Friday, June 28, 2013

Gestural Sound Toolkit

Tim from the London Music Hackspace is working on a gestural music controlled toolkit and has a survey up about what people want from it. Here's my comment :
I'm interested in how to go beyond basic mapping of body movements to sounds. The examples of which I've seen so far, tend to be either very simple and give little control (arm up makes the note go up etc) or are so hard to understand and repeat that they're more or less aleatory.

I'm interested in how to combine gestures with some kind of "virtual world", by which I mean less a 3D visualization than a space full of virtual "objects" which have their own autonomous, music-making behaviours and which the user can invoke in some way ... eg. by "touching" them or "moving" them.

Vaporwave / Distroid

Pair of great articles from Adam Harper on Vaporwave and Distroid.

Frankly, I don't think music theorizing has been as fun as this for a while. And I've been listening to quite a lot of Vaporwave recently (along with some really nice beats from the Low End Theory scene in LA :


Bonus. This is interesting too.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fiverr (Again)

I can't get over Fiverr.

Even when it's full of this stuff it feels incredibly significant to me. Perhaps as significant as Kickstarter. For what used to be known as "pocket money prices" you can hire people from all over the world to do silly (or not so silly) things for you. This is an economy where an extrovert kid can participate on equal (absurd) footing with an extrovert pensioner. It's YouTube retrofitted as an personalized attention economy. A service which unleashes new waves of extraordinary, perverse, comical creativity.

Two more things that are fascinating.

1) Lots of gigs offered by people in the US and UK. Unlike many cheap online markets it's not just for rich Westerners to buy the services of people from the developing world. $5 is a magic price that seems to motivate those from the developed economies as much as anyone else. Maybe it says something about the state of the US / European economies too.

2) At the same time, the number of people from developing countries participating in the silly stuff. Subcontinental Asians are not simply acting as your rather serious PA or cheap Drupal developer. They are figuring out how to exploit every angle and aspect of their culture and (perhaps) enjoying themselves.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Microsoft Patented Wiretapping?


Microsoft has a patent for injecting snooping software into Voice Over IP (eg. Skype)?

Paranoid Question

Here's a paranoid question which I hope we won't have to be worrying about in the future.

You can find various articles / suggestions telling you how to get around NSA etc. eavesdropping. Here's one.

I posted something similar (with better suggestions) a couple of days ago.

So how soon before the governments start trying to make it illegal to tell people how to avoid being surveilled?

There is, after all, a precedent : the DMCA made it illegal to circumvent copyright protection mechanisms. And SOPA allows corporations and the government to punish sites that link to information that helps you pirate. Why shouldn't they push for similar legislation to deny people knowledge of how to circumvent snooping?

The Quiet War In Tech

The war is over what information you and I get, and what information they get. As we get less, they get more. As we lose control, they gain it.

In this war, the governments have more in common than they have differences.

The Chinese probably could destroy our banking system, and we could probably destroy theirs, but they don't want that, and our government doesn't either. They're really on the same side.

What they want is to keep order, I really believe that. The order that keeps the rich rich, and more or less ignores the challenges we all face in keeping our species alive on this planet. I understand the sentiment. There's so much to comprehend, if you want to have any kind of quality of life, you have to compartmentalize. If you look at preserving order, you can't pay attention to climate change.


It's all tech, top to bottom. The banking system is tech. The military is tech. And in that context, it's not surprising that our, the people's, information access systems are really weak compared to the ones the governments have. That's no accident.

Our tools have been getting more precarious, thanks to bugs introduced by the browser vendors (if they're not deliberate, they're incredibly incompetent, your choice). And Google captured almost all the tech of RSS, only to shut it down. Just as things show some sign of coming back to life, now Facebook sounds like they'd like to have their turn at pwning the open public news flow. Please, if you make a feed, and you read this, keep making the feed as-is, no matter what Facebook asks you to do to it. By now it should be obvious that the big tech companies are not our friends. They're more like the government than they are like you and me. Maybe not their fault, maybe they didn't see it coming, but I doubt they'd deny that they're there now.

Chris Hedges on Bradley Manning / Edward Snowden

Chris Hedges
The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience. Our email and phone records, it is now confirmed, are swept up and stored in perpetuity on government computers. Those who attempt to disclose government crimes can be easily traced and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Whistle-blowers have no privacy and no legal protection. This is why Edward Snowden—a former CIA technical assistant who worked for a defense contractor with ties to the National Security Agency and who leaked to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian the information about the National Security Council’s top-secret program to collect Americans’ cellphone metadata, e-mail and other personal data—has fled the United States. The First Amendment is dead. There is no legal mechanism left to challenge the crimes of the power elite. We are bound and shackled. And those individuals who dare to resist face the prospect, if they remain in the country, of joining Manning in prison, perhaps the last refuge for the honest and the brave.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Snowden in Hong Kong

Another interesting thought :
Patricia Ho, a lawyer at Daly & Associates, which specializes in refugee cases and international public law, told GlobalPost that in December Hong Kong courts ruled the government could not send people home if they would face cruel and unusual punishment.
"The reason I think this is relevant," said Ho, "is because if you look at the case of Bradley Manning, during his detention period, he was found to have suffered cruel and degrading treatment. It was found by the UN special rapporteur on torture," she said.
"I would imagine given the similarity in the cases that Snowden could easily say, 'Well, I fear that the same would happen to me,' and use that as a basis to claim protection in Hong Kong. If he does that I would say his chances of protection would be fair."

