[-empyre-] Search, privacy, data - the abuse of encapsulation

magnus lawrie magnus at ditch.org.uk
Wed Feb 29 10:17:00 EST 2012

Hi Tero and all,

Thanks for the recent thought-provoking input.

On Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 02:43:19PM +0000, Tero Karppi wrote:
>    I think Rob makes a wonderful list of points and I can follow-up only a
>    few here. There is an important notion in points 5 and 6 that we are
>    constantly ideologically, politically and economically exploited by
>    different platforms and web sites and services and while we know it we
>    do nothing about it. This is also reflected by Ana, who points out that
>    living without leaving digital traces is practically impossible. Not
>    only are we using social media but also our data travels in banks,
>    health care institutions and schools. What is implied here is that our
>    information and data is being potentially gathered in all areas of our
>    daily lives.
>    Recently we have seen two different takes on this subject by new media
>    artists. The first take is making visible invisible or tactics of
>    non-existence (in the spirit of Galloway & Thacker). For example Web
>    2.0 Suicide Machine by moddr_ & Fresco Gamba was built to help users
>    close their Facebook and Twitter accounts. In contrast the other take
>    makes invisible visible. An example of this could be the Transparency
>    Grenade by Julian Oliver, which when detonated captures the network
>    traffic and audio data and presents it online.
>    On a more general level I think both of these works show how network
>    culture works behind the interfaces and platforms. Web 2.0 Suicide
>    Machine makes it an issue of biopolitics. Transparency Grenade shows
>    explicitly what happens to our data. Making these processes visible
>    help us to consider privacy & privatization issues on a more concrete
>    level.

Following up this information (very interesting, thankyou!) with some
online searches, I came to this post, from Zach Blas - Though not
directly involved in the disussion here, he was part of the workshop
and was also involved in other aspects of reSource. I think the post
touches on some themes that have been discussed during this month. I
offer the link as a sort of informational feedback, to possibly enter
back into the empyre discussion object - an empyre 'throwback' if you


(some keywords I noted:  nonrepresentable identity, creative
destruction, tactics of non-existence).

I provide this link also to respond to Gabriel's original discussion
statement, asking "how similar can the results of a further
in/compatible research debate be, in a different environment and time
frame?". I am also then wondering about aspects of search in an
institutional setting where the market rules (or is this purely
dystopian?) and in a more general sense, the possible application of
encapsulating protocols to research and institutions.

