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Domestic Tension | Wafaa Bilal

Iraqi born Wafaa Bilal has become known for provocative interactive video installations. Many of Bilal’s projects over the past few years have addressed the dichotomy of the virtual vs. the real. He attempts to keep in mind the relationship of the viewer to the artwork, one of his main objectives being to transform the normally passive experience of viewing art into an active participation. In this, his latest effort, Domestic Tension, viewers can log onto the internet to contact or “shoot” Bilal with paintball guns. Bilal’s objective is to raise awareness of virtual war and privacy, or lack thereof, in the digital age. During the course of the exhibition, Bilal will confine himself to the gallery space. Over the duration, people will have 24-hour virtual access to the space via the Internet. They will have the ability to watch Bilal and interact with him through a live web-cam and chat room. Should they choose to do so, viewers will also have the option to shoot Bilal with a paintball gun, transforming the virtual experience into a very physical one. Bilal’s self imposed confinement is designed to raise awareness about the life of the Iraqi people and the home confinement they face due to the both the violent and the virtual war they face on a daily basis. This sensational approach to the war is meant to engage people who may not be willing to engage in political dialogue through conventional means. Domestic Tension will depict the suffering of war not through human displays of dramatic emotion, but rather through engaging people in the sort of playful interactive video game with which they are familiar.

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Attack of the Drones

As governments are increasingly relying on drones, what are the consequences for civil liberties and the future of war?

The US government’s growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial – as evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border with Pakistan. But Barack Obama’s administration is undeterred, favouring the technology more and more because it reduces the need for American troops in those countries and the risk of politically unpalatable casualties.

“He probably thinks this is already a controversial war,” says Christ Klep, an international relations analysts at the University of Utrecht. “I’d better not endanger my pilots and my special forces, so what else do I have? Unmanned aerial vehicles? Deploy them.”

But the strategy is giving rise to anxieties that conflict is becoming just a big computer game, in which ‘desk pilots’ in air conditioned bunkers far from the battlefield can kill a few enemy fighters and then go home to their families, remote from the human consequences of their actions or the anguish of associated civilian casualties.

Nevertheless, Ko Colijn, a security expert at the prestigious Clingendael Institute, says that the technology is here to stay.

“In a way the Americans reached a turning point in 2009, 2010. They trained more screen pilots than pilots physically inside an aircraft. And they purchased more unmanned planes than manned ones, which is not surprising since they’re much cheaper,” he says.

However the Americans are not the only ones using drones. More than 40 countries are believed to be working with unmanned aircraft and even Iran claims to be developing its own version – perhaps based on a captured US spy drone it downed last year and then proudly displayed to the media.

Nor are the current crop of unmanned military aircraft the only manifestation of this disturbing new trend. Already in production are aerial drones that can independently acquire and attack targets or work together in swarms over hostile territory and earthbound battlefield drones that can either accompany ground troops or be sent alone into especially dangerous areas. Some commentators fear it all adds up to a new tech-driven arms race.

The use of drones is becoming more widespread in civilian circles too – not least as a key law and order tool in the fight against crime. In June this year, for example, police in the British city of Manchester used one to track down a suspected car thief; in the Netherlands an arsonist was caught after being identified on a drone camera. And in Zurich, Switzerland, scientists have been developing flying robots for use in the construction industry. In demonstrations they will happily show how a few small drones, working at impressive speed, can lift heavy concrete blocks into place on a complex tower structure – a process that would otherwise necessitate scaffolding and dozens of human workers.

But the technology also gives rise to worrying questions about snooping and invasion of privacy – and not merely because of the actions of government. With private companies in the US and Europe now developing cheap aerial drones that can be controlled with the kind of software used in smart phones, pilotless aircraft just a couple of feet across may soon be commercially available for a few hundred dollars. Imagine then, the images that a paparazzi photographer could obtain with a camera drone able to fly over high walls or hover outside windows set atop a multi-storey building.

This film, from Dutch filmmakers Vincent Verweij, Fred Sengers and KRO, looks at the development and use of these extraordinary machines and ask where their use might lead.

Reposted from the Al Jazeera program Power & People.

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The Walking DeadDrops

This is a repost from A bit of fun with all the craziness involved in ownership and censorship over the wires. I really think that the technology has evolved beyond economic and governmental boundaries and that current institutional structures just haven’t caught up with the fact that they are outdated. Sure, most likely governments and countries will start to tightly control, restrict and monitor everything. But as things expand exponentially, I think it’s an outdated mode of thinking. We need to embrace this new sea of data and rethink our conceptions of economy and the core structures of society. Think about all the great things that could happen if we made more things accessible instead of rationing them to the highest bidder.

