VOICES: CRITICAL REFLECTIONS ON DIY PRACTICES THAT
APPROPRIATE AND RE-MIX CULTURAL MESSAGES
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”~ George Bernard Shaw
Introduction and Background
I. About Voices
Voices is the result of a three-month long constantly developing exercise in DIY formulation, production and critique. We have explored, analyzed and critically reflected upon existing DIY practices that re-mixed other people’s cultural productions with the purpose of fostering civic agency.
Our initial project concept explored the idea of requestingvoluntary contributions from friends, acquaintances and strangers alike. However, after reshaping our research goals and interests, we concluded that by working withexisting materials from various different sources, we would best be able to read people’s personal, organic forms of expression and their spontaneous voices. Consequently, the projects that we investigated have often implemented the practice of appropriation – the borrowing of strangers’ signs in order to create entirely new works and perspectives. By removing ourselves from the process in this way – through the avoidance of requesting specific material and focusing instead on the unpredictable outcomes of open-ended excavation – we hoped to provide room for spontaneity and flexibility as our project progressed.
Our website, virtualvoices.wordpress.com, hosts our cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary investigations and inspirations. The Voices platform is our virtual “scrap-book,” a living archive. In this blog we have collected and chronicled a myriad of voices. We have scoured the web and revisited texts, literature, and other written mediums. We gathered quotes, featured photography, occasionally video, and often linked to the wonderful blogs and projects of others. Like BrainPickings we have attempted to select ”pieces that enrich [one’s] mental pool of resources and empower [people] to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. [This is] a modest, curiosity-driven exercise in vision and mind-expansion.”
On Learning How to See More, Hear More, and Feel More
This project is about being present: about being alive and awake in the world, and wishing to grow and to learn in as many ways as possible. As Susan Sontag writes in Against Interpretation, “Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life – its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness – conjoin to dull our sensory faculties… What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more” (13-14). We have sought for our project to be a creatively expansive endeavor, one that brings together a vast pool of resources and combines them in unique and enticing ways in order so that we might become more aware of our surroundings. We are connecting the proverbial dots; cross-pollinating our ideas with the explorations of others. This is a re-mix project: the combining and re-combining of mediums and ideas to build new and fresh ways of viewing the world.
II. Our Research Interests and Learning Goals
Since the very beginning of our initial project formulations we have been deeply interested in discovering the ways in which social media can be used to both connect individuals and drive social change. We believe that the streets are the quintessential social media environment – a place where existing social networks gather and where new networks emerge. Streets are where strangers with similar interests congregate to share experience, foster community, and voice themselves into the world. In the streets, these communities of inter-est physically connect, producing voices that can later be amplified through the vast online social media engine we have come to know as the Web.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt, in her work The Human Condition, wrote extensively on the use of language as a qualitative tool that brings humans into existence as humans. In silence we exist as mere scaffolding upon which others project themselves. Mute, we lack assertion of who we are, and remain, as such, unknowable. It is through the use of language – written, verbalized or otherwise expressed – that we reveal ourselves to the world. Speech, as articulated by Arendt, is the very vessel by which we come into being. Moreover, acts of communication have strong, inseparable ties to deeds. Speech combined with action works to establish relationships. Together, the word and the act connects individuals to others. Arendt writes: “Interests constitute, in the word’s most literal significance, something which inter-est, which lies between people and therefore can relate and bind them together. Most action and speech is concerned with this in-between…this in-between is no less real than the world of things we visibly have in common. We call this reality the ‘web’ of human relationships, indicating by the metaphor its somewhat intangible quality” (182-3).
Speech is voice, and voices can be recorded anyway, in any format. We perceive the messages we read in the streets – graffiti, protester’s placards, pamphlets, altered human environments, artifacts and so one – to be the equivalents of bulletin boards or personal blogs. New content is updated on occasion, in the form of group or individual entries displayed in quasi-chronological order. These “posts” combine text, imagery, sound, and moving image. The streets are the living archive of public messages, people’s personal diaries, and even branded efforts. The streets are an open canvas – and one that is heavily populated with a wide array messages. People are voicing themselves into the world and into existence in many ways. And this is something we very much wished to document and investigate.