Best wishes,


>    Best,
>    Tero
>      __________________________________________________________________
>    From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>    [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Rob Jackson
>    [robertjackson3900 at gmail.com]
>    Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 11:08 PM
>    To: soft_skinned_space
>    Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Search, privacy, data - the abuse of
>    encapsulation
>    Hi All,
>    It's a sincere pleasure to be having this discussion with like-minded
>    people. A thousand thanks to Gabriel for the invitation.
>    I'll follow on from Tero's wonderful introduction and Andy's fantastic
>    follow-up with ten quick points (technical, historical and theoretical)
>    of my own concerning the unsettling privatisation of platforms.
>    1.) Platform applications have become the primary mode of accessing
>    online information and communication in recent years. However, they are
>    increasingly characterised by the forced removal of complexity
>    implemented through the logic of encapsulation that closes off access
>    to source code. This is an old story.
>    2.) In Object Oriented Programming, 'encapsulation' is defined as a
>    paradigmatic logic which programmers use to conceal functions and
>    methods which in turn restrict a user's access to the program's units.
>    Although it didn't originate with OOP, it's original purpose was to
>    prevent a computer program from bugs, exterior abuse, and it's
>    environment. As computers (especially personal ones) became
>    increasingly more complex, encapsulation methods were required to
>    'encapsulate' that complexity so the user need not be concerned with
>    the inner workings of the program in question. Think of a cashpoint
>    machine; when we wish to take our money out of the machine, we're not
>    expecting to witness the nefarious complexities of someone transferring
>    numbers, hardwiring physical money to our hand, understanding the
>    interest gained on that account, etc ; the interface closes off certain
>    functions that do not need to be made public, so that the user has a
>    simple experience and saves time in the use of that program. This is
>    why the rise of OOP is linked with GUI's.
>    3.) In the last 25 years or so the logic of encapsulation has been
>    fundamentally and consistently abused for the sake of proprietary
>    benefit. This is a major problem.
>    4.) The problem here is not encapsulation per se (even open source
>    software is encapsulated) but the abuse to which it is subjected.
>    Paraphrasing  Dymtri Kleiner, an artist many of you may know, the issue
>    isn't technical but political. Whilst others disagree, I am of the
>    opinion that computing is an independent real process: it is not the
>    logic of encapsulation which is the issue, but its proprietary use and
>    abuse which should worry the masses. Don't blame the algorithms
>    themselves!
>    5.) Tero's introduction highlights a major update of this abuse.
>    Proprietary interfaces are incredible ideological pieces of machinery,
>    designed to conceal necessary methods and functions away from the user.
>    It doesn't matter if Google start spouting off self-congratuatory
>    throws of "This stuff matters", the abuse of encapsulation for
>    proprietary benefit already puts the user in a lower ground position in
>    the technical sense, It's been going on for years. Making the interface
>    more personable and user friendly like most other functions of
>    encapsulation, is designed to save the user time and direct attention
>    away from their abuse.
>    6.) Following Zizek, the worst part about this entire level of abuse is
>    that, most of the target market already know they are being abused.
>    Human animals in the Western world are very sanguine creatures. We must
>    never forget that, nor start beating ourselves up about it. There is an
>    even more fundamental theoretical reason as to why ideology works so
>    well in this forced removal of complexity, but suffice to say this is a
>    philosophical conversation best left elsewhere (unless someone wants to
>    know - in essence, the interface isn't just a technical feature of
>    human existence).
>    7.) The forced removal of complexity works for the proprietor (and
>    never the consumer) and this occurs in three main principles which need
>    attention (I'll end on these three issues).
>    8.) Data mining: The first principle concerns the production of public
>    data; the public 'waste' so to speak. Private data is purged from the
>    ideological interfaces we deal with day in, day out, because the logic
>    of encapsulation is to conceal the private as per the programmer's
>    intention. One way of making the consequences of this abuse visible to
>    users, is to highlight what will happen when such large private
>    databases are made public. This is always some danger attached to large
>    companies holding private data of ours, not so much in the proprietary
>    abuse, but the heightened fallout when that data is unexpectedly
>    released in public, or has become lost. The impact of private data (and
>    it's sheer volume) is becoming more and more insecure, and this should
>    worry us. But again this is linked to our sanguine nature.
>    9.) Infrastructure, complexity and use: The problem with iPhones is
>    that they aren't shitty enough. Again, this is linked to the logic of
>    encapsulation, and the ability to save us time, as per the Western
>    infrastructure of career enforcement and obsession with social
>    attention 'sharing'. Platforms are part and parcel of this
>    simplification; I believe that the expected success of iPhones, iPads,
>    Androids, even the ubiquity of Cloud Computing all work on this logic
>    of forced complex removal. Witness the steady demise of I.T departments
>    all across the working world, as businesses and starter companies
>    remove the complex production of I.T management and leave it to a
>    hosting company of some sort.  Platforms purchased today are
>    always-already limited right out the box (consider Google's Chrome OS
>    platform). The functional aspect of simplified use need only be turned
>    on 'somewhere' for someone. Platforms embellish an almost obscene level
>    of private encapsulation. I'm being grossly unjust to the technical
>    details here, but in summary complexity is worth fighting for. (This
>    ties into Andy's point on the oppositional character of glitch - my
>    view would be this is a genuine form of computational complexity, where
>    information is irreducible to a user's 'understanding' - i.e corruption
>    or overload).
>    10.) Rentier profit: By far the biggest profit gain in the last ten or
>    so years has arisen from the use of rentier capital in software itself.
>    Most private software companies make enormous profits not from consumer
>    purchases, platform devices, nor patents (although this is increasing
>    too, especially Apple), but the rentier logic of purchasing licenses to
>    use software in business use. Microsoft for instance make most of their
>    money from enforcing concurrent CAL business licenses to use Windows
>    Server 2003 or SQL Server 2005. Other software companies follow suit
>    abusing encapsulation with license agreements for the sake of profit.
>    But this also extends to other 'forced choice' factors of software and
>    'web apps' which require license keys or T&C's as a precondition of
>    user agreement. Software rentier capital is the biggest form of profit
>    generation seen, outside of investment banking. And it's arguably the
>    worst sort, because powerful technology is blocked from use simply
>    because one would not have access to funds required to purchase the
>    licenses (which means you never own the thing anyway).
>    all the best
>    Rob
>    On 27 Feb 2012, at 13:19, Tero Karppi wrote:
>    Hi all,
>    I'll start with a theme that is loosely related to privatization of the
>    web & related platforms.
>    On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy.
>    This policy will affect data Google has collected on you as well as
>    data it collects on you in the future. Until now Google Web History has
>    been isolated from its other services. However with the new privacy
>    policy in action Google will begin to combine information across its
>    products. According to Electronic Frontier Foundation Google search
>    data is particularly sensitive since it can reveal "information about
>    you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual
>    orientation, religion, health concerns, and more." Hence they have
>    urged people to remove their Google Search History before the policy
>    takes effect.
>    Google, however, sees the new privacy policy as an improvement of their
>    search; "Our search box now gives you great answers not just from the
>    web, but your personal stuff too. So if I search for restaurants in
>    Munich, I might see Google+ posts or photos that people have shared
>    with me, or that are in my albums." In addition, the search will be
>    able to better predict what you 'really' are looking for and target ads
>    more accurately.
>    Now, what interests me here, at a more abstract level, is the change we
>    are witnessing in relation to data mining. Until now, more or less, the
>    data we share in various platforms (browser, search, social media,
>    iOS/Android etc.) has been mined, combined into statistics and
>    potentially sold onwards but we haven't really seen it in action except
>    in some more or less accurately targeted ads. However, now we are
>    witnessing a throwback of our own data; Google begins to make the
>    search more personal, Facebook has the frictionless sharing to name a
>    few examples.
>    What are the implications of this change? Is the 'social' media
>    becoming now more 'individual' and 'personal'? What should we think of
>    these algorithms that predict what we want?
>    References
>    [1]https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/how-remove-your-google-search-
>    history-googles-new-privacy-policy-takes-effect
>    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/updating-our-privacy-policies-an
>    d-terms.html
>    Best,
>    Tero
>    --
>    Tero Karppi (MA)
>    Doctoral Student | Media Studies | University of Turku
>    http://www.hum.utu.fi/oppiaineet/mediatutkimus/en/tero_en.html
>    _______________________________________________
>    empyre forum
>    empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>    http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> References
>    1. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/how-remove-your-google-search-history-googles-new-privacy-policy-takes-effect

> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

More information about the empyre mailing list