Category Archives: scarcity

Scarcity Radio Vancouver

Hi everyone,

Great to see and hear of your adventures from another time zone! I’m currently working in San Francisco, after three weeks in Berkeley and two in Vancouver. (This is for a new film project as Kennedy Browne related to Silicon Valley. It will be premiered at the Bern Biennial in Switzerland in early September and then shown at the San Jose Biennial).

Here are some pictures from the exhibition at CAG, Vancouver – Geoff was on-hand via skype to help me remotely with constructing a new version of How to Use Fool’s Gold (Pyrite Radio). This involved making a tuned loop aerial instead of the longwire setup used in Birmingham. It was interesting to see the exhibition change shape and feel in a different venue.

An important part of the project of working with CAG (the director is Nigel Prince, formerly curator at Ikon), was delivering a condensed version of the Scarcity Radio workshop in the city with a group of young and emerging artists there. For this, I worked very closely with Heidi Reitmaier, learning consultant at the gallery, who curated a fantastic group of guest speakers to share and discuss ideas with us, in response to our thematic of scarcity. This was introduced with an artist talk, followed by a screening of Born in Flames, and extended through visits to relevant sites in the city and a lot of discussion.


Am Johal, Community Engagement Coordinator, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Matt Hern, founder of Car Free Vancouver Day and alternative learning centre, The Purple Thistle

Ron Sakolsky, independent scholar and pirate radio veteran

Sole Foods, urban community gardening

VIVO, media arts centre

The workshop was an amazing enabling device to meet a lot of people active in media, alternative education and lifestyle practices in Vancouver. It was a real privilege and great way to get a feel for the city beyond its official art institutions – the access you typically have as a visiting artist. Although in a leadership kind of role with the workshop, it’s very much an environment where I learn from the participants, yet again as a nonexpert: we are all working and learning together. I’m very excited to hear the work that they produce, and hope that it feeds some of IYP’s thinking too. Some of the group’s approaches to their projects included working in the space of the city (the social and aesthetic form of busking on the streets for example, or from a car that toured distinct areas); specific, evocative sounds of coins dropping, people eating, working with existing sounds and recordings, contemporary and historical; appropriating the form of the audiobook, the folk tale, the instructional tape.

One of the richest ideas that arose: is scarcity ‘real’, or can we simply refuse to accept it as an idea (or ideology)?





Posted in art, radio, scarcity, workshop log | 1 Comment

The Cognitive Radio

(Voiceover for film)
When I’m talking about communication, I’m talking about human communication, because that’s where revenue is at the moment. But in future, machine to machine communication is a growing area. They use different frequencies, what are called the beachfront frequencies, that are consumed solely by humans… for our enjoyment, frankly.
And when I’m talking about radio I mean any device that broadcasts and receives – so that includes televisions and mobile phones as well as what we usually think of as radios.
Principally then, cognition is about learning, and about action based on that learning, so you’re being aware of your environment. Radio policy operates from a very top-down level, but this whole notion of the cognitive radio, this kind of metaphor, would enable more local decisions and more spontaneous and dynamic use of the mineral that is spectrum.  This would allow you to detect conflicts with your neighbours, which heretofore would have been dealt with at a higher level, because there would have been that kind of central planning. But now if you take that away, the radios themselves are going to have to do more of that kind of work… looking at who’s around them, how others are acting, reacting to that, negotiating with those radios more locally… People then would see cognitive radio as introducing anarchy, chaos and all the rest of it into a world that’s been highly planned and everything’s highly managed and everyone wants to have fairly concrete expectations of behaviours every time in every frequency  in every jurisdiction.
They assert that then in the same way that they regulate land, they regulate oil, if you think of those minerals that are really revenue-bearing for a government, spectrum is the same thing. But the reason that they do it like that, they regulate the use of spectrum the mineral in that way… it’s in part that so we’ll have harmonisation. The other reason is to do with interference. Because radio spills, it’s not a clean mineral. It’s not like oil, where it runs out. Well, it is and it isn’t like oil, because some parts are more accessible than others. So if you want to give out rights to exploit the mineral spectrum, generally they are given on an exclusive basis.
In the cognitive radio world, we introduce the notion of some autonomy to the radio. So the radio is tasked with actually being aware of its environment. So sensing how busy the radio environment is, how much data is being transferred, sensing how busy those devices are around it… it’s tasked with possibly being aware of the policies acting on it. So it has to be able to be aware of its environment, and it has to be able to somehow take that awareness and make some decision based on that awareness, and act on that. So the old radios, they couldn’t change their actions. They’re either receiving or not receiving, they’re either transmitting according to a standard or they’re not. In a cognitive radio, you’re aware of your environment, you make some decision that optimises your response to that, or you transmit at a lower power or a higher power, heretofore what would have been the very hardcore engineering things that would have been planned in advance, and hardcoded, they become open to the radio to make choices about itself.
So you could restrict the radio, I could restrict it’s decisionmaking so that it’s aware of these things but I can set the decision processes. So it might recognise something is A, B, or C, but I can decide if A do x, and if B do y and so on. However, cognitive radio takes it on a little bit further. The radio can actually decide how it decides. It tries, and it learns. It tries something; it sees that it fails; that goes into its memory bank… so it has memory. Radios wouldn’t have had memory before. Even a radio that could make decisions doesn’t have memory. The worries then would be then how do you bound that, can you bound its outputs? If it’s allowed to do things, if it’s allowed to learn… what happens when you have a room full of radios all observing each other, all learning, what’s going to happen?


