July 06, 2007

[iDC] City as Social Network: Eric Gordon


Participation Equals Surveillance

Hi everyone. My name is Eric Gordon – I’ve been watching this list for some time but I’ve made only a few contributions. Perhaps as a means of forcing my involvement, Trebor has asked me to moderate a discussion on the topic that has lately occupied most of my time – place-based social media and its implications for privacy, public space, and democratic engagement.

Following the recent conversation about Feedburner, I want to consider how that discussion might extend to physical communities (neighborhood, organization, city) that are enabled / bolstered / fortified by social web media. Many community groups and neighborhood organizations are using digital networking technologies to foster community interaction (http://www.ibrattleboro.com/). And of course, what is widely known as citizen journalism plays into this as well – placebloggers and Community Media organizations tend towards hyperlocal networked content (http://www.cctvcambridge.org/) with an aim towards reinforcing existing geographical connections.

The processes that bind non-geographical communities in networks are similar to those that are binding geographical communities – shared interests, practices, goals, etc. However, unlike traditional online communities that have a basis in anonymity, digitally annotated physical communities often rely on the full disclosure of identity for their functionality. For instance, when it comes to neighborhood issues – it is important to know one’s real name and location.

And as city governments are seeking ways to adopt “web 2.0” technologies into their existing “citizen management” projects, the lack of anonymity and the simple traceability of social actions open up new concerns. Social media tools have the capacity to significantly expand participation in local governance, but they also have the capacity to trace citizen behavior and map social trends. Cities are interested in this technology for the same reason that corporations are – it offers valuable user data. Politicians can survey the concerns of their constituency; agencies can identify problems in neighborhoods; and law enforcement…well, there are many scenarios possible. It can also be turned around: citizens can have greater access to their politicians, and government proceedings can at least have the impression of transparency.

While the conversations on this list have devoted considerable time to corporate surveillance, the question not often asked in this context is what should be made of local surveillance – from the people in one’s neighborhood to city governments? In the wake of connectivity, discourse and collaboration, there is always documentation, processing and interpretation. From neighborhood chatrooms to local annotated mapping projects to virtual town hall meetings, participation equals surveillance – for better or for worse.

When I consider a digital future in which I want to live – it includes networked access to my neighborhood services, communities, city government and public spaces. However, there is little possibility for that to take place outside of the proliferation of data that would make communities vulnerable to excessive internal and external management. And as citywide wifi and mobile web devices proliferate, the outlets for that recycled data expand. At the same time, American cities, like corporations, are glomming onto digital media because of its populist resonances. They are paying attention to online neighborhoods and seeking to aggregate that data into meaningful information. The ideology of digital media – as evidenced in the phrases “participatory media” and “user-generated content” – is accessibility. Digital media directly aligns the rhetoric of progress with the rhetoric of populism. Social web media makes explicit what has only been implied in the recent rhetoric of city governments – that anyone, regardless of social position, can participate in the ordering of city experience and politics.

From cities to towns to neighborhoods, the populist promise of social web media is transforming the nature of public space and civic participation. I am referring only to the American context, because that’s what I know, but it would be great to engage in comparative dialogue in order to better understand the scope of how these technologies are being implemented in official or unofficial capacities to change perceptions of cities and city life, not to mention public space and community engagement.

I suppose I’ll leave it at that for now. I look forward to the conversation.


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June 20, 2007

Red Line Surveillance



RED LINE SURVEILLANCE - As part of FESTIVAL OF EXTREME BUILDING and NEW GENERATION ARTS FESTIVAL :: June 23-29, 2007 :: Birmingham / UK; On Site (The corner of The Priory Queensway and Moor Street Queensway).

Red Line Surveillance are out to provide security for the city of Birmingham; from a surveillance tower erected on site, mobile monitoring units will emanate through the surrounding urban environment. This project is a collaboration between nine European artists, and has been developed in partnership with the Festival of Extreme Building and New Generation Arts.

Surveillance literally means "watching over", and can be seen as the art of watching over the activities of a person or group from a position of higher authority. Commonly used to describe observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment, it can also involve simple, relatively no- or low-tech methods such as direct observation, observation with binoculars or similar methods.

The surveillance tower will be a monitoring station occupied by personnel 24 hours a day, providing 'security and surveillance' for the site; this presence will be clearly visible through signage, uniformed officers and increasing levels of activity emerging from the tower. These roving patrols will expand from the base into the wider landscape of the city centre, with each reconnaissance mission seeking to find the effective range of this security service and its impact on its surroundings. The collective observation of the city will ensure that no event goes un-noticed!

This process will involve: Ana Benlloch [UK], Pelle Brage [DK], Sabine Hagmann [CH], Andreas Kebelmann [GER], MACHFELD (akaMichael Mastrototaro & Sabine Maier) [A], Ed Orton [UK], Niki Russell [UK], Eliane Rutishause [CH], and Stuart Tait [UK].

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May 29, 2007



Renders Transparent What Was Once Concealed

LightHive, an installation by artist/architect Alex Haw :: Architectural Association :: until Saturday June 2, 2007.

LightHive occupies the entire main block - 5 addresses, 5 storeys and 160 rooms - of the institution's home in Bedford Square. A vast distributed network composed of various types of camera, infrared and wireless sensors relay back to a central exhibition space, where the communal activity of the school illuminates a scale model of its own light sources. Each light source is custom scripted and generated from the spatial and luminous parameters of its original source, and activated in real time by occupancy, contributing to an immersive form of spatial, 3-D surveillance. The installation renders transparent what was once concealed, compensating for the optical restrictions of the very object of the school's study: architecture.

Appearing as a spatial extension of the existing Front Members' Room's magnificent listed chandelier, its greater aim is as a self-documenting, self-recording architecture that is animated by people, resulting in a form of spatial video. It has several operational modes: predominantly realtime (which obediently varies between dynamic liveliness and patient placidity, with only intermittent signs of life), it is punctuated every half an hour by timelapse playback from its sensor database, followed by a series of fictional playbacks.


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May 21, 2007

project:rendition by JC2


Installation and Performances at Momenta Art

project:rendition by JC2 :: momenta art :: May 25-June 25, 2007 :: Performance Schedule :: Reception: May 25, 7 - 9pm :: 359 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 :: 718.218.8058.

project:rendition examines the concept of rendering through an installation that incorporates elements of architecture, printed agitprop, audio, and performance in an interactive environment.

The project title refers to "extraordinary rendition," the Bush Administration's practice of clandestine kidnapping and extradition of suspected terrorists to countries where they can be interrogated and tortured beyond the reach of the US judicial system. While extraordinary rendition is an extreme form of political repression, state-induced fear and disenfranchisement are far more common means of rendering individuals and whole populations politically mute or existentially invisible.

The exhibition revolves around a five-sided structure built entirely of one-way mirror, which functions as an inverted Panopticon or surveillance tower. Visitors may either observe those inside the illuminated structure from the safety of the darkened gallery or reverse roles and become potential objects of scrutiny or fascination by entering it.

An excerpt from the famous 1630 sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity," written by the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, will be available as a free broadside to visitors. From Ronald Reagan's "Shining City on the Hill" to George Bush Sr.'s "Thousand Points of Light," Winthrop's Puritan text has served as the lynchpin for the philosophy of American Exceptionalism for the past 200 years.

Performances are scheduled to take place on site throughout the duration of the show. Please check the project:rendition website for performance schedule: www.projectrendition.info

project:rendition is a collaboration by JC2, a group composed of artists Joy Episalla, Joy Garnett, Carrie Moyer and Carrie Yamaoka. JC2 thanks Brian Webster for his invaluable technical expertise, without which this project would not have been realized.

DIRECTIONS: Momenta Art is located at 359 Bedford Avenue, ground floor, between S4th and S5th Sts. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. By subway, take the L train to Bedford stop (the first stop in Brooklyn). Exit on the Bedford side. Walk south 12 blocks. By car, take the outside lane of the Williamsburg Bridge to the first exit. Make a sharp right onto Broadway. Drive 2 blocks to Bedford Avenue and make a right. We are located a half block on the right after you pass under the bridge.

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May 10, 2007



Social Networks Foster Conspiracy

Annina Rüst's Sinister "is a service based on research into software designed to identify and analyse suspicious behaviour through communication patterns rather than the content of conversations (data-surveillance). Visually, Sinister appears as a friendly social networking environment, but it suggests that social networking also fosters conspiracy. Online chat bots and automatised scoundrels (artificially intelligent characters) infiltrate chat networks and discuss seemingly common-place topics such as gardening, but occasionally include criminal harmful comments. You can telephone the bots and insert your own messages into their conversations also, using voice recognition software which looks for con-spirative content. The software then maps and interprets these online conversations, comparing diagrams to a database to determine the possible unfriendly uses people might have for the online social network. In the gallery-based installation, the seats represent the nodes in the social network – by moving the seats around as you join into conversation with your fellow visitors, the computer can then draft and analyse new diagrams based on the connections in the social network you create." Part of MY OWN PRIVATE REALITY: GROWING UP ONLINE IN THE 90S and 00S.

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April 18, 2007



"A memorable event is a dramatic one."

(re)collector by James Coupe – produced in partnership with The Junction for Enter_Unknown Territories, Cambridge, UK, April 2007 :: (re)collector is a public art installation that approaches Cambridge as a 'museum of the mind', using cameras to acquire memorable images that can then be reorganised into ideas. The Greek concept of ut pictura poesis claims that poetry is more ‘imageful’ than prose. In this project, the cameras do not document Cambridge using a simple, straightforward archive of events, but rather seek to record a collection of dramatic moments. The city becomes a tableau for pictura poesis, with events amplified through combinations of framing, movement, and silence becoming more memorable and cohesive as a result.

ENTER_UNKNOWN TERRITORIES is a five-day international festival and two-day conference of new technology arts, taking place throughout Cambridge from Wednesday 25TH to Sunday 29th April 2007. Its three main activities of public art events, workshops and conference, will address, explore, and question the possibilities of making and experiencing new technology arts. Following an international call for submissions three major commissions were chosen to highlight the festivals’ programme. [via]

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April 02, 2007

April 2007 on -empyre- soft-skinned space:


TechnoPanic: Terrors and Technologies

April 2007 on -empyre- soft-skinned space: TechnoPanic: Terrors and Technologies with Horit Herman-Peled (IS), Brooke Singer (US), Paul Vanouse (US), and Sean Cubit (AU); moderated by Tim Murray (US) and Renate Ferro (US).

From surveillance and mobile technologies to fears and public panic, the ambivalent attraction of technologies of terror shifts registers between post-cold war and post 9-11 sensibilities, whether from international or cross-generational zones of engagement. We will discuss how panic, paranoia, critical resistance to, and appropriation of technologies of terror are mediated by the threat and fear of violence in the interlinked networks of mobile media, domestic space, and the public sphere.

Horit Herman-Peled (IS) is a media artist, theorist, and feminist activist in Tel Aviv, who teaches art and digital culture at the Art Institute, Oranim College, Israel.

Brook Singer US) is a Brooklyn-based digital media artist and arts organizer who lives in Brooklyn. A member of Preemptive Media, her most recent collaborations, both as an artist and curator, utilize wireless (Wi-Fi, mobile phone cameras, RFID) as tools for initiating discussion and positive system failures. She is Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase.

Paul Vanouse (US) makes data collection devices that include polling and categorization (for interactive cinema), genetic experiments that undermine scientific constructions of identity, and temporary organizations that performatively critique institutionalization and corporatization. He teaches in the Art Dept. at the University of Buffalo (SUNY).

Sean Cubitt (AU) teaches media and communications at the University of Melbourne. Among his numerous books on cinema and new media are EcoMedia, The Cinema Effect, and Digital Aesthetics. Sean has curated numerous exhibitions and is Editor in Chief of the Leonardo Book Series for
MIT Press.

Renate Ferro (US) conceptual artist, visiting Assistant Professor of Art, Cornell University, and Timothy Murray (US), curator, the Rose Golden Archive of New Media Art and Acting Director of the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University. Their most recent collaboration has involved Renate's installation "Panic Hits Home" for the The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival in Marchl 2007. (FLEFF) is a one-week multimedia inter-arts extravaganza that reboots the environment and sustainability into a larger global conversation, embracing issues ranging from labor, war, health, disease, music, intellectual property, fine art, software, remix culture, economics, archives, AIDS, womens rights, and human rights. This year's festival will focus on new content streams: Maps and Memes, Metropoli, Panic Attacks, and Soundscaping.

Subscribe for participation at: http://www.subtle.net/empyre/

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March 25, 2007



Ideas + Survey

Generic Infrastructures [2] by Rob van Kranenburg: Today we are in the worst situation imaginable. Our global and undisputed computing paradigm posits that computing processes are successful only in as much as they disappear from view. Our design focus is ever more following Philips untenable but seductive ‘sense and simplicity’ resulting in the-bug-as-a-feature-design of the Ipod Shuffle. Our educational system is following this systemic hide-complexity strategy that favors the large industrial labs, IT conglomerates and above all their clinging to notions of IP and the patent that are firmy tied to their notions of doing business and making money. And our users, us? We are YOU, the most influential person of the year 2006, according to TIME Magazine. You fill the Wikipedia entries in your spare time, you blog your daily activities, you co-bookmark on de.l.i.c.i.o.u.s, upload your photos to flickr, you buy mating gear in Second Life, and mark your position on Plazer or Google Earth. You fill out the forms. Isn’t it time you start questioning the principles behind the formats? And, to make matters even worse, your naïve ideas of sharing are corrupting notions of privacy, transparency and informational architecture symmetry.


Ludium II - Synthetic Worlds and Public Policy by Edward Castronova: Synthetic worlds – million-player online environments with genuine markets, societies, and cultures – are exploding in size and significance. Real world governments around the globe are beginning to grapple with their implications in the areas of taxation, intellectual property laws, consumer rights, addiction, violence, and more. Should synthetic worlds be controlled by developers, or by governments, or both? What about the rights of users? What general norms should legislatures and courts follow? More NOEMA >>

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March 23, 2007

ambientTV.NET's Faceless


A CCTV Sci-Fi Thriller

FACELESS (UK/AT 2007, 50 min), a CCTV sci-fi thriller directed by Manu Luksch; soundtrack by mukul; piano music by Rupert Huber; co-produced by Amour Fou and Ambient Information Systems; languages: English / German.

In an eerily familiar society, the reformed RealTime calendar dispenses with past and future, and all citizens are faceless. A woman panics when she wakes up with a face. With the help of the Spectral Children she unveils the lost power and history of the human face and begins the search for its future.

FACELESS uses CCTV images obtained under the terms of the UK Data Protection Act as 'legal readymades (objets trouves)'. Legislation requires that the privacy of other persons be protected when data is released. For CCTV recordings, this is typically done by obscuring their faces. Much of FACELESS is driven by the 'Manifesto for CCTV Filmmakers'. The manifesto states, amongst other things, that additional cameras are not permitted on location, since they are rendered redundant by omnipresent video surveillance.

The soundtrack of FACELESS is composed for surround systems.

ambientTV.NET is a crucible for independent, interdisciplinary practice ranging from installation and performance, through documentary, dance, and gastronomy, to sound and video composition and real-time manipulation. Techniques and effects of live data broadcasting and transmission provide theme, medium, and performative space for many of the works.

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January 22, 2007

Dear Internet v1.


Networked Technologies and the Paradoxes of Social Relations

In preparation for an upcoming exhibition at Maryland Art Place (MAP) Dear Internet --a project by Mark Cooley and Edgar Endress--will be accepting letters via Dear Internet. Dear Internet v1. investigates how networked technologies become platforms for the paradoxes of social relations in digital culture. Connection, fear, communication, alienation, interactivity, dislocation, intimacy, disembodiment, are all possible and often simultaneously present in our attempts to interact with others online and off.

The installation: A live screening of Dear Internet develops, with the help of participant input, over the course of the exhibition and serves as a partial expression of networked consciousness. Content for Dear Internet v1. is collected from 2 primary sources:

- A participatory blog that forms a collective memory of "users" experience in networked living. Dear Internet (the blog) is an unmoderated site for the publishing and archiving of letters written by Internet users concerning their relationships with the Internet. Through http://dearinternetuser.blogspot.com, users may address the internet directly and indulge in their deepest thoughts, feelings and fantasies with the abandonment, comfort and protection that only online anonymity can provide. Texts gathered from http://dearinternetuser.blogspot.com are remixed and projected in the gallery while they are read with text to speech software.

- Live IP surveillance cameras are accessed using a variety of well-known advanced google search techniques and projected in the gallery space. While these surveillance cameras are accessible to any internet user, they remain largely unknown to casual internet users. However, the cameras have attained significant attention from hackers, technophiles, security professionals, bored surfers and others. The interest no doubt comes from the common presumption that these surveillance cameras are left unsecure unintentionally by camera owners who have neglected to set-up camera security features. Internet users are often able to access full control of an accessed camera's, zoom, pan, snapshot and other features. Camera controls are removed from the interface for the Dear Internet installation and the cameras are set to refresh every 30 seconds.

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December 29, 2006

Surveillance Camera Players: 1984


"The Surveillance Camera Players are not watching you. They are watching the cameras, because we have forgotten to. The cameras can't understand what the SCP are doing, but we can. The cameras don't smile but you might." — Greil Marcus, author of "Lipstick Traces."

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December 28, 2006

Little Feet Bureau LLC


Paranoid dot-matrix printers

Little Feet Bureau LLC is a Kafkaesque corporation named after Mao-Zedong's army of gossipy old ladies recruited to eavesdrop and rat on potential enemies of the state.

From the press release: Four paranoid dot-matrix printers output endless text on paper. The system combs internet traffic looking for people linked to "dangerous information". Every time a machine finds keywords that seem to threaten the stability of a client government, it crafts an individualized letter addressed to the offender. Sometimes, the letter accuses and threatens legal action. At other times, it summons the offender "in for questioning." All letters warn of the legal consequences of telling anyone the letter they are reading exists at all.

Each printer focuses on its own area of surveillance. By studying a given machine, a pattern emerges-- a pattern of paranoia. In its obsession to uncover hidden meaning, it will, invariably, confirm its own fears.

The piece attempts to situate itself at both extremes of the privacy/surveillance debate. One little foot is firmly planted in the hysteria of paranoia and conspiracy theory while the other is just as firmly rooted in the land of denial where benevolent governments "try the best they can"-- with only the public good and safety in mind. Where the thought, "it can't happen to me" still flows without repudiation.

"Three printers are connected to a data-surveillance system," told me Mushon Zer Aviv, one of the developers of the project. "Each printer is assigned to a different government and combs the same data-set in search for suspicious keywords, and so the Chinese printer searches for keywords like: falun gong falun dafa tibet tienamen square massacre freedom of speech human rights news western spy 007 free playboy ...

The American printer searches for keywords such as: terrorism terror suicide saddam chemical biological anti-american mexican illegal immigrationdodging Tax intelligent life-form ufo e.t. space visitor french...

Our 3rd printer is assigned to the WTO, a super power in it's own right: mayday socialist fair trade creative commons anarchist peer to peer hacker activist pollution anti-capitalism anti-global indimedia green no sweat free chavez squat...

We are hoping to include a 4th printer the next time we install little feet, this time for an ultra-liberal government not many people have heard of (since it's fictional), we will serve it it's own fears and paranoias... More. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

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Mary Mattingly


disturbing beauty

... ok, the threat by mobile phones (to which she refers) just recently has been dismissed as no longer relevant, but nevertheless there are interesting relations and a fantastic worldview to be discovered at Mary Mattingly’s project website. [link to Mary Mattingly: Second Nature – a text on M. Mattingly’s photography.]

She developes a scenario which emerges around a ‘disastrous beauty’ according to an imagination where our actual and eventual technological developments are brought together with to-come-ecological changes. It all together impresses through the beautiful set-up and the quite carefully lay-out of a world to be – combined with changes already happening… Some of her most impressing images relate to the imagination of ‘wearable homes’. In her writings she describes quite clearly the process of thought and procedure of her project development:

In the design of the Wearable Home, I examine the cohesive threads of cultures’ and groups’ clothing throughout the world; from Inuit cultures to saris in India, Muslim, Hindu, Zen Buddhist garments, American Gap, Banana Republic, the Khaki Overcoat, muslin design prototypes, construction uniforms, kimonos, Dockers, safari camouflage, military uniforms, the blandification and brandification of garments spanning cultures worldwide to make one, general look de-emphasizing self and re-emphasizing everything else (collaboration, ideas, survival, modularity, etc.). I think this, over time, is a creative way to think about the outcome of mega-mergers and the illusion of choice, technology and the idea of utopia, as well as wiki-run systems. The result, then, may be that one wearer would be indistinguishable from the other, thus greatly alleviating the threat of the end of privacy. Our distinguishing features would be greatly masked in this context to the naked eye, however the pervasiveness and scrutiny of high-powered networks would still catalog our movements and whereabouts. (link) [blogged by mo on mind the _GAP*?)

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December 13, 2006



City of Data

Microcity by stanza :: Live CCTV webcams onto roving display device. Collects data from 400 cameras and randomly presents morphed real time image. The increase of technology infrastructure in the daily existence of a city means that technology will, more than ever be everywhere in our environment. Data mining will be part of the fabric of the landscape. Everything is or will be tracked. cctv, car sensors, tracking inside our phones and id card movement tracking in the guise of anti- terror activity. The patterns we make, the forces we weave, are all being networked into retrievable data structures that can be re-imagined and sourced for information. These patterns all disclose new ways of seeing the world.

New metaphors relevant to the experience of the city. New polymer display material captures images. Images sent over network. A city of data balls with retrievable narrative for experience. Social sculptures contain information zones, banking data, etc.. Narratives from huge libraries of online videos images stories System accesses national data archives.

Stanza is a London based British artist who specializes in net art, networked art, and electronic sounds. His award winning online projects have been invited for exhibition in digital festivals around the world, and Stanza also travels extensively to present his net art, lecturing and giving performances of his audiovisual interactions. His works explore artistic and technical opportunities to enable new aesthetic perspectives, experiences and perceptions within context of architecture, data spaces and online environments. [posted on Rhizome]

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November 21, 2006

Live Transmissions


Implications of Paranoia in Sound Art

These days, a radio is a common transmitter of music and information. Historically, radios have had notorious alternative functions as instruments of surveillance. In this article, Anastasiya Osipova discusses how recent sound artists have incorporated the psychology of paranoia into their work, fitting for an environment where surveillance is constant and technology is fervently deployed to detect that which is hidden.

"Newly recruited member of the Resistance walks down the street. Anxiety circulates under his skin. Several uniformed men block his way. “What is inside your suitcase, sir?” “Radio.” They let him pass. He walks into what appears to be a shop, hands the radio transmitter to a portly woman who is standing firm on her high heels, cigarette held to her mouth. At that moment he feels that she, who he is seeing for the first time in life, is closer to him than any family member could possibly be.

Military and entertainment industries share equipment: magnetophones, vocoders, synthesizers, and other tools routinely used by musicians each originally had military functions, to say nothing of the radio, a notorious spy fetish. Leon Theremin, famous inventor of the electronic instrument bearing his name was, tellingly, also a secret agent. Together with technology, radio and sound-related arts have inherited a drive for detection often bordering on paranoia. The suspicion of invisible channels of information into which one is somehow implicated against one’s will—or of networks of communication from which one is excluded—is amplified. Recognizing the psychological power their medium can wield, radio artists are employing its technology in a manner analogous to how the armed forces would: to disclose the invisible and, when appropriate, to mobilize resistance against it." Continue reading Live Transmissions by Anastasiya Osipova, NYFA Current.

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November 20, 2006



Issue 11

Welcome to Glowlab Issue 11! The projects in this issue examine the presence of surveillance within public space, and the ways in which ubiquitous technologies, such as electronic tags, global positioning systems, SMS messaging, and other locative media are informing the ways in which we interact within urban environments. These artists utilize these technologies to create mobile orchestras, jam turnstiles, observe the observers, and put the means and the media of production into the hands of ordinary citizens. This issue also includes independent curator Anuradha Vikram's review of Psychogeography by Merlin Coverly.

Transparent City: The ethics and aesthetics of mass-surveillance technologies by Derek Lomas :: Mobile phone carriers track our location and keep a record of everywhere that we have been. TRANSPARENT CITY is a prototype surveillance interface demonstrating how widespread mobile phone technology could be transformed into an apparatus for massive governmental control.

The Warbike and Wardriving: Geeks Don't Know it's Psychogeography by David McCallum :: The Warbike is a mobile, interactive artwork that sonifies WiFi networks during a bike ride. This article describes the process of creating the system, and touches on the links between psychogeography and wardriving.

Inner city locative media: The Media Portrait of the Liberties project by Valentina Nisi :: The Media Portrait of the Liberties is a modular collection of anecdotal stories drawn from a disadvantaged Dublin inner city neighbourhood called the Liberties. The narratives are displayed as short video clips on a location-aware handheld computer.

TXTual Healing by Paul Notzold :: TXTual Healing is an interactive project that enables members of the public to interact with large speech bubbles that are projected onto flat surfaces, such as the facades of public buildings, using SMS messaging.

arphield recordings by Paula Roush :: Arphield Recordings is a project documenting impromptu arphid sound performances produced by people scanning their oysters cards in their daily routines of accessing London tube stations.

Fête Mobile and Inflatable Art by Marc Tuters, Fête Mobile :: Movable Feast/ Fête Mobile is a 6-meter blimp equipped with surveillance and communications capabilities that enables participants to remotely view their surroundings and exchange media files through a wireless file server. In his article, we discuss the development of the project.

Book Review: Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley by Anuradha Vikram :: Psychogeography is a primer on the practice and its precedents, inspired by the neo-psychogeographic revival in London over the past two decades, and focusing specifically on the theoretical lineage of contemporary British writers.

Glowlab is an artist-run production and publishing lab engaging urban public space as the medium for contemporary art and technology projects. We track emerging approaches to psychogeography, the exploration of the physical and psychological landscape of cities. Our annual Conflux festival, exhibitions, events and our bi-monthly web-based magazine support a network of artists, researchers and technologists around the world.

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October 27, 2006

The Rose Art Museum


Balance and Power: Performance and Surveillance in Video Art

Amid unprecedented concern over privacy and security issues in America and abroad, The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis this fall will feature a look at artists’ uses of surveillance techniques related to performance art and government spying systems. Michael Rush, the Henry and Lois Foster Director of The Rose, will curate the timely exhibit called “Balance and Power: Performance and Surveillance in Video Art.

“This exhibit examines both the early days of video art as well as current practices,” Rush said. “It’s an attempt to understand the complex relationship between voluntary acting for the camera and involuntary taping by a camera on the part of power systems that have an interest in the movement of citizens.” The exhibition will run Sept. 21 through Dec. 17, 2006.

“Balance and Power” features work by a diverse group of artists, from early video pioneers such as Andy Warhol, Vito Acconci, and Bruce Naumann, to emerging practitioners such as Jill Magid and Tim Hyde. Other international artists are Sophie Calle, Jim Campbell, Peter Campus, Jordan Crandall, Harun Farocki, Subodh Gupta, Kevin Hamilton, Tiffany Holmes, Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar, Kristin Lucas, Steve Mann, Jenny Markatou, Jonas Mekas, Muntadas, Martha Rosler, Julia Scher, and Kiki Seror.

Balance, says Rush, can be described as “an essential talent for the performer,” while power is “the essential currency of surveillance.” The terms are interconnected through themes such as “star” culture, identity theft, privacy and cultural paranoia, he said.

Many of these psycho-social phenomena are reflected in the current mega success of reality TV. “People voluntarily allow themselves to be taped openly and surreptitiously. Surveillance becomes performance and vice versa,” Rush said.

The exhibit will feature a dozen video installations in a uniquely designed space created by Antenna Design Group in New York. There will be large-scale installations, single channel tapes, and newly commissioned work. The exhibition was originally organized by the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois.

Symposium: Privacy Rites: Space, Surveillance, and Power in Historical Perspective :: Brandeis University :: Wednesday, November 8, 2006
4:00 - 6:30 p.m. :: Levine-Ross, Hassenfeld Conference Center

Co-conveners: Mark Auslander (Anthropology) and Andreas Teuber (Philosophy)

The landmark essay, “The Right to Privacy” (1890) by Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren, was reportedly inspired by a highly evocative episode: a newspaper photographer climbed over a garden wall to photograph Warren’s daughter’s breakfast wedding party, leading to the image’s mass dissemination across the city. This symposium explores some of the fascinating paradoxes suggested by this telling example. “Privacy” and its twinned antithesis, “surveillance,” emerged out of the intersection of built domestic space and emerging optical technologies of mass reproduction. Note the spatial metaphors in Brandeis and Warren’s anxious prophecy: “numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’” A violation of the core spatial distinction of the modern city, the tenuous distinction between public and private, helps catalyze the image of a sacrosanct, sovereign self that is in principle beyond the gaze of sovereign state power or the untrammeled forces of the market.

In this symposium we will reflect upon the broader historical antecedents, resonances, and implications of Brandeis and Warren’s anxious plea. For some theorists, the accelerating proliferation of optical and electronic technologies of surveillance and mechanical reproduction exemplifies a postmodern decoupling of space and power. Bentham’s Panopticon depended on fixed architectural structures, binding together warden and prisoner, the routinzer and the routinized, in intimate disciplines of mutual engagement and physical proximity. In contrast, the synthesis of electronic surveillance, mass mechanical reproduction, and complex information networks seems to promise power that is entirely “extraterritorial,” in which controlling elites are fluid, inaccessible, and no longer spatially entangled with their subordinates. In turn, other scholars insist, sophisticated technologies of remote or virtual monitoring do not transcend space and place as such, but are rather embedded in shifting forms of architecture, landscape, selfhood, and embodiment that are themselves the products of complex social and material histories.

Participants include:

Mark Auslander (Anthropology)
Alex Green (Brandeis '04; owner, Book Pages Books)
Caren Irr (English and American Literature)
Laurie Kain Hart (Anthropology, Haverford College)
Peter Kalb (Fine Arts)
Alice Kelikian (History)
Tom King (English and American Literature)
Ann Koloski-Ostrow (Classics)
Adrianne Krstansky (Theater Arts)
Laura Miller (Sociology)
Rick Parmentier (Anthropology)
John Plotz (English and American Literature)
Michael Rush (Director, Rose Art Museum)
Ellen Schattchneider (Anthropology)
Dr. Ramie Targoff (English and American Literature)
Andreas Teuber (Philosophy)
Jonathan Unglaub (Fine Arts)
Michaele Whelan (English and American Literature)

Discuss Privacy and Surveillance

About the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis

Opened in 1961, The Rose Art Museum has one of the most distinguished collections of modern and contemporary art in New England. Each year, The Rose organizes highly acclaimed special exhibitions and collection displays, presenting a mix of international, national and local artists.

Rose Art Museum
Brandeis University
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453

Posted by jo at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2006

Ethan Zuckerman


Tracking Hasan Elahi

Hasan Elahi is a conceptual artist whose life is an ongoing work about surveillance. He starts by telling us a chilling story - his detention by the INS at Detroit Airport after returning from a trip from overseas. An immigration officer scanned his passport and blanched, then led Alahi through a maze under the airport to an INS detention facility. As a US citizen, this was pretty odd - he tried to talk with the guards to figure out what was going on. But it all became clearer when the man from the FBI in the dark suit came to talk with him.

The FBI asked him about his whereabouts on September 12, 2001 - he was able to answer the questions by taking out his Blackberry and showing off his meetings. Over the course of questioning, it became clear that the reason he was being questioned was that he had a storage locker in Tampa, where he’d been teaching. Scared by 9/11, the owners of the storage area reported that “an Arab man had fled on 9/12, leaving explosives in his locker.” There were, of course, no explosives, and he hadn’t fled - just the detritus of ordinary life.

Elahi’s life for the next few months involved dozens of interviews with the FBI, finally culminating in nine back to back polygraphs, which finally “cleared” him. He explains that the power dynamic of an FBI interview leads to a very human response - the desire for survival. Elahi says that he could have questioned the legality of the experience, hiring a lawyer… but he realized that there was the possibility that any act of resistance could have gotten him sent to Guantanamo.

For the next few months, every trip Elahi took, he’d call his FBI agent and give the routing, so he didn’t get detained along the way. He realized, after a point - why just tell the FBI - why not tell everyone?

So he hacked his cellphone into a tracking bracelet which he wears on his ankle, reporting his movements on a map - log onto his site and you can see that he’s in Camden. But he’s gone further, trying to document his life in a series of photos: the airports he passes through, the meals he eats, the bathrooms he uses. The result is a photographic record of his daily life which would be very hard to falsify. We all know photos can be digitally altered… but altering as many photos as Elahi puts online would require a whole team trying to build this alternative path through the world.

Elahi also puts other apsects of his life online, including his banking records. This gives a record of his purchases, which complements the photographs. He doesn’t put the phone records online, because it would compromise the privacy of the people he talks with, and some friends have asked him to stop visiting, but he views the self-surveillance both as an art form and as his perpetual alibi for the next time the FBI questions him.

At the same time, he’s stretching the limits of surveillance systems, taking advantage of non-places. He flew to Singapore for four days and never left the airport, never clearing customs. For four days, he was noplace - he’d fallen off the map, which is precisely what the FBI and others worry about. But he documented every noodle and every toilet along the way.

One of the audience questions asks whether the FBI actually threatened Elahi with Guantanamo, or whether his “artistic temperment” might have exaggerated the seriousness of the situation. Elahi explains that it was never made concrete, but that he certainly felt the threat of indefinite detention, and that he believes the only thing that saved him was a common culture - the ability to quote the lyrics of country songs, or talk about college football, the sort of things a terrorist would find very hard to fake.

Another questioner wonders if Marianne Weems will make a show about Elahi - she mentions that an earlier piece, “Jet Lag”, tells the true story of a woman who flies from Amsterdam to NYC 167 times, again and again, until she dies of jetlag. (Still trying to find a reference to this story…) Given that Elahi’s life involves all the issues Weems is most interested in, she admits that a piece based on his experiences would be irresistable. [posted by Ethan Zuckerman on World Changing]

Posted by jo at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2006

The Spychip Under Your Skin


RFID and the Tagged exhibition by Space Media Arts

The Spychip Under Your Skin by Armin Medosch: Commissioned by [ space.media.arts ] to accompany the Tagged exhibition, Armin Medosch writes about RFID, first introducing the technology and its context. Briefly introducing Bruce Sterling's ideas about 'shaping things' Medosch adds to this some of my his reflections about the contentious notion of techno-social 'progress'. Based on this contextual analysis the text formulates some of the challenges and possibilities for artists who work with technology in general and the routes chosen by the selected artists in the Tagged exhibition. [PDF]

Introduction: What Is RFID? Depending on whom you speak to, it can be a rather mundane thing. RFID tags are used in warehouse logistics management, where they are integral to a new system for identifying objects and replace the scannable bar code which has performed this task for the past several decades. RFID is also the key technology which enables an 'internet of things' within a framework of 'ubiquitous computing' (Ubicomp). Minimally, RFID tags link the physical world with the informational world. The process consists of attaching machine-readable information to objects. Maximally, this, some would say, is a new step in the co-evolution of the technological with the social. Its implications seem to mandate a serious engagement with the motives behind these latest developments.

