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Now I have reassembled (with help!) a computer, and observed how my feelings towards it have  changed, it strikes me that I should document my own changing relationship to computers and computing, on this blog.  The aim of Hardware Hopes is to talk to other people about their experiences of computers, but my own experiences are valuable too. So here goes. I'll try to document each visit to Access Space, and each step of the project. That's approximately once a week at the moment, but in a few weeks time it should be more often as I will have more time to spend on it.

And of course I'll annnounce events here too.

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My computer's processor

Building a computer (1st attempt!)

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Day 2 of my unresidency



What a fantastic day. I watched one of the Access Space volunteers dismantle a computer, and with his help I reconstructed it. It was very dusty inside! A forgotten dusty cityscape.

I was struck by the simplicity of assembling the components - it was something like playing with a technologically complex Lego kit - plugging the parts together. Every component has a place, and clicks into place, and that makes it enjoyable - I felt something like the satisfaction of doing a puzzle. All the components are visible and accessible, although it is a mystery to me how some of them work. A fan I can understand, but a motherboard is alien and awe inspiring!  

Understanding what some of the components do is challenging. I know where the RAM slots in, and that it is a kind of short-term memory. I know that the processor does the mathematical ‘thinking’. And I know where the sound and video cards go, but I’m struggling to understand how they work. I need to find a way of mentally visualizing what they do. Analogies to people and brains help me build up a mental picture of how it works.

I’ve never opened up a computer before. I enjoyed feeling the freedom of exploring it without fear of breaking and being unable to fix it. I got to feel how robust most of the internal components are. Access Space is set up for building and tinkering with computers, and my teachers pointed out that the workshop is full of spare parts. So it doesn't matter if I break something, because it can easily be replaced. I’m intrigued by how accessible the computer became in this environment. It would never have occurred to me to open up a computer I owned and had paid for. The experience somehow removed a barrier between me and the computer – tinkering with the inner workings would usually feel like too much of a risk.

Now that I am reflecting on my experience, I realise I am enjoying the idea of taking temporary ownership of my computer while I am unresident at Access Space. I even enjoyed putting my name on it! I also feel driven to understand it better.



The language of open source computing was the second thing that intrigues me as it embodies interesting ideas about freedom.
 But that's for another post. 

Next, hopefully, a laptop!





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The layer of programming underneath the visible interface of the software is called (I think) the shell. I love that it describes a physical object…

Unresident and inspired!

I was very happy to start an unresidency at Access Space on May 2nd - a wonderful creative space and community in which to explore ideas. Every time I visit Access Space the creative possibilities for my project (exploring our emotional relationships to computers) expand a bit.

An unresidency is just like an artist's residency - only more informal. It means I can spend some time at Access Space exploring my project creatively in different ways. I'm delighted that Access Space suggested the unresidency as a way of realising my project -and we have lots of ideas for ways of bringing people together to talk the devices that they love, or hate, or keep...

The unresidency will culminate in an exhibition at Access Space in September (exact date tbc - I'll announce it later).

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Watch out… a computer can become a burden… don't get tied down!


Hardware Details: slide show


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In April I returned to  Hardware Hopes having had a break from the project. (I spent some time writing about a Victorian jug and bowl set in Cawthorne Victoria Jubilee museum - but that's another story!) With the museum project out of the way I needed to reimmerse myself in Hardware Hopes, and so I popped into Access Space and (with permission!) took some photographs of the material details of the reused computers there. It was a way of getting back into thinking about computers as physical, material things that we interact with through touch, sound and sight.

© Julia Keyte 2013