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Neural 39 > p.2 >
Newstweek, mutant news
In a crowded restaurant a small plastic box attached to a power outlet goes unnoticed. The box conceals, in fact, a small computer mapping the traffic of the wireless network environment. Using a simple "search and replace" process, the online content viewed by users can be changed remotely as root in real time. Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev have used this device to edit the news published on the websites of popular newspapers. It's possible to see a simulation at Newstweek, a fake of the famous Newsweek: there are bizarre headlines at the limits of credibility (for example: "Milk and hormones: why your son has breasts?" or "Thomas Pynchon to wed Lady Gaga"). The main news details the story of a reporter who re-read one of her articles and found the weird changes to the text. With a quick phone call to her office she verified the changes were only to be found on the network of the coffee shop she was in. Is it only through rereading one’s own (modified) words that it is now possible to verify the reliability of news? > Chiara Ciociola
Highscreen, hacking public spaces with media archaeology
Net art already belongs to media archaeology as clearly stated by the Oslo 2003 "Written in Stone" exhibition. Exhibiting net art has always been all about commitment. But what happens if the act of exhibiting it, becomes an artwork in itself and the display area is the public space? In "Highscreen", Aram Bartholl showed us how public spaces can be hacked by a curatorial act of media archeology. He revived dumped CRT screens from the streets of Berlin and put them to use displaying internet art. He showed works like JODI’s '404' (1997), Evan Roth’s 'C.R.E.A.M.' (2010) and Cory Arcangel’s 'Super Mario Clouds' (2002). Most of the time, unaware pedestrians passed by without paying attention to the old devices and their swan songs. Bartholl questions the technologydriven society and the tension of public (on/offline) space. This project is not necessarily about contextual information about past media, but creates situations where you get into contact with media in its radical operability and temporality. > Valentina Culatti
FoodMatch, surfing the fridges
Simulen, funny electric control
The single portions of food at the supermarket are a strange business entity. The quantity of food is always slightly more than necessary, so they seem to represent the triumph of convenience but in reality function as a symbolic defiance of the loneliness of those who use them. The Secret Cooks Club of Singapore conspires against this reality. Through the project FoodMatch, exhibited at Enter 5 biennial in Prague, the group calls people to share their leftovers. Thanks to this facebook app, you can share information and upload pictures that describe the ingredients in the fridge. It's then possible to fix a place and a date for a real dinner. It’s a delicious initiative against waste and overproduction of food (the world produces almost 700 million tonnes of food annually but every year 80 million tonnes end up in landfills), and the project promotes a positive use of social networks. In this case it is no longer a means of socialization consumed in solitude for entertainment and distraction, but a virtual tool for sharing and meeting real people. > Chiara Ciociola
The genesis of "Simulen", a work by Congolese artist Jean Katambayi Mukendi exhibited at Pixelache 2011 festival in Helsinki, is very delicate. From the functional point of view it is a prototype for the automatic correction of electricity distribution trouble. The spark that triggered its creation is the absolute anarchy of the electrical infrastructure of the city where the artist lives, Lumbumbashi in Congo, which often experiences an annoyingly intermittent power system. Simulen, instead, is impeccable in its appearance. Revealing the technologies inside, the device’s shell is made entirely of paper and reassuring paperboard cubes, tinted with soothing pastel colors. Its slender frame is similar to the polychromatic ancient totems, and the knobs and the buttons are typical of a robot. Always exhibited with Simulen are some precious drawings that illustrate the inner workings with a remarkable attention to detail. This project shows how artists can help the members of their communities, using very lo-fi but brilliant technology. > Chiara Ciociola Neural 39 > p.3 > hacktivism
Zizi Papacharissi A Networked Self, Routledge
Joss Hands @ Is For Activism, Pluto Press
Boskoi, wilderness addiction
Boskoi is an application for Android mobiles that allows people to create a checklist of geo-localized spontaneous food in urban areas. Created by Joey van der Bie, Maarten van der Mark and Vincent Vijn the application has been recently tried in Amsterdam where people have recorded and shared online all edible herbs, fruits, seeds, tubers, mushrooms, birds and other entities found by chance in the hidden corners of the city. To join the community Boskoi, a Greek word that means "grazer" or "pastors", it is necessary to follow a kind of ethical standard for the perfect "grazer." First you have to make sure that the fruitful area found is not privately owned and that it can be used sustainably. This sort of collaborative herbarium brings out a need that goes beyond the basic human need to eat. People in the cities are missing the spontaneity and freshness of the wilderness. With Boskoi, people can fearlessly look for it armed with a smartphone, like old dowsers with their magical forked wand in search of water and precious metals. > Chiara Ciociola
Although hundreds of millions of people use social media platforms almost instinctively, the value, the meaning and the scale of what they are doing there is often missed, or, at best, only guessed at. In the context of a sort of global social experiment (which can't be disconnected from the rise of related industries), personal dynamics have to deal with a completely different dimension that does not fall neatly into the "public" or "private" categories, but one that takes place in a new hybrid place involving the self and its definition at large. This book is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of social networks. It's the outcome of a one-day conference and the author’s analyses are usually critical and scientific data-driven, offering accurate perspectives. The keynote by A. Barabasi focuses on "freescale networks" (which have the basic property of potentially being reduced by up to 98 per cent without adversely affecting functionality) gives a proper frame to the rest of the book. Here there are critical analysis of virtual economies of social interactions, which start from the general frame of "self presentation and social connection" before addressing compelling concepts like "peer influence", "invisible audience", "collective narcissism" and "social capital." Understanding how the online self forms, is shared, exploited and promoted is necessary for our future relationships. Social network arenas are still to be properly unraveled, but this book seems a good start, especially for the many skeptical academics
After all the myths about the magical use of digital networks for political reasons, including the north African uprisings, and the consequent hype, it's healthy to read a book focusing on giving context and perspective to practices. Hands feels it a necessity to question what Slavoj Zizek calls "interpassivity", or the illusion of doing something (like the popular act of signing online petitions) which don't really affect the problem, and gives the agent the reassuring feeling of a better conscience without taking any risk, technically defined by Malcolm Gladwell as "clicktivism." These actions have in some cases, however, lead to successful collective strategies. Taking as a compass the three directions of activism, clearly explained (dissent, resistance and rebellion) the author is not only reexamining famous cases like the Iran rebellion or the Obama campaign’s use of social networks, but also comparing Current TV vs. Free Speech TV business models, explaining the definition of the network as a moral machine and analyzing internet protocols. He's well aware, for example, that Twitter is not, as mainstream media depicted it, the magic bullet for revolutions. But he also points out that the ubiquitousness of global capital make it very vulnerable to mobilization organized via social networks. And furthermore his vision is to push on openness (undermining surveillance), possibly making networked spaces into zones of contestations, supporting a real chance of meaningful change.