Percentage of movies released between 1927 and 1946 that are currently unavailable: 93
Number of government desktops converted to Linux in Spain's Extremadura region by November 2002: 10,000
Number of government desktops expected to be converted to Linux in Spain's Extremadura region by November 2003: 100,000
Downloads of Extremadura's own Linux distro, Linex, from outside the district: 55,000
Dozens of countries with laws encouraging free software: 2
Number of free software laws or policies pending in those countries: 70
Number of Linux management tools in IBM's Tivoli in 2001: 2
Number of Linux management tools in IBM's Tivoli in 2002: 20
Percentage of IT managers employing Linux “in some capacity”: 39
Number of different Linux-based PDAs: 23
Number of servers in a Linux cluster installed at the University of Buffalo in September 2002: 2,000
Number of servers in another Linux cluster installed at the University of Buffalo in November 2002: 300
1: Jason Schultz, in a letter to Lawrence Lessig
2-6: Washington Post
7, 8: Information Week
9: Goldman Sachs Research, IDGnet
11, 12: Boston Globe
Setting the mood for this month's issue is our cover photograph of Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin's Listening Post, currently featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (www.whitney.org). This remarkable installation runs on four computers and as many operating systems (including Linux, of course) and expresses the collective voice of the Internet, transforming on-line communication into a multimedia installation.
According to the Listening Post web site, “statistical analysis organizes the messages into topic clusters based on their content, tracking the ebb and flow of communication on the Web. A tonal soundscape underlies the spoken text, its pitches and timbres responding to changes in the flow and content of the messages.”
I was lucky enough to “view” the Listening Post when it was in Seattle in November 2002, and my first impression was an almost eerie sense of humanness the piece unveils—a poetry not typically associated with computer technology. In a dark room complete with pillows on the floor, a wall of tiny screens depict glowing green text gathered in real time from thousands of public on-line communication channels. These bits of text are accompanied by a computer-generated voice with a British accent, randomly speaking different messages as they flash by. I was particularly struck by the “I am” series; real-time messages beginning with the string “I am” spoken into the darkness: “I am tired.” “I am happy.” “I am Norwegian.” Hundreds of people communicating the most basic aspects of themselves at that precise moment from who knows where to who knows who, while my imagination worked double time wanting to fill in the rest of their stories.
Capturing the ephemeral nature of the Listening Post is difficult; however, Ben Rubin, one of the creators of the Listening Post, best describes the piece in his artist's statement:
Anyone who types a message in a chat room and hits “send” is calling out for a response. Listening Post is our response—a series of soundtracks and visual arrangements of text that respond to the scale, the immediacy and the meaning of this torrent of communication.
Every word that enters our system was typed only seconds before by someone, somewhere. The irregular staccato of these arriving messages form the visual and audible rhythms of the work. The sound-generating systems are constructed almost as wind chimes, where the wind in this case is not meteorological but human, and the particles that move are not air molecules but words. At some level, Listening Post is about harnessing the human energy that is carried by all of these words and channeling that energy through the mechanisms of the piece.
Listening Post represents the most significant outcome so far of my collaboration with Mark Hansen, the only artist I know whose medium of expression is statistics. Since we began working together, my conceptual vocabulary has grown to include notions like clustering, smoothing, outliers, high-dimensional spaces, probability distributions, and other terms that are a routine part of Mark's day-to-day work. Having glimpsed the world through Mark's eyes, I now hear sounds I would never have thought to listen for.
Visit the Listening Post web site (www.earstudio.com/projects/ListeningPost.html) for exhibition dates and further information.
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