True to my reputation of "slowest reporter on this planet", i'm still catching up with my last visit at MediaLab Prado in Madrid. As you might remember, MLP was celebrating the opening of its decidedly bigger and brighter space with open days, the 2013 edition of the Libre Graphics Meeting and a new Interactivos? workshop (number 13 already) titled Tools for a Read-Write World.

0CONCEPT-280x259.jpgA whole morning of the Libre Graphics Meeting was dedicated to the presentations of the projects that had been selected to be developed during the Interactivos? workshop. One of them is the KLE - Kit de Libertad de Expresión (or Freedom of Speech Kit), a portable digital device that allows people from all over the world to participate to remote protests by sending and displaying text messages in public space. The interactive banner is (unsurprisingly) inspired by the record number of social protests that took place in Spain in 2011. It is estimated that over 23.000 demonstrations have been organised that year around the country.

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How the system might look. Image courtesy Chema Blanco & María Solé Bravo

Developed using open free hardware and software, the KLE device is made of textile LED screen, is energetically autonomous, light and easy to build/replicate. Although KLE is a personal device, its use is shared by the community promoting participation and expression

Two of the project leaders, Chema Blanco & María Solé Bravo, were kind enough to answer my questions:

Hi María and Chema! How did you come up with the idea for Free Freedom of Speech Kit (KLE)? Why was it important to you?

The idea came when participating in one of many social demonstrations during last years in Spain. I never brought a billboard, but there are so many things to say! People bring their written banner to a demonstration but, once there, one might get inspired and have new ideas for messages to display. We also observe a lot of creativity in the banners messages, some of them are visual poetry. So the question arose: what would happen if banners were an interactive display?

Then this simple idea started growing and we saw the real implications that a connected autonomous device like this could have in the realm of the freedom of speech, such accessibility and communication between cultures in collective manners.

As we deepened in the subject, we also noticed that the main social movements had been sprouting through social networks, where one connects as individual to, later on, collectively gather on the public space. That revealed us that we could develop tools for providing a smoother transition between the individual use of social networks and the collective expression that public space represents. Fortunately, the project team comprises a great combination of technology and public space experienced professionals, gathering the required knowledge to develop such idea .

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Prototype developed at MediaLab Prado. Image courtesy Chema Blanco & María Solé Bravo

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Prototype developed at MediaLab Prado. Image courtesy Chema Blanco & María Solé Bravo

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Prototype developed at MediaLab Prado. Image courtesy Chema Blanco & María Solé Bravo

The project is fairly ambitious and when i saw its presentation at the Free Tools meeting the other day i was wondering how much you'd manage to achieve in just the two weeks that the Interactivos? workshop lasted. So how far are you in the hardware and software?

These two weeks have been a great opportunity for accelerating the development of the project. Currently we have a prototype built in fabric (flexible and light) which is connected by Bluetooth to a mobile phone running an Android application for sending messages. So in just two weeks and with a great team of collaborators (Quique, Rafael, Dani, Carlos, Sonia, Gonzalo, Andrea, Echedey, Soraya, Eva and many others) we have built our first functional prototype: a crafted LED flexible display with internet connectivity through a cell phone. So we are now just one step far from having a real KLE (Kit de libertad de Expresión/Freedom of Speech Kit) working in the streets.

Is KLE mostly an art project with just the one prototype and a couple of performances to demonstrate its potential power or do you hope that its use will spread and that people will build their own and use it the way they want?

We come from the engineering and architecture world, both with a strong creative component but, even though we are very close to the artistic world (we are collaborating with photographers, theater companies...), we try to think as well about the actual functionality of our work (we are active members of a community garden and other self managed civic projects in Madrid and Barcelona).

We give as much importance to the conceptual framework of our projects as in contributing to society, providing solutions and tools that satisfy citizens needs rather than creating new ones.

Therefore, in KLE we are making an effort to unite technology, human and accessibility, with making it visually appealing and helpful to citizens. In fact, we aim at that joint where a piece of art is used and replicated on the streets giving it a much more powerful meaning, making it evolve in unexpected ways: born with us but living through other people.

