The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 7.12.02
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 12:16:31 -0400

RHIZOME DIGEST: July 12, 2002


1. shu lea cheang: call for garlic harvesting

2. matthew fuller: teaching position, media design, PZI rotterdam

3. Joy Garnett: jaron lanier - minority report report

4. Lev Manovich: Learning from Prada (part 5 - FINAL)

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Date: 7.11.02
From: shu lea cheang (shulea AT
Subject: call for garlic harvesting

A CALL to New York area old and new media makers -

Please join us for Garlic harvesting in Andes, New York
July 27-August 4, 2002

"St(r)eaming the fields" is a field harvesting and public network
project conceived by Shu Lea Cheang for "Challenge to the Field" Award
granted by Lyn Blumenthal Memorial Fund for Independent Media. Borrowing
from Argentina's "El club del Trueque" (Club of Exchange) that
advocates parallel economy reciprocity practices and speculating on a
post-capitalist, post-arts funding, "after the crash" scenario,
"St(r)eaming the fields" project aims to realize a media exchange and
digital commons shared network using organic garlic as social currency
to establish a media trading system. In collaboration with organic
farmer Tovey Halleck, the project's first phase of production (July 27-
August 4) calls for the independent media field to congregate at the
green fields in upstate New York (3 hour bus/car ride from New York
City) where garlic crops are expected to be ripe and fresh for
harvesting. During this week of harvesting season, we invite and welcome
media makers and friends to join as garlic harvesting crew hands. As we
dig garlic bulbs out of rich soil, we exchange and reflect on the
grounds of current media conditions. Food and board are traded for
Labor and thoughts. The collective garlic harvesting sessions are
documented as net streaming data.

For the second phase of the project, a website <RICH-AIR.COM> will be
launched in the early September for online media trading using virtual
garlic as credito. The third phase of the project will take place at
the end of September. We bring in truckload of harvested garlic to
New York city for trading - virtual garlic credito for edible garlic and
edible garlic for public access wireless network in public spaces. In
early October, we distribute garlic bulbs for global shared network at
NAMAC (The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture) conference in
Seattle and return to the green fields to reseed the garlic cloves for
next generation harvesting.

For project proposal and more information: http://WWW.RICH-AIR.COM
To participate in garlic harvesting during the period of July 27 to
August 4 please send an e-mail to Shu Lea Cheang (shulea AT


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Date: 7.11.02
From: matthew fuller (matt AT
Subject: teaching position, media design, PZI rotterdam

Teaching Position
.4 Tutor, MA Media Design
Piet Zwart Institute

A practising designer in digital media with experience of work in
education is required, to start work this coming academic year. The MA
Media Design, and its related programme of research, is a new
initiative. A fundamental analysis and reinvention of digital media in
its broadest and most precise political, technological, social and
aesthetic sense is underway here - and we're looking for someone with
the right skills to be part of our teaching team.

Salary is a .4 fractional appointment on a full-time equivalent of
between 2238,- and 3804,- Euros gross p/m.

The Piet Zwart Institute is the postgraduate and research institute of
the Willem de Kooning Academy, Hogeschool Rotterdam. (All teaching and
other work is carried out in English.) For more about our work, please
go to:

For further information and a job description, please contact Femke
Snelting, F.Snelting AT (between 15-30 July only email
matt AT

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Date: 7.09.02
From: Joy Garnett (joyeria AT
Subject: jaron lanier: minority report report

an interesting article about imaging technological utopia and/or angst
by Jaron Lanier, in 21C Magazine:

A Minority within the Minority
By Jaron Lanier

A while back I was asked to help Steven Spielberg brainstorm a science
fiction movie he intended to make based on the Philip K. Dick short
story "Minority Report". A team of "futurists" would imagine what the
world might be like in fifty years, and I would be one of the two
scientist/technologists on the team. The other team members included an
anthropologist (Steve Barnett), a city planning expert (Joel Garreau),
and so on.

