ghost town

So there’s been a good 6 months between the last post and this, so here’s a recap:

1. THESIS IS DONE!
Rejoice – Here is the video documentation:

Website:  http://www.milkred.net/vortex

DT website: http://mfadt.parsons.edu/2013/projects/vortex/

Here’s the panel livestream (‘hacking art & design’ with Cap Watkins from Etsy)
http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/dt2013/videos/19122604

And then here are some pictures:
947244_10100199480985332_1744072430_n 419165_10151791742004928_1192710118_n 425211_10151791718249928_1155571705_n 970683_10151497839014667_123349338_n

2. Wrote a blogpost for Mathbabe about my thesis!

http://mathbabe.org/2013/06/13/guest-post-the-vortex-a-cookie-swapping-game-for-anti-surveillance/

how cool is that huh??????????

3. So what’s next??
– I’m writing a book with McKenzie Wark called ‘W.A.N.T’ which we are releasing on kickstarter only! Will not be published or sold anywhere else except during that 30-day run

– working on getting a job/spiffing up resume/ applying for grants. It’s harder being an international student you have a whole pile of additional paperwork to clear **sigh** Am also thinking of applying for a PhD…. but maybe in the future

– doing normal stuff: cleaning up the cesspool of apartment (after thesis, it looked like an archeological dig site); learning how to ride a bike, possibly going to get my driving licence, catching up on reading, meeting people etc etc.

…. Mostly though, I’m trying to keep busy. I know I bitched a lot during thesis, the stress was eating me alive and I remember on the day of the opening I panicked because the code will NOT work and it was 4pm and the show opened at 6pm. I remember getting on the M train with my hair still wet and laptop balanced with a hand frantically coding from Brooklyn to Union Sq. and freaking the fuck out. Then after the opening came graduation, then dealing with family and then, nothing.

That’s the thing – you work so hard, so long and then suddenly: NOTHING! You have absolutely nothing to do, and you’re going bonkers because of it. PTSD = Post Thesis Stress Disorder, you wander around listlessly making up stuff to do, going back to the library and lab like a ghost trying to recapture some semblance of normalcy. Summer is hard for me because I depend on routines to keep me grounded, and with no one around + nothing to work for I can’t help but feel a lost and a bit unstable.

Anyway I’m trying — next week I’m going to do what I did in winter: pretend I still had classes, and work on a piece of code everyday. I don’t think I will look at thesis code for a while, but I’ve bought a book on Python and planning to look at Angular.js framework. Slowly start a work cycle again. Having nothing to do really drives me crazy >_>;;;

ostelgia

So today I went with Ken to meet his toy designer friend and somehow we ended up talking about Berlin and history and memory and maybe it’s just me but this is what I think:
We remember things like photographs, photographs with faces cut out like lost loves and dying flames – all our lives, wondering and wandering in the present city, looking for traces of these torn faces. Not out of love, but curiousity. Some of this is part of me, that’s what I think. So it becomes a kind of nostalgia, to try and live in the place where the photographs were taken, to try and imagine who was in those cut-out faces and it’s all fantasy and imagination and we know that — but by erasing the history and the traces of it, can’t you see, that’s all we can do, to make it up for ourselves and live the past in the present city again?

I think maybe it’s just….. different. Then ironically today, again for presentation this media artist came in and again — no historical context. And I wonder, why are we trying so hard to both destroy and recreate the past? We shop for vintage clothes, but disregard the history of sevage and labour. We talk about polaroids and derive, and forget about the war that created the saint-germaine orphans. It’s almost like we’re just taking the artifacts of history, and rewriting the history of objects altogether. And maybe it’s just me, but it feels a bit…… unethical?

—————————————————-

IMG_0209 IMG_0210

Documentation notes, check out my crappy handwriting! oh well, at least it’s still legible 😡

More research into python and py.cgi and pexpect and just wading into deep code now. I think maybe I’m just a little tired of people/this semester, or I need some time or I’m just bordering on a burnout right now. Usually by the time finals roll around I’m like okay ready for a last push!!! but instead of feeling the rush of determination, I’m just lethargic and panicky and strangely restless.

