[iDC] Activist Media Landscape

Brooke Singer brooke at bsing.net
Thu Dec 15 12:35:31 EST 2005

Hi Trevor,
This is fascinating and, of course, scary. I hope you come to the  
NYC-area so I can hear the whole story. This model of "investigative  
reporting" is a nice, subtle shift from "art as research" because there  
is the ultimate goal of sharing the information not only in a very  
public way but in a form that is readily understandable. And then the  
really weird stuff happens.
Like last summer I had Wal-Mart calling me for data. This is laughable  
right, with Wal-Mart reportedly "owning" 460 terabytes of data (roughly  
twice as much as the internet). The Wal-Mart person had seen this  
state-by-state breakdown of what types of data are encoded on US  
licenses (http://turbulence.org/Works/swipe/state_analysis.html) that  
is part of the Swipe project I have been doing with Preemptive Media.  
Wal-Mart was starting a system (a government mandate) to keep track of  
who was buying products with ephedrine and was researching how to  
automate the process. They wanted to know how up-to-date our info was  
since it is (as far as I know...) nowhere else publicly available. I  
basically took a "I will show you our data, if you show me yours"  
stance--and asked to see their 10 year strategic plan for RFID  
implementation in exchange. There was no response.
Another good one was a letter a Swipe toolkit user forwarded us. He had  
used one of our online forms to request his data from a Boston-based  
data warehouse and received a letter back from the company that started  
like this, "To answer your questions about what rights you have over  
the information we have about you, there are none." Signed by their  
customer service person. Thanks guys, could not have stated it better  
So I tell these fun/funny stories because I have found that many of the  
insights I have gained from this kind of investigative work often come  
after the fact --when we step back from the rush of research and  
pulling the pieces together--to see and document the reactions and  
behaviors that happen in the wake.
Good luck!

On Dec 14, 2005, at 4:27 PM, Trevor Paglen wrote:

