[CTRL]: Technology: Art: Society

So here I am in la belle province, attending this art, music and technology symposium called a [CTRL]: TAS – Politics Under Fire, organized by the grads from Media at McGill. The first session I attended was called Democracy, Art & Media. Dru Oja Jay spoke on progressive/activist uses of the Internet and the link to traditional media. He now runs Fair Trade Media, and edits this online publication, The Dominion. I first came across him when writing my thesis. I read with interest and used his article on Open Publishing (doesn’t seem to be online anymore), wherein he develops some interesting solutions to the persistent problems of OP.

Then Michael Lenczner, from Ile Sans Fil spoke about the importance of technological infrastructure. Unfortunately, time ran out and he didn’t get to fully explain about his project, which installs wireless “hotspots” about Montreal, in parks and other unlikely places.

Lenczner briefly discussed the infrastructural influence on society, suggesting that though we first shape our technological tools, the tools always shape us, in ways we are typically unaware of (critical theory of technology, anyone?). We are forced to use the infrastructure but the feedback loop is long, such that it’s difficult to see the social influence. He described this account as “not quite deterministic” but neither would he concede that the socio-technical relationship was mutually constituted. I wanted to hear more, but the session ended, out of time as usual, and we all shifted venues for the keynote, by MacKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto, and the just-published Gamer Theory. More on that in a bit…

After the session I said hi to Marc Raboy, who was there, and who gave the 2005 Spry lecture at SFU. He mentioned to me that my main man, Andrew Feenberg had just been to McGill; this is the interview Darrin Barney, (a Vancouver native, incidentally) did w/him. The world jes keeps getting smaller.

An aside: my walk over to McGill from St. Laurent, where I’m staying, was intoxicating. I got so excited to be “back east” as they say in Vancouver, and also in an old city. I felt it on the cab ride in last night. Despite the dark, I recognized the lights, the architecture of the highways. Right away I was at home. Vancouver is young, in terms of its development (if not years). Montreal has that same feel as Toronto – that grit, that inner city narrowness and colour, that “olden days” feel of row houses, psuedo-gothic churches, industrial architecture. There’s brick everywhere, which I so miss living in Van (where bricks can’t withstand the rain). I miss the city – it’s where I belong. The pigeons, the forgotten parks, the dense living, the congested streets where bicycles reign supreme. I breathe this city in, locating it deep within me. As I walked, I felt my feet connect w/the sidewalk in a way they hadn’t in a long time. I felt the vibe of the city surge up through the concrete, enter me through the soles of my feet and diffuse through my body. In my dreams I return.

I feel my way instinctively around this city; I intuit it. I don’t think I can ever get lost (unlike Van where I still lose my sense of direction on occasion, despite knowing the mountains are “north”). One irony: it was raining when I arrived. And cold. 4 degrees. Two days ago it was sunny and 25 in Vancouver. I need to fly 5 hours for weather worse than Van’s most miserable winter day?! Hah!

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