Various past and present demos I've worked on were given design
makeovers and portrayed in the film, such as the advertisements that
automatically incorporate passers-by, the interface gloves (which are
already considered out-of-date in 2002!), and so on. I also seem to have
influenced the script, by suggesting the idea that criminals might gouge
out eyeballs to fool iris-scan identity-matching machines (though in
fact such machines can already tell if an eye is alive or not).

I did NOT come up with the transportation system, by the way- that was
mostly influenced by Neil Gershenfeld of the Media Lab, who was the
other science/tech person.

The movie seems to me to have turned out really well, and it also seems
to be well-liked by critics and my friends who have seen it. I wonder if
I'm biased. I feel myself to be part of the Internet Age, which at its
best is a period of participatory culture, so I probably find this movie
easier to appreciate because I participated in making it. I usually find
"big" movies terribly distant and alienating because they are produced
so far away from me and relegate me to such an extreme position as a

What I'd like to comment on here is the nature of optimistic imagination
in science fiction. Spielberg was intent on finding a positive message
and a happy or at least happy-ish ending, which on the face of it was
not a viable idea. Philip K Dick was not a happy ending sort of guy.

The Dick-to-Spielberg bridge in the last reel ended up working more
successfully than I had imagined it could. The script seems to me to
make a classic existential point. Here, approximately, is the message I
think the movie ends up expressing: "Belief in free will makes itself
so, but also makes so a certain level of uncertainty, danger, and chaos,
which is a worthwhile and noble price to pay." There's also an assertion
that American civic traditions, like the Miranda rights, will take on
even greater significance as technology moves forward, defining a sense
of personhood beyond the reach of technologists.

I say "ends up expressing" because big movies are made collectively,
even in a case like this where there's an extremely powerful director in
control. So the meaning of movies can't be fully premeditated. A movie
isn't a person.

I remember one afternoon when an almost tangible transition occurred in
the room. Before that moment the movie's identity had seemed elusive and
convoluted, twitching between Dickian ennui and paranoia and
Spielbergian fascination and idealism. The early visualizations of
Minority Report's world even looked like classic 1950s science fiction
illustration, the very sort of idealized future that Dick was reacting

After a sudden, curious, and magical moment, the movie's identity
somehow coalesced, and even though it was still early in the process, it
was clear that the project would gel as a whole. Suddenly everyone was
seeing the same imaginary world.

This was a thrilling experience for me, but one that was tempered by
some disappointments.

Let me get a personal one out of the way first. It's annoying to fall
through the cracks of the Hollywood ontology and not get a screen
credit, even though we experts have been prominently acknowledged in the
film's publicity. Caterers are part of the Hollywood machine, so they
get screen credits, but "futurists" are not. Oh well.

A more important disappointment for me was that I think there's an
essential kind of optimism that ought to be portrayed in science
fiction, but it seems to be beyond our imagination at present. Instead
of making existential points by pitting people against technology, why
not portray people using technology beautifully and creatively?

I presented all sorts of ideas for what information technology might
look like in fifty years, but the least noble of these were the only
ones that stuck.

Nowhere in Minority Report do we see people interacting with each other
creatively using technology, nor do we see people inventing wonderful
virtual things for each other. We see no children inventing their own
technological culture, as is already commonly happening today. Philip K.
Dick didn't live long enough to see that, and I want to believe that if
he had he would have been forced to write a different kind of science

The characters of Minority Report are uniformly either consumers (who
are used by the advertisements, the animated cereal box, etc.) or elite
controllers (the precrime officers who get to use a zippy interface.)
Three-dimensional displays are used for recorded images, but not for
live contact.

The optimism I longed to see at the end of Minority Report was not only
an assertion of what it is to be human, but also a synthesis in which
those empowered humans would then use technology well. I would have
loved to have seen Tom Cruise's character use that fancy glove-based
interface to make a warm and charming virtual greeting for his pregnant
wife, instead of posing with her with no technology in sight.

This is the happy ending that Hollywood seems incapable of portraying.