The repost starts here:

How to survive the post censorship apocalypse – (Exhumed DeadDrops travel through publics transports)

In a world where the Internet is being more and more monitored and filtered, there is an urge to find new ways to send and share data over uncensored networks.
Apart from the traditional computer networks, there are other kinds of networks that could be used to transfer data from point A to point B in a Point-to-Point way without worrying too much about technical solutions to counterfeit Internet censorship and stupid copyright laws.
The public transport network is one of them and it can be used to anonymously transfer data via physical devices like USB keys or memory card at a quite reasonable speed compared to usual networks, especially when transferring large volumes of data.
The WalkingDeadDrops project proposes a solution to send data (using a USB key duct taped under a seat) to someone else in a city (video was shot in Paris).
In a way, that’s the Wifi version of you carrying laptops, phones, portable hard drives, DVDs, USB keys.

More info below the video

Protocol definition
- recipient ask for data
- sender packages data in a storage device (USB key, memory card)
- sender sends data and inform recipient
- recipient gets the data
- if missed, data will bump from one side of the line to the other

- anonymity
- rather fast
- not monitored
- not censored
- not filtered

- packet loss happen here too
- encrypt your data when needed
- avoid compression (= mind your steps)
- non routing protocol unless you pay homeless people to do that for you (let’s do that during SXSW next year)
- some lines are forked at their extremities
- strikes happen
- shit happens here too

Also works on buses, tramways.
Works very randomly with taxis, pedestrians.

Soundtrack “First to the Bar” by Arctic Sunrise

Inspired by Aram Bartholl’s DeadDrops project

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The Crisis of Credit Visualized

My friend sent me this link after seeing the last post “The Story of Stuff”. This is the best clear and easy to understand explanation of the current economic crisis that I’ve seen. Short, extremely informative and easy to understand. Check it out and pass it along!

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.



The Story of Stuff – You MUST See This!

A really great overview video condensed into a quick presentation. You really MUST watch this video and pass it along. You can learn more and pass it around by going to The Story of Stuff website.



Photosynth Demo. Amazing

Nancy’s brother Inbo just told me about this video he saw on the TED website. It’s really an amazing technology and demonstrates clearly (to me anyway) the path ahead. I think technology is growing exponentially and there is about to be a rebirth in how all of us see the world and our places in it.



Vaccine Nation

Vaccine Nation I contemplated getting vaccinations before coming to Korea. Some people said you must get some, others said they have travelled here before and you didn’t need to get any. I decided not to, probably a big part of it being I didn’t have health insurance at the time and no doctors in the states really wanted to deal with a one time, no insurance patient.

So I’m planning some future travels now and wondering if I should get vaccinations before I venture to not so sanitary places of the world. I started doing a little research. The more I read, the less sure I was about vaccinations. After seeing more and more information like the video above, I think I probably won’t be vaccinated again.

I think the sad part is that it all comes down to money again. If these medical companies stand to loose billions of dollars in revenues each year, they will keep wanting to pump you full of something. And if you get sick from it, oh well, you’ll just have to pay a little (or a lot) more. If you want to learn more, or see the source of this video, go here:



Dr. John Hagelin – The Effects of Group Meditation on Crime

Dr. John Hagelin, one of the teachers from the movie “The Secret” and “What the bleep do we know” talks about “A New Science of Peace: The Effects of Group Meditation on Crime, Terrorism, and International Conflict” at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) conference on February 18, 2007

This is one of the people that was in “What the Bleep Do We Know“. I’m looking around and will post that movie soon as well. I wanted to post this because it gets back to some of the core things I want to address on developing yourself internally. I think he gives a great talk that hits many of the core things that I believe myself. I’m going to write more about this and put up some more posts on this topic, so I’ll stop for now.



Hacking Democracy

Hacking Democracy

This documentary exposes the vulnerability of computers – which count approximately 80% of America’s votes in county, state and federal elections – suggesting that if our votes aren’t safe, then our democracy isn’t safe either.

I’m a programmer, this is like a “duh!” thing for me. If you are voting please use a paper ballot. The computer voting machines have many problems. Just go to wikipedia and read up on this a bit as well Premier Election Solutions. But please be aware, a graduate student, Virgil Griffith, discovered that Diebold (Parent company to Premier Election Soultions) as well as the CIA and others have been editing Wikipedia entries to delete information that makes them look bad and conveniently putting more positive information in its place. Read the full Wired article here.