Vectorial Elevation is a telerobotic art installation in Vancouver, Canada that enables you to aim 20 searchlights around the English Bay via the Web. Four cameras around the city then photograph your design and the system creates a Web page for it. I'm into the ability to change the environment remotely at this scale, but having to wait in line to have a go reminds me of the first Web telerobot, Ken Goldberg's Mercury Project from 1994. (Ken didn't like the idea of Web users having to queue up either, which is why he went on to develop methods for collaborative telerobotics.) Rafael Lozano-Hemmer created Vectorial Elevation in 1999 for Mexico City's Zócalo Square. The installation will be online in Vancouver through February 28. From the project's concept page:
This website includes a virtual model of Vancouver where you are able to design "light sculptures" with 20 robotic searchlights located along English Bay. Once you are happy with your design you submit it together with your name, location and dedication or comments. Every night from dusk to dawn new designs are quietly rendered sequentially as they are added to a queue. The project automatically creates a personal webpage for each participant, documenting his or her contribution with views from 4 project webcams. With a 15 Km visibility radius, the installation intends to blend the virtual space of the Internet with one of the most emblematic public spaces in Vancouver.
DJ Carlito, aka my brother Carl, who has become the go-to deejay for Indian weddings in Virginia (I am absolutely not kidding), shares the links and images in this post and explains:
Holi, the yearly festival celebrating the return of color to the world, will start on Sunday Feb 28, 2010 and continue for 2 days until Monday March 1st. Holi is celebrated on the Phalgun Purnima (or Pooranmashi, Full Moon) according to the Hindu Calendar. Holi is a festival of radiance (teja) in the universe. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love. There are several stories of the origin of Holi -- and several various deities are involved in this holiday.
Avant-garde artist Reid Peppard has a line of bold fashion accessories for men and women. Actually, bold is putting it mildly. The fashion accessories are pieces of fashioned taxidermy crafted from road kill and pest controlled vermin. The mouse bow tie is a particularly powerful statement, I'd say.
It's so sour that just looking at it makes you salivate. At least that's how the saying about umeboshi, or sour plum, goes. There's some truth in it, too — umeboshi has double the citric acid content of a lemon, so when you stick it in your mouth you can feel your cheeks suck into themselves. Nevertheless, Japanese people consume umeboshi often, not just to add flavor to things but straight up as a condiment with rice. Maybe it's because we believe that umeboshi has health benefits, like improving blood flow, helping digestion, and fighting bacteria. Or maybe because, when the red fruit is placed in the middle of a bento box full of white rice, it kind of looks like the Japanese flag.
Shardcore sez, "For the last two years I've been stamping UV skulls on the Queen's face on all the money that I get out of the ATM. There's now thousands of pounds worth floating around the UK economy, visible only to bees and humans with a blacklight.
Given the events in the world's economy over the last couple of years, it seems all the more (im)pertinent."
UK shopkeepers often keep a UV light by the till to check notes to ensure they're not counterfeit.
Bruce Schneier has written an outstanding essay for CNN on why sticking CCTV cameras on every corner doesn't make us safer, and can make us less safe by opening us up to abuse, and by causing police resources to be misallocated. This is required reading for the twenty-first century. Bruce points out that where there's a specific threat in a specific place -- casinos worried about cheats, shops worried about shoplifters, parking garages worried about skulking muggers -- CCTVs have some use. But as a catch-all solution to crime, they just don't work well enough to justify their expense in resources and liberty.
Pervasive security cameras don't substantially reduce crime. This fact has been demonstrated repeatedly: in San Francisco, California, public housing; in a New York apartment complex; in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; in Washington; in study after study in both the U.S. and the U.K. Nor are they instrumental in solving many crimes after the fact.
There are exceptions, of course, and proponents of cameras can always cherry-pick examples to bolster their argument. These success stories are what convince us; our brains are wired to respond more strongly to anecdotes than to data. But the data are clear: CCTV cameras have minimal value in the fight against crime.
Although it's comforting to imagine vigilant police monitoring every camera, the truth is very different, for a variety of reasons: technological limitations of cameras, organizational limitations of police and the adaptive abilities of criminals. No one looks at most CCTV footage until well after a crime is committed. And when the police do look at the recordings, it's very common for them to be unable to identify suspects. Criminals don't often stare helpfully at the lens and -- unlike the Dubai assassins -- tend to wear sunglasses and hats. Cameras break far too often.
Here's Bruce Sterling's speech at Transmediale, a talk on "atemporality for the creative artist," which explains what the net and technology have done to the idea of the history and the future. It's chunky stuff, exciting, and weird:
Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy -- who has been responsible for pushing through Australia's national Internet censorship program -- has been caught censoring his own website: the script that creates a tag cloud of topics covered on his site had been modified to ignore any references to his censorship initiatives. This means that visitors to his site would not have an easy means of reading the Minister's statements in support of censorship, and anyone who relied on the tag-cloud to understand the Minister's agenda would have no way of knowing he'd been involved in the censorship initiative.
It was revealed today a script within the minister's homepage deliberately removes references to internet filtering from the list.
In the function that creates the list, or "tag cloud", there is a condition that if the words "ISP filtering" appear they should be skipped and not displayed.
The discovery is unlikely to do any favours for Senator Conroy's web filtering policy, which has been criticised for its secrecy.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has forced the Pentagon to release over 800 pages of classified material documenting "possibly illegal" spying during the Bush administration. The heavily redacted documents include details of a spying program against Planned Parenthood and white supremacist groups in the runup to the Atlanta Olympics, as well as spying on Alaskans for Peace and Justice, an anti-recruiting group, civilian cell phone conversations, and other breaches of spying laws.
The rubric of spying is that it needs to take place to stop people who are acting illegally or may act illegally. When spies break the law, they commit the infraction that they claim to have dedicated themselves to preventing.
Pertaining to the Planned Parenthood members, for example, the oversight report provides no explanation about how the information was collected. Nor does it indicate why the information was collected and notes only that military intelligence is not allowed to collect and disseminate information on U.S. persons unless the information constitutes "foreign intelligence." The report indicates that the collection was therefore "clearly outside the purview of military intelligence" and should have been handled by law enforcement.
Another oversight document discusses an incident involving the interception of civilian cellphone conversations of U.S. persons in April 2007. During a field exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana, a Signals Intelligence noncommissioned officer operating a SIGINT collection system intercepted the cell phone calls, though the document doesn't indicate if they were intercepted on U.S. soil or outside U.S. borders.
Initial reports indicated that the officer listened to the conversations for entertainment purposes, and the incident was reported to the National Security Agency. But the inspector-general document indicates that the officer never admitted to this and indicates only that he may have listened to some conversations "longer than necessary to do his job."