REVOLV-OLUTION

Sissu Tarka


REVOLV-OLUTION is a reading performance experienced at the actual site of speech or mediated through a technological device (such as a telescope where the audience takes part in the work, but is physically located elsewhere). REVOLV-OLUTION includes the reading of three excerpts from the following texts on revolution: Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859); Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967); and Tim O'Reilly, Hardware, Software, and Infoware, in: Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (1999).

The project explores ideas around architectures of revolution, and it was developed during a residency with Colm Lally at the Banff Centre, Banff, Canada.

Reading text-material on revolution introduces difference.

For a long time turbulence was identified with disorder or noise. Today we know that this is not the case. Indeed, while turbulent motion appears as irregular or chaotic on the macroscopic scale, it is, on the contrary, highly organised on the microscopic scale. The multiple space and time scales involved in turbulence correspond to the coherent behaviour of millions and millions of molecules. Viewed in this way, the transition from laminar [i.e. nonturbulent or calm] flow to turbulence is a process of self-organisation

Prigogine, I. & Stengers, I., p.15 quoted in: De Landa, M. (1991) War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. New York: Zone Books


clutching at every weapon or semblance of a weapon that was thrown up from the depths below, no matter how far off.

Who gave them out, whence they last came, where they began, through what agency they crookedly quivered and jerked, scores at a time, over the heads of the crowd, like a kind of lightning, no eye in the throng could have told; but, muskets were being distributed—so were cartridges, powder, and ball, bars of iron and wood, knives, axes, pikes, every weapon that distracted ingenuity could discover or devise. People who could lay hold of nothing else, set themselves with bleeding hands to force stones and bricks out of their places in walls. Every pulse and heart in Saint Antoine was on high-fever strain and at high-fever heat. Every living creature there held life as of no account, and was demented with a passionate readiness to sacrifice it.

As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all this raging circled round Defarge's wine-shop, and every human drop in the caldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex where Defarge himself, already begrimed with gunpowder and sweat, issued orders, thrust his man back, dragged this man forward, disarmed one to arm another, laboured and strove in the thickest of the uproar.

'Keep near to me, Jacques Three,' cried Defarge; 'and do you, Jacques One and Two, separate and put yourselves at the head of as many of these patriots as you can. Where is my wife?'

'Eh, well! Here you see me!' said madame, composed as ever, but not knitting to-day. Madame's resolute right hand was occupied with an axe, in place of the usual softer implements, and in her girdle were a pistol and a cruel knife.

'Where do you go, my wife?'

'I go,' said madame, 'with you at present. You shall see me at the head of women, by and by.'

'Come, then!' cried Defarge, in a resounding voice. 'Patriots and friends, we are ready! The Bastille!.'

With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had been shaped into the deserted word, the living sea rose, wave on wave, depth on depth, and overflowed the city to that point. Alarm-bells

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Amereon House Ltd.: Mattituck, New York (1980)

First published as a volume in 1859. This edition contains all the copyright emendations made in the text as revised by the Author in 1867 and 1868.


In the days of IBM's dominance, hardware was king, and the barriers to entry into the computer business were high. Most software was created by the hardware vendors, or by software vendors who were satellite to them.

The availability of the PC as a commodity platform (as well as the development of open systems platforms such as Unix) changed the rules in a fundamental way. Suddenly, the barriers to entry were low, and entrepreneurs such as Mitch Kapor of Lotus and Bill Gates took off.

If you look at the early history of the Web, you see a similar pattern. Microsoft's monopoly on desktop software had made the barriers to entry in the software business punishingly high. What's more, software applications had become increasingly complex, with Microsoft putting up deliberate barriers to entry against competitors. It was no longer possible for a single programmer in a garage (or a garret) to make an impact.

This is perhaps the most important point to make about open-source software: it lowers the barriers to entry into the software market. You can try a new product for free--and even more than that, you can build your own custom version of it, also for free. Source code is available for massive independent peer review. If someone doesn't like a feature, they can add to it, subtract from it, or reimplement it. If they give their fix back to the community, it can be adopted widely very quickly.

What's more, because developers (at least initially) aren't trying to compete on the business end, but instead focus simply on solving real problems, there is room for experimentation in a less punishing environment. As has often been said, open-source software "lets you scratch your own itch." Because of the distributed development paradigm, with new features being added by users, open-source programs "evolve" as much as they are designed.

Indeed, the evolutionary forces of the market are freer to operate as nature "intended" when unencumbered by marketing barriers or bundling deals, the equivalent of prosthetic devices that help the less-than-fit survive.

Evolution breeds not a single winner, but diversity.

It is precisely the idiosyncratic nature of many of the open-source programs that is their greatest strength. Again, it's instructive to look at the reasons for Perl's success.

Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967)

http://library.nothingness.org/articles/SI/en/pub_contents/5


given the most unsophisticated of men the right to express an opinion on the marvels of technological innovation in a tone as familiar as the hand he sticks up the barmaid's skirt. The first landing on Mars will pass unnoticed on Blackpool beach.

Admittedly, the yoke and harness, the steam engine, electricity and the rise of nuclear energy all disturbed and altered the infrastructure of society (though this was almost accidental). But today it would be foolish to expect new productive forces to upset modes of production. The blossoming of technology has seen the birth of a super-technology of synthesis which could prove as important as the social community, that first of all technical syntheses, founded at the dawn of time. Perhaps more important still; for if cybernetics was taken from its masters, it might be able to free human groups from labour and from social alienation. This was precisely the project of Charles Fourier in an age when utopia was still possible.

But between Fourier and the cyberneticians who control the operational organisation of technology lies the distance between freedom and slavery. Of course, the cybernetic project claims that it is already sufficiently developed to be able to solve all the problems raised by the appearance of a new technique. But don't you believe it

1: The permanent development of productive forces, the exploding mass production of consumer goods, promise nothing. Musical air-conditioners and solar-ovens stand unheralded and unsung. We see a weariness coming, and one that is already so obviously present that sooner or later it's bound to develop into a critique of organisation itself

2: For all its flexibility, the cybernetic synthesis will never be able to conceal the fact that it is only the superseding synthesis of the different forms of government that have ruled over men, and their final stage. How could it hope to disguise the inherent alienation that no power has ever managed to shield from the weapons of criticism and the criticism of weapons?

By laying down the basis for a perfect power structure, the cyberneticians will only stimulate the perfection of refusal. Their programming of new techniques will be shattered by the same techniques turned to its own use by another kind of organisation. A revolutionary organisation

Tim O'Reilly, Hardware, Software, and Infoware
In: Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (1999)
Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman & Mark Stone (eds.)