The potential of this move to a next layer of the informationalisation of the world does raise concerns about privacy or the notion of an all-encompassing society of control. Concomitantly, it facilitates new paths of exploration for artists in a range of areas, from commercial interactive product design to art movements such as locative media and new types of performative and interactive-narrative work. According to science-fiction writer and media theorist Bruce Sterling, the spread of RFID technology gives rise to a new type of object, the SPIME. The word is a neologism invented by Bruce Sterling, describing objects which can be tracked in SPACE and TIME. Sterling predicts that a society relying on an infrastructure of SPIMES would have achieved a fundamental change in the relationship of the forces of production. I will expand on this subject later, but only so much here: additional awareness about an object's full life-cycle prompted by use of RFIDs would enable environmental and sustainability considerations to play a greater part in the resource allocation decisions of societies.

Space Media Arts have decided to devote their Tagged series of events to the complex of issues surrounding RFID. Following an open call and a jury-led selection process, Space Media Arts have selected four artists/projects and one sound performance to be presented at the Triangle exhibition space and in public spaces in the locality. In this text I will first introduce the technology and its context. I will also briefly introduce Bruce Sterling's ideas about 'shaping things'1 and add to this some of my own reflections about the contentious notion of techno-social 'progress'. Based on this contextual analysis I will formulate some of the challenges and possibilities for artists who work with technology in general and the routes chosen by the selected artists.

Gloves, Dr.Watson

Radio Frequency IDentification, RFID for short, relies on RFID tags to identify objects digitally and a support infrastructure necessary to read and process the information. An RFID tag consists of an antenna and a chip. Passive tags are made of a small coil and an even tinier chip both wrapped by some adhesive material like paper or film which gets attached to cartons or pallets. When a reader device is in close proximity2, the antenna is activated by the frequency it transmits and the chip sends a message. Usually this message would consist of the Electronic Product Code (EPC), "a unique numbering scheme for every object in the world".3 RFID tags of this type have been falling in prices and are said to now cost as little as 3 pence a piece when ordered in large volumes. More complex RFID tags are capable of storing more information and some have their own power supplies. Those semi-active and active RFID tags are used for access control schemes and car keys, but also the tagging of animals, machines and humans.4

Some histories of RFID technology trace it back to the invention of radar. 'Real' RFID, in the way we know it now, however, was first introduced on a relatively narrow scale with the tagging of cattle in the 1980s. It was only considered for more widespread use in the 1990s and its roll-out has begun in the last few years. As with most available technologies, the development of RFID is fuelled by both military and commercial interest in its applications. Despite the centrality of the United States Department of Defence (USDoD) to RFID R&D, the growth potential for commercial supply chain management may in the long term be more influential in global infrastructural change.

The main beneficiaries of RFID are going to be very big organisations which orchestrate the production and consumption of large quantities of goods, such as supermarkets - Wal-Mart has been another driving force behind the introduction of RFID besides the US Department of Defence. For the customer, the benefits are said to arrive in the form of the reduction of already cheap prices because the whole process can be managed more efficiently. This emphasis on economic expediency cloaks less publicity-friendly consequences for both labour and consumers, a traditional ruse of big corporations and governments seeking to evade the social cost of restructuring or the introduction of new technology. When people are in a generally disempowered state, they have no choice but to vote with their wallet. However, such 'trickle-down effects'5 have more often than not favoured the corporation at the expense of the worker and consumer.

Open Doors And Open Wallets With RFID

RFID has raised concerns about the protection of privacy from the very beginning. However, many of the discussions around privacy foreground a limited notion of the protection of privacy of individuals and tend to ignore the larger political economy within which it is embedded. In internet forums about RFID and privacy you can encounter stories such as the one that Wal-Mart might spy on you once you have accidentally swallowed the RFID on your breakfast cereal packaging. This type of criticism is just too easily dismissed. Wal-Mart have no intrinsic interest in their customers. Indeed, even CEOs of RFID supplier companies can shrug off similar suggestions with a laugh.6

If we proceed on the premise that sooner or later everything that exists will have a virtual badge attached to itself with information that can be machine-read, this raises much larger questions than the fear of private individuals being spied upon. It could be noted in passing that increasing automated information storage and retrieval can lead to increasing centralization of power, money and control in the hands of very few with an interest in upholding the political status quo - more on this below. Despite those larger issues, let's have a look at RFID's implications for personal information security.

Many RFID schemes have very leaky security. They transmit information unencrypted via radio frequencies.7 The information can not only be received by those devices which are meant to read them but also by 'rogue readers' operated by organised criminals or spooks. Public discussion about RFID mainly focuses on supply chain management. However, at the time of writing, the use of RFID is more common in keys, ID-cards and schemes such as the Oyster Card, where London commuters receive a smart card with RFID which gives them access to cheaper fares. Most Oyster Cards are registered with a central database run by Transport for London (TfL). This means that TfL has a record of journeys by individuals. On top of that the smart card chip inside the Oyster Card also records journeys. The cards themselves as well as the database infrastructure are potential points of abuse.

Privacy geeks are already putting aluminium foil around their London Oyster Card.8 A similar scheme, the Octopus Card, introduced in Hong Kong 10 years earlier has been extended towards a digital purse which could be used in grocery stores. It is no accident that such a scheme could be tested first in an 'efficient regime' as the whole world intends to become one.9 If newspaper reports are to be believed, the information trail left by Oyster Cards is already playing a role in divorce cases. Police are increasingly asking for Oyster Card records from TfL in criminal inquiries.10 In the UK, it seems, there is widespread agreement that the dangers of introducing a surveillance infrastructure such as CCTV are outweighed by the benefits of those systems.

The problem with relying on those systems is that they give a false sense of security. The number of web-pages about RFID hacks is myriad. There are open source tools working with conventional reader hardware such as RF Dump (http://www.rf-dump.org/) and RFIDIOt (http://rfidiot.org/). There are manuals about how to turn your mobile phone into a 'skimmer', a device to read magnetic stripe cards.11 There are academic papers about how to break very widely used RFID schemes (http://www.rfidanalysis.org/). The only reason why we don't hear more about RFID crime is that for criminals there is still much fertile ground in the exploitation of older and still more widespread technologies such as cheque accounts and credit cards.

Identity theft has already been described as the crime with the biggest growth potential. Supposedly 'secure' concepts for passports and ID cards include RFID capability which exposes unencrypted data contained on your passport or ID card, making these forms of identification readable from a distance. The new British biometric passport has already been hacked.12 The white hat hacker13 who exposed the flaw claims to have used equipment which cost no more than 200 dollars. A bit of Do-It-Yourself and you can copy the content of an Oyster Card or the biometric information on a new passport. While the authorities are busy telling us that these biometric technologies promote our safety, all the evidence is that it is the committed fraudster or terrorist who will travel with greater safety - while millions of ordinary people will be in line for more harassment, inconvenience and identity fraud.

Electronic Borders

Some people can enjoy their alienation more than others: there is a website for RFID freaks who get their tags implanted.14 Prof Kevin Warwick at Reading University had got his subliminal RFID tag already in 1998, an amazing scientific stunt I had the mixed pleasure of personally attending along with many other dumbstruck representatives of world media. It demonstrated the benefits of being greeted with 'good morning Prof Warwick' by a computer-generated voice on entering the building. This was not only another proof of the overheated attention economy in science but demonstrated the slim appeal of most Ubicomp propositions. I mean, who would really want to live in Mr. Gates' house? And of course there are other issues with RFID implants, besides their propensity to wander around under your skin. The infamous Mafia fraud attack15 on biometric identification implies the use of dismembered limbs and organs to hack secure systems, completely changing the meaning of the term 'brute force attack'16 in debates about security.

However, the real danger is the two-faced nature of the technology. RFID gives the holder of a key access to an area, but it also makes the presence of a person in that restricted area subject to monitoring. Thus, RFID can be used to control bodies in space. Companies and public institutions do it by issuing RFID keys. The technology is being applied already in prisoner probation schemes with a view to extending RFID tagging to asylum seekers. Whereas those RFID schemes are mandatory for the 'user', other schemes introduce the very same technologies with a promise of more convenience.17 As internet users know only too well, password management increasingly becomes a burden. Add to his bank cards, an NHS card, PIN numbers, etc., and the authentication quagmire expands. Now, the IT industry is about to gift us with a new product, called 'identity services'. For large corporations authentication and authorisation concerns increase exponentially regarding security issues both in real space access to buildings) and computer systems. It becomes praxis to outsource the management of identity and access codes within their institution to a security IT company.

For privileged individuals this means getting through the security gates of airports more quickly and moving through a 'seamless' environment of managed 'secure' identity. The same technology could also be used to monitor people who are lined up for deportation. Ironically, the frequent business flyer and the would-be 'immigrant' are both part of the 'avant-garde' of RFID deployment. Willingly or not, they are subjected to a new regime where the electronic world holds significant sway over the real world. As spaces are structured by informational layers, access codes increasingly regulate our ability to move or to obtain goods and services. The ordinary individual has a weakening position in this technological armament race. Those who feel this zost strongly are immigrants or generally people 'sans papiers', whose mobility and security is suspended by lack of official documentation. In other words, without some plastic with biometric information stored and checked via RFID, a person soon will not really exist. Rather than only being an encroachment on one's privacy, RFID can become an issue of simple biopolitics - meaning survival.

Avoiding Totalizing Vision18

However, when it comes to topics such as surveillance regimes a writer's imagination is often inclined to jump ahead of developments on the ground. Interestingly, proponents and opponents of this or that new technology will often make the same mistake of buying too much into the propaganda about the technology. How many times have we heard praises of the benefits inherent to a technology which is in fact still very experimental? Some of the scenarios to sell new technologies to the public are so overused that they expose themselves as past futures.19 In a similar way, the critique of the control society is based on assumptions about totalitarian tendencies immanent to a technology leaping far ahead of the actual state of deployment.20 In fact, those things rarely ever work as well as advertised.21 If the vision is too totalizing, critique fails to hit the spot where it could actually have any impact.

In order to prevent this type of shadow boxing I would like to expand the scope of this article. Let's briefly look at the history of technology and its social critique. How and why do new technologies come into existence? What are the reasons for their being and what are the unintended consequences? Can we find certain structures in the relationship between society and technology? When it comes to those 'structures', language is a minefield22 that needs clearing. But the best effort of purification will run into recursive loops. Therefore my methodological-ideological disclaimer: there is no objectivity, we always need to consider the multiplied contingencies of the subject of inquiry and of ourselves as people, as subjects of history. This radical relativity is not to be mixed up with dis-engaged Relativism. The forces that shape the evolution of society and technology are observable and concrete.

Technology and Social Relationships

Since Marx we know that new technologies are not neutral but expressions of social relationships. The factory owner leverages new machinery against the human workforce. Scientific management and Fordism have brought this to perfection, shaping a society which consists of workers, who perform very simple repetitive tasks dictated by a machine, the capitalist owner class and a new intermediate class of scientists, engineers and other types of specialist labour necessary to invent, implement and maintain the new systems of production. Fordism was and still is the leading industrial paradigm. Technology embodies social relationships. The particular types of technology we have are the legacy of 250 years of capitalism and industrialism. A key aspect of this development of technology is a quantitative one: it is driven by an insatiable hunger for numbers. As price dictates measure, the 'need' for quantification is always growing and we have become very efficient in making things more measurable.

This obsession with numbers made the invention of the computer almost a necessity. WWII-era increases in funding for scientific, military and industrial purposes accelerated the process of computational development, driven by the need for automated information key to all these areas. Managing large top-down bureaucratic organisations through central IT infrastructures such as data bases - the principles of Fordism transferred into a machine - is a legacy still at work today, for example in systems such as MS Office. The second world war created a climate that 'inspired' the rapid prototyping of new technologies. A 'science' probably most influential in this regard is operational analysis: statistical methods of evaluating the effect of bombing campaigns or artillery barrages. Operational analysis became an important part of management theory after the war. Such organisational technologies gave an operational and material boost to digital rationalisation.

The second world war engaged a quantitatively more intense movement of people, goods and weapons than ever previously in the industrial era. There were lessons to be learned from this by the inter-disciplinary teams of scientists, engineers, military planners and commanders in the United States, the most advanced industrial society of the time. The links between people and equipment tied together through an electronic communication infrastructure inspired cybernetic theory which imagined society as systems of command and control. It was recognized that the rapid progress in many scientific areas during the war was achieved as a result of research spend and restructuring in techno-scientific workplaces. With the Cold War as a pretext, government funded research budgets remained high. Techno-scientific invention became organised as a methodically structured venture funded by the state and carried out in sometimes private research labs, sometimes public universities - a system which by the 1950s led to the critique of the military-industrial complex with its secrecy and institutional paranoia. Key elements of today's ICT infrastructure were invented or initiated in the period of the early to late 1960s, from the operating system Unix to the internet. The system of co-ordinated esearch involving government and big business was copied by many countries and led to the emergence of Big Science or technoscience.

Augmented Reality or Embodied Virtuality

Practically from the start the computer acquired an imaginary symbolic significance that owed little to the actual status of the technology. Alan Turing thought that computers could successfully pass an intelligent test which relied on the successful simulation of a human being in written communication. Von Neumann thought about self-replicating machines which, at long last, would produce a connectionist understanding of the brain and evolve new disciplines such as Artificial Life. Vannevar Bush and J.C.R. Licklider saw possibilities of using computers as universal libraries.23 The models of information and cybernetic theory enabled information to be conceived as a context-free entity existing independently of its material carrier. In the long run, this led to a technoscientific re-evaluation of what it means to be human, what it means to be alive. The computer was fetishised as an artificial intelligence, a vision soon to be ridiculed but nevertheless supported with billions of research dollars over decades. During the 1980s, Reagan's Star Wars project prompted another technology boost, while 'personal computing' started to happen. Now things which had existed on paper only, such as neural networks, could be simulated on home PCs. All those developments together led to a confusion or mixing up of image and reality. Sherry Turkle speaks of a 'walk through the looking glass'. Technoscience did no longer create 'models' or 'images' of reality but took its models as reality or life itself. For technoscience, life is essentially information replicating itself, consciousness a distributed computer system and the universe an immensely complex parallel computer. This is not the stuff of science fiction but the working assumption for research centres such as MIT's centre for bits and atoms (http://cba.mit.edu/) where Ubicomp and RFID are being pushed forward.

The new paradigm of 'bottom-up' thinking in a networked world began to raise its many heads in the 1980s. In this era the concept of 'ubiquitous computing', Ubicomp for short, was proposed by Mark Weiser at Xerox Parc. His idea is a sort of reversed version of immersive virtual reality, where people can experience a 3D world simulated by a computer. Instead, computers should become part of the world, so that reality is 'augmented' by an informational layer. Computers, rather than being highly visible 'objects', should become embedded in the environment, which people would only consciously use as needed but otherwise could ignore. There is a certain humanism to these ideas. Weiser wanted to use those possibilities to create a 'calm technology' that worked in the background without dominating our lives.

Ubicomp has landed

Unfortunately, maybe, we are not getting this type of Ubicomp. Maybe there was a point in time when Ubicomp could be imagined as one coherent technology. However, today we see Ubicomp coming from all directions and in all shapes. Chips have already pervaded our life-world in cars, mobiles, keys and cards. All sorts of objects have already become virtualized for various reasons. What saves us from the embrace of the complete surveillance society is that those systems have not yet grown together for various reasons, be they ones of technical implementation or public concern. The ruling paradigm, however, demands economic growth at any cost, which makes Ubicomp feel like an alien invasion pushed down the consumer's throat by a blue-faced Intel Men. The main forces behind technological progress remain steadfastly in place - the military, the needs of capital for increased efficiency, rationalisation and quantifiability of everything. This variant of progress has also generated a huge leap in 'data trash', i.e. the entropy of the surveillance trail of data kept about everything and everyone, fed by the 'natural' growth in surveillance and control techniques.

However, there have also been some substantial changes made possible through the individualisation of ownership of the forces of production and new ways of working collaboratively and managing 'intellectual property' in a commons. That means that the threat of more commodity fetishism and reification is countered, to some degree, by the democratisation of access to means of communication.

Socializing Technologies

As Bruce Sterling proposes in his pamphlet Shaping Things, such a democratisation of the shaping of our techno-social future is already under way. The internet has unleashed the collective mind power of the multitude. In the future the whole world might act in ways similar to communities such as slashdot.org.24 The character of 'things' or objects would fundamentally change, Sterling claims, because rather than leading isolated and separated existences, things would be linked to the social world in various ways.

"It's mentally easier to divide humans and objects than to understand them as a comprehensive and interdependent system: people are alive, objects are inert, people can think, objects just lie there. But this taxonomical division blinds us to the ways and means by which objects do, change, and it obscures the areas of intervention where design can reshape things. Effective intervention takes place not in the human, not in the object, but in the realm of the techno-social". (Sterling 2005, pages 8-9)

Not completely unlike what Bruno Latour says about the relationship between humans and non-humans,25 Sterling is convinced that the relationship we have with objects defines the phase of techno-culture we are going through. As Fordism made products for consumers, we are now in the era of gizmos owned by end-users, which prepares us for the next step, the era of SPIMES.

"SPIMES are manufactured objects whose informational support is so overwhelmingly extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system. SPIMES begin and end as data. [...] Eminently data-mineable, SPIMES are the protagonists of a historical process".26 (Sterling 2005, 11)

According to Sterling the era of SPIMES began with RFID, in 2004, when the USDoD demanded that its suppliers use RFID. Only through RFID tags can objects become represented through the trail of information and impart better criteria for certainty to speculation about them. The spread of SPIMES, in this vision, would eventually save the world by triggering a new type of production in a post-Fordist paradigm. By tying together the virtual and the real aspects of the same objects, we would have to consider their whole life-span and interaction with the social on all layers. This would force us to recognize that the wasteful regime which we have now cannot continue. SPIMES, because they are "information melded with sustainability", are "little metahistory generators" which continually allow the world to re-invent itself.

Besides some slippage into too much proselytising for more efficient use of technology (for instance when he fantasizes about 3D printers), Sterling seems to be quite fascinated by the idea of having an interface for everything. "We need to invent a general-purpose cultural interface to time" (p. 42) and "... I need an interface for capitalism itself" (p. 94), which is, by the way, the only time Sterling uses the 'dirty c word'. Maybe as an American, it is difficult for him to acknowledge that his whole way of thinking is a modernisation of Marxism without calling it that, with a bit of McLuhan mixed in. Like Marx, Sterling thinks that the base and superstructure are not separated but intricately linked - his 'techno-social' - and that the relationships of the forces of production (and consumption, we might add) determine history. This is not a teleological view , as the eventual outcome remains open, but in the sense that the dynamics that characterizes 'progress' (or at least some type of development, a sequence of events in time) are over-determined by the forces of production. His 'sequence', from artefact to product, to Gizmo, SPIME and eventually biots is a classically modern model of one era - defined by its modes of production and consumption, i.e. political economy - following another, whereby the old does not go away but is absorbed and kept within the new paradigm. He even has nice graphs to make this point.27

The Wranglers

As Sterling rightly recognizes in his crypto-Marxist theory (and as Marx did before him)28 highly industrialized societies have all produced their own versions of a type of human being known as geeks, nerds, anoraks, tinkerers, experimentalists, hackers . . . and the internet has opened the floodgates of communication between them. On the net it is easy to find an expert or a community of experts on everything. This 'collective intelligence' has frightened the platinum out of corporate PR's dentistry. Consumers or users are analysing products, the conduct of corporations in the countries where they produce, the usefulness and reliability of documentation and just about any aspect of a 'commodity' which used to be under the full informational control of the manufacturer. As customers became 'users', instead of complaints they feed back valuable debugging information to companies.

Things Wrangled

As crowds of wranglers wrangle informational control from manufacturers, PR departments and spin doctors, they eventually do not only exert their influence in the informational sphere but also change the shape of things to come. As communities get involved, getting their hands dirty with bending the use of manufactured goods to their needs, the course of technological development changes too. As 'the street' finds its own use for things, information technologies of military origins are turned into socialized, pacified beings. Computers, the internet, wireless and mobile technologies eventually all go down that route, being wrangled away, or liberated from capitalist control, by FLOSS developers and WiFi community network activists.29 Products of the complexity of a jet engine are now produced by free-wheeling communities of developers who reinvent the future in their spare time. What was the exclusive domain of large industrial conglomerates becomes opened up to collaborative inquiry with Open Source. While older layers largely continue as they did, this happens at least in the technologically most advanced sectors where a reconfiguration of the relationship of the forces of productions is under way. What remains to be seen is if the principles governing open source software development can really be successfully transferred to other areas in society.30

Language is the Glue

An interesting observation, worthy of a short parenthesis, is the fact that language31 plays such an important role in the creation of the internet of things. RFID is based on an open standard enabling businesses to integrate their processes.32 For the layers of the physical object and the information sphere to grow together, 'language' is needed. Physical Markup Language (PML) is only one of a range of Markup Languages aimed at describing the physical world, products, sensory data
(http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/software/netcdf/software.html) or even financial products (http://www.fpml.org/services/index.html). Based on the meta-language XML, those semantic web applications cover 'the real' with webs of hierarchies, categories and relations. This 'logical layer'33 introduced by the computer spreads with the help of radio waves from computer to the world and back. From Product Markup Language to Transducer Markup Language and even Human Markup Language34 every thing and every body is getting tagged.

The XML based Markup schemes make us aware that RFID is indeed part of a bigger picture. A whole system needs to be in place to make sense of the remotely transmitted IDs, from tag production, via a numbering and naming schemes that constitute almost another internet in their complexity, to the physical infrastructure of readers, network connections, databases and forklifts. The lifespan of a tag and its readability decide which further options are open beyond the point of sale. The object can be tracked and identified till it ends up on an electronic scrapheap. On one hand the 'internet of things' (including living things such as plants, animals, humans?) has the potential to concentrate ever more power in the hands of the ruling classes and technocracies. On the other hand the history trail which the object leaves on the worlds' data banks is increasingly opened up to collective interrogation. For Bruce Sterling, this is the source of a paradigm shift for a culture that deals differently with technology. But it is also the more cautious academics who are talking about 'shifting socio-technical arrangements'. 35 Ubicomp and RFID fit perfectly with the priorities of certain directions in science studies which base their epistemology on networks of relations rather than fixed entities and binary oppositions.36

The Praxis of Art and Technology

For a number of decades now we have seen artists engaging with technical artefacts and systems. Artists working in this area have responded to rationalisation and productivism by providing visions of utopian freedoms achieved through using electronic media and networks.37 Other artists have articulated a critique of the one-dimensionality of the technocratic society and have warned about Orwellian sides of the technology. The encroachment of echnology into every aspect of our lives does not only raise luddite rage and romanticised resistance to modernity, but also the inside critique of the mole: the parasitic and opportunistic exploitation of holes in the system38 and resistance in a sort of survivalist DIY spirit. One of the first theorists of this new type of art which engaged with 'systems', Jack Burnham, claimed that artists' role was to make themselves redundant as artists by intervening into those decisions which shape our techno-social future.39 The roots of his ideas can be traced back to the avant-garde of high-modernity and in particular socialist writers such as Brecht, Benjamin and later Enzensberger. Not 'everybody is an artist' but a truly just society can only be one where everybody potentially can be an artist and where the people can truly express themselves and the class structure of elite and 'the masses' is abolished. Artists who work in this direction engage with the social relationships embodied in technology, instead of dealing with aesthetics and formal innovation only. They make us aware that things are not merely dead objects, but how they relate to the social world, and how they facilitate certain relationships (of dominance, usually). They are bringing technology out of the Cold War closet, where it was a matter for technocrats and engineers only40 and let us have insights into its suppressed collective imaginary. The raising of awareness is a first step towards creating new and more egalitarian models of social production to be embodied in current and future technologies.

Current artistic practice with new technologies also shares an interesting overlap with science studies and critical theory. As artists engage with the techno-social, and not simply technology, the theoretical texts of Marcuse, Latour, Haraway, Sterling et al, are being referenced. As I say elsewhere, artists working with technology do science studies' dirty work.41 Latour, for instance, repeatedly stresses the links and networks of relationships between humans and non-humans; artists investigate and create such links on a practical and concrete level. Each work can be seen as an experimental set-up designed to verify particular aspects of such systemic relationships - perhaps to use 'verify' not in a strictly scientific sense of experiment and evaluation but at least to indicate a practical and concrete instantiation of particular sets of relationships between humans and objects in space and time. Contrary to the designers Sterling talks to in his pamphlet, artists in this process do not need to work under a productivist or utilitarian agenda, but can afford to be critical, negative, nihilistic or ironic. In the following section I will present some recent approaches in this regard.

The Tagged exhibition

The artists participating in the Tagged exhibition were sent a small questionnaire which asked them about their work and their thoughts about RFID and the development of techno-culture. One common thread present in their answers is that their engagement with RFID technology is critical, whereby only the intensity and the flavour of the critique varies, from playful and poetic to outspoken and more aggressively negative.

iTag by Louis-Philippe Demers and Philippe Jean is intended to be an "ironic statement about all kinds of electronic 'pollution'". The project involves creating a portable device that reads RFID tags of products in a supermarket and generates ambient Muzak.42 Louis-Philippe Demers says he wants to "fight fire with fire". As the participant in this work walks through a store with a device reading ID tags, different Muzak gets played back by the handheld device. The intention is not to create an aesthetically uplifting experience but on the contrary, the artist would happily take into account if people felt "a certain discomfort from the tags that are 'watching you'".

Louis-Philippe Demers is strongly critical of the increase in surveillance technologies driven by "neo-liberalist agendas of better and faster product delivery". He attacks "myths spread by security agencies" and "the propaganda of a better technological world". He hopes to be able to challenge people's perceptions by making them aware of the 'electro-smog' surrounding them. But, as Demers has found out, item level tagging in retail stores is not (yet) as widespread as assumed. So, for the nightmarish walk through the shopping mall to become true, the artists will probably have to collaborate with a supermarket.

Origins and Lemons by Mute-Dialogue (Yasser Rashid and Yara El-Sherbini) also engages with objects, but with objects from the more informal economy of markets in London's East End. In the gallery space they will arrange objects sourced from markets like a market stall. By passing objects over the reader, exhibition visitors are presented an audiovisual narration about the history and context of the objects. Like the previous artists, they want to create awareness about a technology "that is seeping into everyday life almost unnoticed." By understanding how this technology is framed in society they hope to wrangle some new meanings from it.

The artists try to avoid being too placative and use a more suggestive aesthetic language exploring "the origin, local and global, of objects" which they hope to relate to " the complex issues related to the tracking of movements and people." It remains to be seen if Origins and Lemons will be able to let us see more than just the obvious and will, as the artists hope, "tap into questions such as how does the tracking of people deemed as the most risk to society, such as asylum seekers, effect our perception of these people."

boredomresearch are presenting a research and development project, RealSnailMail. The installation version of the project will be shown in 2007/08 while at Space Media Arts the results of the r&d process will be exhibited. (The material will also be made available here: http://www.RealSnailMail.net)

The artists, who in their other work engage with Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life metaphors and explore 'online ecologies', are interested in using "RFID tags to superimpose a narrative onto inanimate objects in a way that explored our tendency to endow objects with meaning and sentiment". Their first idea was to suggest "the possibility of inserting implantable RFID chips into oysters for them to be turned into pearls." But they encountered a variety of problems with this idea and switched to water snails.

Taking the phrase 'snail mail' - used by Internet people to describe old fashioned postal services - literal, real snails are used to transport messages. Via a 'Real Snail Mail' website users can write an email which "travels at the speed of light" to the server where it is entered into a queue. Using RFID the messages are then transmitted to snails which inhabit a little pond. If a snail makes it to the other end of the pond where a reader is installed it's message gets picked up and becomes an email message again, and will eventually be delivered. A high number of messages can be expected to get lost - which is called 'packet loss' in internet tech-language. The artists present a playful critique of what they claim is our culture's 'obsession with immediacy'.

"As artists we are more interested in time. We make things that occupy time, that compute in time, that change over time. To experience these things you have to sacrifice time. Time that could have been spent achieving, pursuing or succeeding in some other preoccupation."

While most people will be mystified about RFID technology anyway, boredomresearch use this element of mystification in such a way that false but imaginative beliefs are encouraged. Technology's promise of increased efficiency and acceleration is turned up-side down with the RealSnailMail project.

Arphield recordings by Paula Roush (http://odeo.com/channel/85358/view) is a
reminder that sound art projects have a very positive track record in often being the first to realize the suppressed social imaginary of new technologies. Asking people to come to a certain tube station at a certain time and scanning their Oyster cards for 30 seconds each as well as playing back recorded Oyster card beeps, she aims at creating an "endless symphony of sound surveillance and compliance".

Roush refers to the practice of "sousveillance and a more general understanding of the arphid surveillance/equiveillance of public space and transport." To explain what she means by 'sousveillance' she refers to the work of Steve Mann who has been walking around wearing a live CCTV camera for years.43 In her opinion "the emerging field of personal sousveillance - the capture, processing, storage, retrieval, and transmission of an activity from the perspective of a participant in the activity" has been too strongly focused on the visual. At the Tagged exhibition she will present arphield sound recordings and invite people to join her for a performance at a nearby tube station, probably
Bethnal Green tube.

Having 'performed' the project already a few times, Roush discovered that "people were already engaging in impromptu sound performances. My documentation led me to discern varied patterns and even participatory scores, with mass arphid soundscapes punctuated by silences, glitches and cracks in the system, all warped up in a circadian rhythm of work-rush hours".

(The project remains open to contributions for people to download and upload their own 'arphield recordings' by opening an account at the odeo.com website.)

The SWAMPOId project by evoLhypergrapHyCx is a development of the Antisystemic Library, adding RFID functionality to the Distributed Library Project (DLP) at a Space Media Arts Gallery node. Also involved is the University of Openess Library where the DLP has been developed in Limehouse. The Distributed Library Project (http://dlp.theps.net) is based on a website where people can enter books which they are willing to lend. They also enter information about their physical location. Every borrower of books is potentially lender too and people can find out about other people with similar interests who live in their proximity. In my own perception, the DLP implementation in the UK was also influenced by ideas about open and collaborative mapping and the sharing of knowledge.44 For the Space exhibition the Antisystemic Library will experiment with the usage of RFID tags in their system. Unlike the other artists, evoLhypergrapHyCx has not answered the questions in my small questionnaire one by one, but has written a sharp manifesto about the Sane White Adult Male Propertied Official Identity (SWAMPOID):

"'We' are entering a period when human transactions are being industrialised, even the industrialisation of identity itself. What television did for the imagination, RFID can do for identity." (evoLhypergrapHyCx, 2006. SWAMPOID. The full manifesto can be found at http://uo.dczn.net/index.php/SWAMPOID).

It seems that a strong commonality between the artists is that they see their task in raising awareness. As society is sleepwalking into another technological paradigm change artists hope to raise a discussion by engaging the public with their RFID artworks. Some of the participating artists hope that the technology can also be 'reclaimed' in a certain sense, that artists can think up uses which were not intended by the manufacturer and thereby create new imaginative spaces. Mute-Dialogue for instance stress that this type of open engagement is hardly possible in the commercial and creative industries. According to them artists can "inform new ways of thinking" about existing technologies and offer "interactions and experiences that are unique." Mute-Dialogue think that RFID - rather than just being utilized for the tracking of commercial products - could also be thought of "as social networking tool" or be used for interactive dance performances. But not all the artists share this optimism about an 'alternative use of technology'. Louis-Philippe Demers challenges the notion that artists somehow magically bring 'difference', and evoLhypergrapHyCx openly confronted the 'aestheticisation of politics' as a 'staple of fascist ideology' in an earlier version of the SWAMPOID manifesto.

RFID (proposed to be pronounced 'arphid') may be the technology, but the social practice of 'tagging' and its implications are the real theme of the exhibition. It needs to be recognized that there is not one coherent field of media art today but works and approaches coming from very different backgrounds, some being informed by debates about art and science whereas others are more openly politically motivated. Although the visual field tends to be very predominant, sound art has created its own history of engaging with (anti)social technologies. The fact that different approaches are brought to the theme is in itself important and should help to highlight what contemporary praxis in art and technology really is about - not the technologies as such (as ill-informed critiques of those practices claim) but the various two-way links between the social and the technological, between things and humans.

As this text is written weeks before the exhibition this would appear to impede making any qualitative statement. Although art utilizing new technologies often appears to be strongly concept driven, a good exhibition still works through the senses and creates unintended consequences in the mind of the 'reader' of a work. In this spirit I hope to have given some context to the works without imposing any preconceived meanings.


Richard Barbrook, 2006. The Class of the New. London: Mute Print on Demand publication.

Jack Burnham, 2005. "Systems Esthetics". (First published in Artforum, September 1968) in Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970. Donna De Salvo,
edt. London: Tate Publishing.

Paul N. Edwards, 1996. Closed Worlds, Computers And The Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Boston and London: MIT Press.

Anne Galloway, 2003. Resonances and Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City (draft). [online]. Available from:
http://www.purselipsquarejaw.org/mobile/cult_studies_draft.html, last accessed August 2006.

N. Katherine Hayles, 1999. How we became posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Bruno Latour, 1999. Pandora's Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Boston and London: Harvard University Press.

Armin Medosch, 2006a. 'Meshing in the Future - the Free Configuration of Everybody and Everything with Hive Networks' in Media Mutandis, a Node.London Reader. Marina Vishmidt, edt.. London: Node.London.

Armin Medosch, 2006b. 'Waves - Introduction'. in Electromagnetic Waves as Material and Medium for Art. Exhibition Catalogue, Armin Medosch and Rasa
Smite, edts. Riga: RIXC.

Felix Stalder, 2006. 'On the Differences between Open Source and Open Culture'. In: Media Mutandis, a Node.London Reader. Marina Vishmidt, edt.. London: Node.London.

Bruce Sterling, 2005. Shaping Things. Boston: MIT Press.