III. Challenges and Changes Along the Way
On (Re)Working Within a Participatory Environment
Our project was originally conceived and created within a participatory environment. The project itself was the brainchild of the main curators. However, as we worked, we also presented our plans – our fundamental work-in-progress ideas – to a group of about 20-25 for constant feedback. Throughout the process (up until and beyond this point) we have continuously received on-going constructive critique, forcing us to reflexively go back, re-write, re-analyze, re-mix, re-think, and most importantly clarify, elucidate and scale our project – all within the context of a small collective.
As we have continued to re-envision the Voices project, as we have now come to know it, our ideas have been presented within the context of this small collective space as part of an on-going peer-review process. This has forced us to be particularly thoughtful and reflective – mindful of how our concepts have translated to an eclectic ensemble of intelligent, knowledgeable individuals who have helped us realize how we might better go about fine-tuning our initiative. This environment of constant feedback has required us to strive to work harder and create better formulations and constructions than if we were we simply left to our own devices. It has not been easy, but it has been vastly informative. The ongoing results of our labor, we hope, will reflect the voices and recommendations of the collective.
On Collaboration Within a Small Group
We were allowed, for the purposes of this project, to choose to work either alone, or collaboratively with a few other individuals of our choosing. Our original project began with a larger group of co-creators. Throughout the semester, however, we came to realize that collaboration is not always the idealistic framework it is trumpeted to be. The ideal is not always ideal and struggles resulting from lack of proper communication and adherence to group etiquette can be frustrating and even infuriating. When participatory pursuits work well they are wonderful, creative, inspiring and passion-driven joint endeavors. However, when things go awry they can lead a group off-track for a lengthy period of time, quelling said passion, interest and engagement among those left standing. Or so our personal experience has led us to believe.
We have hypothesized that collaboration among strangers might in fact be at times easier than working together with people in small face-to-face settings. Often, we assume that knowing people face-to-face is enough to uphold adherence to the idea of personal accountability – a self-policing mechanism of sorts is an expected given. However, we realized that these mechanisms might be more easily found, or at least enforced, when one is working in collaborative practices with relative strangers. Perhaps what makes Wikipedia, for example, so successful is having a built-in “reputation system”. Of course, a larger group of non-affiliated people is most certainly needed in order to reduce the negative impact free-riders and detractors of collaborative work can have.
The positive side, we will describe in more detail later in the paper, is that error, mistakes, and challenges can actually create a path that leads one out of comfortable assumptions – forcing exploration of new and untapped possibilities and directions that might have gone unnoticed or ignored.
Finding Our Framework: Case Studies and Explorations
I. Projects We Explored: Lessons Learned
Various artistic and grassroots ventures have inspired us to experiment with the re-mix of isolated inputs for the creation of our own unique enterprise. All of the DIY projects that we studied can be found on our site. What the projects that we selected to highlight here have in common, is a way of composing one meaningful end product through the collection, appropriation, and curation of small pieces of existing work from non-connected individuals. These projects re-mixed other people’s voices (usually strangers’ voices) with the purpose of fostering civic agency while exploring new forms of expressive cultural production. They all, in various ways, make up the framework for our pilot project: Slogs.
Life in a Day, for instance, is a crowd-sourced documentary film comprising an arranged series of video clips selected from 80,000 pieces submitted to YouTube. Theses clips show separate occurrences from around the world on a single day, July 24, 2010. The film is about 94 minutes long, and includes scenes selected from 192 nations. This project is an historic cinematic experiment that attempted to document one day, as seen through the eyes of people around the world. Every day, billions people view the world through their own unique lens. Life in a Day first asks us to imagine what would happen if there was a way to collect all of these perspectives, to aggregate and mold them into the cohesive story of a single day on earth, and then makes an attempt to do so.
With Voices we also sought to capture a myriad of perspectives and meld them into one larger whole. Two main differences exist however. In Life in a Day, users submitted videos, which were then edited into a film. In Voices, we collected our data ourselves, as opposed to relying on the outside contribution of strangers. Our sample size was also significantly smaller. However, the fundamental idea behind this project inspired us to seek out our own way to re-create a larger, more holistic picture from the amalgamation of smaller fragments.
