Brendan C. Byrne


Invisible


It shows how completely genre TV has appropriated the concept of DNA identification that one would immediately associate Invisible—artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg's product-provocation designed to protect "against new forms of biological surveillance"—with murder scene clean-up. Invisible comprises two bottles of spray: Erase and Replace. The former deletes 99.5% of DNA residue; the latter is "a solution of customized amplified DNA" designed to "obfuscate the remaining .5%." Together they could certainly be used to "spoof" the site of a crime, but Invisible's stated purpose is firmly focused on the quotidian-dystopic, a new SF sub-genre attempting to describe the daily grind of the immediate future.

The product's launch video incorporates visual strategies from apocalyptic films (scene-setting turbulent news footage) and tropes from sci-fi viral-thrillers (surveillance camera footage, a color palette of washed out blues on black). The marketing copy argues that only "You should be in control of how you share your information." Dewey-Hagborg positions Invisible as a necessary tool in an emergent world where the logic of data-mining extends away from the keyboard, right down to your genome.


How to Speedread Properly


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.


Retweeting Fiction



New York City. Photograph by Teju Cole, via Flickr.

On the morning of January 8th, Teju Cole published a fiction in the form of 33 tweets, each posted from the account of a different "collaborator," and then retweeted sequentially by Cole. Titled "Hafiz," it took three hours and fifteen minutes to be published. Like most of Cole's experiments in Twitter publishing, it generated much more social media heat than actual critique. (There are a few notable exceptions.) But "Hafiz," both as a story and presentation, is worth examining, as it is both the closest @tejucole has come to Teju Cole's fiction and a singular commentary on it.


Incognito Mode for the 21st-Century Flâneur


 Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877).

If it's just a matter of avoiding "that guy" or helping its co-creator avoid his ex, then the new "anti-social" app Cloak—which sources your contacts' locations based on their check-ins on Foursquare and Instagram, so that you can avoid them—is just another coddling mechanism that allows us to construct miniature worlds from our "likes," excluding anything that causes us discomfort. This ends, of course, in a boring, predictable, and ultimately doomed utopia, when suddenly everyone is too "Nearby" on Cloak's green-on-black world map, and no one can be "Far enough."


The Horror of Google Street View


Jon Rafman, BR-265, Barbacena, Minas Gerais, Brazil, (2012). Archival pigment print on aluminium. Seventeen Gallery.

It is not a good opening paragraph, as opening paragraphs go: 

A friend of mine showed me how to use Google Maps. I'm sure you've seen it. It lets you use satellite images to look at locations all over the world. A few years ago, I was in a car accident.

Besides unnecessarily explaining Google Maps, "Satellite Images" begins by executing exposition with brutality and an utter disregard for the show-don't-tell "rule." But this is creepypasta, an authorless horror story from the bowels of the internet. A kind of new iteration of the urban legend, with the internet as its city, creepypasta generally takes the form of as FOAFlore (ie friend-of-a-friend lore), comments on a forum, or a final, strangled pleading blogpost, posing as authentic testimony rather than fiction. The genre thrives on anonymity and slipshod writing, both of which boost the stories' presumed veracity. Will Wiles describes the genre as having "an eerie air of having arisen from nowhere... a networked effort to deliver dread in as efficient a way as possible."