about the functioning and background of “name.space”

How name came into being.space?

The project “name.space” goes back to discussions during the international meeting for tactical media, “Next Five Minutes” in Amsterdam, January 1996. It also shows the limits and possibilities of this approach, which is specific to a political media art at the end of the 1980s (with names established in the art system such as Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, David Abalos, Group Material, Gorilla Girls) in its extension from media of representation to media of networking. It is about the ideal of self-determined media, as free spaces, analogous to squatting empty houses, unused radio frequencies (Pirate Radio), or using cheap printing technology like DTP and Xerox (fanzines), up to running ‘own’ record labels and last but not least unannounced raves or football games.

How name works.space?

Paul Garrin uses name.space a common Internet protocol for managing computer names called DNS. Domain names (z.B. www.our site) are converted into unique IP numbers ( that distinguishes each computer on the network from the others. Every data packet traveling on the Internet is identified by two IP numbers, one designating the sender and the other the destination address. Domain names are first of all only used for better readability and memorability by humans, but are then also used in HTML documents. Domain names are managed by a hierarchical network of domain name servers. If you enter z.B. GoTo URL www.our site/tp, a computer responds and returns a number that tells the packets where to go. The address of a name server is therefore itself usually only an IP number. The network can handle IP numbers without any problems. If you can’t remember names and want to save time, if you don’t have a domain name for some reason, but still want to be present on the net, you can simply use the IP address.

Garrins’s technical trick now is to replace the official name servers with a composite of custom name servers by simply asking people to use the closest one from a list of name.space servers. Thereby the new names of name.space are a subset of the available names on the Internet. name.space is compatible with the network, but not vice versa.

The reversal could also soon become possible if the company that manages the name servers at the root of the hierarchy includes Paul’s servers in its list. This is what PGP Media is trying to do by suing Network Solutions for monopolization. As long as Garrin can prove that his system runs reliably, he can try to enter the network of name servers as a competitor, just like MSI did against AT+T in the past, where the ie was the telephone network and call forwarding (especially long distance).

Today, Garrin and his programmers are building a new.a. Andreas Troger, working on a script for dynamic updates that allows new names, but especially top-level names, to propagate between all participating servers.

The relevance of name.space

The limits of such tactics lie in their self-contradiction in the face of immanent strategies, since it is necessary to combat the totalitarian power structures such as capitalism and the state, which are entrenched in technology, by opposing them with other ideals, even if one moves within these systems and is part of them. When it comes to commercialization, the vehemence of the split between being and consciousness, between goals and successes, is often apparent. Today in 1997, the model “tactical media” a connotation like in the 80s the concept of subversion. We can now look back on a number of examples of a certain straight-from-the-fashion attitude, especially with regard to the use of media. Paul Garrin made the leap from video art to networked media early on. His server project www.mediafilter.org has been online since about mid-94, marking a key feature of tactical media adjacent to innovation busyness. ‘Speed is God, time is the devil’ (a Silicon Valley wisdom, so they say).

Paul Garrin’s hybrid concept is based on a diversion of revenue from possible name registrations in favor of politically or otherwise ‘critical’ content, d.h. elsewhere ‘censored’ information, starting at the level of monopolizing the assignment of names on the Internet itself. The side effect of such a ‘revolutionary’ strategy, however, is obviously that one form of centralization is replaced by another, albeit initially more symbolic/imaginary one. Name.space is largely identical with the name Paul Garrin. Decisions and extensions of the project were so far by “lonely decisions” and not by the traditional Internet ideals of ‘open standards’ and their collaborative, evolutionary extension. (standards such as FYI, RFC, FAQ)

Garrin understands “Free Media” the enforcement and defense of the concept of “Visibility” and “public”, to which he “State institutions” and “Privatization” COUNTERPOSITION. Both the exercise of power through absence and invisibility, as well as the extraction of social forces through their inclusion in property relations, make Silvio Sillusconi a leader “Free Media” a ‘crypto-marxist’ (Ken Wark) Project. The aim is to expropriate privatized name markets and transfer them to the ‘public space’ of the ideally generally accessible network. But Garrin is primarily concerned with pragmatic goals. At the risk of upsetting the entire critical-left-alternative-hip computer culture scene, he realizes his project not only in the manner of the genial-manic individual artist, but also of the successful-work-obsessed sole entrepreneur. As a media worker, Garrin knows exactly that the American technology myth is fed by personalities like him, and it is precisely here that the unconscious gates open for him, at least as far as media presence is concerned. Last appears name.space as a successful mediation project between Internet and print media. (articles in Die Zeit, Planet, Economist, New York Times) and as an attempt to find another basis than the techno-fetishist-libertarian ‘Californian ideology’ via the cultural resonance space of European net criticism (nettime). It is striking that the project meets with approval from technically unskilled but culturally competent users, but mostly with rejection from administrators, specialists and techies. Which brings us to the main question, which is mainly “Hacker” has so far prevented the project from being taken seriously.

“Is it art?”

asked Heiko Recktenwald at the.NETWORK. In the expansion and softening of an outdated concept of media art, the name Persepolis can be used as a reference.space score the most points. The project, through its symbolic complexity, can easily be seen as a ‘Art’ function, but does not have this name as a condition of existence. Insofar as it is technically or. fails politically, it has at least raised questions in a productive way that previously knew no pragmatic-political level. z.B. the key question “who rules the net?”. Finally the US government came forward to help the faltering legalization process of the IANA (the more or less self-appointed committee for domain name reform, which also represents the company NSL, which in turn ‘owns’ the main domain names) to get going.

A question remains, however, whether better strategies cannot be thought of, starting from the level that Garrin has opened as pragmatic-asthetic. Well, first – he was not the first, in the meantime historical traps came to domain names like MTV.com or MCDONALDS.com were privately owned by individuals. It took a while for the Internic/NSL to start recognizing court decisions prohibiting the ‘unlawful’ use of trademarked domain names. The problem is now a ‘taxonomic’ one. The division of top-level domains within a market-driven knowledge tree is not fine enough that two companies from different industries with the same name could exist on the network at the same time.

While Garrin, like a Sturm und Drang poet, calls for a total de-hierarchization and de-territorialization of technical name spaces, hoping for the emergence of a myriad of ‘classes’, the IANA rely on a model of controlled scarcity (seven new TLDs). Other third party suppliers like Alternic calculate about 20.000 TLDs, each of which was owned by a domain name administrator…

The question of the future shape of the name space on the Internet is now taking on an ever greater shape (see the IAHC proposals). It is clear that if the U.S. government takes over the settlement of the DNS problem and subjects it to the mills of justice and negotiation in international bodies, the question will arise whether other, more aesthetic strategies for name recognition have not long since been adopted.space were more promising:

  1. Renaming of the network (extension by name-space is optional and allows access to sites through a logical-taxonomic system (z.B. a-find for www.altavista.digital.com)
  2. Local network dialects (name servers in a city connect and use local nicknames for longer known sites). A swabian net, a saxonian…)
  3. Squatting of unused top level domains (they exist..)
  4. Use of IP addresses (common for “Hackers” and “Warez”-scene)

Read also the email interview between Pit Schultz and Paul Garrin.

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