Randomness, order, art and copyright

“I decided to register the copyright for Gaussian-Quadratic with the Library of Congress. At first they refused since a machine had generated the work. I epxlained that a human being had written the program that incorporated randomness and order. They again refused to regsiter the work, stating that randomness was not acceptable. I finally explained that although the numbers generated by the program appeared ‘random’ to humans, the algorithm generating them was perfectly mathematical and not random at all. The copyright was finally accepted, thereby giving Gaussian-Quadratic of being perhaps the first registered piece of copyrighted art produced with a digital computer.”

–A. Michael Noll, describing his decision to register his 1965 Gaussian-Quadratic with the Library of Congress. A. Michael Noll, “The beginnings of computer art in the United States: A memoir.” Computers and Graphics 19:4 (1995), 41.

Gaussian-Quadratic, 1965

It really is a series of tubes

Just call me Fallopia. In early March, I gave an Ignite talk at eTech about pneumatic tubes– a five-minute talk where the slides advance every 15 seconds. It’s shot its way around the Internet, but I haven’t yet posted it here before. Enjoy!

Thinking about Maxi

On Active Social Plastic, I wrote about Maxi, the pop culture feminist webzine I co-founded with Janelle Brown, Heather Irwin and Rosemary Pepper in 1997. When we launched, it met with both acclaim and criticism. We were too feminist, we were too lipstick; we changed the tone of women’s media, we helped to build a community of women who are insightful, strong and powerful (and at the center of much of the potential for digital and media culture today).

We ran the project for 2 1/2 years, until Fall 1999. Labors of love are hard. When Maxi died, I regretted it but hadn’t missed it as a project until the A Few Zines panel at Columbia that Mimi put together. It’s made me think about a number of things … but in particular, about the kind of collaborations that the early web engendered (no pun intended). Would we have started it if we were 25 years old today, and if we had, would anyone have noticed? How much would we have pushed boundaries, discovered success, failure, HTML and UNIX and Photoshop?

I’ve not collaborated upon anything like Maxi since we folded, although I had a fierce, collaborative camaraderie with the other four students in my master’s program; we put on a conference and organized a class. We talked about a book but we’ve been too busy to start it (three of us are in Ph.D. programs, two of us are teaching full-time).

The discussions I’ve had about magazines since then, however, revolve around architecture and design culture, around the possibility of creating something published in small runs, 500 copies, with gritty covers–the absolute opposite of a project that could have near infinite distribution. I wonder what that experience would be like.