The New Technologies To The People® System
By Jacob Lillemose
In 1999, when the art and technology festival Ars Electronica awarded The Golden Nica, first prize in the ”.net” category, to the programmer Linus Torvalds for his development of the Linux operating system, it was pointing in general to the relationship between free software and art, and more specifically to the affinity between free software and that part of contemporary art which is concerned with software’s constantly increasing influence on social, economic and political conditions. Like Linux, this part of contemporary art works against the proprietary software industry’s standardization, repression and rationalization of the software culture, and instead explores alternate possibilities for freeing the software culture through more open, expressive and speculative processes.
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On a more indirect level, Ars Electronica’s choice of Linux also emphasized another relationship between free software and this contemporary art, i.e. the idea informing both that software is not just a question of programming, but of producing culture – of understanding and using technology as a means of engaging in a social context. According to the founder of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Richard Stallman, free software is about ”practical material advantages” but also about ”what kind of society we want to live in, and what constitutes a good society”. 1 Stallman himself imagines an extremely collective and creative society founded on the freedom to ”use, study, copy, modify and redistribute software”. For him, the free software’s fundamental abolishment of intellectual property rights represents a chance to structurally and conceptually ”reprogram” society for the better, and this is an opinion he shares with much of contemporary art.
X-Devian. The New Technologies To The People System
Social event in public space: production, promotion and distribution of FLOSS software and advertising video x-devian.org
Presented with advertising video in the exhibition, and during the Irational Action Weekend in Dortmund Judging from the aesthetics x-devian looks like your standard commercial proprietary software. With its minimalistic »X« and slogan reading »With over 150 innovative new features, it’s like having an all-new computer«, the stylishly designed black-and-white cover effectively signals that this product means business — which it does. However, the content and not least the ethics of the product is explicitly opposed to the software culture promoted by neo-liberal corporations like Microsoft and Apple. As a bootable operating system (i. e. it does not need to be installed on your computer but can be run directly from the portable disk) based on GNU/Linux, x-devian is involved not in the business of capitalism but of free and shared culture. The system represents a comprehensive conceptual and practical reconfiguration of the economics of mainstream software culture. To use it, no investment in expensive software or hardware is necessary. Just insert the disk – which your can order for free at the X-Devian website – in your personal computer and you are ready to “go free”. Thus with X-Devian Technologies To The People invites the common user to experience and reflect upon the alternative wonders of Free and Libre Open Source Software, the true social and political »evolution of the species« in the computer age. (Jacob Lillemose)
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