As Christmas draws nearer, I seem to miss my mom even more :/ I miss the tree, the red bows and golden balls, the feel of staying up all night, the crazy dinner and mashing potatos, the sparkle lights, sakky hanging out till mornings, the post-xmas with jw & audy and most of all I really really miss my mom. I don’t really talk about my parents very much but my mom = awesome, brought all of us up and everything+++ and right now I wish I had a teleportation machine so I can be on other side of the world for a hug…… idk, feeling unnessescarily mawkish today

I’ve got sunshine in a bag

IMG_0200

So I’ve recently changed the title of project from Pathways (linear; xy) to Vortex/Vertex which is a variant of vertex “an eddy of water, wind, or flame; whirlpool; whirlwind,” from stem of vertere “to turn”. I wanted to build on top & continue to extend the metaphor that J & I had with the seas, aquariums, tides and pools — a vortex in this sense seemed perfect because it could be applied to both space (as in the movement of space fabric) as well as fluid/liquid. To push the metaphor: you would go from the tidepools and jump into the vortex

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 8.20.05 PMScreen shot 2012-12-04 at 8.20.16 PM

So I asked J about Dave’s workaround – i.e. faking a local server within the computer, then searching for wireless networks (comparing rest/known state to around you) and apparently yay it’s possible — and in python! I’m need to check if Python would spit it in mongo-database speak or is it possible to spit it out as JSON object (so I could link it directly with webgl-script based yay) I’m going to check up more on it…. but right now it seems like you have to download an application as well as a browser widget/plugin would would sync together while you surfed so it’s more ad-hoc and dynamic

Screen shot 2012-12-04 at 8.42.50 PM

Met with Ed K. today as well – this is the first time I’ve officially met him for thesis!! Usually I just run into him (like randomly. everywhere.) Anyway it was lovely to catch up with him, I wanted to meet him to get a different perspective on the project because he’s an architect with a sciencefiction bent and since I was basically world-building I figured it would be good to seek him out.

He gave lots of cool references, especially about graph diagrams/graph theory (for meshtectonics) and my favourite: the ghost diagrams thing which is like super SUPER cool. Other references: Squeak, Croquet and something I didn’t really consider: “what does it mean to mine?”

And that’s a really great question – there’s the mining of website data (which gives old artifacts/links to dead planets) but was it a finite resource? What was being mined? What kind of data was being mined? All this questions and thinking about it deeply…. I have to review all the readings and then look at it again…

Other notes: Gephy, Cytoscape & Orange as examples/precedents; Laws of Form and The Mondalogy by Jeffery Spencer Brown as refs to look in emerging geography; David Reed (MIT viral media) for spread spectrum radio (c/f for J, not so much for me)

————————— Other things that didn’t fit:

Recently I went to B&N to pick up Flusser’s Vamypourthethis Infernalis, and found this while flipping through magazines:

IMAG1670 IMAG1671

Great line about defining a territory: “How many adjecency matrices need to be tested? […] Each element has two possible values [..] but not all matrices are distinct, many of these merely represent reenablings of the same graph..” and then it continues to talk about creating points in matrices only through intersections etc etc which was pretty cool

This one, a friend brought it up to me:

Screen shot 2012-11-29 at 3.08.26 PM

It’s a game called Skrillex Quest which is the idea that an old copy of Zelda is getting corrupted by dust and age and causing glitches in the game. These glitches are destroying the game and has killed the princess!! Your goal is to save the ghost princess (cos she’s dead) and destroy the glitches before they destroy the gameverse

It’s kinda cool, the gameplay is actually really lovely and the graphics are superdupersweettttt~~ and awesome!! I really like how each area is timebased, so you only have a set amount of time before you are being forced into the next zone (regardless of how much you’ve completed) which helps with the whole ‘I can’t save’ + ‘game is too long’ and so far I’ve only managed to save her once but then got killed at the nightclub ehhhh =_=;;;;;;

rolling girl

During Thanksgiving while thinking about thesis, came up with way to ‘test’ the collision/intersections idea. Rather than asking a friend to go with me on the same webpage at the same time and talk about it, I’ll say HELLO personally to every single one of my 551 facebook friends. Every. Single. One.

