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" 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
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
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.