Author Archive

TextLeaks: Leaked from Alissa Milano’s iPhone.

Over the course of the year I have been researching issues of public and private space surrounding mobile devices.  My interest in this topic originated with the idea that text messages could be used as ready made content and used as something other than a record of communication.

Earlier in the year, I had posted my incoming text messages to Twitter and Facebook as a way to breach social expectations of privacy and communication.  TextLeaks is an extension of that idea.  The bot posts text messages that I have received as well as sent to its Twitter feed.  The social breach I had originally carried out was happening in real time.  However TextLeaks takes messages from my past archive of conversations.  Each post only contains the message with no indicator of whether I sent or received that particular SMS.

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I enjoy keeping the sender/receiver anonymous because I feel it adds not only a poetic nature to the feed, but a sense of confusion and mystery about who is speaking that works nicely with the user being a voyeur.

TextLeaks is coded using Javascript filebot obtained from Github.  The code takes each line from a text file contained in the same folder as the bot.js file and the config.js.  The config.js contains the consumer key, consumer secret, access token, and access secret, which allows the running javascript to interact with the Twitter API and post on the bots behalf.  The code is set to only include the first 140 characters of each line of text since that is the post limit for Twitter.  Aside from being stopped at 140 characters, the code recognizes line breaks that are marked at the end with a “*”, to signify that is one piece of text.  While the bot was set to post once per minute, I am lowering the post rate to twice per day once I start working out ways to gain followers.


To build on this piece, I would like to tailor the messages/tweets to be focused around a specific topic.  For example, only having messages that are about relationship problems.  I think this could flow nicely as on ongoing poem or story in the twitter feed, and the content could be continuously added to (since we are continuously using our phones).  I also am curious about incorporating the use of hash tags to help gain followers and react to twitter topics.

I am inspired by the work of Kyle McDonald, especially his piece KeyTweeter.  In his video explaining the ideas behind KeyTweeter McDonald states that communication is owned by all parties involved in its creation.  I am very interested in ways that text language can be used to create a body of work I hope I can continue using this bot as a way to further this idea.


At the rise of the information age, the Internet and digital devices have been praised for their ability to easily connect us to others.  They have also been criticized for their role in disconnecting users from the “real” world and trapping them in the virtual.  This argument however is no longer a significant; we have began to simply accept technology as a fact of every day life.  Users spend most of their day connected in some way to a larger network.

The questions are evolving into what ways we can use technology to help us physically, emotionally, and financially.  As our needs have grown with technology we no longer need to simply connect; we need to customize.  This reins especially true for our social networks.  Social media, once praised for helping to connect people, is starting to become accused of only increasing the feeling of “being alone in a crowded room”.

notiCRY is a social prosthetic and speculative design piece that uses moister sensors to know when a user is crying, and then notifies a chosen contact that their friend/family member is in distress, prompting them to provide emotional support.  At first glance, the piece offers a solution to a distinct problem;  the inability or fear of asking for emotional support.  When first coming up with the idea for the piece, we thought of how many times we have wanted to reach out for help but our fears of sounding needy or vulnerable held us back.  As you think deeper however, users will hopefully question how far they want their devices involved in their personal lives.

The device was coded using the Python scripting language meant to interact with an Arduino board.  Firmatta, a protocol used by the computer, is called to communicate with the Arduino. In addition, the python library BreakfastSerial was installed to to make the Arduino more adaptable to communicate with the API library Twilio.  Twilio is what enables the Arduino to send an SMS to a mobile phone, therefore allowing for direct notification when the user is in distress.

Technology is becoming increasingly involved in our biology.  There are applications and devices available to track your diet and health.  Fitbit is a bracelet designed to motivate users health by monitoring their exercise, daily activity, sleep, weight, etc.  If our devices can help us socially and physically, could they help us emotionally?  Most importantly, should they?  notiCRY addresses these issues of privacy by proposing that the choice to reach out could be taken away.  If you are wearing the device and it is activated, you do not have a choice of whether or not it will contact someone for you.  You do have to choose to be physically wearing the device, but what if you didn’t?  What if software like this was simply a fact of owning an iPhone?  We need to question just how comfortable users are with integration of devices and bodily functions now, or we won’t have any more choices as consumers.

