open source/ browsers/ webdances

Scott deLahunta (
Mon, 18 May 1998 09:51:44 +0200

A couple of posts to the list in the last month (directly and indirectly)
bring up the issue of intellectual property rights... so I wonder if anyone
has been following the developments surrounding Netscape's release of its
software code? Netscape, desparately trying to survive its battle with
Microsoft, did this partly in response to a hacker article on the benefits
of open source code (Eric S. Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"

Appended is a post by David Garcia forwarded from Nettime which gives an
artist's view on the topic. These developments have some relevance for the
evolution of dance/ tech. Not least of which is the possibility that in
future the WWW is going to 'look' very different as the netscape/explorer
browser war begins to die out and other forms of WWW viewing evolve.

A post from Richard Lord some time ago asked for information regarding
websites dedicated to showing 'dance' in cyberspace. Interestingly, his site
seems to be the only site (please inform me if I am wrong) at present which
utilizes some of the technical possibilities for showing dance on the web,
shockwave, multiple quicktime, etc. (

[[[ I should mention that sa Unander-Scharin's webstage premiere recently
announced to the list shows a site with single quicktime images utilized -- the quicktimes are
quite nice with operatic monteverdi music, but the project does not make a
new or experimental use of web tech potential ]]]

Presumably Web dances sites will increase -- following a similar trajectory
to 'dance for screen'. Why not? Difference is that if you make 'dance for
screen' in the, by now, traditional sense, the work will tend to be viewed
in same way (projection or video monitor). The web has potential to give
audience different options for seeing the datastreams which now manifest via
HTML. The way in which HTML is represented has been dominated by netscape/
explorer, but other options will become available partly as result of this
open source development. The other day here in Amsterdam de Waag hosted
'browser day' at which more than 20 alternatives (by students) to browsing
the web were demonstrated (

I predict more webdance sites in future and generally dance artists will
look towards the growing options for utilizing streaming video/ audio/ 3-d
space, etc. for their webdances. But what about more abstract alternative
ways of viewing net datastreams such as the experimental "webstalker" by
I/O/D ( ?? Point webstalker at Richard's site
and you get an entirely different visual representation of his cyberstages
--- certainly not what Richard intended... but that's an interesting debate.

... so direct implications for open source are manifest in the potential
future fluidness of web dance spaces. Indirect impact is on the whole arts
field in general, issues of ownership, originality, etc.


>X-POP3-Rcpt: sdela@bom
>Return-Path: <>
>Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 10:14:20 +0100
>From: David Garcia <>
>Subject: Re: <nettime> artists vs geeks
>Mr. Meeks, art needs no protection. It is far from being an endangered
>Mr. Barlow's sound bite "information wants to be free" may be a tired
>old maxim but the idea and more importantly the reality of "open
>source" (Eric S. Raymond's term) culture has never been more alive and
>relevant to everybody including artists. And the fact that it was
>created by and for geeks does not lessen its value. It is absolutely
>vital that everybody involved in both art and the net shows due respect
>for what geeks have achieved, not only because they built and are
>building the tools and the media that we are using and inhabiting but
>also because through that process they have articulated the most
>inspiring and pragmatic principles to appear in the cultural landscape
>for many a year. Begining in 1983 with super geek R.Stalman's legal
>hack GNU General Public License or "copy left" and up to Eric Raymond's
>text The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Collectively geeks have succeeded
>in articulating principles that are both utopian, inspiring and pragmatic
>(and are inspiring precisely because they are so pragmatic).
>This is not about getting stuff for free. This is about the potential of
>the net to release powerful new forms of creativity through cooperation
>and sharing (the much maligned gift economy) not because it makes us
>better people but because if properly moderated it can produce the most
>powerful results. Results that are powerful because they maximize the
>benefits of the "massive peer evaluation" which the net allows. In the
>creation of Linux the geeks showed us the scale and importance of what
>could be achieved utilizing these principals.
>For non geeks (even artists) the most important question is: to what
>extent are the achievements of the "open source" approach in software
>development portable to other areas? In art history there are
>interesting precedents. To take just two examples (there are many
>more); in recent years a large number of key works (not minor works but
>great ones such as the "Helmeted Guard") formerly attributed to be by
>Rembrant have turned out to have been by apprentices working in his
>studio. Do we love these works any the less because the master's hand
>was not on the brush? Or do we celebrate the fact that the techniques
>developed by Rembrant were so openly shared by those working in his
>studio and beyond?
>More recently the cubist paintings (during the so called analytical
>period) by Braque and Picasso are very often quite indistinguishable
>from one another. Braque later described how during this period they
>"worked like two mountaineers roped together". Of course this period of
>source code sharing by the two great modernists was all too short, the
>market place and the cheque books kicked in pretty fast, but neither
>they nor modern art were ever the same again.
>Of course I'm fully aware of the danger of porting a cultural practice
>where evaluations are necessarily subjective from the more testable
>field of creating software architectures. But the success of projects
>like net-time indicate that there are some important lessons to be
>learnt, if only we put our minds to it.
>I would like to see artists and others in the non-geek world better
>able to communicate to programmers and software designers and perhaps
>hackers more willing to speak to those beyond their own people and
>culture. From our side this has to begin with more respect and
>understanding of what geeks have achieved. We can make a start by a
>close reading of Eric S. Raymonds text "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
>the most detailed and accessible description yet of the open source
>So no more whining about authorship please Mr. Meeks. Lets at least
>learn to love the hacker ethic (which artists in their better moments
>share) that there is more at stake than our cheque books.
># distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
># <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
># collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
># more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
># URL: contact:

Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558