Here are some of the reasons this might be true:

One is that movie people as a whole have trouble understanding the joys
of interactive media. It's just a different culture. A distopian movie
about virtual worlds, like The Matrix, can make its way through
Hollywood and be distributed, but a utopian movie about an interactive
future seemingly cannot. Movie people are subliminally terrified by
interactivity. It spells not only a loss of creative control, which
movie people would miss more than you can imagine, but also a loss of
business model. Napster lurks implicitly inside every shared virtual
world that's under the control of its users. The world that seems
utopian to me is distopian to Hollywood.

To be fair, there's another problem. The utopia I dream of is a world we
are in the process of inventing. I don't yet know how to describe it
myself. I find this exhilarating. Could Les Paul have imagined the
Beatles when he made the first multitracked music? Could early digital
sound experimenters like Max Mathews have imagined Hip Hop? I hope to be
massively surprised some day by cultural invention inspired by virtual
worlds and fancy interfaces. I can hardly expect movie people to fully
imagine this stuff today.

And yet, I still feel we all ought to try. Even a partial result would
be joyous.

The fact that the task is hard masks the fact that it's also taboo.

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Date: 7.08.02
From: Lev Manovich (manovich AT
Subject: Learning from Prada (part 5 - FINAL)

Lev Manovich (

The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada [May 2002]

PART 5: Learning from Prada [posted 7/08/02]

Venturi wants to put electronic ornament and electronic iconography on
traditional buildings, while Lars Spuybroek, in Freshwater Pavilion,
does create a new kind of space but reduces the changing information to
abstract color fields and sound. In Freshwater Pavilion information
surface functions in a very particular way, displaying color fields
rather than text, images, or numbers. Where can we find today
interesting architectural spaces combined with electronic displays that
show the whole range of information, from ambient color fields to
figurative images and numerical data?

Beginning in the mid 1990s, the avant-garde wing of retail industry has
begun to produce rich and intriguing spaces, many of which incorporate
moving images. Leading architects and designers such as Droog/NL, Marc
Newson, Herzog & de Meuron, Renzo Priano and Rem Koolhaus created stores
for Prada, Mandarina Duck, Hermes, Commes des Garsons, and other
high-end brands; architect Richard Glucksman colloborated with artist
Jenny Holzer to create a stunning Helmut Lang¹s parfumerie in New York
which incorporates Holzer¹s signature use of LCD display. A store
featuring dramatic architecture and design, and mixing a restaurant,
fashion, design and art gallery became a new paradigm for high-end
brands. Otto Riewoldt describes this paradigm using the term
³brandscaping² ­ promoting the brand by creating unique spaces.
Riewoldt: ³Brandscaping is the hot issue. The site at which good are
promoted and sold has to reinvent itself by developing unique and
unmistakable qualities.²

Rem Koolhaus¹s Prada store in New York (2002) pushes brandscaping to a
new level. Koolhaus seems to achieve the impossible by creating a
flagship store for the Prada brand ­ and at the same time an ironic
statement about the functioning of brands as new religions. The
imaginative use of electronic displays designed by Reed Kram of
Kramdesign is an important part of this statement. On entering the store
you discover glass cages hanging from the ceiling throughout the space.
Just as a church would present the relics of saints in special displays,
here the glass cages contain the new objects of worship ­ Prada cloves.
The special status of Prada cloves is further enhanced by placing small
flat electronic screens throughout the store on the horizontal shelves
right among the merchandize. The cloves are equated to the ephemeral
images playing on the screens, and, vice versa, the images acquire
certain materiality, as though they are objects. By positioning screens
showing moving images right next to cloves the designers ironically
refer to what everybody today knows: we buy objects not for themselves
but in order to emulate the certain images and narratives presented by
the advertisements of these objects. Finally, on the basement level of
the store you discover a screen with Prada Atlas. Designed by Kram, it
maybe be mistaken for an interactive multimedia presentation of OMA
(Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rem Koolhaus¹s studio) research
for his Prada¹s commission. It looks like the kind of stuff brands
normally communicate to their investors but not to their consumers. In
designing the Atlas as well as the whole media of the store, Kram¹s goal
was to make ³Prada reveal itself, make it completely transparent to the
visitors.² The Atlas lets you list all Prada stores throughout the world
by square footage, look at the analysis of the optimal locations for
stores placement, and study other data sets that underlie Prada¹s
brandscaping. This ³unveiling² of Prada does not break our emotional
attachment with the brand; on the contrary, it seems to have the
opposite result. Koolhaus and Kram masterfully engage ³I know it is an
illusion but nevertheless² effect: we know that Prada is a business
which is governed by economic rationality and yet we still feel that we
are not simply in a store but in a modem church.

