Messages in the Deep

October 24, 2014


The remarkable story of the underwater cables connecting the network of networks and the history of the NSA’s efforts to tap them 


Hint: Ils ne parlent pas le français.

 

The U.S. government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which helps fund HealthMap, has used this success story as evidence that the approaches used in its Open Source Indicators program can indeed “beat the news” and provide the earliest warnings of impending disease outbreaks and conflict.

It’s an inspirational story that is a common refrain in the big data world — sophisticated computer algorithms sift through millions of data points and divine hidden patterns indicating a previously unrecognized outbreak that was then used to alert unsuspecting health authorities and government officials.  The problem is that this story isn’t quite true:

By the time HealthMap monitored its very first report, the Guinean government had actually already announced the outbreak and notified the WHO.

visits

September 11, 2014


With visits you can browse your location histories and explore your trips and travels. Our unique map timeline visualization shows the places you have visited and how long you have stayed there. Add photos from Flickr to your visits and share your journey with your family and friends!

 

Visits works with geo-tagged Flickr albums, data from Openpaths and Google Location Histories. It runs locally in your browser, so no sensitive data is uploaded to our servers. When you share your history, it is up to you how much detail visits reveals and what remains private. Learn more…

 

The Internet is the decisive technology of the Information Age, as the electrical engine was the vector of technological transformation of the Industrial Age. This global network of computer networks, largely based nowadays on platforms of wireless communication, provides ubiquitous capacity of multimodal, interactive communication in chosen time, transcending space. The Internet is not really a new technology: its ancestor, the Arpanet, was first deployed in 1969 (Abbate 1999). But it was in the 1990s when it was privatized and released from the control of the U.S. Department of Commerce that it diffused around the world at extraordinary speed: in 1996 the first survey of Internet users counted about 40 million; in 2013 they are over 2.5 billion, with China accounting for the largest number of Internet users. Furthermore, for some time the spread of the Internet was limited by the difficulty to lay out land-based telecommunications infrastructure in the emerging countries. This has changed with the explosion of wireless communication in the early twenty-first century. Indeed, in 1991, there were about 16 million subscribers of wireless devices in the world, in 2013 they are close to 7 billion (in a planet of 7.7 billion human beings). Counting on the family and village uses of mobile phones, and taking into consideration the limited use of these devices among children under five years of age, we can say that humankind is now almost entirely connected, albeit with great levels of inequality in the bandwidth as well as in the efficiency and price of the service.

TBD Catalog

August 21, 2014


Imagine a print distribution network with cloud-connected street vending/printer boxes. Overnight, algorithms API-shazam content for those boxes to print. Printed stuff piles up every night in those boxes, including cheap copies of a location-specific, regionally tuned catalog selling stuff for your normal, ordinary everyday life. This is TBD Catalog. It’s an awkward attempt by an awkward business to attract more eyeballs and sell more stuff in a near future where the screen world has become so saturated and overrun that other mediums, like paper and street vending boxes, have become a natural spillover. It’s a printed catalog you ritually pick up every morning to browse on your mostly boring, everyday ordinary driverless commute. You may even look forward to it, the way you look forward today to the free daily commuter news, or the Skymall catalog, or an entertaining bit of junk mail.


This paper suggests that as pervasive computing technologies have gained purchase in urban space they have also become more implicitly blended with everyday life and more contingent on information that is inductively compiled from Internet-based data services. It is argued that existing theorizations of the technologically mediated production of urban must engage with the increasingly implicit nature of informational transactions as well as the emergent semantic structuring of information. Drawing on examples of ongoing pervasive computing projects, implicit computing procedures are explored in relation to the mediation of everyday urban life. Literatures from computing science and geographical theory are brought into conversation in order to examine the consequences of a convergence between implicit pervasive technologies and the spaces of everyday life.  ….



Net art is built and distributed through a complex, intricate, and interrelated system of networks that presents an assemblage of art, technology, politics, and social relations – all merged and related to form a variable entity. In the last decade a discussion on how to conserve net art emerged in museums of contemporary art. Nevertheless, many net art projects from the 1990s have long disappeared – their server payments lapsed, software was not kept up-to-date, or artists felt the concept was no longer appropriate in a changed context. The project mouchette.org is an exception in that the artist has kept the website up and running since it began. In this article I will show that net artworks are inherently assemblages that evolve over time. These works are distributed and ensured by networks of people; their continuation happens through multiple authors and caretakers. All together these actors signify and give meaning to the works. Therefore, instead of thinking of a ‘freeze frame’ the presentation and conservation of net art should focus on variability. This opens up different paths and options, making for conservation strategies akin to assembling traces.

It’s hard to draw a map without making someone angry. There are 32 countries that Google Maps won’t draw borders around. While the so-called geo-highlighting feature—which Google uses to show a searched area’s borders—is unaffected by the locale of the person looking at them, the borders drawn on Google’s base map will look different depending on where…

On Taxis and Rainbows 

June 22, 2014



Lessons from NYC’s improperly anonymized taxi logs