In “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” Bruce Sterling talks about this threat to consumers more in depth.  Sterling argues that we no longer actually hold importance as consumers, because our choices are being taken away and we are no longer required to buy something to be contributing to corporate profit and greed.  This is important because it solidifies the idea that our personal information is now a form of currency.  Your information is just as valuable as your bank account, and needs to be guarded and considered just the same.

Other projects that have touched on the same themes as notiCRY are Miranda July’s piece “Somebody”.  Somebody is a mobile application that allows users to pick a stranger to send a message a message to someone face to face.  Just like notiCRY, but with different intentions, we see this idea of filtering through social networks and the need for customized intimacy.

Lauren McCarthy also works a lot in the realm of speculative design, especially with her application, PplKpr.  PplKpr plays on social medias aim to connect others but also emphasizes the need to disconnect with some.  Connected to a bracelet, or alternately a manual rating system through the app, the application rates your social interactions and let’s the user know whether certain people in their lives should be “unfriended”.  In both of these instances we see a growing need to consider what is right for us as individual device users, but also what is needed for the network.

notiCRY is still early in development and we have future goals in mind for its progression.  Currently, notiCry needs to be connected to a computer to work, but this could change with a wireless device which would make the piece completely active for use in the physical world.

The notiCry trailer is located here.  We are also building on a second draft for the trailer that gives more insight into how and why the device can be used and some of the motives behind it.

Week 12 Reading – Alissa & Emily

The Anxieties of Big Data, Kate Crawford

Art, Activism, and CCTV

The Anxieties of Big Data by Kate Crawford discusses the ways in which big data collection affect users on an every day social context.  In recent years, the public has started to become more aware of their thinning privacy and increasing surveillance by the United States government. Much of this surveillance has been defended as being in place for the safety of the general public, especially in a post September 11th with the fear of terrorism being a main threat.  In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) came forward leaking documents to the media stating that would show the United States government was performing illegal and unethical surveillance on other countries and it’s own citizens.

The Anxieties of Big Data discusses the type of society that is evolving as a result of big data collection.

Interestingly, Crawford mentions that the reality of big data is surveillant anxiety.  She defines this term as “the fear that all the data we are shedding every day is too revealing of our intimate selves, but may also misrepresent us.”

Crawford also references Plan C’s manifesto, “We Are All Very Anxious”, to address a significant problem society faces today, arguing that anxiety is the affect of our current structure of capitalism that is the causation of political apathy, insecurity, and social segregation.

Crawford also argues that anxiety comes in two places – the anxiety of the surveilled and the anxiety of the surveillers.  This is a crucial catch 22 in the surveillance divide.  The general public is told their safety is at risk which enables the surveillance, but the surveillers become increasingly skeptical of the public.  Then, as Crawford describes, the actions of those exercising control of data collection are hidden by government documents that the public does not have access to.  As their actions remain hidden, the public becomes defenseless as to what is being done with their information and remains blind to any real intentions.

Many people have accepted data collection as an increasing part of every day life.  The question that has been apparent however, especially since Snowdens leak of government documents, is how much this data collection really benefits the public.  Crawford describes the “current mythology” of big data as being more data = more accuracy, more truth.  Many argue however that this just isn’t true, and correlation doesn’t imply causation.  Many worry, understandably so, that big data leaves too large a chance of misunderstanding.

Crawford expands her argument to everyday trends and fashion.  She uses the current style of “Normcore” as an explanation of consumer anxiety and being a reaction to surveillance.  Normcore addresses how blending in was once a tactic used by protestors (ex. Occupy Wallstreet) to avoid police detection and surveillance.  As big data collection increases however, blending in is now more important than ever, and everyone must partake.

Art, Activism, and CCTV

Dead Drops- Adam Barthol – art project that involves exchanging files through USB devices in public places

“Creativity generates tactics. Art can be a weapon. It is valuable enough to society that forces of power have worked to subvert it.”

System Azure- Jill Magid –

What’s interesting to point out here is the way the perception changes when someone approaches a situation as an artist versus other jobs titled “professional.”

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think your privacy is a fair trade off for the feeling of safety?

2. Do you think someones online data is an accurate representation of them as a person? Could they be misconstrued?

3. Do you think every day users have any control over the future of big data collection?

4. In what ways do you think data collection has benefitted your safety and/or general well being and happiness?  In what ways has it inhibited?

5. What anxieties do you think surveillers experience versus the anxieties that those being surveilled?

6. Why do you think the police rejected her proposal after finding out she was an artist? What is the power in being an artist in these situation

Every Other Word

“An Entomologists Last Love Letter”

Every Other Word:

gungho:SSHW alissamilano$ node everyother.js text2.txt
dear sorry
we to a know seems an way start love but me not sure hell me
it’s human don’t as as do
i you.. too to what have ruined the of species
i the you at waiter night
i you never anything, never but..
i the you at waiter night
did know when female accepts pheromones off a fly, re-writes brain, the that pheromones, the the fly the when flies each they it hard, will love else again. either of dies procreation happen sets genetic are forever. that… dedication.
after and broke we three dividing we bought if knew pots mine if knew drapes mine the would away
this not two mantises the system the begins shut he has over motor flops his exposing soft up his like gift
she proceeds lovingly him tiny every into mouth
she nothing
even exoskeleton does so once children born has to to them
now is could do for i a plan
i’m leave now
i’m spend rest my committing injustices
i you the will walk every will things could afford
i be to hope do same
i reincarnation real
i our crimes enough cause to reborn lesser hope are as that can each as as were to. 
gungho:SSHW alissamilano$ node reverse.js text2.txt
.ot tnaem erew ew sa drah sa rehto hcae evol nac ew taht os
seilf sa nrober era ew epoh i
serutaerc ressel sa nrober eb ot su esuac ot hguone era semirc yttep ruo epoh i
laer si noitanracnier epoh i
emas eht od uoy epoh i
sregnarts ot edur eb lliw i
droffa ylisae dluoc i sgniht laets lliw i
ytinutroppo yreve ta klaw yaj lliw i
emas eht od uoy epoh i
secitsujni yttep gnittimmoc efil ym fo tser eht dneps annog m’i
won uoy evael annog m’i
nalp wen a evah i os
uoy rof taht od reven dluoc i
ssensselfles si ..taht won
meht deef ot etatigruger ot gnihtemos sah ehs nrob era nerdlihc rieht ecno taht os siht seod ehs
seog noteleksoxe eht neve
gnihton setsaw ehs
htuom reh otni lesrom yreve gninoops
sebuc ynit otni mih ecid ylgnivol ot sdeecorp neht ehs
tfig a ekil revol sih ot pu yllebrednu tfos sih gnisopxe ,kcab sih otno spolf eh
snoitcnuf rotom sih revo lortnoc sah llits eh elihw
nwod tuhs ot snigeb elam eht fo metsys suovren eht ,etam sesitnam gniyarp owt retfa
eurt ton si siht
yawa og dluow niap eht wohemos enim erew separd hcihw wenk i fi ekil enim erew stop tahw wenk i fi ekil
rehtegot thguob dah ew gnihtyreve gnidivid syad eerht tneps ew pu ekorb i dna htebazilE retfa
.noitacided si …taht won .reverof tsol era edoc citeneg fo stes htob neppah nac noitaercorp erofeb seid meht fo eno rehtie fi .niaga reve esle gnihtyna evol reven lliw yeht ,drah os ti od yeht rehto hcae evol seilf owt nehw .emas eht seod ylf elam eht ,egnahc eht gnisnes ,senomorehp eviecer taht srotpecer eht syortsed ,niarb reh setirw-er ti ,ylf elam a yb ffo tup senomorehp eht stpecca ylf elamef a nehw taht wonk uoy did
thgin tsal retiaw eht ta dekool uoy yaw eht was i
..tub od reven uoy ,gnihtyna OD reven dluow uoy wonk i
thgin tsal retiaw eht ta dekool uoy yaw eht was i
seiceps ruo fo sgniliaf eht yb deniur eb evah ew tahw tel ot hcum oot raf ..uoy evol i
od stcesni sa llew sa evol t’nod sgnieb namuh tsuj s’ti
em t’nsi lleh sa erus ti
uoy ton s’ti
:nialpxe em tel tub rettel evol a trats ot yaw ddo na ekil smees taht wonk i
ecrovid a teg ot evah ew
yrros m’i
ahtnamas raed​
gungho:SSHW alissamilano$ node flesch.js text2.txt
Total Syllables: 548
Total Words    : 375
Total Sentences: 13
Flesch Index   : 53.927353846153856


