How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

th intercept, JTRIG, GCHQ, Snowden, online, reputation, infiltration, disruption, how to

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.

The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is…

“The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is the constant law of mass communications. The messages set out from the Source and arrive in distinct sociological situations, where different codes operate.… And yet I believe it is wrong to consider the battle of man against the technological universe of communication as a strategic affair. It is a matter of tactics.… So for the strategic solution it will be necessary, tomorrow, to employ a guerrilla solution.… The battle for the survival of man as a responsible being in the Communications Era is not to be won where the communication originates, but where it arrives.”

Umberto Eco, ‘Towards a Semiological Guerrilla Warfare’

Truth Is Beauty, and Beauty Can Be Subversive

Ragnar Kjartansson, beauty, aesthetics, Volksbühne, Berlin, Modernism, Romanticism

“Beauty really is a delicate subject in Germany,” Mr. Kjartansson said one morning last week, as he adjusted a scale model of the stage at the Art Deco-era Volksbühne, one of Germany’s largest state-run theaters. “In the name of beauty, the most despicable and disgusting things happened in this city,” he added.

A Rant about ‘Ragnarok 2014’

Ragnarok, publicity, communication, mythology

But Ragnarok is not a joke. It’s a story of terrible fear, annihilation, though with a hope of rebirth. The dread of it runs through many stories in Norse myth - the knowledge that for the gods this destruction will come, inevitably and irrevocably. In Snorri’s Edda, the story is also deeply sad: Ragnarok begins with a family grieving helplessly for their dead son. (Couldn’t fit that in the press release, I guess.) Can we not take that seriously? If nothing else, can we not maintain a basic level of respect for a belief system different from our own? How can we ever hope to understand the Vikings, or any past society, if we turn their mythology into a joke?–2014.html

Can We Avoid a Surveillance State Dystopia?

dystopia, future, cyberpunk, surveilllance, freedom, technology, 1984, brave new world

On the horizon is more technology that will make it even easier for governments to monitor and track everything that citizens do. Yet I’m convinced that, if we’re sufficiently motivated and sufficiently clever, the future can be one of more freedom rather than less. I saw this tweet not so long ago: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.

This is bio-cybernetics pure and simple. Adding noise to a communication channel is essential to digital communication. Here the…


This is bio-cybernetics pure and simple. Adding noise to a communication channel is essential to digital communication. Here the same principle is applied to the vagus nerve, a feedback conduit between brain and soma/viscera.

The vagus nerve is a site of interest for the microbiome too - it’s a conduit between your brain and the ecosystem epi-effects of gut bacteria colonies. Active research indicates mood can be modulated by “reprogramming” (in the metaphorical sense) ones microbiome.

This exploit is far more straightforward and so much more biopunk by its close association with the grinding community

Mars One to Muslims: End the fatwa and come fly with us

mars, space travel, fatwa, religion, marketing, mars one

“Mars One respectfully requests GAIAE to cancel the Fatwa and make the greatest Rihla, or journey, of all times open for Muslims too. They can be the first Muslims to witness the signs of God’s creation in heaven, drawing upon the rich culture of travel and exploration of early Islam.”

Creativity is rejected

creativity, psychology, cognitive bias, uncertainty

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.

Levels of Excellence

excellence, maths, mathematics, swimming, games, mundanity of excellence

Excellence comes from qualitative changes in behavior, not just quantitative ones. More time practicing is not good enough. Nor is simply moving your arms faster! A low-level breaststroke swimmer does very different things than a top-ranked one. The low-level swimmer tends to pull her arms far back beneath her, kick the legs out very wide without bringing them together at the finish, lift herself high out of the water on the turn, and fail to go underwater for a long ways after the turn. The top-ranked one sculls her arms out to the side and sweeps back in, kicks narrowly with the feet finishing together, stays low on the turns, and goes underwater for a long distance after the turn. They’re completely different!

Don’t be a Glasshole

Glass, google, ethics, instructions, social mediation

Don’t Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.

is it is it is it: Bred to be Boring

design, type, new ugly, homogeneity, layout, abundance, ego

There’s no distinction between anything, I find it impossible to tell where one person’s work ends and another’s begins. The desire to stand out, to add any iota of personality to the now so sacrosanct content has been eradicated. Often when I’m sent a link to a prospective employee’s personal website, I honestly don’t know whether I’m looking at a Tumblr of ‘inspiration images’ or their folio site. It’s a sea of clumsily pared down and timid work, conforming to one or another of a small handful of accepted layouts, my particular bugbear being the art gallery pamphlet with a few images randomly placed on the cover, with one word the right way up at the top, the second word rotated 90° at the right hand edge, the third word upside down at the bottom and the fourth word rotated -90° at the left edge. All set in Aperçu or a font with a weird lower case g designed by an ECAL student. Sometimes if I have further knowledge of the work, the designer will claim weeks of heavy research behind it, but I’m not so sure it takes reading countless Hans-Ulrich Obrist tracts to come up with that one.

