“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide”

“Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears. Then the spectre of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads. The purchase of a book or pamphlet today may result in a subpoena tomorrow. Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall. The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold. Some will fear to read what is unpopular, what the powers-that-be dislike. When the light of publicity may reach any student, any teacher, inquiry will be discouraged. The books and pamphlets that are critical of the administration, that preach an unpopular policy in domestic or foreign affairs, that are in disrepute in the orthodox school of thought will be suspect and subject to investigation. The press and its readers will pay a heavy price in harassment. But that will be minor in comparison with the menace of the shadow which government will cast over literature that does not follow the dominant party line. If the lady from Toledo can be required to disclose what she read yesterday and what she will read tomorrow, fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, book stores, and homes of the land. Through the harassment of hearings, investigations, reports, and subpoenas government will hold a club over speech and over the press.”

-William O. Douglas [United States v Rumley, 345 U.S. 41 (1953)]

There are events for each generation their time. For the “Great Generation” in the 1900s, it was World War II. For the “Generation X”, it was the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. For my generation, it is most likely to be 9/11 – the day the world changed. Hasan Elahi, an Indian-born American multimedia artist, explores the consequences of the paranoia following 9/11 – when the American government began its worldwide surveillance to counter “terrorist threats.”After being held back by the FBI and being questioned on his activities, Hasan sets out to document everything he does and uploads them online for everyone to see on his website.

His website, Tracking Transcience, showcases nearly every detail of his life – where he has been, what he has spent money on, what he has eaten, and what he has cooked. He created this website in 2006 – right around the silent start of the social media craze. In a way,  much of the info on his site is similar to posts on social media. However, his site lacks one thing that social media adds – context. Without the context of why he is in x, why he had y, and why he was flying to z, Hasan has managed to reduce his full existence to nothing more than data for us to peep at.

By being completely open to being peeped, yet at the same time removing key context, I feel that Hasan has managed to emulate Lady Godiva in a sense – he is baring himself nude, but without any context, he is not inviting us to peep at him – not like social media, wherein you see a picture of a taco with the story that it “… is the best taco in Singapore, omg so shiok u all must try!” in contrast to a post on Hasan’s site which would only show the taco, and a timestamp.


I feel that Hasan manages to critique not only the powers-that-be that consistently monitor everything in the name of safety, but the modern culture of sharing everything we have online. He uses himself as an example of how much data one can upload, and how much others can see into your own life, yet at the same time, he uses this to mask himself, by reducing his day-to-day as raw data without any meaning, he manages to keep a part of himself hidden.

Looking at Hasan’s work, and all his data online, we have to wonder – do we share too much online? Does it matter at this point, with Edward Snowden’s revelations on the NSA’s spying program? Should you take charge of the info that will be online anyway, or should you fight for your own sense of privacy? These are questions that I feel are growing ever more relevant in this age. How far away are we from Big Brother? Does he already exist? Or have we created Big Brother ourselves – by our posting and sharing? Either way – the Thoughtpolice will always know (or think they know, at least.)

Jodi.org – I could stay here all day

When we think of programs and code, we think of near-perfect structures that function flawlessly.  In reality, programs and websites are far from flawless. Since they are made by humans, they are also capable of carrying human error. The art collective Jodi breaks down the various elements of websites and games to highlight the occurrence of glitches and create something new from these sources.

Jon Cates’ idea of dirty new media is that it isn’t perfect or clean, due to their very existence in the world:

… But also that there is a non-neutrality of techno-social artifacts and contexts, that our technologies are not neutral, also that they are embedded, they are part of our lives, and that embeddedness has the word “bed” in there, we’re in bed with them also, they’re embedded in ways that are complex. They are not sterile, they’re imperfect, they are not clean, because they exist in the world, which is also imperfect. And so, I do believe that dirty new media as a way of life and as an approach to art making is a way of foregrounding these facts, these realities, of our lived experiences, and acknowledging how situated we are with all of these systems, and artifacts.

Jon Cates 

Jodi is not just one site, it is a collection of various websites, each one a separate project doing different things. They attempt to use and modify sites and games in doing things that they were not originally designed to, to create glitch scenarios and share them with the world. One site creates random patterns using signs in Google Maps. Another site uses randomly generated ASCII art and JavaScript. They explore the limits of certain game engines, such as Max Payne 2’s game engine by modifying them to do different things outside their intended purpose by the developers. They explore combining videos that have the same tag on YouTube by playing them side by side. These sites are among many others that create something out of another’s work by breaking them down, or re-purposing them.

