Sunday, March 23

Back to basics: escaping the cyber mall

E-commerce, once the buzzword of online marketing, is so cheap now that any potential merchant can add credit card services to their page for a minimal monthly fee. For access to a bigger marketplace, stores can list on mammoth sites like eBay, Etsy, CD Baby, or Locally traffic to online auction powerhouse TradeMe accounts for 50% of all web traffic in New Zealand. But to do business with Rene Spudvilas it's very simple. Email him.

Actually Rene, who deals in rare Japanese bicycle frames, initially began selling on eBay, with immediate success. "I only started after selling my own frame on USA eBay, which was the first Keirin frame I bought after moving to Japan. That frame was the 3rd most watched item in the world for sports category, and I got so many emails asking if I could find more for potential buyers." But he quickly got turned off, "After that I bought a few more frames to sell, but wanted to avoid eBay, because I did not like their fees." Avoiding the generic experience, poor customer service, and anonymous feel of large online marketplaces, he set out for himself. Rene realised how unique his product and his clientèle was, and decided to capitalise on it, "even if I only had a small blog, fans would find it, simply because no other search results would come up on google, if anyone typed *keirin* or *njs frame* etc..."

Spudvilas continues the DIY aesthetic throughout all aspects of his business. He takes photographs of the products himself, with close-ups of what his customers are really interested in. Descriptions forsake corporate speak, personally endorsing products or using more fan-boy terminology. Some products he uses himself "on my daily ride", others are "super sexy old school". Suppliers are really just friends with hand-crafted goods that he can vouch for. His latest product line is from Kishiguchi Yo, "one of my first friends in Japan, who grew up around a lot of pro keirin riders."

Local record label CMR continues in this same vein. Specialising in "Limited edition lathe-cut records, vinyl records and CDs", the site consists of a long list of albums. Reviews are long, eloquent affairs lifted from other sound magazines and distributors worldwide: The Wire, Tofaki, Incursion, Earpiece. The catalogue is rigorously updated and posted in plain text to alternative audio culture mailing lists such as New Zealand's AF (Audio Foundation) list.

Dusty Klein's Cadence Clothing fashion line is a one-man operation that he intends to keep that way. Quality is handmade and meticulous, but also allows for chance and "variants between pieces." Escaping the managerial and ethical dilemmas of offshore clothing factories, production is done in "small, detail-oriented runs." A relatively new company, Klein has intentionally limited his expansion, "believing that growth is not a necessary means of success." Promotion is organic, Klein photographing or filming riders that wear his apparel, and posting these on YouTube or Flickr photosets with titles like "Seattle respect".

Friday, March 21

Cartography as controversy

Julian Oliver sends word about his recent keynote at the Inclusiva Net conference:

From the earliest world maps to Google Earth, cartography has been a vital interface to the world. It guides our perceptions of what the world is and steers our actions in it. As our knowledge about the world has changed, so have maps with it (or so we like to think).

In this lecture Julian shows a darker side of map-making, covering various reality-distorting effects innate to the graphic language of cartography and how they can be easily exploited for gain.

Thursday, March 20

One night videogame show coming to Window

Next Friday at Window we'll be presenting a special one-night only videogame show called Play it! Make it!. The first section consists of a handpicked selection of innovative, unusual, and experimental games from Bill Viola, Toshio Iwai, and others, and will allow you to experience first- hand some important game works.

Game designer Jeff Nusz will be running a lighning fast, low-tech workshop that comprises the Make it! section on the same evening. Arming small teams with a bevy of musical instruments, craft supplies and a computer, Jeff will assist participants in designing and building a simple videogame in just 2 hours.

Friday 28 March from 7 - 10 pm, at Window

Tuesday, March 18

Hack this code: Te Tuhi software goes open source

Douglas Bagnall writes to let us know that he's made his Te Tuhi Video Game system software open source under the GPL (General Public) license. We blogged about the show a few months ago here at Window:Scene, where visitors to Te Tuhi could draw pictures that were analysed by the software and converted to videogames via a set of rules. Opening the code to the community allows these rules to be changed and shifted, but you'll need some technical savvy. With his usual deadpan humour, Bagnall goes straight from step 4, "Try ./tetuhi path/to/some/image.jpg. If everything is working, a window should pop up with a game in it.", to step 5, "But it probably isn't working, so at this point you should subscribe to the mailing list and ask there."

Hye Rim Lee at Max Lang

For those waltzing around the Chelsea gallery scene in the next few weeks, Hye Rim sends word about an opening of new work on March 13th at Max Lang gallery, 229 10th Ave, New York.

Thursday, March 6

Play it. Make it. Sell it.

Are you a real fan of Beirut, or did you just jump on the bandwagon? Lee Byron's Listening History visualisation reveals the truth, mining hundreds of listening hours logged on social music site LastFM for the answers. In a series of large scale posters that are both intuitive as data and beautiful aesthetically, artists are represented by sinuous waves, "cooler colors represent artists who have been listened to for a long period of time while warmer colors represent artists who are more recent in the user's listening habits."

Sell out so your work reaches millions of consumers, or stay the starving artist in relatively obscurity? Kevin Kelly proposes an alternate solution. "A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living." If a little idealistic, Kellys approach seems doable, and all the more so because of recent technology. Need to print your own book? Go to Don't have a record label? Monetize it on Need to stay in touch with those 1000 fans? MySpace, RSS feeds, blogs, and Flickr are here to help.

An approach Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor knows all too well. After following in the footsteps of Radiohead's 'pay what you want' scheme with side project Saul Williams, Reznor went even further with his own project last week, offering a stepwise model of cost for NIN's latest album. "Fans bought 2,500 copies of the ultradeluxe edition of the new album, Ghosts I-IV, offered at the same time as free tracks and other music packages that begin as low as $5. The most expensive option sold out in three days, and activity on the website crashed its servers."

Fuyuko Akiyoshi sends word of a videogame she's just produced. Zoo Escape stars you as the brave panda who must help the animals to escape. Reach a certain level and you'll need to fight the zoo keeper himself, an evil Ronald McDonald.

Want to make your own videogame? On March 28th you'll have a chance. Over at Window, we're staging a major experimental videogame exhibition, culminating in a "Play It! Make It!" evening in the Window space. You'll have a chance to play 5 or 6 seminal games, including works such as Bill Viola's surreal meditative Night Journey, the UN sponsored political simulation Ayiti, and ground breaking interactive narrative work, Facade. Talented game designer Jeff Nusz from Custom Logic will be coming up from Christchurch to run the Make it section. Arming small teams with a bevy of musical instruments, craft supplies and one computer, their aim will be to crank out a videogame in under 2 hours. That bizaare whale game with coloured pencil art and a casiotone/rap soundtrack you've always dreamt of playing? Bring it to life on March 28th.