As part of the Being Social exhibition at Furtherfield Gallery in Spring 2012, Ele Carpenter and Emilie Giles facilitated embroidery sessions with gallery visitors who stitched a term from the Raqs Media Collective’s text ‘A Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons’ (2003).
View images from the workshops
The Embroidered Digital Commons is a collectively stitched version of ‘A Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons’ by the Raqs Media Collective (2003). The project seeks to hand-embroider the whole lexicon, term by term, through workshops and events as a practical way of close-reading and discussing the text and its current meaning.
Crafters, programmers, artists, makers, and people interested in working collaboratively, or taking part in participatory projects gathered to each stitch a few words of the term meme, as described below. The resulting patches will be turned into a short film depicting the sequence of embroideries.
In 2003 the Raqs Media Collective wrote ‘A Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons’. The full lexicon is an A-Z of the interrelationship between social, digital and material space. It weaves together an evolving language of the commons that is both poetic and informative. The terms of the lexicon are: Access, Bandwidth, Code, Data, Ensemble, Fractal, Gift, Heterogeneous, Iteration, Kernal, Liminal, Meme, Nodes, Orbit, Portability, Quotidian, Rescension, Site, Tools, Ubiquity, Vector, Web, Xenophilly, Yarn, and Zone.
The concept of the digital commons is based on the potential for everything that is digital to be common to all. Like common grazing land, this can mean commonly owned, commonly accessed or commonly available. But all of these blurred positions of status and ownership have complex repercussions in the field of intellectual property and copyright. The commons has become synonymous with digital media through the discourse surrounding free and open source software and creative commons licensing. The digital commons is a response to the inherent ‘copy n paste’ reproducibility of digital data, and the cultural forms that they support. Instead of trying to restrict access, the digital commons invite open participation in the production of ideas and culture. Where culture is not something you buy, but something you do.
“Meme: The life form of ideas. A bad idea is a dead meme. The transience as well as the spread of ideas can be attributed to the fact that they replicate, reproduce and proliferate at high speed. Ideas, in their infectious state, are memes. Memes may be likened to those images, thoughts and ways of doing or understanding things that attach themselves, like viruses, to events, memories and experiences, often without their host or vehicle being fully aware of the fact that they are providing a location and transport to a meme. The ideas that can survive and be fertile on the harshest terrain tend to do so, because they are ready to allow for replicas of themselves, or permit frequent and far-reaching borrowals of their elements in combination with material taken from other memes. If sufficient new memes enter a system of signs, they can radically alter what is being signified. Cities are both breeding grounds and terminal wards for memes. To be a meme is a condition that every work with images and sounds could aspire towards, if it wanted to be infectious, and travel. Dispersal and infection are the key to the survival of any idea. A work with images, sounds and texts, needs to be portable and vulnerable, not static and immune, in order to be alive. It must be easy to take apart and assemble, it must be easy to translate, but difficult to paraphrase, and easy to gift. A dead meme is a bad idea.”
Ele Carpenter is a curator based in London. Her creative and curatorial practice investigates specific socio-political cultural contexts in collaboration with artists, makers, amateurs and experts. She is a lecturer in Curating at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Since 2005 Ele has facilitated the Open Source Embroidery project using embroidery and code as a tool to investigate the language and ethics of participatory production and distribution. The Open Source Embroidery exhibition (Furtherfield, 2008; BildMuseet Umeå Sweden, 2009; Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco, 2010) presented work by over 30 artists, including the finished Html Patchwork now on display at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. Ele is currently facilitating the ‘Embroidered Digital Commons’ a distributed embroidery exploring collective work and ownership 2008 – 2013.
Emilie Giles is an alumnus of MA Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice at Goldsmiths College. Since graduating in 2010 her time has been spent co-organising MzTEK, a women’s technology and arts collective, as well as completing an internship with arts group Blast Theory and working for social video distributors Unruly. She is currently involved with TESTIMONIES, a project which explores oral history in relation to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games largely through social media.
Emilie’s own practice revolves around notions of pervasive gaming, married with urban exploration and psychogeography. Her most recent focus lies in taking fundamental gaming principles from Geocaching and exploring the consequences of adding an emotional dimension.