At Large in Cyberspace

My day began like most - make coffee and logon by 7AM. Check email, browse the news, and visit a couple of online communities. Then to work writing, editing, tinkering with digital images, in no particular order, which is probably why this column is long overdue. It's been almost a year since my last occasional column - that's certainly occasional, wouldn't you say?

I have excuses. For example, I spend far too much time fending off concerted attacks by people intent on mining my data, taking over my browser, or redirecting popup windows to sites offering consumer goods or sex. This morning I ran an Adaware scan on my computer and found 22 new objects -1 Registry Key added, 4 Registry Values altered, 17 unknown cookies and other files - after only an hour on the net.

It was the usual culprits: Red Sheriff, Malware, adtomi, betterinternet, searchtraffic, gator. Not just invading my privacy, but wanting to alter my preferences. Like junkies who wander neighbourhoods at night looking for unlocked vehicles, rummage glove boxes for anything of value and leave a mess, data junkies who rummage through my computer are little better.

I don't like to lock my computer up tight, some of the new media work I enjoy requires certain permissions and plug-ins to operate. Sometimes I long for the time (oh so short) when the only people invading my computer were net.artists like jodi or absurd, when the cash hounds of big business viewed the net as a passing fad. It was like a borderland, needed no validation, pop-up windows were conceptual objects.

Today was a normal enough one at the cyber office. I dealt with several emails: one writer was concerned about a conflict of interests; another wanted clarification about their assignment; another was two weeks late. Then on to other online involvements: collaborations, announcements, and updates. All of which led deeper into my computer, editing images, mixing sound, interfacing with timeline and html editors, clicking on Eudora every so often to check for new messages.

A few minutes ago there was an email from a photographer in Edmonton. I visited there in October and met with some old friends and acquaintances, many who still don't have email addresses. I found artists still making artwork to hang on walls and writers still writing for print. Nothing wrong with any of that, for sure, but my photographer friend accused me of pushing pixels around without rhyme or reason. She said I should create something more meaningful, that artists should "convey a responsible message". This doesn't leave much room for dada or data-based art. Sigh. I guess it surprises me to find the world outside my computer operates much the same as before I fell through this hole in cyberspace. People still bake cookies and fish with nets.

There's a long list of artists, writers, projects, and events I wanted to feature this past year. For example, in August I attended the News Forms Festival in Vancouver and interfaced with Reva Stone's computer assisted installation (Carnevale 2000-02 - a life-sized aluminium figure of a small girl on a robotic platform who captures and projects images of viewers who wander into her controlled space); and was introduced to the work of Winnipeg artist Ken Gregory (including: How to Predict the Weather Using a Pig Spleen). I wanted to write about the experience, but real and virtual time slipped away.

Some of it slipped away reading the news online every morning on the writing research paper. Today 10 or so people were reported bombed and dismembered, relatively peaceful. A Texas woman ran over a McDonald's manager after not getting mayonnaise on her cheeseburger (it had to happen sometime); the Islamic Jihad vowed new attacks (what's new); the Premiers of the provinces of Canada signed a deal to work together (what a novel idea); a white, London-born 57-year-old man was reportedly trying to become a hip-hop Svengali in New Orleans (oh those Brits). The new political cartoon by Shujaat at gave me the first belly laugh of the day, but my favourite discovery was Holly Near's song, I Ain't Afraid. Yeah!

Sometimes I go off on tangents - like the time I googled a Turkish general (head of NATO forces in the Balkans) and tracked his career back to the village of his youth. I can easily spend a couple hours with sites like 419eater. Hosted by "a 41-year-old computer engineer from Manchester", 419eater (named after section 419 of the Nigerian Penal code) offers not only a forum for this new internet blood sport (where scam baiters can share ideas and victims) but photographs and audio files of the sorry criminals. I do so enjoy that kind of obsessive networking.

The sun has set and another day has slipped by - almost another year. Seasons greetings are nearly in order. But, to be honest, my favourite Christmas was spent in a Muslim country - all the respect without the commercial frenzy. Instead of gathering around a decorated tree to open gifts, we visited St. Nicholas' tomb in Myra. That was eight years ago and I didn't own a computer. Now I can't seem to drag myself away from the screen.

It's 7PM and I should reboot, run another scan and push some pixels around offline. Time to jack out. And, hey, if you think writing a column like this is easy - keep your eyes peeled.