Hadoop and the NSA

Interesting take.

How the power of the gift-economy of free-software makes the surveillance state possible.

V for Vinegar

Salad Uprising does a good job keeping the rest of the world informed about the current Brazilian protests.

Opt Out Of PRISM

Friday, June 14, 2013

Public Interest

Apparently the UK government has told airlines that Edward Snowden will be banned from the UK.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said the Home Office does have the power block people's entry to the UK in certain circumstances, such as if it believes it is in the public interest to do so.
What, the fuck, "public interest" is being served here?

There is no public interest. Edward Snowden is zero threat to the UK public. This is nothing but a vindictive desire to put pressure on him and restrict his ability to move around the world. This is the height of pettiness  and random abuse of power by those who are now nakedly using their role in the state to advance their agenda of locking-in total unchallenged and unchallengable control for themselves (and their peers in other countries).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Search as Medium

My artistic co-conspirator, Aharon Amir, and I are pitching to write a chapter for a book about search culture. We want to talk about a few of the art works we've done around search such as Narcissus.

During the brainstorm, Aharon has asked if we can write our proposal (and maybe even the chapter) in public. So here's my first draft.

Narcissus is an artistic group who address and respond to issues of search. We have stated that our materials are "visibility" and "invisibility". And we consider that search itself is the medium within which one is transformed into or traded against the other. Search has become so fundamental because the internet has brought about an exponential increase in the production and availability of information and artistic output in the last 20 years. We are now in a situation where few of the pre-internet institutions are able to continue their business as usual. That goes for art galleries and publishers, of course, but it is also true of such diverse "media" as the information architecture of city signage on the one hand and the salon on the other.

While the proliferation of internet enabled art and knowledge challenges existing institutions, their purported successors : the search-engines, social networks and other commercial / technical inventions must also face artistic and political interrogation.

In our article we will describe several works by Narcissus or member artists. Our initial project, the Narcissus Search Engine dialogues with one of the strongest trends of recent years : the positive feedback mechanisms whereby success in attaining visibility is further rewarded. (Google PageRank, Twitter "follow" recommendations.)

Narcissus subverts this convention by pushing popular search results into a netherworld of the mathematical "imaginary" and confronting searchers with results that have been rejected by previous searchers. This system both raises the theoretical issues (Why should popularity be rewarded? Why should we assume that my search is like yours? What are the political consequences of building so many "winner-takes-all" systems?) while offering a practical tool to find neglected and obscure knowledge. It stimulates further questions that we will address : how does "search" with a system designed to highlight the obscure differ from attempts to harness serendipity? What is the difference between wanting to search and wanting to find?

Further development with the Narcissus engine intends to address the issue of "centralization" of such search engines and their databases. Political questions which are graphically illustrated by the current NSA scandal and the arrival of Google Glass. We look at distributed / P2P search ( as a response.

Another application of Narcissus is within our proposed ShadowSpot urban interventions which bring our concerns to location-based information architecture. In ShadowSpot, participants are asked to bring visibility to shadow / neglected parts of a space (gallery, city) with anonymous stickers and mobile photography. Images are uploaded to a version of Narcissus which will again juggle the visibility of such places.

We will finally touch on other works by individual members of Narcissus such as in-public re/search practice. How much is search a private knowledge-gathering activity vs. a public / collective one? Another knowledge intervention is the practice of asking locals in a community directions to places which are, in fact, the other side of the world. This action adds "misrecognition" to the varieties of in/visibility that are the Narcissus material.

Heavy Handed

BBC uncritically reports that the police were searching for weapons. Seems that would-be protestors had paint!!!!
StopG8 :
People present in the Beak Street building report that the police used tasers, chemical sprays, and dogs, and hit unarmed people with shields and fists as they held their hands in the air or covered their heads. We are currently gathering witness statements and will release soon a detailed account of the attacks and injuries. We know that at least two people received serious head injuries, and many more were beaten. We are still waiting on reports from at least 30 people who were arrested.

“I could hear tasers going non stop for at least a minute,” said one witness, “I never heard anything like it in my life.”

A StopG8 spokesperson commented: “The police claim that they raided Beak Street because they suspected there were weapons on the building. In fact the only weapons were the police tasers, batons, shields, chemicals, fists and dogs.”
"Suspecting weapons" is a pretty easy thing to do.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Why should it ever be illegal for a company to admit that the government has requested data from it? Maybe whose data it is could be classified. But what justification can there possibly be for making the existence of a request or type of request illegal?

Does the government have the legal ability to oblige people to lie? (As tech leaders seem to be doing when they pretend this isn't happening.)