Research: Selfie City by Lev Manovich


Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” as its word of the year as usage of the word had increased by 17000% over the past 12 months, said the publisher of the Oxford English Language Dictionary. The act of selfie-taking has been examined microscopically perhaps because its popularity seems to encompass what society thinks to be the ills of young: narcissism, over-sharing, and endless aping of celebrity culture. 

In Selfiecity, the selfie is treated as a form of self-expression of individual Instagram users as well as a communal and social practice. The research project considers both the individual artistic intentions of a singular image and the overall patterns revealed by large amount of selfies made in a particular geographic location during one week.

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Montage of selfies from Selfiecity

Selfiecity, which was just released by Lev Manovich is an immersive project that investigates and analyzes a sample of 3,200 selfies taken in New York, Moscow, Berlin, Bangkok, and Sao Paulo.


When popular media covers exceptional events such as social upheavals,
revolutions, and protests, typically they just show you a few professionally shot photographs
that focus on this moment of protest at particular points in the city. So we were wondering if
examining Instagram photos that were shared in the central part of Kiev would give us a
different picture. Not necessarily an objective picture because Instagram has its own biases and it’s definitely not a transparent window into reality, but would give us, let’s say, a
more democratic picture.

– Lev Manovich, interview with Randall Packer


It is rather interesting to compare the professionally shot pictures published by popular media and ones taken by amateurs/anyone with access to a camera/smartphone. This project gives us actual statistics, data science, data visualizations, and interactive information about selfies taken around the world. The images were then subject to high-level face analysis with the help of Orbeus Inc.’s software, sorting by the presence of visual cues like smiles, glasses, and orientation of the head. The result is a sophisticated data visualization.

The website invites visitors to inspect selfies and how to reconcile different approaches to the selfie — how to view the same images as data. Given the cultural popularity of the selfie and its rapid growth, computational social science may offer a better way to interpret modern self-portraiture than conventional psychology.

“While art historians traditionally would engage in a close reading of a singular image and practice formal analysis of a unique artifact, the current project instead focuses on patterns in a larger set of images, analyzing such features as pose, facial expression and mood,” writes Alise Tifentale, a researcher on the aesthetics of new media at CUNY.


Not only does SelfieCity offer findings about the demographics of people taking selfies (as well as information about their various poses and expressions, such as trends in their smiles), it also shares a variety of data visualizations (such as collages that overlay hundreds of selfies that share similar characteristics), and allows visitors to explore the entire photo collection, could reveal patterns or trends that ripple throughout selfie culture based on the demographics of the participants.

Manovich explains that, “the central point of this project is to say, let me produce as many interesting visualizations as I can, maybe select the most interesting, even juxtapose them, and then to basically say that it’s not that one is more true than another. Everyone views a different idea.”

I’ve never thought that selfie’s could be a source of data that can be extracted to reveal a larger picture; one that says a lot about life and real lives in an increasingly digital and ‘virtual’ culture. A study Manovich created called “cultural analytics,” looks at large at sets of social media data as a means of better understanding our changing culture through new media. I am amazed by the level of complexity and degree of user interactions and interactivity and see it as an inspiration for my Project hyperessay and final project which applies a similar concept.

I believe that the age of the selfie is not over – in fact, its only just beginning. Humans beings have never been able to not look at themselves. When we have #selfiefriday, #selfiesunday, #selfieoftheday, and #selfiesfordays, and surely someday soon, the hologram selfie, the data need never stop flowing. SelfieCity suggests these casual acts of self-love may tell analysts of the future not just where we were but where we were at.

Research: Life Sharing by Eva and Franco Mattes


For ordinary people like you and me, the thought of someone else (quite possibly a hacker) looking through and copying or modifying our personal files is enough to make us cringe. 

Why, exactly, is privacy important to us? There is no one simple answer to this
question, since people have a number of interests that may be harmed by invasions of
their privacy. In the day and age where there’s rampant use of smartphones, computers and technology in general, the type of data stored our gadgets can paint an almost complete picture of even the most private details of our private, personal lives. We share everything with our computer: our time, our space, our culture, our personal relationships, our memories, our ideas etcwe now carry a lot of our private and sensitive information around with us on a daily basis.