conditions:
1. the ‘action’ or invitation would be the same for each person regardless ie. HELLO
2. I would only respond to those people who responded to be at 3.48am/the time that I was online
3. Responses that came the next day, or after the time would not be considered

Basically I created an artificial momentary scenario where you had to be on the same website (facebook), at the same time as I was (3.48am, Saturday EST) and somewhat acquainted (not entirely random, but not as close a tie as exchanging mobile numbers/texting)

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.21.39 PM

So in this case, the response was at 11.50am — hours after the initial action/moment so I didn’t respond. I wanted it to be as similar as it was browsing webpage at the same/browsing pathways widget would-be (basically, about a window of 5-15mins max which is about the time it takes for people to scan through a large page of linklist) Out of 500+ HELLOs I had about 2 true responses (in which they responded almost immediately)

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.22.45 PM

The first was from C.E who was an art critic I met in Kassel during (d)OCUMENTA 13. How we met was a strange accident — he was a guest in the bbq party held by the Kunsthochschule Kassel (their autunomous art dept).  We shared a (rather drunken) cab back, in which he helped me get rid of a student who kept bothering me and also the first dude to ever kiss my hand (in a very gentlemany, knightly way lol). Afterwards, we lost contact until I added him on facebook. In general like most facebook friends, our contact was shallow and limited to liking various status etc

At the first HELLO, it invited a secondary collision – first a reminiscence, then:
Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.55.08 PM

(I like to think that unimelb has trained to me so well that I can quote philosophy even after imbibing questionable substances lol)

But what’s fascinating to me, after re-reading the conversation is that  what we talked about: extistenz, the machinations of the art market and state of contemporary art; mystification & derrida’s obfuscation etc etc it was like we had found edges between that overlapped; stellar collisions in a venn diagram that will; once the event is over; separate once again into their distant stars. Despite the transient, almost random nature of each connection,  it was a bit like getting up exactly where you left off as though we were the oldest and friendliest of friends and yet the intimacy produced was quite similar. At the final ‘good night!’ (at 6.15am) we had been talking for 2hrs and I still see him online once in a while on facebook but I don’t talk to him at all. A collision after all, is a momentary one.

The second person who responded was W.C who was the moderator of a chatroom and BBS in 2001 (when I was 13) At that time I was in secondary/middle school, and most of the frequenters were university students…. I stopped going there about 2-3 years later when I moved on to other things but she had added me a while ago (in 2011). Even though I accepted her request, the last time we genuinely talked was probably back in the heyday of 2001:

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.22.19 PM

We did a brief update about what went on in the last 10 years, squeezed into the shortest fragments; and then she brought up someone I knew really well in the IRC – user ‘eat’. We were great online friends, and pulled pranks together like syn-flooding; stealing other people’s handles and pretending to be them; spamming totally useless information etc etc but I had TOTALLY lost touch with him after 2001 when he switched university (thereby dropping several months in favour of IRL shitz)

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 10.56.08 PM

And there it was! W.C (who was previously a librarian, now a civil servant) now works in the same building as the biggest troll in her chatroom – Eat. A random collision; and then a few days later I got a friend request from my old friend….. how strange it seems, a single gesture can result in so many wildly spinning directions; pathways opening up; new connections being made and things that happened before reverberating back into presence like a ripple in spacetime.

The fascinating thing about this kind of structure, or maybe the secret to it’s fluidity is maybe because it collides but doesn’t require maintenance. It collides for that moment – that edge to edge meeting, before separating again. The momentary-ness doesn’t make it less important, in fact it regenerates the relations (internal and external). We tend to think separation as a quantifier in relationships (i.e. it either weakens or strengthens) but in the case of meshtectonics it is part and parcel of the daily routine. It collides, overlaps, then separates to find new collisions as it drifts.

I came across this article by NYmag recently: Alone Together describing the state of loneliness and the definition of it within the scope of a large city. While I’m not particularly interested in the couple/marriage stats, many points are similar to how I would describe meshtectonics:

“All these transient connections were forming,” Cacioppo marvels. “These people weren’t even conscious of the many ways they were forming.”
and:
“The idea that you’re isolated when you’re online is, to me, just wrong,” says Keith Hampton, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s an inherently social medium. What starts online moves offline, and what starts offline goes online.” Which explains why the people with whom you e-mail most frequently are your closest friends and romantic partners. “Online and offline life are inherently connected,” he says. “They’re not separate worlds.”

