danny birchall

The Frame Makes the Photograph »


A common thing we hear about social media today is that near-constant picture taking means not ‘living in the moment’. We should put the phone down and just experience life rather than worry ourselves with its documentation. This sentiment wrongly assumes that documentation and experience…

It has also frequently been argued (Charlie Gere could say more about this) that Information marked a “breaking point” when it came to technology-based exhibitions so far (some of them listed below) — the point when “computer art” dropped out of the picture, and the issues it had addressed were taken on by non-technological conceptual art, which would be written into the art-historical canon. New Tendencies also would be important to consider in this context because the struggle with conceptual art played out in that context, too.

This is Tomorrow, Whitechapel Art Gallery (1956)
Stuttgart University Art Gallery (1965)
Howard Wise Art Gallery in New York (1966)
Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T), 9 evenings, Armory, NY (1966)
The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, MOMA, NY (1968)
Some More Beginnings (E.A.T.), Brooklyn Museum (1968)
Cybernetic Serendipity, ICA, London (1968)
Event One (Computer Arts Society), London (1969)
Art by Telephone, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1969)
Software: Information Technology (curated by Jack Burnham), Jewish Museum, New York (1970)
Information (curated by Kynaston McShine), MOMA, New York (1970)

(Christiane Paul, CRUMB, 8/10/13)

A revolutionary slogan

When things got wild, they sprayed a revolutionary slogan on the wall of his house, a violent promise in vivid red paint. The revolution was a failure of course, and the promise unfulfilled, but the slogan remained, a reminder of what was once to be. The revolutionaries became reformists, as embarrassed of their youthful exuberance as any adult. A committee was formed to redeem excesses, and obtaining as little permission as there had been for painting the slogan, a team carefully cleaned it from the wall. When he arrived home, he was furious. “I am no revolutionary,” he said, “but this slogan has been a part of my house for years. When people come to find me or to deliver things, I tell them my house is the house with the revolutionary slogan. I am known locally as ‘slogan’. Now the slogan is gone, tell me, who the hell am I?”

Ian Birchall replies to his critics


Ian Birchall has written a comprehensive reply to the criticisms of his article “What does it mean to be a Leninist?” that appear in the current issue of Socialist Review. He responds briefly to Mark Krantz, Tony Phillips and Kevin Corr on questions of voting and party discipline, and in detail to Alex Callinicos on the SWP’s “distinctive model of party organisation”:

As Alex says, whatever we have learnt from Lenin, “in reality since the mid-1970s we have been evolving our own distinctive model of party organisation”. True enough – which means it has to be subjected to critical evaluation. Any particular organisational feature (slates, factions etc) must be justified on the basis of experience and rational argument, and if necessary subjected to scrutiny and revision.

Now it seems to me that while Cliff, Duncan Hallas and Chris Harman were central to the leadership the model worked pretty well. I remain proud of our interventions around the Anti Nazi League, miners’ strikes, poll tax and Stop the War, as well as many more localised campaigns and struggles.

But in recent years the model has perhaps been less successful. And the current crisis has thrown a number of things into question. If I had died this time last year, I should have died a loyal and happy party member. Now I am finding an increasing number of questions to worry about.

Ian also examines periods from the SWP’s history, including the 1980s debates around Women’s Voice and the “downturn” argument. And he defends the use of websites such as this one as a legitimate method for conducting arguments among socialists.

Revolutionaries have always seized the opportunities offered by technological advance in the field of communications. Babeuf and his supporters gave an important place to the semaphore telegraph in the egalitarian society they aspired to build. As early as 1895 Lenin was trying to organise access to the illegal printing press of the Narodnaya Volya group. The internet allows us to develop a debate that is much more rapid, responsive and extensive than printed publications. It would be strange if revolutionaries did not welcome such possibilities.

Read More

“Computer simulations and games have great potential to catalyze this new approach. They enable learners to see and interact with representations of natural phenomena that would otherwise be impossible to observe—a process that helps them to formulate scientifically correct explanations for these phenomena. Simulations and games can motivate learners with challenges and rapid feedback and tailor instruction to individual learners’ needs and interests.”

Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations

“Part of that is learning what makes games, as a medium, so special. In ethnographic interviews I’ve done with NYC-based game developers, all designers referenced the player’s ability to make meaningful choices as the thing that makes games unique. This can be challenging for historians because this means players must have the opportunity to fail or make choices that “alter” history – but at the same time, done well, this can be a boon to historical thinking. As I often teach at the N-YHS and while doing outreach in public schools, history isn’t what happened long ago, it’s the stories we tell about the past that are based on evidence. Games give the opportunity to teach those stories and how they’re interpreted, to explore possible eventualities, and to live out alternate histories. They’re a safe space to explore, to fail, to ask difficult questions. So as historians we shouldn’t be fearful of games offering alternate histories or being “completely” accurate, but instead we should make sure the game represents what that point in time would have been like, the complexity of humans and their interactions, and that it is culturally respectful and responsible.”

No More Chocolate-covered Broccoli: Collaboration between Game Designers and Historians is Key | Play The Past by Rebecca Mir