Speaker by Various Artists

4

Science comes to the Arts Festival

by Richard Easther

thinkScience began with a Twitter conversation between me, Auckland Arts Festival chair Victoria Carter and Robin Hickman, about how to make new ways for New Zealanders to connect with science.

We  have been working on this for over a year, and are hugely excited that thinkScience will make its public debut with three events at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival on March 14, as part of the festival’s White Night and family weekend.   

First up on the day are the Science in the City panel discussions in the Spiegeltent, exploring how science predicts and shapes the future of the city.  They'll be convened by Jon Bridges and the topics are "What makes the city work?" and "How can ideas change our world?"

Panelists include Tim Hazeldine (University of Auckland, Economics), Victoria Crone (Xero, Managing Director), Steve Pointing (AUT, Ecology), Ella Henry (AUT, Te Ara Poutama), Lillian Grace (Wiki NZ), Shaun Hendy (University of Auckland, Physics), Vend CEO Vaughan Rowsell, Cather Simpson (University of Auckland, Physics and Chemistry). This will be a smart discussion about the future of Auckland, so Public Address readers should feel at home here ...

The headline thinkScience event is New Zealand’s science superhero, Nanogirl (aka Dr Michelle Dickinson), live in the Auckland Town Hall, taking you and your family on a super-ride in an unpredictable science performance. Nanogirl will show us how much fun it is to create science magic. The show is a big production, coming to the Festival direct from Nanogirl's laboratory. It will an awesome event, and things will definitely explode ...

And in the evening, microbiologist and glowworm enthusiast Siouxsie Wiles is overseeing Biolumination. In Q Theatre Siouxsie and selected artists will be displaying works made with glowing bacteria. Aotea Square will play host to a photo booth with a difference, where people can step into the dark to be photographed by the light of bioluminescent bacteria, and you can even try your hand at making your own glowing art in a petri-dish.

Personally, I can't wait for the Festival events, and thinkScience has exciting plans for the future. Come, enjoy the day, and stay tuned for what happens next...

12

Stuck inside the Great Disruption

by Greg Jackson

Four years on from the worst Christchurch earthquake, we are still living inside the great disruption that Christchurch life is now.

I've done big thinkings about the big picture  before in other places, this time I just want to do small thinkings about the daily grind of life in our evolving city. Few of the constants you take for granted in First World life are consistent in a post-disaster city.

When we talked through where it's at now in our household, the one you know as Hebe on Public Address said it was the inconsistency and constant change that gets to her most. So many changes, in every area of this family's daily lives. All near unthinkable four years ago.

 Traffic routes change, roads are dug up, routes squeezed, easy road trips turn into traffic jams overnight. The pop-up shops of the post-apocalyptic landscape vanish to be replaced with steel and glass blandness. In “Town” you get lost because everything has been bulldozed and there are no landmarks to see. We get a beautiful new supermarket (I went every day for the first week) but the local library is now a weedy, windblown vacant lot.

We live close to the epicentre of the February 22, 2011, city-flattening earthquake – 3km away near the pond by Rapaki Track – and St Martins did get seismically kicked around for a couple of years. Near 15,000 quakes since September 4, 2010, with The Noisy Neighbour, the Port Hills Fault, ponying up a good number of them. 

Our neighbourhood is on the uptown side of south  Christchurch, with tree-lined well-gardened streets, sheltered by the Port Hills, and the meandering Heathcote River that has a flair for the occasional evil flood. Think Midsomer without the visible human carnage. 

We moved in from the beach six years ago, buying this well-loved little cottage  because it was within walking distance of the Steiner school that looked like it would see our teenage sons right through from the magical kindergarten up to high school graduation. After the February 22, 2011, earthquake the boys' best friends left town. Abruptly, last year, the boys left school too,  after 10 years in the previously-strong community of children and families.

Just one wee world among many blown apart.

They love their new school, but it is right across town by the University of Canterbury in Ilam. The school itself is readjusting to four years still out of its inner-city home and many changes in staff and students. Luckily their bus route survived the weird pogrom that the local government people did to the bus routes that has turned many commutes into much longer and drearier trips.

Quite early on Hebe and I became infuriated with the EQC fantasists that looked at our house and their reports, and we decided to await decisions about the status of the land. 