That transient ballet of movement he observes in Grand Central, is basically a kind of activity in a meshtectonics. Plate tectonics realises the solidity of territories; nations turned governments tagged our identitypolitics to the earth we were borned in, mapping our routes with passports and IDs; urban planning led to cartography of tangible objects later translated into information matrices; vectoral data (leading later to the paradox: “information is everywhere. information is meaningless without reference”) further on we have even more stylised, abstracted instruments from interactive charts to google maps to data visualisation p0rn and yet – what of the weak ties? the multiplicity of relations? the drift? The hand that holds open the door when you step on the train; later turns into your colleague 10 years later. The hacker you met online turns into the senior in the graduate school you unknowingly applied to. A dazzle of collisions, each brighter and more tangible than the next.

—————————————————————–

Then I met up with J. and Dave to talk about different approaches to producing the game, and what I do without crashing system integrity.

J’s initial suggest was to use CRON commands to scan for wireless, but that way would create huge problems from API (‘how do you get unix to talk to web?’) to security (‘if you mix machine + web language or create an interface for mixing, you could get your personal files hacked’) The second way we thought of was to tap directly into the mac Airport EX card to grab the array of wireless networks available at a set interval (i.e using networksetuptool command ‘for everyy 5000s, scan area for wireless and grab the array of
wireless signals’ using cocoa/obj-C then use opengl to interface with webgl. Written out and google’d on, it was entirely do-able (due to the strange ability of opengl/webgl to pass itself as a null script type, therefore a machine language being pass-through html5). However doing so would open your computer to a host of security issues – a syn flood could *technically* kill your computer, and nMap would just cause the entire network/computers to collapse since it won’t just ping your browser but ping the opengl/webgl memory it was pulling from base level too.

Dave’s suggestion was to run an apache-based application file (kinda like how MAMP worked) where it each computer pretended to be a local host (say port88) and that would be the ‘rest’ state and it’ll just keep checking for wireless network and spit out the array as a JSON object so I didn’t need to worry about the translation of obj-c into webspeak and also mantain the sanboxing security integrity (since it’s basically treating the local computer as a server) The problem with this method is that it requires downloading a file and running an external application (not just a broswer plugin) and that was something I was trying to get away from… it’s a give and take I guess, just have to decide which is more important. Also I contacted L. to ask for his opinion on how to do it, so hopefully he will have a solution.

——————————————————————

Also recently, I came across this article about consumer profiling titled Who Do Online Advertisers Think You Are by NYtimes. It’s made me think about the weird dicotomy about surfing – one hand, there’s the perception of endless possibilities and power to do anything; and yet there’s this underlying system that is slowly defining and reading every single of our gestures and interpreting it as a profile that can be bought and sold (is it like selling people I wonder?) I’ve always been really careful about what I purchase and regularly ‘seed’ misinformation but that’s because I’m aware of it….. and not many people really are. To some extent, even if you do know the system you can’t beat certain things, like companies that look for mac addresses vs windows users — hotel/hostel suggestions for mac users are priced higher because the ‘convention’ in ad targeting shows mac users more willing to pay more for nicer places to stay. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant, the problem is that consumer profiles are beginning to define our opportunities for interaction.

It made me immediately think – if they were tracking people based on cookies, what if you could pick and choose which cookies you chose to show? thereby creating personalised consumer profiles? instead of being wholly information-deterministic, it could be a two-way thing. I know you’re tracking me, I chose to be profiled as “A&B&C” – and most of all, I was thinking what if you could make cookies like materia slots?

final-fantasy-vii-materia

One of my favourite RPGs ever was Final Fantasy 7, and they had this cool materia slot system — materia was basically these gem-like things that held abilities that you could use in battle. Depending on your level, you had a certain number of slots to hold these abilities. In the same way, what if you had a giant cookie bank collected from all the websites you agreed to let cookies in with, and when you traversed the web you could rearrange your cookies to create distinct consumer profiles (do battle with advertising!!)  That would be so cool isn’t it? and that would incentivise the game a bit more