Sniff, Scrape, Crawl - Part 2

Bringing together artists, programmers and theorists, these interdisciplinary panels will look at how surveillance and data-mining technologies shape and influence our lives and the consequences they have on our civil liberties.
Tuesday, 20 September, 2011 - 13:00 - 14:30
Chair Person: 
Renee Turner
Steve Rushton
Michelle Teran
Aymeric Mansoux
Marloes de Valk

Chair: Renée Turner

We are living in a time of unprecedented surveillance, but unlike the ominous spectre of Orwell’s Big Brother, where power is clearly defined and always palpable, today’s methods of information gathering are much more subtle and woven into the fabric of our everyday life. Through the use of seemingly innocuous algorithms Amazon tells us which books we might like, Google tracks our queries to perfect more accurate results, and connects us to people with similar music tastes.

Immersed in social media, we commit to legally binding contracts by agreeing to ‘terms of use’. Having made the pact, we Twitter our subjectivities in less than 140 characters, contact our long lost friends on facebook and mobile-upload our geotagged videos on youtube. Where once surveillance technologies belonged to governmental agencies and the military domain, the web has fostered a less optically driven and participatory means of both monitoring and monetizing our intimately lived experiences.

Bringing together artists, programmers and theorists, these interdisciplinary panels will look at how surveillance and data-mining technologies shape and influence our lives and the consequences they have on our civil liberties.  The aim is to map the complexities of ‘sharing’ and examine how our fundamental understanding of private life has changed, as public display has become more pervasive and normalized through social networks.

“Sniff, Scrape, Crawl…”  is an ongoing interdisciplinary research project. Through a series of workshops, debates, lectures and presentations, the thematic project was initially launched in the beginning of 2011 at the Piet Zwart Institute, Master Media Design and Communication in the department of Networked Media.  The formation of the panels at ISEA, is an opportunity to show documentation and expand upon earlier research.

Paper Abstracts

Self-performing in the Feedback Loop

by Steve Rushton

This talk will argue that media-activist initiatives from the late 1960s and early 70s (such as Ant Farm and Radical Software) share more in common with today’s social networking sites and reality TV shows than one might first suppose. I will investigate how the notion of ‘feedback’ works as a metaphor and a material condition which in both instances aims to produce a self-performing subject. Although the self-performing subject has been realized through media such as Twitter and Facebook, it is of a different character than the one envisioned by the media guerillas of the past. My presentation will further explain how the feedback loop of non-scripted TV serves as an aid to the neo-liberal political reasoning which promotes a culture of entrepreneurism, privatisation, volunteerism, and responsibilisation.

Future Guides for Cities

by Michelle Teran

Widespread participation on social networks and use of location-aware devices have helped create an ever-intriguing relation between the information that people publish online and physical location. Using current generation smart phones to produce images and videos, such as Apple's iPhone, by default attaches geo-tagged information to content. Concurrently, public APIs, such as from YouTube, provide structured access to content with geo-location, making it relatively easy to link an online video back to an actual physical site. As networked digital exchange makes the social and geographical ever more shifting, a potential is created for unexpected relations and encounters. However does this potential give us the home invasion or the possibility of a more playful, serendipitous encounter? In my presentation I will investigate both sides of the question and introduce "Future Guides for Cities" a three-year research project that explores the mapping of cities through online video archives and the people who create them.

Naked on Pluto, a multiplayer text adventure using Facebook

by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk

“Naked on Pluto” is a multiplayer text adventure using Facebook, integrating a player's personal data and that of his “friends” as elements in a satirical, interactive fiction. The game questions the way social media shape our friendships and the way social relations have become a commodity through targeted advertising, based on the phenomenal quantities of information we supply these databases with, literally exposing ourselves. The game was developed in 2010, as a response to the explosive growth of the data market, and the role social media play in this. To some, the trade-off between personal data and free services paid for through advertisement is more than fair, convenience comes at a price, but for many it has become almost impossible to make those trade-offs consciously and with a good idea of what the consequences might be. The goal of the game is to make these issues tangible. This paper aims at presenting the project and its context, more specifically how privacy and the mechanisms behind data harvesting can be critically examined using online gaming.

Bios of the Participants

Steve Rushton

Steve Rushton is a founding member of Signal:Noise, an experimental cross-disciplinary research project that aims to explore the influence of cybernetics and information theory on contemporary cultural life by testing out its central idiom, ‘feedback’, through debates, artworks, publications, performances, events and exhibitions.  He has been a writer and editor for a range of projects with artists such as Rod Dickinson and Thomson & Craighead. His publications include the series ‘How Media Masters Reality’ for First/Last Newspaper, Issues 1-6, Dexter Sinister (2009); ‘New Walden,’ HB2, Issue 1, CAC, Glasgow (2008); ‘Experience, Memory, Re-enactment’, Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam/Revolver, Frankfurt (with Anke Bangma and Florian Wüst) (2005); ‘The Milgram Re-enactment’, Revolver, Frankfurt (2003). He also teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute.

Michelle Teran

Michelle Teran, born in Canada, explores the interaction between media and social networks in urban environments. In her work she looks at different aspects of how urban space is defined, occupied and mediatized. She has a social and site-specific practice which focuses mostly on the staging of urban interventions and performances, such as guided tours, discussions, walks and open-air projections as well as participatory installations and happenings. She is the winner of the Transmediale Award, the Turku2011 Grand Prix Award, the Vida 8.0 Award and Prix Ars Electronica honorary mention (2005, 2010) Currently she is within the post-graduate Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Programme where she is doing practice-based research at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. She lives and works between Bergen and Berlin.

Naked on Pluto

Naked on Pluto is collaboratively developed by Dave Griffiths, Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk. Dave Griffiths (UK) was raised with an early education in weaving, bell ringing and 8bit computers, and is now dedicated to changing the world with free software, live animation and noise. He works as a self employed artist/programmer, mainly working with the FoAM art laboratory and performs as part of slub – a livecoding band. Aymeric Mansoux (FR) is an artist, musician and media researcher. As co-founder of GOTO10 he initiated several projects such as the make art festival and the puredyne GNU/Linux distribution for media art and design. Currently he is co-supervisor of study at the networked media branch of the Media Design and Communication Master of the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam (NL), and a PhD student at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London. Marloes de Valk (NL) is an artist and writer. As part of the GOTO10 collective, from 2005 to 2010, she produced the chmod +x art festival, and co-produced make art 2007 and 2009. Her work consists of installations and software art. She exhibited work internationally and has led many workshops on Free/Libre/Open Source Software for artistic creation. She is editor of the Digital Artists' Handbook (2009) and the publication FLOSS + Art (Mute Publishing, 2008).

Renée Turner

Renée Turner is an American artist and writer living in the Netherlands . She received her MFA from the University of Arizona, was an artist in residence at the Rijksakademie and a researcher at Jan van Eyck Academie (NL). Since 1996 she has worked with Riek Sijbring and Femke Snelting under the collective name, De Geuzen: a foundation for multi-visual research. Their collaborative projects have showcased in Manifesta, Rhizome, Mute, and Internet Art (Thames & Hudson). In 2006 she was awarded a scholarship from the Institute of Creative Technology and received an MA in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University. Whether writing digital narratives or working collaboratively, Turner’s work often engages with feminist issues and online media ecologies. Next to these activities she has taught fine art, design and theory at the Willem de Kooning Academy (NL), St. Joost Art Academy (NL) and the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. Currently she is the Course Director of the Piet Zwart Institute, Master Media Design and Communication: Networked Media (NL).