As a result of just how lonely and lost we feel, we’re increasingly willing to exchange privacy for the opportunity to have others notice us and pay attention to us. I also argue that abandoning your privacy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, privacy benefits banks and corporations more than it benefits people.
– Niedzvicki on Privacy

As artists, we somehow feel need to guard and protect our intellectual property.
Not these artists though…


Image by Kyle Bean

“A computer, with the passing of time, ends up looking like its owner’s brain. It does it more and better than other more traditional media, e.g., diaries, notebooks, or, on a more abstract level, paintings and novels.”

– via

Out of all these information that we keep, we can choose to share some our hard-disk files with other people; This process is called File-sharing. A couple who goes by 0100101110101101.ORG, Italian artists whose medium is the Internet, then decided they would do Life-sharing.

Eva + Franco Mattes


Title: Life Sharing
Artist(s): Eva and Franco Mattes aka
Duration: 2000 – 2003
Media: Internet Webpages, Computer Hard Drives & Contents
Technology: Debian GNU/Linux, HTML, Javascript, Flash, Python

Life Sharing is a real-time digital self-portrait. Started in the year 2000 and active uninterruptedly until 2003, Life Sharing is 0100101110101101.ORG’s personal computer turned into a real time sharing system. Any visitor has free and unlimited access to all contents: texts, images, software, 01’s private mail. One can get lost in this huge data maze. Based on Linux, Life Sharing is a brand new concept of net architecture turning a website into a sheer personal media for complete digital transparency. Permanent infotainment pioneering the peer to peer mass diffusion. Privacy is stupid.

– Eva and Franco Mattes, Life Sharing, Artists’ Statement


Enter two net “experimenters” that didn’t fit into traditional art spaces or existing categories; Eva and Franco Mattes. For them, living publicly online is their form of performance art in the digital age. Their personal and private lives became the subject of their public artwork. 

This out-of-the-box piece, whose title is a play on the term “file sharing,” provides an exercise in transparency. It is an act of data exhibitionism as the artists that turns viewers into peeping toms. With that, they welcome you into their world and website by greeting you with the message: “Now you’re in my computer.”


 Visitors to their Website are greeted by this message.

Except for a few sensitive files, like those that might allow the project to be erased, the machine’s contents — software, e-mails, even error messages — are accessible by anyone and everyone. Naturally, most people would be worried when the concept of someone else snooping on their personal files, not with the Mattes as thats is one of the points it is trying to bring up by removing the barriers between the public and their personal lives. The couple champion the open-source computing movement, which is based on freely available, communally developed software. Social network didn’t exist when the work began; thus freely sharing files was not common.


Their private e-mails shared in real time via their website.

Eva and Franco Mattes explains why they were so intrigued and willing to put themselves at risk of making themselves vulnerable to potential identity theft and other online violations in the name of art: 

 When started, we were all blown away by the idea of having a sort of personal live channel accessible to anybody in which putting our things, but in the mid 90s, this was very abstract and rudimental — the Internet speed sucked. When we did Life Sharing and put all the contents of our home computer online and shared them with everybody, we were like cavemen trying to make art with bones and stones, stoned.

– Eva and Franco Mattes, on Life Sharing, Art 21 Interview

As open source and net art is more about the participation of the viewer and less about the work itself, I feel that they have managed to get people involved in their work and its amazing how given the platform to do whatever they wish with these data, people interact with this differently. Here are some screenshots of what people have done with their website:

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This is open source living in the digital age. It’s making a political statement about ownership and commercialism. It’s not just about viewing. Not only can you see in, but you can use the plans yourself.

– Steve Dietz

Though Life Sharing was created in 2000 through to 2003 where social networking sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter did not exist yet, they were an early representation and exploration of what Peep Culture might become and how it would have manifested itself. The author of Peep Diaries, Hal Niedzviecki notes:


“We have entered the age of “peep culture”: a tell-all, show-all, know-all digital phenomenon that is dramatically altering notions of privacy, individuality, security, and even humanity. Peep culture is what  happens when we entertain ourselves by watching real people do real things, as opposed to watching actors and performers pretend to do real things. Peep culture is YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Reality TV.”

