Updated: 18-07-99

A rant approximating the content of this document was delivered to an audience of new media artists and activists by James Wallbank, Coordinator of Redundant Technology Initiative, at The Next 5 Minutes conference in Amsterdam, March 1999.

At RTI we don't want anyone to see this statement as set in stone - hey, this is new media! So if you can suggest any development of this text, or you have any reactions, please get in touch.

Lowtech Manifesto

"Lowtech" means technology that is cheap or free.

Technology moves on so fast that right now we can recover low-end Pentiums and fast Macintoshes from the trash. Lowtech upgrades every year. But we don't have to pay for it.

Lowtech includes hardware and software. We advocate freeware and low cost software. We particularly advocate the use of low cost, open source operating systems.

High technology doesn't mean high creativity. In fact sometimes the restrictions of a medium lead to the most creative solutions.

Independence is important. Don't lock your creativity into a box you don't control.

Access is important. Don't lock your creativity into a format we can't see.

High tech artworks market new PCs. Even if they aren't meant to. Artworks that make use of new, expensive technology can't avoid being, in part, sales demonstrations. Part of the message of an online video stream, whatever its content, is "Hey, isn't it time for an upgrade?".

Communicators concerned with the meaning and context of what they do may want to avoid this.

We're skeptical about the consumerist frenzy associated with information technology. Lowtech questions the two year upgrade cycle.

A lot of people say that new media is revolutionary. They say the net is anarchic and subversive. But how subversive can you be in an exclusive club, with a $1000 entrance fee?

Lowtech counters exclusivity. Lowtech is street level technology.

Text is great for communicating. Write down what you want to say. Make it clear and simple and non-exclusive.

Email is still the "killer app". Fast, low cost global communication for the ordinary citizen is genuinely something new.

HTML is good for lots more than web pages. Now you can author all sorts of graphical stuff with a plain text editor.

Use the web for plain text and images. It's simple and cheap and quick and it works.

<- lowtech

Next Update: Later