The message is YOU …

‘…And the words people said were just shadows of real things. But some things were too big to be really trapped in words, and even the words were too powerful to be completely tamed by writing.

So it followed that some writing was actually trying to become things.’ 

Equal Rites, Terry Pratchett

This text may be regarded as a building site, if you wish…Its foundations of words, solid and finely tuned, balancing the sky-rocketing storeys of thoughts. A sort of whimsical yet totally reliable construction, that I still would not dare to build up …for now. I would rather invite readers to take my writing as an experiment, a virtual site, that loves change trouble and ‘improvement’… I would rather offer the exhilarating sense of ‘no limits’ , which is the ‘trademark of Internet ‘narratives’, … beyond linear-ity of language, into the birth hour of the HTML concept (which is the tool for hyper-text modeling, if you prefer).

The truth is I had a very good reason to sit down and put my thoughts into words. Last October I was invited to present my project at the NET Congestion Streaming media Festival in Amsterdam. It was a chance to think over issues that I have been working on for a couple of years now. I would mention  communication in the age of modern technology, interpreted through the visual arts’ perspective, to name but one of them. The outcomes of this event were many, some of them unexpected. I was genuinely surprised (as genuinely as others were) that in my capacity of being a somewhat ‘light-hearted amateur’ (commonly referred to as USER), I have, ignorantly and acting on my guts feeling, got a tight hold of the ‘do-it-yourself’ concept and have struggled to run my own TV, radio, magazine ….., teasing my audience once and for good into this amateur-ish endeavor.

Next there came this paper, on its turn a reminiscence of the ‘do-it-yourself’ appeal that Amsterdam urgently released last fall.


The somewhat hectic marketing of streaming technologies, together with the booming access to free streaming software and the ever-improving Internet services, made a special offer to the wide public (the users’ community in this particular case); the chance for managing their own ‘do-it-yourself’ media. The idea that practically anyone can reach out their hands and use/or abuse the ‘freedom of speech’ brought a world of difference to our lives. The monopoly of old media (TV, radio, papers) for once looked funny and fragile, in the first place.


Real time net-broadcasting (which could also be quasi-real, by the way) lent a final touch to the exquisite temptations of the brave Internet word. It convincingly adopted a sibling, that so far belonged to TV exclusively: the so called ‘live’ broadcasting. Among other things this fact provides an easy explanation to a curious pattern; whenever streaming is mentioned in whatever discourse, reference to TV are likely (more likely than not) to follow.


TV as a point of reference

WEB TV is one of those expressions which we use to describe a new phenomena, alluding to things we already know (and use!). I believe ‘the fair sex is a similar expression…The essence, the approach and the outreach of TV and ‘WEB TV’, however have very few things in common, if any.

With TV we have a set of programs broadcast, which the observer chooses in their passive observers’ way. It only takes some time to kill, a TV set and a number of pushes on the remote control buttons.

With the audio-visual streaming file we have a devoted outreach at work. It is meant to reach that special user, who has devoted time and effort to get to that particular space at that unique moment in time. The net media is the media of highly condensed information, the effort to reach this particular web page is only the beginning: next come doubts on its credibility, followed by suspense over its true value …you see what we have is a pretty compllex ‘selection’ process, through which the user-and-the-participant-to-be-in –the-streaming-exchange is ‘screened’ with scrutiny, released from the uniformity of a casual passer-by and finally granted their ‘streaming exchange’ identity.


The ecstasy, streaming out of the ‘streaming’ discovery and real time ‘ride’ overshadows speculations on its contents, at first. To put it in the pathetic stylistics of public response to TV ‘MEDIA IS THE MESSAGE’ (McLoughan) …Now this is the tricky part, because what we refer to is a new media altogether: we need to remember that the TV we know, may only poorly and vaguely illustrate just one of the options that this new media provides. Each new media builds up onto the old ‘new’ media, AND NEVER REPLACES IT. Neither it provides a fine ‘addition’ meant to accomplish its predecessor.  Thus, TV can hardly be considered an outcome of the Radio ‘life cycle’. Similarly, Internet is not the result of TV improvement. New Media is new, in the first place. It was ‘conceived’ in a new way: in our case the new ‘conception’ may well be described as the parallel access to memory, the heartbeat of non-linear-ity. It can easily be traced from RAM through the NET, as its macro manifestation.


