Welcome to the Internet

All artworks included in this piece are the work of Katrine Claassens, and are represented in monochrome here (as they appear in Issue #2: Birth). You can see them in full colour at Katrine’s site, or order your own copy of our zine through our store or Patreon.

In this intimate series of works, Katrine Claassens paints both abandoned and much-loved images culled from the internet. By carefully selecting reference material from digital sources, Claassens distils the absurdist nature of internet humour to bear witness to a tragicomedy otherwise ignored. Material gathered from abandoned Twitter accounts, internet memes, stills from GIFs, and badly executed flash photography become adopted beauties when taken under her wing.…   [continue reading]

Decentralized Social Media and The Fragmentation of Control

The architecture of a social network doesn’t just affect a bunch of invisible server-whirrings and documentation jargon. It’s directly responsible for how the network’s users interact — what they’re allowed to say, what they’re likely to see, and who controls these factors.

A good example to start my examination into centralized/decentralized social networks is Twitter.

The name “Twitter” and the platform’s relentless bird imagery isn’t an arbitrary choice — it actually makes a lot of sense with regard to how the network works.

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Starlings, for example, flock in groups of 10,000 or more, unified and communicating as a network. Birds learn to sing by listening and imitating, which often means that groups of co-existing birds learn the same patterns, inflections, and memes.…   [continue reading]

Trolls, Crusaders, and Internet Territories

The conditions that enable and encourage trolling aren’t exclusive to the internet, but they are more prevalent online than off, mostly thanks to the ease of anonymity and effects of crowd psychology. Territorial behavior — based either on platform loyalty or tight-knit communities — is amplified when geographical constraints no longer play a part. Internet crusades targeting other groups or individuals have become so commonplace that major platforms like Twitter have had to rethink their stance on free speech.

The internet population is growing, but it’s also fragmenting as real world issues polarize mainstream and fringe subcultures alike. In this article, I’ll examine the phenomena of internet territorialism and those who coordinate trolling on a large scale.…   [continue reading]

Caedmon: Creating Creativity (Maurizio Fusillo Interview)

This article ties in to a podcast I recorded with Maurizio Fusillo, the creator of Caedmon, available here.

At Secret Cave, we’ve always had an obsession with the output of artificial intelligence. Across a variety of fascinating bots and other projects, it’s been shown that their artwork is more than worthy of scrutiny. Since the birth of the internet, and the entropic prevalence of technology over the past century, the capabilities of such bots has improved at a vast rate. It’s allowed certain older ideas, about the creation of art without emotion, to be explored in the depth they deserve.…   [continue reading]

A Still Tongue: Reacting to a World in Terror

Since we first founded Secret Cave, an enormous amount of widely publicised terrorist attacks have taken place. Tributes and reactions drown social media in their wake. In tandem, mainstream news outlets explode with coverage. Obviously, both of these things are understandable. We need reports and trusted sources on events. Otherwise, we’d live in a medieval world of ignorance. Likewise, it can be affirming to see the support and solidarity that comes with sharing our despair through platforms like Twitter or Facebook. It provides a crutch of community that can negate the inherent fear and shock that affects us all.

Why, then, does Secret Cave choose to consciously eschew mention of any terrorist attacks?…   [continue reading]

How Horse_ebooks Changed Internet Poetry Forever

What’s the difference between a tweet written by a human and a tweet generated by a machine?

In a lot of cases, it’s difficult to tell. Twitter bot developers are allowed unbridled creativity, and Twitter’s open API makes it a place where a bot can do pretty much anything. For example, Nathan Bernard (a developer we interviewed in season 2 of our podcast) tweets both manually and automatically. The automatic side of his account runs a script designed to get the first reply to any Donald Trump tweet. It’s even engineered to match its reply to the original tweet, making it harder to discern whether or not a bot is at work behind the scenes.…   [continue reading]

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]

Stefan Bohacek Interview: The Ethics and Humanity of Bots

Stefan Bohacek is the founder of BotWiki, a project that aims to catalog the useful, friendly and artistic bots of the world. He also has a number of side-projects on his site, fourtonfish.com. The projects include Detective, a chat-based game that randomly pairs you with a human or a bot and makes you decide which you’re chatting with.

We spoke about the philosophy and ethics of bots, as well as the ideas behind BotWiki, Detective, and his other exciting projects.

Listen to the interview below:

Or read the transcript for all the links we refer to:

BotWiki’s been a fascinating project for me lately.…   [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]