Sherry Turkle, 1995. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. Paperback Edition 1997 London: Phoenix Paperback.

Paul Virilio, 1994. The Vision Machine. Translated by Julie Rose. London: BFI Publishing.

1 cf. Bruce Sterling, 2005. Shaping Things.
Boston: MIT Press
2 Distances vary between a few centimeters and
10 meters and more, depending on antenna design
and which radio frequency is being used
3 RFID relies on an information infrastructure
almost like another internet; for more
information see the Automated ID webpages -
available online from:
http://xml.coverpages.org/pml-ons.html, last
accessed August 2006.
4 "Passive RFID tags have no internal power
supply. The minute electrical current induced in
the antenna by the incoming radio frequency
signal provides just enough power for the CMOS
integrated circuit (IC) in the tag to power up
and transmit a response. Most passive tags signal
by backscattering the carrier signal from the
reader". Wikipedia 2006 [online] Available from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID last accessed
August 30 2006.
5 A neo-liberal argument which claims that
first capitalists need to create wealth so that
it can 'trickle down' to the masses.
6 "In the PR world the war is won or lost by
how things are branded. The debate over RFID is
no different. Katherine has cleverly referred to
RFID tags as spychips. Who wouldn't be opposed to
"spychips?" I prefer the term: consumer-value
tags. This is a much more accurate term, not only
because the RFID won't enable spying, but more
importantly because it enables significant
consumer value. [...] Perhaps I should mention
that I am a card-carrying consumer value tag
user. I have lots of CVT's on me. My cell phone.
My RFID key to my office building. My Metro Card
to ride on the subway. My Mobil speed pass. By
the way, if anyone has a rogue scanner, feel free
to scan me and extract any info you need". Rob
Atkinson, 2006. 'RFID: There's Nothing to Fear
Except Fear Itself': Opening Remarks at the 16th
Annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference
May 4, 2006, Washington, DC. Available online
last accessed August 2006.
7 On top of that, many schemes us the ISM band
(Industrial, Scientific and Medical) a licence
exempt part of the radio spectrum which can be
used by anyone without special permission. It is
therefore not illegal to possess hardware which
operates in that spectrum.
8 Anonymous, 2006. 'Foiling the Oyster Card'
[online] Available from
oyster_card.html, last accessed August 2006.
9 'Efficient regimes' are here referring to non-
democratic societies exemplified by the regimes
of city states such as Hong Kong and Singapore
which endorse capitalism but not liberal
10 The Guardian, Monday March 13, 2006, 'Oyster
Data Use Rises in Crime Clampdown'. Available
online from:
,00.html, last accessed August 2006.
11 Luis Padilla Visdómine, 2006. 'Turning Your
Mobile Into a Magnetic Stripe Reader'. [online]
Available from
ndtrack.html, last accessed August 2006.
12 The Guardian, August 7 2006. 'Hackers crack
new biometric passports'. [online] Available
8751,00.html, last accessed August 2006.
13 White hat hackers are security experts
working for companies who make it their business
to expose flaws and offer solutions, as opposed
to 'black hats' who work completely in secrecy.
14 'Just Got My Implants', from the "Tagged"
RFID implant forums. Online forum posting.
Available from
last accessed August 2006.
15 Mafia Fraud Attack is a type of man-in-the-
middle attack against secure systems using
cryptography. For more information see for
instance: http://www.answers.com/topic/man-in-the-
16 In IT security a 'brute force attack' is an
attempt at breaking a password by simply
calculating all possible permutations of
17 What is really 'convenient in this regard is
that the industry sells 'solutions' for problems
which it has created itself.
18 cf Paul Virilio, 1994. The Vision Machine.
19 'Past futures' are ideas from the past about
technological futures which have not and will not
materialize but still have an influence on our
20 Enemies will fear consequences which are as
virtual as the technology itself. Critics in the
Foucalt-Deleuze line of critique of the society
of control are often those who buy most
wholeheartedly into a technological 'vision'
which is, fortunately, still far away from
becoming a reality.
21 Trials with CCTV and face recognition have
been running for years in Newham, east London.
Despite not identifying a single criminal the
trial has been expanded for a another period.
22 As indeed the use of the word 'structure'
implies a structuralist or post-structuralist
position, which I actually do not share. I use
the word in its everyday meaning.
23 This entire paragraph is informed by critical
readings of AI, cybernetics and information
theory by authors such as Sherry Turkle (1995)
and N.Katherine Hayles (1999), in particular the
notion that information becomes context free as a
precondition for it to become fetishized. This
enables technoscience to create an image of the
world based on its own ontological assumptions ,
i.e. the universe as a hugely complex parallel
computer. It is easy to see the 'cultural
fallacy' at work in those assumptions. Computers,
the leading technology of our times, are used to
explain the world. A couple of centuries ago the
universe was running like a 'clockwork'.
24 slashdot.org, is a community site for
computer geeks which offers extensive commenting
and rating functions. Every posting on the site
is followed by a huge trail of analysis and
comment by readers, comments which are also rated
by the community according to their accuracy or
relevancy, thereby creating a very effective
system of harnessing the expertise of a large
25 According to Latour the categorical
separation between subject and object which we
have inherited from early Greek philosophy is a
deeply flawed concept. He proposes instead a
different model which is based on transitions
between things (non-humans) and the social world
(humans) thereby abolishing the subject-object
dichotomy. cf. Latour 1999.
26 Interestingly, according to this 'vision'
things, and not humans are 'the protagonists of
a historical process'. The agency which is
accorded to products is denied humans.
Technoscientific progress phases out ordinary
people as a significant factor in shaping history
whereas it privileges a new digital elite.
Sterling shares this viewpoint with many techno-
visionaries of the late 20th and early 21st
century. Many thanks to Marina Vishmidt for
emphasising this aspect.
27 cf. The Human Engagement With Objects. Figure
2, page 51, and The Mirrored S-Curve of
Technological Adaptation. Figure 3, page 59,
design by Lorraine Wild in Sterling (2005).
28 cf. Richard Barbrook's 2006 Class of the New.
29 Even Ubicomp now is opened up to experiments
through projects such as HIVE Networks. cf
Medosch 2006a.
30 Some writers have put forward good reasons
for doubts that 'open source principles' can be
so easily transferred to other areas, one major
reason being that bits are more easily
reproducible than atoms. cf. Felix Stalder 2006
31 Language is not only the glue but also a
suitable point of intervention. Artists such as
Wilfred Hou Je Bek have playfully engaged with
marking up taxonomies or folksonomies of places.
Tagging or annotating places, and creating
community-based maps was the dernier cri of net
art app. 2003. Meanwhile annotating places and
inventing folksonomies has become a new mass
culture on the net with Google Maps, Del.ici.us
and Flickr.
32 "The Auto-ID Center's vision is to
revolutionise the way we make, buy, and sell
products by merging bits (computers) and atoms
(humans) together for optimal mutual
communication. Everything will be connected in a
dynamic, automated supply chain that joins
businesses and consumers together to benefit
global commerce and the environment. The Auto-ID
Center opened at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, USA in October 1999; a second lab
opened at Cambridge University, UK in 2000. The
Center is developing a standard system to
identify objects using RFID [Radio Frequency
Identification]. RFID tags are built into objects
like food, clothes, drugs or auto-parts, and
read' by devices in the environment, e.g., in
shelves, floors, doors... The Center has over 30
sponsors including Procter & Gamble, Gillette,
International Paper, Sun Microsystems, Philip
Morris Group, USPS, Phillips, Unilever, Wal-Mart
and Tesco...Field Testing started October 2001;
prototype hardware will be tested 2002.
Specifications and business cases could be
published 2003. Commercial availability is not
likely until 2004-5 earliest". ... Auto-ID Center
Research overview. Available from:
http://xml.coverpages.org/pml-ons.html, last
accessed August 2006
33 The tendency of the 'logical layer' to
dominate the world could easily be referenced to
the privileged concept of the 'logos' in Western
34 Such a project does indeed exist. However, at
the time of writing the website
http://www.humanmarkup.org was not available.
35 "Put differently, any given ubiquitous
technology may be understood to comprise its
contexts of research, development, manufacture,
sale, implementation, use and eventual disposal.
Shifting socio-technical arrangements are
negotiated in particular space-times, and it
becomes impossible to reduce Ubicomp to discrete
(stable) objects of computation". Anne Galloway,
2003. 'Resonances and Everyday Life: Ubiquitous
Computing and the City (draft)', online article.
Available from:
es_draft.html, last accessed August 2006.
36 "Easily envisioned as part of Latour's (1999)
'proliferation of hybrids,' ubiquitous computing
is the archetypal hybrid and mobile technology at
work within a society of control. Latour (1999:
214) claims that we live and act as a 'collective
of humans and non-humans' in which an
increasingly large number of humans are mixed
with an increasingly large number of nonhumans,
to the point that, today, the whole planet is
engaged in the making of politics, law, and soon,
I suspect, morality ... The nasty problem we now
have to deal with is that, unfortunately, we do
not have a definition of politics that can answer
the specifications of this nonmodern history".
Galloway 2003, quoting Latour, 1999.
37 I am referring to early media art, including
satellite transmissions in the 1970s, by artists
such as Nam June Paik (Global Groove, 1974) and
Douglas Davies, 1977 cf. Medosch 2006b and Media
Art Net 2006 [online] Available from
minutes/ last accessed August 30 2006.
38 A good example for a 'parasitic' and highly
ironic strategy was Heath Bunting's project
'Vunerability' where he used electronic tags to
create false alarms on entering a store, not when
leaving it. cf Irational.org 1996 - 2006 [online]
Available from
ml last accessed August 30 2006. An echo of this
type of work can be found in Paula Roush's
project for the Tagged exhibition, Arphield
Recordings, where she asks people to play back
the beep from Oyster Card-reading machines on
London tube stations (see further down in this
39 cf. Burnham 1968/2005.
40 This is not just a thing of the past. A
recent CNNarticle: "Scientists at the GE
complex, a landscaped, gated campus of
laboratories and offices spread out over 525
acres and home to 1,900 scientists and staff, and
others in the industry hope to use various
technologies to reduce false alarms, cut manpower
used on mundane tasks and give first-responders
better tools to assess threats. The country's
growing security needs also provide an
opportunity to boost business. [...] Since 2002,
GE has spent $4 billion buying smaller businesses
to take a bigger share of the $160 billion global
security industry, a market that includes
everything from building security to narcotics
detection. The company expects $2 billion in
revenue from its security businesses this year.
That should rise to $2.8 billion in 2009, said
Louis Parker, chief executive of GE's security
unit. [...] "Ever since the Department of
Homeland Security was put into place, our
business has gone up," said James McConnell of
Acoustech. The three-person company takes in
$500,000 in revenue a year". CNN, 2006, online
article. Available from:
ology.ap/index.html, last accessed August 2006.
Compare also Edwards, 1996. Closed Worlds.
41 In a forthcoming text about AmbientTV.NET. In
many ways, this article is a preview of the
longer piece on AmbientTV.NET.
42 The word Muzak has become synonymous with
'easy listening' music played in shopping malls.
It is also the trading name of Muzak Holdings
LLC, a US American company, founded in 1934.
43 'Sousveillance', in the words of Steve Mann,
is inverse surveillance, whereas 'equiveillance'
describes the balance between surveillance and
sousveillance. cf Steve Mann 2006 [online]
Available from http://wearcam.org/ last accessed
August 30 2006.
44 I was never an active participant but an
early subscriber (as user) to the DLP system; my
reflections derive from that experience and may
be more or less incidental to the project. In
2003 The University of Openess held a
Cartographic Congress. At about the same time the
Locative Media concept was developed at a
workshop in Latvia.

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Posted by jo at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2006

Living in a World of Smart Everyday Objects

Risk Evaluation of Pervasive Computing

A quote from Jürgen Bohn, Vlad Coroama, Marc Langheinrich, Friedemann Mattern, Michael Rohs Living in a World of Smart Everyday Objects – Social, Economic, and Ethical Implications. Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 763-786, October 2004.

Today’s technical infrastructures, such as the phone system, television, and electricity, are relatively easy to use, even for people with no special qualifications. This also entails the ability to detect malfunctions: for example, if you lift a telephone receiver and do not hear a dial tone, it is immediately evident that the phone (either the handset or the landline) is not working properly. However, this type of predictability of system behavior can no longer be taken for granted in an ambient-intelligence landscape, as systems are expected to function without users noticing their presence. This will make fault detection and diagnosis fundamentally difficult, especially for the layman (Estrin et al. 2002). Additionally, users might continue to rely on a failed service (e.g., an automated backup service or the self-diagnostics of a smart product) without noticing, thus increasing the damage done until the problem is finally discovered. [blogged by nicolas on pasta and vinegar]

Posted by jo at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2006

Smart Urban Intelligence [S.U.I.]


fictive service in the very near future

"Computerized surveillance" in the contemporary society is, regardless of the distinction of government and of corporation, essentially and inextricably linked with "services" or "convenience," and it takes the form of "comfort" within the logic of consumer society. S.U.I. is a caricature of the situation in the very near future. With a mixture of realness and fiction, it somewhat exaggeratingly indicates the situation, which is now occurring and has possibility to occur from now on, in connection with surveillance that explicitly or implicitly exists in our computerized consumer society.

It is a "fictive service in the very near future." Reading actual data in a real smartcard for a railway ticket, which is now very broadly used in Tokyo area, it displays the history in the card in the form of motion video and of visualized route map in real time. At the same time, the bot as "the agent of the service" automatically analyzes the history in the card, and speaks the result to the user.

Basically the bot speaks about the following things.

1. Card holder's "living place."
2. Card holder's most "favorite place" to visit, and the related intrusive recommendation.
3. Card holder's records of "returning home," of "staying out overnight" etc.
4. Card holder's very shortsighted assumed "profile."
5. Something not worth bothering about each station in the history.
6. "General information" about the card.


For the bot, the datum is the only real thing, and he analyzes, interprets and evaluates it with his arbitrary and biased view. As the simple "mock AI," the bot speaks about the actual data in the card, extremely shortsighted presumptions, fictive things, the real fact related to the card, and so on.

I hope people become more aware of the growing situation, that is "administration of individual body by the RFID technology," and of the problems it potentially contains through this work.

By Ryota Kimura [Related: The SWIPE Toolkit]

Now in CyberArts2006 exhibit at Ars Electronica 2006, 31. August - 8. October
O.K Centrum fur Gegenwartskunst, Linz. [via Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2006

Loca - Location Oriented Critical Arts


Grass-roots, Pervasive Surveillance

Loca is an artist-led interdisciplinary project on mobile media and surveillance. It forms part of an AHRB funded research programme exploring the shifting boundaries between art practice, the event and data systems. Loca is grass-roots, pervasive surveillance. A person walking through the city centre hears a beep on their phone and glances at the screen. Instead of an SMS alert they see a message reading: We are currently experiencing difficulties monitoring your position: please wave you network device in the air.

Loca is an exercise in everyday surveillance, tracking digital objects in physical space. What happens when it is easy for everyone to track everyone, when surveillance can be affected by consumer level technology within peer-to-peer networks without being routed through a central point?


The project foregrounds secondary characteristics of mobile communications, such as the ability to locate consumer mobile devices in real-time and near-real-time, and the kinds of peer-to-peer pervasive surveillance that is possible as a result. Loca explores the shifting nature of surveillance as it ceases to be the preserve of governmental or commercial bureaucracies.

Pervasive surveillance has the potential to be both sinister and positive, at the same time. The intent of Loca is to equip people to deal with the ambiguity and to make informed decisions about the networks that they populate.



On Sunday 13th August the newspapers were full of a story of 3 Palestinian-Americans facing terrorist charges for being caught in possession of 1000 cellphones, which the authorities suspected were to be used for surveillance or as bomb detonators. The following day San Jose Police Department seize and impound a cellphone wired up to a battery and hidden in a San Jose hotel lobby. Little did they know, but they had stumbled across a genuine case of DIY surveillance. This cellphone was running custom-made software by art group 'Loca' as a part of the ZeroOne festival and was a part of a surveillance network covering the downtown area.


In 'Loca: Set To Discoverable' at the ZeroOne festival the Loca art group were able to track and communicate with the residents of San Jose via their cellphone without their permission or knowledge, so long as they have a Bluetooth device set to discoverable. Over 7 days more than two thousand people had been detected more than half a million (500,000) times, enabling the team to build up a detailed picture of their movements. People were sent messages from a stranger called Sly with intimate knowledge of their movements, written in such a way as to leave them unsure if they had not unwittingly joined a social network called Loca. The messages drew inferences based on the 'urban semantics' of the places they had been: “You were in a flower shop and spent 30 minutes in the park; are you in love?” Over the course of the week the messages became gradually more sinister, the would-be friend mutating into stalker, 'coffee later?' changing to 'r u ignoring me?'. The aim of Loca: Set To Discoverable was to enable people to question the networks they populate, and to consider how the trail of digital identities people leave behind them can be used for good or ill.


Each Loca 'node' consisted of a cellphone running custom made software, plus an additional battery so that the nodes could run independently for up to 5 days. Some were installed in concrete casings on lampposts, street signs and walls. Others were put in black plastic boxes in hotels, cafes, venues, cinemas and restaurants. They were hidden in flower pots, underneath a chaise longue, in the foot of the podium used by the cinema ticket collector, buried in the earth by a popular bar terrace. The project aims to raise ethical questions, not to be an irritant or prank, and permissions were obtained where appropriate.


One node had been placed behind some plants in the lobby of the Sainte Claire hotel in downtown San Jose. Permission had been obtained from the hotel management to place it there, but it was found on the last day of the project by staff who had not been informed. The police were called, and on arrival found a plain black box containing a cellphone, positioned in a way inconsistent with someone leaving their personal cellphone to charge. The device was taken away as a suspicious object and 'booked in evidence'.

When the artists arrived at the hotel to collect the device later that day, Monday 14th August, the hotel duty manager informed them of what had happened. They were given the Crime Reference number and directions to the police station, and headed out to talk to San Jose Police Department. The duty sargeant told them that items booked in evidence are returned after a case has gone to court and that they would have to wait until they had been proven guilty or innocent to retrieve it.

[...]'As far we we were concerned, the police confiscating one of the nodes was as much a part of the project as us climbing ladders strapping nodes to street lights, or people engaging with the messages or receiving a print out of their movements at the exhibition stand. We set out to be fully transparent with the police, to see what their response to the project would be, and to document this at every stage.' - Loca

The only thing the artists forgot to mention was that the cellphone was continuing to scan while it was being held at the police station, providing Loca with surveillance data on people's movements at the station, whether they be officers, criminals or the innocent.

Loca is a group project by John Evans (UK/Finland), Drew Hemment (UK), Theo Humphries (UK), Mike Raento (Finland).

Posted by jo at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

Upgrade! New York: We Passion Power and Control


The Dark Desires of Art Under Surveillance

Upgrade! New York presents We Passion Power and Control : The Dark Desires of Art Under Surveillance :: Thursday, August 24th, 7:30pm :: Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st Street, New York City :: This time we'll attempt to take on the dark desires beyond the basic art / privacy / surveillance discourse. Through three projects exercising different modes of surveillance we will discuss artists jealousy of authoritative powers and the desire to posses these powers themselves.

in(security) - 31Down's Online Surveillance Drama This is a live online theater piece that uses surveillance cameras as a playing space for actors and audience members as you become part of a security team policing the streets of New York. devised and developed by: Ryan Holsopple and Mirit Tal.

Little Feet - Little Feet Bureau International brings privatization to government surveillance. Four dot-matrix printers comb internet traffic. Upon finding words that threatens a client nation, the machines use the intercepted "evidence" to draft letters accusing and questioning the offenders. Obsessed with uncovering secrets, the final product of the system is a culture of paranoia. As such, the installation stands with one little foot planted in hysterical paranoia and conspiracy theory and the other in denial and the claim "it can't happen to me". Developed by: David Nolen, Toshiaki Ozawa and Mushon Zer-Aviv.

Generative Social Networking® - Taking advantage of Bluetooth security flaws in cellphones, Generative Social Networking® unlocks the hidden potential of mobile contact lists to automatically connect people. GSN® is an artistic experiment in urban hacking instigated by Christian Croft and Andrew Schneider, a critical media partnership currently researching at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.


Ryan Holsopple, founder and director of 31 Down radio theater, has worked as an actor with directors: Richard Foreman, Pavol Liska, Tea Agalic and DJ Mendel, among others. He co-created the website Buskerdu.com with John Schimmel, a website that allows you to record and post your favorite subway buskers to the Web. Ryan is a graduate of the Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Mirit Tal is an Israeli media artist and a software engineer. Intrigued by the powers of technology on our life, her work deals with issues such as surveillance, paranoia, unconscious interaction and mind control. Soon after arriving to New York in 2004 she joined 31 Down and have since presented in venues such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Rhizome, Spark Festival 2006 and White Box/Performa 05.

David Nolen is an artist whose work incorporates both analog and digital processes and he enjoys playing at the blurry boundary between the intellectual rigor of code and the intuitive free play of the pencil. He now knows far too many programming languages for his own good though in a past life he studied film and curated an avant-garde music festival in Austin, Texas. Currently he’s writing his own software to analyze and animate his drawings. This project arose from his thesis work at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunication Program where he just received his masters.

Toshiaki Ozawa was born in Tokyo and has spent a great majority of his time ever since playing with light, shadow, emulsion and liquid-solutions. His work, screen based and otherwise, reflects this compulsively tactile approach to subject matter. He has collaborated on the work of many artists including Isaac Julien, Laurie Anderson, Leandro Katz, and Matthew Barney. As a cinematographer, he has photographed many films. One of them won the cinematography and best film awards at Sundance 2002. Another was reviewed by Roger Ebert in 2004 as "the worst film in the history of the [Cannes Film] festival. "Current projects include, 'Quixotic Unmeanings,' a robotic wire sculpture broadcasting Cervantes in semaphores, 'Pikadon Seoul,' a multimedia performance opposing the worldwide atomic arsenal, and 'Scar,' a slasher horror movie filmed in 3D.

Mushon Zer Aviv is an Israeli designer, a media-activist and a net artist. He is the co-founder of ShiftSpace (.org) – a new Open Source platform seeking to extend the current borders of the web and to allow the creation of public spaces within it. For that Mushon has recently won the Swiss Projekt Sitemapping new-media grant. Mushon is a new-media lecturer in the Shenkar college in Tel-Aviv and is the co-founder of Shual (.com) design studio. He has curated the BD4D Tel-Aviv and the Upgrade! Tel-Aviv New-Media events series. Mushon currently lives with his wife and cat in New York, studying for his masters degree in ITP, NYU's new-media program.

Christian Croft is a new media artist and interactive designer from Athens, GA currently doing research at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. He works both collaboratively and individually on projects that revolve around such themes as info glut, technological ritual, and recombinatory language. He has received grant funding from Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) at the Univ. of Georgia and was chosen to participate in The Kitchen 2003 Summer Institute. He has shown work at the Georgia Museum of Art, ICE, Athens Institute of Contemporary Art (ATHICA), Rhizome Artbase, AskTheRobot Festival, Sony Wonder Technology Lab, and the Bushwick Arts Project Festival. More of his work can be explored online at xncroft.com.

Andrew Schneider is a performer and video artist. As a founding member of the Chicago-based multimedia performance ensemble bigpicturegroup, he has just recently completed an artist-in-residence program at the University of Chicago where the group has been developing their latest work TRUE+FALSE. His work has also been seen at P.S.122 as well as part of the New York International Fringe festival.

All three projects have been developed at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.

Upgrade! is an international network of gatherings concerning art + tech + community.

About our partner: Eyebeam supports the creation, presentation and analysis of new forms of innovative cultural production. Founded in 1997, Eyebeam is dedicated to exposing broad and diverse audiences to new technologies and media arts, while simultaneously establishing and demonstrating new media as a significant genre.

Posted by jo at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

Fete Mobile


The Movable Feast Project

The Fete Mobile is a mobile public art installation involving a robotic blimp carrying a file server and surveillance equipment with which participants can interact through wireless devices. The project addresses pressing social/technological issues through metaphor and public performance. The project seeks to ignite debate around the value of a digital public realm in an era of increasing corporate and governmental control by projecting current aspects of media activism into a future scenario where the Internet is down, surveillance cameras are everywhere and advertising invades the public mind.

Deployed as flying interactive sculpture for the media art festivals ISEA 2006, the Movable Feast project centers around a 6 meter surveillance blimp, the flight and optics of which participants can control through their wireless devices. An onboard wireless local-file server allows the public to exchange media files, remotely view their surroundings from above via a video camera, and display text message on an LED panel mounted on blimp.

Posted by jo at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2006



A Neurocapital Service

Acclair--by Luther Thie and Eyal Fried--is a security and neuromarketing service that points to a new form of discrimination: Acclairism, a discrimination based on the individual’s bio-data and membership in an "acclaired" elite. Through Acclair, a company providing brain-testing services as part of an exclusive security clearance for air-travelers, we explore a situation wherein people freely accept a highly invasive, highly authoritative manipulation in return for financial, tangible rewards and an upgraded social status. We illustrate the financial and social benefits of such a system through its Neurocapital and Amnesty programs that offer alternatives to racial profiling.

Acclairian / Ac-clair-i-an Pronunciation: u’kle ree en *adjective (of service): Biometrically-evaluated; one who’s social status reflects his bio-data appraisal, requiring complete subservience to a biometric system and corporate values in return for financial and social rewards. *noun: a person advocating such a system. DERIVATIVES: *noun: acclairism Pronunciation: u’kler izum.

Let us assume that the state of crisis emerging today calling for invasive security systems, is here to stay, and the linking of brain, computer and data history is inevitable - how can we be protected from abuse that impairs or destroys our reputation, credit or worse? More importantly, do we want to be protected from it? If the terms are right, could we grow to like it? We use the contemporary airport setting as a relevant stage to manifest our system in. However, we endeavor to import the concept as well as the system to everyday, urban spaces, wherein the Acclair service can be as common and accessible as pulling money out of the ATM or taking a photo in an instant photo booth.

Part of Edgy Products at ISEA2006

Posted by jo at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2006

Upcoming workshop: @ Mediamatic Amsterdam


RFID and The Internet of Things

After a succesfull CrashCourse in May, Mediamatic now presents a second workshop on RFID and The Internet of Things :: 11, 12, 13 September 2006 :: Confirmed lecturers and trainers: Julian Bleecker (US), Timo Arnall (Norway) and Arie Altena (NL).

RFID allows for the unique identification of objects, and any kind of online data can be linked to these unique ID's. If RFID becomes an open web-based platform, and users can tag, share, and contribute content to the digital existence of their own places and objects, we can truly speak of an Internet of Things. This opens perpectives for new sustainability scenario's, for new relations between people and the stuff they have, and for other locative applications.

The participants of this workshop will develop critical, utopian or nightmarish concepts for an Internet of Things in a hands-on way. Ideas can range from scripts for small new rituals to outlines of societal changes of epic scale. Prototypes can be tested with the workshop tools The Symbolic Table or the Nokia3220 phone with RFID reader.

The workshop has room for 16 designers, artists, thinkers and makers. Participation fee is €350 per person, ex BTW. Lunches, technical equipment and assistance are included. If you want to participate in this workshop, please register at our online registration form.

Posted by jo at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2006

ZeroOne San Jose



SimVeillance by Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus : San Jose re-presents urban passersby within a game environment that mirrors a ‘real-world’ public space. The artists will recreate the Cesar Chavez plaza in downtown San Jose using the Sims 2, and will work from images captured by surveillance cameras trained on the square, to populate the simulated square with replicas of ‘real’ transients.

The final installation will have two displays. On one, the game running, populated with the borrowed transients. On the other, a slide show with paired images: surveillance photo and digital snapshot of the ‘Sim’ that was created in the likeness of the real person.

Posted by jo at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2006

Installations at Eyebeam


Modern Orthodox + EarthSpeaker

June 29 through July 15 Eyebeam is pleased to present three new installations developed in our studios exploring innovative uses of sound and light, both visible and undetectable, to fix and define spatial environments.

Elliott Malkin's Modern Orthodox is a working demonstration of a next-generation eruv installed on 21st Street in front of Eyebeam in New York City. An eruv (pronounced ey-roov [related]) is a symbolic boundary erected around religious Jewish communities throughout the world. While an eruv is typically constructed with poles and wires, Modern Orthodox employs a combination of low-power lasers, wifi surveillance cameras and graffiti, as a way of designating sacred volumes of space in urban areas.

The eruv is an ancient architectural construct that stems from the observation of the Sabbath, the sacred day of rest that includes a prohibition against certain kinds of work, including the carrying of objects outside of one's home, or private domain.

The presence of an eruv allows some carrying on the Sabbath by symbolically converting the shared public space within its boundaries into the shared private space of a community. In this way, observant Jews can carry objects such as keys or prayer books while acting in accordance with sacred Talmudic principles.

Because the physical integrity of an eruv is essential to its symbolic function, a breach in any portion of it renders it useless, which is why the entire circumference of an eruv, usually miles in length, is customarily inspected prior to every Sabbath. Malkin's laser eruv, however, which relies on a continuous stream of photons rather than cords and wires, is not as susceptible to permanent breakage. A branch of a tree, for example, may impede the flow of photons but will not permanently damage the eruv apparatus. In this way, the laser eruv is self-healing. Malkin also uses surveillance cameras to monitor the laser eruv connections from a remote location, allowing eruv managers to identify obstructions more efficiently. The content of these video transmissions are displayed at Eyebeam as part of the installation of this work.

Elliott Malkin is a new media artist whose work explores the use of everyday objects invested with the power to "sanctify" space. His most recent work, Modern Orthodox, focuses on the eruv, a symbolic boundary used as part of the observation of the Jewish Sabbath. Elliott's other work includes eRuv, a virtual reconstruction of an eruv that once existed on the Lower East Side of Manhattan – and Crucifix NG, a next-generation crucifix that broadcasts a radio frequency version of The Lord's Prayer. Elliott is also investigating the way religion and technology combine to inform the construction of memorial sites. Elliott is originally from Chicago and lives in New York City. He also works as an Information Architect.


Jeff Feddersen's EarthSpeaker is series of large-scale autonomous, solar-powered sculptures. Drawing their inspiration from dusk-active creatures like crickets, bullfrogs and fireflies, they are designed to absorb and store solar energy during the day and retransmit the energy as acoustic sound for a brief period at dusk. As the sun sets, the system will create a short, distributed chorus of sound until the energy stored for the day is consumed. EarthSpeaker was commissioned as a permanent installation at free103point9's Wave Farm in Acra, NY where it will be transported to after exhibiting at Eyebeam. The challenge of creating a long-term installation, in a harsh environment, using available ambient energy pushed Fedderson's exploration of energy storage, alternative speaker functions and artistic design.

Jeff Feddersen is an artist, musician, and engineer interested in new musical instruments and sustainable energy. He has developed several new means of musical expression, including robotic sonic sculptures, real-time composition software, multi-modal digital input devices, and amplified acoustic instruments. He has exhibited and performed at the Chelsea Art Museum, the Apple Soho Store, and UC Irvine's Beall Media Arts Center, and the Lincoln Center. He has taught electronics, sustainable energy, and digital audio at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he was also a Resident Researcher, and has worked for the Technology Development group of Honeybee Robotics.

Posted by jo at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Networked Place Book


Call for Comments

"As a culmination to the Networked Publics program, we are publishing a collaboratively written group book with the MIT Press. As part of this process, we are soliciting reader comments for inclusion in the book. Below is a draft of the essay on Networked Place (note that there is a word document attached too... it is likely easier to read). We intend to take the comments that we received and append them to the essay in a virtual symposium that will follow each chapter. In doing so, we hope to create a more dialogic forum within the book. Please leave your email addresses so that we can get in touch with you about your contribution.

Introduction: Contemporary life is dominated by the pervasiveness of the network. With the spread of the mobile phone worldwide (arguably history’s most successful gadget) and the growth of always-on broadband in the developed world, technological networks are becoming easier to access and more ubiquitous. The “always-on,” “always-accessible,” network—or at least the promise of that condition—has produced a broad set of changes to our concept of place, linking space to network to create networked place.

"The following essay addresses both the networking of space and the spatiality of the network. We identify a series of conditions symptomatic of the culture of network “space”: the everyday superimposition of simultaneous real and virtual spaces, the development of a mobile sense of place or “telecocoon,” the emergence of real virtual worlds, the rise of the network as a socio-spatial model, and the use of mapping technology as a means of understanding the world. At the same time, we recognize that these changes are not simply produced by technology. On the contrary, the development and practices of technology (and the conceptual shifts that these new technological practices produce) are thoroughly imbricated in culture, society, and politics.

Taken together, these changes are already radical, but they may not be radical enough. These could well be the first steps in restructuring our concept of spatiality. The changes we listed above—and describe below—may be mere evidence of the early days of sociocultural shifts of which we can only be partially aware, just as the first theorists of modernism and postmodernism could only partially understand the emerging condition of their day." Continue reading Networked Place by Kazys Varnelis and Anne Friedberg, Networked Publics.

Posted by jo at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006

Drew Hemment


Last Night An Arphid Saved My Life

"...What can we learn from the fact that this experiment in introducing a controversial new technology took place in such an unlikely location? It is happening amongst people who have a proven appetite for playing with the limits of their natural bodies, but beneath the radar of the technology's natural critics, a world away from the cultural institutions that play host to the likes of Orlan and Stelarc.

Baja Beach Club is not a place where new cultural movements are born, not even the kind of dark crevice where things grow. This may be less to do with marketing the instruments of 'control' as fashion, more about sowing a seed with a wider market in mind. Once a technology is out there, a fact of every day life, it is near impossible to roll it back. In Baja's case it is more a case of perception than the facts on the ground. If there is a war going on, you will not find it in Barcelona. Instead it is being fought in the column inches of the international papers and blogs that gave the story oxygen..." From Last Night An Arphid Saved My Life by Drew Hemment.

The implications of RFID will be explored at an international conference in Manchester UK on July 21-22 organised by Futuresonic in association with PLAN - The Pervasive and Locative Arts Network.

Posted by jo at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

Semantic Web


ARDA Holding Your MySpace Against You

New Scientist reveals that the Pentagon's NSA in the form of ARDA (Advanced Research Development Activity) are interested in the information people post about themselves on social networking sites like MySpace and are funding research into it's mass harvesting. A paper entitled Semantic Analytics on Social Networks presented at the W3C's WWW2006 conference revealing how data from online social networks and other databases can be combined to uncover facts about people was part-funded by ARDA. ARDA according to New Scientist is an organisation whose role is to spend NSA money on research that can solve some of the most critical problems facing the US intelligence community principally the problem of how to make sense of the massive amounts of data they collect. [posted by stunned to Net]

Posted by jo at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2006

MMO Questionnaire


Surveillance in Virtual Worlds

I'm conducting an investigation into surveillance within massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life. The questionnaire will take between 2 and 20 minutes to complete depending on how much information you're willing to supply. I'm interested in stories and observations so feel free to ramble.