The Decisive Moment is Dead. Long Live the Constant Moment

photography, history, future, network, panopticon, HCB, decisive moment, continous moment, always on

What if a future decentralized social networking platform allowed everyone to connect their capture node, for the use of any other artist, or just a chosen circle of friends? We already use Google Street View for location scouting. What if it enabled us to change to any angle and scrub back and forth in time as well, and from any “open” node near it, side to side, and from drones above, not just from a single Google car that passed by once? This is the Constant Moment. This is as close to a time machine as we’re likely to get. Great technological leaps will be required to fulfill the furthest reaches of the Constant Moment. Massive gains in the quality of search and organization, not to mention cost of storage, and resolution. Perhaps even some form of a neural interface. But it’s clear to me this is a “when,” not an “if,” and artists need to begin anticipating this future, to inspire and guide the technologists, and to keep up with the military dreamers (it’s been said that in childhood development the destructive urge precedes the creative one by months, as blocks get knocked down long before they get stacked.) To the photographer that still thinks photography mostly means being physically present, crouched behind their Leica, finger poised to capture the classic vision of the Decisive Moment, this coming Constant Moment might be terrifyingly sacrilegious, or perhaps just terrifying, like an insect eye dispassionately staring.

Search, compile, publish.

text, internet, digital, post-digital, art, artist books, library of the printed web

Looking through the works, you see artists sifting through enormous accumulations of images and texts. They do it in various ways—hunting, grabbing, compiling, publishing. They enact a kind of performance with the data, between the web and the printed page, negotiating vast piles of existing material. Almost all of the artists here use the search engine, in one form or another, for navigation and discovery.

Avant-gardes […] are not really about art, whatever some silly art school textbooks might say. Avant-gardes are about media,…

“Avant-gardes […] are not really about art, whatever some silly art school textbooks might say. Avant-gardes are about media, about social relations, about property-forms, but they are only ever incidentally or tactically concerned with art. The most interesting ones around at the moment might be about pharmacology or horticulture or even ‘business models’.”

McKenzie Wark in McKenzie Wark | Information-Commodification”, Marvin Jordan (2014)

Big data’s escalating interest in and successful use of preemptive predictions as a means of avoiding risk becomes a catalyst…

Big data’s escalating interest in and successful use of preemptive predictions as a means of avoiding risk becomes a catalyst for various new forms of social preemption. More and more, governments, corporations, and individuals will use big data to preempt or forestall activities perceived to generate social risk. Often, this will be done with little or no transparency or accountability. Some loan companies, for example, are beginning to use algorithms to determine interest rates for clients with little to no credit history, and to decide who is at high risk for default. Thousands of indicators are analyzed, ranging from the presence of financially secure friends on Facebook to time spent on websites and apps installed on various data devices. Governments, in the meantime, are using this technique in a variety of fields in order to determine the distribution of scarce resources such as social workers for at-risk youth or entitlement to Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare compensation.

Of course, the preemption strategy comes at a significant social cost. As an illustration, consider the practice of using predictive algorithms to generate no-fly lists. Before the development of many such lists in various countries, high-risk individuals were generally at liberty to travel—unless the government had a sufficient reason to believe that such individuals were in the process of committing an offense. In addition to curtailing liberty, a no-fly list that employs predictive algorithms preempts the need for any evidence or constitutional safeguards. Prediction simply replaces the need for proof.

Taken to its logical extreme, the preemption philosophy is not merely proactive—it is aggressive.

Prediction, Preemption, Presumption; How Big Data Threatens Big Picture Privacy. By Ian Kerr and Jessica Earle. 

Seminal reading of Preemptive Prediction algorithms and big data. 


hysterical literature

hysterical literature, clayton cubitt, art, literature, photography, portraits, hysteria, orgasm

Women are seated with a book at a table, filmed in austere black and white against a black background. They have chosen what to read and how to dress. When the camera begins recording, they introduce themselves, and begin reading. Under the table, outside of the subject’s control, an unseen assistant distracts them with a vibrator. The subjects stop reading when they’re too distracted or fatigued to continue, at which point they restate their name, and what they’ve just read. The pieces vary in length based on the response time of the subjects.

A heretical thought I have had about Star Trek: the Federation has no need for Star Fleet. They’re fantastically wealthy and…

A heretical thought I have had about Star Trek: the Federation has no need for Star Fleet. They’re fantastically wealthy and cannot meaningfully gain from trade in physical items. They’re not just singularity-esque wealthy relative to the present-day US, they’re equally more secure. Nobody kills mass numbers of Federation citizens. That occasionally happens on poor planets elsewhere. Sucks but hey poverty sucks.

So why have a Star Fleet? Because Jean Luc Picard is a Federation citizen, and he wouldn’t be happy as other than a starship captain. It’s a galaxy-spanning Potempkin village to make him happy. Why would they do that? You’re thinking like a poor person. Think like an unfathomably rich person. They do it because they can afford to. He might have had a cheaper hobby, like say watching classic TV shows, but the Federation is so wealthy that Starfleet and a TV set both round to zero.

This makes Star Fleet officers into in-universe Trekkies: a peculiar subculture of the Federation who are tolerated because despite their quirky hobbies and dress they’re mostly harmless. Of course if you’re immersed in the subculture, Picard looks like something of a big shot. We get that impression only because the camera is in the subculture, not in the wider Federation, which cares about the Final Frontier in the same way that the United States cares about the monarch butterfly: “We probably have somebody working on that, right? Bright postdoc somewhere? Good, good.” (viam1k3y)

An Eschatological Taxonomy

futurism, end of the world, extinction, apocophillia, collapse, disaster, taxonomy

What do we mean when we talk about the “end of the world?” It’s a term that get thrown around a bit too often among a variety of futurist-types, whether talking about global warming, nanofabrication, or non-friendly artificial intelligence. “Existential risks” is the lingo-du jour, referring to the broad panoply of processes, technologies and events that put our existence at risk. But, still, what does that mean? The destruction of the Earth? The end of humankind? A “Mad Max” world of leather-clad warriors, feral kids, and armed fashion models? All are frightening and horrific, but some are moreso than others. How do we tell them apart?