Natalie Bookchin’s Testament, another project we explored, is an ongoing series of video installations made from fragments from online video diaries, or “vlogs”, that explores contemporary expressions of self and the stories we currently tell online about our lives and our circumstances.
Like Natalie Bookchin reflects on the peculiar blend of simultaneous connectivity and isolation that characterizes social relations today, we selected images and collaged them together in startling juxtapositions to show how isolated individuals are in fact connected through similar voiced expressions –”hope” in particular being a primary theme we have encountered. Like Bookchin, we were also very much interested in the expression of others and the stories that they organically tell about their lives. However, for the creation of our pilot project, our fodder came primarily from the street itself, with only very limited material being used that was Web-harvested.
Twitter as the World’s Mood Ring, the third example we explored, is an experiment that relies on language-monitoring software. Sociologists at Cornell University tracked more than half a billion tweets from more than two million Twitter users across the globe over two years. According to the study’s co-author, Scott Golder, Twitter provided them with a unique platform with which to look at the issues of “mood swings” around the world. The study found that people tend to have two peaks of happiness, early in the morning and then again around midnight, with varying moods in-between.
The idea of gauging collective moods or “temperatures” struck us as a unique concept. We hypothesized, as mentioned elsewhere, if it would be possible to do the same, using our own methodological approach. Of course, our sample size would be significantly smaller, however it would not be narrowed to include only those with access to both the Internet and a Twitter account. We purposefully sought out those messages that populate the streets of the environments we traverse on a daily basis. To offset our smaller sample size, we also made some use of Web excavation to fill in the rest. Our reflections on this particular pursuit of “temperature gauging” is given in more detail below.
II. About Our Project: Slogs
Within the larger framework of Voices we have engaged in our own pilot experiment, in order so that we might learn more from actual hands-on experience. Our appropriation and re-mix pilot experiment, Slogs, is one of discovery: both the practice of and the messages resulting from re-mix and collage culture, through the use of selective taken or “found” materials.
Slogs stands for “street logs”: otherwise unconnected street voices (documented for this experiment in image and textual mediums) that are collaged into compound messages. Our overarching hypothesis, which has continued to evolve, is that by collecting, associating and rearranging street messages we would then be able to read or “take the temperature of” the streets – in order so that we might identify the existence of aunified voice of a particular time and place.
To engage with the creation of Slogs, we adopted the role of Urban Media Archaeologists. We excavated the city in order to observe and collect people’s expressions and messages. We have navigated the streets of New York (and other cities around the globe, including Woodstock, Newark, Mexico City and Buenos Aires) and occupied other people’s voices through photography.
The street is our canvas, our proverbial thermometer – a richly filled ecosystem of various eclectic messages, coming together to form one holistic macro-system. Our goal has been to collage voices in such ways where new patterns and experiences emerge that are truly able to showcase and amplify the cultural productions of humanity. The twenty-first century “belongs to the collagist, for whom the creative act is not invention from scratch but rather the collecting, cutting and pasting of the already extant” (Collage Culture). The results, we know, have been tinted by our own lens and worldview. Our work reflects, in a sense, our own voices.
Methodology and Techniques: On Appropriation and Excavation
After taking several steps back and reflecting on our project we began to brainstorm more refined ways of approaching our collaborative endeavor. We also searched for a DIY framework that would better help to ground us in our efforts. These reflections led us to identify two main ways of using the various contributions of other people, most of whom were strangers to us.
As discussed earlier, on one hand, one can request voluntary contributions. This requires provoking and inspiring people to become willing to contribute to the project. This approach is referred to as the gathering of “user-generated-content” or simply “crowd-sourcing.” However, another way to acquire content is by appropriating other people’s expressions.
The first iteration of our DIY experiment was called Switch the Song. Our original approach had somewhat of a mix of both of these collection methods: for example, we sought to inspire voluntary participation through the use of contributed tweets. We also planned guerrilla tactics aiming to provoke action through the use of branded stickers with provocative questions. Even the name of the project “Switch” was a call-to-action in and of itself: “Switch” was an invitation. At the same time, we also planned to take on some of our content – be it photographs, found images, quotes, et cetera. This proved to be an extremely convoluted approach and something we had to reflexively address and re-address until we found our way.
