Archive for the 'Technology/2.0' Category



“Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive”

Stickerkitty is collaborating with The Weave: Mediocracy Unspun on a new project entitled Weaving the Streets & People’s Archive (WSPA).  John Collins, professor of global studies at St. Lawrence University and co-founder of the Weave, and I put together a proposal to create “a new blog and digital archive that will document the creative ways in which ordinary people make use of public space to express themselves” (excerpted from our proposal abstract).  We learned on Monday that our proposal was accepted and will be funded for the first two years by a grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Crossing Boundaries: Re-Envisioning the Humanities for the 21st Century initiative at SLU.  WSPA will complement the Street Art Graphics digital archive that is presented on the SLU art gallery Web site.  Street Art Graphics exists at this point as a catalogued image database.  For WSPA, however, team members will gather street ephemera, conduct research, and write about various topics in blog posts.

One of our first bloggers will be Lukasz Niparko ’13, the SLU alum I visited in Poznań, Poland, last June.  I think he is going to write about Rozbrat, the oldest occupied squat in the country.  Lukasz and I spent an entire day touring around the city and photographing street art.  “Miasto to nie firma” in the modified sticker below means, “The city is not a business,” in response to urban re-development and the privatization of public spaces in Poznań.

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Odzyskujemy miasto” in the stencil below also comments upon this issue with “We recover [reclaim?] the city.”  The sideways-looking N on the right is the international squatters’ symbol.

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On this sticker, “Przeciwko prywatyzacji.  Uslugi publiczne naleza do wszystkich.” stands for “Against privatization.  Public services belong to everyone.”

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Kreuzberg stickers – tagging geo-tagged images with words

For my new geo-tagging project, I’m trying to come up with a manageable number of consistent subject terms to describe what a sticker is about, i.e., what people in library and information science call creating an authority control or set of keywords (index terms).  One can go a little crazy in this endeavor, because there are so many comprehensive guides to refer to, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings, the Getty Research Institute Art & Architecture Thesaurus, various ARTstor Subject Guides, and plain old common sense.  My goal is to narrow it down to about 20 keywords, and here is what I have so far (22): Animal Rights; Authority; Capitalism; Conflict/War; Demonstration/Protest; Economy; Education; Environment; Gender; Globalization; Government/Politics; Identity; Immigration; Labor; Music; Nationalism; Race/Ethnicity; Religion; Sports; Surveillance; Technology; and Urban Development (includes Anti-Tourism, Gentrification, Reclaim the Streets).  Or to keep it simple, in most cases I could just put Power/Control.

There are also other terms that I want to include that describe how a sticker functions and/or what rhetorical strategy was used to create it.  This list is much shorter and still needs work: Advertising/Publicity; Adbusting/Appropriation/Culture Jamming; Creative Expression; D-I-Y; Humor/Irony/Satire; Postal/Hello-My-Name-Is; and Tagging.

Here below, for example, is one sticker that I’ve tagged.  The title of the sticker, “Weissagung der Mieter” means “The Tenants’ Prophecy,” and the text reads “Erst wenn der letzte Mieter verdrängt, der letzte Stadtteil gentrifiziert, das letzte Stück Berlins verkauft ist, werdet ihr merken, dass man Stadt nicht ohne uns machen kann,” or roughly, “Only when the last tenants are displaced, the last quarter is gentrified, the last piece of Berlin is sold, you will realize that you can not do without our city.”  My initial tags included: Capitalism; Economy; and Urban Development (includes Anti-Tourism, Gentrification, Reclaim the Streets).  Since the sticker has a Web site listed on it, www.kottico.net, I also included Advertising/Publicity.

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When I went to the Web site, I learned that there is a group called “Kotti & Co” that was formed in May 2012 in the working class Kottbusser Tor district in Berlin-Kreuzberg, an area populated largely by residents from Turkey.  In fact, Berlin is the largest city of Turks outside of Turkey, according to Eva Spirova in an article entitled The Multicultural Kreuzberg on the blog Berlin: A Divided City.  Germany developed an official Turkish recruitment agreement in 1961, which has since brought in millions of guest workers.  The project has been “an unnecessary social, economic and political catastrophe” however, for the workers’ children and grandchildren who can’t find jobs and are often socially marginalized, according to Klaus Bade of the German Foundations on Integration and Migration.  For more information, see At Home In a Foreign Country: German Turks Struggle to Find Their Identity in Der Spiegel (November 2, 2011).