Read more on my research below, or jump right to the questionnaire.

Many players are unaware of surveillance being conducted by game administrators, often justified as a means to enhance game play and control cheating. Players within some MMOs are also tracking and recording other player’s movements, and conversely, creating methods to protect the privacy of their own digital personas. The rise of surveillance (and counter-surveillance) techniques and technologies within these virtual worlds is an extension of the pervasive monitoring of individuals in real-world environments. Many real-world technologies (such as bugging, video recording and location tracking) are being reproduced in virtual worlds and can be classified as a form simulated surveillance. [posted by Christo on Selectparks]

Posted by jo at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2006




[...] For an intervention on images, and in a sousveillance / surveillance context this time, Austrian activists Quintessenz created an anonymous surveillance system that uses a face-recognition software to place a black stripe over the eyes of people whose images are recorded (via Wired).

New Scientist reported today on a video surveillance system that scrambles people's faces to protect them from unwarranted monitoring. Developed by Swiss company EMITALL Surveillance, the algorithm of the technology singles out any people in a video feed, on the basis of their movement, and disguises them digitally while leaving the rest of the scene intact (Videos 1, 2 and 3). Only those in possession of the encryption key can unlock the scrambled regions and identify the people shown on-screen.

The system can even use different encryption keys to scramble the identity of particular people under surveillance, says Touradj Ebrahimi, founder of EMITALL Surveillance (thanks Emily!)

More broadcast disruption: SVEN - Surveillance Video Entertainment Network, a real-time video performance system that detects when people look like rock stars instead of criminals. Once a potential rock star is detected, music video effects are triggered so the surveillance stars get a treatment worthy of Cecil B himself; TV Predator, a picture frame that attacks the tv and prevent it from working properly; OiTV, a misbehaving attention-seeking TV. [blogged by Régine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2006

Patroling the Web


World Wide Web Watch

From the BBC, 2006: "Web users to 'patrol' US border":

"Web users worldwide will be able to watch the Texas border A US state is to enlist web users in its fight against illegal immigration by offering live surveillance footage of the Mexican border on the internet. The plan will allow web users worldwide to watch Texas' border with Mexico and phone the authorities if they spot any apparently illegal crossings."

From Heath Bunting, 1997: CCTV - World Wide Watch: Improve self policing with further absented police force. [posted by Chris Byrne on Institute for Distributed Creativity's List]

Posted by jo at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

Low Drone


Trans-border hopping

Low Drone, commissioned for Tijuana Calling, melds the lowrider, a customized vehicle with hydraulics and candy coated paint, with the functionality of the drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with surveillance cameras that has been standard U.S. military fare since the ‘60s.

The LowDrone is the world’s first flying lowrider, outfitted with wireless video transmission capabilities and conditioned for remote aerial flight. Through the Low Drone website, users can simulate flight over one of the most surveilled spaces on the planet: the U.S./Mexico border between Tijuana and southern California. By Angel Nevarez and Alex Rivera.

More US/Mexico border stories: Trainers for border crossers, Dentists on the border Mexico / U.S.A., a new U.S. border fence, etc. Via alt_imagen. [blogged by Régine on we-make-money-not-art] [Related: Breaking Through the Stereotypes: Art and Media Activism from Tijuana byArmin Medosch]

Posted by jo at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2006



Authenticity as Consensual Hallucination

UBERMORGEN.COM's ART FID [F]original - Authenticity as Consensual Hallucination: Hartware MedienKunstVerein at PHOENIX Halle; in the framework of medien_kunst_netz dortmund; in cooperation with [plug.in], Basel, and overgaden, Copenhagen.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags are small ’passive radio' tags equipped with silicon chips and antennas “to enable them to receive and respond to radio-frequency queries from an RFID transceiver" (Wikipedia). In the very near future, they will replace the barcode and will play an enormous role in logistics, theft prevention and surveillance of individuals. In an installation consisting of a stylized conveyor belt, several large-format pixel paintings (ART FID, 2005) and a mass of RFID tags, UBERMORGEN.COM scrutinizes the promises of a “beautiful new world".

UBERMORGEN.COM has coined the term “[F]originals".“[F]originals" designate any “original" documents or legal papers that in the narrow sense of the word are not originals any more, i.e. such documents which have been created “by the machine" (in German: “maschinell erstellt") and which are “valid without signature". “[F]original" is a neologism from “to forge" and “original". In the end, according to UBERMORGEN.COM, such “[f]original" documents are nothing more than Pixels on a screen and ink on paper. [F]originals claim authenticity but at closer inspection turn out to be nothing more that a “consensual hallucination." (William Gibson).

The presentation at PHOENIX Halle Dortmund is the first solo show of the Swiss-Austrian artists' duo in Germany. In the mid-1990s, the members of UBERMORGEN.COM were co-founders of the radical Swiss net art group etoy which became famous in 1999/2000 for its spectacular action toywar.com.

PHOENIX Halle Dortmund: May 27 - July 16, 2006; Opening: Friday, May 26, 2006, 17:00. Welcome and introduction: Susanne Ackers, managing director of Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund, and Jacob Lillemose, overgaden, Copenhagen.

More information. See here also the text by Domenico Quaranta, “Lilly controls my Foriginals"

In cooperation with Kulturbuero Stadt Dortmund, dortmund-project, LEG, PHOENIX

Generously supported by Pro Helvetia - Schweizer Kulturstiftung; Bundesamt fuer Kultur

Opening hours: Wed 11:00 - 17:00, Thu - Sun 11:00 - 20:00

Admission: 4 Euro, reduced 2 Euro (including admission to the exhibitions “Glamour and Globalization" and “Solar Radio Station")

Catalogue: A book will be published at the end of the year (English).

Guided tours: Free guided tours at PHOENIX Halle each Sunday at 16:00 (in German) (included in the admission)

How to get there relatively quickly >>

Contact: Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Guentherstrasse 65, 44143 Dortmund Telefon ++49 (0)231 823 106, info[at]hmkv.de

Posted by jo at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2006



With Enemies Like This...

Wiretaps, leaks, and whistle-blowing have recently become popular topics of discussion within the US. The current Administration’s secrecy seems to depend increasingly upon a lack of secrecy for everyone else, as journalists fight to keep their sources private and activists find themselves targeted by the FBI. One assumes that social networking sites like Friendster are under surveillance... So where can conspiracy-minded people get together? Perhaps on Sinister, a social software tool for our collective dark side. Managed by the suspicious team of Cassandra Rand, Georgia Underwood, and Annina Rüst, Sinister is a connection to underground chat worlds revolving around gardening, real estate, and finance, via the web, IRC, and telephone. One can call access numbers provided on the Sinister Calling Card to listen in on ongoing conversations. More than a mere communication platform, the Sinister website uses theories developed by researchers at Rensellear Polytechnic Institute to analyze the 'shape' of communication patterns in order to reveal the topic of discussion. Sure, conspiracies simmered before social software, but have they ever had their own calling card? - Ryan Griffis, Rhizome News.

Posted by jo at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2006

Régine Debatty's Interview with Marc Bohlen


"Machines are their own species"

Marc Bohlen's website has provided me with some amazing stories ever since i started blogging: from the Open Biometrics Project that i posted back in 2004, to the Universal Whistling Machine, first prize at Vida 7.0, and the cursing Amy and Klara.

Marc is trained in Stone Masonry (sic), Art History and Electrical Engineering and Robotics. He has been an invited speaker at Cornell University, Harvard University, The Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, the Banff New Media Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, etc. Marc is currently directing the MediaRobotics Lab at the University of Buffalo (Department of Media Study).

Shoeveillance sounds like "souveillance." Is there a hint of activism behind the project?

Certainly! My approach overlaps to a strong degree with that of art-activisism. It is also different. If you leave the development of technology to market forces alone, the solutions leave out too many market-irrelevant, but important, interesting and pleasurable factors. Realtechsupport tries to cast engineering problems in a light that includes their social/cultural context, and tries to make this a design parameter that needs to be 'solved'(addressed, discussed, solved) with the same diligence as the isolated technical problem.

Shoeveillence is a good example of this approach. Shoeveillence is capable of monitoring the passage of people in to and out of a room (and by extension a building). It acknowledges the fact that, in this world, this might be necessary [There is a fire in a 100 story building – is there anyone on the 91^st floor?]. At the same time, it counters data-creep and prevents data that is not "needed" from being collected. [The camera sees only feet and legs up to knee height; the machine algorithm finds directionality of motion and objects that look like shoes only].

In this regard shoeveillence is related to previous work in biometrics. The Open Biometrics Project included the design of a fingerprint analysis system that made its probabilistic results apparent so one could watch the machine in action. Having complex machines make binary decisions about us is really a problem.


A friend of mine told me about an interaction designer who had devised a way for people living in a not very posh neighborhood of London to pass through the streets of their area and yet avoid the gaze of the CCTV network. But it turned out that people were not happy with the idea, they actually liked to be on surveillance camera. Do you think a system like Shoeveillance could make everyone happy: maximum data collection and minimum invasion?

Yes. Let's make everyone happy! Shoeveillence plays with the desire to be seen to some degree. Parading your shoes is a special kind of pleasure, an accepted form of exhibitionism. It is one I would like machines we share the world with to be fluent in. We will have to wait for compliments, though, the appreciation of good shoes is beyond AI today. In HCI (Human Computer Interaction) community, some people speak of 'shy sensors', sensors with low-bandwidth input (such as a button) from which you derive information based on the sensor's location. If you want to know if someone is sitting in a chair without watching them on a camera, for example, you put a button in the chair. Shoeveillence, however, takes in high-bandwidth data (streaming video). It is tamed physically (by its position on the ground and its lens system), disciplined programmatically (by its algorithm) not to notice anything but shoes and incapable of being invasive but geared to be persistently and maximally shoe centric. This is a new kind of problem solving, I think.

Shoeveillance has found a first application in 8-bit Architecture. Can you tell us something about that project? how does shoeveillance fit in 8-bit A?

8-bit Architecture is a concept for a new joint between lived spaces and synthetic systems in the widest sense. To date, our new technologies are add-ons to the buildings in which we live and they enforce a master-slave relationship. The "smart home" got it all wrong. We don't need more convenience in our lives.

8-bit A wants to find out if there can be new ways of bringing the separate entities of synthetic and controlling systems together with lived spaces. Think about Cory Arcangel's Mario Brother game hack where he removed from the game engine everything but the scrolling clouds to create a 'game' the technical staff never imagined. 8-bit Architecture will try to find solutions like that (but different) for built and lived systems. Home automation has got to deliver more than garage-door openers that can be activated from the armchair and lights that dim on command.


I like one of your older project: Advanced Perception. Are you still investigating the field of "animal machine interaction design"?

Yes! That project really set the path for my work. The Universal Whistling Machine project continues the thrust with the question of communication beyond species boundaries. And the Glass Bottom Boat will move from land to sea creatures. I think we should replace HCI (Human Computer Interaction) with HAMI (Human Animal Machine Interaction). Animal activism meets robotics. The new world must have space for all of us.

How affected were the chicken by the presence of the robot?

At first indifferent. Once the robot moved, they were very frightened. But having the robot 'announce' its motion prior to actually moving (by activating the motors for a fraction of a second as to make a noise) made the chickens accept the machine much more readily. The robot was then instructed to avoid the feeding corner, so the chickens had their reserved territory. That seemed to help as well.

The results of these robot-chicken experiments were presented to both the scientific as well as the art communities. did they react in a different manner?

I had a famous chef (Rudi Stanish) cook omelets from the eggs of the chickens. In the gallery we had a taste-the-interaction session. People enjoyed the omelets and, hopefully, thought about a future world where animals, humans and robots roam freely.

I presented parts of the work in two scientific venues. There the interest was on "robots in adverse environments" (you can't sell omelets to the scientists). They were keen in hearing about how to deal with the messy side of things (dirt, chicken droppings, reliability over time, control mechanisms). But, in the end, the discussion also went to the 'high end' topics of shared spaces for different species. But the technical diversion was necessary to get to that point.


You seem to mingle with the artisitc as well as with the scientific communities. What's your crowd? How open is the scientific community to art projects?

(left: Advanced Perception gourmet performance) My crowd: Mixed. I think people who are trying to (experimentally) find ways of living with the fallout from automation technologies respond to my work. I am not a visual artist. The science community is selectively appreciative of the work. I do solve problems and deal with the same kind of messy and complicated information processing issues the engineering sciences do. The criticism I get from the sciences is that I am weak on evaluating my "results". But I am really not into handing out questionnaires and doing factorial designs experiments. I understand the critique, and understand where it comes from, but limit myself in accepting it in order not to loose the thrust of the work.

On the other hand, one does have to really understand the questions the sciences are concerned about. You can not speak the dialect of art (and expect to be understood) when you play the science game. Else you are delegated to a beautifier (and your voice is not taken seriously beyond that task). This was an important insight into really getting discussions going across disciplines: you have to be in the disciplines. This is a huge problem with much of the current "art meets science" endeavors. It really takes more than talk to move between different domains of knowing.


(Left) Amy and Klara and The Universal Whistling Machine) Other recent projects on your website deal with the replication of human features in artificial systems as well. Do you feel that the quest for the machine that will look and sound exactly like we do is senseless?

Yes, the quest for the synthetic system that looks, feels, acts and sounds like us is a dead end, in my view. Synthetic systems designers (from literature, cybernetics, robotics, and AI) have always been attracted to the mimesis of human features. Mostly because humans see humans as the pinnacle of evolution. If you are going to make synthetic life, why not work off the 'best' example you can find, the human, so the argument goes. But there is a different argument I am more attracted to. What the machine affords (in the sense of what is is capable/incapable of) is fundamentally different from how we are.

Machines are their own species, they are aliens, in a way. Sensors can see and hear things outside of our human perceptual boundaries. We have no access to microseconds as a computer does. Entities that can access this kind of 'stuff' are different, in a similar way as a dog that can hear sounds I can not hear, is different from me because of that.

Thanks Marc!

More on the projects discussed here at Realtechsupport. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2006

Tiffany Holmes


Your face is safe with me

Your face is safe with me, by Tiffany Holmes, is an animation generated from a camera recording live in the gallery and from a database of images the artist collects from Chicago locations surveilled by security cameras.

"What the viewer will see is the computer playing video games against itself for no purpose," said Holmes, "and the surveillance images, which are fairly recognizeable, come up from time to time in the games." The surveillance images of the visitors in the gallery are fed to Pac Man or become the bricks that imprison the player in Breakout.

A large projection portrays the computer playing simple videogames with itself. The games parodied refer to the proliferation of surveillance camera networks and their potential to be perceived as hostile intruders in community spaces—as envisioned in the updated Space Invaders™ game. In one videogame, Pacman™ chomps through a single CCTV screenshot to reveal several others—alluding to our culture’s voracious appetite for covert imagery. The new Asteroids® play involves a tiny ship blasting surveillance camera images into ever smaller ones, alluding to the immense amount of banal imagery generated daily by CCTV networks. The computer used in this exhibition deletes all images gathered live within one hour.

Surveillance-based games: the Zone project, Joey Skaggs's Art Attack. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2006

Eyebeam Exhibition and Event


The Aphrodite Project: Platforms

The Aphrodite Project: Platforms is an integrated system of shoes and online services that combines the rich mythology of Aphrodite with the safety and advertising concerns of contemporary sex workers on the street. On view in Eyebeam's gallery May 2-13 will be a prototype of a silver-leather platform sandal with integrated LCD screen, speakers, internet connection and GPS tracking system. On May 13 visitors to the gallery will be able to track a model in real-time as she traverses the city wearing the platform prototype and join in a panel discussion between artists, technologists and sex work advocates. This event will conclude with a reading by Tracy Quan, performance by Ana Voog, Echo Transgression, and Melissa Gira, and live music by Natural Sphere. This event is open to the public free of charge with a suggested donation and will take place at Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st Street between 10th & 11th Aves.

Platforms--byNorene Leddy with Andrew Milmoe--is designed to question moral attitudes and value judgments, especially with this marginalized section of the population: Who gets new technology and when? What is the true value of sexual services? Using an archetypal model, is it possible to reclaim the profession for modern women? What are the ethics of surveillance and tracking? Is it possible to ensure that this information will empower and not endanger sex workers? Is it ever possible to guarantee that knowledge will stay within the hands of those who it is intended for?

The shoes address creativity and art making as well as practical issues of design and marketability. It is my hope that in addition to creating beautifully crafted objects; the project will contribute to the current international debate over the regulation, decriminalization, and legalization of prostitution.

Posted by jo at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006

Roch Forowicz's



Environment is a continuation of Roch Forowicz's Invigilate project [Spotlighted on Turbulence in 2005]. It's a networked space in which every member of the project is able to connect with every other member via video, phone and/or e-mail. Environment is open to everyone though Forowicz has specifically invited residents of the apartment complexes surveilled in his Invigilate project.

I hope this space will be much more friendly for them to dialogue. Goal of this action is to create a natural, organic and free from propaganda space of the information exchange.

Environment grew out of Forowicz's perceived "failure" of the earlier project Invigilate--a form of art activity performed in a public space. Invigilate addressed the ever increasing lack of privacy in society, and questioned relationships between people sharing the same space, both social and political. Forowicz recorded people going about their lives in their apartments; he then posted the videos on the Internet and made his email address available to viewers. Forowicz also posted flyers about his activities in each of the apartment complexes; they displayed the Invigilate web site address as well as pictures of the surveilled apartments.

Forowicz's goal was to provoke a dialogue about performed surveillance and the invasion of his subjects' privacy. Unfortunately, nobody responded at first; later he received a few emails from people who didn't understand his actions at all. Forowicz concluded that he needed to encourage people to engage in a dialogue. Environment is the outcome.

Posted by jo at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

Ars Electronica Winning Project 2005: [the next idea]


USED Clothing

Clothes are an expression of an individual’s identity. The way a person dresses is almost always directly connected to his/her lifestyle, worldview and self-image. “OK, then why not use clothing even more intensely as a medium?” mused Martin Mairinger. And the Linz native proceeded to create USED Clothing, a concept for furnishing clothes with additional information.

A radio frequency identification (RFID) chip to which the wearer can save information about himself/herself is sewn into each garment. When the item of clothing—for instance, a jacket, pair of pants or T-shirt—is sold at a special second-hand shop, the buyer can access this information online and find out about the garment’s past.

The interests and personal philosophy of individuals with a preference for the same type of clothing often resemble one another. Accordingly, the second-hand interface node just might yield interesting hookups. The project’s long-term concept envisions the establishment of a community of registered users who take advantage of the second-hand shop’s offerings not only to acquire clothing but also to establish social contacts within the network of human beings connected to the shop.

Honorary Mentions

knouf nick (US)

Zucali Tobias, Christopher Rhomberg (AT)

[blogged by Regine on Twenty1F]

Posted by jo at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2006

Society of the Spectacle (2.0):


Surveillance in the Internet of Things

"I was recently asked to consider how the new surveillance is (or might) operate in the era of networked Things. It's not a hard one to think through, but I reflected upon the role that visual surveillance has played in reshaping and refashioning physical space and thought maybe visual surveillance doesn't matter so much any more. Video surveillance was once all about "the man" having more power to see and reveal than those who were being watched. It was easy to grow wary of video cameras and their use, particularly by private entities whose cameras captured activity in public space, especially when there are no formal accountability protocols. I could get hopped up about that, certainly. I spent a day with the Institute for Applied Autonomy back several years ago, helping map out surveillance cameras in Manhattan as part of a wonderful exhibition that Eyebeam put on called We Love New York. It was about mapping the ways in which public space becomes a space that surveilled in a problematic way. It's too secret, this surveillance.

Log files and Arphids are what we have to worry about, not video surveillance. In the Internet of Things, it's a web hit in an access log that'll send you to the big house. Continue reading Society of the Spectacle (2.0): Surveillance in the Internet of Things by Julian Bleecker.

Posted by jo at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2006

Human Avatars


The Guilt Eye

Human Avatars, a multimedia installation created by Andrea Zapp with the Vini Reilly's music, plays on two classic levels: the real and the virtual. The visitors have to walk through the installation's space, discovering a small wood cabin, which they are asked to enter. Once inside, the bodies are shot and projected into a scaled down model of the same cabin. Peeking through a small window the visitors can look at the movements of their own projections and at others made by other persons. The crossed game of shooting and projecting pushes everybody to have a visual contact with a different 'self', that could equally be a real person or his own avatar, assuming the role of a spy and, unconsciously, of a person kept under surveillance. Despite the architectures and the scenario are friendly and accessible, the interactive experience immediacy remains pending and ambiguous. Probably one of the inhibiting elements is the same interactive fulcrum. The eye and its artificial replacement often carry uneasiness, because they are connected to the surveillance and control feeling. Furthermore, in this case, the holistic lyricism, made by the consciousness raising of one's own being in the world is suffocated by the voyer's sense of guilt. This role is evidently assumed by the observer, enhanced because it's not a hidden spying activity, but an a vile act, made for all the world to see." Francesca Tomassini, Neural.

Posted by jo at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

Nancy Nisbet


Pop! Goes the Weasel

"From closed circuit TV and video monitoring, email snooping software such as Carnivore, tracking through credit card usage and location mapping via GPS enabled cell phones; surveillance is omnipresent. It may not be the act of surveillance but rather the collection, storage and use of our ‘data identities’ in a centralized database that presents the greatest threat. Who will have access to the database? How will the data be used? How will people be protected from data profiling and marginalization? Widespread concern for public security is generating significant support for surveillance, authentication and information gathering systems. The possibility of the convergence of databases of collected surveillance and other information presents serious threats to personal privacy and freedom.

Pop! Goes the Weasel, an interactive art installation exhibited in Nagoya, Japan in 2002, explores resistance to the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as a human tracking system. Identities are blurred as RFID tags are shared. The significance of the collected data is shifted as visitors repeatedly interfere in the system. A video projection containing the implantation of an RFID microchip into the artist’s hand and a visible real-time reflection of visitors being tracked accentuates uneasiness.

This installation aims to remind participants of the ubiquity of surveillance structures and to encourage visceral responses to implanted RFID tags as a potential future mode of surveillance. Although the installation appears to require visitors to follow certain ‘rules’, the observance of these rules stems from participant’s own respect or lack of respect for these rules. The system is really quite leaky and allows motivated visitors to avoid surveillance and develop other ways for engaging the work without accurately being tracked. This art installation presents visitors with opportunities for experimenting within an RFID system by allowing them to avoid it, to subvert it and to intervene in it as possible strategies of resistance.

Pushing beyond the spectacle of implanting two RFID microchips into my body, I make a bold and playful entrance into resistance of sanctioned surveillance. I challenge the authentication systems assumptions regarding identity. Is a person’s identity singular? Is it constant? What is its connection to the body? Is identity positively ascertainable? In the installation identities are distributed as visitors share their ID badges; one badge is no longer connected to a single person but some anonymous group of users. In the case of my own ‘identity’ the implantation of two unique microchips allows for a multiple identity; which ID number is the authentic one? By provoking questions concerning authentication systems I aim to encourage resistance and challenge both developers and governments to ensure the protection of personal privacy and freedom." Nancy Nisbet, Risky Surveillance: Distributed and Multiple Identity(ies) as Resistance, Subtle Technologies Conference, 2003. [Related 1, 2, 3]

Posted by jo at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

SVEN + The Surveillance Camera Players


aka "AI to the People"

SVEN - Surveillance Video Entertainment Network, aka "AI to the People," is a real-time video performance system that takes a humorous but critical look at artificial intelligence surveillance algorithms by developing techniques that detect when people look like rock stars instead of criminals, terrorists, or other "undesirable passersby". The system consists of a camera, monitor, and two computers that can be set up wherever a CCTV monitor might be expected.

A custom computer vision application tracks pedestrians and detects their characteristics and a real-time video processing application uses this information to generate music-video like visuals from the camera feed. Once a pedestrian who looks like a rock star is detected, music video effects are triggered so the surveillance stars get a glamor treatment worthy of Cecil B himself. The resulting video and audio are displayed on a monitor in the public space, interrupting the standard security camera type display each time a likely rockstar is detected. SVEN is a work in progress but the basic elements are working. Videos on the project website. A work by Amy Alexander, together with Jesse Gilbert, Wojciech Kosma, Vincent Rabaud and Nikhil Rasiwasia.


Can't resist the urge to mention The Surveillance Camera Players (SCP).

Formed in 1996, the New York-based group manifest their opposition to surveillance cameras in public places by performing silent, specially adapted plays directly in front of surveillance cameras. Their fist performace was Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. Later performances include Orwell’s 1984 and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. There are affiliate SCP groups in Tempe, Arizona and San Francisco (USA), Bologna (I), Stockholm (S) and in Lithuania (LT).

On 19-20 March 2006, the SCP will live an international day(s?) against video surveillance. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2006




What is rejected and refused in the symbolic order, reappears in reality. Specters, ghosts and phantoms haunt the world. (Peter Weibel on Jacques Lacan)

TANGENT_FEAR presents Inviting Horror, an artistic research project by Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat which investigates the experience of fear in public space. In a world in which daily activity is monitored through electronic technologies marked by networked surveillance systems, biometric scanning and profiling mechanisms, people are required to surrender access to their personal spheres of privacy and movement. Under the guise of community safety and anti-terror security a demand for ultimate transparency is made. Suspense is created and the urban space becomes a phobic zone, a horror-scape, in which an explosive mix of aggression and desire results in an irrational need to remove one’s self from the public sphere, a desire for the incognito.

To invite horror, and offer it a safe haven within our personal realms of well being and spheres of desire, implies both an obvious impossibility and a potential to counter the loss of control of our public domain. Using the movie related notion of horror, we search artistic strategies and scenarios in which the transition from desire and fear to a social phobia can be (re)constructed as a real-time and real-space action occurring live in the public sphere. Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat have invited a group of artists and researchers whose work centers on notions of fear, the body and perception to engage a broader public audience to discuss and explore these issues to bring horror ‘inside’ from within the public sphere.

V2_, Eendrachtstraat 10, 3012 XL Rotterdam
Friday 3 March 2006, 19:00-22:00 hrs
Admission: 2,50 EUR
Live stream & IRC chat: http://www.v2.nl/live

Inviting Horror: KPN Media Facade 'City Mobile Monument'

In conjunction with TANGENT_FEAR Rotterdam citizens are invited to upload short statements on urban experience to the running text display of the KPN Communication Tower. The City Mobile Monument forms part of Inviting Horror’s experiential archive which travels through and connects numerous urban centres worldwide. To upload a statement, please send a mail with your short text to info[at]invitinghorror.org KPN Telecommunication Company / Erasmus Bridge Tower, Rotterdam from 25 February to 5 March 2006.


Jordan Crandall, media artist and theorist, UC San Diego, recently completed Homefront, a video installation exploring the psychological dimensions of the new security culture.

Dennis Del Favero is a Sydney based artist and researcher, presents his video piece Pentimento, and will discuss the aesthetics of trauma through Nachtraglichkeit, a work in which he introduces the work of Pierre Janet.

Jill Magid, both performer and director, she engages the systems of discipline in society, such as police, CCTV, and forensic artists by exploiting the dormant possibilities of their services. She employs the system, via its latent qualities, to establish an intimate and poetic experience.

Marc de Kesel, Lacanian philosopher and researcher, Jan Van Eyck Academie Maastricht, will talk about the violence which is inherent to people, and the incapacity to deal with violence lucidly. An impossibility that makes violence only more malicious.

Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat experiment with new art forms for social cohension using electronic communication devices. In their performances and installations Lancel and Maat use a combination of online and offline media in which they invite the audience to participate. They design projects for urban public space such as those found at train stations, airports, museum lobbies, theaters, universities, construction sites, and city squares. Much of their work is developed in collaboration with V2_Lab
(Rotterdam) and Montevideo / TBA Netherlands Institute for Media Art (Amsterdam).

Special thanks: EYEBEAM New York

V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media
Eendrachtsstraat 10, NL-3012 XL Rotterdam
PO Box 19049, NL-3001 BA Rotterdam, NL
Tel + 31 10 206 72 72 | Fax + 31 10 206 72 71
E-mail info AT v2.nl | URL http://www.v2.nl

Posted by jo at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

Helping Hands


Artists Burnish RFID's Image

In Artists Burnish RFID's Image, Mark Baard conjures RFID as rather complex social and cultural assemblages:

"[A]rtists in the United States and Europe are adding RFID to their palettes as well. They're drawing hip crowds as well as the attention of the RFID industry, which hopes to gain some good publicity for its controversial tracking technology. 'There is a lot of public aversion to RFID because of privacy issues,' said Paul Stam de Jonge, global RFID solutions director at LogicaCMG, a large European technology services company. 'And anything that will bring to it a more positive attitude will be beneficial.' [...]

The RFID industry seems to be cautiously reaching out to artists. The trade publication RFID Journal recently invited artists from the RFID-Lab in The Hague to its European industry conference last fall...'It was quite remarkable to have been invited to this rather closed and expensive conference for executives,' said RFID-Lab organizer Pawel Pokutycki.

Accenture Technology Labs senior manager Dadong Wan said he's pleased the artists are drawing positive attention to RFID. 'Artists definitely have a role in facilitating and accelerating the technology by raising (the public's) awareness,' Wong said."

The inter-dependence of artists and technology industries is clear, but the politics and ethics perhaps less so. While not wanting to ignore the history of net-art and critical internet culture, it seems to me that wireless art is offering a special challenge to traditional leftist critique-at-a-distance.

By actively and explicitly embracing their inevitable interconnectedness, both artists and corporations are able to achieve things that are not possible if either resists or retreats from the other. This sense of communal exchange need not imply collusion or assimilation - although both are, of course, possible - and it need not imply consensus either. Convergence alone is politically and ethically worthwhile.

But "public awareness" is a funny thing, not at all homogenous or equal, and certainly not to be confused with "consciousness raising". [blogged by Anne on Purse Lips Square Jaw]

Posted by jo at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

The Exchange Project


Performance of Technology Tracked Free Trade

The Exchange Project--by Nancy Nisbet--is an artistic inquiry that uses cultural resistance to unsettle questionable relationships between international politics, technological surveillance, and identity construction. Specifically this project addresses 1. The politics of trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 2. Myths of increased national security through technological surveillance of people and commodities and 3. Identity construction based on collections of economic and surveillance data. One outstanding feature of the Exchange project is a cross-border performance that combines Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) surveillance technology, a full-size transport truck, and all of Nisbet’s personal belongings.

In this sustained performance, Nisbet’s things will be inventoried, radio frequency tagged and freely traded with individuals encountered during the six month trip that circumnavigates Canada, the United States and Mexico. This project exchanges the studio for the roads, truck stops, border crossings and cities of North America. “Exchange” creates through the untidy weaving of politics, surveillance technology and identity construction. From the spaces between these coarse threads will emerge resistance, solidarity, vulnerability and moments of human connection.

BIOGRAPHY: Nancy Nisbet is a Vancouver-based artist. From a disturbing paintball gun performance enacting the chaotic fluctuation in the cost of crude oil during the lead up to the US-led War in Iraq/ War on Terror to the surgical implantation of 'identity' micropchips into her hands, much of her work considers the political, the technological and the personal. Of specific consideration in her mixed-media work are issues of power, economics, and surveillance and their cultural influences on entertainment/leisure, identity and community. Exchange 2006 is a large scale project currently underway.

Nisbet received her MFA in Photography from the California Institute of the Arts. She is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Art in the Department of Art History, Visual Arts & Theory at the University of British Columbia.

Launching May 1, 2006 at the Richmond Art Gallery. More information here [PDF]

Posted by jo at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2006

Gun Control


Panoptic Insecurity

Gun Control, by Scott Kildall, explores issues of both security and surveillance. Each of the four units incorporates a police-issue revolver and a video camera. As people move into the installation space, the cameras track the movement and the guns follow.

However, the system does not always function properly. The revolvers point at different targets. They sometimes twirl about playfully. The armatures shake and rattle. Visitors are directly in the line of fire. This piece raises questions about our security-surveillance apparatus by prompting a visceral reaction. (videos)

Can't help but mention an installation I saw recently at the ZKM in Karlsruhe (Germany.) When Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg moved to a new apartment in 1995 he discovered that from his windows he had an unimpeded view into his neighbour's house on the other side of the street. The wall in there was decorated with an arsenal of weaponry. This threatening image in his existence prompted the artist to furnish his own apartment only as far as the zones that the other man in turn could not see.


His experience inspired Safe zones, no. 7 (The toilets at ZKM). Monitors placed next to the door of the public bathroom make visitors imagine that the toilet space is being monitored by a camera. Once inside, people notice that what was being monitored is in fact a detailed model of a toilet, placed in the same space. (more)

Related: the (in)security camera, Apple's Place and the insecurity guard. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

The Palace at 4 AM


Wartime Voyeurism

New York artist Jon Kessler's recent video installations have focused on contemporary politics, representations of war, and the pleasures and problems of surveillance. His most immersive work to date, The Palace at 4 AM, is a room-sized anthill of flashing monitors, spider webs of cable, and an arsenal of rotating video cameras installed at P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center. The cameras are trained on free-standing images taken from footage of the war and political events. Like Hollywood miniatures, each briefly creates a false reality before the camera jerks away to focus on a different scene. Kessler also perforates the images, allowing flashes of the real gallery to penetrate his virtual war. Through the holes, people watching the monitors catch glimpses of other visitors between the dizzying presentations of politicians and explosions. This produces the giddy paranoia of watching and being watched, but the surveillance doesn't end in Kessler's closed-circuit. Until the show closes on February 6th, two of the cameras are streaming live to the internet. Tune in during P.S.1 gallery hours to watch bewildered visitors explore the installation--while they revel in being watched. - Bill Hanley, Net Art News, Rhizome.

Posted by jo at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2005

Counter-Surveillance Headdress


Become a Target of Heightened Surveillance

The purpose of the Counter-Surveillance Headdress, by Gloria Sed, is to empower the wearer by allowing him/her to claim a moment of privacy in the Big Brother world.

The design of the headdress borrows from Islamic and Hindu fashion to comment on the racial profiling of Arab and Arab-looking citizens that occurred post-9/11. The design of the headdress is thus a contradiction: while its goal is to hide the wearer, it makes the wearer a target of heightened surveillance.