It is symbolic that Prada NYC has opened in the same space that was
previously occupied by a branch of Guggenheim museum. The strategies of
brandscaping are directly relevant to museums and galleries which, like
all other physical spaces, now have to compete against the new
information, entertainment and retail space: a computer or PDA screen
connected to the Net. Although museums in the 1990s have similarly
expanded their functionality, often combining galleries, a store, film
series, lectures and concerts, design-wise they can learn from retail
design, which, as Riewold points out, ³has learnt two lessons from the
entertainment industry. First: forget the goods, sell thrilling
experience to the people. And secondly: beat the computer screen at its
own game by staging real objects of desire ­ and by adding some spice to
the space with maybe some audio-visual interactive gadgetry.²


In a high-tech society cultural institutions usually follow the
industry. A new technology is being developed for military, business or
consumer use; after a while cultural institutions notice that some
artists are experimenting with it as well, and start incorporating it in
their programming. Because they have the function of collecting and
preserving the artworks, the art museums today often looks like
historical collections of media technologies of the previous decades.
Thus one may mistake a contemporary art museum for a museum of obsolete
technology. Today, while outside one finds LCD and PDA, data projectors
and DV cameras, inside a museum we may expect to find slide projectors,
16 mm film equipment, 3/4-inch video decks.

Can this situation be reversed? Can cultural institutions play an
active, even a leading role, acting as laboratories where alternative
futures are tested? Augmented space ­ which is slowly becoming a reality
­ is one opportunity for these institutions to take a more active role.
While many video installations already function as a laboratory for the
developing of new configurations of image within space, museums and
galleries as a whole could use their own unique asset ­ a physical space
­ to encourage the development of distinct new spatial forms of art and
new spatial forms of a moving image. In this way they can take a lead in
testing out one part of augmented space future.

Having stepped outside the picture frame into the white cube walls,
floor, and the whole space, artists and curators should feel at home
taking yet another step: treating this space as layers of data. This
does not mean that the physical space becomes irrelevant; on the
contrary, as the practice of Cardiff and Liberskind shows, it is at the
interaction of the physical space and the data that some of the most
amazing art of our time is being created.

Augmented space also represents an important challenge and an
opportunity for contemporary architecture. As the examples discussed in
this essay demonstrate, while many architects and interior designers
have actively embraced electronic media, they typically think of it in
limited way: as a screen, i.e. as something which is attached to the
³real² stuff of architecture: surfaces defining volumes. Venturi¹s
concept of architecture as ³information surface² is only the most
extreme expression of this general paradigm. While Venturi¹s logically
connects the idea of surface as electronic screen to the traditional use
of ornament in architecture and to as such features of vernacular
architecture as billboards and window product displays, this historical
analogy also limits our imagination of how architecture can use new
media. In this analogy, an electronic screen becomes simply a moving
billboard, or a moving ornament.

Going beyond surface as electronic screen paradigm, architects now have
the opportunity to think of the material architecture they are normally
preoccupied with, and the new immaterial architecture of information
flows within the physical structure, as one whole. In short, I suggest
that the design of electronically augmented space can be approached as
an architectural problem. In other words, architects along with artists
can take the next logical step to consider the ³invisible² space of
electronic data flows as substance rather than just a void ­ something
that needs a structure, a politics, and a poetics.

July 2002, Berlin

(The complete article is available at

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