As a result of this research, I’ll now add these tags: Demonstration/Protest; Government/Politics; Identity; Immigration; Labor; Nationalism; Race/Ethnicity; and Religion.  This happens all the time – finding what at first glance appear to be modest little stickers with such powerful and far-reaching commentary!  It can be somewhat daunting….  I hope, though, that I’ll be able to assign stickers into various groups and the work will go a little faster.  Like these:

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As a side note, another article, Graffiti and Street Art, on the blog above states that “…stickers and adhesives are not considered graffiti.”!

Mapping right-wing stickers?

Yesterday while biking along the Rathausstraße, a popular restaurant and shopping area in Alexanderplatz, I came across several anti-Muslim stickers that are too offensive to post on Stickerkitty.  I’ve been debating what to do and how to write about them in a neutral and ethical way.  Posting offensive images can be a dangerous thing, I think, even if I were to simply describe what was going on in the stickers (i.e., what is being represented and/or communicated).  The stickers were out in public and in plain view, but posting them online seems different.

I’ll share a little of what could be considered acceptable in this situation, though.  When I was there, I took a few photographs and learned that last year, right near where I was standing, a 20-year-old Vietnamese man had been badly beaten and later died.  A shrine with candles and flowers has been created to honor him.

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You can read about the incident in The Local (October 15, 2012) and Der Spiegel (October 17, 2012).  At the time, the alleged perpetrators were identified as “southern Europeans,” though in a more recent story in Der Welt (May 13, 2013), six suspects have been named, with one, a Turk, identified as the main perpetrator.  He fled to Turkey after the beating and returned to Germany just a few days ago to be charged with the murder.

One of the stickers that I found in the area read, “Nur ein toter Muslim ist ein guter Muslim,” or “Only a dead Muslim is a good Muslim.”  Another sticker showed the silhouette of a mosque and the words above it, “Gegen Islam[i]s[i]erung” or “Against Islamization.”  Instead of the letter “i,” were tall minarets.  The sticker also included “2045 werden 52 Mio Muslime in Deutschland leben!” or “In 2045, 52 million Muslims will be living in Germany!” and a Web site for <pi news dot net>.  PI stands for Politically Incorrect.  That’s all I’m going to say about these stickers.  The others were much, much worse.

At the end of the block where I was walking, I found a recognizable sticker image from Storch Heinar that read “Hier Verschwand ein Nazi-Aufkleber” or roughly “Here disappeared a Nazi sticker.”  The sticker (though now in my notebook) did indeed cover an offensive anti-Muslim sticker.

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Storch Heinar, with his little Hitler moustache, is a word play on Thor Steinar, a German clothing company that has been criticized for a logo and other designs that are very similar to what were used on SS uniforms during World War II.  Thor Steinar clothing has been banned in government buildings and several football (soccer) stadiums in Germany.  You can read more about Thor Steinar in a previous post.  Doing research today, I found an informative article by Simon Englar that discusses right-wing clothing and a group in Berlin, Rechtes Land, which tracks right-wing and neo-Nazi activities across Germany.  According to Englar,

  • Rechtes Land, or ‘Just Nation,’ is a database of present and historical far-right activity that will be displayed geographically in a searchable map online.  Every beating, every murder, every bombing—Rechtes Land aims to cover it all, in a consolidated and accessible interface.  But the data mapped won’t be limited to events of official illegality.  Felix Hansen [one of the organizers] explained that the project will also map marches and rallies—events which are technically legal, but which play an important role in the far-right scene.  ‘Whether or not [right-wing] groups have broken the law plays no role for us,’ explained Hansen.  It’s with this understanding that Rechtes Land will pay close attention to the commercialized far right.  Brands like Thor Steinar… will be mapped, their networks of distribution exposed….  That’s a new level of exposure for the German far right—an exposure that will be meticulously catalogued and documented.  Rechtes Land follows a simple logic: exposure is necessary for awareness, for research, and, ultimately, for policy.  This strategy of exposure is particularly well suited to Germany, where the most successful far-right groups tend to be dispersed and obscure.”

