Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Victimized! (or, the Incomprehensible Insanity of Institutional Internet Inconsistency)

Today the opposite of tomato 'Can't Find a Reason to Let You Go'

Now, it's something of an unwritten policy not to conflate the day job & happenings here at TOoT, with the former not really existing in the context of the latter, but one of the most recent online 'finds' has, alas, prompted an exception to this rule...

'It could be you', as the saying goes &, as I have discovered, it has indeed been TOoT, whose fate it is to have fallen victim to the day job workplace's increasingly baffling & quite frankly apparently absurd IT security policy.

By way of explanation, whilst checking-in to pay a brief, passing visit during a momentary lull during the demands of the public-serving working day, this is how this very resource appeared on screen, with a space where no space should be...

...obviously not quite as intended, with the most recently-processed, scanned, uploaded & posted drawing rather conspicuous by its absence at the top of the page, in its stead nought but a blank frame with a red cross in its top left-hand corner.

Mildly puzzled by such an omission, & in the interests of further investigation, I clicked into the empty space in order to attempt to access the full-size version of the image, thinking perhaps that the point-of-entry smaller version had somehow 'shorted', only this time to be greeted by the dreaded 'red screen' - access denied to this particular web page for reasons of security, protection-from-onself, etc, which also includes the portentious, Big Brother-ish warning notification that such attempt to access forbidden material has been logged by the powers-that-be, with the implication being that such information might well be used against the 'offender', unwitting as they may be...

At this point, a little background information. Following what seemed to be an autumn term invasion of the institutional network by a persistent bug or two, which resulted in some annoying glitches affecting the day-to-day operation of the user-end of the system, since the New Year return to the day job, we, as a small team of staff of which yours truly is a member, have not infrequently been made aware that the prevailing IT security protocols in operation have obviously been intensified, &/or filtering systems over-zealously applied, not in any rational manner but rather with inexplicable idiosyncracy, through our own thwarted findings &, particularly, those of the student user community of our learning resources, who have been experiencing any number of frustrating denials-of-access to their well- & innocently-intentioned online search queries in the interests of accessing work-related information, in effect handicapping their studies, an absurdly counter-productive situation in an educational context.
As the frontline recipients of such puzzled concerns, all we have been able to do is smile in bemused, sympathetic fashion & shrug shoulders in response, unable to offer any rational explanation for such circumstances, whose only consistency is their very inconsistency.

To illustrate this particular point, here are presented two further screen grabs of the front page of TOoT as it appears to any viewer within the location of the workplace, scrolling down to various points...

In either & both of these instances, there seems no apparent reason as to why some of the images should be allowed & present & others not, being as they are similar in content & springing from the same source(s): the first missing image, following on directly from its predecessor, is of another section of double black-lined road surface, including an example of aluminium can 'roadkill', whilst the second example depicts the absence of what is/was the second photo in a sequence of three of the same page from a sketchbook.

One might assume that the content, the subject matter, of such images is not generally unacceptable, so why choose to prohibit some of them & not others, or indeed all, or even access to the blog itself? The same thing occurs throughout the archive of the blog: some of the drawings, of whatever content, some of the contextual material in image-form as is habitually included, some of the 'soundtrack' composite images remain, whilst significant amounts of others have been deleted from view & access to them denied-with-a-warning. Perhaps the most inexplicably & amusingly missing image is that of a watercolour of a group of 3 quinces (itself one of a sequence of which a small selection have been removed whilst others remain present), dating from 2007, the original of which only last week, having been donated for auction by yours truly, sold & raised £40 for the institution's chosen charity of the year! Selectively acceptable, one might say, given the form & context, perhaps.

As no pattern is discernible, absolute randomness prevails &, in effect, absurdity reigns: the institutional IT policy makes an obvious mockery of itself & its operation, it undermines itself & questions its fitness-for-purpose as it promotes its own inconsistencies & its very un-'intelligence'.

I mean, I wouldn't mind if the decisions to undertake such ruthless editing of the image-content had been made on critical, aesthetic grounds, but I fear that, somehow, such has been so very far from the case...Yes - it's my art-y & I'll get self-righteous about it if I want to!

Mostly, in the case of TOoT, the situation is laughable, but it does cause a certain frustration that I will no longer be able to reliably refer to the blog whilst engaged in conversation with the college's foundation art students (sometimes it's helpful for the purposes of illustration of certain points, such as drawing techniques, for example), or the occasional interested colleague or whoever, within the context of the workplace.

On a related point, access is now denied institution-wide to deviantART, formerly allowed & a resource certainly used by previous years' students (from whence I discovered its existence, indeed) & one I used to make a point of suggesting to others as an exhibiting outlet for their work, as an element of their practice. Presumably this recent blocking is because of the social-networking aspect of the site, such 'distracting' & forbidden category as includes Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, etc, but this again somewhat 'unintelligently' fails to appreciate the proper creative function of such an online resource (which, in the interests of the protection & safety of minors, itself applies at least something of an 'adult content' filtering system), & the positive role it might play in an educational & learning context.
Overall, indeed, the sense is that the access to & denial-of online resources situation is being managed over-cautiously at an institutional level, under the circumstances of unstoppable developments in the delivery of learning & styles of, but hey...

Finally, another broader consideration is the more general impact of such institutional security policies: however one might intend one's website, blog, work to be (re)presented to the world, such designs are always at the mercy of the culture & preactice of surveillance & someone else's controlling whims - anywhere, to any viewer, depending on their point of access, one's labours of love might appear as a crock of incompetent could be you.

Obviously, it will be interesting to observe how the image content of this particular post is butchered by the workplace's security policy...Game on (but art will always triumph)!

No comments: