User:Andre Castro/2/Transmedial/report

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Workshop Report

The booklet

The booklet you are either holding, or staring at is the result of a workshop titled Spam Publishing. One of the four Post-digital Publishing Workshops, focused DIY publishing, which took place at transmedial 2013.

The following lines will be dedicate to an overview of the workshop and its outcomes.

the workshop description

The workshop revolved around a simple task: "create writing and hybrid media publications from your junk mail folder". We wanted to bring participants to look at spam messages as something more than digital junk. We wanted to look at small and hidden details contained within email spam messages, at its anomalies, at reoccurring elements. Once these elements were found we proposed an investigation to find out more about these traces. Found evidences were compiled into a portrait occupying two A5 sheets. In order to gather all the portraits we decided upon a bestiary, as our hosting format. A compendium of beasts where spam beasts could find a space to take off their clothes and let themselves be portrayed.

Workshop Evaluation

If I try to do a quick evaluation, I will easily considerate the workshop as positive. To begin with, the workshop gave me the chance to articulate my thoughts as to why am I interest in spam, what findings I have made so far, and what I expect to get from it.

Another reason that made me walk out of the workshop room with a smile across my face was the collaboration with Silvio Lorusso. Silvio brought a good dose pragmatism and enthusiasm: "Let's do it! Yes, a booklet!". And along with it, his interest in the remediation of digital materials into analog formats. What changes does the content undergo when its container changes? Is our view upon that content also transformed? Will we see other sides to spam upon remediation by print?

Then the third part of the equation, the participants, came into the play. Their enthusiasm contaminated the whole workshop, and ideas began circulating at light-speed. Each one seemed to have a slightly different reason for having joined the workshop, but common to all was the will to get bellow the surface of unsolicited emails. Different areas of investigation were delineated:

Die Vopan Brueder gave themselves the task of finding a botnet that could be bought in order spam large (very large) number of addresses. Making their way through Russian web-forums, the Vopan Brothers eventually arrived at some individual, who advertised access to a bot-net dedicated to spam. A contact to his ICQ number and a transaction was what needed in order to seal the deal.

Winning the lottery and being notified by emails is frequent to some of us, even to those who don't play it. That wasn't the case o Dave Dawes, a lottery enthusiast who won the British Jackpot Lottery. Out of sheer generosity he is willing to donate a percentage of his fortune to you. Dave reconstituted his path to fortune through several clippings. Congratulations Dave! Hopefully this publication will help you find someone worth your generosity.

Another approach was taken by ADARAM SALAT, the daughter of the founder of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. ADARAM expressed her doubts on the efficient of Facebook to promote her father's cause. Although she owns five Facebook accounts and was an avid spammer, not much responses were making it her way. This time ADARA decided to join this publication and try a new support to promote her cause. Let's hope it helps.

noyan dug their inboxes, traveling back to 2007, looking for whatever spam was left. A number of historical viagra adverts were found. The same visual formula branded these emails: a colorful text-box with misspelled "viagra" in capitals. At the bottom of each email a short text kept appearing, in small font-size, and with no apparent sense or reason to be present. Upon searching these cryptic text fragments, noyan found out they were extracts from War and Peace, The Holy Bible, and A Feast for Crows. noya faced a case of Spam Lit, a spam technique in which literary texts are introduced into the email body, in order to fool the spam filter into thinking a friend with literary inclinations, and probably a psychological disturbance, decided to email some fresh prose. noyan venture capitalistic spirit saw this formula both as an innovative advertisement technique for books, and as a resource for literacy programs. Soon enough these beautiful adds will be adopted in large scale, and sell billions of Dan Brown's and Paulo Coelho's.

RoSa MenKmAN paranormal visionary soul foresaw a future world where spam messages will be fed into karaoke machines. Dancing to electrifying rhythms, looking at color-exploding images, and singing to Dr. Oz's lyrics will transport us into a world of red raspberries and protein regulated metabolism, where bodies are perfect, weight is something of the past, and a smile is a must.

Vivian and Inga Schlömer also began by excavating their inboxes in search for oddities. A strange and cryptic email was found. The message consisted of composite words with no easily identifiable meaning, plus a broken link. The finding brought the Schlömers to initiate the Spamtionary, creating its first entry for the term: "plesloyalossy". A term bearing reference to Mrs. Ples' devotion to lossy compression.


As previously mentioned, the explorations and discussions undertaken during the workshop brought up a few interesting ideas around the topic of spam. Spam's archeology and its constant metamorphosis were two of the most prominent subjects. Changes in spam appear to take place quite suddenly, drastically and globally. Why did penis enlargement spam stopped arriving at our mail-boxes? Why did we all felt it at roughly the same time? Does it imply that the majority of spam is centralized? Or is it highly networked, generated by a myriad of small groups, aware of each other's movements, following and appropriating spam latest trend? And since change is a constant, how important is to register those shifts? Does spam cultural value justify such effort? And why does such question arises in ours minds in the first place? Is it due to the authorless nature of spam? Is it because its creative strategies are contaminated by money extorting intentions?

The wide appeal of spam is also puzzling. Why are so many people curious about it? Wouldn't it be expected that we would treat these texts simply as internet debris? And however there is something that hooks us to them. Perhaps is the fact that these intimate and confessional emails are entrusted to us, as a result of our good will and honesty. Perhaps is the desire to be told these stories infused with magic spells, distant lands, princesses and kings, and abundant wealth. And no doubt most of us see them as a fictitious, but could it be that we half-believe in them? That we take on a suspension of disbelief because we want to be told these stories, which turn us into heroes and saviors in a world populated by murdered business men, corrupt politicians, seductive women, and generous account managers?

Raimundo (Andre) Castro

A word of thanks

We'd like to thank all the participants for their inspiring and devoted contributions, Florian Cramer for having invited us to take part in Post-digital Publishing program of transmedial 2013, Sebastian Schmieg and Anna Okrasko for their hospitality, and Piet Zwart Institute (in the human forms of Leslie Robbins, Simon Pummel, and Steve Rushton) for making it possible for us to come transmedial.