The laser tikka (forehead ornament) is attached to a hooded vest and reflective shawl. The laser is activated by pressing a button on the left shoulder of the vest. When pointed directly into a camera lens, the laser creates a burst of light masking the wearer’s face. The wearer can also use the reflective cloth to cover the face and head. The aluminized material protects her/him by reflecting any infrared radiation and also disguises the wearer by visually reflecting the surroundings, rendering the wearer’s identity anonymous. For more information on camera zapping with lasers. At the itp Winter Show, on December 18 and 19, ITP, 721 Broadway at Waverly Place, 4th Floor, South Elevators, New York. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005



Surveillance Reality Manipulator

RealMan, the Surveillance Reality Manipulator, explores the notions of authenticity and effectiveness of surveillance and its ubiquitous presence in modern society. The video installation consists of a MIDI control keyboard and an image display. The user plays the keys and manipulates in real-time the surveillance space, choosing who and what can be seen at will.

The scene can be composed and the activities of ‘real’ people in the space can be directed with the simple application of a piano key. Each keyboard key triggers a particular video clip to be superimposed into the space. These clips are ‘sprites’, unique characters extracted from the surveilled space and layered onto the background.

This experience is designed to forcefully translate the voyeuristic all-seeing eyes of the camera onto those of the viewer and to illustrate the imprecision of the reality filtered through a technological medium. More details in the PDF. By Greg Judelman. Also by the artist: the Company Keeper. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Preemptive Media


Tokyo RFID map

Zapped!/Preemptive Media mapped the results of their investigation about RFID use in Tokyo. Preemptive Media are the guys who presented a video about the development of RFID technology, a display of "awareness" stickers and a cage of Madagascan giant hissing roaches at Thought Crimes: The Art of Subversion a few months ago. Preemptive Media attached reprogrammed RFID tags to the roaches that, if placed in a Wal-Mart store, will taint its RFID database. The group distributed the roaches at the show's opening, sending them home with gallery goers in Styrofoam coffee containers.

The idea is not to encourage paranioa, but rather participation and preparation! Via RFID in Japan. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not]

Posted by jo at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

Urban Eyes at V2_


Pigeons as Chaotic Agents and Messengers

On Thursday 24 November, Marcus Kirsch and Jussi Ängeslevä will present their award winning cross-media project Urban Eyes at V2_. Urban Eyes wants to provide an alternative view on the city by using pigeons as the messengers of camera and other imagery overlooking the main streets and back alleys.

Location: V2_, Eendrachtsstraat 10, Rotterdam (tram 4 or 5 / metro Calandlijn, Eendrachtsplein station); Date: Thursday 24 November 2005, 19:30 hrs; Entrance: free; Participants: Marcus Kirsch (UK) and Jussi Ängeslevä (D). Urban Eyes is made possible with support of: Datamars S.A., Sokymat, Motz-Computer, Arts Council England and V2_Lab.

The urban rock dove (columba livia) is part of every cityscape. More hated than loved due to malnourishment based on fast food left-overs, the "flying rat" is very likely here to stay in our urban scenario. The urban pigeon population can be seen as an indicator of the city's atmosphere. Bottomline is, just as every other behaviour pattern and network in the city, we are connected to it as we share the same space.

In a mixture of revived shamanism and panoptic view that might challenge the artificial network of CCTV cameras, the pigeon population's unpredictable movement patterns offer a set of eyes that could offer a unique view onto unknown places. Based on the Bavarian Pigeon Corps from 1903, where homing pigeons were equipped with tiny cameras to take aerial shots from behind enemy lines, Urban Eyes uses RFID and wireless technology to turn the once able urban pigeon into a chaotic agent and messenger of visual impressions from the road you never took.

Perceived as a critical design concept and public art installation, Urban Eyes accesses the live network of pigeons to expand what you know about your own city and reclaim the exploring stage of citylife. In 2004 the project proposal of Urban Eyes won 3rd price at Fusedspace, an international competition for innovative applications for new technology in the public domain. [related post]

Posted by jo at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2005

Shoot me if you can


Replace a gun with fun

Shoot me if you can is an urban game inspired by first person shooting online video games. Replace a gun with fun, and shoot the opposing team with a cellular phone equipped with a digital camera. Participants; shooters are given a team color and phone number printed on the sticker. Shooters have to take a picture of the opposing team. If successful, she/he sends the picture to the opponent team member, via multimedia SMS system. Different rules exist for variations in game. Tactics are an important part as well as team work and understanding of the urban environment. This work is a commentary on abundance of digital image in our culture, desire to photograph and violence of surveillance camera. Active public participation in encouraged through website and the game. [via pasta and vinegar]

Posted by jo at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

The Catalogue


People as Trackable Units

Chris Oakley's video The Catalogue deals with the retail environment, surveillance technology, RFID and data brokers, where access to consumers' data has been extended beyond our purchasing habits and lifestyle choices to the predictions of our future health prospects via analysis of the data from our weekly shop.

Utilising footage from a department store manipulated through motion tracking and screen overlays that graphically represent the goods bought, The Catalogue places the viewer into the position of a remote agency, observing humanity as a series of trackable units whose value is defined by their spending capacity and future needs. Video. First seen in February 2005 at Transmediale. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not]

Posted by jo at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2005

A conversation between...


José Luis Barrios and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

* This is the edited transcription of a teleconference which took place in the Sala de Arte Público Siquieros (SAPS), Mexico City, on the 20th of April 2005, and which was moderated by the director of SAPS, Itala Schmelz. Translation from the Spanish original by Rebecca MacSween.

JLB: The distinguishing factor that defines modernity has to do with self-awareness, or the ability of the subject to both represent and represent self-reflexively his activities and relationships with the world. An important aspect of this is expressed in the Foucaultian concept technologies of the gaze. Throughout the history of art and visual culture various strategies of the gaze have existed. How do you distinguish and conceptualize those strategies that belong to the present and how are they manifested in your work?

RLH: New visual experiments have always been aided, or even initiated, by technological advancements. For example, perspective during the Renaissance, anamorphosis as part of Mannerism, or Eugène Chevreul's color theory for the Impressionists. In this context my contribution is the following: Walter Benjamin spoke with great clarity about the birth of modernism. For him the image is that which can be reproduced mechanically, a condition that eliminates the aural quality from a work of art. Mechanical reproduction democratizes art, popularizes it, and takes away that privileged point of view born of singularity. However, with digital technologies I believe that the aura has returned, and with a vengeance, because what digital technology emphasizes, through interactivity, is the multiple reading, the idea that a piece of art is created by the participation of the user. The idea that a work is not hermetic but something that requires exposure in order to exist is fundamental to understand this "vengeance of the aura".

Today digital art, -actually all art-, has awareness. This has always been true, but we have now become aware of art's awareness. Pieces listen to us, they see us, they sense our presence and wait for us to inspire them, and not the other ay around. It is no coincidence that post-modern art emphasizes the audience. In linguistic theory Saussure would say that it is impossible to have a dialogue without being aware of your interlocutor. Exactly the same thing was said, almost 100 years ago in the art world by Duchamp, for example, when he said, "le regard fait le tableau" (the look makes the painting). What we see happening is that this concept of dependency is reinforced by digital technology. Pieces of art are in a constant state of becoming. It's not that they "are" but that they are "changing into". I think the artist no longer has a monopoly over their work, or an exhaustive or total position over its interpretation or representation. Today, it is a more common idea-an idea that I defend-that the work itself has a life. The work is a platform and yes the platform has an authorship, but it also has its points of entry, its loose ends, its tangents, its empty spaces and its eccentricities. In this sense, artworks tend to be eclectic which for me signifies the liberation of art, the freedom to reaffirm its meaning.

In contrast to the idea of creation through the gaze of the public, the other side of the coin should also be mentioned; the panoptic computerized gaze. Artistic interest in criticizing the predatory gaze of the surveillance camera is nothing new; there is for example the work of Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman or Julia Scher, to mention a few. What is new is the degree of computerization that the new surveillance systems, which invade our public and private spaces, possess. Stemming directly from the American "Patriot Act" is a wide variety of computer-vision techniques that, for example, are intended for identifying suspicious individuals or classifying them based on ethnic traits. It is literally about technologies designed to discriminate based on a series of innate prejudices. This new intensification of surveillance is extremely problematic because, in the words of Manuel DeLanda "it endows the computer with the power of executive decision making". What is also new is the amount of memory that these systems have thanks to ever-smaller storage units and increasingly efficient compression-decompression algorithms (codecs) that allow for the recording and reproduction of events from the distant past. Lastly, the widespread popularization of cameras by reality shows and the penetration into public and private spaces by means of things like web cams should be mentioned. I have no doubt that a new type of art is emerging in order to confront these technologies of the panoptic and post-optic gaze. The Institute for Applied Autonomy, Harun Farocki and the Bureau of Inverse Technology are some examples of this new line of inquiry.

JLB: A fundamental aspect of the connection between technology and language is that which is linked, and this is particularly important in your work, to society. If the machine is language and a space for play, how can we understand its function or connection with social bodies? Let me clarify; in a large part of your work, interventions into the space of the subject are obvious, whether these spaces are public or private. This is interesting because at the same time that you link technology with language (society), you also introduce a type of "principle of intrusion of technology" to both the subject and their space. What imaginary social space do you believe your work opens? Above all I am asking about those pieces that have a direct link to public spaces.

RLH: It depends on the project and how it is received. Often the response to the work is very different from what I had imagined. For example, my installations using giant shadows; the first time I used the projected shadows of pedestrians in a public art piece was when transforming the fa?ade of a military arsenal in the Austrian city of Graz. It happened that in the arsenal there was a painting entitled "The Scourges of God" depicting the three primary fears of the people of Graz in medieval times: a potential Turkish invasion, the Bubonic plague and infestation by locusts. For this installation I invited dozens of artists and thinkers from all over the world to participate in an on-line debate on the transformation of the concept of fear. Perhaps the Turkish threat had been replaced with a fear of an invasion of Yugoslavian war refugees, or instead of Bubonic plague, the current day AIDS epidemic. The debate was projected in real time onto the facade, but I thought I could use the shadows of the pedestrians as a kind of "window" or "scanner" linking the public to the text. I assumed that the shadows would give an expressionistic and lugubrious touch to the piece-I was thinking of Murnau. Also, I wanted the shadows to function as metaphors for fear: for instance fear of the Turkish invasion that never happened but was only a menacing specter. I was totally wrong! As soon as people passed by and noticed the installation they would start to play with their shadows and perform humorous pantomimes. The huge dimension of the shadows allowed, for example, for school children to step on their teachers, or that a man in a wheelchair could roll his twenty-five-meter-high shadow over the others deriving great pleasure from squashing them with his giant wheels. The installation was converted into an ad hoc carnival and nobody thought for one minute about fears, plagues or invasions. This was one of the most entertaining errors of my career. The piece, which was called "Re:Positioning Fear", opened a Bakhtinian carnavalesque space where the environment was artifice and game, an environment that was completely outside of my control, literally and poetically.

My projects with shadows since then have benefited greatly from this lesson. "Body Movies", the piece in which shadows reveal enormous photographic portraits, precisely invites people to play with their representations in a public space and to play at being the "other", like a kind of inverse puppetry. The plastic potential of the shadow is used not as an absence, loss or darkness, but as a window to an artificial reality. We were trying to interrupt convention, routine, the predominant narratives of power that the buildings represented. Cicero said, "We make buildings and buildings make us". Our situation in the globalized city says the opposite: the urban environment no longer represents the citizens, it represents capital. Architects and urban developers build with the priority to optimize cost, and from there to the homogenization of globalization, and from there to the unfortunate reality of contemporary architecture which fetishizes the modular, the formula. It has reached a crisis of representation that carries with it a tremendous avidity of connection. In my work I try to encourage exceptionalism, eccentric reading of the environment, alien memories (meaning, those that don't belong to the site). don't want to develop site-specific installations but rather focus on the new temporal relationships that emerge from the artificial situation, what I call "relationship-specific" art.

JLB: In understanding public space as a carnivalesque space it is also understood why communities developed where-and this also happens with Relational Architecture-there is no subject identified as autonomous and independent. Bakhtin explains in his text on the forms of the carnivalesque in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that in order for the carnival to succeed there has to be an overflowing beyond the limits of the subject's identity and body. It seems to me that in the examples you provide you reconstitute the carnivalesque condition by means of shadows, not as theatre but as pantomime. What you do is create a carnivalesque space in which the user can intervene and symbolically create a collective body. This is noticeable, for example, in the fact that you intervene facades or the Z?calo Square in Mexico City; by doing so certain symbolic connections to power are deconstructed. In this manner you open a ludic space and deepen the potential of the social body, but you do this via interactive technological supports, reinforcing the imaginary-fantastical aspect of the game. Seen this way, and to delve more deeply into the relationship between the public space and that of the carnivalesque, what place does the orgiastic body have in this game?

RLH: My projects vary so it is difficult to generalize. There are pieces where the body is amplified on an urban scale (Displaced Emperors, Body Movies, Two Origins), others where the body is the canvas (Subtitled Public), and others where it becomes the target of extremely predatory electronic detection (Surface Tension, Standards and Double Standards). There are also others in which the body plays no highlighted role (Amodal Suspension, 33 Questions Per Minute, Vectorial Elevation).

I'd like to make a clarification on a term you used and that is the idea of the collective. I run away from this idea. In the world of electronic art there are two competing trends. On the one hand the unbearable utopian vision of Pierre Levy, amongst others. He proposes a "collective intelligence", virtual communities that form a global village, the idea that we are facing the emancipation of the human race all thanks to inter-connectivity. To me this vision, which is promoted by publications like Wired, is corporative, colonial and naive. I am amongst the ranks of those that reject the notion of community and the collective when it comes to acts of interpretation or perception. I think that we have seen truly disheartening agendas produced in the name of collectivity. In contrast, I really like the concept of the connective -a much less problematic word because it joins realities without a pre-programmed approach. What's interesting is that this concept doesn't convert realities into homogeneity. What Derrick de Kerckhove calls "Connective Intelligence" seems more useful as a concept for linking planes of existence that may be extremely disparate even if they coexist at times. I would even go so far as to define the connective as those tangents that pull us out of the collective.To return to the connection between carnival, body and public space, "Body Movies" is a piece that inspired different behaviors depending on where it was presented. When it was to be shown in Lisbon I thought of the stereotype of the "Latino" who loves to be out on the streets, partying and hugging affectionately so I expected a lot of this type of interaction with the piece. However what we saw was people trying their best not to overlap or interfere with another person's shadow. In contrast, when we presented the piece in England, where I had thought we would see considerable modesty and moderation, people got drunk, took off their clothes and acted out a variety of orgiastic scenes, which was a lot of fun to watch. This anecdote points out the difficulty of making generalizations about the body in a public space, which seems to me like quite a healthy difficulty.

JLB: In your work you make a distinction between "Relational Architecture" and "Subsculptures". Does this distinction correspond to certain connections that you maintain or establish with specific aesthetic systems-architecture or sculpture-or perhaps to formal concepts, for example, scale, or is it more about two arbitrary concepts that allow you to explore diverse issues?

RLH: They are more about arbitrary concepts. They are neologisms designed precisely to avoid being classified with other existing concepts. I first used the term "relational" in 1994 in describing my telepresence installation "The Trace". I found the word in the neurological essays of Maturana and Varela, although I was also aware of pioneering artists like Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticia and their work with relational objects. As well, I was interested in the relational functions of database programs that wove multi-dimensional webs for connecting various fields, a valuable concept when applied to the word "architecture" that for so long has signified solidity and permanence. Lastly, it was a good word in counterpoint to the term "virtual", which emphasizes the dematerialization of experience and asks us to create in simulacra. "Relational" emphasizes the dematerialization of the real environment and asks us to question the dissimulation. Today the term is already dated, partly because of the popularization of the term "relational aesthetics" by Nicolas Bourriaud, which by the way has little to do with my work and was published a number of years after I used the term. For the sake of coherence with my earlier work, I will probably continue to make Relational Architecture pieces maintaining the two grotesque definitions that I gave to the field: "technological actualizations of urban environments with alien memory" (1994) and the newer "anti-monuments for public dissimulation" (2002).

I started the series of Subsculptures in 2003 with the motorized belt piece "Standards and Double Standards". I have already added another three to the series: the kinetic sculpture "Synaptic Caguamas", the interactive screen piece "Glories of Accounting" and the neon piece "Entanglement". It's true that in the majority of cases these are more portable and nomadic pieces than the Relational Architecture installations are, -however I think that at some point I will make huge Subsculptures... so, the scale isn't the difference. I don't yet have a definition of what "Subsculpture" is but I think it has to do with contagion matrices. All of the installations consist of two or more interconnected robotic or virtual entities. The rules of behavior for these entities are relatively simple, but they are dependent on and influenced by the status of neighbouring entities or other inputs, for example the surveillance of the public (my installations almost always "watch the watchers", as Daniel Garcia And?jar would say). In this way, they achieve an unpredictable and emergent global behavior, where turbulence and other phenomena that are products of non-linear processes are found. For example, in "Standards and Double Standards" there are between 10 to 100 buckled belts hung from interconnected robots. A computerized camera system detects a visitor and instructs nearby belts to rotate on their own axis until the belt buckle faces him or her. This local movement then spreads in a process of chain reactions that travel throughout the matrix until the entire field of belts has been affected. If a second visitor enters, then those belts closest to this second presence will be influenced and begin to rotate in the same manner described spreading and influencing the orientation of the entire field. The resulting effect are patterns of interference very similar to those that can be seen, for example, in a tank of water into which various drops fall; some belts remain still, others turn constantly (eddies) and others follow the spectators.

Another aspect of Subsculptures is my interest in Barbara Liskov's "Substitution Principle" that says, in object-oriented programming, that an object of one class can be substituted for another in an inherited class without changing the properties of the program. It's something like the concept of metonymy in psychoanalysis or linguistics and like the categorical syllogism in philosophy called the "minor premise" or "subsumption". Liskov's Substitution Principle is, for me, extremely useful when it comes to making symbolic transferences between disparate or copresent realities. For example in "Standards and Double Standards" the belt substitutes the figure of masculinity, the father, authority. I'll give you other examples: in "Synaptic Caguamas" beer bottles play at being neurons in an algorithmic simulation of cerebral connections; in "Glories of Accounting" the raised hands are both metaphors of the Fascist salute and of the Spanish anti-terrorist gesture of "manos blancas" ("white hands"), -the hands also simultaneously signify distance (as in a "stop" gesture) and inclusion (as in the expression "show of hands"); and a last example, Entanglement, in which the neons connected to the Internet substitute for the photons linked by quantum mechanics.

Contrary to what the Substitution Principle asks for, in my Subsculptures substitution has a formal impact: it leaves a symbolic residue and destabilizes equivalencies. This residue is the strength of the piece, its poetry and its absurdity. For this reason I propose anti-modular strategies for artwork. I like breakdowns, the remainder in a division, and rounding errors. I find modularization boring and homogenizing. Modularization is promoted by:

* Computer science, through object-oriented programming, or plug-ins
* The art world, through the idea of authorship and bienialism
* Capital, as an instrument of control and quantification
* Architecture, using the formula as a solution (see Norman Foster)
* Education, through the modernist idea of specialization

No doubt my work is often quite modular, above all in its fabrication and sale, and it's better to confess it even though it is a contradiction, because one cannot live outside of the zeitgeist.

I think that Relational Architecture, like Subsculpture, can exhibit the anti-modular, symbolic inequalities or develop itself in the matricial space of rules of contagion. So there is no definite line that separates the two series. It is true that the Subsculpture series is slightly more personal; perhaps it is more an investigation of psychological spaces than of urban ones. I have been doing psychotherapy for four years now and maybe that explains that!

JLB: I would like to go back to the problem of non-linear mathematics and its relationship to "Synaptic Caguamas". When information is flow, a multi-perspectival flow that unfolds in various dimensions, it introduces the notion of "possibility" as a form of construction. It's interesting to me that this piece is not built on random relationships but that it is more about variables and vanishing lines configuring the system of representation. Keeping this in mind, I would like you to explain how this flow of information operates aesthetically as a system of self-management and self-configuration.

RLH: Recursive algorithms, chaos theory, cellular automata, digital genetics and other descriptions of complex dynamic processes are fascinating because they appear to be alive, to have life. Some exhibit evolution, others morphogenesis, and still others management and self-control. Mathematics associated to this field originate from various places, one of them being Weiner's postulation of the theory of Cybernetics in Mexico City in 1946, -it's definitely not something new. If during the Renaissance perspective and Fibonacci's series were used as media to legitimize the production of representation, today we can and should make dynamic mathematics our media. The Renaissance subject emerges precisely from the privileged vision of the vanishing point. What might be the equivalent impact as we contemplate, say, a fractal pattern? These mathematics shatter humanism, fortunately. They allow artists to design work that disobeys us (and the critics).

Until these mathematics reached the art world one of the only strategies that the artist had to create unexpected processes, for example a kinetic sculpture or automatic poetry, was chance. The people whom I most admire worked with chance in a very serious way -like John Cage or Marcel Duchamp- but I think that randomness is not that interesting anymore. Not even the greatest computer in the world could generate numbers that are truly random. Today we accept that the occurrence of a hurricane isn't due to bad luck but due to the consequences of a non-linear system of energy distribution (Lorenz's famous "fluttering of the wings of a butterfly on the other side of the planet"). Of course this doesn't mean that there is a destiny or that everything is predictable, it's exactly the opposite. These mathematics show us that uncertainty is inseparable from the system being observed, and artists love to work with uncertainty.

Today it is possible to create art from seeds, which actually is called "seeding the initial conditions" for a process, and then the work unfolds via mathematics in ways that you cannot control. You'll notice that every three minutes the bottles in "Synaptic Caguamas" line-up and reset themselves. This is done to give new initial conditions and to generate a variety of behaviors because on occasion the emerging patterns are boring or the bottles remain locked in what is referred to as "dynamic equilibrium".

Complexity describes processes like neuronal connections, genetic mutations, and the variegation of leaves. There is an infinity of examples of how non-linear mathematics permeate almost all of our natural and social history. Manuel DeLanda writes about how this dynamic flows can be used to understand history in a non-linear way, - -it's not about the selective recording of facts, dates and heroes, but rather it's about understanding history in terms of fields of attraction, of isobars, of influences, which is how non-linear math works. We want to visualize these flows, animate them, and evoke them so that they can help us give shape to our work.

JLB: "Subtitled Public" is a piece that isolates chance. When we were speaking about the piece a while ago, you said that it was a little like Mallarme's roll of the dice. One roll of the dice, as in this piece, puts in motion a mechanism where poetry, theatricality, technology and non-linear mathematics construct a complex space of meaning. A space where language names me and, at the same time, the body is interpreted as a shadow. How do you explain the connection between intrusion and evasion in this piece when it is a metaphor for the society of surveillance? What importance does the interaction of the spectator have with the piece as a sort of "subversion" of the fact that in the contemporary world "I am named"?

RLH: Chance is present in "Subtitled Public": A visitor is detected by a computerized surveillance system and the computer randomly selects a verb, conjugated in the third person, and is then projected onto the visitor's body. The visitor cannot get rid of the word that will follow him or her throughout the entire exhibition space, unless physical contact is made with another visitor, in which case they swap verbs. The use of chance in this piece has an important ironic component. Here we have a display of surveillance technology detecting the public's presence with great precision. The system pretends to have the ability to identify moods, gestures, desires and actions, but in the end it is chance that takes this to an absurd level. It's a comment on identification technologies that I spoke about in the beginning of this interview. I use chance, a throw of the dice, when criticizing the ridiculous systems used for example by the Department of Homeland Security in the USA that are trying to identify suspicious individuals.

Surveillance never tires of taking possession of our words and images. In my recent work I ask what would happen if all the cameras became projectors and gave us words and images rather than take them away from us?

In a piece such as this one I like the public's rejection to "being named". When we enter a piece of art or a public space, we all have certain values that are given to us by what we read, who we know, who we have seen etc. What I want is to shake up those values and create something dysfunctional, a moment of resistance and of rejection of those preconceived mantras. I look for the "special defects" that allow me to activate the imperfections, the disruptions; "to disrupt" seems to be the most precise term for describing what I want to do. The system projected the words "se mea" ("she urinates") onto a friend of mine who came to the opening and the words chased her through the exhibition space until I finally showed her how to rub them onto someone else. For me it's valuable that there is a moment of resistance to the assigned label, that people don't accept the subtitle nor see it as an oracle, that they are always conscious of the lie. I loved the comment of one visitor who said, "I got the word 'inv?lido' (handicapped), and maybe I am handicapped but I don't exactly know in what way" and there was another person who said, "you put on a psychological outfit depending on the word you get".

I think we are not done with exploring the culture of paranoia. I don't feel happy having to make art that works on that level, however I think it is extremely important to do so. What has been happening since September 11th is very, very serious. The authorities believe in the huge fallacy that the solution to terrorism should be technological. I react against that. We must use the distortions of the camera, and underline the innate prejudices of our media, of ourselves. Next time a person stops in front of a surveillance camera they might expect to have words projected on his or her body, and know that it is highly likely that they will not agree with the subtitle assigned to their public body.

Posted by jo at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2005



Fortress Urbanism

And so now New York City may attempt to install the total cinematic dream that has consumed London's private security firms for the past three decades, lost as they are in the Warholian ecstasy of filming every last centimeter of urban space, week after month after year, in what is surely the largest outright expenditure of cinematic ambition since... perhaps since film began. That dream is known as the 'ring of steel' – part of what I call 'military urbanism,' and what is referred to by Eric Lupton, in The New York Times, as 'fortress urbanism.'

'For more than a century now,' we read, 'winged dragons flanking a shield have guarded each entrance to the City of London. In recent decades, this coat of arms has been reinforced with an elaborate anti-terrorism apparatus known as the "ring of steel," consisting of concrete barriers, checkpoints and thousands of video cameras. City planners call the system, set up to defend against bombings by the Irish Republican Army, "fortress urbanism."'


It would be interesting to put 'fortress urbanism' into the context of utopia/dystopia, were that not 1) immediately obvious, and 2) less interesting than going further, into the realm of a generalized psychovideography of urban space. When Alison and Peter Smithson write that ‘today our most obvious failure is the lack of comprehensibility… in big cities,’ and that the very ‘aim of urbanism is comprehensibility’, we should perhaps reconsider the proclaimed purpose of public surveillance.


The 24-hour closed-circuit voyeurism we impose upon the voidscape of empty car parks and untraveled motorways all around us is already a response to the directionless sprawl of 21st century space. As such, security cameras are the next phase of an advanced urban sociology, a vanguard attempt at understanding the limits, contents and directions of our cities; these cameras have nothing to do with security – unless, of course, cognitive security is the issue at hand.

But to introduce a new term here, we would find ourselves discussing not *psychogeography* – that outdated fetish of a new crop of uninspired theses, from Princeton to the AA – but *psychovideography*, the videographic psyche of the city. If security firms are the new providers of our urban unconscious, a hundred thousand endless films recording twenty-fours a day, indefinitely, then we should perhaps find that the outdated methodologies of the psychogeographers have hit an impasse. The geo- is now in the video-, as it were, and the -graphy survives just the same. Throw in some 24-hour psycho-, and we begin to see the city through the lens of an unacknowledged avant-garde: a subset of the film industry whose advance front has taken on the guise of security.


The security industry, in this case, finds itself a (presumably unwitting) heir to John Cage. As Cage himself wrote, 'There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear.' London's private security firms could hardly agree more passionately – and that surveillant/cinematic enthusiasm now spreads to New York and Chicago.

J.G. Ballard: 'He had spent the past days in a nexus of endless highways, a terrain of billboards, car marts and undisclosed destinations.' Iain Sinclair: 'The landscape is provisional.'

The response: psychovideography. Endless filming. Install the umbrella of a total cinema and move freely into the next phase of urbanism: fortress urbanism. 'Security' is a red herring; we are witnessing instead the triumphal rearing-up of an unconscious cinematic fantasy.


Accordingly, we find ourselves, everyday, living more fully than ever before in the utopia of someone else's inescapable, fortified film set.

The Department of Homeland Cinematics.


[posted by Geoff Manaugh on BLDGBLOG] [via space and culture]

Posted by jo at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)



Sousveillance Grid + Community Built Display

The Community Built Display enables a group of people with wireless laptops to create a modular, flat-panel, dynamically reconfigurable large-format display. For SPECFLIC, The Outsider Jeremiad will serve as a ringleader of a group of audience members who want to send high-impact visual messages to those on the Inside. Developer: Robert Twomey, UCSD MFA Candidate, Visual Arts; Advisor: Natalie Jeremijenko, Visual Arts Dept., Xdesign Studio.


The Sousveillance Grid is a net-based interactive display which processes user-submitted camera phone images and displays them in a grid in a random fashion. Projected to the public SPECFLIC audience, it encourages bystanders to assist in documenting their surroundings with the efficiency and depth that only a populace armed with many, many cameraphones can provide. The display was created with PHP and JavaScript and can be viewed on any web browser. A proliferation of digital recording devices are leading us to a place where privacy will evaporate without any parallel efforts from the State — a community armed with compact, wirelessly-connected recording devices will record and police itself far better than any government could have hoped to. Developer: Andrew Collins, UCSD alum, ICAM’05, Calit2 Undergrad Fellow; Advisor: Adriene Jenik [Related 1, 2]

Posted by jo at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2005

Balance and Power:


Performance and Surveillance in Video Art

Balance and Power: Performance and Surveillance in Video Art: At a time when the nation is preoccupied with heightened security and surveillance, and the public is fascinated by Reality TV with its open and surreptitious video exposure of participants, the boundaries between performance, voluntary acting for the camera, and surveillance, involuntary recording on camera by power systems with an interest in the movement of citizens, become blurred. Since the earliest days of video art in the mid-1960s, artists have negotiated the question of when surveillance becomes performance (and vice versa) and these concepts continue to be central to many video artists working today. This exhibition, which examines both the early days of video art and current practices, is an attempt to understand the complex relationship between the issues of performance, surveillance, and power.

Included in the exhibition are works by some of the earliest practitioners, large-scale installations, newly commissioned pieces, and the premiere of Jordan Crandall's new film, Homefront. Balance and Power will be installed in two locations: in public areas at the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science and at Krannert Art Museum. The Siebel Center regularly features contemporary art installations employing state-of-the-art equipment integrated into the building. Installations at the Siebel Center periodically may be unavailable. Guest curator: Michael Rush.

"...In the earliest days of video art in the mid-1960s, artists engaged the question of when surveillance becomes performance and vice versa. This issue remains central to the work of many video artists today, said Rush, a writer, curator, critic and former director of the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art in Lake Worth, Fla.

The exhibition references and features work by a diverse group of artists, from early video pioneers such as Andy Warhol, Vito Acconci and Bruce Naumann to emerging practitioners such as Jill Magid and U. of I. art and design professor Kevin Hamilton.

Other participating artists are Antenna, Sophie Calle, Jim Campbell, Peter Campus, Jordan Crandall, Shelley Eshkar, Harun Farocki, Subodh Gupta, Tiffany Holmes, Tim Hyde, Paul Kaiser, Kristin Lucas, Steve Mann, Jenny Marketou, Jonas Mekas, Muntadas and Marshall Reese, Martha Rosler, Julia Scher, Kiki Seror and Gregory Shephard..." More >>

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October 20, 2005

Electronic Frontier Foundation


Is Your Printer Spying On You?

"Imagine that every time you printed a document, it automatically included a secret code that could be used to identify the printer - and potentially, the person who used it. Sounds like something from an episode of "Alias," right?

Unfortunately, the scenario isn't fictional. In a purported effort to identify counterfeiters, the US government has succeeded in persuading some color laser printer manufacturers to encode each page with identifying information. That means that without your knowledge or consent, an act you assume is private could become public. A communication tool you're using in everyday life could become a tool for government surveillance. And what's worse, there are no laws to prevent abuse.

The ACLU recently issued a report revealing that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on the organization since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups, including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. In the current political climate, it's not hard to imagine the government using the ability to determine who may have printed what document for purposes other than identifying counterfeiters.

Yet there are no laws to stop the Secret Service from using printer codes to secretly trace the origin of non-currency documents; only the privacy policy of your printer manufacturer currently protects you (if indeed such a policy exists). And no law regulates what sort of documents the Secret Service or any other domestic or foreign government agency is permitted to request for identification, not to mention how such a forensics tool could be developed and implemented in printers in the first place.

With no laws on the books, there's nothing to stop the privacy violations this technology enables. For this reason, EFF is gathering information about what printers are revealing and how - a necessary precursor to any legal challenge or new legislation to protect your privacy. And we could use your help.

In the preliminary research paper [ Investigating Machine Identification Code Technology in Color Laser Printers] we explain what we've observed so far, briefly explore the privacy implications, and ask you to print and send us test sheets from your color laser printer and/or a color laser printer at your local print shop. That way, we can watch the watchers and ensure that your privacy isn't compromised in ways that harm your fundamental consitutional rights." Find out more >>

Learn to decode Xerox DocuColor tracking dots using our guide - or use the Electronic Frontier Foundation's decoding program to decode them.

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October 18, 2005

ReachMedia ::


on-the-move interaction with everyday objects

Can we merge the virtual world with the physical world? ReachMedia--by Assaf Feldman, Sajid Sadi, Emmanuel Munguia Tapia--is a system for seamlessly providing just-in-time information about everyday objects. It is built around a wireless wristband with an RFID reader and accelerometers. The wristband detects physical objects that the user is interacting with, and retrieves relevant and personalized information via a smart phone. The user can then have a hands and eyes free interaction with the application by using a unique combination of slight gestural input and audio output. See Bracelet Navigates Net, Technology Review News. Download PowerPoint presentation. [via]

Posted by jo at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Faraday Cage


Blocking RFID

To avoid being tracked by readers, Mikey Sklar built an RFID Pocket Replacement that involves building a faraday cage around your clothing's RFID tags. Just rip out a pocket from a pair of jeans and replace it with a cotton like fabric which contains enough conductive material to block most RFID tag frequencies. Have a look at the PDF presentation of his project, it's amazing to see how much RFID is present in our lives. Movie. [via Regine on we-make-money-not]

Posted by jo at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005



and Sweat Anticon

The Builders Association (Alladeen) and digital design studio dbox reveal a society in which "dataveillance" goes beyond anything Orwell ever imagined. Dive into this fresh, funny, and often disturbing combination of cutting-edge computer-generated animation, new video techniques, electronic music, and live performance. SUPER VISION probes three absorbing, intertwining, and all too-close-to-home stories drawn from the datasphere that explore the dangerous minefield of lives reduced to data.