Internet took a sexy shape with the discovery of streaming technologies. It became the new media, which further ‘elaborated’ the text, lending it new non-linear dimensions. The media which gave birth to the hyper-text, which resurrected the writing that TV crucified. It is the media which brought to the light the ‘active’ nature of the observer, and understandably enough changed the phenomenon itself ( I’d rather regard observers as phenomena rather than reduce them to ‘entities).


Streaming technologies, in their turn, invited audio/video to join the real time ‘players’. The ability to transcend space, which was the indispensable prerogative of TV, this unique tele-vision quality, supplied the ‘claws’ and ‘teeth’ to the Network: it’s merits were firmly on their way to dangerous perfection…


Still nothing continued to happen……


Once upon a time, though, when the technology craze slowed down, a very short question came up ‘So, what?’. To put it more elaborately concerns about the contents of this new media arose …We’ve now come to the realms of the physical world, to our flesh and blood, we finally come to us, breathing in  and out, our passions, socialization and troubles ….our contents as old as the world is. Yet with the new technologies we step up, well equipped with ‘do-it-yourself media opportunities, ready to pro-act this biological, social (whatever you choose it to be) reality that we usually refer to as life, my life …maybe time has come for the media of my life …this is the switch point where realities grow into each other.

Now if we dare at this point to ask the question about contents I am afraid we need to face answers about the meaningfulness of our lives.



Once upon a time, when technology craze slowed down, the real powers of net video came to light … and darkened the widely held hopes for do-it-yourself media. The quality of streaming images suffered the gravity lock laid by  compression and bandwidth of connection. It turned out that few of us, very few indeed, can afford sparing resources to improve the quality of streaming images. Do-it-yourself dreams went stale and for a good reason: it is by all means worthy and by all standards costly to do it…


…Unless we recognize that new technologies come along with a new world vision. Honestly, what we experience is a distinct shift from ‘TV live’ towards ‘net real time’ and that shift questions our grasp of the time phenomenon in general. In particular it turns upside down our understanding of the world around and the world inside us. The net, surprisingly enough, took us aback with a new environment, outrageously different from the social environments we are used to (fond of). It hurled us into the uncharted waters of a different social time beat. The departure towards this new environment, away from the physical reality, pickpocket-ed us: we lost the consistency and coherence behind the ‘live’ concept. The net world split ‘live’ into ‘online’ and ‘real time’ : the first one relates to Internet conceived as Media, the second – to Internet conceived as a mechanism. Net time resembles the actual duration of moments and that easily explains the frequent references to TV and its ‘live’ character when it comes to describing streamline technologies.

Back to the weird new world-picture of ours we can trace streaks of funny new attitudes to the visual, confusing leads to a new visual-ity ( a nervous adolescent,  if you ask me, Internet and video sharing the blame/or merit for its birth and bringing up). If we take pains to feel the difference between TV and web TV, next we may reasonably try to describe streaming video as net video. After all, its streaming file format may hardly be compared to any other visual phenomenon outside the net. Net video cannot be played twice, the way you cannot cross twice one and the same river. The ‘streaming’ quality of this new technology, the particular fragmentation and distortion of movement, controlled by the speed of the connection from one particular moment to another, are truly unique. Once we grasp the limitations of this new technology, we are under the ‘particular fragmentation spell’ that net video casts. Sometimes we don’t know how to manage those limitations, yet art for sure knows better…Visual products of ‘distorted quality (from the point of view of orthodox video and TV practices), achieved through use of highly sophisticated technology may shape out the steep, slippery profile of new art forms.

