Through the Lens of @FFD8FFDB: Art by Security Cameras

If you hang around near unsecured security cameras, you might accidentally appear on @FFD8FFDB, an automated Twitter art project run by developer Derek Arnold. The bot is connected to a range of unsuspecting cameras across the U.S. and tweets a screenshot from a random one every 20 minutes.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound particularly appealing. In fact, one of Arnold’s goals was to get any response at all, even a disinterested reaction. The project isn’t supposed to be creepy or menacing — which is often the aesthetic of a security camera. Instead, the images are framed as “beautiful, rather than filthy”, he writes in an article explaining why he chose to start the project.…   [continue reading]

Life is Chronological, But Social Media Can’t Be

In March 2016, Twitter made the switch away from a purely chronological timeline to one partially ordered by algorithms. By looking at Twitter’s origins — a simple way to update groups of people — the switch away from ordering information chronologically is more interesting than it first seems, and represents the state of the internet and the way we use it in 2017.

The origins of Twitter

When it started, Twitter (or twttr as it was then called) was just an SMS service linked to a website.

Famously influential tech critic Om Malik wrote the world’s first blog post on Twitter a few months after it launched.…   [continue reading]

Your Bot Art Belongs in a Museum

Recently I interviewed BotWiki founder Stefan Bohacek on the distinction between art made by a human and art made by a machine. “If you think art is these deep thoughts expressed by a human, then of course what bots make isn’t art”, he said. “If you think art is anything that looks good, then bots make art”.

Thinking more on the issue, I realized that a bot’s output is just the randomized result of human input. Even advanced bots with neural networks either learn from human input or learn from other bots that were programmed by humans. In the end, there’s no distinction between art created by bots and humans because humans are the ones that set boundaries for the bot and say what it can and can’t generate.…   [continue reading]

CHOOSE YOUR CHARACTER: The Fallacy of Personality

It’s somewhat of a truism that we all put on masks for public consumption. The only question is, to what extent? While some people hide behind a thick barrier of curated character, others are closer to the knuckle in their personal portrayals. I believe, however, that everyone is guilty, by and large, of relying on fictionalised exaggerations. With the advent of social media, this loss of individualism is only encouraged. There’s a truth behind us all, of course, but to whom is it ever truly visible?

It often works in gradients. For example, your workplace small-talk colleague will probably meet a grander illusion than, say, your parent.…   [continue reading]

A Change is Gonna Come

In 1978, Neil Peart (lyricist and percussionist out of pompous Canadian stadium rockers, Rush) wrote “Plůs cà chăngë, plüs cé lä měmę chõsē” (that’s foreign writing that is, and I don’t expect you to understand it, but it means – “the more that things change, the more they stay the same”), for the song Circumstances on the band’s Hemispheres album. Having said that, in the context of the article I am about to write, that quote is a load of bollocks but, I have seen how many online “journalists” like to put a couple of cultural references in their articles, to make themselves look clever.…   [continue reading]

Two Worlds: The Lament of Dr Cock

Gather ’round readers as I recount a tale for the ages. It is a tale of sacrifice, honour, betrayal, and bullshittery – a great struggle against a tyrannical lord in a long-dead realm. This is the Tale of Two Worlds: The Lament of Dr Cock.

We begin, as with any good story, by setting the scene.

two worlds lament of dr cock general screenshot

By modern standards (and even many contemporaries), Two Worlds‘ multiplayer is a broken mess. The maps and servers still load, but you can’t easily link everyone up to the same server without enduring endless wait times while the game attempts to sync up a player, then syncs again once they fail to connect.…   [continue reading]

What Created Alex Jones?

Alex Jones, explicit spreader of misinformation and founder of right-wing fake news site InfoWars, is a rabbit hole of intrigue I’d never expected to fall into.

From his sinister doomsday conspiracies to his brain force drugs and survivalist equipment he peddles through his online store, at first his very existence seems like a hilarious riddle.

Why would extreme right-wing media be associated with vitamins, survivalism, and hyper-masculinity? You can see the pattern in other alt-right figureheads like the grunting, nootropic-addled Mike Cernovich (he runs a pro-Trump blog peppered with pedophilia accusations and manliness advice).

The alt-right, Jones included, rallied around Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election.…   [continue reading]

This Machine Loves #Pepsi!

When Woody Guthrie scrawled “This machine kills fascists” on his guitar, it became an enduring adage to the revolutionary minded. He was a folk-singer, far ahead of his time. Richly associated with protest, he foreshadowed the posturing of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Billy Bragg and the rest. Accordingly, his lyrics and music carry as much weight and relation today as they did close to a century ago. That’s why it’s such a shame that he couldn’t be around to help out PepsiCo, leaving us with Kendall Jenner in his place.

Just imagine it. Instead of some modelling mimzy, crooning through crowds with the sincerity of a cold-caller, we’d have Guthrie championing peace like only he can.…   [continue reading]

The Internet Should be a Communist Utopia. It’s Not, Because of the Filter Bubble

When you talk about the filter bubble, you’re talking about something quite specific. It’s the heavily curated ecosystem of the internet. A set of rules that filter all of the world’s information and organize it into what algorithms expect you to want to see — algorithms that suggest your next video on YouTube, or show you an article on Facebook.

At first, it can seem like a user friendly way to prioritize and curate the internet according to a set of personalized boundaries. You only see relevant content, and it brings order to the sprawling, chaotic internet.

In the era where fake news and propaganda virally populates Facebook — the world’s biggest news aggregation platform — it’s gone from being a user-friendly convenience to a threat to how we perceive the world around us.…   [continue reading]

Super Deluxe: Editing as Part of the Art

It was only recently that I wrote about how damaging editing can be to comedy. Often chaining or dulling the creative process, there’s a lot of evidence for its oppressive implications. On the other hand, it’s only fair to discuss how liberating it can be for expression. In fact, creators like Super Deluxe have shown how effective it is when used constructively. There have been hints of it for years. Even Chris Morris, as shackled as he was, could reconstitute existing material into something new and interesting. To finally tie up connections to the previous article in this arc, here’s a prophetic example of Morris doing just that:

Examples go back far further too.…   [continue reading]