Social Norms

Sweden likes to think of itself as an enlightened place. In particular when talking about gender roles. And to give Sweden its due – we have come a long way. That is why I was particularly amused when I saw this piece of graffiti. The artwork is an adaption of a typical sign on the road marking a pedestrian lane. It portrays a father walking with his daughter.

The artists adaptation of the sign shows the child dreaming of walking together with a man and a woman. I presume this to mean that the child longs for a complete family. I have never reflected upon this sign before but the artist made me think of several things at once.

First: Despite our progress in gender roles it is more often the woman who takes care of the children and therefore the sign on the road portraying a man and child shows gender roles as they are not. This can be interpreted in a friendly manner to mean that this is a vision of a better future where the father pays a more active role in child rearing but most probably it is an attempt to portray men in a better light.

Second: The child dreaming of walking with a male and female. If the image of the father and daughter can be seen as a portrayal of life as it is not then the dream of the family consisting of father, mother and child is a re-enforcement of a socially acceptable norm vis-a-vis the heterosexual family. Is the artist aware that by critiquing one social norm she/he is re-enforcing another?

Third: The child is the one dreaming of family. The male has no such thoughts. Significant?

Forth: Is the child’s longing for a mother figure a cry for security or normality?

All these questions from a drawing on the pedestrian lane. In addition to this the artist has received a response. From the thought bubble showing the child’s dream or longing rises another bubble with the words “hate him” written in Swedish. Is this the child’s thoughts? Is it the woman’s thoughts? Or should this be seen as a comment from the society around this little group?

It’s amazing what a morning walk can bring…

The invisible man of graffiti art

The New Yorker has published a long piece on Banksy, sub-titled “The invisible man of graffiti art”. Banksy is the famous, but anonymous, UK graffiti artist whose work is a mix of cheeky social commentary and plain fun. Not much is known for sure, but the article writes:

This much is certain: around 1993, his graffiti began appearing on trains and walls around Bristol; by 2001, his blocky spray-painted signature had cropped up all over the United Kingdom…

Since street art is ephemeral, he occasionally issues books filled with photographs of his work, accompanied by his own text. He self-published his first three volumes, â??Existencilism,â?? â??Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall,â?? and â??Cut It Out.â?? His latest, â??Wall and Piece,â?? was published by Random House and has sold more than two hundred and fifty thousand copies…

Ralph Taylor, a specialist in the Sothebyâ??s contemporary-art department, said of Banksy, â??He is the quickest-growing artist anyone has ever seen of all time.â?? Banksy responded to the Sothebyâ??s sale by posting a painting on his Web site. It featured an auctioneer presiding over a crowd of rapt bidders, with the caption â??I canâ??t believe you morons actually buy this shit.â??

Besides his own website and his books there are plenty of images on Flickr (over 18000 images) that have been attributed to Banksy. They may be originals or simply followers of the Banksy style.

Stress Flag

Adding a haphazard artistic touch to most cities are the street artists. They apply their art in many different ways here it is in the form of a small flag tied up to the railing of a bridge in Göteborg. The flag bears the word “stress” but is it for or against stress?


Somewhere in the end of last year I became annoyed with Flickr. I used Flickr to upload my photos (original, ey?) but since I used too much bandwidth they started limiting the amount I could put online. One alternative would have been to pay for an account. But instead I just stopped posting my photos. Now I have decided to post them somewhere on my own site and stick a few in my blog. Most of my pictures are of street art from different places. Here are two from Stockholm that I took a while back – they don’t really have anything in common.

Gandhi in Stockholm
Infotoxicated? You ain’t seen nothing yet…


Obey & Mashup

The first time I saw the Obey image was on a t-shirt. Then I saw it on a wall in Barcelona. Since then it appeared and re-appeared on walls around the world. It was naturally there before I saw it, but since then it I have seen it on other walls and t-shirts. Not really sure what it means but it is intriguing.

One of the spookier versions of this images is a mashup from Iran. Not that I have ever been in Iran but I found it over at the Wooster Collective.

Pretty spooky…

People & technology

The concept of technological determinism can be explained with the quote from Homer (unconfirmed) â??The blade itself incites to violenceâ??. When I try to explain technological determinism to my students I usually ask them to think about their iPods. What are the people who build and sell a device which fits 10 000 songs saying about intellectual property?

Another cool application of technology is I like the work of the graffiti artist Banksy so here are a few images taken from the Banksy pool.

wyn gilley

Marble Arch. Nolifebeforecoffee.

Near Drayton Park Train Station, N7 London. atomic shed.

Hocker Street, Shoreditch. distantbombs.

Corner of Noel Street and Poland Street, London, 2001. Simon Crubellier.

The point (not of Banksy but of technology application) is that in a cool interconnected way I can follow Banksyâ??s work. Since he is a graffiti artist it is not going to be displayed for too long. Flickr provides both the storage medium but also a searchable area where interests can gather. Not only can I find images from all over the world I can also follow them by theme (e.g. Banksy) and see the work of different photographers. The development of the social organisation of photography via sites like this is very cool.

The point is not simply mindless technology optimism but rather that given a technological base people will find social uses for it. It is not about developing a business model but rather that by applying technology in an unorthodox way people will develop and organise their interactions with the help of technology. But we still need to develop the technology and make it more available, cheaper and free to manipulate.

Part of the problem is (naturally) that there is not enough political will to fulfill this vision. As soon as we approach anything like this someone starts talking about the need to ensure that business can profit from technology. Profiting from technology is ok – but not if it stops the development of a better socio-technical organisation. The development of a new socio-technical organisation began the dissemination of the web but has faltered with the demands of business to make profit and the inevitable crash of a market based upon words & greed…

Street Art

Recent street art which has been appearing in Göteborg are cut out birds set in the urban environment. Here is a jackdaw on a lamppost on Vasagatan. Or how about this bird on a station measuring environmental pollution caused by cars.