Vision in this new cyber-social net environment (web-design, 3d imaging, net-interactivity) has been initiated by specialists with background in the systems science. To put it more clearly I would say that  we can trace a discontinuity in the development of visual arts aesthetics. The new media paved the way to different visual attitudes, departing from the tree of visual arts genealogy. The break-though of Internet brought to practically anybody, who has some basic computer literacy, the option ‘to go visual’, i.e. to exercise their tastes (as humble as they can be) to assert them as visible and accessible. It only takes an HTML editor. A simple one will do.


Let me make one last point here: the level of computer knowledge is growing furiously recently (anybody surprised?) Computer basics tend to get more complicated, help menus and reference books become larger than life. The Net went wild: a power-hungry new media, devouring even  the tiniest bits of our spaces, the shortest particles of our seconds. …teasing our desperate need to hold onto it. Users are bound to ‘upgrade’ their level of competence. Our education, on its part, does not know better than focusing on communication and information technologies, ending up in despair in the face of a devastation variety of their products (visual too!). Now this is the ‘elitist’ streak of the democratic new media. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION ON THE ONE HADN AND THE BOOMING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES ON THE OTHER, GAVE BIRTH TO A VIRTUAL STRATIFICATION. Hierarchy was hailed into the virtual world; even the most democratic media cannot help yielding to censure and control.



Web TV is a phenomenon of a new quality: it belongs with the new 3 Ws environment, which is pregnant with interactivity (look at your desktop, you will find a good proof there). Theory postulates that there are various levels of interactivity: the highest necessarily implies new technologies at work.  With the streaming image the options to ‘get interactive’ come in full bloom: the identities of the observer and the author get blurred. The artistic expression (& contents) is so invitingly open to changes, that the observer steps in, gets interactive and ends up as a co-author in the process.

Selection of visitors to Internet locations is made possible again by virtue of its imminent interactive character. Internet is the media of densely compressed, hyper-arranged information, the number of website, on the other hand evokes reminiscences of the Big Bang…the surfing user is bound to make choices apriori, blind choices, similar to the ‘sans voir’ exercise we practice in gambling. Key words and brief annotations supplied by the meta functions of web sites become our street signs/and lights and map out the new presence of a unique meta-physical reality.


To me it makes no sense to count the visitors to web sites. Numbers only point out to a somewhat disturbing tendency in the Internet development: the one towards a huge global market, a gigantic mall in the center of the Galaxy.  We can easily imagine the consequences; lots of helping analogies abide in the physical world around us. Yet there is no count for visits that choose to interact, to make a difference. Encounters with those who share your train of thoughts, the missile of your ethics, the hot-air balloon of your cravings, the bicycle of your interests and the soles of your beliefs…we-e-e-ell, these encounters remain beyond the powers of statistics. Each site has their lives, weird extensions of the lives of their designers…


Visitors have to go their long winding roads to reach the sites they need to. A  dazzling selection is at work here, and it can hardly be considered a random one. The discovery of sites differs from the discovery of America for one thing: travelers in the Net reach locations though a journey guided by their thoughts and ideologies. No clashes with natives will haunt you in the virtual world. Invasion is as virtual as anything else. It is a journey that resembles the small daily routines that we lovingly stick to. Someone you know, introduces you to someone they know and think you should know. It is the old game of following your moods, sticking to the daily routes of your choices, holding onto ‘the love to hate you’ thing, and numerous other things, when it comes to that, holding onto anything that make us feel the warmth of touch … and make us seek it.


Ethics Revisited

Media changes established attitudes and patterns of thought: it does matter when you really have the chance to run your own TV, radio, or magazine …The teasing offer that new technologies make to us, the chance to get/give online response,  can be traced at all levels, by all parties ( appropriately equipped with ACCESS). It results into a somewhat overwhelming activity, unknown or easily exhausted by orthodox media. Can you imagine how much effort and time it takes to publish a book or to survive bureaucracy, ‘siege-ing’ any TV Show? Then you know what I mean. These shifts into established attitudes and practices bring up a number of issues related to ethics, morality, copyright, responsibility and conscience. New media has brought us up, in its new ways, teasing our user curiosity, cultivating our impatient faddisms, teaching us dream up the freedom dream it is. Following this train of thoughts I would say that to me the important question to be asked is how may users try to claim their position and act through the new media. The streaming quality of our social interaction is put to the test here. The new media questions our ways of being instrumental, and the practices we have had of using/abusing our own identity. To put it briefly here is the point where ethics steps in.