Enter the Sweat Anticon: a hooded sweatshirt that zips up to the top of the hood, leaving only eyeholes for the wearer to see out - effectively blocking the view of Big Brother. Good for anonymity, bad for a visit from the Department of Homeland Security. Interesting how the mere act of wearing such a garment and taking advantage of the ability to see but not be seen turns the wearer into the very thing he was attempting to evade. The watched is now the watcher. [via Leigha and Paul Schmelzer] [Related]

Posted by jo at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

Songdo City


South Korea's "Ubiquitous City"

In what at first seems to be a throwback to the utopian urban visions of early 20th century futurism, South Korea is developing a "U-City" from the ground up, using bleeding-edge "ubiquitous" technology to monitor everything from citizens' medical records to garbage collection.

New Songdo City, being built on a man-made island 40 miles from Seoul, will feature pervasive computer technology throughout, driven by RFID tags and CDMA wireless communication. Although many Western observers would find the lack of privacy disquieting, Asian countries are more interested in the technological potential of such environments. Says John Kim, a Korean-American who is leading the planning for the U-City:

"U-life will become its own brand, its own lifestyle... [A resident's smart key] can be used to get on the subway, pay a parking meter, see a movie, borrow a free public bicycle and so on. It'll be anonymous, won't be linked to your identity, and if lost you can quickly cancel the card and reset your door lock.

"Residents will enjoy 'full videoconferencing calls between neighbors, video on demand and wireless access to their digital content and property from anywhere in Songdo.'"

With English as its official language, the city is designed to attract international business as a "free economic zone." The city will also feature ample open-space parkland and recreation facilities. The $25 billion project is slated for completion in 2014. Already, South Koreans are already applying for the chance to be among New Songdo's 65,000 residents. Sources: New York Times, Future Feeder. [posted by Brian on FutureWire]

Posted by jo at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2005



Exploring User Centred Applications for NFC and RFID

Touch is a research project at the Interaction Design department at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Touch takes a user-centred approach to Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and real-world objects: bridging the gap between the real and the virtual. The project offers the possibility of radically simplifying existing applications and providing a new spectrum of local services through the mobile phone. At AHO we have multiple disciplines, including interaction design, industrial design, urbanism and architecture; a group with significant interest in the areas possibilities of NFC technology.

Posted by jo at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005



Track(ing) Your Every Move

"RFID, which stands for Radio Frequency IDentification, is a technology that uses computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items from a distance. And as this mind-blowing book explains, plans and efforts are being made now by global corporations and the U.S government to turn this advanced technology, these spychips, into a way to track our daily activities-and keep us all on Big Brother's short leash. Compiling massive amounts of research with firsthand knowledge, Spychips explains RFID technology and reveals the history and future of the master planners' strategies to imbed these trackers on everything-from postage stamps to shoes to people themselves-and spy on Americans without our knowledge or consent. It also urgently encourages consumers to take action now-to protect their privacy and civil liberties before it's too late." Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID by Katherine Albrecht, Liz McIntyre. Also see STOP RFID.

Posted by jo at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2005

RFID is X-ray vision


The Demands of Sentient Computing

"ABSTRACT: Making RFID tags as ubiquitous as barcodes will enable machines to see and recognize any tagged object in their vicinity, better than they ever could with the smartest image processing algorithms. This opens many opportunities for "sentient computing" applications. However, in so far as this new capability has some of the properties of X-ray vision, it opens the door to abuses. To promote discussion, I won't elaborate on low level technological solutions; I shall instead discuss a simple security policy that addresses most of the privacy issues. Playing devil's advocate, I shall also indicate why it is currently unlikely that consumers will enjoy the RFID privacy that some of them vociferously demand." From RFID is X-ray vision by Frank Stajano, University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.

Posted by jo at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2005

Here For You


Redirect Surveillance, Control and Distance

Internet participants are invited to participate in a live network performance project opening Friday September 22nd at 7pm online and at the XINDUSTRIA exhibition at CAFKA 05, Kichener, Ontario. Here For You--by Will Pappenheimer--is a prototypical internet controlled space which allows virtual participants to adjust room lighting, see into the space, move objects, time clocks, upload messages and sound from your computer play it for the sound system. The guideline is to redirect surveillance, control and distance into channels of giving for physical visitors in the exhibition space. The exhibition continues through September 30.

This is a large ongoing project with dual physical and virtual levels and the challenges of connectivity and mechanics. It will begin simply develop as the exhibition proceeds.

“Here For You” will create a series of IP controlled conventional and fanciful domestic objects to comprise a network livingspace. Exhibition participants will be invited to relax in a living/domestic space constructed in or modified from available exhibition space. Appliances, both practical and artistic, can be controlled by anyone accessing the Internet from anywhere in the world. . The project hopes to create an environment where telepresence meets presence, remote control meets lifestyle, distance becomes proximity, surveillance becomes community and network becomes living room.

Posted by jo at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

With Hidden Numbers


RFID Audio Mixer

With Hidden Numbers, by Meghan Trainor, uses embedded RFID tags to trigger an audio database and illustrate a technology that promises to become more prevalent in the coming years.

Dozens of handmade objects created with plaster, rubber and other traditional sculpting materials, each contain a unique number broadcast with a passive RFID tag. In addition the artist herself had a RFID tag embedded in her arm.

The system allows the audience to handle and scan the objects to activate audio triggers. Depending on the objects selected the result can be like a physical audio mixer, sometimes like a physical database query. The artist could trigger events with the tag in her arm as well, even when physically separated from the installation.

From the article The Accidental DJ in the WW Daily:

"When Trenor holds one of the objects near a scanner, it triggers a recording of an authoritative male voice reading numbers. When she waves the scanner over her arm, it plays "Hey Mamy, you sexy, you beautiful" from the rap song by Fannypack. Soon, she's holding two objects at once, dancing and interweaving samples of sound like a DJ scratching on vinyl."

The title references Marcel Duchamps’ 1916 sculpture With Hidden Noise which examined the concept of mass-production and was inserted with a noise making object unknown to Duchamp.

See also her Junkie's Little Helper. [blogge by Regine on we-make-money-not]

Posted by jo at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2005

Displacing Identity and Privacy

An Analysis of Jenny Marketou's "Translocal: Camp in my Tent"


Displacing Identity and Privacy: An Analysis of Jenny Marketou's "Translocal: Camp in my Tent" by Amanda Beattie [PDF] [via Sousveillance]

Posted by jo at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

Ars Electronica


Regine Blogs Ars

TEMPEST is based on the surveillance technology known as Van Eck Phreaking - computer screen content can be reconstructed remotely by picking up the emitted EM-field of the screen. TEMPEST utilizes this technique to transform purely generative graphic into a composition of noise which again is fed back into the image generating process. Several AM receivers are tuned into different frequencies of a screen and plugged into an audio mixer for further sound processing. The graphics on the screen become a means of producing sound and it is only the graphics which determine the different timbres and rhythms. By Erich Berger.

Interface Culture at the Linz University of Art was founded last year by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. The programme deals with human-machine interaction to develop innovative interfaces. Went to see their works yesterday.

SoundToy, by Christina Heidecker, Harald Moser and Timm Oliver Wilks, is a 3D environment you navigate as if you were a racing car driver. During the ride you use the steering wheel to create and compose 3D sounds. You place in the space sound objects assigned to electronic beats. The speed, pitch and volume can be individually adjusted using the steering wheel and the accelerating pedal. The composition is generated by the movement and position of the sound objects with respect to one another but also by the route you select.

Recipe Table, by Istvan Lorincz, Hanna Perner-Wilson, Thomas Wagner and Andreas Zingerle, is an interactive workplace built into a kitchen countertop that enable users to intuitively search for recipes. You place the tins and bottle, vegetable and other ingredients and in return the system makes you recipe suggestions. These culinary suggestions are also depicted graphically as finished dishes on the workplace.

Blow, by Taife Smetschka, is a breath-controlled video installation. There's a microphone and a projection of a clip from Billy Wilder’s film *The Seven Year Itch*, the scene in which Marilyn Monroe stands on the grate above the subway ventilation shaft. At first she is stationary, smiling at viewers from the screen. She doesn’t begin moving until she feels a cool breeze. In *blow!* the breeze has to be provided by the installation visitors who must blow as hard as they can into the microphone. Marilyn’s skirt flutters in the breeze as long as the visitor blows into the microphone.

Mika Satomi's Gutsie is a cyber android filled with “guts.” Peeping into its interior through its eye-like hole, you can observe its intestines in motion. It will show you the places you want to see by tracking your eye gaze, but at the same time, your gaze may infect it. The interior of our body is something very private, often disgusting, and thus prohibited to be seen or to be shown. In media, visual images of our insides are often used to induce feelings of violence or disgust. Ironically, this is something that is stuffed inside everyone’s body without exception.

The G-Player (Global player), by German artist Jens Brand, works like a CD-player. But instead of playing CDs, it plays the globe. The device knows the postion of more than a thousand satellites and enables you, by the use if a virtual 3D planetary model, to listen to an imaginary trace of a selected flying object. Like a needle on a record, the satellite follows the Earth's surface. The G-Player transforms the different elevations units course directly into sound. The simple display shows the selected satellite's name, type, altitude and position over the planet (thus the latitude and longitude). Topographic data are interpreted as audio data. "Noise sounds" result from the high density of the data. Pictures.

[via we-make-money-not]

Posted by jo at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005



RFID Enabled Mirror

Hitachi announced yesterday a new mirror that functions as a computer display. It will be available for purchase in Japan on September 30. It combines a half mirror and a diffusion film to directly display digital information (text, photos, video, tv shows, websites, flash movies etc.) on a mirror surface using a LCD projector. This technology, called Miragraphy, also integrates sensors, RFID readers, barcode readers, cameras, etc. So, the mirror can automatically respond when people are around and personalize digital contents based on their sensed identities.

The Miragraphy device could potentially be used at restaurants, bars, hotels, trainstations, airports, sports clubs, show windows, designer clothing shops, and accessory shops. [blogged by konomi on RFID Japan]

Posted by jo at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2005

Readers for "Mobtagging DisCourse" and "Triggered by RFID" at Mediamatic


Theory, Projects, Criticism, Resources

Reader for Mobtagging DisCourse: Mobtagging is the practice of a large group of users who freely apply and exchange tags (metadata) to a set of unstructured online information. The aim is to describe content more adequately, personally or pinpoint interesting information faster than a search engine or online directories. Mob – or Social tagging can provide more precise search results for specialized interests and as such is a form of Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP).


Reader for Triggered by RFID: Radio frequency identification is a technology that is now situated in the elevator of technical development. A growing number of logistical companies see the advantages and possibilities of RFID for managing large bodies of objects. But what uses can this technology be applied to that are not in the logistical realm? How can it serve and/or change society and human interaction? How does it change the concept of information and information networks as we know them today? This reader compiles a number of resources on the technical and philosophical aspects of RFID.

Posted by jo at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2005



When Bricks Become Pixels

"When bricks become pixels, the tectonics of architecture becomes informational"- Marcos Novak: Screen-Wall--by Ruth Ron--challenges the conventions of public and private spaces in a museum. The 'service' or 'private' parts of the museum, such as the archives, offices or the guard booth, which are traditionally closed to the public, become the subject of the display, reversing the relationship of 'watching' and 'being watched'. Influenced by the expending presence of surveillance in our daily life, we appropriate the panoptic gaze onto concealed parts of the museum to become the content of the exhibition display.

The opaque solidity of physical architecture is challenged by multiple layers of the screen, the image of the wall and the transition to live video feed. The distance between remote spaces in the museum collapses, and digital and visual continuity is created. The network portal extends beyond the properties of the flat digital screen to become a reactive 'window' to unexpected places.

System: Parts of the gallery walls are replaced by small flat monitors. At first, the screens perform as mute, still images of their supporting walls. Once an observer draws near, the image transforms into a live video feed of a remote 'service' location of the museum, streaming via the internet. [via]

Posted by jo at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2005



KISSS Project launch and Press Conference

August 25, 2005, 6-8pm
The Auditorium
Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK
80 - 82 Whitechapel High Street
London, E1 7QX
+44 (0)20 7522 7888
Admission Free

This KISSS: Kinship International Strategy on Surveillance and Suppression event will feature a series of performances, video screenings and presentations from Coco Fusco, Anne Bean, Deej Fabyc, Joanna Callaghan, Paula Roush, Raresonick, Camilla Brueton, Season Butler and Maxine Hall. Due to high demand bookings are advisable: kisss[at]elastic.org.uk. Related.

Posted by jo at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2005

Center for Tactical Magic:


Tactical Ice Cream Unit

Grand Arts is pleased to present the latest project from the Bay Area-based Center for Tactical Magic, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit. Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch, Indymedia, infoshops, etc.) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter ego of the cops’ mobile command center. Incorporating an alternative strategy of utopian potlatch, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is envisioned primarily as a mobile distribution center for free ice cream and information produced by local community groups.

Although the TICU appears to be a mild-mannered vending vehicle, it harbors a host of high-tech surveillance devices, including a 12-camera video surveillance system, GPS with satellite internet, and a media center capable of disseminating live audio/video. More than creating an undercover Mission: Impossible aesthetic, the TICU’s full surveillance suite provides grassroots access to mobile communications technologies. Whether used to produce independent community news or to monitor corporate dumping or police activity, the TICU will investigate the limits of “neutral technologies”.

At various times the TICU will invite visitors to explore the interior, view documentation of the street operations, or collaborate on “missions”. In addition to it’s regular cruising of local neighborhoods and streets, community groups may suggest uses for the Tactical Ice Cream Unit such as beach clean-up, block parties or supporting a strike. The Unit is prepared to augment any event and should the TICU wander into the vicinity of a rally, protest or civil uprising, the Unit is equipped to serve as a mobile oasis, where the activists can quench their thirst, reload their cameras, document unfolding events, and protect themselves from various airborne dispersants.

In short, the TICU seeks to protect, provide, energize, invigorate and educate its audience. Whether lurking in a corporate park or chillin’ in a neighborhood park, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit promises to attract people from all walks of life, thus serving as a mobile nexus for community activities while providing frosty treats and food-for-thought.

The Center for Tactical Magic is an organization dedicated to the extensive research, development, and deployment of the pragmatic system known as Tactical Magic. A fusion force summoned from the ways of the artist, the magician, the ninja, and the private investigator, Tactical Magic is an amalgam of disparate arts invoked for the purpose of actively addressing Power on individual, communal, and transnational fronts.

The Tactical Ice Cream Unit would like to extend an invitation to you to join an elite corps of embedded journalists during our ground operations in Kansas City. A few, select journalists will be permitted to ride along with the TICU crew as we begin our civic tour of duty. Participating members of the TICU Embedded Journalist Corps (EJC) will gain a behind-the-scenes and in-the-streets look at the Tactical Ice Cream Unit. This revolutionary, new project designed by the Center for Tactical Magic is preparing to take to the streets by August 20. Contact us if you feel you are up to the challenge!

For further information, contact:
April Calahan-McDonald
Grand Arts Assistant Director
(816) 421-6887

Posted by jo at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2005



The Kinship International Strategy on Surveillance and Suppression

Are you seeing what we're thinking? The Kinship International Strategy on Surveillance and Suppression | KISSS is a series of performance events and interventions addressing surveillance and suppression.

KISSS is happening at an important moment. In the current political and social climate, surveillance has become an accepted and unquestionable part of everyday public life. Suppression of behaviour, information and desire occurs both privately and publicly. What is the relationship between surveillance and suppression? Consequence or reason for? How do issues of surveillance and suppression affect the work we make as artists and the way in which we work? How can we as artists, living in different countries, engaging in multi-platform possibilities and utlising varied perspectives, respond to these issues in a cohesive and powerful way?

A KISSS Policy Briefing will be held on August 19, 2005 at Elastic residence from 1500 to 1800.

This is an opportunity to meet the team, see work in progress and find out more about KISSS and how you can contribute and be involved. If you are interested in proposing a performance or contributing work, please come prepared to discuss it with a member of the team.

For further information on some of the strategies identified for KISSS visit:

KISSS Policy Briefing will take place at: Elastic residence, 22 Parfett St, Whitechapel / Aldgate East t: 0207 247 1375 e: kisss[at]elastic.org.uk

KISSS is supported by the University of Wales, Resonance 104.4FM and Concial Gallery, Australia.

Posted by jo at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2005

Orchestra of Anxiety


The Concept of Security

In Orchestra of Anxiety, London-based artists Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel expand their ongoing explorations of the concept of security. While 'security' can be seen as desire, as ideology, as illusion but never as a guaranteed status quo, socio-political measures of control, ... have been implemented in the name of security. The security industry is one of the fastest growing sectors this decade, and is worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually. A participative installation piece--to be shown at Watermans Gallery--Orchestra of Anxiety deploys security and surveillance technologies in an unusual and playful context, prompting visitors to reflect on their personal sense of security and their relationship with public fears (of petty crime, terrorism, etc.).

The central focus of the installation at Watermans is a harp, traditionally regarded as a sacred or metaphysical instrument associated with tranquillity, love and goodness. However ambientTV.net’s harp differs from standard harps as it is strung with razor wire, requiring the harpist to wear protective gloves while playing. The protective gloves complete data circuits when a string is touched, triggering multiple projections and sound sources in the gallery. Before playing, the harpist must first overcome the instinctive anxiety the instrument provokes.

Orchestra of Anxiety is produced by inter-disciplinary arts production company ambientTV.NET. ambientTV.NET highlights models of networked and collaborative practice. Techniques and effects of data transmission provide theme, medium and performative space for works spanning installation, performance, documentary, dance, gastronomy, and live sound and video art. Much of the film and music production is freely disseminated through the website.

Posted by jo at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2005



SMS Controlled Spy-Mirror

The +336+, designed by Robert Stadler, is a mirror able to receive SMS sent from a mobile phone. The messages appear as luminous text, running on the mirrors’ surface when one gets close to the mirror. [via textually.org]

Posted by jo at 07:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2005

The age of surveillance:


a new "dot com boom?"

The age of surveillance: a new “dotcom boom”? by William Davies 2 - 8 - 2005, [via sarai]: Will the era of digital networks and terrorism produce the worst of both worlds: a society of mass surveillance that increases insecurity? William Davies maps a new political-technological frontier.

"The most important lesson that marketers and futurologists can learn about new technologies is not to extrapolate too far from the “early adopters”. Be it cars, telephones, televisions or computers, the long-term implications of new tools are never apparent at the outset, but only emerge once they have become ubiquitous across society. [Related 1, 2, 3 and more]

The car began life as a rich man’s toy, but its most profound long-term consequence was the growth of suburbs. The television was initially an object of fascination for the family to congregate around, rather than the perennial and solitary experience that it has become for many individuals. In recent years, we’ve witnessed what happens when mobile phones and internet connections shift from the margins of society to the mainstream.

Marketers use the term “tipping-point” to describe the moment when a product makes the transition from being unusual and eye-catching, to being pervasive and invisible. One minute an item is being paraded like a trophy, of rarity and novelty value. The next it is a necessary accoutrement, without which modern living would seem impossible.

The language of “early adopters” and “tipping-points” is generally used when looking at the fast-moving though ultimately frivolous world of consumer habits. But perhaps we can identify something analogous to a tipping-point that took place on a more historically significant level, around five years ago, in the eighteen months that followed the dotcom crash.

Speculation about the shape and politics of the “digital age” had been rife for decades. The tipping-point in question occurred between the collapse of the Nasdaq and that of the World Trade Center, when one narrative about the function of digital networks in our society stuttered to a halt, and another one emerged. The underlying purpose of mass digitisation changed.

Same technology, different story

The purpose of digital networks is not something that the IT industry likes to dwell on too much. It is very often quite happy letting hype sell its products for them. But one doesn’t need to scratch beneath the surface too far to recognise that the Bill Clinton era of the “information super-highway” and stock-option millionaires was driven by a very different type of sales-pitch than the George W Bush era of iris-scanning and data retention. An economic narrative of wealth creation has been firmly replaced by a political narrative of control, yet each is rooted in the same technologies.

In the wake of the London bombings of July 2005, the pessimistic question has to be asked: did that period between April 2000 and September 2001 represent a tipping-point? As moronic and greedy as the dotcom boom and its associated fripperies may have been, there was an innocence about all of that investment and innovation, as if the benefits would flow later somehow or other.

But having been drawn into the digital age by the allure of its newness – just like any “early adopters” – we may now be settling down into a surveillance society where privacy is at best conditional, and contingency is monitored and dealt with. Historians may one day reflect on the bizarre coincidence by which westerners exuberantly flooded their societies with digital technology for very little reason whatsoever, just in time for it to be put to use as part of the largest international policing programme ever.

This is not to say that the economic narrative for digital modernisation never stacked up at all. There are plenty of areas where businesses and public services have been made more efficient or effective, but there are also many that have fallen at the hardest hurdle of innovating the social and managerial processes through which productivity gains are made.

Compared to the surveillance possibilities that this infrastructure has opened up, the business case for pervasive computing looks comparatively weak. After the first London attacks on 7 July, the British home secretary Charles Clarke defended plans to track internet and email records, saying: “the more we can survey the way in which people operate, the way in which they make their phone calls, the better your chance of identifying patterns of behaviour which are a threat.”

The IT industry will be relatively unconcerned by this transition. Like the stock markets, technology companies are unlikely to do much more than shrug, and shift additional capital into biometrics and out of e-commerce. In academic departments, meanwhile, debates between Nietzscheans and Marxists, which dominated 20th century European philosophy, seem to have been won for the time being by the former. Marxists such as Giovanni Arrighi struggle desperately to explain how contemporary politics is still explicable in terms of the logic of capitalism, but common sense suggests that, à la Nietzsche, it is far easier to explain in terms of the primeval desire for control.

So were we duped by the story about the “information society” and the “digital revolution”? Many companies certainly feel so, and as these digital networks become a growing battleground between extremists and internationally coordinated police forces, many citizens may be wishing we could turn the clock back. As one blogger, Lee Maguire, jokes grimly on his website:

“Homepages, eh? I've always suspected there was a huge 'Big Brother' database containing everyone's private details ... and now I'm responsible for writing my own entry.”

The high-tech

Both libertarians and capitalists – always fairly comfortable bedfellows –have been pushed to the margins of the digital age for the time being. The worry, but also in a way the hope, is that we will now charge headlong into a high-tech surveillance society. Why is this both a worry and a hope? Because it won’t work. In fact it could potentially make our security situation worse.

As the American security guru, Bruce Schneier puts it:

“technology will continue to alter the balance between attacker and defender, at an ever-increasing pace. And technology will generally favour the attacker, with the defender playing catch-up.”

Ever more complex technology can not only produce new security threats, as the internet itself has demonstrated, but also create distractions for security services, as they become more focused on spotting patterns in complex systems, and less on human judgment.

It could be that we are about to enter the equivalent of a dotcom boom in surveillance technologies. There will be no shortage of suppliers eager to join in, even if they hesitate to become too openly enthusiastic about this bubble compared to the previous one. But a boom would inevitably be followed by a crash in confidence in technology. Just as companies discovered that productivity gains depended on improving their social processes, and not on infrastructure alone, security services will have to learn the same lesson. The question is whether they will have to go through the same painful process of boom and bust to get there.

The primary hope must of course be that terrorism is dealt with effectively, which will be a political feat not a technological one. In the same way that we hope we have not entered a sustained era of terror, we must also hope that surveillance, tracking and pattern-spotting does not turn out to be the long-term role of digital networks in society. If police forces and governments put their faith in IT and under-invest in social capabilities in the same way businesses did a decade ago, they will get the same nasty shock as those businesses did. But then, hopefully, another phase of the digital age might begin."

William Davies is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr), and author of a new report, Modernising with Purpose: A Manifesto for a Digital Britain.

Posted by jo at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2005



The Holy Grail Is A Universal Sensor

Here's the good stuff from a massive and chilling report on the future of surveillance from Business Week Online:

"Britain has 4 million video cameras monitoring streets, parks, and government buildings, more than any other country. London alone has 500,000 cameras watching for signs of illicit activity. [...]

Research laboratories envision tools that could identify and track just about every person, anywhere -- and sound alarms when the systems encounter hazardous objects or chemical compounds. Many such ideas seem to leap from the pages of science fiction: An artificial nose in doorways and corridors sniffs out faint traces of explosives on someone's hair. Tiny sensors floating in reservoirs detect a deadly microbe and radio a warning. Smart cameras ID people at a distance by the way they walk or the shape of their ears. And a little chemical lab analyzes the sweat, body odor, and skin flakes in the human thermal plume -- the halo of heat that surrounds each person. [...]

Camera phones, nanny cams, and even satellite photos are commonplace. Biological sensors are flooding into households in the form of tests for HIV, pregnancy, and diabetes -- some of which can relay data to a doctor -- and soon there will be far more sensitive DNA-based tests. Next up are radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. They're showing up in stores to help track inventory, and 50 people in the U.S. have had them planted under their skin to broadcast their ID and medical data, in case of an emergency. [...]

One great worry is that those who stand out from the norm or express unpopular views, minorities, the poor, or just the ill-mannered, may get stomped in new and surprising ways. A recent incident in South Korea shows how this can play out. A subway commuter posted on the Internet some cell-phone photos he took of a passenger who had refused to clean up after her dog relieved itself during the ride. In no time, a vigilante mob on the Web identified her by her face and the purse she was carrying, and she became the object of national vilification. “You can move into a surveillance society one tiny camera at a time,” says Deirdre Mulligan, director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley. [...]

Experts disagree about when the most visionary tools to thwart terrorist acts will arrive on the market -- and whether they will deliver on their promise. Sensors that can detect bombs, radiation, and toxins exist today, and will be far more sophisticated a decade from now. But strewing them across every city in America would cost untold billions of dollars. High-tech electronic eavesdropping on communications networks can be effective, but only if terrorists use telecom systems. And even with improvements in cameras, biometric devices such as iris scans, bomb sniffers, and tracking software, it will be years before they can pick a terrorist out of a crowd. In short, the march toward a surveillance society may be inevitable, but no simple cost-benefit equation can assure us that the sacrifices will be worth it. We'll be debating the point for decades to come. [...]

In the quest to sort bad guys from good, scientists are poking ever more intimately at the core of each person's identity -- right down to the DNA. One day people's distinctive body odor, breath, or saliva could serve as an identifier, based on the subtle composite of chemicals that make up a person's scent or spit. [...] scientists are creating super-sensors to pick up myriad molecules released at low concentrations that constitute human scents, including carbon dioxide, acetone, ethanol, and sulfur. To capture them, they poke tiny pores into glass -- as many as 10,000 on a chip the width of a pencil eraser -- each tailored to the size of the molecule. Excited by a laser, the chemicals trapped in the pores emit different colors, and computers can then analyze the resulting pattern.

Dental researchers are attacking the challenges of identification and diagnosis from another vantage point -- the mouth. They're studying whether saliva contains markers for various diseases. If the technology works, it has additional potential for biometric applications, too. Spit contains many of the proteins, nucleic acids, and other substances that are found in blood. While they are present in fainter quantities, they can also be sampled less intrusively. [...] they can detect in human saliva some 3,000 messenger RNAs, molecules that carry genetic information within a human cell. These molecules perhaps can serve as markers for disease, or perhaps for identity, just like DNA. And they are often easier to detect. About 180 RNA markers are common across all individuals, but the remainder can differ. [...]

Biometrics bring a host of other troubles. As they become used more and more in office access, ATM passwords, passports, and ID cards, their value increases, and so do efforts to steal or spoof them. And because biometrics are cloaked in science, matches may acquire an unearned aura of dependability. Recently, cryptographers in Japan showed that common fingerprint-based systems can be easily duped using simple molds of melted Gummi Bear candies. [...]

Despite the many failings of biometrics, the federal government is encouraging scientists to fashion them into covert surveillance tools. Face recognition -- the most obvious way to track people because it's how humans do it -- is still dogged by problems matching images that may be distorted by a smile or ill-placed shadow. While scientists work out those glitches, others are improving iris-based technology for surveillance at a distance. Though computers can easily find eyes on a face, today's systems can't scan irises from afar as people rush through a crowd. [...]

Another hope is that certain characteristic movements may be recognizable at a distance. Taking a page from Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research body credited with inventing the Internet, funds work on software that could identify individuals by their strides. Researchers measure the silhouette of the torso, the swinging of the shoulders and legs, and the time it takes to move through a single step. [...]

The most serious privacy breaches are almost all linked to the proliferation of fast and inexpensive data processing and storage systems. The worst problems arise when each bit of information an individual gives up over the course of a day -- from the E-ZPass scans on the morning commute to the credit card purchase at Starbucks (SBUX ) to the logging of PC keystrokes at work -- get tied across various databases to create a detailed dossier of an innocent Joe's daily activity. [...]

This is just one of many measures that trigger a Big Brother alert. One of the hot buttons is eavesdropping. An emerging wireless technology called software-defined radio has the power to make cellular phones compatible with any network standard, but also opens new frontiers of snooping. The commercial merits of the technology are self-evident: Say good-bye to dead zones and lack of interoperability between police and firefighter radios. But the technology also enables superscanners that can be tuned to pick up the images on your neighbor's computer. That's possible because all computers emit stray radiation. With software-defined radio even amateurs could probably design equipment that could spot somebody porn-surfing in the next apartment. The technology can also make it easier to turn the cell phone of a spouse into a bug when it's not in normal use. [...]

Advances in many surveillance technologies piggyback on progress in fields such as wireless signal processing, nanotechnology, and genomics. Even plain old digital cameras are hotbeds of innovation. The imaging sensors in consumer cameras have been achieving ever-higher resolutions, while plunging in price. Because the gadgets are so engaging, crowds end up participating in surveillance efforts. Witness spectators holding cameras and phones aloft whenever news breaks -- an act that may aid investigations, or hold police misbehavior in check. [...]

Improved picture quality has given a boost to Viisage rival Identix Inc., allowing it to add in minute details of the skin to increase the accuracy of facial recognition. It divides a small area on the face into a 400-block grid, and then inspects each block for the size of skin pores, wrinkles, and spots. And using an infrared camera, researchers at A4Vision Inc., a Sunnyvale (Calif.) startup funded in part by In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture fund, cooked up a 3D approach. Its system creates a topographical map by projecting a grid pattern of infrared light onto a face, and matching the features.

Strides in wireless signal processing are bringing the power of astronomical instruments to homeland security. Giant radio telescopes today listen to the faint energy waves emanating from stars billions of light years away. The first earthbound applications of this electronic wizardry will be airport scanners that scrutinize passengers' bags. The principle is simple: All matter gives off so-called background radiation, or millimeter-wave heat, whether it's a supernova or a switchblade. [...]

A kindred technology can “see” the molecular composition of matter using extremely short wavelengths of energy. When a machine made by Picometrix Inc. shines these terahertz waves on a target, its molecules resonate at a telltale frequency. One plastic explosive, for instance, vibrates at 800 gigahertz. T-rays pose no radiation hazard because they don't penetrate human skin. But people being scanned will appear naked on the monitor unless the system is programmed to cover up private parts. [...]

The Holy Grail is a universal sensor, small and cheap enough to scatter in public places, and smart enough to sniff out anything that comes its way, without being preprogrammed to find specific molecules. Nobody is close to that goal yet, but Sandia National Laboratories has designed a lab-on-a-chip that detects a variety of both chemical and biological agents. It has skinny microchannels etched in its surface. When a gas or liquid moves through the tiny pipes, it collides with special material, and how much that slows the flow betrays the identity of the fluid. Sandia is now developing this technology to monitor the Contra Costa County (Calif.) water supply.

U.S. Genomics Inc. in Woburn, Mass., claims that it is hot on the heels of a universal sensor. Its prototype uses particular molecules to tag important DNA sequences in the genes of lethal pathogens, such as anthrax. Then, primed with a fluorescent dye, those sequences light up, and a photo detector compares the pattern of illumination with a library of known bioagents." [blogged by John on Ratchet Up!]

Posted by jo at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)



Predict the Future by Inventing It

The fellows from Flexilis went for a world record attempt on reading RFID tags from a distance. The end result was a bit over 69 feet on top of the roof of DEFCON. Project details will be in our audio show, for now, a photo gallery of the gear....[via] [Speaking of world records, check out iFiber Redwire, winners of the Wifi Shootout Contest]

Every day new discoveries make it possible for hackers to steal data from mobile devices. You are at risk no matter what you carry. Cellphones. PDAs. Smartphones. All are potentially vulnerable to data theft.

Flexilis, Inc. starts as something simple and stunning: an idea. Through our collective vision and creative nurturing, the idea continues to grow, a concept metamorphosing into reality. The key to revolution is imagination; without it, change is impossible. By employing emerging technologies, flexilis possesses the potential to create entirely new industries or inexorably alter the course of existing ones. In short, we are capable of influencing the movement of technology, and, by extension, society itself.

Flexilis believes in the inherent necessity of taking controlled risks, actively seeking opportunities to create new markets and develop new avenues for implementation. The possibilities are restricted only by the limitations of our imaginations. flexilis will not only respond to the changes in emergent technology, but help to steer its course.

Posted by jo at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2005



Navigating the Isolation of Others

StalkShow--by Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat--deals with threat of unsafety and isolation in public spaces. The performer carries a backpack, containing a laptop with a touch screen. It is a wearable billboard, with an attached webcam that records the face of the user of the touch screen.

Passersby are invited to touch the screen and navigate through statements about insecurity and isolation. The statements were written by asylum seekers, nuns, prisoners, digipersonas and others who live an isolated life. The user can identify her/himself with one of these persons and navigate through his/her statements. The navigation is displayed by a video projection on a large screen located in the same space (train stations, museums, squares, airports, etc.) The projection shows the portrait of the person that is using the touchscreen, together with the statements superimposed over the portrait. The user "watches" through a technically created, social-psychological frame of mind which seems to have a life of its own. [blogged by Regine on we-make-money-not]

Posted by jo at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2005

The R.g.b-project


Color Walk-Through

The R.g.b-project--by Jacky Sawatzky--is an experiential project, which invites participants to interact with the city through the concepts of the RGB-color space, a color space commonly used by digital technology. Participants are asked to go on a color-walk through the city, using a video camera to document one of the three colors, Red, Green or Blue. Consequently, the created clip is inputted into a computer program the artist wrote. This computer-program acts, as a surveillance machine through only highlighting what the program 'thinks' is red, green or blue. If the program can't find the specified color, the sound of the clip is heard. Read Jacky's thesis [PDF]

Participants comment on the project as an experience that heightened ones awareness of digital technologies interpretation of color. The results of the project show that this interpretation can be dubious at times. Crucial is the difference in method each participant used while creating the clips. Some had a documentary style approach. Others perceived the instructions as a framework for a performance and some created a conceptual dialogue with the parameters of the computer program. For more information download the thesis on the project page.