One son was badly traumatised by the February quake, my knee was shredded in escaping from my office in Manchester Street, and after a feverish bout of projects, we all got sick. More good reasons to wait.

Telescoping several years into a paragraph is not easy but from this vantage point we've watched the passing parade of repairs and renovations in this area: the exterior painting of a nearby house as the snow fell, the jacking and packing of piles, the glueing back together of ring foundations, and the endless painting.

Along with most of Christchuch the preening, keening, posturing and wrath of the inner city dramas is totally peripheral to our lives. Christchurch devolved to residents living in their villages post-quakes and in many ways it has stayed that way, even with a unifying City Council in place.

While the backdrop of daily life has been one of constant change, there has been an inherent assumption in the mix that somewhere, somehow a new normal is on the way. Except that it is not.

We had thought from our very good gossip and data networks as befits ex-journalists that things were slowly getting sorted on the home fronts. Not always the results people sought, but a gradual inching toward some sort of resolution.

Our own barometer of change, the dump next door, deserted since September 2010, is still there but now slated for demolition. We've grown used to the rats in the garden, and our cats' hard work to keep them down. I cut the overgrown lawns when the grass seed throws Hebe into a full-blown allergy attack and the fire risk soars.

We have all learned to be ready to duck when the roofing iron blows off in the howling Canterbury nor'wester. When the hazard team turned up to kill off the black mould infestation inside the dump, we even had the reason for our own dragging-down health explained.

This year we find another house nearby has gone from EQC repair to over-cap and possible demolition. Skip one house, and a large solid-looking beauty is said to be in the firing line.

A good half a dozen homes within five minutes' amble along the riverside dog walk route have abruptly gone “ping ping ping”. Some looked rough but one I can recall featuring in a kitchen style feature in the local paper just five years ago.

This very morning Miss Dog and I stopped in amazement as we watched an apparently intact 90s horror vanish under the teeth of the digger. This had been one I had glared at many times, thinking “why you” while the arts and crafts houses of my  fancy bit the dust. Now by evening it too has gone.

The peaceful neighbourhood has turned into a sort of “renovation Rapture” in reverse where the weak and the flawed are the ones wiped from the face of the Earth. Like many boomers, Hebe and I have made our real money buying and doing up homes. Now we find ourselves in a city-wide version of Changing Rooms, a do-up show featuring an entire city.

These are not caring and sharing demolitions. Because the money from recycling is less than the money for a quick bulldoze of everything, that's what they do; drop the lot.

We don't have a great roof because we don't know if it's worth replacing it yet. I've seen the roofing iron to replace it bulldozed into scrap countless times just on my own street.

What the accrued effect of all this change is you end up with a vague sense of exile in your own city. A city well served with the new wave of colonisers “here to help with the rebuild”. Intellectual hustlers so bereft of nous they fail to see the irony inherent in their generous offer.

What hurts is that the new vision and city taking shape risks becoming so much more timid and conformist than what fell. I'm talking paint colours for new builds like grey, sand, beige. I wish they'd drop the artifice  and put out one called “cringe”.

This week they put the uber-coloniser John Godley back on his plinth in Cathedral Square, where he can glare at the acrimonious pigeon roost formerly known as Christ Church Cathedral.

I liked him better when Hebe found him a couple of months after the February quake face-down in a council storage area, where in a brassy, pukka kind of way he had become just folks like the rest of us.

76

Women, science and superheroes

by Alyona Medelyan

In August last year, I attended the Women in Innovation Summit organized by the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women. We discussed various issues that prevent women from choosing careers in technology, and from advancing their careers. But what touched me the most were facts mentioned by two of the speakers.

Frances Valentine, the founder of The Mind Lab, said that hardly any girls are enrolled in their after-school robotics classes, instead they do design and art. The sad fact is that this divide happens as early as four years old. Girls’ mums decide that “techie” things are not appropriate for their daughters, simply because this is something they are not familiar with themselves.

Hon Jo Goodhew, Minister of Women’s Affairs, revealed a shocking statistic that came from surveying New Zealand schoolgirls about their future career plans. The top two most-desired careers are airhostess and hairdresser. The lack of ambition is disheartening, and it comes most likely from the fact that these girls have not been exposed to other possible career choices and have not been encouraged by their mothers to achieve more.