– Niedzviecki on Peep Culture

Today, we’re getting used to the fact that our everyday lives are a potential source of entertainment for other people. An example of that would be vlogs, or Video Blogs, in which people videotape themselves going about their everyday lives and publish it online for people to watch. A quick search on Youtube would reveal plenty of vlogs uploaded by different people everyday. The funny thing is, the internet culture has become accustomed to watching people. Even for those of us who just watch, there are consequences. We start to think of people’s lives and problems as just entertainment.


Watching the Watchers:

Eva and Franco Mattes also collected data on people who were watching them; their referred site history, countries of origin, directories and file types. I personally think these data visualisations are pretty darn awesome.

lifesharing-logs-ReqReferSiteHist-2000 lifesharing-logs-ReqCountry-2000 lifesharing-logs-ReqDirs-2000 lifesharing-logs-ReqFiletype-2000

”This is the beauty of a computer. It’s not the colors or the flashy stuff. It’s the functionality. How data goes from one point to another, how software interacts, even the bugs: this is the real Net art.”

– Renato Pasopiani, via New York Times Press

As the Life Sharing artpiece was so successful, the artists wanted to further magnify the impact of infringing their personal lives. They then set out to create Vopos, which is a sequel to Life sharing and is a project in which the artists wore Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitters to track their whereabouts, mapping their location on their Web site in real time. The artists also patched their mobile phone conversations through their server so anyone could listen in.

They certainly know how to push the boundaries with their work!

Research: Shredder 1.0 by Mark Napier


I was born in the age of the internet. As bad as it may sound, I have become extremely dependent on the internet to carry on with my normal life. I’m able to read do my homework online, purchase things on the web and even find directions. Its hard to imagine having to live without WiFi… what more without the internet.

However, all these while, I’ve been thinking about the internet merely just as something that is THERE – I’ve never thought about how our computers processes the data that we feed them or how browsers work to show us information. The last thing that I thought was possible was to create art online.

I’ve always thought of art as being something tangible; something we’re able to look and marvel at while touching the surface of the art piece. Something you stick in a frame, or something you can hold together with glue or duct tape. This class on open source studio certainly has widen my eyes to the other types of art forms out there and ways of expressing oneself; not only to web and net art, but also to the art of the glitch… there is beauty in the flaws of the web (I stand corrected).

An example is Google Maps – the ever trusty app you can use to find your way around (almost) every inch of the planet. This is what you’d expect to see if you searched for NTU ADM:

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On the other hand, you may find glitchy Google maps here.

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We are on the internet so often that we have begin to expect and assume what a web browser would generate a website like.. so what happens if those expectations are torn down?


Mark Napier, Shredder 1.0
custom software, internet 

Mark Napier’s net art and performance art piece, Shredder 1.0 interface which takes existing websites and deconstructs and messes with their code to create abstract compositions of expressionist-like artwork. The Internet may be a valuable tool for individual use, but it is far more important as a social mechanism and Napier’s work takes the social context of the internet and exploits it into art pieces.


The web browser is an organ of perception through which we ‘see’ the web. It filters and organizes a huge mass of structured information that spans continents, is constantly growing, reorganizing itself, shifting its appearance, evolving. The Shredder presents this global structure as a chaotic, irrational, raucous collage. By altering the HTML code before the browser reads it, the Shredder appropriates the data of the web, transforming it into a parallel web. Content become abstraction. Text becomes graphics. Information becomes art.

– Mark Napier on, Artists’ Statement, 1998

The most interesting thing to not about net art is that its focus is many-to-many interaction. The interaction between people and the net IS THE ART, unlike in sculptures and paintings. Shredder is both interactive and generative as the users of Napier’s work has to input their own websites – and then is able to watch as the codes are (de)generated to create these wonderful pieces of glitch art.

Napier cites Pollock and Smithson as his inspiration. It is interesting to note that the artists he emulated and took inspiration from worked with tangible materials such as paint and sand. From there, he created similar bodies of work for exhibition and participation on the net.


