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Image: From Jon Rafman's Google Street Views

Brian Droitcour is a writer, curator, and Russian-to-English translator. From 2002 to 2007 he lived in Moscow, where he covered art for The Moscow Times and Artchronika, a Russian monthly magazine. In 2008 he moved to New York, where he started working for Rhizome, first as curatorial fellow, then as staff writer. As a translator he's worked on several exhibition catalogues and art anthologies.



Jon Rafman's Google Street Views and the accompanying essay he wrote for Art Fag City's IMG MGMT series are sure to get several well-deserved mentions in end-of-the-year lists. Tom Moody on Google Street Views: "Jon Rafman's gathering of images from Google Street Views isn't really collecting at all but solid, groundbreaking journalism. Obviously untold hours were spent perusing this recent-but-everyday tool for images in very specific, focused categories. Photos that look like art photos, photos of mishaps, photos showing the success and failure of Google's face-blurring software, photos that show class issues in a supposedly 'universal' product (the down and out are more likely to be photographed unsympathetically than the up and in). As much as one hates to see more attention paid to the monopoly that aspires to put the happy face on Big Brother, this is worthwhile, thoughtful research." Kool-Aid Man in Second Life is a distorted twin to Google Street Views, another set of screen captures singling out accidental beauty and quirks of surveillance, only this time in a fantasy world that lets Rafman personify his searching gaze in a pitcher of fruit drink.

кремль.рф (kremlin.rf) won't go live until early next year, but the Russian presidential administration's new Cyrillic URL already made waves last month, when Russia became the first country to register top-level domains in a non-Latin script. (Egypt came next with Arabic domains.) Web-related assumptions and anxieties quickly surfaced. Complaints that it will erect "digital borders" displayed ignorance that the Latin alphabet is already a barrier to internet use among people who don't know it or use it in their primary language. Meanwhile, the tightly controlled domain-registration process has tried to prevent cybersquatting by giving government agencies and big corporations preferential treatment, and a team of linguists has been filtering potentially profane or offensive language--creating a model for what "internet reform" might look like if it's ever implemented in the West.

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Image: Getty stock image via CTRL+W33D

Some web sites I look at every day: Gmail, YouTube, and CTRL + W33D. Careful, that link is "NSFW"! Michael Magnan for BUTT: "Since February 2009, anonymous Tumblr’s D.R., I.L., B.A., K.K., and J.G. have been collectively assembling a seemingly endless archive of hilarious, perverted and inebriated found images and video under the pseudonym CTRL + W33D. A mission statement addressed to one of the later-joining members classified its intentions as being a “totally NSFW…experiment in Anarchy and AIDS and Being High.” For those of you growing up gay 3.0 on the internet, this visual morgue should help satiate your constant jones for getting lost in a matrix of google image search depravity."

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Image: Screen capture from the Sexy News

Michael Jackson's death in June brought one of those moments when the whole internet seemed to be focused on the same thing at the same time. Would-be town criers marked his passage in Facebook status updates, as though trying to broadcast the news to their network before anyone heard it on TV. All sorts of Jackson tributes emerged in the following weeks--including a special edition of The Sexy News, a series by YouTube user nihontenjin where wobbly machinima figures narrate current events in computer-generated Japanese (or stilted English). In the June 26 episode, an animation of Jackson circa 1989 bids farewell to his "fan," anchorwomen parrot real-world media banalities ("I can't believe it!"), and an angel reminds Michael that he sold Neverland to buy a little house in heaven as behind a text box with Matthew: 19:24 ("And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."). It's the best Michael Jackson tribute of the year. (Honorable mention goes to Claude Closky's Michael Jackson.)