Interesting how this mapping relates to my geo-tagging project, too.  I looked at Rechtes Land, and markers identify where right-wing activities have taken place (marches, demonstrations), who were the organizers, their mottos or chants, how many participants, etc., as well as news items and a rich collection of historical Nazi sites and more contemporary post-World War II monuments, museums, and documentation centers, such as the Topography of Terror.

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What a great way to learn about the political history of the city.  I’m going to ask people at Rechtes Land about the anti-Muslim stickers I found.  Maybe they will want to add photos of them to their Web site.

Geo-tagging in Berlin #2

Geo-tagging digital photographs is getting easier and more complicated.  My new and evolving work flow goes like this.  Rather than photograph any or every sticker that comes my way (it’s laborious to turn on/off the GPS settings every time, and I come across 100s of stickers a day, anyway), I’m learning to photograph stickers at a particular location and let that group of stickers tell the story.  Yesterday, for example, I was walking along Torstraße in Prenzlauer Berg and came to a corner café with signs that read “BAIZ Bleibt!” (or “BAIZ remains”), a phrase I’d already seen on a handful of stickers.  According to their Facebook site, BAIZ is an “alternative cultural institution in the BAIZ Sandtorstrasse… punishable by the purchase of the house by the investor group Zelos Properties GmbH.  But that we, the guests, not resign ourselves!”  (Sorry for rough Google translation.)

I took a left onto Christinenstraße and Lottumstraße situated a few blocks near Senefelder Platz (hello, birthplace of lithography in the 1790s!) and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (hello, political revolutionary in the early 1900s!).  It’s captivating to feel the magnitude of history at any given corner in Berlin and one of the things I love about this city….  Just think: printmaking and politics (i.e., the great-great+ grandparents of stickers) go back hundreds of years right at this locale.

While there, I photographed about a dozen political stickers, which you can see on my new Stickerkitty map.  If you click on any of the images on the bar along the bottom of the screen, it will show you where on the street the photograph was taken.  Here is one of the stickers with the “BAIZ Bleibt” motto.

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Other than the rash of political stickers, there was nothing out of the ordinary along this quiet stretch of the neighborhood.  A few bicyclists rode by, and parents were walking home with their kids after school.  The big elephant on the street, however, was a huge multi-storey crane working on a building demo and/or renovation.  Construction workers loaded their cars at the end of the workday.  Cranes and construction workers are ubiquitous in Berlin, but now I understand why the stickers were there to protest urban development.  The geo-tagging is giving me an opportunity to look at the time and spatial placement of stickers in a new way.  I like how the quantitative data leads to a qualitative description.

Geo-tagging in Berlin #1

The geo-tagging on Stickerkitty’s map is coming along slowly.  It takes a little while to set the GPS on the camera, so I need to be careful out in public so as not to draw attention to what I’m doing.  Not that anyone really cares, but I like to keep a low profile.  It’s also taking a long time to load photos onto Flickr, though that might be a slow Internet connection.  The few I’ve loaded so far are showing locations perfectly!  The next thing to do will be to figure out how to tag with words and whether to limit subject headings to 20 or 30, or just tag at will (which has never worked well in the past).  I’ll tackle that later today.

I awoke before dawn to the sound of a fox barking on the grounds of the nearby Bötzow-Brauerei, and Alexanderplatz was pretty deserted this morning before the busloads of tourists arrived.  I picked up about 50 stickers in two hours, including: Violent Frustration, Capital Grind Chaos; Wir sind die letzen 10% … und bleiben hier!; Artgerecht statt ungerecht!; Fight for the Cuban Way of Life; and Berlin bleibt hart.

