Polish Scholar to Speak about the European ZX Spectrum 8-Bit Personal Computer

Piotr Marecki, Ph.D., from Jagiellonian University and the UBU Lab in Kraków, Poland, will speak on the popular 8-bit computer released in 1982 in the UK, the ZX Spectrum. The title of his talk,  “The ZX Spectrum Demoscene as Organized Anarchy,” argues that the ZX Spectrum platform is unique as compared to other 8-bit machines and can be seen as organized anarchy. The event is scheduled on Friday, September 1, from 12-1 p.m. in VMMC 211A on the campus of WSUV.

Its uniqueness lies, Marecki claims, in the reception of the platform by users on a scale which is incomparable to that of any other platform. The traditional way of using platforms (not only the 8-bit) is based on their consumption, or the use of the official equipment, as well as programing, delivered by the manufacturer. And although the stories about platforms such as the C-64 or Atari are no strangers to creative and bottom-up approaches, these are based on the creation of independent programs. Besides the ZX Spectrum, none of these platforms generated, on such scale and creative level, the same hardware systems or clones. This is related to the simplicity of the computer’s construction and the cheap cost of the accessories as well as the geopolitical conditions in the world in the period of the platform’s popularity, the 80s and 90s.

As an example of organized anarchy, the ZX Spectrum demoscene, the phenomenon is apparent to those with advanced understanding of digital media. In the book Freax. The Brief History of Computer Demoscene it is stated that “almost all modern art genres have an underground stream that can not be found anywhere, or bought in shops, and only insiders know of its existence.” Adjectives such as illegal, grassroots, independent and DIY aesthetics are often related with this field and practice. The term itself is derived from the word “demonstration” and refers to the demonstration of the capabilities of a platform and the skills of a programmer. A basic understanding of the demoscene will treat it as “a subculture in the computer underground culture universe, dealing with the creative and constructive side of technology” (Demoscene FAQ). This talk takes into account and affirms the local perspective, different from the dominant one (ZX Spectrum as platform and demoscene as form of activity are very local). Talk is based on the research project on ZX Spectrum platform runs by the UBU lab at the Jagiellonian University.

 

Bio
Piotr Marecki, editor, publisher, translator of experimental literature (with Aleksandra Małecka), cultural studies and digital culture scholar. President of Korporacja Ha!art Foundation, supporting contemporary, innovative, experimental art and culture. Since 1999 editor-in- chief of postdisciplinary journal of art and culture Ha!art. He has organised and co-organised numerous literary festivals, events, conferences and media art shows, including Ha!vantgarde International Literary Festlab. Marecki is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Culture at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and lecturer at the Film School in Łódź and  also the head of creative computing lab at the Jagiellonian University. In 2013-14 he did a postdoc at Massachussets Institute of Technology at the Trope Tank lab. His numerous publications include Tekstylia, Tekstylia bis, Liternet.pl, Post-1989 Polish Literature in the light of Pierre Bourdieu’s theory, include lexicons, volumes of essays, a textbook, and a guide on contemporary Polish literature, which focus on new, innovative trends and electronic literature, demoscene. His recent collaborations include the conceptual book 2×6 with Nick Montfort, Serge Bouchardon, Andrew Campana, Natalia Fedorova, Carlos León and Aleksandra Małecka published by Les Figues Press, Los Angeles in 2016. Currently works on a ZX Spectrum monograph (together with Yerzmyey and Hellboj). Based in Kraków, Poland.

 

Marecki’s research affiliation at the Electronic Literature Lab  at WSUV is funded by the program of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education “National Programme for the Development of Humanities” for the years 2016-19.