How do you see people using it exactly? In advertisement context? Activist, protest ones?

Being a visual platform it makes it suitable for advertising purposes. However, our scope is focused on the social / citizenship field, where freedom of speech comes true sense. We are seduced by the idea of people expressing themselves by a platform that someone else or a community have built for others (note that the Freedom of Speech Kit is envisaged as a Do it Yourself Kit). It is also intriguing the concept of the "carrier" of other people messages, probably a new scope of legal issues may arise.

Besides other possible uses, our main interest is on bringing our kit to the streets serving citizens and their creativity and solidarity with others. We want to explore collective processes on the construction of messages and the interactions that these might generate in a context such a demonstration.

In this direction, our most ambitious goal, that we comment with great caution (due its dependance on the local restrictions of each country in terms of Human Rights, which we are now starting to look into), would be the creation of a worldwide KLE network where messages from different countries could cross over the globe and be displayed from square to square, connecting collectives from different public spaces globally.

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Image courtesy Chema Blanco & María Solé Bravo

Why do you think people will need it? Aren't Facebook and twitter enough to spread text messages?

The word "need" might be too disruptive. There was a time when human beings didn't need fire, electricity or internet, but once they were invented they became extremely useful technologies.

The importance of our input is very far from those examples, but we are convinced that if in a demonstration there is a KLE, there will be many people willing to use it. We would like it to be a platform that provides accessibility to those who for any reason can not be on the street (physical challenge, illness, job restrictions, fear, etc) but want to join the community by sending a message through it.

So far, Facebook or Twitter do not solve that. It is a paradox, because even though they are social networks, their users produce and consume content on them individually. They are collective channels, but their access devices are individual. Our platform is producing and displaying content in a collective environment, that could as well be supported by these communication channels. We would like to explore two features that social networks still have not solved: the actual collectivity (in a shared place and time) and its interaction with the public space.

Can you briefly explain how the system will work?

The kit consist of an electronic portable banner where a user can display messages either using a local physical interface, such a keyboard, or a virtual one using social networks through internet. Likewise, there is a sort of online platform that allows writing messages and sending and displaying on the banner.

In a more technical level; we provide different entry interfaces: a physical one, so anyone close to the banner can send messages to it, and another one via internet, thus anyone in the world, using their cell phone, computer or other device connected to the internet can send messages to the banner as well.

On the other hand, we want to develop an appropriate web service where all banners built in the world can be registered and be geolocalized by a GPS. In that way, messages could be sent directly to a specific place of the world (from square to square, as we were saying previously).

The device is built with a series of textiles (both conductors and insulators of electricity) and LEDs, together with a microprocessor and communication modules. All software and hardware design is being documented in an instructions manual, so anyone will be able to build their own kit: DIY. Actually, it will be delivered under copyleft license, so users will be able to improve the design, adapt it to their local circumstances and their knowledge will be delivered in the same way back to the rest of the world.

Any other upcoming steps/further developments for the project?

Right now, we think is quite important to reach the international communication layer via internet. There are situations we need to take in consideration, such how to solve communication when there are frequency inhibitors or when mobile phone cells are saturated during a demonstration. Step by step we will be analyzing and trying to come up with solutions to the wide range of circumstances, for maximizing KLE interaction possibilities.

The next phase of the project, to improve the implementation of the platform and make it more accessible, is to start a crowdfunding campaign. We want to complete the first version of the kit and distribute the first units in places where freedom of speech is under threat.

Thanks Chema and María!

Follow the development of the project on its website and on twitter.

Full cast of people involved in the development of the prototype:
Promoters: ETC Inventions (Chema Blanco, Anna Carreras) and María Solé Bravo.
Collaborators: Gonzalo Iglesias, Rafael Fernandes, Carlos Fernández, Daniel Alonso, Sonya Ricketts, Andrea Rosales, Soraya Nasser, Echedey Lorenzo, Miguel Fernández, Eva Rueda & Christian Rojo (ETC Inventions).

The prototypes of Interactivos?'13 Tools for a Read-Write World are exhibited at MediaLab Prado until May 31, 2013.

Sponsored by:





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FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

This year's edition of the FutureEverything festival in Manchester brought a much discussed phenomenon to the fore: participatory culture. From Wikileaks to Iceland's crowd-sourced constitution, to the Arab Spring, participatory technologies have demonstrated their powerful political potential. The world of culture is harnessing the same connected energies with projects that involve citizen scientists cataloging celestial bodies in the Milky Way galaxy, crowd-curated photo exhibitions and of course the many projects created by artists and designers who either directly use collective action or bring it under a new light.

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FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

The festival is over but the exhibition, titled FutureEverybody, remains open till June 10. It is hosted in the spectacular 1830 warehouse, the world's first railway warehouse, part of the Museum of Science and Industry.

The show obviously focuses on the artistic dimension of new participatory technologies, giving a tangible and very approachable dimension to a phenomenon we tend to associate mostly with online practice. FutureEverybody opens with the work of an artist known for putting them spectacularly into practice: Aaron Koblin who, a few years ago, teamed up with Takashi Kawashima and thousands of online workers to create a $100 bill. But you all know Aaron's work so let me call your attention to some of the projects i discovered in the show:

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Daniel Jones and James Bulley, Maelstrom. View from the exhibition of the FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Over 48 hours of user-created audio is uploaded to the internet every minute, a figure that is increasing exponentially. Maelstrom by Daniel Jones and James Bulley draws on these audio-fragments in real-time and broadcasts them through suspended speakers. By organising these fragments based on their tonal attributes, they collectively form a vast instrument, whose properties are affected by global internet activity.

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Moritz Stefaner + Dario Taraborelli + Luca Ciampaglia, Notabilia, 2011

Wikipedia articles, especially new ones, are reviewed by the community to determine whether or not they meet Wikipedia's notability guidelines. Articles nominated for deletion are discussed collectively by the editors before they decided in favor or against keeping them. An administrator then reviews the debate and makes the final decision.

Moritz Stefaner, Dario Taraborelli and Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia analyzed Article for Deletion (AfD) discussions in the English Wikipedia. The result of their research is Notabilia, a visualization of the 100 longest discussions that stemmed from the proposal to delete an article.

I was less interested in the data visualization (which is obviously clear and competently designed) than in learning about the articles questioned and the reason put for forward for their remotion from the online encyclopedia. The entries deleted ranged from the surprising (Islamophobiaphobia) to the downright absurd (List of songs about masturbation, List of Playboy Playmate with D-cups or larger breasts). I've also noticed the high number of articles exposing dubious political or religious agendas.

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Jamie Allen, Refractive Index. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Jamie Allen's Refractive Index is an ongoing art-research project that uses the large scale public media displays as a kind of camera obscura; inverting typical uses of the screen, and showing us what our screens "see" when they peer into the night sky. I'm not sure i understand what makes it a project that deals with collective action but i loved the rigorous research behind it as well as the way it was documented.

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Lawrence Epps, Human Resources. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

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Lawrence Epps, Human Resources, 2012 (in Switzerland)

Right in the middle of the exhibition space was a heap of miniature ceramic figures hand-made by 
Lawrence Epps. A few days before i visited the show, the Sykey Collective distributed 8,000 of these tiny workers in the streets of Manchester. Passersby were then invited to bring them to work, home, on business trips, holidays and document the figurines journey online, either on www.sykey.org and via twitter #littleclaymen.

I wanted to steal a figurine from the exhibition pile and take it with me on the train to London but being a stupidly well-behaved girl, i just looked sadly at them and walked away empty-handed.

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Jeremy Hutchison, Extra! Extra!. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Jeremy Hutchison's Extra! Extra! is a collection of newspaper advertising boards with headlines written by Facebook users on the project's Facebook wall. The messages are printed by the Manchester Evening News, and plastered on newspaper billboards around the Museum of Science and Industry site.

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Blast Theory, I'd Hide You. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Blast Theory was premiering their new game I'd Hide You. As is often the case with the UK collective, I'd Hide You is an online/offline game. Only performers play in the streets while the public can log online, follow them and play. Rules are detailed in the trailer:

Who wouldn't want to be one of the three performers with the cool outfits and gadgets running in the streets of Manchester?

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Helen Pritchard + Winnie Soon, Jsut Code. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Previously: An Ant Ballet at FutureEverything.

Entrance to the FutureEverybody Art Exhibition is free. The show remains open at 1830 Warehouse, Museum of Science and Industry, in Manchester until 10th June 2012.

More images by TAPE. I take photos too!

Last week, i was dragged out of bed at the most scandalously early hour to participate to the final jury of the projects presented by the students of the Master in Media Design at the Geneva University of Art and Design, aka the Head. The programme has been launched two year ago and a first class of students were finishing their cursus. We had seven projects to review and mark. The one that really stood out for me was Matthieu Cherubini's rep.licants.org web 'service.'

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rep.licants.org allows people to install a bot on their Facebook and/or Twitter account. The bot will combine the activity the user is already having on other channels such as youtube or flickr with a set of keywords selected by the user to attempt and simulate that person's activity, feeding their account with more frequent updates, engaging in discussions with other users and adding new people to their list of contacts.

The bot does not provide a fictitious identity, but will be added to the real identity of the user to modify it at his convenience. Thus, this bot can be seen as a virtual prosthesis added to an user's account. With the aim to help him to forge a digital identity of what he would really like to be and by trying to build a greater social reputation for the user. Moreover, this bot can be perceived as a threat by defrauding even more the reality of who is really who on social networks and by showing the poverty of our social interactions on these so-called social networks.

Here's a short video introducing you to the service:

But since, Cherubini already has a rather promising portfolio, i took the liberty of digressing a bit and asked the artist to talk to me about a couple of his other projects as well:

Hi Matthieu! This Summer, you are going to exhibit one of your previous projects at the FILE festival in Sao Paulo. The Afghan War Diary "connects to a Counter-Strike's server and retrieves in real-time frags (when a player kills another). These frags trigger a search by chronological order in the Wikileaks database: Afghan War Diary, which contains over 75,000 secret US military reports covering the war in Afghanistan. According to the retrieved data, the website shows the location of the attack on Google Earth."

Is this the database the project is using http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/wikileaks-afghan/? it can't seem to be possible to access it right now. Does it affect your piece?

Yes, my project uses this database. When Wikileaks published these stolen databases it was possible to download them in order to install them on your own web host. It is what I did and hopefully it doesn't affect my project.

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Afghan War Diary

What is fascinating with AWD is how you managed to put together 3 potentially subversive issues: online first-person shooter video games, war in Afghanistan and Wikileaks. What did you wish to say, highlight or denounce with this work?

When Wikileaks released their data set I was kind of surprised by the enthusiasm of people for these data because if you forget the "top-secret" part, they got absolutely nothing special nor divulge any over sensible information. Actually you can find a lot of similar database related to war in public data banks which were created way before the release of the Afghan War database.

However, except some information designers, statisticians or journalists who needed specific information for an article, nobody ever cared about this kind of information.
And suddenly Wikileaks arrives with its leaked databases and everybody is interested in it, probably just because they are labeled as "top-secret". It somehow reminded me of reality television, we enjoy to watch misfits doing casual things just because we are in a voyeurism situation. And in my opinion, Wikileaks could be just that: voyeurism. In an age where almost every individual is paranoiac about their own private data why do we demand governments to be transparent ?

Wikileaks supporters claim "Information wants to be free" however most of them are the first to hide behind a mask of anonymity.

All of this gave me the idea to do a project that is a sort of reality television based on Wikileaks data where actors are unconscious virtual soldiers and spectators passive towards this kind of events.

Because we are terribly passive towards this kind of events -and that includes me, having an interest for Wikileaks data is not an act of interest towards war atrocities but an act of interest for what the government hides from us. 

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Conversation with ClairNotClaire. Bot: jimmyl0izeau. Conversation start: 24-06-2011. Conversation end: 25-06-2011

Now let's discuss rep.licants.org. This is a "web service allowing users to install an artificial intelligence (bot) on their Facebook and/or Twitter account. From keywords, content analysis and activity analysis, the bot attempts to simulate the activity of the user, to improve it by feeding his account and to create new contacts with other users." One of the objectives of the projects is to improve the social reputation of the user. Is it that clear-cut? Can a bot really make you a more interesting person in the eye of twitter or facebook users?  

In someway yes. Social networks are the first medium to display our social status to everybody with a simple statistical number (number of friends on Facebook and number of followers on Twitter). Those numbers are a kind of digital validation about what we are really worth, for example a user with a low number of followers will be regarded as not interesting. On Twitter getting a higher number of followers isn't that difficult, you have to post aggressively, follow a lot of users, retweet, get retweeted, etc. All those actions can be done by a bot. If suddenly the bot finds and posts an interesting content, it can become "viral" and you will get more followers. Of course we can argue that those kind of things can be done by the user and that's true. However a lot of user are digitally shy, introvert, etc. The bot has been programmed to be extrovert so it doesn't worry about posting ridiculous or interesting contents, contacting users that it doesn't know or contacting users that you wouldn't dare to contact. All those things put together will help the user keep an activity on social networks which make them visible to the others. That is why i like to compare the bot as a virtual prosthesis for introvert users.

But it is disturbing that a bot can be more sociable than yourself on social networks. So all those social interactions we virtually have, and that a bot can do better than some of us, are they really sociable ? Or is the word "social" in "social-networks" just a way for the designers to pull the wool over our eyes?

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Conversation with majosemf. Bot: elburdino. Conversation start: 25-06-2011. Conversation end: 25-06-2011

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Conversation with tom_watson, Bot: SingleEndedLoop. Conversation start: 19-06-2011. Conversation end: 21-06-2011

What is the feedback from the people who tested the 'service' so far?

I'm happy with the feedback of the users, some really interesting things happened which i couldn't have imagined. For example, one of the users couldn't recall if it was him or the bot who was posting messages; another began to interact with his own bot. There is a case where the bot contacted a random friend of an user on Facebook and it was actually an old friend of him whom the user never thought about contacting. The fact that the bot started to discuss with that old friend allowed the two users to have a real discussion together.

There is also, sometimes, interesting conversations between the bot and a user who doesn't know that he is speaking with a bot. Some excerpts of those communications can be seen on the bot's diary.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

Looking at your portfolio, it seems that rep.licants builds on previous projects which also investigated social networks. The Pursuit of Happiness for example. With the project you hacked into some Facebook accounts in order to steal users' private messages. This was a bold move. Were the people whose fb account was hacked aware of what you were doing? And more importantly, what did you try to achieve with this project?

No, they weren't aware of that but as i have deliberately put their contact (email and/or phone number), it happened once that a girl contacted me and asked me to remove all the information related to her. Someone warned and contacted her but i do not know whom!

My first aim with that project was pretty similar to rep.licants.org: i was fascinated by the relation in between Facebook's users and the kind of communication they have. I was motivated to find why so many people use for so many hours per day social networks while they are whole day already constantly surrounded by real social interactions. Having a look at the users private messages was a way for me to have a look at the real use of Facebook because the public part is not relevant. For example, no one is going to say that he uses Facebook as a way to flirt (flirting is almost never mentioned on the Facebook's users studies) however i was impressed by the number of users who where using Facebook as a flirting tool. Unfortunately I don't really feel I could achieve those initial aims because most of those private messages were extremely poor. I then made the decision to centre my project on the poverty of dialogues between the users, who mostly used Facebook several hours by days.

But now, after all that Wikileaks buzz, I think this project could open some discussions because it is basically a Wikileaks of the individuals instead of the governments.

Are you planning to improve rep.licants.org? offering new services, features, etc.

Yes because the bot is actually using very basic rules and features and it doesn't pass the Turing test with some "experienced" users. There is still a lot of research to do for trying to close the gap in between a bot and a human on social networks.

Merci Matthieu!

It might come as a surprise to some of you but it's not everyday that a major contemporary art institution in Europe dedicates some space and energy to look into one of the most prominent characteristics of today's culture: the social web. The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens is doing just that with an exhibition bearing one of the most evocative and imaginative titles i've ever read: Tag ties & affective spies. The online works selected for the show comment on the aspects of the web 2.0 and evoke more particularly the controversies that have animated its short but intense life.

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Exploring the functioning modes of the social networks and the ways users interact within them, a new form of artistic practice is being formed that comments, critisizes and subverts their structures by altering their semiology and formalism. Posing questions, and approaching the social media in a playful way, the works presented aim to raise awareness about the different possibilities that are now opened up to the users.

The brain behind the concept and curating of Tag ties & affective spies is Daphne Dragona (who co-curated Homo Ludens Ludens at LABoral in Gijon a year ago.)

Daphne is an Athens-based media arts curator and organiser. The exhibitions and events she's been involved in over the last few years have focused on the notion of play and its merging with art as a form of networking and resistance. She is a also PhD candidate in the Faculty of Mass Media & Communication of the University in Athens conducting a research on social media. I asked her to give us more details about the why and how of the exhibition.

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L'Attente - The Waiting, by Grégory Chatonsky

Tag ties and affective spies is part of a series of online exhibitions featuring works conceived for the Web. Does the exhibition appear only online or is there an installation or anything else inside the actual museum that points to its existence? Would it make sense to you to mirror this exhibition in 'real' space like it is done sometimes with online exhibitions?

Tag ties & affective spies is presented online in the museum's media lounge area, where computers are available for visitors to explore the works.

We have not created a specially built environment or installation particularly for this exhibition. Really, there wasn't need for an additional structure. The natural environment of these works is the internet, wherever this is : at the computers in the users' homes or offices, at their mobile phones or at the computer screens provided in public spaces - such as those in the museum.

But, yes I do believe that it is very important for museums to mirror online exhibitions in the real space so that net based art can be further supported. Visitors might not spend hours to view all works. In reality, they usually have a glimpse of the exhibition and then they visit it again at their own places and leisure. But museums need to support the opportunity for this first acquaintance in order to spread the information. Also, let us not forget that visitors mostly go in a contemporary art museum, to see contemporary art works. Most of them would not look at net based art on their own because they are not accustomed with this form of creativity. An institution though, can help to attract their attention towards a new direction.

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In reality, net based art cannot become institutionalized. This is its charm but also its handicap because it cannot support itself easily. Net based art is about works that usually cannot be sold and consequently cannot offer money to their creators. It is about works that bring different kinds of challenges to institutions.

Projects based on social media bring into mind the issues net art was facing back in the nineties. Issues to do with what can be bought, what can be preserved and what can be owned. Instead of bringing to light these discussions again I think, we should look for ways to support these forms of art, to assist in conveying their messages and making them known to a wider public. Therefore, mounting an exhibition like the "tag ties & affective spies" in an institution is meaningful to me.

The exhibition is a critical approach on the social media of our times. Could you tell us how you got the idea for this show? What motivated its existence?

Well, I find that it is a field with an amazing interest as it is also controversial; both full of promises and restrictions; a genuine product of our times based on connectivity, affection, and surveillance. I think, what intrigues me most is the fact that most people share, communicate, and participate without realizing the story behind or without thinking about how this constant aggregation of information from their profiles works for the market. I believe creativity can play a role here as it speaks for the medium using the medium itself, a fact that I consider to be very interesting. While forms of creativity based on the social media platforms might be difficult to attract an art audience that is not technologically savvy, on the other hand, they can turn up to be of an interest for a wider audience that might not be art savvy but partly lives in this virtual dimension.