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Geo-tagging with Stickerkitty’s Map

I’m developing a geo-tagging component of my sticker project using the newly released Canon SX280 digital point-and-shoot camera with built in GPS.  It’s not a very fancy camera at all, but there was a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning figuring out the GPS settings.  Note: don’t bother with the wi-fi and/or smart phones.  Thanks to Carole at work for figuring out the details!  Today, I finally loaded my first image onto a Flickr map that reads right down to street level.  I.e., Flickr can read the EXIF data (including the GPS coordinates) in an image file and then place it on a Google map.  During my upcoming trip to Berlin, I’ll photograph stickers in different neighborhoods over time and then tag the images with subject headings, type/genre, artists’ names, etc.  The name of the Flickr site is Stickerkitty’s Map, and it’s pretty bare bones right now, but I’ll flesh it out in the days ahead.  Here is a test of a geo-tagged stencil from Potsdam, NY.

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Ho, ho, ho!

As far as I know, there are only two Christmas stickers in my collection, and as to be expected, both are stickin’ it to the Man – the coppers (Berlin 2010) and Wal-Mart et al (NYC 2006).  LOL.

The Boycott Christmas sticker might still be available here, though the Web site dates to 2000.

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks creating a new Flickr database called stickerkitty’s collection.  It’s more for use as a back-up than anything else, though now I can show people stickers from anywhere.  All of my 5,000+ sticker image files are stored on one of the SLU servers – the NCAT “scratch” drive.  I’m also importing the files onto my laptop via iPhoto.  It’s weird thinking about the long-term archival storage of image files, but for now I’m using a server, a hard drive, and the cloud.

21st-C. Kitty 2.0

Stickerkitty has a QR code.  Get the app and see where it leads you.

Also, a little Kitty Cosplay can be found at Giant Robot.  Awwwww.  Love the front paws.

Summer 2011

Summer tasks (or accomplishments, depending on how you look at it)

Configure new laptop (check)

Install InDesign CS4 (check)

Deinstall CS4 and install CS5 (ergh)

Learn inDesign (in progress)

Test Blurb print-on-demand (soon)

Import 3,000+ image files into iPhoto on new laptop (in progress)

Get admin rights for new laptop in order to download Dropbox (check)

Organize image files into an official archive on SLU server (in progress)

Scan earliest stickers in black notebook from NYC, 2005-2007 (need to find a student now that Joe Pomainville is gone= NTFAS)

Scan stickers in red notebook, 2008-2009 (NTFAS)

Put most recent 2010 and 2011 stickers into mylar pockets (moi)

Re-photograph sticker sheets from 2006 exhibition with professional camera and lights (check, thanks, Carole Mathey!)

Crop these sticker sheet large image files to make image files for individual stickers (NTFAS)

Continue cataloging stickers for ContentDM database (ongoing as time permits, thanks, Arline Wolfe!)

Get back to writing real content (SOON!!!)

A beautiful spring day…

… and I spent a good portion of it working on my sticker database.  After weeks of a few sporadic hours here and there to pull everything together, I can now account for about 2,700 individual digital image files for stickers scanned thus far.  The most difficult part in this whole process is finding where the files are located across too many different folders on different servers at SLU.  My fault.  I also have a bad habit of assigning “Final” to whatever documents/projects I’m working on, and if they get revised, I put “FinalFinal.”  Or “FinalFinal-Use this one.”  And “Final-old” on the original finals.  And so on.

To keep all of that straight, I have a running meta-metadata Excel spreadsheet so I know the status and location of image file folders.  Some images are scanned but not loaded into the ContentDM database software.  Some are in iPhoto.  Many stickers still need to be scanned.  And today, as I was driving home from school, I thought, “I wonder if Flickr would be the most effective way to make these stickers available online?”  The Library of Congress uses Flickr, e.g., among many other institutions worldwide.

I also made screen shots of my iPhoto albums and put the .pngs in Dropbox.

I kind of miss the shoebox approach.

Despite the tedium associated with this work, the best part is looking closely at all of the images.  Very closely.  There are endless ways of drawing connections among stickers, some that are obvious and others more poetic.

It’s all good.  Stay tuned.


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