Convergence (1952), Jackson Pollock


Spiral Jetty (2015), Robert Smithson


 He explains in his approach: “I wanted to expose raw material that make up the ‘design’, ‘content’ and ‘information’ of the web. Of course, this material is a construct of software and the graphics display. It is ‘raw’ only by virtue of the context The Shredder creates”.

(Green, R., 2004 Thames &Hudson, p. 100)


With that, I end my research post with a screengrab of my OSS blog being shredded… no more homework! HAHAHA I’m just kidding 😛

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I tried to use the shredder but I couldn’t get it to work :/ oh dear…

Research: Telematic Dreaming by Paul Sermon


“If I lay here; If I just lay here.
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?” 

― Snow Patrol


The stroking of hair and the gentle caressing of the side of someones face – these are gestures that we sometimes take for granted. Touch is our primary means of compassion and our primary means for spreading compassion. Touch is a language essential to what it means to be a compassionate human being.

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So what happens when touch is taken away and replaced with sight instead? What happens when one can’t touch?

Both artist and participant are made to react to each other on the virtual space. It is human instinct to try. What we can then observe are people trying to connect with one another – and trying to touch the projection.

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The installation, aimed at an interactive and intimate installation experience exists over ISDN Digital Telephone Network. The participants walk into a dark gallery with a bed taking centre stage. This, however, is no ordinary bed. A projection of the artist is projected onto it and he reacts to the participants in realtime, while being at a totally different location.


diagram via medienkunstnetz

Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction. Human beings are all wired to connect. We instinctively feel the need to try to connect and communicate with our surroundings. In this performance installation, Sermon has successfully proven that point – most visitors to his installation touched him in one way or another. Herman Melville once said:

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” 

It is interesting to note how the visitors reach to “being touched” in the third space. Although they knew that Sermon wasn’t really able to touch them when they weren’t physically in the same space, some participants actually moved away from away to avoid being “touched”. Also, when Sermon was laying still, some participants themselves try to do the touching. This induces visual delight as a “mime dance” somewhat unravels between artist and participant.

Telematic Vision was performed by Paul Sermon in 1992

and Telematic Dreaming was performed by Paul Sermon in 1993

Just an afterthought when reviewing this performance; could this technology be used to solve Japan’s increasing problem depression due to lack of touch and physical intimacy?

crazy-japanese-inventions-9 crazy-japanese-inventions-10

…or could this technology possibly accompany the visual projections that visitors see by introducing touch too:

Research: A Bit[E] Of Me by Federico Zannier


Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 7.04.30 PM  You added Randall Packer as a friend

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 7.04.30 PM Sharanya Pillai posted in OSS NTU

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 7.04.30 PM MJ Quek invited you to like his page Merje!


Often, we skim through Facebook notifications to see whats new with our friends and with our own profile pages. Sometimes, we do it to get rid of the annoying red bubble on the header. Either way, we have access to our friends information and almost everything they decide to share and post on their pages.

You then go on and quickly scroll through your news feed; game requests, music suggestions and family photos… more family photos. On your own page; selfies, cat videos, music videos, photos with your classmates. You wanted to share these with your friends.

Like many, I spend hours everyday surfing the net everyday. Meanwhile, companies exploit my data and gain all the benefit from knowing what websites i visit, who I am friends with, the videos i watch.

There is no such thing as privacy
on the internet anymore.

“If you look at privacy in law, one important concept is a reasonable expectation of privacy. As more private lives are exported online, reasonable expectations are diminishing.”

Dr. Kieron O’hara

Facebook apps allow you to play games, take quizzes, and set up a family tree. Facebook allows apps to make the site seem more useful to its users. The company says 70% of users use apps each month. But what happens when the external companies that create these apps are allowed to gain access to your personal information?

They sell it and make money!

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You didn’t share all these internet data with them, they stole it from you – and they’re the ones making all the money! Quite a despicable plan they have set up, and we have little to no control about what kind of data and information they can mine from us.

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Companies that want to make use of the personal information people put online should pay for it.
– US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)

The security of personal data on the Internet and Facebook has become a hot topic among many netizens ever since The Wall Street Journal investigated and reported a high-profile glitch: Facebook in Online Privacy Breach. Following the investigation, it is found that many of the most popular applications on the social-networking site Facebook have reportedly been transmitting identifying information to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies. 


