Archive for May, 2007 wins challenge grant

by Justin Heideman at 12:18 pm 2007-05-25
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Paul Schmelzer over at the Minnesota Monitor writes:

Clift and Paul win News Challenge grants: Two Minnesotans are winners of the Knight News Challenge, an initiative to “transform community news” through the innovative use of digital technology in local settings. Steven Clift of the online community won $15,000 to develop the blog “The Ideas Factory,” which will “generate and share big ideas from the world of citizen engagement.” Nora Paul, director of the Institute for New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota, won a $250,000 grant to create “a news simulation environment which lets citizens play through a complex, evolving news story through interaction with the newsmakers.” Congratulations!

The Institute for New Media Studies is also involved in The UnConvention, and this project seems like it might be an exciting thing to feature under our umbrella.

We are not alone - M2HZ + participatory politics in Helsinki

by mediachef at 3:58 pm 2007-05-22
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I didn’t catch any of it live, but M2HZ is a Helsinki-based urban television project, which concluded a two-week test period. According to the website:

“The channel is being collaboratively developed by artists, developers and civil society activists. A group of people and organisations who wish to imagine what channels could be like in the current media environment, and what types of contents could be delivered through collaborative and distributed production.”

Hopefully we can add some UnConventional news to the M2HZ open channel at the time of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2008.

m-cult, a Helsinki-based org, which produced the ISEA2004 Symposium and participated in M2HZ is also hosting a workshop on participatory democracy. They write:

“m-cult and the Democracy Unit of the Ministry of Justice realize a workshop on participatory politics and foresight on June 8, 2007. The workshop gathers researchers, decision-makers and NGO representatives to discuss experiences of participatory forums and web tools to support deliberative democracy. Visiting experts are Lars Klüver (Danish Board of Technology) and Richard Rogers (University of Amsterdam /

The aim of the workshop is to find new methods, processes and tools for democracy. A special challenge is to bring citizen’s views to affect the early phases of government and technology programmes.

With the U.S. national political party conventions, we’d like to find ways to bring citizens’ participation in any phase - unscripting the conventions of the tightly scripted Convention processes.

A new place for (political?) net art: replacing ads

by Justin Heideman at 2:33 pm 2007-05-21
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Fox News with AddArt

The New York Times reported yesterday on a nifty net art project called AddArt. The concept is simple: replace annoying online ads with works of art. Here’s a sample of the article:

Steve Lambert, a conceptual artist, plans to add his own twist to one type of software that blots out commercial messages. His add-on will replace the display ads — which are usually papered over with blank windows — with curator-picked artwork from contemporary artists.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Lambert demonstrated a test version of AddArt at the Chelsea studios of Eyebeam, a nonprofit arts and technology center where he has a fellowship. Mr. Lambert opened the Fox News Web site on his computer, and both the banner ad at the top of the page and a rectangular ad on the bottom were replaced with a bald eagle illustration. (He is using stock art rather than original work at this point, which can be downloaded from

Mr. Lambert, 30, said he and Evan Harper, an artist, are not starting from scratch, but rather were modifying the program Adblock Plus. “Why reinvent the wheel when you can insert a gear and make it run backwards?” said Mr. Lambert.

There are a couple things that strike me about this project. Obviously, this isn’t an optimal platform for showing “work”, but it does create an amazing opportunity for satire in places where an opportunity might not otherwise exist. So it isn’t going to compete with the traditional gallery, but like most net art, that isn’t the goal. I think the real power of this is the ability to change the way ads show up on particular sites. The stars and stripes demo is a good example of this, turning the Fox News home page into a Colbert-esqe satire. It reminds me a bit of the Evil Google Logo greasemonkey script.

The biggest hurdle with this type of project is not getting artists to create work for it, because a handful of people can do a lot. The tough part is building an audience to actually use and enjoy it. While viewing more art on the web is a great idea, there might need to be more to it than just a few replaced banner ads here and there. What incentive do users have to use it? For practical purposes, this should really become an option within AdBlock Plus, since that software has an established userbase that is already hostile to ads and may be receptive to something else.

I’m also a skeptical because in some ways the Aat is just as distracting, if not more, than the advertising it is replacing. It is just a different take on what spyware is already doing… replacing ads with those of competitors. This software is just a bit more up front, and the competitors have more of an altruistic intent.

Finally, it is just a little laugh worthy that the NYT reported on a piece of software that could potentially deprive them of ad revenue. That is the name of the game on the web, though, and maybe someone in the NYT gets it.

Add Art

Also, check out The Anti-Advertising Agency. They’ve done some pretty interesting projects, AddArt is just one getting press treatment right now.

This has been cross-posted from the Walker New Media Blog.