I decided to do something about this. Together with The Mind Lab and Futureintech, an organisation that promotes careers in food technology, biomedical engineering, software development and forensic science, we have come up with a concept for an educational career event called “STEAM ahead”

STEAM is a variation on the commonly used acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), which adds an “A” as in “Arts” in between these fields. Girls excel at many fields that fall into the Arts category, and if they combine these skills with Science, Technology or Engineering, this will open up more career choices for them. My personal career in a field called Natural Language Processing is based on studying both Linguistics (I hold a Master of Arts) and Computer Science. Apple has used a creative industrial design strategy to create products people love using. Girls need to be aware of ways to combine their strengths in careers that are future-proof.

The “STEAM ahead” events don’t just educate girls, but also their mothers about such career opportunities. The tag line is “Bring Your Mum (or alike)”, which makes it into a fun mum and daughter event. Dads are also allowed if mum is not available.

The first pilot event, sponsored by Serato, engaged 20 girls and the feedback from parents was encouraging:

“As a parent it was great to have an event that had young women, telling their pathway stories, who were not much older than the girls present. For my daughter, (17 yrs old) at least, it demonstrated well that many industries, that she could relate to, require IT experts.

Our next event is called “Superheroes STEAM ahead” and it will use the powerful imagery of superheroes to speak to both girls and their mothers. The first speaker, Michelle Dickinson, calls herself  Nanogirl and has been actively promoting science to school kids with initiatives like the 100 Days Project. The second speaker, Jenine Beekhuyzen, founded the TechGirlsMovement and has published a book called “Tech girls are superheroes”, which uses fictional stories to tell girls about the lives of women who work in tech.

This event willbe held at the Neon Foyer at the School of Engineering on February 27th, and was made possible through a crowdfunding effort published through PledgeMe. In just a couple of weeks we raised more than $2000 from private people, companies and organizations, which shows how much interest there is in this cause. A female CEO called me and said it’s her New Year's resolution to support causes that get girls into technology.

At “Superheroes STEAM ahead”, apart from listening to two inspiring talks, girls and their mums will also have the opportunity to talk to women who work in a variety of companies and organizations at a small career fair, featuring Vend, Orion Health, Westpack, Entopix, Skills, SumerOfTech, and She#. They will also find out about courses at The Mind Lab, the Gather Workshops, Code Club Aotearoa and other opportunities to get started while still in school.

I am myself the mother of a two year old girl, who is "girly" in many ways. She is fascinated by jewellery and shoes and likes to play with her dolls. But she is also interested in playing with nuts and bolts. Once we found her gliding a stud finder along the wall, just like her grandad a day before. It would be a shame to discourage her from such activities just because they are not suitable for her gender. I’d like her to try things out and choose for herself. With the STEAM ahead initiative, I’d like to show mothers who think in terms of “girly careers” that there are many more options out there for their daughters.

26

Public art is no place for committees

by Hamish Keith

In the last few months, Auckland Council has announced three major public art works: Michael Parakowhai on Queens Wharf, Judy Millar at the Devonport Library and Gregar Kregar and Sarah Hughes at New Lynn. All three have set off a burst of public controversy for various reasons. In all three the commissioners – Auckland Council arts bureaucrats - have left the artists hanging out to dry.

Mostly the outrage was about money. In the last episode it was caused by a partial image of the work deemed by the media to be phallic. The consistent response suggests that in this city public art is poorly managed and poorly conceived by those who commission it.

There is no excuse for that. Public art has be around as long as there have been public spaces. Public art is not a piece of art popped into a public space. It is a work of art conceived for that space by those who control it and for the public whose space it is and defined by the nature and purpose of that space.

In the early 1950’s when the United Nations headquarters were being built in New York, one of the artists commission to make a work for the world’s most prestigious building complained that not even the architects could “spare the time” to discuss with him and the other artists involved “how their work was to be conceived as part of the general plan”.

The artist was the sculptor Jean Arp. Among the other artists were Jean Miro, Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. The architects were Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer. Not only Auckland Council gets the management of public art wrong.