extracts from an interview by Sarah Browne with Tim Forde, Telecommunications Research Centre, Trinity College, Dublin, May 2012
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IYP goes to Hollywood… Well, Lapworth’s Museum of Geology.

While I don’t think any of IYP will be movie stars any time soon, we had our brush with lights, camera & action on the beginning scene with Sarah’s Scarcity film. It was set in the Lapworth Museum of Geology, with the idea of what could possibly be more scarce than objects such as fossils and meteorites that are thousands of years old.

The group each individually read a part of a script that Sarah had found out of a book, all about how within our modern day culture, life might actually be harder than that of a hunter, as how our wants and desires can sometimes get in the way of what we actually need, and how in comparison, we don’t need half the things we want and want half the things we don’t need. It wasn’t exactly light reading, but I’d say that’s what engaged us the most about it whilst reading the text.

Overall a very important session in not only what the group had been doing, but also what Sarah as an artist is doing. There is the chance of more filming to take place in the future with other areas and perceptions of the term ‘Scarcity’, but for now, I’m just glad we managed to do all our parts and lines without any bloopers. Or well, without too many.

Posted in film, scarcity | 1 Comment

Silicon Valley

Hello IYP! I hope you’re all well. I’m really looking forward to hearing about how the screenings on the boat were received as part of Flatpack, so I thought I’d try to prompt that with a small update of my own first.

Two days after our last workshop with Jan, I set off on a research trip to San Francisco,  California, and from there onto Vancouver, where I fly out from in the morning. Most of my time was spent in the States, researching a new work with my collaborator, Gareth Kennedy, who I work with under the name Kennedy Browne. This is for a new film we’ll be making over the summer that’s set in Silicon Valley. The trip to Vancouver has been a site visit to the Contemporary Art Gallery to work with curator Nigel Prince, and the gallery’s learning team, to consider how best the current exhibition at Ikon will tour and be re-worked to a new Canadian venue. It’s been an intensely stimulating and varied couple of weeks as I am exposed to new landscapes and situations, artworks and artefacts I’m unfamiliar with, and try to think about how the work might integrate into this new environment: what parts may seem stronger, different, more exciting; and what parts might get lost or obscured.

Scarcity Radio hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind, but the same sensitivities about access to material resources, and how our experience of technology impacts our daily experience, have certainly coloured the way I’m processing my surroundings and thinking about how the work should be developed. After our series of four thematic workshops it will be important on the next visit to reflect on the research shared so far, what needs more focus and which parts less, and think about how our work together can move forward. Since we’re getting closer to the boat’s launch and the radio station going live, I’m really interested to hear about the Flatpack weekend and what it felt like to present your archive remix as a public event!

Images above: Burnt out ATM, San Francisco; the remains of a silicon nugget, fabricated to be cut into Intel micro chips; a stock ticker from the late 1800s (the visual reference for the countdown clock made for Second Burial at Le Blanc); and a black silicon wafer manufactured by Intel. The latter three images all taken at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California.
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Scarcity Stickers

We’ve finally gotten some stickers with the Scarcity logo on, and within minutes, plastered them over a dozen or so torches.

They’re looking really good and it’s nice to see the logo finally on something, even if it’s a few torches. Won’t be long before we’re seeing them on bags and maybe even a T-shirt or two.

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Scarcity posters

After another session with the great Endless Supply, we’re getting closer & closer to seeing the final version of this year’s ‘Scarcity Radio’ logo & title design. Ideas such as incorporating morse code into the typeface or using patterns for the layout have been brought up, and instead of focusing more on one specific design, I feel that there are many more possibilites out there that will make choosing a single design that much harder.

Personally, I’m a sucker for 1930-50′s Art Deco posters, and I think by combining both, something really nice could be created. I know focusing more on a logo that sums up the whole project would be the ideal thing to work on, but I had a go at making a mock-up poster, for the sake of something nice to look at the very least, and came up with this:

It is only a quick thing I thought of and decided to put to paper, or screen in this case, but I just liked the idea of being able to put a poster up of the radio I was a part of. Not to mention if this was done decently, the amount of people that would see this & tune in once a set station has been decided. Just some food for thought about us maybe creating a few posters as a group.

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