Glossary for Beginners in FOSS Art

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Written and compiled by Rob Myers

  • App - A piece of software with a simple interface designed to perform a limited range of tasks on a limited computing device such as a smartphone.
  • Augmented reality - Computer software that superimposes virtual objects over live video using machine vision and computer graphics techniques in order to display a scene of mixed real and unreal imagery.
  • Fiducial markers - Simple geometric designs that computer vision software can easily locate and orient in an image. Used by augmented reality systems to position virtual objects on top of video of real-life scenes.
  • File - A named piece of data stored on a computer, or sent over a network. That data can represent an image, music, text, or anything else that can be encoded digitally.
  • Free - Think free as in 'free speech' not free as in 'free gift'. When referring to work such as art, software, music, text or designs this means that people are at liberty to experience, study, and to modify and share copies of it.
  • Free culture - In the broadest sense, a society in which freedom of speech is protected. As a specific movement, the pursuit of that goal informed by the strategies of free software and open source. When used to refer to artworks and other cultural artefacts, ones that people are free to use.
  • Free software - The original name for 'open source'. Software that people are free to use without someone else controlling their use of using legal, technological, or other restrictions.
  • Hacking - Masterful creative alteration of software or other systems to create something new. The phrase has come to be mis-used by mainstream media to mean attacking computer systems, but that is more properly referred to as 'cracking'.
  • Interface - The part of a piece of software that people use to interact with it, such as windows on a screen or voice commands.
  • Live coding - Writing computer software on-stage as performance, displaying both the source code of the software and the visual or audible output to the audience as it is created.
  • Locative media - Software that displays media based on your physical location in the world, as measured by a mobile phone or computer.
  • Metadata - Data about data. For a file, information about the contents of the file such as when and where it was created, who created it, any licensing information, etc.
  • Open - A synonym for 'free', but with more emphasis on the kinds of social organisation that result. Free (as in free speech) and collaboratively produced or participatory.
  • Open source - A marketing term for free (as in free speech) software that is now used to refer to ideas of freedom and participation applied to areas other than software such as science, culture, technology or politics.
  • Operating system - The piece of software running on a computer that manages its hardware and runs other pieces of software including the applications that people actually interact with.
  • Peer-to-peer - Software that does not use a central server to share files but passes them between 'peer' computers directly. Also, forms of social organisations that emulate this structure.
  • QR codes - Two-dimensional barcodes containing information readable by computers and smartphones. QR codes are often used to communicate World Wide Web server addresses.
  • Real-time - The processing of data or the generation of media by software at the same time and at the same speed at which it happens.
  • Server - A computer on a network such as the Internet that distributes files or provides other services to 'client' computers.
  • Social media - Media such as video or text created, distributed, commented on and remixed using social networking software, eg pictures of cats with funny captions shared on Facebook or videos of protests shared on YouTube.
  • Software - A collection of instructions for a computer that make it perform a specific task. Applications, apps, utilities, operating systems and computer viruses are all kinds of software.
  • Streaming - Sending media over the network bit by bit as it is played rather than downloading it and saving it locally before playing it.
  • Tactical media - A mixture of art and activism that produces interventions, spoofs or pranks using the working of existing media distribution networks against themselves to distribute the results.
  • Tagging - A very simple and informal kind of metadata, a single word indicating a fact or opinion about the data it is applied to.
  • The internet - The global communication network connecting computers such as PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets and games consoles together allowing them to share information and media at an ever greater rate.
  • The World Wide Web (WWW) - The interlinked collection of files or applications that are accessed on servers over the Internet through web browser software such as Firefox or Chrome.
  • User generated content - Work created and uploaded to a website or other media distribution system by its users or audience. Where the terms and conditions of doing so are exploitative this is known as 'sharecropping'.
  • 3D Printing - Creating a physical object mechanically from a computer model using a 3D printer that builds up plastic or other materials in three dimensions in a way similar to how an inkjet or other printer builds up ink in two dimensions.

Glossary compiled and written by Rob Myers as part of the Furtherfield collection commissioned by Arts Council England for Thinking Digital. 2011