Here was a building, devoted among other things to the cultural work of the UN, where some of the world’s greatest artists were left in the words of one critic to “loiter about the place without function, distracted and disunited.” The artists knew that rule number one for public art was “Why are we doing this?” and number two: “How does it fit into the general scheme of the place?”. They are not questions artists should answer. They are the reasons for the work and they need to be clearly and unambiguously answered even before any artist is approached.

Before the artist who will carry out the work has been thought of some key things have already been determined. Not only the why and the context, but the nature of the work. Its size. What kind of work – sculpture, mural, free standing or attached. What will it be made of. Once those things have been determined – and they will be determined by the site – then a budget is defined.

When all that is clear to everyone involved, an artist whose work seems likely to fit is commissioned to submit a concept. There should be no element of competition involved and nor should a number artists be obliged to pitch for the work. If the concept fails the artists should be asked for another or another artist asked to submit. Once that succeeds a design is commissioned and then briefed through to the completion and installation of the work.

Essential to this process is the management of the commission by someone who has been involved from the beginning and who understands those essential elements and can communicate them to the artist and to the commissioner. Most importantly to the successful management of any public arts project, is the ability to communicate its progress and its purpose and to ensure there are no surprises, budgetary or aesthetic.

Each public art work should have its own project manager. This is not a job for a committee.

34

Losing cultural treasures under the TPP

by Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation

What do Japan's Blue Sky Library, Malaysia's answer to John Wayne, and the first recorded composer from New Zealand all have in common? They could all disappear from their countries' public domain for the next 20 years, if the current agreement on copyright term extension in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) holds.

You may have read in the news over the past year about how the public domain has recently been enriched with some exciting new additions, such as Sherlock Holmes and—in countries with shorter copyright terms, such as Canada—James Bond, passing out of copyright, freeing them for reissue, adaptation, and remix.

But what you probably haven't heard before is that six of the countries presently negotiating the TPP, and who have reportedly caved in and agreed on copyright term extension, would have been about to contribute cultural icons of their own to the public domain, enriching their own countries and the world with home-grown art, music, and film that is otherwise at risk of being forgotten.

These countries are Brunei, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam. Each of these fascinating countries has such a depth of creative talent that an entire article could easily be devoted to each of them, exploring the public domain works that the world can look forward to—or that we will miss out on for another 20 years, if the TPP passes and terms are extended (in New Zealand, the copyright term is currently 50 years from the author's death for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and for sound recordings and films 50 years from when they were made). But for now, a little taste from each country will have to do.

New Zealand

Since 2010, New Zealanders have finally been able to perform and reuse the works of their most important yet under-appreciated early composer, Alfred Hill, without asking for permission from his estate. Hill was the very first antipodean composer to have a chamber work committed to record, and some of those same precious early recordings have been preserved by the National Archive of Australia, and brought to the world free of copyright restrictions.

Although these crackly old recordings may not seem to be of wide interest in themselves, imagine the potential for these works to be brought back to life in another medium such as film, as the songs of Annette Hanshaw were in Nina Paley's masterful Sita Sings the Blues.

Canada

The Group of Seven were an art movement of the early 20th century whose distinctively Canadian landscape paintings are collected in galleries around Canada and the world. In the United States only one of the members of the group died long enough ago that his works have reached the public domain, but in Canada it is a different story—within a decade, the entire artistic output of the Group of Seven will be freely available to the public, allowing anyone torestore, reproduce and share these timeless masterpieces.

That is, unless the TPP is passed and the term of copyright in Canada is extended. In that case, you can hold your breath for another twenty years.

Malaysia and Brunei

Actor, director, writer and composer P. Ramlee is truly a Malaysian superstar, who starred in over 60 movies during Malay filmmaking's golden age in the 1950s and 1960s. He remains a cult figure in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore—John Wayne may have a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, but Ramlee has an entire street in central Kuala Lumpur. Although he died in 1973, many of his films have already come out of copyright in Malaysia and Brunei, and others continue to do so. An example is Seniman Bujang Lapok (The Three Worn Out Actor Bachelors), a metafictional comedy from 1961 that Ramlee also wrote, directed, and composed for.

A point of note is that in most of the TPP countries (Canada a notable exception), films are protected from the date of publication, not from the death of the author. That makes an enormous difference, when the “author” of a film can include whoever is the longest-lived of the the principal director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue, and the composer of its soundtrack. This is why so few European films have ever reached the public domain, and why Malaysian and Bruneian film lovers are far more fortunate—for now.

Japan

Just as the United States has its well-known Project Gutenburg that digitizes and distributes public domain literature, so too other TPP countries such as AustraliaCanada and NewZealand have sister projects that focus on works from local authors, as well as those that can legally be made available sooner to residents of those countries that have shorter copyright terms. Japan has such an archive also; the Aozora Bunko, which translates as Blue Sky Library.

Over the last three years, Aozora Bunko has celebrated the release of classic works from authors such as historical novelist Eiji Yoshikawa, philosopher Kiyoshi Miki, and poet Tatsuji Miyoshi. But the curators of the archive are worried about its future, with the shadow of copyright term extension under the TPP, noting that of 572 authors whose works they have published, about half would have to be taken offline if the copyright term is extended retroactively. (Even if not retroactive, the extension of copyright would mean no new Aozora Bunko releases until 2036.)

Vietnam

Under a regime in which copyright in film lasts for 50 rather than 70 years from publication, films made in 1965 are now coming out of copyright. In the case of Vietnam, this of course falls in the middle of the Vietnam War, and for this reason the Vietnamese films of that period, which include both documentaries and dramas, are of immense historical and cultural interest.

Such a film, due to return to the public domain next year, is Nổi gió (Rising Wind), directed by Huy Thành, which jointly won the Golden Lotus award for best feature film at the inaugural Vietnam Film Festival in 1970. Considered as the first movie of Vietnam's revolutionary cinema, and adapted from a play of the same name, it tells the tragic story of a family torn apart by war, from a very different perspective than shown in American films from that period or since.

Why Should Americans Care?

It might be assumed that an extension of the copyright term in the TPP wouldn't affect the United States, because our law already provides for that same copyright term. But although the impact might not be so immediate, the United States would still lose; for one thing, it would lose the flexibility to reduce its own copyright term back to the Berne Convention minimum term of life plus 50 years.

This isn't such an unlikely prospect as you might think. Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights, wrote in 2013 about her vision of the Next Great Copyright Act, including the suggestion that:

perhaps the law could shift the burden of the last twenty years from the user to the copyright owner, so that at least in some instances, copyright owners would have to assert their continued interest in exploiting the work by registering with the Copyright Office in a timely manner. And if they did not, the works would enter the public domain.

In her draft report for the European Parliament, Julia Reda went further [PDF], suggesting that the European Commission “harmonise the term of protection of copyright to a duration that does not exceed the current international standards set out in the Berne Convention” (ie. 50 years from death). So our lawmakers should not be too hasty in ruling out the future reform of the copyright term, by cementing current law into a multilateral trade agreement.

It is true that the US already has trade deals with other countries that do require a life plus 70 year minimum—but these are largely with countries (such as Jordan, Australia, and Singapore) who were forced into changing their own law as a cost of entry into that agreement, evenagainst the recommendations [PDF] of their own domestic advisers. Those countries would hardly be likely to put up much of a fight if the US acceded to a joint relaxation of the copyright term obligation.

But if the US locks the same obligation into the TPP and TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), that dynamic changes, and it will become much more difficult for the United States to reconsider later down the road, without the much more complicated task of coordinating this with both the copyright-maximalist European Commission as well as eleven other countries of the Pacific rim.

The Good News

So that's the bad news. But there's also some very good news: any of the six countries above can stop this deal! If even one of the countries—New Zealand, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia or Vietnam— is brave enough to stand up to the United States and block the extension of the copyright term, then that ill-advised deal could still fall through. If you are from one of those countries, you can call your Member of Parliament, or your trade ministry, and demand that they save the public domain, by retaining the life plus 50 year copyright term that is your right under the Berne Convention. If you are in the US, your best avenue to stop term extension, and the TPP's other anti-user threats, is to support our Fast Track action.

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This post is a lightly-adapted version of the original by Jeremy Malcolm on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website. Jeremy is EFF's senior global policy analyst.