Speaking from a more personal point of view, this exhibition also expresses my need to share the first bit of knowledge I have gained from my PhD, which I have just started on social media and art. I wanted to see how the audience would react to such an entity of works, how the press would respond, and how local artists would experience it. I looks it is going well so far... Greece is not an easy country. My experience, during the last decade, tells me that things are moving slowly in the field of media arts. Budget is usually tight and the audience is usually reserved. Some of the media art festivals happening in the country in the past have now ceased to exist. It is somewhat difficult to take big risks. But, organising events of a smaller scale, like an online exhibition, that thematically refer to contexts and issues the people are familiar with, could be a safer path and a transitional stage for a wider opening to the media arts.

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We Feel Fine, by Jonathan Harris & Sep Kamvar

Did it change anything in the way of curating the exhibition to know that the exhibition was organized by one of the major art institutions in the country? This probably implied that the exhibition would receive a different, maybe broader exposure. Did you approach the subject differently than you would have done if you had worked again for a more media art-oriented institution like, say, LABoral?

No it did not. I did not modify or alter any of my ideas because the exhibition was organised by a museum. I must say that the museum was very positive and did not have any hesitations regarding the concept and the selection. So, all went very smoothly. Context and content would have been the same even if I was to do this privately somehow. I was thinking anyway of an exhibition that would be viewed, hopefully, not only by people from athens but by internet users from different parts of world. There is no locality on the web. What locally exists, is the support of institutions to net based projects as well as their presentation to new audiences. For instance, now, the exhibition will also be presented in the context of the Enter festival in Prague. This support can attract attention, bring discussions and open new roads for collaboration among art and other disciplines.

A comparison with the work in LABoral is difficult because the exhibitions were very different from one another. But, as institutions they are not that different. LABoral is more media art oriented but it does have a strong interest also towards contemporary art. Additionally, every institution does have particularities that connect to the structures of the country it belongs. In general, I think it is the feeling of trust and mutual appreciation that is essential for collaborations between artists, curators and institutions. When there is such ground, fruitful collaborations do happen.

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Folded-in, by Personal Cinema and The Erasers

Having a look at your selection of artworks i had the feeling that it provides a good snapshot of the current issues and debates that surrounds social media. The title itself reflects quite accurately and poetically the appealing and appalling aspects of contemporary social media. Do you feel that the general trend is heading towards more "surveillance and exploitation" or is the big picture much more optimistic? Which trend(s) does the now ueber-popular Twitter embodies best for example? subjectivity - collectivity - production - consumption - exposure - surveillance - affection - exploitation - participation - resistance...all of them at the same time?

I think that the moment web 2.0 embodies all these notions. Each platform might have some features stronger than others depending on the possibilities it offers. Twitter is a lot about announcing feelings and moments. Exposure, affection, and a kind of surveillance are definitely involved. I don't like to be negative for the future. I hope that we are not going towards a model that involves more surveillance and exploitation. I believe that as the "mainstream" social media evolve, so do the creative and critical stances. The great number of people using the social media will soon bring a new situation on stage. More and more social platforms should soon appear that would allow groups of people to connect and form networks for different purposes based on open source models and these do not need to be controlled or be accessible by the market. Connectivity is an incredible feature of our times - we don't need to get lost on the way.

Thanks Daphne!

The REACTIVATE!! exhibition at the at the Espai d' Art Contemporani de Castelló, near Valencia (Spain), being an almost endless source of wonders i tried to cover last week (see REACTIVATE!! Part 1, Urban reanimations and the minimal intervention and REACTIVATE!! Part 2, Instant urbanism), i still have a last story in my magic bag to share with you:

Some of the projects presented in Castellon were commissioned by the contemporary art center to engage in a site-specific fashion with the theme of 'remodeled spaces and minimal interventions.'

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The most poetical installation was created by ex.studio, two Barcelona-based Mexican architects Patricia Meneses and Iván Juárez with an impressive portfolio chock-full of projects that investigate and experiment with new ways of relating space with society.

Designed as minimal spaces for auto-reflexion, the Refugios Urbanos are 6 suspended semi-transparent pods that temporarily invade the building of the EACC and its public space.

Looking like chrysalids, the flexible structure can only contain one person. Its very delicate walls allow the inhabitant to enjoy privacy as well as a softly blurred view of the surrounding world.