> Hi Everyone,
> I just finished the first part of a project that I think somehow fits  
> into the discussion here. As some of you know, I've been researching  
> and making work about "secret" military bases for the last few years.  
> As a part of that project, I came across a number of documents about  
> the CIA's "torture jets" and also came into contact with worldwide  
> networks of "plane spotters." About 2 weeks ago, I hooked up with an  
> investigative journalist and we came up with this article:
> http://sfbg.com/
> The thing that's important about this investigation is that we were  
> able to link at least one of the jets to a major public figure  
> (something that noone else has really been able to do). There's way  
> more to the story than made it into the weekly - I'll be explaining  
> the whole structure at lectures this spring.
> Anyway, I think that somehow this project captures some of what Trebor  
> was talking about with 'public investigation' and distributed  
> community networks (of weird airplane spotter people) and so forth.  
> But I have to confess that I certainly haven't had much time to  
> "dream" or relax or anything lately. No sleep, and sometimes a good  
> dose of nervousness.
> Anyway, hope you enjoy the piece. I've found that these kinds of  
> investigative models of 'art' can be very fruitful - both in terms of  
> creating works that foreground a radical 'means of production' and get  
> around the fetishistic ways that all of us sometimes ontologize (is  
> that a word?) artworks. The images from this project aren't online  
> (yet), but they really do act as a kind of evidence, and not in a  
> theoretical way but rather one that is far more immediate.
> Great discussions on this list, keep it up!
> --  
> Trevor Paglen
> --------------------------------------------------------
> Department of Geography
> University of California at Berkeley
> 507 McCone Hall
> Berkeley, CA 94720-4740
> www.paglen.com
> Trebor Scholz wrote:
>> We fly over the terrain. But each light cone of our searchlights
>> renders a different area. Sometimes, this territory
>> is claimed to be the entire forest. What would we find if
>> we pin note pads to a map of resistant practices
>> in today's networked media landscape? I took some time
>> to outline what I see as sites of resistance. They come
>> down from a birds-eye view to lists of concrete examples.
>> All acts are political in their consequences. It did not
>> take Brecht to teach us that. There is no outside. There
>> is no snow-white innocence of an absolute non-involvement.
>> Many are vehement in their critique of the university
>> as corporate vehicle. They cancel it out as site of oppositionality.
>> It does not take much historical wandering to question this
>> argument. Just take the German political theorist Herbert
>> Marcuse who taught at the conservative,
>> small, private Brandeis University for 8 years. We could add many
>> Other examples. In similar ways to critique of academia others leave  
>> no
>> space or potentiality for affective resistant practices within the  
>> (even
>> commercial) art world.
>> The separation of work time and leisure that I wrote about
>> earlier is a major site of contestation. Here I see a personal
>> locale for resistance. We need time to dream, reflect, and think.
>> http://collectivate.net/journalisms/2005/11/19/downtime.html
>> Grant brought up the question of duration in art. I recommend Grant's  
>> book
>> "Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art"  
>> (2004)
>> highly! Here, Grant looks at long-term, sustainable community art. I  
>> am
>> particularly taken by his approach to critique. He is obviously  
>> invested in
>> community art. But to value it he is extremely critical as well as
>> appreciative. No romanticism here!
>> This also relates to the prevailing culture of immediacy. Immediate  
>> results
>> are expected in the process of learning (i.e. in programming). The  
>> way to
>> art world fame needs to be short. The production time for artworks  
>> are often
>> weeks if not shorter. Also the staging of the artwork is often more  
>> like a
>> flash. Time was also at the core of the considerations in previous  
>> posts who
>> reminded us that social change takes generations.
>> Time was also the issue for those who asked us to be ready for our
>> oppositional gesture when the window of opportunity (of  
>> vulnerability) opens
>> up.    CONNECT
>> A key problem in the field of activism or oppositional practices I  
>> see in
>> the antagonisms between different communities of practice. Dismissive
>> accusations are quick at hand. People are blamed for selfishness,
>> complacency, techno-utopia, careerism, managerial behavior, betrayal  
>> of
>> principles in the art world or in academia, etc etc etc. We should  
>> rest this
>> and instead look for connections. We should respect distinct levels of
>> thinking and not impose our ideas. We should recognize our own errors  
>> and
>> correct them. We should seek dialogue instead of shutting others up.  
>> We can
>> learn and speak in discursive communities and renew ourselves through  
>> these
>> networks of inspiration. It's not all of "them" against "us." We are  
>> largely
>> the same. To acknowledge what we hate so much about the other in  
>> ourselves
>> is a start. This takes self-awareness and consciousness. We see how  
>> our own
>> biography shapes our thinking. We are driven by our fascinations.  
>> That's
>> what motivates our feelings and behavior. We can help each other in  
>> living a
>> bit less brainwashed, depressed, compulsive, anxiety-ridden, and  
>> addicted.
>> We can be a bit more in touch with social reality. A bit less
>> "remote-controlled" by corporate media. A bit more self-governed. A  
>> bit more
>> autonomous.   I look at this network society and the politics  
>> surrounding me and I see a
>> wide field of possibilities for engagement. From art, media activism,  
>> the
>> production of media theory, to an event-based cultural practice.
>> What follows are examples. What follows is not more than an annotated  
>> sketch
>> of sites of oppositionality in today's network society. I make, of  
>> course,
>> no claims to completeness.
>> =======================
>> Communal web pages, mailing lists, blogs, grass-roots journalism,
>> pod casts, cell phones, open access journals
>> Examples: Indymedia
>> Citizen journalism is the act of citizens "playing an active role in  
>> the
>> process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and
>> information."
>> http://indymedia.org
>> OhmyNews
>> South Korea's OhmyNews website (new type of democratic journalism)
>> <English Version>
>> http://english.ohmynews.com/
>> TxtMob
>> A free service that lets you send SMS text messages to a group of  
>> people.
>> http://www.txtmob.com/
>> Fahamu
>> African Global Call to Action against Poverty uses
>> SMS messaging as a tool for mobilization.
>> http://www.fahamu.org
>> Bytesforall
>> http://www.bytesforall.org/