The mining of personal data affects tens of millions of Facebook users – even the ones who have set their profiles to the strictest privacy settings. Putting anything up online is as good as offering the information for just about anyone to access.

“We have taken immediate action to disable all applications that violate our terms,” a Facebook spokesman said. Either way, even without Facebook apps, companies are getting smarter about how they go about data mining.


Zannier’s idea was simple – compile his own data and sell his data files for $2/day. He challenged this notion of companies secretly data mining by setting up a kickstarter page to sell his own personal data. His crass sarcasm made him money.


(click to view larger image)

“I’ve data mined myself. I’ve violated my own privacy. Now I am selling it all. But how much am I worth?”

“I’m selling this data for $2 a day. If more people do the same, I’m thinking marketers could just pay us directly for our data. It might sound crazy, but so is giving all our data away for free.”

says Federico Zannier in his new Kickstarter campaign. 

Good question.

Anyone who wants personal information can easily obtain much of it from your behavior on the Internet. Companies tracking and aggregating our clicks, taps, and swipes are the ones making money while the individuals are not. Our personal data information are worth billions to marketers every year. Should we be getting a share? Zanier’s project hopes to get more people thinking about the revolution of internet and big data.

According to Viktor Mayor-Shonberger, big data is “so fundamental a change… that it is important not just for every business, for every organization, for every government agency to look at big data… but also for society at large, because we need to put safeguards in place to make sure that big data does not control us.”

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A Bit(E) of Me on Kickstarter

“Zannier says he is willing to “give away a lifelong, international, sub-licensable right to use [his] personal data” as part of an experiment to see if there might be a market for such data sold by the individual Internet users who actually generate it.”
– reports PC Magazine

The project received overwhelming response and support. His initial target of $500 worth of pledges ended with $2733 – a whopping 546% funded. Clearly, many netizens shared the same sentiments as Zannier.

Federico’s Data Visualisation: (3 months)
(which I think is so awesome. sure, i’ll part with $2)







Although Zannier is not the first to come up with the concept of exchanging personal data for money, he got a lot of people thinking, as well as commenting on social media platforms.

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Research: Pirate Cinema by Nicholas Maigret,


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      The imperfections allow to identify a medium, in the style of glass becoming visible by the accumulated dusts and scratches.
      – Nicolas Maigret

Nicolas Maigret is an interactive artist who loves to experiment with the capacity and push the boundaries of technology.

THE PIRATE CINEMA from N1C0L45 M41GR3T on Vimeo.

Every single day, web searches, movies, videos, music, apps and porn fly through the ‘internet highway’. Content is silently shared by millions of people around the world through the comfort of their own homes. Maigret wondered what this ‘internet highway’ might look like and as a result of his curiosity, The Pirate Cinema Installation was conceptualized.

People from all around the world have access to information like never before. Peer-to-peer sharing, although controversial, is rampant. Users share files from their computer and the data is transferred in fragments onto someone else’s computer via Torrents on Piratebay.

BGLzLp5CIAAfekaWhat a torrent download page looks like. FUN FACT: This is Pirate Bay’s oldest torrent file, the pioneer for millions to come.

In the installation, Maigret makes use of an automated data interception software of the same name that continually downloads the 100 most popular torrents on the Pirate Bay website. This software collects the geographical data information of the sender and the receiver of these torrents and the info is displayed on the screengrabs.


The data collected is then immediately projected in fragments onto a screen before being discarded. This is largely because downloading torrents is not a linear process. The completion of a file is done in a disorderly manner and at an an irregular rate.

As a result, it shows us the different aspects of hidden activity, the geography of peer-to-peer file sharing and the aesthetic dimension of its architecture. This depicts to us the amount and  data and information dissemination in a world that is connected via the internet. The remote users are unknowingly creating an endless collage via what they chose to download from BitTorrents. This reveals to us the scale of the mass-sharing culture.

While peer-to-peer file-sharing of copyrighted materials is controversial, Maigret simply accepts file-sharing culture for what it is. In the end, ethics and ethos aside, The Pirate Cinema is indeed an interesting installation and experience.

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