The consumer attitudes that TV fiercely promoted for many years now suddenly got to a halt (this is a metaphor: please handle with care!). It was replaced with the chance to take part and get involved in the creation of a web-based product. This is the highest claim the Network ever made: networking implies a shift or reversal in the roles of the public and the author respectively.  Understandably this new situation affects new flowerbeds of concepts (what is art, anyway? Not to mention that ridiculous ‘Artist’ creature, poor thing …)

In addition the Net opened up radically new approaches to teamwork, coordination of joint effort and collaboration and that, logically enough, caused dramatic developments of the copyright concept and its legal aspects. With the introduction of LUNIX and ‘open source’ the essence’ of this new ‘communist-bound’ approach (as interpreted by some NET researchers) found its most convincing expression.

This newly gained awareness of our collaborative efforts may well be regarded as an attempt to galvanize values like the art of sharing, trust, friendship, idealism, reaching out to …the other. We’ve come to a crucial point here: the awareness of the other, the good old chase of my identity through the identity of the other. What’s new here? I can’t answer, yet it’s hot I can feel it.


Message Revisited

How can we describe the ‘meaning-generating’ capacity of the do-it-yourself media? The new media contents have stemmed out of two strong ‘root beds’. The first one is intrinsic to the essence of the NET, it’s part of its wave-like texture and the nerve tissue of its organization. The second one, alien to the NET, yet a ‘legal alien’, relates to human interaction, if I can put it that way. It rather uses the network as a vehicle to get from one world to another, it also feeds on ‘crispy hot’ information, we all know it’s logo ….WWW…..Where the root beds touch one another, well, we can trace out a sensitive erogenous zone there, able to grow highly organized artistic contents, conceived by the ‘virile drive’ and the ‘inviting fertility’ of the parent root beds. …I have already touched on the inflation tendencies in the ‘ARTIST” phenomenon, anyhow.


Streaming technology may easily be considered a non-cost effective enterprise: the critical mass of technology needed to trasfer ever a modest amount of data is somewhat discouraging. In addition the technology of REAL appeal implies centralization. On the other hand even kids know that HTML is notoriously undemanding (you can easily save it locally, it is quick to oblige all whims and always ready to accommodate  any point of view (most of them ‘global’, at that!). We tend to describe the possibilities it generates in terms of freedoms (let’s do a ‘freedom count’ here: how many ‘freedoms’ off the top of your head?). Getting back to the streaming media contents I would only add that they have been lately referred to as ‘screen-based’.


Have you ever tried avoiding the trap that quality of resolution & /versus number of contributors have laid to curb the users’ enthusiasm? The inherent ‘democratic’ character behind the ‘many-to-many’ relationship has gradually shifted to more elitist attitudes (‘few-to-many’), I guess on their way to the good old ‘one-to-many practices.


GLOCAL: Get-it-under-control-and-act-global


Global contents: if only someone could define this expression for me…..universal meanings have from times immemorial sprang out of the screaming and fighting bits and pieces of our personal locally bound contents. The shift from be global act local towards be local act global stands for the accomplishment of globalization: it finally happened. The hunt for particular local contents and practices is on, to help us endure the consequences of globalization. The catch here is that the huge global communication settlement (can you imagine the Milky way of free offers, ‘extras’ and ‘exclusives’) is today the vehicle for local contents. Pretty dangerous, what do you think?


How about be local act local? I would say this option has for quite some time been open to us? At least since the time of the Babylonian tower and the explosion of languages.

ventsislav zankov

contact zankov@kulturserver.de