Dada Data, Commodified Spouse, Disney Privacy Response

The Dada Data article is a science fiction styled writing that describes a possible future where our household items are all connected to a network.  The narrator describes her experience of her household utilities thinking she is pregnant due to the data they have collected from her.  Following the same theme of the future possibilities for the Internet of Things, Commodified Spouse and You Don’t Want Your Privacy discuss other ways in which society is being increasingly connected.

The readings discuss issues of privacy that I believe we are at a crucial time in being concerned over.  Having all of our items connected seems too risky, and unnecessary.  Our privacy is something too vital to our rights to be traded so casually for simple conveniences that we don’t really need.  The Internet of Things puts too much power in the hands of corporations who already have more than they should.  In certain instances, I believe their can be a lot of benefits to increasing the ways in which our utilities are connected.  Keeping track of water usage and electricity would have a benefit on the environment, but we can develop these advancements in ways that are less invasive than a device knowing everything about us.  In a way, science fiction (as much as I love it) convinces the general public that invasions of their privacy are just that; fiction.  We forget that these are real possibilities happening every day, just in a different way and at a different pace.

The Disney electronic bracelet ticket is a key example of people being taken advantage of.  It’s not fair to the public to be manipulated into spending more money.  Overall, I believe the internet of things is extremely bad for the mid-lower class.  The conveniences they come with only benefit those who can afford them, and they take out lower paying jobs that help so many people get by.

Internet of Things Response

“The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” by Bruce Sterling discusses what the term “Internet of Things” refers to and what it means in terms of the advancement of technology.  The Internet of Things is the concept that as we develop our devices further we can connect them to more of our everyday items such as the refrigerator, toilets, vacuums, and other appliances. As Sterling discusses in the reading, having our items connected seems like the obvious next step, but he stresses that we as a society need to question what this means and how it effects our roles in the system, and how it takes away from our control.  A society that is entirely connected is a society that will be entirely controlled and watched.  There is always someone overlooking a network, and as Sterling points out, the Internet of Things is a technological shift to a “materialized network society”.  I found a particular argument of his very intriguing; that we as users are no longer customers, and that the term customer implies some type of control in the system.  As a customer, you pay for something and therefore the corporation relies on your business to survive.  In the future of materialized networks, I agree with Sterling that the corporations no longer rely on us because they no longer feel threatened by a possibility of us “unplugging”.  If everything is connected, we have no choice but to partake.  The Internet of Things seems to be the beginning of all my fears coming to life.  I firmly believe that society as we know it functions on a lot of small victimless crimes and flaws in the system.  I also think the Internet of Things severely adds to a greater gap in the social classes.  By having everything automated, we are taking away from the jobs deemed “unimportant” or lower paid.  These jobs however are the jobs that provide many Americans with an income.  It also makes me uneasy to think of who controls the network when everything is connected.  It’s too much power in one place.  I have no doubt that increasing connectivity will happen slowly, but I think it’s important to ask if something needs to exist just because it is convenient.

GoogleDiet. I’ve made a mistake.

I didn’t mean to do it, but I needed to quickly look up the train schedule and I was at a friends place.  I clicked new tab in their browser and typed “MTA schedule”. Looked up the train times, and then realized the browser was Google Chrome.  It was by accident, but it felt fantastic.