It was through the process of intense analysis of our goals and principles that we decided to focus only on the methods of excavation and appropriations; opting to collect and curate existing work and knowledge in order to create something new. This approach has shaped both the creation of our website as well as Slogs, our pilot DIY experiment.
Our interest in the use of appropriation was not geared towards approaches and techniques that are centered on the use of parody and/or irony to make a statement. These satirical elements are common practice in the genre, such as those examples featured in our classmates’ project Every Day Appropriation. On the contrary, our explorations centered on those artistic ventures that use appropriation as a way to amplify the voices of others, and as an opportunity to learn about the messages that organically circulate and flow throughout everyday life. The voices we collected were then composed into a poem – our own approach to urban poetry.
It is quite interesting how the concept of constructing a poem came to us, for it was not something we consciously set out to do this time around. We did have the vague idea of compiling a textual work from the words we collected, throughout all the iterations the project underwent – yet this was put aside at the very end for reasons mainly of simplification. However, it was during the creation of the Slogs that we saw the poetry of the streets. The street voices spoke to us. As Steven Johnson states in Where Good Ideas Come From: “The English language is blessed with a wonderful word that captures the power of accidental connection: serendipity” (108). A large part of our project has been about discovery. Yet, even we were amazed by what we did -what we discovered serendipitously. The voices of the streets are poems or there are poems in the streets – some of which are still waiting to be discovered.
For the creation of Slogs we have rearranged isolated voices into five unified artworks. In order to achieve our goals, we have explored many concrete approaches: including the methods of cut-ups, re-mix and collage. In depth descriptions of these practices can be found throughout our site.
Employing these particular design techniques we set to work – printing out approximately two hundred color images which we then proceeded to sort through, cut-up and paste to five separate poster boards. Our framework was flexible, open-ended and simple: we were re-mixing voices in all of their found forms. The end product revealed itself to us as we went along, in surprising, wonderful and engaging ways. We have broken down our process into an Easy Three-Step Guide to Slogging: 1. Step One is “Exploration and Excavation”; 2. Step Two involves “Collection and Appropriation”; and 3. Step Three is that of “Cut-Up, Re-Mix, Collage, and Compose”.
The Toolkit. Here we maintain that there is a great deal of flexibility in how one might go about creating aSlog. For the purpose of our experiment we used photographic images that were taken in the streets or collected from the Web (online images from streets and street events) and then printed, physically cut-up (using good old-fashioned scissors) remixed and collaged onto thick poster-boards. However, a Slogcould also take the form of other visual formats such as digitized outputs or film, or through the use of audio and sound for street-log rearrangements. The aesthetic technique behind Slogging is flexible and open to interpretation. All that is needed is excavation in whatever form that takes, a medium or multi-media, and an imaginative Slogger. One can “record” street voices in a myriad of ways: taking the forms of text, sound, image, and moving image. What is more, the remix and collage can be done physically (for example the simple use of scissors and glue) or digitally, through the use of digital editing software such as Photoshop, Final Cut and Pro-Tools.
Like other forms of expression and popular culture that originated in New York in the past, such as old school Hip-Hop – a beat-rhythmic urban musical style of the 70s – Slog hopes to find its own voice: a methodic but pliant form of expression that sits at the intersection of artistic articulation and DIY practice. Slogs can be used to reveal or to “take the temperature” of the streets at a specific time and place, or they can stand along as personal or collective proclamations. The true potential and interpretation of this new technique remains to be seen.
Conclusions and Learning
I. On Subjectivity, Standpoint and Cultural Models
“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are”. – Anais Nin
Researcher bias is implicit in the practice of any research project – all information is filtered through the lens of the researcher. Also, one cannot talk about a project that samples the voices of people without considering the issues of subjectivity, standpoint, and varying cultural models.
Patricia Hill Collins, a leading feminist theorist, asserted the importance of positional stance, which she termedstandpoint, to influence perception and experience. A standpoint is a particular site of entry into the world that ultimately influences how the world is viewed and constructed socially. A person’s particular standpoint necessarily impacts their angle of vision. No single individual or group possesses clear, all encompassing objective knowledge and so we must work to ensure that all partial perspectives are given voice. We must engage in pivoting the center.