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Refugios Urbanos proposes new ways to inhabit and imagine space where people are both part and parcel of the city and isolated from it in order to better contemplate it.

A second project worth its weight in blog ink is María Navascues, Ramón Francos and Celia García's Atomish Garden

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It all starts with the Pet Garden! At the opening of the Reactivate!! exhibition, visitors were invited to adopt a piece of garden. Each of them would take home a plant or plot of land to take care of it. Like real pets, owners can take them along for a walk in the street. They also require a lot of care and attention.

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The flower pot comes with a code giving pet owners access to the Petgarden website that gives them all the necessary instruction to pamper their botanical pet. Besides, they can share with other woners the story, health news and adventure of the plant on a blog. Current technologies enable thus the various parts of this 'atomized garden' to form a community able to stay in virtual but close proximity.

All images courtesy of Espai d' Art Contemporani de Castelló. For info, the third project commissioned by EACC for Reactivate!! was POTLATCHNIÑO by Rafael Sánchez-Mateos Paniagua + Susana Velasco + Jordi Carmona Hurtado from Ludotek.

0urbannlogo.jpgMaya Lotan is about to launch the fantastic flirting service which i discovered back in July 2005 when she presented her final thesis at the Interaction Design Institute of Ivrea.

The idea is to help users connect with people they meet in public spaces and "lure" them into a private corner to get to know them better. It works with "Seeds". Each of the Seed has a private number that doesn't reveal who you are but leads the other person to a webpage where he or she can get a series of clues about you.

How can you give the Seed to someone you fancy without unvealing who you are?

- If you know the email address of that person (a co-worker for example), you can send the Seed by email;
0urbannnseed3.jpg - or you can print and give away a Seed. Hand it to him or her yourself, ask a friend or the waitress to do it when you've left the bar. Each Seed is personalized, you can choose the colour and the patterns and the code is unique, it's just for you and that person.
- do it freestyle.

Each Seed leads to a private space shared by the new "partner" and you. It's a kind of exclusive blog for the two of you. You can put there images, videos, music, messages, etc. And list events and places where you're going to be a week from now.

Hi Maya! Urbanseeder was your one year thesis at Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea. What prompted you to turn it into a marketable product?

I had no choice, I just couldn't focus on anything else. I thought it might really work, and had to bring it to the stage it can be used by people.

Which challenge(s) do you or did you have to face to turn an experimental work into something "real"?

The first challenge, for me, was finding people to believe in the product with me, and people to consult in. The second is adapting the product to the real world, meaning reevaluating the feature set according to what is really key to the product vs. what is just fat, or what relates to existing behavior vs. relies on hypothetical future technology trends. The third, is thinking about the product as a business machine, where the challenge is not so much in the numbers, but more in the forming of a model.

I guess, the biggest challenge is 'letting go' of my idealistic vision and conforming with reality.

Do you think that this concept of flirting interactions cross any frontier or will it be interpreted and welcome in the same way in any culture?

We are really looking forward to seeing, what we believe will be, all kinds of weird interpretations of the product. In the basic level flirting is human nature, but on the surface culture has a great effect. There are different codes of dating and definitions of privacy that will probably effect the way it will be used in different cultures, groups, and ages.

Have you already tested the prototype? What was the feedback?

So far, just parts of it, mostly with friends and colleagues, as well as a few nights out Seeding in Tel-Aviv. The feedback: "What ?@#F?" "Wow!!" "Hmm..". Some people get very excited about it, while others remain skeptical. The product will only be released as Beta around March this year, and this will be its first real test. We have quite a few people signed up already and welcome others to sign up for the Beta at urbanseeder.com.

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I love the patterns of Urbanseeder. Who designed them?

Thanks! I love that you love them. The patterns are a product of Michal Amram and Oded Weigel - AKA michaloded - a designer duo we were lucky to be introduced to. They fell into place as part of a complete team effort including Gil Rimon, Shemi Frenkel and the advice of friend experts.

Thanks Maya!

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