Burner Identities

Dropbox has hired a pair of computer vision/machine learning experts as the beginning of a push to aid the organisation, curation and understanding of all “the memories we’re accumulating”. Essentially, there’s a lot of data, but not much information for a machine in a photograph, and providing a machine with access to that information (faces, settings, time of day, etc) means a lot more power for Dropbox.

But what does this mean for users? It means having every photographed moment (or, in Dropbox’s parlance, ‘memory’) analysed and logged – a deep recording of your actions. Not only for Dropbox users, but for those around any Dropbox users wielding a camera, whether you know them or not, being snapped in a crowd by someone who then places that image in Dropbox is going to be enough to place you somewhere, by virtue of your identifiable face. This isn’t necessarily any different to Facebook’s capabilities (and actually, doesn’t necessarily involve the same access to identity) but moving from what one chooses to put on a social network, to, potentially, all of a user’s files and folders is a solid increase in the reach of surveillance.

The mobile phone has been described by Jacob Appelbaum as “a tracking device that lets you make calls”, but it is at least (somewhat) optional (you can choose not to own one, you can turn it off, or place them in a signal blocking pouch), as is your own use of ‘cloud’ services or social networks. Your face, however, is not.

In conjunction with our inability to control what others do with their images and data, and the creation of, essentially, a global network of handheld, networked, surveillance cameras, it becomes difficult to retain anonymity and privacy. We cannot turn off our faces, or choose not to own them, but we can do the equivalent of blocking their signal: cvdazzle is a project looking to ways of fooling facial recognition technology through fashion – with face obscuring hair and makeup, the creation of an “anti-face”.

The face is just one part of this, however; it’s becoming possible to identify people through “intrinsic biometrics”, or how they move. In order to counteract mobile phone based surveillance, cheap pay as you go phones, unlinked to an identity and thrown away after use, are used. These are called burner phones. We need to use this approach for other identity signifiers, we need burner phones and burner faces, burner limbs*, burner voices, in short: whole burner identities.

* Perhaps something like this could help here.

Martin Howse: Earthcodes


Earthcode is a project by Martin Howse exploring the idea of producing a computer integrated with, and constructed from, the earth. The image above is from the Earthboot part of the project, the earth as OS, from the site:

“earthboot boots from the earth.

earthboot returns vampiric technology to the earth.

earthboot enables almost any computer to boot straight from the earth, sidestepping dirty mining actions, and the expensive refining and doping of raw minerals; thus avoiding environmentally wasteful production techniques for the construction of data bearing devices such as hard drives or USB memory sticks

Instead, earthboot boots straight from the earth itself, exploring the being-substrate of contemporary digital technology; the material basis of 21st century computation.

earthboot revives the use of underground flows of electricity or telluric currents which were first exploited as generators of power within the telegraphic communications apparatus of the 19th century.

earthboot proposes a barely functional telluric operating system (OS), exposing the vampirism of current technology. Telluric or underground currents are translated directly into code for an earthbound operating system.

The laptop, or PC, literally boots up directly from the specially designed, earthboot USB device pushed into the earth, running code which is totally dependent on small fluctuations in electric current within the local terrain.

Quite often the earthboot operating system is not always fully functional as expected. Crashing is the price to pay for booting straight from the earth.

A prototype has been constructed based on the ATMEGA32u4 which emulates a USB mass storage device, sampling earth voltages and converting these directly into instructions for an earthbooting computer. Preliminary tests for earthboot have proved successful using code based on the LUFA mass storage example.”

More information here: http://www.1010.co.uk/org/earthcode.html


Stockhausen / Process

1952 I started working in the studio for musique concrete, of the
French radio. Because I was very intrigued by the possibility to compose
one’s own sound. I was allowed to work in the studio of Pierre Scaeffer: I
made artificial sounds, synthetic sounds, and I composed my first étude:
Étude Concrète. At the same time, I was extremely curious, and went to the
musée de L’homme in Paris with a tape recorder and microphones, and I
recorded all the different instruments of the ethnological department:
Indonesian instruments, Japanese instruments, Chinese instruments; less
European instruments because I knew them better, but even piano sounds…
Then I analysed these sounds one by one, and wrote down the frequencies
which I found and the dynamic level of the partials of the spectra, in order
to know what the sound is made of, what the sound is, as a matter of fact;
what is the difference between a lithophone sound or, let’s say, a Thai gong
sound of a certain pitch. And very slowly I discovered the nature of sounds.
The idea to analyse sounds gave me the idea synthesize sounds. so then I was
looking for synthesizers or the first electronic generators, and I
superimposed vibrations in order to compose spectra: timbres. I do this now,
still, after 43 years.

– From Karlheinz Stockhausen, ‘Advice for Clever Children’



Testing basil.js the scripting library for InDesign on snippets of my dissertation, manipulating type and layout with maths. Should be writing prose not code.

IOOOO (Internet of Object Oriented Ontologies)

What is the experience of a thermometer? If we take the ‘?’ outlined in ‘Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like To Be a Thing’ by Ian Bogost, we might say that it’s aware (in some sense) of the hook it’s hung on, or the wall or table it rests against or on, the temperature acting on its mercury (or other liquid) and the hands that touch it to angle it for reading. Localised experience, as with most ‘things’.

Now, what is the experience of a thermometer that is part of the ‘Internet of Things’, the growing collection of sensors, processors and actuators networked together around the world? (e.g. http://sensorist.com/hardware) This would, assuming it had a similar form factor have a similar experience, although it’s unlikely to be touched to be read, or have a human readable display as part of it – this would be done remotely, over the network.

This network adds another aspect to its experience, it is now able to receive control signals through its connection, and therefore gains experience of another device, for example the user’s smartphone. This is the intended extension of a thing when it is networked, but the internet, the network is much larger than the communication between smartphone and thermometer and, in order to be accessible from different situations, the ‘thing’ must make itself part of that global, public network.

This is not to say that it’s now accessible to anyone, and able to access everything, but even a mistaken visit to its IP address by a search engine crawl bot, or a mis-typed address gives it awareness beyond the simple intended one of thermometer to companion smartphone app. This simple thermometer develops distributed senses, it shifts from the regular dimensions of the standard thermometer and gains the ability, in some sense to travel instanly between locations. It broadens its horizons, so to speak.

How does it feel about that? What changes inside it? What can it know/do/feel that we can’t?

An Ode

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 14.37.20

Beautifully put, spambot.