ACMC2007 Keynote Address

My good friend Alistair Riddell was the Director of the 2007 Australasian Computer Music Conference (note: that site now seems gone [2009], here is a review of the conference). He asked if I could be the keynote speaker for the event. At that time, I was heavily in the throes of initial drug therapy in my multiple myeloma odyssey. Travel to Australia would have been difficult. I suggested instead that I do a 'keynote event', using network technology to allow a virtual presence at the Conference. I would give the address from my office at Columbia.

I think that Alistair was initially skeptical, until I explained the fun I had in mind. I enlisted the aid of friend/colleague Luke DuBois, our goal being to turn a dopey 'talking head' internet broadcast into something more interesting to watch. Our plan was straightfoward: start with a boring presentation (my talking head!) and gradually introduce image and audio signal processing until the content of the speech-text became utterly unintelligble, displaced by the media performance.

It worked much better than we even imagined. None of the ACMC attendees (except Alistair and a few of his co-workers) knew what we had planned. I think the audience in Canberra was quite surprised as what initially seemed to be network 'hiccups' gradually morphed into serious image and sound manipulation. Technically it worked very well, especially given that we were using a basic 'off-the-shelf' network videoconference application (I think it was iChat) to accomplish the communication. Luke injected his video processing into the signal chain in a very low-tech way. He aimed the broadcast camera at his laptop where he was doing the image-processing. It was trivial for me to insert my audio-processing patches into the signal. The only strange problem we had was at the very beginning (you will hear some oblique references to this). Apparently some random teenage hacker managed to intercept our network port for about 30 seconds. Just as we began to get set for the broadcast, an unknown individual appeared on our monitors. He just looked at us and then vanished. Odd.

Alistair sent me a DVD with a recording of the event made from a camera in the back of hall where it was broadcasted. Here are several versions of that recording:

As far as the actual content of my talk, it had to do with the nature of communities and a critique of the notion of virtual or on-line versions of community. Essentially I made it up as I went along, knowing that most of what I said would be barely percieved as Luke and I added our video and audio processing. This was the rough outline I used for my improvisation:
Thanks!  I know some people...

talk about community

I've been hanging around at home a lot lately.  Originally this
	broadcast was to be from there, but...
	my conduit to the world is through the net a lot.

the promise of non-geolocal, doesn't work.  Even though I'm
	talking to you now, it's not a "community" in the way
	originally envisioned. -- category error

its too easy to walk away.
there is a fundamental falseness.

leads to the flaming phenomenon, no consequences.
	-- story about people who meet in real life.
	-- inside cars (pope 10 commandments)

our notion is misguided -- Second Life, failure in one way,
		the more we try to reduplicate, the worse off...
	but success in another.

******* roosevelt story
	history of the town (size, etc.)
	specific no-holds-barred issue
	kids the next day, school board

forced to work together
	-- common enterprise . . . commitment
	-- THIS is what a web-community can be, organized around creative
			activity.  Not just talking, but *creating*

what forms can this take?
	-- collaborative projects (original Berners-Lee idea/community of scholars)
	-- web stuff like this current thing we're doing
	-- constant contact (my mom, friends)
	-- community through shared resources:  MUSIC

what music can do:  virtual community.
	bonding, irish folk, King Crimson, the whole nine yards.
	national ID, Plato

what music can do:  real community.  (commitment, r/t performance)

The abstract in the Conference Proceedings listed this, again no mention of the fact that it would be a network 'performance':
One final trival factoid: in the final photo of the set at the top of this web page (taken from the movie), the silhouette is Alistair in front of the camera in the back of the hall. Hi Alistair!

and for those who geek-out on what we used:

hardware:   Apple MacBook (intel) and PowerBook (ppc) laptops/OSX
software:   RTcmix, Jitter/max/msp, Digital Performer 4