Standpoint theory, as delineated by Collins, asserts the necessity that each group speaks from its own situated context and contributes its own particular partial knowledge to the larger whole. Centering upon the importance of open dialogue, an epistemology or methodology is needed that is more inclusive than the knowledge which arises from only one standpoint. Varied experiences, and the countless ways in which the world is understood, illuminate the multitude of frameworks in operation. The aim of Standpoint Theory is to actively avoid common suppositions regarding what is normative. The sharing of language and thought particular to many groups through the method of shifting the framework can help to counterbalance bias. Collectively, this constant shift in focus will give rise to a stronger and more complete outlook under which to more effectively understand the world (477).
We remain interested in the culturally constructed realities we inhabit, otherwise termed cultural models. Cultural models capture general meanings “in such a way that we can do things in and with the world” (Gee 153). Usually these models are not consciously reflected upon, yet the “world is full of an endless array of ever-changing cultural models” each with different implications (Gee 151). Moreover, and here is the important point, certain circumstances can force us to think reflectively about the cultural models that we use. As it pertains to our own DIY initiative, we must think critically about our own activism and idealism – our own perspectives that shape the project. All information is filtered through the lens of the observer, in this case us, and therefore our backgrounds, ideals, and opinion have necessarily shaped the outcomes of our Slogging.
II. Interpreting the Messages
Taking the Temperature of the Streets
We initially believed, after completing our first Slog, that it was actually not possible to “take the temperature” of the streets as we had originally hypothesized: simply through the collection and juxtaposition of various otherwise unconnected voices. A true reading, we now understand, would have to have the input of many other kinds voiced expressions than those which we had gathered – specifically those representations that often go unheard or unseen. A larger sample size would also be required. In order to be more accurate in this endeavor we would have to look for creative ways to make the invisible visible. To give and have a voice on a broader, encompassing scale.
Voices can be recorded anywhere, in any format – in subways, public places, at the Occupy Wall Street events, et cetera. From our collections in places such as these we have co-created collages as forms of integrated expression. We gathered voiced messages with the idea that they could then be cut-up, collaged, remixed and circulated. While there is a waterfall of different voices, there are some keywords that dominated the messages we assembled: specifically the use of the words ”Hope”, “We”, “Juntos”, “all”, “Voice” and/or “equal.” . This might suggest that though there are many isolated voices, there is also the possible presence of a unifying socio-cultural constructed message. We understand that perhaps we were subconsciously biased in the voices we recorded – however the results were striking all the same.
What is more, while there might be the need to encourage and empower people to take action and foster agency (we came across with various messages directed at others – the use of the word “You” held a somewhat strong presence) the general tone was that of the collective togetherness. The power of “We”, as opposed to a more individualistic “Daily Me” approach. As in: “It’s not about you, it’s about us, all of us”. We the people, connected and united. Once again, perhaps our findings in these areas have been slanted by our own sub-conscious idealism. We acknowledge this possibility and it is something that will have to be taken in account – and counter-balanced in artistic ways to compensate for potential bias – in our further experiments within this genre.
Poetry in the Streets
We discovered, as mentioned before, that there is true poetry to be found in the oddest places – even when we are not actively looking for it. In the creation phase of our street log experiments we had hundreds of images of varying themes – and a mere five poster boards we hoped to fill with re-mixed street voices. Midway through the process, however, we discovered that we, quite unintentionally, were creating poetry. Or the poetry was creating itself and we simply took notice. This was a serendipitous moment – and a wonderful realization. We understood from the beginning that we were acting as curators – however what we did not expect is for messages to come together in this way and form a coherent, beautiful, poetic piece.
III. What We Learned from Engaging in a Collaborative Practice
The Necessity of Critical Distance
We learned the invaluable practice of distancing ourselves from our project. We did so completely – changing the project almost entirely in light of feedback, critique and collaborative issues encountered along the way. However, mistakes and inaccuracy, studies have shown, help people to be more creative – often without their even knowing it. And we certainly found this to be true. Sometimes, error and missteps force one to view things in a completely different light, as it did with us.
Error can be a blessing in disguise. Error can create a path that leads one out of comfortable assumptions – forcing exploration of new and untapped possibilities and directions that might have gone unnoticed or ignored. Having to rethink and revamp our project from the center on out put us in a place where we had to come at the problems surrounding our initial project from a completely new perspective. This unknowingly freed us from our preconceived ideas about what we wanted to do and our biases of what we thought was supposed to unfold. Our constant recalibration forced us to become more willing to contemplate alternative models and new ways of doing things.
