Stealth Infrastructure

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Published in collaboration with VVVNT

Cell tower disguised as fir tree, Bedfordshire, UK. Photo: Dragontree.

"The Critical Engineer considers any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision. "

            – The Critical Engineering Manifesto, 2011-2014

SIGHTINGS 

My first conscious contact with telecommunications infrastructure came in the form of a telephone call that simultaneously rang for about a hundred people.

It was called a party line and was common in the 80s in rural New Zealand and other areas too sparsely populated to justify a unique telephone cable to each household. Instead, the telco ran just one line out from the nearest exchange as though the whole community were a single address, and then wove it across the hills, through wooden T-poles, stitching farm to farm.

It worked like this: each farm was given a ring pattern similar to a phrase of Morse Code. Our antique phone with its wooden housing and little metal bells would ring with a dozen different patterns a day, but the rule was that you'd only pick up when the call was for you.

Naturally my sisters and I broke that rule once or twice, trying to keep a lid on our giggles as we lifted the wrong pattern. Though the system practically implemented wiretapping, we knew listening in on others was wrong and, apart from the odd prank, our Party Line worked quite well. As far as I knew the whole world was wired that way, that telecommunication anywhere would imply an open infrastructure with a contract of trust at the center. 

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A Surf Session with Cory Arcangel

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Arcangel Surfware.

On Saturday, May 17, artist Cory Arcangel will present a solo exhibition and pop-up store, "You Only Live Once," at the Holiday Inn New York-Soho, featuring a new clothing and lifestyle merchandise line, Arcangel Surfware. We met for a session at his Brooklyn apartment to talk about surfing tricks and habits, gear, and how things change for each generation of surfers.

Can you start by showing me something from your browsing history?

Most, I'm not going to say all the time, but more often than not, my deep surfs revolve around late-80s/ early- to mid-90s metal. (Laughter.) I've been going deep into Steve Vai lately.... Here's all my Steve Vai searches.

Wow, that's a lot of Steve Vai.

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Go Fucking Do It

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Neoliberalism is not merely destructive of rules, institutions and rights. It is also productive of certain kinds of social relations, certain ways of living, certain subjectivities….at stake in neo-liberalism is nothing more, nor less, than the form of our existence—the way in which we are led to conduct ourselves, to relate to others and to ourselves.

—Dardot & Laval, The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society

"Your Lazy Life Ends Today!" proclaimed a recent promotional tweet by Go Fucking Do It, a new productivity app.

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Larping Off the Grid

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Courtesy of Isaac Eddy

The year is 2020, and four months ago, a federal mandate required everyone to wear a biometric device that would not only track physiological and behavioral characteristics, but transmit this personal data to the public and the government in real time.

The company that invented this device—ePublik—never intended for their technology to be used for government surveillance. Acting in protest, its engineers have found a way to unlawfully hack the device and temporarily disable the live stream. Those courageous enough to disobey government surveillance for brief moments of unmonitored alone time are joining what the media has called the Aloneing Movement.

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How to Speedread Properly

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There's an underlying assumption in most of the thinkpieces spawned by emergent speedreading apps: that you'll be using them to catch up on the massive assortment of thinkpieces you don't have the time to ingest.

Velocity, Spritz (which is actually proprietary tech, not yet an "app"), and the 2006 web-based spreeder all facilitate speedreading via a method known as Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). RSVP, as spreeder marketing copy explains, focuses on "silencing subvocalization" (which, in turn, is defined in Velocity's copy as your "inner voice"). spreeder and Velocity accomplish this by basically flashing words at you really fast. Spritz adds its own "Optimal Recognition Point," often a vowel, in red so as to excise time-consuming eye movements. In each case, the eye is presented here as the blood-brain barrier, with the text ever trying to pass through it more efficiently. This is a rather unique method for dealing with the stresses of the war-like domain of the longread; now you can "read" everything.

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Some Sites and Their Artifacts: 123D Catch

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The 123D Catch website promises its users that they can "Turn ordinary photos into extraordinary 3D models;" the resulting models can be shared with other users on the 123D Catch community site. In this video, which premieres on Rhizome, Clement Valla and A.E. Benenson argue that the 3D models of 123D Catch should be understood not as recreations of photographed objects but as records of machine vision: 

Like the junk-piles known as middens to archaeologists, the 123D Catch site paradoxically conserves its objects at the moment of their fragmentation.

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Better Sexual Politics Through Noselicking: A report from Different Games

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Realistic Kissing Simulator (2013) James Andrews and Loren Schmidt

Dueling tongues protrude from simplified profiles. They worm through swinging-door lips, taking an unpredictable course as they collide; they push upwards and into a nose, flopping limply past the chin, or prodding one of the eyes, forcing it to blink. Sometimes, a lucky tongue finds its way to its counterpart's mouth, but that’s not really the goal.

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Her Quantified Self

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Courtesy of Natalie James at NJinLA.com

The alarm on her FuelBand pulses at 5:30 am because she wants to be a better person. Studies show that early risers are more proactive, more likely to anticipate problems, and more optimistic than those who sleep in. She wakes up two hours later because no one is expecting her to be anywhere. She slept for 12 hours and worries for a moment that it means she is depressed. It's still early, she thinks aloud.

From bed she scrolls through news, links, baby pictures, and other pieces of life. She composes an update to share and deletes it. She writes something else and deletes that too. She looks around the room. She's happy to be home even if it doesn't show. She chides herself for forgetting to practice gratitude. She closes her eyes and thinks about her family with gentle love and appreciation. Thank you, she whispers to the universe. Her goodwill quickly evaporates as she hears Deb, her mother, making a morning racket in the kitchen. She decides to wait until Deb leaves to get out of bed.

Lately she finds herself eating almost exclusively from Trader Joe's because it's easier to track in MyFitnessPal. She thinks they probably have some kind of deal. She eats every three hours beginning an hour after she wakes up. Right now she's consuming 1500 calories a day, but she hasn't been counting. She might need some encouragement.

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