These works highlight the human limitation of machines. Whilst these sites and games work well for their purpose for the most part, taken to a different context and purpose, they react in a disjointed, confused manner. They are far from perfect. The potential and purpose of a program is limited to what a person makes it to be, and thus leaves a lot open to glitch about, which Jodi highlights.

In modern internet culture, most people actually enjoy glitches (so long as they aren’t game breaking), as seen with various YouTube channels such as cricken and motdef, and the popularity of games such as GTA, which was well known in its early days for the ridiculous cheats one could put in, causing cars to fly around and pedestrians having military-grade guns. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are well known for their buggy, yet hilarious launches, with physics being way off, and limbs splattering about everywhere. Most open world games are subject to tons of glitch interactions, due to the wide amount of things to do and limit in developer scope, which leads to interesting situations. Whilst these recent trends do not necessarily go about breaking down games into an abstract interactive form, I do feel that they capture the playfulness and the curiosity of Jodi in exploring the limits and quirks of technology.

I think Jodi is an amazing collective, featuring great modifications with games and sites, and highlighting the “organic” factor of machines. Machines are capable of so much greatness, but are ultimately creations of man, and are subject to the failings of men as well.

Telematic Dreaming – Linking Two Worlds

It is quite hard to imagine that it was only within the past century that man has truly been able to eliminate the barrier of physical distance. About 150 years ago, when someone packed up and left, you say goodbye, cry for awhile, and move on with your lives. When a cowboy runs off into the sunset, he leaves everything behind – perhaps never seeing or hearing from family and friends ever again. Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming is a work that highlights the bridging of physical gaps through a projection on a bed that is virtual occupied by the artist.

The performance is set up in two spots, one in an exhibit wherein visitors may interact with the projection, and another is set up for the performer at a distance, in this case, about two houses away. The performer gets to see what happens at the other site, while they too get to see the performer, projected onto a bed. In a sense, the exhibit acted as a cybercafe – a gathering place for people from different parts of the world. However, the scope is much smaller in this sense – rather than groups of people working only, it only allowed for one from one end, and preferably one from the other as well. Guests can interact with the projected figure as they choose – most guests seem to want to touch the performer, but cant, due to it being a projection.

The lack of touch paired with such a vivid and lifelike image puts touch at the focal point of interaction. This highlights the duality of web communication – that we are together, yet also far apart. Perhaps touch would not be in as  much focus if the  exhibit was set up differently – on a different surface? In a different, less intimate setting? Similar projection techniques have been used to great effect in performances, bringing virtual characters to life in the physical world.

With the bridging of physical distance, and the linking of cultures and peoples online, often times it is hard to remember the duality of that connection, the idea that the other is still not exactly the same as us, even if we feel connected online, whether through social media, video calls, forums, IRC channels. The duality that is highlighted, intentionally or unintentionally, by Telematic Dreams is something that we should all keep in mind when interacting online.

Datamatics: Breaking Space Into Visualized Data

Ikeda uses data as a source for sound and visuals, using dynamic CGI to render visualisations and synthesisers to create music. You can see an example in the video above. The data is sourced from hard drive errors and software code, and then run through a stack of filters and processing algorithms to turn it into music and animation that’s not too far off glitch art.

The result is sparse, black-and-white imagery with just the occasional flash of colour, overlaid with high-frequency bleeps and blips and underpinned by droning bass frequencies. You can hear a sample on Soundcloud. Ikeda uses high-framerate video and variable bit-depths to, as the artist puts it on his website, “challenge the thresholds of our perceptions“.

– Duncan Geere, wired.co.uk, 07 April 2011


Datamatics is a series of audiovisual works by Ryoji Ikeda, turning space into visual data points flying past our eyes. The work breaks down our perception of space, turning the space into 1s and 0s. It converts our space from a physical plane to something less tangible, more electric. He helps visualize data errors in an artistic manner that is surreal and tangible.

Though the process of data corruption cannot be actually visualized, Datamatics uses such data in creating its vivid imagery and music. In that sense, Datamatics is anti-sublime because it maps something that is nearly intangible into a form that we can decipher.

If Romantic artists thought of certain phenomena and effects as
un-represantable, as something which goes beyond the limits of human senses
and reason, data visualization artists aim at precisely the opposite: to map such
phenomena into a representation whose scale is comparable to the scales of
human perception and cognition.