Having a Methodological Approach
Another way to look at our collaborative work is by applying the The Probe, Hypothesize, Re-probe, Rethink Cycle: a four-step process that is a hallmark of the reflective practice. First one probes the current environment and engages in a specific action. After this initial probing, a hypothesis is formed. The environment is then re-probed with that hypothesis in mind, to explore the effects created by one’s speculations and experiments. The effects resulting from this third step are treated as feedback from the world, and one must either accept or rethink the original hypothesis according to this feedback. James Paul Gee writes: “Some consider this four-step process to be the basis of expert reflective practice in any complex semiotic domain. But it also how children learn, even very young children, when they are not learning in school. It is how children initially build their minds and learn their cultures.”
It is also how we learnt throughout the process. We continuously formed our assumptions, tested these assumptions against the group, went back to the proverbial drawing-board, re-worked what we had and tested our new formulations again. Rinse-Repeat. Ours was a constant state of reflection and alteration. We continued to ask ourselves these questions: “what is it that we are seeking to accomplish and how do we propose to go about doing it in the most productive and methodologically sound way possible?”
I. What We Learned From Our Final Peer-Reviewed Presentation
Our final review was ripe with suggestions for how we might further research the possibilities behind the concept of Slogs, as we conceptualized them. This has opened the door for us to look even deeper into the pilot experiment we created, in order to address the potentiality behind further initiatives we might engage with using the Slogging method.
Slogs might be engaged with as a prospective a methodological approach. For instance, there seems now to be the distinct potential for the possibility of systematic street temperature gauging, something we initially hoped to accomplish. Although we came to the conclusion after completing our pilot project that is was not truly possible to take the temperature of the streets as we had originally hypothesized (by simply collecting various images and voices), during our final peer-and academic reviewed critique we saw ways in which this might become a probable pursuit in the future – were we to approach slogging with a more formed, and thus rigorous, methodology.
We are now, once again, invigorated by the idea that that we can prospectively hypothesize the idea of “taking the temperature of a specific place, at a particular time”. Toward this end, one interesting suggestion was that we might take Slogs and map them to cities and time periods. How we might best going about doing this is still in formation, however the basic underlying idea is that we formulate the method further to allow for a participative element. We open up the process and give people the tools to “slog.” By incorporating other people’s voices, their standpoints, perspectives and views and having cut-ups and re-mixes done at a local level around the world – we would be able to offer a more diverse (more accurate) reading of the streets.
The Creation of Automatic Verse
Slogs might also be used as a strategy for automatic writing. Without our noticing it at the time, we have potentially created a new technique for urban poetic construction and expression (hopefully, like original rap and hip-hop, a new genre for public dissemination). This would also be a method based concept – though a very flexible and open one. Our technique here, as with the other possible examples of how we could conceivably go forward with our pilot project, lies at the intersection of creative,artistic expression and DIY practices.
II. Will You Slog?
Ideally we would like to open up the concept of Slogging so that others might engage in their own efforts. In Collective Intelligence, Pierre Levy proposes what he calls an achievable utopia. “He asks us to imagine what would happen if the sharing of knowledge and the exercise of grassroots power becomes normative. In Levy’s world, people from fundamentally different perspectives see a value in talking and listening to one another, and such deliberations form the basis for mutual respect and trust. The challenge is to create a context where people of different backgrounds actually talk and listen to one another” (Jenkins 246).
Sources: Bibliography, Concepts and Theoretical Foundations
For a list of our ever-growing bibliography of cited and inspiring material, please visit the References page. We have also included a page with some of the key definitions of words and concepts that we used through the site (see Glossary page). Finally, we have created a page dedicated to discuss the ideas that have shaped our project and investigation. To learn more about these ideas, please visit the Theoretical Concepts page.
Our many thanks to the members of the DIY Cultures and Participatory Learning class at the New School for Public Engagement (taught by Nitin Sawhney, PhD), for their helpful suggestions, tips, feedback, and honest critique.
** Unfortunately it seems our site is no longer available and therfore many of the above links lead to nowhere**