>>  Blogosphere/ Rise of the online Citizen
>> http://www.eff.org/bloggers/
>> Daoud Kuttab's Blog
>> http://www.daoudkuttab.com/
>> Blog on the Commons
>> http://www.onthecommons.org/
>> Audio Activism Podcast
>> http://www.audioactivism.org/
>> http://www.odeo.com/show/239771/view
>> Journals
>> Neural
>> http://www.neural.it/english/
>> Google Bombing
>> A Google bomb stands for the willful manipulation of the ranking of a  
>> given
>> page in results returned by the Google search engine (i.e. google  
>> "Miserable
>> failure").
>> =======================
>> Short-term, spontaneous interruptions of daily life through creative  
>> re-use
>> of mostly cheap consumer electronics.
>> Personal Sousveillance (pronounced "Sou Veil Lance," Steve Mann)  
>> refers both
>> to inverse surveillance, as well as to the recording of an activity  
>> from the
>> perspective of a participant in the activity (i.e. personal experience
>> capture).
>> Carbon Defense League
>> http://www.carbondefense.org/
>> =======================
>> Examples:
>> Internet Art
>> "Nukorea" by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries
>> http://www.yhchang.com/OPERATION_NUKOREA.html
>> and the classic: "The Struggle Continues"
>> http://www.yhchang.com/THE_STRUGGLE_CONTINUES.html
>> Radio
>> Transit Wellen by schleuser.net
>> http://www.transitwellen.net/de/p1_0_0.php
>> Games
>> agoraXchange
>> http://www.agoraxchange.net/index.php?page=218
>> Games with political intent
>> http://www.selectparks.net/modules.php?name=News&new_topic=2
>> Transforming aesthetics, conference, Sydney 2005
>> http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/aaanz/program
>> =======================
>> Demonstrations, new organizational forms
>> Democratic globalization movement
>> Seattle, Genoa, Davos, ...
>> Virtual March
>> http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/default.asp
>> Denial of service attacks
>> http://www.thing.net/~rdom/ecd/ecd.html
>> Protest.net lists upcoming protests
>> http://protest.net/
>> =======================
>> Copyright Issues/Creative Commons/ GPL
>> Creative Commons-- nonprofit organization
>> that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works.
>> http://creativecommons.org/
>> CC Mixter
>> http://ccmixter.org/
>> Archive.org/ (also see: Ourmedia.org)
>> http://archive.org
>> Bittorrent
>> There is a decisive disregard of copyright law by millions
>> of Internet users every day on file sharing networks like Bittorrent.
>> http://www.bittorrent.com/
>> =======================
>> Examples:
>> Adbusters
>> Adbusters is a political magazine.
>> http://adbusters.org
>> Bush in 30 Seconds
>> http://www.bushin30seconds.org/
>> Billionaires For Bush
>> Billionaires For Bush is a culture jamming political street theater
>> organization that satirically purports to support George W. Bush.
>> http://billionairesforbush.com
>> The Yes Men
>> http://www.theyesmen.org/
>> The Partyparty
>> Satire Remix Culture
>> http://www.thepartyparty.com/
>>  The Meatrix
>> http://www.themeatrix.com/
>> Bush & Blair by US Department of Art & Technology
>> http://ia300131.us.archive.org/0/items/bush_blair/bush_blair.mov
>> Homeland Security Threat Monitor
>> http://hewgill.com/threat/
>> Gatt.org
>> http://gatt.or Whitehouse.org
>> http://whitehouse.org
>> Politics in the game Second Life
>> http://secondlife.blogs.com/photos/nwn/icerink.JPG
>> http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/08/so_very_kerry_a.html
>> http://secondlife.com/
>> =======================
>> Conceptual Political Art/ Public Interventionist Practices
>>  Examples:
>>  Alfredo Jaar
>> http://www.alfredojaar.net/
>> Temporary Services
>> http://www.temporaryservices.org
>> Ultra Red
>> http://www.ultrared.org/
>> http://www.bl4ckh4m.com/
>> 0100101110101101.org
>> http://www.nikeground.com/
>> =======================
>> Examples: Conference in Budapest, October 2005
>> http://mokk.bme.hu/centre/conferences/reactivism/index_html? 
>> set_language=en&
>> cl=en
>> International conference on Information and Communication  
>> Technologies and
>> Development, Berkeley 2006
>> http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/events/ictd2006/
>> Make World
>> http://www.makeworlds.org/1/index.html
>> Share, Share Widely
>> Conference on Media Art Education
>> http://newmediaeducation.org
>> =======================
>> Who Dies?
>> http://whodies.com/
>> Iraq Body Count
>> http://www.iraqbodycount.net/
>> 360 Degrees
>> http://360degrees.org/
>>  =======================
>> EXTREME SHARING NETWORKS are social networks that are able to  
>> reproduce
>> themselves. They takes the idea of extreme programming to autonomous  
>> social
>> networking. Extreme Programming is a popular development methodology  
>> used to
>> implement software engineering projects. It claims to have the  
>> potential to
>> avoid personal burnout and develop a more sustainable software  
>> development
>> culture.
>> Examples:
>> FibreCulture
>> http://fibreculture.org
>> http://journal.fibreculture.org
>> Cactus Network
>> http://www.cactusnetwork.org.uk/collective.htm
>> Sarai https://mail.sarai.net/mailman/listinfo/reader-list
>> Argentinean Electronic Network
>> http://raec.clacso.edu.ar/
>> Interactivist Info Exchange
>> http://slash.autonomedia.org/
>> =======================
>> -Transformative power of human encounters in the class room
>> -Analysis of neoliberalism
>> -Teaching of human rights, civil society related to network society
>> -Empower students to use the networked commons
>> -Reeingineering, hacktivism (programming + critical thinking for  
>> social
>> change)
>> Examples:
>> http://gothacked.org
>> http://www.hohusen.com/mmotimes/issue2_1.html
>> Distributed Learning Projects
>> H2O, Connexions, ShareWidely
>>  =======================
>> (non-proprietary cooperative production of information)
>> Examples: Anonymous P2P file sharing
>> GNUnet file sharing application
>> http://gnunet.org/
>> Friend-to-friend networks/ Community Informatics
>> community networking, electronic community networking
>> Production & Use of Free, Libre, and Open Source Applications
>> FreshMeat
>> http://freshmeat.net
>> Freshmeat is probably the largest open archive of open source
>> and free software projects.
>> Wikipedia
>> Free, user contributed encyclopedia.
>> http://wikipedia.org
>> FreeNet
>> Freenet is free software that lets you publish and obtain information
>> on the Internet without fear of censorship. Contributors stay  
>> anonymous.
>> http://freenet.sourceforge.net/
>> =======================
>> Best,
>> Trebor
>> --
>> http://collectivate.net
>> _______________________________________________
>> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity  
>> (distributedcreativity.org)
>> iDC at bbs.thing.net
>> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
>> List Archive:
>> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity  
> (distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at bbs.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/

More information about the iDC mailing list