Re: [-empyre-] Panic

I had heard these complaints about ISEA but I was not there so can't discuss
specifics and it sounds like that has been covered here anyhow.

The presentation you describe at "thinking the surface" by the young
architect (I had almost forgotten!!) was so striking since it was so nearly
Preemptive Media's Swipe -- projecting visualizations of individuals' data
bodies in real-time as they passed through a particular public space -- but
the goal was not to shock==>engage, only seduce==>entertain. And with the
emphasis on the architectural surface and pattern, there was a strategic
distancing from any implications of the work, no need to care, as if
aestheticizing data safely removes us from politics by cutting its cords to
origins, destinations, use value... This is a prime example of what we are
calling "terror technologies" integrated into the fields of design,
architecture and fashion with **complete ambivalence** and probably deserves
more of our attention since proposals like these are not meant solely for
academic conferences but rather organized with corporate and government
funding in mind. They hit the mass markets and mainstream.

But the panic should not be assumed nor expected here -- something I was
starting to get at towards the end of my post (but cut myself short). The
terror within data surveillance is for the most part invisible, hidden in
policy papers and computer programs, not immediately understood nor
accessible to the general public. Whenever there is inquiry, there is
everything from executive privilege to bureaucratic ineptitude and
scientific-legalese to protect the secrets -- what is really going on? Do
you have the money, time, education and power to find out? US congress at
this point cant even get to the bottom of the NSA warrant-less wiretapping
situation. The threat is hardly ever immediate, no gun in the face, you do
not feel your body in the cross-hatches or see a direct hit, so why would we
panic? I always hear "I am a responsible, law-abiding individual, so why
should I care?". But then aren't you saying "I am a responsible law-abiding
individual so why should I care about racism, free speech, human rights and

The terror is insidious so we create the panic or, maybe better yet, produce
the shock to jump start the conversation.  Here are two I like to use:

This letter ( in which a data warehouse
company in Boston responds to a person request for their OWN data (using a
form available on the Swipe website). The letter begins: "To answer your
question of what rights you have over the information that we have about
you, there are none". That's pretty darn clear.

Another -- and more forceful -- example is the story about Choicepoint (#1
commercial data provider for the US government), the state of Florida and
the US Presidential election in 2000. This is investigative work by Greg
Palast which you can find described by him here on

The architect's installation at the airport of course also says "you have no
rights over the information we have about you" but who will respond or even
hear the significance of the message through its presentation as
entertainment, through its sheen of novelty and in the rush to catch a
plane? And who could ever take the leap from you have no rights over your
data to the theft of a presidential election? Or, the much simpler link
even, from that architect's wall to what is happening just behind it in the
airport security lines and the data mining programs whirling away behind the
check-in counters...


On 4/11/07 9:12 AM, "timothy murray" <> wrote:

>> Thanks, Brooke, for your provocative introduction.  I'm hoping we
>> might pursue a bit your distancing from the popularity of locative
>> media (which we've previously discussed in -empyre-) because of your
>> sense that it collapses terror technologies into infotainment
>> objects.  Something that Renate and I noticed at this summer's ISEA,
>> for instance, was a celebration of locative media projects but a
>> decrease in particularly political installations and projects,
>> particularly those critical of the military-industrial nexus
>> sustaining new media.  Even the project by Muntadas that situated
>> the locative in the cartographic context of the global
>> military-industrial complex was installed far off track in a
>> convention room hall, between hotels (something our 16 year-old
>> reminded us just the other day--the apparent politics of its
>> placement even caught his attention).
> The most striking exception were bio projects by Natalie Jeremijenko,
> your collaborator Beatriz da Costa, and Paul Vanouse who will join us
> next week  whose overall impact was to challenge the infotainment
> that seemed to us to prevail in the main exhibits.  Of course, we
> share your concern that this isn't limited to the specific
> configuration of last year's ISEA.
> When you joined us at Cornell last fall for the workshop, "Thinking
> the Surface," we engaged in somewhat of a similar debate with
> extremely smart and influential architects who seemed to be enchanted
> by the patterns and surfaces of technodesign.  One rising architect
> even presented his slick and stylistic surveillance environment
> through which stylish amoeba shaped cameras would track every move in
> an airport, with the emphasis on architectural pattern minus any
> critique of the underlying TechnoPanic of this project.
> So your emphasis on this disparity strikes me as particularly
> important in these days of heightened emphasis on the technology of
> design.
> Thanks.
> Tim
>>> In the last several years I have seen the rise of work termed "Locative
>>>  Media" and my own work is sometimes grouped in that category. I usually
>>>  ignore labels but this one is particularly bothersome to me because there
>>>  is
>>>  a trend here to collapse this ever-growing field of terror technologies
>>>  into
>>>  infotainment objects. This gets to the issue of what Tim calls the
>>>  "ambivalent attraction to technologies of terror" and, as Horit questions,
>>>  "what is the relationship between the production of art by means of
>>> digital
>>>  technologies and the production of terror by the same?" Locative Media (as
>>>  with the term Web 2.0) is deceptive in its appearance of being simply
>>>  shiny,
>>>  fun and new. Yet, do we question computer art for its use of the digital
>>>  computer, originally designed to quickly crunch numbers to project
>>>  missiles
>>>  more accurately -- wherein lies the difference? Is it only distance from
>>> inception?

Brooke Singer

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