brain waves during a mental motor image which are similar to those activities and waves during overt
movement”. THEATRE PAPERS ARCHIVE (1977 – 1984) Dartington College of Arts, UK.
— 26# After much experimental research and training in a touch and repatterning techniques learnt at the Institute for Somatic Movement Studies I can access mine and other bodily cellular tone. The tone can be explained in how the intercellular and extra cellular fluid is flowing in and out of the cells membrane; this can be reflected at many levels e.g. low (not enough intercellular fluid) high tone (too much fluid inside the cell) of the organ.
— 27# Laurie Anderson also questions this strange phenomena.
— 28# http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html
— 29# People may be familiar with other installation terms, this description is specific to the Gentoo distribution. http://www.gentoo.org/ Linux, which is a kernel wrapped in one of the many distributions.
— 30# http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/
— 31# Jakob Nielsen Gentner, The Anti-Mac Interface http://www.acm.org/
— 32# Raskin, Jef (1993) _Down with GUIs!_ http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.06/1.6_guis.htm
— 33# Weber, Samuel. 1987. ‘Texts/Contexts’, in Institution and Interpretation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 3-17.
— 34# Harwood, Graham. Cartography and the Technologies of Location
http://www.scotoma.org/notes/index.cgi?CartoTech (cited online at 12 December 2006)—
— 35# http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/themes/generative-tools/read_me/
— 36# Phillpot, Clive (1991) Art, Anarchy and the Open Library, in _Art Libraries Journal_ 4: 10. p.9