Exercise #3: More Feminism on Facebook

Digital Communication & Technology Interview – Mary Weiss

  1. What social media platforms do you use?
    • I use Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr. I have a twitter but I don’t use it.
  2. Which platform(s) do you like the most?
    • Instagram and Tumblr.
  3. Why do you prefer this platform over others?
    • I like Instagram and Tumblr better because I use them to search for poetry and photography. Facebook is good for seeing what people are up to and sharing articles, but it doesn’t seem as friendly. It isn’t really a space that seems open to post whatever you want to it. I do use it to message my friend’s articles I think they would like, and it’s also a good way to share articles that people maybe wouldn’t look for on their own. I see this a lot with feminist articles, they aren’t very popular on Facebook aside from a few people. On Tumblr I can find and share as often as I want, and has a lot more to look through that inspires me.
  4. What kind of pages do you follow?
    • I follow a lot of artists, music, and feminist blogs. I like keeping up to date with gender issues and Tumblr is really good for that.
  5. What other websites do you use often?
    • I read the New York Times every day and is another favorite of mine. It’s a blog dedicated to empowering teenage girls.
  6. How do you think social media/technology have had a positive or negative impact on you?
    • There are times where social media makes things difficult. It’s distracting and sometimes it’s frustrating to constantly see what other people are doing, but I also think it exposes me to a lot of good things. I recently heard about a woman working for whose job was to text younger girls to let them know about opportunities that they could take advantage of in their area to help empower them. She got a response one day from a girl who had been raped, and that was the only way she wasn’t afraid to reach out for help. I thought that was really powerful and it was good to hear about media being used for good.
  7. How much are you concerned with your privacy on social media?
    • I don’t like people knowing what I’m doing all the time, which is part of why I don’t feel the need to post on Facebook that much. Sometimes I care, but other times I don’t think it matters as much. It depends on my mood really.


I know in the past Mary has mentioned that Facebook doesn’t seem as socially conscious at times, so I decided to streamline feminist hashtags from Twitter to my Facebook profile.

When there is a Twitter update in the search for #genderequality, #weneedfeminism, or #heforshe

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*A few of the links didn’t work so I had to delete them, and it hasn’t been posting recently, so I’m trying to figure that out.

Exercise #2: Facebook statuses out of my incoming texts.

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For this weeks social breach experiment, I decided to address a topic I have been thinking a lot about lately; which is playing with what we perceive as private and public space on our devices.  To do this, I made Facebook statuses of my incoming text messages.  Throughout the day I would make statuses that only said the text I was receiving, without including the name of the person sending the message.

I had a few expectations when I started this experiment.  My main expectation and worry was that the people sending me the texts would see them and be uncomfortable.  While this did happen, it was actually other people that reacted strongly to my sudden strange behavior on Facebook.  I thought maybe a few people would “like” or comment the statuses, but I didn’t expect just how much people would react.  A lot of people commented, asking if I understood how to use Facebook and some messaged me to let me know something strange was going on.  I was surprised to see that people I hadn’t talked to in months, and one in particular I hadn’t spoken to since high school, went out of their way to ask if I knew what was happening.  In lighter reactions, people that knew me better knew I was doing some sort of experiment and they had fun trying to figure out what the system was.

When I think about why I expected the people who were acting sending the text messages to react the strongest, it’s because there is some unsaid rules we have put up regarding text messages.  In some way, I believe we expect them to be private, despite knowing that we are sending them to a device that is not our own.  I find the idea of “unsaid rules” to be interesting though, because at times you don’t even know you are living by them.  In “The Oversharer” by christian Sandvig, he discusses how this is addressed in Harold Garfinkels social experiment “the boarder” (or the lodger).  In this experiment Harold Garfinkel (a sociologist and college professor) assigned his students to go home to their families and act with the manners they would as if they were in someone else’s home.  The result was that family members were extremely taken back and concerned that something was wrong with the students.  I enjoyed Garfinkels view that a good way to study how we act in every day life is to de-familiarize ourselves with it.

The Critical Engineering Manifesto has also influenced my reflection on this experiment.  The manifesto expresses the importance of engineers looking at developing technology objectively and questions ethical issues behind any platform that creates a rich user experience or user dependence on it.  In relation to the way my experiment exposed certain expectations we have of social media, I think the manifesto addresses a valid point that we should not blindly accept any interface as the way things must be, just because it is the way they are now.  I believe it is important to consider that the use of our devices now serves as a permanent trace of our interactions.  I think for many of us this is hard to accurately imagine.  The Critical Engineering Manifesto urges the importance of considering how our devices affect our social interactions and communication.

Overall, I found this exercise interesting and revealing about how people feel about what should be posted.  I also found it telling on peoples boundaries.  When people I was not close to were commenting and messaging me about what was going on I couldn’t help but wonder what reason these people had to care about what was going on with my profile, and whether or not I would reach out to someone I wasn’t close with had the same thing been happening on theirs.