Posted by jo at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)



Peaking in Public

DigiDress--by Per Persson, Younghee Jung, Jan Blom, Ionific--is a matchmaking system that allows colocated people to be aware of potential partners in their vicinity. In an encounter between spatially proximate people, how can information in digital realm support and augment existing social behavior, practices and experiences taking place in real space?

The DigiDress application allowed mobile users to create a page on their phone with text and imagery describing themselves, their interests, dreams, things they are proud of, favorite jokes or any other content. Pages were then viewable by other users within Bluetooth range (typically 10-20m), without the page owner’s explicit consent. In this way, DigiDress users could take a ‘peak view’ at others without revealing their identity, similar to peaking at non-acquainted people in public spaces.

Posted by jo at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

Anne Galloway


Inscription, Enrolment and Agency

"The state is going to be recording everything we do, why shouldn't we make our own recordings -- if only to challenge the accuracy of what others capture?"

In Inscription: Surveillance Turned Inside Out, Howard Rheingold talks to Microsoft sociologist Marc Smith about "ways to use tomorrow's panoptic snooping technologies".

I was instantly struck by Smith's use of the term "inscription" - instead of "authoring" and despite AURA's call to "annotate the planet" - a term which Rheingold describes as relating "to behavior that leaves traces detectable by others." But because words do things, because speech acts, inscription also means enrolment** in particular contexts, identities and practices.

The current obsession with tagging and projects like Urban Tapestries, Yellow Arrow, Grafedia, MapHub (and, oh, about a million others now) all work off the general idea that "regular" people can, and indeed should, declare and order their experiences and ideas, and share them with other people.

I don't know where or when "bottom-up" became an absolute social, cultural and (cough) ethical good, but classification, authorship and/or publication are not simply matters of production, or more specifically, about changing the means of production. First of all is that pesky matter of consumption and use: how are people actually consuming and using this information? Second, into which (unequal) arrangements or assemblages do all these practices enrol us?

For example, do we really want to say that when Microsoft or Nokia record everything that it is inherently better than when The State does it? What kind of agency do we actually have? When we use our blogs for 'impression management' or when we post pictures of ourselves to Flickr to have more control over what appears in searches, what kind of agency is that?

** In the work of Michel Callon and Bruno Latour, enrolment refers to the "process in network-building in which actors' support is gained for development of a sociotechnical entity, their role defined and their interests and identities orientated to suit." In other words, an actor/actant must be made relevant to others (interessement), be made indispensable to others (translation), and be granted consent by others (enrolment). [blogged by Anne on purse lips square jaw] [Readers' comments]

Posted by jo at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2005



Tracing Memory

"A small enclosed gallery off of (Williams College Museum of Art's) historic rotunda, Media Field is the museum’s sacred space for video and new media work. The Toronto based artist, David Rokeby has inhabited it with his video installation Taken, specifically reformatted for the space. The work establishes a surveillance environment that monitors the room with a three-channel video projection, tracing the memory of the gallery, so to speak. Rokeby’s software responds to every visitor by focusing and recording their movements in a looped video format on three walls, leaving the center of the gallery light up and empty in wait for a performance.

That performance is your blurred image within a stream of transparent bodies flowing through the room [the day’s palimpsest of visitors] featured in the main projection. Once a new presence is detected the crowd vanishes and the new visitor is isolated in the space. Walking into the room gets you noticed – quickly- and just as quickly, you are stitched into the quilt of the gallery’s daily memory." From David Rokeby @ WCMA by Dina Deitsch, Big Red & Shiny #21.

Posted by jo at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2005

Loca: Location Oriented Critical Arts



Loca: Location Oriented Critical Arts is an interdisciplinary project on mobile media and grass-roots, pervasive surveillance. A person walking through the city centre hears a beep on their phone, glances at the screen and sees a message: "We are currently experiencing difficulties monitoring your position: please wave you network device in the air." Or "Our server suggests that you may be late. You haven't been charged for this advice."

Loca looks at what happens when everyone can track everyone, when surveillance can be effected by consumer level technology within peer-to-peer networks without being routed through a central point. The idea is to enable anyone with a device that has Bluetooth set to discoverable to be tracked.

As the project develops inferences based on analysis of the data (sever-side) will guide communication with the Bluetooth users. People should be able to participate to the project through their own mobile phone without any additional technology, and without their device needing to be modified in any way.

Pervasive surveillance has the potential to be both sinister and positive, at the same time. The intent is to equip people to deal with the ambiguity and find their own conclusions.

A project by Drew Hemment, John Evans, Theo Humphries, Mika Raento.
[blogged by Regine on near near future]

Posted by jo at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2005

Subtitled Public


Words Exchange

Subtitled Public, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, consists of an empty exhibition space where visitors are tracked with a computerized infrared surveillance system. As people enter the installation, texts are projected onto their bodies: these "subtitles" consist of thousands of verbs conjugated in third person and they follow each individual everywhere they go. The only way to get rid of a subtitle is to touch someone else: the words then are exchanged between them.

Subtitled Public invades the supposed neutrality of the space that museums and galleries set-up for contemplation, underlining the violent and asymmetric character of observation. The piece reveals the danger of surveillance systems that typecast and try to detect different ethnic groups or suspicious individuals, as in the latest computer-vision devices that are being deployed in public spaces around the world. The installation is also an ironic commentary on this era of technological personalization, literally "theming" and "branding" each spectator.

Electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Mexico City, 1967) will be showing his latest interactive installation at "El Cubo" at the Sala de Arte P ublico Siqueiros in Mexico City from April 7th through May 22nd, 2005.

Lozano-Hemmer uses technology explicitly as a way of understanding and criticizing from within some of the paradoxes of our mediated culture, creating intersubjectively binding reference systems. The artist refers to his work as relationship-specific, rather than site-specific, aiming to establish environments where a performative experience can develop, a critical and a connective experience, a kind of communion: communion understood as the acknowledgement of complicity.

For the past fifteen years Lozano-Hemmer has been developing art works that explore the intersection between architecture, interactivity and performance art. His "Relational Architecture" series of large-scale interventions in public space employs custom-made technologies to transform urban environments. Among his most notable works is the transformation of the Zocalo Square in Mexico City with searchlights controlled by participants over the Internet. This piece, Vectorial Elevation, has also been staged in Spain, France and Ireland, drawing massive participation to the project website at www.alzado.net. His works in photography, video and installation are present in important international collections and have been shown at the Istanbul, Havana, Liverpool and Shanghai Biennials among other exhibitions. Currently he is artist in residence at the Institute for Research in Construction of the Canadian National Research Council. Videos, texts and images of his works can be found at www.lozano-hemmer.com.

Posted by jo at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2005

Social Residue


Online/Offline Hybridity

Social Residue--by Hyunjoo Oh and Noah Shibley--is a project that explores the relationship of online/offline hybridity to social connectivity, the mapping of complex social growth and the spread of ‘memes,’ that are brought and transmitted by artists and audiences during the show. By using a nontoxic invisible contamination simulation powder, Noah & Hyunjoo creates a gesture and organizational logic of mapping and cartographic spread vectors of social networks that develop during the show.

During the transmission process, there are many different kinds of social interaction involved consequentially or inconsequentially. It symbolizes that artists and audiences’ ‘presence’ and participation as performers whether they know or not. As a result of this performance, the visual map of spread vector will show the a multilayered spectrum of physical/virtual or online/offline networked systems through which social interaction is taking place in real time. [via Rhizome]

[d.t.t.e.d.q.u.a.d] a new media artist, technologist group that is co-founded by noah shibely / hyunjoo oh in 2002. Their works involve Virtual Reality, interactive storytelling, surveillance technology, improvisational network sounds, cartographic sciences, distributed social softwares, kinetics, database art and Networked sound synthesis. They are currently working on several virtual reality projects, such as Inside/Outside System II and Nodule Resonance and had joined the post-production team of the Chicago Millennium Park Fountain Project. Noah and Hyunjoo's work has been shown in Versionfest>04 (Chicago, IL), IMMEDIA (Ann Arbor, MI), OpenEnd Art, Polvo, Buddy, 1926 gallery and Chicago Tourist Center (Chicago, IL). Hyunjoo holds a B.F.A (2002) in Philosophy and Art Education from the SungKyunKwan University in Seoul, Korea and M.F.A (2005) in Art and Technology studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Noah received a BFA degree in Art & technology studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently in the graduate studies, Interactive Telecommunication Program (ITP) at the New York University.

Posted by jo at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005



Car #235

Year Zero One is pleased to present teletaxi, a site-specific media art exhibition in a taxicab. The taxi is outfitted with an interactive touch screen that displays video, animation, audio, and information triggered by an onboard GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver which allows the displayed artwork to change depending on where the taxi is in the city. With the combination of the media/gps technology, the mobile environment and the passenger/audience inside the cab. The eleven artists in teletaxi are offered a unique set of possibilities for showing their work - both technically and thematically.

teletaxi will expose interactive media art to a normally passive audience, by presenting works that explore notions of intimacy, mapping, subterranean space, simulated cities, information architecture, data-visualisation, public interventions, surveillance and psychogeography.

Presented by Year Zero One, in Montreal, from March 21 to June, 2005. As part of the DIS/LOCATION: projet d'articulation urbaine programming of DARE-DARE Centre de diffusion d'art multidisciplinaire de Montréal.

Michael Alstad; Mario Côté; Milutin Gubash; David Jhave Johnston; Patric Lacasse; Virginie Laganière; Valérie Lamontagne; Éric Raymond; Doug Scholes
Camille Turner; Myriam Yates.

Opening Friday April first, from 5PM to 9PM, at Square Viger.

Join us at Dare Dare (Square Viger) for a 'fare free' ride in the teletaxi to navigate some of the neighbourhoods and Montreal sites explored by Year Zero One artists and guests.

To reach Taxi Co-op of Montréal, call at (514) 725.9885 and ask for car #235; For more information, contact Dare Dare at (514) 878.1088


Posted by jo at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

How to Disappear


Don't Disappear!

Hidden in pornography vending machines on the street, the whole game of buying the How to Disappear kit personifies the dilemma of gaining attention when wanting to hide. It is a practical do it yourself kit containing all the tips and gadgets you need to fight surveillance. Packaged in anonymous video cassette cases you will find a selection of 'disappearance-articles' along with usage instructions, a catalogue with more gadgets and tips, and of course, a lot more information on the subject.

We hope, that by making this extreme kit, we can provoke the visitor, NOT to disappear, but to take part in the debate and demand the respect for their own private life we feel is an essential part of a democratic society. [via Guerilla Innovation]

Posted by jo at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2005



Democratic Optics

The Co-Opticon (a.k.a. the ShareCam) is a machine for democratic optics, allowing a network of participants to cooperatively control the viewpoint of a shared video camera. The co-opticon combines a networked robotic video camera with a graphical user interface that allows many internet-based viewers to share simultaneous control of the camera by specifying desired viewing frames. Algorithms compute the optimal camera frame based on all requests, and position the camera accordingly.

Posted by jo at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

Questioning: a reflection on the Demonstrate Project


Found Questions

"ABSTRACT: This reflection on the Demonstrate project, a public and collaboratively-controlled state-of-the-art robotic web camera installed in historic Sproul Plaza, features a selection of user-generated questions, taken directly from the captions of user photos and from the user comments that appear below photos in the Demonstrate archive. They have not been edited, and they appear in the same chronological order in which they were originally asked. Together, these “found questions” are intended to evoke the sense of playful inquiry, practical curiosity, political engagement, sense of audience, and self-reflexivity that developed within the Demonstrate community. Their unfolding over time captures the shifting dynamics that emerged among users, and between the watchers and the watched." From Questioning: A Reflection on the Demonstrate Project, written for Making Things Public, an art-technology exhibition at ZKM Karslruhe (March 2005). Collaborators on the Demonstrate project and exhibition: Ken Goldberg, Dezhen Song, Andrew Dahl, Jeremy Schiff, Irene Chien, Jane McGonigal and Kris Paulsen.

Posted by jo at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005



Spaces of Absence

Haque Design and Research asks the question "in an urban environment that is so data-saturated can a distinction between public and private space really claim to exist"? It is the contention of (Floatables) that private spaces are increasingly scarce. All spaces are public, except spaces of absence. If privacy once existed in the home, now such a space no longer needs to be tied to a particular location."

"...The aim of the floatable jellyfish-like vessels that drift around cities is to create temporary, ephemeral zones of privacy: an absence of phone calls, emails, sounds, smells and thermal patterns left behind by others. Through various electrical systems they are also able to prevent access of GPS devices, television broadcasts, wireless networks and other microwave emissions. Finally, by creating a "blurry barrier" and a ground-plane camouflage pattern, they provide shielding from the unembarrassed gaze of security cameras and surveillance satellites." [via]

Posted by jo at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2005

The Living Room


When Rooms Respond

The Living Room, by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, is an intelligent, interactive image, sound and voice environment. It becomes "alive" and starts to "sense" when users enter and interact with this room.

Like in a perfect surveillance system all sounds, voices, gestures and motions of the users are detected through state-of-the-art camera tracking as well as sound and voice recognition systems. When the various users start to interact and communicate with each other within this room, they will also start to communicate with The Living Room.

As if it were an intelligent organism, The Living Room will react back to the user by interpreting the collected position and speech data in form of images and image elements displayed on the room's four large projection walls. All images and image elements are directly derived from the Internet, they are The Living Room's interpretation of the users' interactions and conversations.

Since the users' position, movement and voice data are constantly changing, the images streamed from the Internet are changing constantly as well. Due to the almost unlimited amount of image data available on the Internet, the users will become completely engulfed in this virtual image space of the Internet, displayed as life-streams on the four projection walls. Besides interpreting the users' interactions and conversations visually, The Living Room also uses these data to generate and broadcast its own sound and voice output.

Conceptually The Living Room thus metaphorically plays with ideas of surveillance, detection, intelligence, interpretation, miss-interpretation and communication. To the users it provide a feeling of immersion into a constantly changing and dynamic data space, full of unpredictable images, sounds and voices.

Posted by jo at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005

Eyes of Laura


I Love Surveillance

I received this note a few days back:

Hello, I am Laura, a security guard at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Through work, I have access to a lot of security cameras. I hacked a way to put one of these online on my Website so you can see it and control it. I love surveillance and keep a web journal or blog of what I see and put up video and images of things that happen.


The obvious reference had me Googling for an online synopsis of The Eyes of Laura Mars. (Nice one, Laura!) [originally posted by Joy on newsgrist]

Posted by jo at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

Breathe On Me


Breath as a Fundamental Form of Communication

Breathe On Me is an installation/internet work consisting of a three-walled space with a number of hybrid fan/webcam devices affixed to the walls. The fan/webcam devices are modified netcams such that Internet users can control the direction of a fan from the remote webcam view combined with pan and tilt controls. Internet users can choose one of the devices in the space, log onto the "FanCam," visually locate visitors in the physical space and then turn on the fan and "breathe" towards the person. Visitors in the physical space are invited to enter a space where they will be remotely seen and will not know who is telepresent. Once seen by internet participants, they will receive an offer of fan "breath" as a fundamental form of communication. Visitors who enter the space are asking to receive a telepresent stranger’s glance and touch in the form of wind. Internet users reach out to physical visitors in the simple offer of moving air.

To visit in telepresence: Links will to the live performance will be available at the live site within 24hrs. Opening Telepresently and in Situ: Friday, February 4, 2005; 8.00-9.30 PM, Pacific Standard Time, Continuing live through February 6; INTERACTIVE FUTURES 05: Technology in the Life World, Victoria, BC @ Open Space Artist-Run Centre

Posted by jo at 09:35 AM | Comments (1)

January 25, 2005

In Conversation


From Street to Chatroom

When live and located, In Conversation provided the means for individuals in the street and on the Internet to engage in a live dialogue with each other. This work by British artist Susan Collins aimed to examine the boundaries and social customs of distinctly different kinds of public spaces - the street and the Internet/chatroom-each with its own established rules of engagement.

Passers-by encountered an animated mouth projected onto the pavement and, through loudspeakers, could hear voices triggered by internet users trying to strike up a conversation. When the pedestrians responded, a concealed microphone and surveillance camera transmitted the responses to the website via a live video stream (webcast). Through the website, online visitors could view the surveillance video and hear the people on the street. They could type messages and send them 'live' to the installation where they were converted into speech and broadcast to the street through loudspeakers.

Posted by jo at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

Digital Shelters



A new landscape is emerging in the urban space, a SCANSCAPE that transgresses the boundaries and protocols of public and private space due to the extensive use of surveillance apparatus and telecommunication systems in the urban realm. How can we define these Scanscapes? How can we create Digital Shelters that will protect us, isolate us or allow us to live within these Scanscapes?

Digital Shelters, a PhD project by Pedro Sepulveda, explores how critical responses to the surveillance apparatus and telecommunication systems in the city landscape can inform the development of aesthetic possibilities for electronic spaces.

Posted by jo at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2005

Project Molly


Light Lunch with Molly

"Project Molly is a series of roaming interactive webcasts captured live using a wearable wireless audio/video acquisition system by artist Nichola Feldman-Kiss. Please interact with Project Molly live for light lunch and conversation via internet relay chat at the Project Molly interface."

Project Molly was a performance art/research innovation; it used a Xybernaut wearable computer with a head-mounted audio video acquisition and display system to stream a live video feed to the internet via wireless connection. The prototype real net video performances interactively linked the remote audience with the real time audience/performers via Project Molly’s personal a/v surveillance and chat interaction. Each consecutive interactive webcast incrementally evolved the project molly interface and knowledge database. Ultimately, the interface tracked project molly's movement through real space and captured streamed video into a data archive that is indexed and searchable by a variety of terms.

Posted by jo at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005



Absolute immobility installation

Displaced_Persons, by Christin Lahr, explores the interfaces between physical and virtual spaces, as well as interhuman communication.

In a room, one finds 8 loudspeakers and 8 red signs with the words engraved: north, south, east, west, up, down, in, out. A multi-voiced polylog of synthetic characters can be heard, discussing absence, truth and lies, sex, appearance, identity, and detection.

When people enter, the polylog abruptly breaks off until they either leave the space or remain completely motionless. Only the total immobility of everyone triggers the sound installation. In this way, a situation of interdependence(net_working) develops. Every individual influences the entire happening, and the result is a joint expression of everyone involved.

Visitors become fixed in the space as living sculptures and thus, at the same time, exhibits themselves.

Through 4 spyholes, events in the space inside can be monitored. The observer notices that the distance is only a relative one if he becomes, by observing, the one observed. All of this can also be tracked on the web via surveillance cameras. The cameras of all logged-in users are also collectively controlled so that every individual can influence all in-coming video. This is projected parallel to the exhibition via beamer. The arising 'cuts' result directly from the user's clicking behaviour and also document their activity. Likewise, texts can be fed into the website and immediately be heard through a loudspeaker found in the room, thus furthering the "polylof of fictitious identities". (Posted by Régine Debatty)

Posted by Regine at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005



Warped Experiences

CCTEX is based on the expanding cultural practice of game modification and the increasing presence of cctv and mass observation technologies. In CCTEX a level from 'Counter Strike' (a popular counter-terrorism mod) is re-mapped to offer the user an warped experience of covert surveillance.

The environment that the user experiences is coated in imagery drawn from a set of webcams that are positioned strategically around the installation space. Streaming video of the audience and gallery space are translated into textures that paint the modified game architecture. The textures are manipulated during this process to create a semi-abstract reflection of the users' space outside the machine. The viewer is confronted with a distorted vision of themselves and their environment as they interact with the work. [via neural.it]

In a previous work I focussed on the ubiquitous nature of cctv and digital media streams. (Peacekeeper took as its content the already glitched news web broadcasts with their nightvison camera shots and digital artefacts). With CCTEX the data source is drawn directly from the users behaviour and the physical space outside the machine. The increase of covert surveilance (both public and private) is a familiar trend but rarely is the audience of such observation permitted to see their performance onscreen. Not only does CCTEX present the user with their own captured image but it also demonstrates how such data can be distorted and manipulated.


PeaceKeeper: A networked, digital art installation for the Radiator Festival (1-11 May 03). Shown at the Surface Gallery, Nottingham (Commissioned by NOW & Trampolene).

For this project the software application that gamers use will be modified to warp the viewers experience of a frenzied online space. The digital arenas of an online FPS (First Person Shoooter) will be reprocessed into abstract architectural forms, time becomes compressed into a visceral texture.

Within this environment two computer controlled adversaries (Bots) are locked in an endless cycle of killing. Each Bot has only one objective, to eliminate the other, but with each victory the players are reborn to start the process again. The commanding logic behind this loop is inhuman and seemingly irreversable. However the viewer is invited to step within the cycle and intervene in the process. Each Bot will be represented by a large scale projection of its current view, from its own first person perspective. The two projections face each other across the installation space, as if allowing the opposing players to witness their deaths through their enemy's eyes.

Final Score

The installation ran for 10 days (24 hours a day) during the festival. The final score was 4408 v 2204. Bots were initially evenly matched but over an extended period small differences in their behaviour effected the final outcome.

Posted by jo at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2005



Cloaked in Space

Habitgram, by Montreal-based artist Beewoo, is a surveillance coat that the visitor is invited to wear. Inside the coat, several wireless mini-cameras pick up the environment of the wearer. The images are multiplied through video projections on the space walls. While wearing the Habitgram, the participant actually "wears" the space in which (s)he is standing.

As the cameras are positioned so as to rotate the captured images, either vertically, horizontally or at a 90° angle, some participants tried to restore the images to their original position and many others reported experiencing sensations of vertigo while wearing it.

"The user in command of this mediated image flow finds himself submerged in it in a discomforting way. Would the media image be so untamable? Drowning in this immersive environment, the viewer constantly attempts to understand its structure and source. Meanwhile, (s)he discovers new ways of exploring the physical architectural space in relation to its multiplied video mirror. Here, being immersed does not prevent the viewer from taking a critical distance towards the artwork. On the contrary, it is the immersion itself that triggers critical observation." [from near near future]

Posted by jo at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2004

Questioning the Frame


Thoughts about maps and spatial logic

"...Terms such as "mapping," "borders," "hacking," "trans-nationalism," "identity as spatial," and so on have been popularized in recent years by new media theories’ celebration of "the networks"—a catch-all phrase for the modes of communication and exchange facilitated by the Internet.

We should proceed with caution in using this terminology because it accords strategic primacy to space and simultaneously downplays time—i.e., history. It also evades categories of embodied difference such as race, gender and class, and in doing so prevents us from understanding how the historical development of those differences has shaped our contemporary worldview.

..." Read full article Questioning the Frame: Thoughts about maps and spatial logic in the global present by Coco Fusco, In These Times, December 16, 2004. Responses to the article culled from Locative and nettime:

Responses to the article culled from locative and nettime:

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 2004 22:26:27 +0000
From: Pall Thayer
Subject: [Locative] Questioning the Frame
To: locative@x-i.net

hmmm.... I just wish she would mention some of the mapping projects she's talking about. She really seems to have a narrow understanding of what artists are doing with locative media. She seems to suggest that one of the problems is that the artists have too much control over the social picture that the maps portray. And other artforms don't? I'm going to have to read this through a couple of times to make sure I really understand what she's saying but after a couple of scans it really looks rediculous and I almost get the feeling that she regrets not being a "hacker".


Ewen Chardronnet wrote:

well, she always comes with interesting art critics and post-colonial discourses, but use same dialectics each time. I remember reading same dialectics in her critics on "art and science" hipe and "critical art ensemble trial" hipe. And now the "locative media" hipe... You can be sure there will be a critic on "pervasive arts" and "space arts" soon, etc. and of course better if those arts are done by white male artists


Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 17:08:14 +0100 (CET)
From: Brian HOLMES
Subject: [Locative] A Reply to Coco Fusco

As a critic it's important to read your peers, and try to assess the pertinence of your own work in the mirror of theirs. So I was curious to read Coco Fusco's recent article on mapping [www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/ questioning_the_frame]. However, I must say that her continuous assertions of cultural authority leave me feeling highly ambivalent. On the one hand, the threads of historical memory she brings up are extremely welcome. On the other, her unwillingness to engage with current conditions and projects tends to reduce the past to a complaint: Why isn't it the present anymore?

It's true that the raw fact of being older than the majority of the people in a given crowd can make you feel uncomfortably lucid. When I went to a conference on so-called "locative" or GPS-based media at the RIXC center in Latvia, I found most of the projects quite naive, developing a few stylistic traits of situationist psychogeography in the absence of any geopolitical critique of power relations, or any philosophical critique of instrumental rationality. In effect, a Cartesian worldview has been built into the computerized technology of graphic information systems, which are undergirded by megaprojects of military origin, or what I call "imperial infrastructure." But rather than just giving a disciplinary lecture with all the answers stated in general terms, I tried to show how changing conditions had made the once-subversive traditions of psychogeography quite superficial, to the point where the aesthetic forms the artists were using seemed to render the very infrastructure of their projects invisible. And when I recently published that paper out of context in Springerin, I took the time to name all the artists and projects in question, so as to establish the precise referents of the critique [springerin.at]. I wish Coco Fusco would make that kind of minimal effort, as it would bring her sharp observations into contact with actual projects, and open up a space of possible transformation.

More to the point: When I began my work on mapping, about four years ago now, as a direct result of involvement in demonstrations against the policies of the WTO and IMF, I too felt that the most important reference was the history of the Third World movements of national liberation, in their relations to the Western civil rights and new left movements of the 60s and 70s. In an early text that was finally published in the book Moneynations, I tried to show how the very concept of the Third World, and then above all, the reality of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, acted to open up new imaginary and real spaces within the dominant bi-polar map of the Cold War [http://2002.memefest.org/en/defaultnews.cfm?newsmem=15]. I asked the question whether the emergence of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre could be compared to the Bandung Conference in 1955. Obviously, the answer was that it could not: both because the current antisystemic movements do not (yet) have the strength that Bandung represented, and because the operative modes of opposition may well have changed fundamentally since 1955.

The global importance of the Third World movements lay in the new kinds of international solidarity that they helped provoke. But something important remains unstated in Fusco's references to these movements, and this is the fact that the major links that tied them to the First World do not exist anymore (nor, indeed, do the movements themselves, for we are talking about specifically national movements in the period of decolonization). One of these links was an aspiration to create a non-Stalinist form of communism, according to the examples given by the successful Cuban and Vietnamese guerrilla insurgencies, and also by Yugoslav self-management (one must remember that the non-aligned movement came officially into existence in Belgrade). Another powerful link was the notion of cultural authenticity, or inherent difference from the Western norm, as a liberating foundation upon which newly independent nations could be built. This Third World concept served as a basis for the struggles toward a multicultural society in the First World. Today, however, the egalitarian aspiration to a self-managed communism has no objective touchstone in reality, leaving those who feel its lack in a deep state of ideological disarray. At the same time, the notion of cultural authenticity has been largely usurped by nationalist or fundamentalist projects which, although they have fortunately not eradicated all work towards equal rights in a multicultural society, have nonetheless made it very difficult to raise the banner of cultural or ethnic difference as a rallying-point for international solidarity.

Instead of relying on the old internationalist slogans (Third Worldist or proletarian), the transnational movements of dissent that gathered strength throughout the 1990s tried to use the communicative power of the discourses of human rights that had gained currency in the 80s, largely through the resistance of people in the former Eastern bloc to totalitarianism, and in Latin America to dictatorship. It was subsequently necessary, in the late 90s, for the Western participants in these transnational movements to take the further step of putting their own bodies on the line, of taking direct action against the international economic institutions, in order to go beyond the abstract character of the human rights discourse. This was a way of responding, in the overdeveloped countries, to the sacrifices of the many "IMF riots" that had been held, often at great cost of life, in what was now being called the Global South. Anyone who believes this step was taken by middle-class white kids acting on internet fantasies, in the absence of direct input from social movements around the world, quite obviously didn't go to any of the demonstrations and paid no attention to the planning process or the reports.

The point, however, is not to suggest that a brief flare-up of worldwide protest has brought about any substantial change. It is rather to recall what a difficult and long-term effort is really needed, both to grasp the way that transnational state capitalism now functions, and to articulate large-scale resistance. When Josh On [www.theyrule.net] or Bureau d'Etudes [http://utangente.free.fr/index2.html] make their complex charts of contemporary power relations, one can be assured that the cold and abstract character of the results is very painful to them. I can testify, particularly in the second case, that they are acutely aware of what is missing from such documents: namely, some affective indication of resistance from below, who does it, how they work and why. What has been achieved in such cartography projects, however, is a contribution to the very large-scale effort to rebuild a critical grasp of the oppressive forces that create the dominant map of the world. This kind of power-mapping is a necessary prelude to any effective resistance or counter-proposition. The fact that the difference between such efforts and the current military maps used by the Pentagon does not appear clearly on American TV is hardly something you can blame the artists for! There is a difference between general culture critique and constructive critique directed toward people carrying out specific projects.

Somewhat like Coco Fusco, I often wonder why contemporary artists appear so broadly unable to infuse the dominant map with representations of - or even better, direct links to - the many and diverse dissenting groups and alternative philosophies that are now emerging in the world, or that have remained active over decades. Unlike Coco Fusco, however, I don't think it's useful or necessary to berate artists today for not having been born earlier. The great philosophical frameworks of national liberation and egalitarian self-management that were able to articulate far-flung resistance movements in the past are inoperative in our time. The urgency is for real individuals of all generations, on all continents, to put their heads and hearts together and create new articulations. The specific job of writers and organizers is then to give those articulations conceptual clarity and popular currency, so that they can effectively challenge the absurd world-views presented on American TV.

As to artists, for whom the naked power structures of the contemporary world must now be quite visible, I encourage them to delve more deeply into the diverse efforts that are being made to resist the imposition of a homogeneous control structure on the entire world. This requires looking outside the boundaries of class, ethnicity and nationality, as certain artists and intellectuals of previous generations effectively did. To live up to the great examples of the past then means imagining something quite different for the future. Need it be said that certain kinds of imagination can serve as the first steps towards a transformation of reality?

Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 04:13:32 +0000
From: Saul Albert
Subject: Re: [Locative] A Reply to Coco Fusco
To: Brian Holmes

Hi Brian,

I read both Coco Fusco's piece and your response with interest and a little bemusement. You addressed the lazy generality of CF's rant very well, and touched on a couple of things that provoked me to write back:

Firstly, can we please get away from technological determinism?

Yes, the use of military-industrial technology can be problematic, but that criticism in your text is as widely and as targetlessly applied as Coco Fusco's. Many people are using these technologies (GPS/mobile phones/internet/high-tech gizmos), the social movements that you use as your reference points as much as anyone. In fact, it's not like we really have the choice about using these technologies , being subjects in a technocracy... and it's only out of the appropriation and reuse of these technologies that critique can form and attempt to reconfigure the social and political relations that produced them in the first place. Even on a non-technical level, using these technologies and observing their effects and deployment has been instrumental in the development of a number of political discourses: information and affective labour, precarity, [cyber]feminism etc. The critique develops as much from practice as practice develops from critique.

example: London Free Map - http://uo.space.frot.org/?node=LondonFreeMap


Jo Walsh and Schulyer Erle have been working on the 'London Free Map' This project encourages participants to walk, drive, cycle or skate through city streets with GPS units and then use the 'traces' of points representing latitude and longitude that these devices generate to help create publicly licensed geodata. They are also working on adapting existing open source software to enable people to annotate and extend these maps in a very flexible way. The example linked to above shows straight lines representing GPS traces made wandering the streets of Limehouse, East London, an area undergoing a huge urban regeneration process in preparation for the proposed Olympic games in 2012. The labeled points are the locations and names of approved planning permission applications made to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in the last five years, automatically retrieved from the council's website and plotted onto a scanned out-of- copyright historical map of the area from 1916. This is just one potential use of the London Free Map, a way of visualising physical and historical changes to a space undergoing a huge social and economic upheaval. The potential for further uses and the development of new, as yet unimagined maps from this project seems evident.

Secondly, I found the distinction between these technologically specific, less overtly political projects, and the 'power-mapping' practices of (the wonderful) Bureau D'Etudes and many many others to be a bit thin. I know you share their frustration at having to use the language of power to map power, but the problem is not just in the inability of this form to represent the fertile heterogeneity of the social movements. 'Power mapping' deals in the currency of power, and its representational structure can reinforce the dynamics of the relationships it represents. More worryingly, the unnerving coherence of these representations can also become ised easily - the currency of power made visual, or (worse) 'data visualisation' knits neatly into artistic and authorial currencies and relationships that can become as reactionary and totalising as the military-industrial technologies you were warning against earlier.

I know you know this, your descriptions of the playfulness of the Bureau's maps illustrates the path they choose out of this bind : 'solidarity with aliens'. But people using similar or derivative techniques seem to embrace the solemnity and darkness of their maps without having the escape pod provided by their humour.

What encourages me about initiatives like the London Free Map and many of the projects in the orbit of the 'locative media lab' is that they often work, on a very basic level, to avoid totalising representations. To some extent this is emerging as an informal agreement on technologies, open Semantic Web standards and other esoterica that I'm not really equipped to explain. Also, many of these projects are based on public workshops, working with people and groups on producing representations of themselves, spaces, movement and relationships. Of course none of this is inherantly interesting. Public workshops and 'open' technologies carry their own wealth of dead ends, vices and travesties, but they certainly are politicised - and politicising, in a very different and more subtle sense than that of 'power maps'. The contingency on input from the map-users is the most obvious distinction between these forms of mapping and the two examples of 'power mapping' you mentioned. Of course this aspect of 'participation' in the making of the map is just as worrying in terms of which currencies it evokes, auteurship and the 'framing' of 'public use' in the interests of pseudo-ehthographic artistic value creation etc. etc.. But the locative media lab's engagement with corporations, the way some of it is like cheap corporate R&D in exchange for getting to use fancy devices, the links with 'community groups' funded and instrumentised by arts bodies, and with governments for use of geodata is all messy, difficult, and suspect, but necessary if the technology, and the discourse are going to develop.

This probably warrants more examples, which I'm too tired to start with now.

I guess the problem is that criticising something is difficult because you have to explain why, whereas blithering pleasantries about things you like is not so demanding.

keep up the good work brian!