-Lev Manovich

The generation of imagery and music from a nearly intangible form is reminiscent of Norman McLaren’s work with film – he simply drew what he wanted directly on film, creating fast moving images and futuristic sounding music. While not anti-sublime or data-related, it is interesting to see Datamatics in comparison to his films, such as Synchromy.


Ryuji Ikeda’s Datamatics in Ars Electronica 2009

Datamatics blurs the line between the intangible data and the physical space we inhabit, and in that way creates a new sensed space for us to explore, superimposing our physicality with the seemingly nothingness of data. It brings down the formless into form, and forces us to rethink of how we see the world – whether we see objects made of 1s and 0s, or whether we see data as matter.


Organized Chaos – The World’s First Collaborative Sentence

The advent of the digital age has brought along with it new tools and forms of social interaction. Douglas David’s World’s First Collaborative Sentence highlights the early development of online interaction. As an artist, his work provided the canvas for others to contribute their own part in creating a collaborative sentence.

The sentence viewed from a Netscape browser.
The sentence viewed from a Netscape browser.

The World’s First Collaborative Sentence came out during the early rise of the internet in mainstream use – as such, it comes from a time before Google was ubiquitous, Reddit didn’t exist, and Facebook wasn’t even conceptualized. Writely, one of the first online word processors wouldn’t be out until about 2006, wherein it would be bought by Google. As such, the process of making the sentence was a completely new form of online interaction in that time.

Many individual graffiti works on a single wall, forming a beautiful but chaotic scene.
Many individual graffiti works on a single wall, forming a beautiful but chaotic scene.

Much like a clean wall, David’s work serves as a canvas for others to contribute to, but the result may not be cohesive or sensible, just like graffiti tends to turn out – many people add their own works to the wall, but it doesn’t necessarily work hand-in-hand with other creations. The sentence reflects that – with many people leaving repeated greetings, or ramblings in a foreign language – there is no overarching, unifying factor in the sentence besides the fact that it was created by many, not just by a single artist.

The sentence reflects a factor of online interaction – anonymity. The incoherence and sheer randomness of the sentence is almost akin to 4Chan, which usually has far less benign content than the sentence. David’s work highlights online noise, yet at the same time, shows us what the internet is capable of – it bridges physical distance and makes it possible for all people to work together towards a common goal, whilst featuring a stream of consciousness not possible without anonymity.

A series of posts from 4Chan.
A series of posts from 4Chan.

Today, with the multitude of social media users and posts, it feels like the internet itself is a macrocosm of the sentence – everyone has something to post, some posts we make have no connection to our previous posts, and everyone wants to share what’s on their minds in the internet’s collaborative story.

Attn: Fw: Fw: Fw: HOW TO EARN $1M


Dear Respected One, 


Permit me to inform you of my desire of going into business relationship with you. I got your contact from the International web site directory. I prayed over it and selected your name among other names due to it’s esteeming nature and the recommendations given to me as a reputable and trust worthy person I can do business with and by the recommendations I must not hesitate to confide in you for this simple and sincere business. 

I am Wumi Abdul; the only Son of late Mr and Mrs George Abdul. My father was a very wealthy cocoa merchant in Abidjan,the economic capital of Ivory Coast before he was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outing to discus on a business deal. When my mother died on the 21st October 1984, my father took me and my younger brother HASSAN special because we are motherless. Before the death of my father on 30th June 2002 in a private hospital here in Abidjan. He secretly called me on his bedside and told me that he has a sum of $12.500.000 (Twelve Million, five hundred thousand dollars) left in a suspense account in a local Bank here in Abidjan, that he used my name as his first Daughter for the next of kin in deposit of the fund. 

He also explained to me that it was because of this wealth and some huge amount of money his business associates supposed to balance his from the deal they had that he was poisoned by his business associates, that I should seek for a God fearing foreign partner in a country of my choice where I will transfer this money and use it for investment purpose, (such as real estate management). Sir, we are honourably seeking your assistance in the following ways.

1) To provide a Bank account where this money would be transferred to.

2) To serve as the guardian of this since I am a girl of 26 years.

Moreover Sir, we are willing to offer you 15% of the sum as compensation for effort input after the successful transfer of this fund to your designate account overseas. please feel free to contact ,me via this email address 

Anticipating to hear from you soon. 
Thanks and God Bless. 
Best regards. 
Mr Wumi Abdul