Date: Sun, 26 Dec 2004 23:48:54 -0800
From: John Hopkins
Subject: Re: [Locative] A Reply to Coco Fusco
To: locative@x-i.net

>>Firstly, can we please get away from technological determinism? Yes, the use of military-industrial technology can be problematic, but that criticism in your text is as widely and as targetlessly applied as Coco Fusco's. Many people are using these technologies (GPS/mobile phones/internet/high-tech gizmos), the social movements that you use as your reference points as much as anyone. In fact, it's not like we really have the choice about using these technologies , being subjects in a technocracy... and<<

Why no choice? If no choice, isn't that technological determinism to the extreme degree?

It is an incremental process -- each mile you drive onwards in your fossil-fuel burning device, or crank open the thermostat in the house, that drives the social system further onward in its dominance. (it propels the US military machine a bit further in its desparate mission to secure the true power/energy-base of the social structure that is is an integral part of). each time you don't do those things de-poweres that same system.

each time you watch one minute of centrally organized media you give that structure more power. each time you cross social-structural boundaries and engage an Other human directly, you depower those ordained structures.



Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 11:32:20 -0000
From: "Armin Medosch"
Subject: Re: [Locative] A Reply to Coco Fusco

Hi Saul, Hi Brian,

let me first make some sort of disclaimer: I am happy that Coco's article (which I have not read, but can roughly imagine what it contains) triggered this discussion about locative media which was long overdue. I think many people have felt uncomfortable with the unarticulated political 'content' or 'meaning' of locative work but have not spoken in public. One reason for that might be that they felt, as I did, that there is a lot of potential in that field and that the (mostly young) people involved did not deserve to be bashed for all their good intentions, even though those intentions sometimes gave relatively weak results. Finally the lid has been blown off and that is a good thing. I now do neither want to argue for or against Saul or Brian but just throw in my two-pence. I also have to say that writing something really meaningful about that whole area would take at least a day and I simply don't have that time right now. So please excuse the immaturity of my words which are quickly written in a sort of email improvisation which I guess was once the spirit of internet discussions which is now often sadly missed.

Saul said at the very beginning of his reply:

>> Firstly, can we please get away from technological determinism?

What does this statement mean? It is indeed important to 'get away from technological determinism'. But what this statement should not mean is that we should not consider or discuss technological determinism.

Saul continues:

>> Yes, the use of military-industrial technology can be problematic,

I would go further and say that 'can be problematic' is not strong enough. It _is_ problematic, always. The instrumental power that is contained in those technologies is a central issue of our time, and by 'our time' i do not only refer to the last couple of years or so but to the last 50 or even 100 years. Therefore I think such statements about technological determinism and military-industrial technology should not be used to quash any discussion about those issues. Those issues should exactly be the starting point of any discussion about 'locative' projects and indeed media art and net art projects. This is where the media art community has failed over the last 20 years which I was able to witness as a grown up person. It is one of the big failures of that community and possibly one of the reasons why it made so little real progress over that period of time. When I say 'real progress' I of course don't mean technological progress, of which we have seen plenty, but a progress in the social use of those technologies, in their accessability and applicability, in their ability to have an actual impact on the improvements of the situation of people.

I am arguing from a point of view of art that is based on a definition of art whose main reason to be is political. Such an art should be able to transcend the current power system. By 'transcending' i don't refer to metaphysics but to the actual socio-historic situation. In this situation and its projection of possible futures it should open up spaces, spaces for alternative ways of thinking, spaces that offer people different opportunities, for instance to realise alternative viewpoints outside the dominant system, or, more practically speaking, to be able to develop ways of resistance and at least limited ways of autonomy. Of course we cannot ask too much from art and the current level of oppression is so high, the ideology of technological determinism so deeply entrenched that it has become very hard to imagine anything that makes a real difference. But at least people should try. I am afraid I could not see that in most locative projects and in most of the discussions that have been had about the topic so far.

Most of the projects (I am aware that such generalisations without reference to particular projects are always lame but simply have not the time to go through bookmarks and list archives now) simply continue the master trope of the narration of hypermodernity, which is about expansion of technological mastery, coupled with economic growth, all under the banner of 'usefulness' for the people. This is how new communication technologies are being advertised. The mobile phone gives you freedom, it improves your social life, you can use it to form Rheingoldian Smart Mobs and if you put a little FOAF into it you can even realise alternative politicised virtual communities with it. Of course you can do all this stuff, it is even true. But by doing so, you are not leaving the established playing field, a field that has been established by the forces of techno-rationality in the service of capitalism.

I know it is a bit unfair to mention that here but the most significant 'locative' projects in that regard are Blast Theorie's mobile games. The critical content of those projects is nil. The whole thing blew up at futuresonica last year but most people could not read the signs on the wall. Of course their projects are resourceful, maybe well programmed, maybe even entertaining. But they are fundamentally affirmative of the world we live in and completely one-dimensional.

Now, to come back to the core question: it is simply wrong to ask if we are allowed to use military-industrial technologies. of course we should use them (and I do that by simply typing an email) but if we do it matters how we do that. do we contribute to the disguise of the political content of those technologies and thereby continue the positivistic narration of expansion and 'usefulness'? or do we use them to expose that which is always subconsciously present, that in this system, as Herbert Marcuse said 40 years ago, power is transferred into technological systems and that our dependency on those system makes us to their reified subjects? It is a general trait of this society that the powers that be try to cordon off the political. The positive side of things (technological things, gadgets, gps, pda's) gets highlighted but not what comes with it, not this hard to pin down element of power that has become nameless and faceless because
it has been inscribed in, is contained in the technological system.

Now, coming back to locative per se, I think Brian is right to say: "In effect, a Cartesian worldview has been built into the computerized technology of graphic information systems, which are undergirded by megaprojects of military origin, or what I call "imperial infrastructure."

Maybe he ment to say Geographical Information Systems (GIS). GIS combined with GPS and so forth truly signify the victory of Cartesian space over real space. Of course this victory is only a fake victory and never a final victory but it defines the current state of the arts in 'mapping'. Is it therefore forbidden for artists to use GIS? Of course not. The project by Jo Walsh and Schulyer Erle that Saul mentions, 'London Free Map' is a very good example. It is maybe not an art project but that does not matter. It tries to democratize GIS power, democratize in the sense of direct bottom up democracy and not fake vote rigging mind manipulating democracy (oh, that word, can someone suggest a better one?). It is experimental and utopian, it relies a lot on FLOSS and is probably difficult to use for people who are not tech-savvy, but that does not really matter at this point; it does not entertain in the way Blast-ed projects try to but that is effectively its strength. It involves fun, but of a different kind. We need more projects of this kind and we need a discourse that is better able to differentiate between projects that open up those other spaces and projects which simply fall into the technological deterministic trap.

I hope we can begin conversations that are critical and constructive and not about our personality disorders of which we all suffer to a certain degree, necessarily, because they are a function of that system we are subjected to. In this sense I agree that a lot of the 'psychogeography post-situationist' talk sounds naive. But at least it shows a desire to get away from Cartesian space and to reconceptualize the highly regulated spaces we live in. It makes a lot of sense to link FLOSS, art and the history and presence of liberation struggles, but that debate needs updates and rejigging too.

Hoping to be able to talk about those issues in a more elaborate way soon and also hoping to hear from other people now


Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 02:21:22 -0800
From: karlis
Subject: [Locative] Don't be shy
To: locative@x-i.net

...Executive Summary:

While studying locative media projects, a computer user realizes the value in talking to people.

Extended Commentary:

A romance of the aesthetic of the internet. Be somewhere, anywhere, it doesn't matter, "jack in" to the internet, and you're home, with your office and your contacts and connections. The presently inhabited city, be it Riga, Ljubljana, or Vancouver, is like wallpaper or decor in a restaurant. The principal interaction with the world is through the internet, and the information available there, the rest is somehow peripheral. So naturally when we approached the ability to make computing mobile and location aware, there seemed to be an answer of integration; finally the drift and nomadism would be informed and fulfulled with the power and potential of the network computer. All your revolutionary fantasies come true. Except the devices are retarded and complicated and expensive; they don't work properly, and they make you into a Steve Mann cyborg, someone more appopriately dressed for a mid 1990's DefCon hacker fair in Las Vegas than any part of life in public.

We tried to simplify the gear and determine what it was supposed to do, which was connect us to the network, make us contextually aware within that network, and informationally aware within that spatial context. The equipment had to be "naturally human", so that it is still possible to interact with the environment and the local culture without handicap.

No cyborg head displays or cybergloves, or star-trek tricorders. It also has to be inexpensive and uncomplicated and break-proof.

A beautiful natural language interface was developed (using selective evolutionary algorithms, no less). Billions of client terminals connected to a global information network have been deployed, planet-wide, that use this natural language interface.

They're called people.

Sitting behind my computer and obsessed with the internet for ten years, I totally missed the obvious connection that local people are connections to the whole network, the network of all information connections which includes the internet but also "old Joe Smith" with whatever he's got to offer. It's the same reason why I haven't needed a watch since I was 15 - someone around me always knows the time. The connection to the network is not limited to a GPS satellite signal reciever and a 2.4GHz wireless internet supercomputer laptop. Rather it's just a link to the next node with different information that what you can access on your own. The easiest, most locative way to access that network is by talking to people, and if these studies are urban, there's going to be people. Forget WiFi and GPS. Ask for directions. Ask the nearest person, or if you're aesthetically driven, ask the nearest good-looking one. If they don't have the answer, they might know someone who does, or can suggest an alternative. If they don't speak your language, they'll likely direct you to someone who does.

Maybe that's should be obvious. But as a bedroom caveman computer hack, to look around and find that this perfect system has already been implemented is amazing. It's multi-modal with multiple redundancies. Ubiquitous. Reliable. All-weather. Fuckable.

Maybe an internet legacy of the military paradigm has poisoned our preconceptions about the reliability and desirability of technology vs people. But if we are nice and friendly and not locally despised imperial soldiers, we don't have to bring all our knowledge in a computer. We can talk to the nearest person.

When I was in an busy new space I formerly looked around and saw great potential for overlaying great collections of information and data or media texture in location, if we could develop the system to realize it.

Now I see that this network is already in place, mobile info nodes are walking all around, ready to be engaged, connected to vast networks of people and information. Standard APIs. It's amazing. Sometimes you have to ask a bunch of times, even before you realize the right question to be asking. But if the information is there, someone has it, and you can find it.

The mention of technological determinism and political action, brought up in the context of locative media, seemed to make this "amazing" revelation relevant again. It has been called a serious political action to find ways beyond the gap between people in the very technically-focused and alienated population. Techno-fetish locative media projects made me realize how important and powerful it is just talking to people.



Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 14:15:32 -0800 (PST)
From: coco fusco
Subject: Questioning the Frame

In response to Geert's request, below is my commentary that was published in IN THESE TIMES recently. The comments were based on my lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in November, 2004. The series is entitled:


and the school's description of the series is:

"This lecture series examines the work of artists, artist-collaboratives, and film/video makers whose works address or proceed from shifts in articulations of global culture, politics of the border and dilemmas of transnational or diasporic identities--identity as a spatial concern. Special attention will be given to artists who use the gesture and organizational logic of mapping, cartographic sciences and the grid to locate identity as well as its displacements."

I found this description so baffling and overladen with jargon that it prompted my response.

I have not had a moment yet to respond to Holmes's post. I found it a bit surprising that he would locate a response to an article in a left-wing Chicago newspaper on a list-serve with a primarily European readership (of his allies, I would add). A decision to locate his response HERE as opposed to THERE seems more like a rallying cry to his nettime readership than an address the substance of my argument or to the public in Chicago, a city with a long and venerable history of community and labor organizing, activist media, and radical black politics.


Posted by jo at 10:19 AM | Comments (4)

December 27, 2004



Emerging Infrastructures of All (Inter)net Research

Dr. Reinhold Grether's network research | netzwissenschaft site maps the "emerging infrastructures of all (inter)net research endeavours. net.science as an anthropology of connectivity is trying to overcome the constraints of specialist method transfers on net matters. the protuberance of technical networks necessitates a professionalization of human net knowledge. neither the isolation of concepts as in basic research nor the encapsulation of processes as in applied sciences will ever be able to adequately describe the complex autopoiesis of networks. net.science is undoubtedly developing into a scienza nuova of its own right."

Check out his Mobile Art and Virtual Performance research areas.

Posted by jo at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004



Mass observation game

CCTEX, by British artist Tom Betts, is based on the game modification and the cctv and mass observation technologies.

The environment that the user experiences is coated in imagery drawn from webcams positioned around the installation space. Streaming video of the audience and gallery space are translated into textures that paint the modified game architecture. The textures are manipulated to create a semi-abstract reflection of the users' space outside the machine. The viewer is confronted with a distorted vision of themselves and their environment as they interact with the work.

The data source is drawn directly from the users behaviour and the physical space outside the machine. The increase of covert surveilance is a familiar trend but rarely is the audience of such observation permitted to see their performance onscreen. Not only does CCTEX present the user with their own captured image but it also demonstrates how such data can be distorted and manipulated.

CCTex is exhibited at the Seoul International Media Art Biennale until February 6, 2005. (Posted by Régine Debatty)

Posted by Regine at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2004

The Leonardo Awards Program


Award Recipients

Leonardo/ISAST, through its Awards Program, recognizes artists and organizations involved in the use of new media in contemporary artistic expression. Artists and organizations are nominated by Leonardo/ISAST Associate Members. The following award recipients have been named:

Steve Mann (Canada) is the recipient of the 2004 Leonardo Award for Excellence. In his winning article, the author presents "Existential Technology: Wearable Computing Is Not the Real Issue" as a new category of in(ter)ventions and as a new theoretical framework for understanding privacy and identity. Mann has written more than 200 research publications and has been the keynote speaker at numerous industry symposia and conferences. His work has been shown in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Triennale di Milano and the San Francisco Art Institute. He received a Ph.D. from MIT in 1997 and is now a faculty member at the University of Toronto. Read his Leonardo article [PDF].

Critical Art Ensemble (U.S.A.) are the recipients of a special 2004 Leonardo new Horizons Award for Innovation in recognition of their artistic work in fields such as biotechnology, robotics and tactical media. Their performances and installations have reached viewers around the world and have broken new ground in the often controversial area of new technologies. The Leonardo/ISAST Governing Board voted to give CAE this special award to affirm the principle that artists should engage emerging technologies and be willing to take critical stances that may be at odds with those of the mainstream. Freedom of artistic expression and research form a part of the foundation of an open society. For more information on Critical Art Ensemble, please visit http://www.critical-art.net.

Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha (The Netherlands) were the recipients of the 2003 Leonardo Award for Excellence for their article "Electric Body Manipulation as Performance Art: A Historical Perspective," published in Leonardo Music Journal 12. Arthur Elsenaar is an artist and electrical engineer who ran his own pirate radio station and built the transmitters for many illegal radio and television stations throughout the Netherlands. Elsenaar’s recent work employs the human face as a computer-controlled display device. Remko Scha is an artist, DJ, and computational linguist. He has built an automatic electric guitar band ("The Machines"), designed an image generation algorithm ("Artificial"), and developed a theory about language-processing ("Data-Oriented Parsing"). Arthur Elsenaar and Remko Scha have jointly developed a series of automatic performance pieces and video installations that involve computer-controlled facial expression, algorithmic music, and synthetic speech. These works have been presented at scientific conferences, theatre festivals, and art exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. Elsenaar and Scha also explore the use of automatic radio stations as a medium for computer art. Read their Leonardo article [PDF].

See full list of recipients.

Posted by jo at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

Standards and Double Standards


Watchful Belts

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Standards and Double Standards installation consists of 4 surveillance cameras, a tracking system and fifty fastened belts suspended from servo motors on the ceiling.

Controlled by a computerized tracking system, the belts rotate to follow the public, turning their buckles slowly to face people. When several visitors are in the room their presence creates chaotic patterns of interference. Non-linear behaviours emerge such as turbulence, eddies and relatively quiet regions.

With this piece, the artist wants to visualize complex dynamics, turning a condition of pure surveillance into an unpredictable connective system. Standards and Double Standards creates an "absent crowd" using a fetish of paternal authority: the belt. [Quicktime Video] [from near near future]

Posted by jo at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

Augmented Space

"GPS, wireless location services, surveillance technologies, and other augmented space technologies all define data space – if not in practice than at least in their imagination - as a continuous field completely extending over and filling in all of physical space. Every point in space has a GPS coordinate which can be obtained using GPS receiver. Similarly, in the cellspace paradigm every point in physical space can be said to contain some information that can be retrieved using PDA or a similar device. With surveillance, while in practice video cameras, satellites, Echelon (the set of monitoring stations which are operated by the U.S. and are used to monitoring all kinds of electronic communications globally), and other technologies so far can only reach some regions and layers of data but not others, the ultimate goal of the modern surveillance paradigm is to able to observe every point at every time. To use the terms of Borges’s famous story, all these technologies want to make the map equal to the territory." From "The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada" by Lev Manovich.

Posted by jo at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2004

Evidence Locker


Retrieval Room

For the Liverpool Art Biennal, American Jill Magid worked with the operators of the city's CCTV surveillance cameras to teach them the techniques of professional filmmakers.

During one month, Magid wore a red trench coat and boots, ensuring she could easily be spotted throughout the city. She called the police on duty with details of where she was and asked them to film her in particular poses and even guide her through the city with her eyes closed - all using the public surveillance cameras. All around Magid, the most innocent passers-by were transformed into potential bag-snatchers, rapists and serial killers by the camera's behaviour.

The final work was made into two installations: Evidence Locker at Tate evokes the space of the CCTV monitoring station, with a soundtrack of the police log being read aloud, and CCTV footage featuring the artist. Evidence Locker at FACT reveals Magid's evolving relationship with the CCTV staff through a daily diary and video projections [until November 28th at the FACT gallery in Liverpool.] From near near future.

Posted by jo at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

October 26, 2004

Kirk Woolford: Reckless Eyes


Sharing the Technical Gaze

"The concept of gaze has taken a radical shift over the past 50 years. With the advent of the CCD, surveillance cameras have spread numerous gazes across our cityscapes. The gaze of technology is different than the gaze of biology. The technical gaze can hold, record, and re-present the images before it. Most importantly, the technical gaze can be shared - either through re-presentation of the recorded images, or through live transmission.

From 1994-1996, Steve Mann, the grandfather of wearable computers, wore a wireless camera and receiver for almost every waking minute of his life (he took them off only swim, shower, and sleep). Both the camera and display were connected to the Internet so visitors to Steve's www site could see what he was gazing upon, and if a visitor sent him an email, it would pop up in the display before his eyes. Steve tells jokes about viewers to his website telling him to say hello to people the recognized or chastising him for "ogling cleavage."" Read Reckless Eyes by Kirk Woolford.

Posted by jo at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2004

The (in)security Camera


Watching Me Watching You

The (in)security camera is an installation created last year by Benjamin Chang, Silvia Ruzanka and Dmitry Strakovsky. The robotic surveillance camera relies on an advanced computer-vision software to track, zoom, and follow subjects walking through its field of view. Deploying sophisticated AI algorithms used by the security forces, it can assess threat levels in real time and respond accordingly.

However, the camera is, in fact, a little insecure. Easily startled by sudden movements, it is shy around strangers and tends to avoid direct eye contact. This reversal of the relationship between the surveillance system and its subjects gives the machine an element of human personality and fallibility that is by turns endearing, tragic, and slightly disturbing.

Originally from Linkfilter; reblogged by Regine at near near future

Posted by jo at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2004

Life: a User's Manual, Part 2


Inhabiting Image Spaces

Commissioned by and currently on exhibit at Impakt Online, Life: a User's Manual locates the city of Utrecht as its game board, where every story, every piece stands on its own, but is part of an intricate jigsaw puzzle. Both public physical spaces and private interior spaces contain traces of fragmentary personal [hi]stories tied together by an invisible network of media. How people inhabit the hidden 'image spaces', discovered by a wireless surveillance camera scanner, while at the same time inhabiting physical outdoor spaces, was revealed through the daily practice of walking during the Impakt Festival 2003. The findings of Michelle Teran's walks have been arranged on a map of Utrecht's secret transmissions.

Life a User's Manual is a series of walking performances taking place in different cities (see an earlier post on this site), based around the activity of tapping into the unencrypted transmissions of wireless security cameras using a 2.4 Ghz receiver. In a search for the hidden stories within the city, a walk through the urban streets reveals an invisible network of watched spaces. The unencrypted signal from the camera leaks into public space, making it easily viewable from the street. This puts us in an interesting moment of uncertain inhabitation, of being in two spaces at once.

A tiny fraction of the spectrum of the airwaves has been allocated for public use, as if space and the air are not public already. Taking advantage of this unlicensed part of the spectrum, we have seen an increased used of wireless devices that are all fighting for use of this narrow band. Use of wireless [wifi] networks, cordless phones, bluetooth, and wireless cameras transmitting on this frequency contributes to an already existing invisible world of electromagnetic fields and frequencies that saturate our bodies on a daily basis. It becomes impossible to separate our bodies from the traffic reports, surveillance video, phone calls and pop songs of others. We wear each other's information.

Posted by jo at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2004

People v. technology

Gathering of the Tribes - Sousveillance

Gathering of the Tribes' call for submissions:

"We seek creative works exploring how individuals and cultures artistically respond to and represent our world under surveillance. New media performance emphasizing the importance of public reflection on ubiquitous surveillance and sousveillence is encouraged, as well as essays, short stories, poetry and visual works that assist in defining the ideals of human centeredness in a mechanical and monitored world."

Hmm. perhaps I will submit my percolating critique of sousveillance...

anne galloway's post at purse lips square jaw, 09.29.04

Posted by jo at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2004



Undesired Spotlight

ACCESS is a public art installation by Marie Sester that applies web, computer, sound and lighting technologies in which web users track individuals in public spaces with a unique robotic spotlight and acoustic beam system. The robotic spotlight automatically follows the tracked individuals while the acoustic beam projects audio that only they can hear. The tracked individuals do not know who is tracking them or why they are being tracked, nor are they aware of being the only persons among the public hearing the sound. The web users do not know that their actions trigger sound towards the target. In effect, both the tracker and the tracked are in a paradoxical communication loop. The ACCESS spotlight system travels from one undisclosed public space to another. The exact location of the public space is revealed only after ACCESS moves to its next location. The ACCESS website, which contains the webcam view and spotlight control, keeps an updated list of the locations visited as well as a video archive. Click here to participate.

Regine blogged this on we make money not art

The content of ACCESS calls for awareness of the implications of surveillance, detection, celebrity, and their impact on society. The structure of ACCESS is intentionally ambiguous, revealing the obsession/fascination for control, visibility, and vigilance: scary or fun. ACCESS was primarily influenced by the beauty of the surveillance representations (x-rayed bodies, luggage or vehicles, 3D laser scans, satellite reconnaissance imagery, etc.), the invisibility of the collected data, and the power generated by means of surveillance practices.

Posted by jo at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2004



Embedding GPS in Moving Images

"If we can send a picture of a place, why wouldn’t we want someone else to find exactly the same spot? The same angle? The same longitude and latitude? The same Place." Being On Location: The beginnings of a Geo-Cinema & Location-aware video recording. See also: Get Carter 1971 Location List & Days in the Country & Photo recognition software gives location & RAW What happened in that minute before you took a picture? (=place) & this MDVR from March Networks & Data and Narrative: Location Aware Fiction.

originally posted by thomas, 04.11.04 on angermann2.

Posted by jo at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2004

Life: A User's Manual


Subverting Surveillance Tactics

Life: A User's Manual is a public performance by media artist Michelle Teran where she dresses up like a bag lady and carries an antenna made out of a soup can while pushing a shopping cart full of televisions along a designated route in Brussels, Belgium. The antenna is connected to a 2.4 GHZ X-10 video scanner which picks up signals from wireless cameras deployed by stores, homes, or police in the buildings and neighborhoods she passes. The found signal is then displayed on the TV in her cart. This type of surveillance is a theme of Teran's work that attempts to make hidden or private CCTV streams into public performance and online mappings. Really interesting take on the act of subverting existing surveillance tactics by displacing the context of the medium.

From her description: “The city is a game board, where every story, every piece stands on its own, but is part of an intricate jigsaw puzzle. Both public physical spaces and private interior spaces contain traces of fragmentary personal [hi]stories tied together by an invisible network of media. How people inhabit the hidden ‘image spaces’, discovered by a wireless surveillance camera scanner, while at the same time inhabiting physical outdoor spaces, is revealed through the practice of walking.” From jonah at coin operated.

Posted by jo at 07:39 AM | Comments (1)

August 17, 2004

dennis crowley


networks, mobile play & big brother

In the press a lot lately, are the works of dennis crowley, focused on 'finding the intersection between location-based services, social software and user-generated content on mobile devices.' His work includes dodgeball.com, a live, mobile-based friend finder, Pac Manhattan, where physical players do the PacMan thing around Washington Square Park, and Big Brother Foosball, a foosball game that displays your SS number while you play. [Posted by Nathaniel Stern]

Posted by at 05:41 AM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2004

iSee Wireless


iSee Wireless

We are in the midst of two wireless revolutions, one defined by large corporations that buy spectrum, the other defined by ad hoc networks and open standards. We are focused on contributing to this second, more democratic revolution.

Julian Bleecker (Art Cache Machine, WiJacker, Proximity Wireless projects utilizing WiFi Toolkit software.) explores practical and playful uses of WiFi through a series of projects created with the WiFi Toolkit, a set of software APIs Bleecker developed as Engineer in Residence at Eyebeam. Art Cache Machine, the WiJacker and Proximity are three WiFi-enabled applications developed to investigate the possibilities of "partially connected" WiFi social networks using access points deliberately off the public internet. Art Cache Machine is a mobile WiFi node that provides an access point for specific digital art that can only exist within the locale of the Machine's WiFi node. WiJacker assumes the role of a WiFi node by hijacking the activity of users. Proximity is an ad-hoc communication service that enables connections between devices without user intervention.

iSee is a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras in urban environments. With iSee, users can find routes that avoid these cameras - paths of least surveillance - allowing them to walk around their cities without fear of being "caught on tape" by unregulated security monitors.

Who should use iSee
The past several years has seen a dramatic increase in CCTV surveillance of public space. Video cameras peer at us from the sides of buildings, from ATM machines, from traffic lights, capturing our every move for observation by police officers and private security guards that often act with very little public or legislative oversight. While the effectiveness of these devices in reducing crime is dubious at best (see below), recent cases of misuse by public and private authorities serve to question the appropriateness of video monitoring in public space. Here is a short list of people who might legitimately want to avoid having their picture taken by unseen observers:

One of the big problems with video surveillance is the tendency of police officers and security guards to single out particular people to monitor. It is hardly surprising that the mentality leading to racial profiling in traffic stops has found similar expression in police officers focusing their cameras on people of color. Indeed, a recent study of video surveillance in the UK, the leading user of CCTV surveillance systems, says that "black people were between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half times more likely to be surveilled than one would expect from their presence in the population." It is worth pointing out that, in this study, 40% of people that the police targeted were picked out "for no obvious reason," other than their ethnicity or apparent membership in various subcultural groups. In other words, they were singled out not for what they were doing, but simply based on how they looked.

It appears that police monitors just can’t seem to keep it in their pants when it comes to video surveillance. In a Hull University study, 1 out of 10 women were targeted for “voyeuristic” reasons by male camera operators, and a Brooklyn police sergeant blew the whistle on several of her colleagues in 1998 for “taking pictures of civilian women in the area ... from breast shots to the backside."

Young men, particularly young black men, are routinely singled out by police operators for increased scrutiny. This is particularly true if they appear to belong to subcultural groups that authority figures find suspicious or threatening. Do you wear baggy pants or shave your head? Smile – you’re on candid camera!

The Hull University study also found a tendency of CCTV operators to focus on people whose appearance or activities marked them as being "out of place." This includes people loitering outside of shops, or homeless people panhandling. Not surprisingly, this group includes individuals observed to be expressing their opposition to the CCTV cameras.

Experience has shown that CCTV systems may be used to spy on activist groups engaged in legal forms of dissent or discussion. Indeed, the City College of New York was embarrassed several years ago by student activists who found, much to their dismay, that the administration had installed surveillance cameras in their meeting areas. This trend shows no signs of abating: one of the more popular demonstrations of CCTV capabilities that law enforcement officials and manufacturers like to cite is the ability to read the text of fliers that activists post on public lampposts.

Everyone else
Let’s face it – we all do things that are perfectly legal, but that we still may not want to share with the rest of the world. Kissing your lover on the street, interviewing for a new job without your current employer’s knowledge, visiting a psychiatrist – these are everyday activities that constitute our personal, private lives. While there is nothing wrong with any of them, there are perfectly good reasons why we may choose to keep them secret from coworkers, neighbors, or anyone else.

But what’s the harm?
Clearly, video surveillance of public space represents an invasion of personal privacy. But so what? Having one's picture taken from time to time seems a small price to pay for the security benefits such surveillance offers. It's not like anyone ever sees the tapes, and let's be honest being singled out for scrutiny by remote operators without your even knowing about it is not at all the same as being pulled over, intimidated and harassed by a live cop.

Unfortunately, this is not entirely accurate. The fact is, there is very little oversight of video surveillance systems, and the question of who owns the tapes and who has the right to see them - is still largely undecided.

The fact is, many of the cameras monitoring public space are privately owned. Banks, office buildings, and department stores all routinely engage in continuous video monitoring of their facilities and of any adjacent public space. The recordings they make are privately owned, and may be stored, broadcast, or sold to other companies without permission, disclosure, or payment to the people involved.

Similarly, video footage that is captured by public police departments may be considered part of the "public record," and as such are available for the asking to individuals, companies, and government agencies. At present, there is precious little to prevent television programs like "Cops" and "America's Funniest Home Movies" from broadcasting surveillance video without ever securing permission from their subjects.

Sound far-fetched? Already in the UK the country that so far has made the most extensive use of CCTV systems (although the Canada and US are catching up) there has been one such case. In 199X, Barrie Goulding released "Caught in the Act" a video compilation of "juicy bits" from street video surveillance systems. Featuring intimate contacts including one scene of a couple having sex in an elevator this video sensationalized footage of ordinary people engaged in (mostly) legal but nonetheless private acts.

Similarly, there has been a proliferation of "spy cam" websites featuring clandestine footage of women in toilets, dressing rooms, and a variety of other locations. A lack of legislative oversight allows these sites to operate legally, but even if new laws are passed, the nature of the Internet makes prosecutions highly unlikely.

As video surveillance systems evolve and become more sophisticated, the opportunities for abuse are compounded. Sophisticated video systems can identify the faces of individuals (matching video images to databases of known faces for example, the repository of driver's license photos maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles), the objects they carry (including, for example, reading the text on personal documents), and their activities. These systems enable the creation of databases that know who you are, where you've been, when you were there, and what you were doing. Databases that are conceivably available to a host of people with whom you'd rather not share such information, including employers, ex-lovers, and television producers.

All of this says nothing about the societal impact of our increasing reliance on surveillance, and our growing willingness to put ourselves under the microscope of law enforcement and commercial interests. Once a cold-war caricature of Soviet-style communist regimes, the notion of the "surveillance society" is increasingly employed to describe modern urban life in such bastions of personal liberty and freedom as the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

While the nature of such a society has been long theorized by philosophers, critics, and sociologists, the psychological and social effects of living under constant surveillance are not yet well understood. However, the impacts that CCTV systems have on crime are beginning to be known.

Video Surveillance and Crime
Touted as a high-tech solution to social problems of crime and disorder by manufacturers selling expensive video surveillance systems to local governments and police departments, CCTV has gained much popularity in recent years. These manufactures claim that CCTV which often costs upwards of $400,000 to install in a limited area will dramatically decrease criminality, and provide a measure of security heretofore unknown to the general public. As these CCTV systems are often purchased at the expense of other less-oppressive, less-expensive, and proven law-enforecement methods such as community policing, the claims of CCTV merchants should be carefully scrutinized.

CCTV is often promoted with thinly veiled references to the threat of terrorism: hence their widespread use in the UK, which has long lived with bomb threats and other violent actions. Already, in light of the September 11 attacks, video surveillance manufacturers have begun to court the American public with some measure of success as evidenced by recent gains in these companies' share prices.

Attempting to capitalize on an international tragedy to sell product in this manner may seem tastelessly opportunistic at best. Given the track record of CCTV systems to date, this strategy seems downright cynical. According to studies of the effectiveness of video surveillance in use throughout the UK, there is no conclusive evidence that the presence of CCTV has any impact on local crime rates. While there have been examples of reduced criminality in areas where CCTV has been installed, these reductions may also be explained by other factors, including general decreases in crime throughout the UK. Indeed, in several areas where CCTV was installed, crime rates actually increased.

Given the widespread use of these systems, it is surprising how infrequently they lead to arrests. According to one report, a 22-month long surveillance of New York's Times Square led to only 10 arrests (those cameras have since been removed). Furthermore, the type of crime against which CCTV is most effective seems positively mundane when compared to its advocate's claims of stopping terrorism and kidnappings. A study of CCTV use in the UK found that the majority of arrests in which video surveillance played a significant role were to stop fistfights. Again, this was a relatively infrequent occurrence, and hardly seems to justify the price tag and loss of privacy these systems inherently engender.

More disturbing, however, was the finding that incidents of police brutality and harassment captured by CCTV surveillance were routinely ignored. The tapes of these events also had a tendency to be "lost" by operators.

The effect of video surveillance on criminal psychology is also not well understood. One Los Angeles study found that cameras in a retail store were perceived by criminals as a challenge, and in fact offered became an inducement towards shoplifting.

At best, CCTV seems to not reduce crime, but merely to divert it to other areas. According to one Boston police official, "criminals get used to the cameras and tend to move out of sight."

A final thought...
Given heightened awareness of public safety and increased demand for greater security in the face of growing threats of terrorist violence, projects that undermine systems for social control may seem to some viewers to be in poor taste. It is the Institute for Applied Autonomy's position that such times call out all the more strongly for precisely these kinds of projects. As spytech dealers stumble over themselves in their haste to auction off our civil liberties - wrapped in the stars and stripes, tied up tight with memorial ribbons - to right-wing politicos who drool and salivate in anticipation of railroading their own Orwellian wet-dreams of social control through our legislative bodies, there is a vital need for independent voices that cry out against such cynical exploitation of legitimate human fear and suffering for political power and monetary gain. The Institute for Applied Autonomy is such a voice. iSee is our statement.

- Brought to you by the Institute for Applied Autonomy "now more than ever"

Posted by michelle at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)