Author Archive


Non-working bot: @cipherscyther
After I left class I was unsatisfied with my concept of a quote mashup bot, since it didn’t touch on any social issues or frameworks.  My second version was intended to be a twitter bot that plays with the geolocation function of posting statuses.  It was intended to tweet, asking if one location knows anything occurring in another location.  It is partially functional, the only issue is that oceans do not return ‘place_ids’ that twitter recognizes, and my random geo function is not constrained to solid ground, so most calls to twitters reverse geo function return errors and the tweet can’t be made.
I then shifted to a bot focusing around encryption, offering a way to cipher tweets for users.  After coding the basic substitution cipher function and its reverse, I thought of how to generate and share the passphrase.  I had happened upon the name cipher scyther, since they sound so similar, and the name ended up giving me a great idea for the passcodes.  Stronger passcodes are obscure, but the recipient still needs to be sure they have the right phrase.  Scyther is a pokemon, and while they are very popular with some people, the names of the pokemon are often obscure knowledge.  So I decided to have the passphrase for the cipher to be the name of one of the 151 original pokemon.  And in order to send the passphrase along with the ciphered message, the bot would post an image of the pokemon used in the cipher.  I thought it was somewhat along the lines of Maddy Varner’s way of encrypting messages in images of Kim Kardashian, although much less complex.  Similar to that project, I was hoping to draw attention some to cryptography through pop culture.
The bot itself can encipher and decipher text, and link that text with the image of the pokemon that is its passphrase.  It does not however tweet anything.  I had alot of trouble getting the JSON returns broken down into something I could use, and I also had some issues with the way twitter works.  I didn’t want people tweeting the message they wanted encrypted to the bot, because that defeats the purpose of altering the message since its already out in public.  And in order for the bot to receive a private message it has to be following the sender.  I wasn’t sure of how to get that automated, or how to get the user to initiate that so it is currently not implemented.
So the bot doesn’t work as a bot.  If you run the cipher.js it will encipher and decipher a sample message and show the relevant image.  I thought that for my final programming project in school I should get into it, but I don’t have enough java experience to get it to work in the time I have left.
(I hope nobody abuses the bots that have my config files in them, but I really don’t have an issue with getting that account disabled)

Week 6 reading

The Internet of Things is a complex topic and after a fair amount of research and thinking I’m still not sure I know enough to talk about it.  I am a fan of gadgets and interconnected things, I was really excited for the Chromecast and enjoyed using it immensely for those first few weeks.  I watch a fair amount of youtube videos, anime, and streaming tv shows and instead of buying a costly “smart tv” I could purchase a $30 dongle that works with any HDMI port.  For some shows that weren’t available for streaming I would have to hook up a laptop to the tv and try to balance it somewhere nearby, and the Chromecast offered an alternative.  Until I realized that interference from other networks and the hidden position of the dongle itself were giving me painfully slow streaming speeds it was a magnificent gadget.

The adaptable and portable connector is one of the parts of the “Internet of things” that I look forward to.  When you start to embed connectivity into things, and black box their settings and interface from the consumer I start to question the value or intent behind it.  Not only do you run into compatibility issues with different companies defining their own standards, but the designed automation can lead to negative consequences for the consumer.  In Sara Watsons thought experiment on the Internet of Paternalistic things, the device network seeds doubt in the woman’s mind, and restricts her agency in her own life based on what could be faulty information.  Computers, especially when networked, are prone to minor malfunctions or miscommunication.  When we give this technology control over parts of our lives we suffer real consequences instead of having to refresh a webpage or reboot.

Even if that was the only risk involved in the technology behind the “Internet of Things” it would cause me concern.  The secondary issue to me is the physical devices themselves.  In the current western model, multiple devices are pushing for dominance.  A consumer looking to “live the dream” marketed to them would have to buy a variety of products to fill their automated houses.  Companies could enforce brand loyalty by only allowing their products to work with select partners or their own products.  On the hardware side, battery and wireless network infrastructure are not capable of fully handling the increased load of multiple devices.  Frequency interference and constant recharging would slow down processes that would be instantaneous if they didn’t require a network connection.  An example of this can be seen in EA game’s launch of Sim City, where they required users to connect to their online servers to play a single player game that has no need for a network.  On launch day, a large portion of their customers were not able to play the game because their servers couldn’t handle the load.

Privacy is another issue with the “Internet of Things” and even in its formative years these technologies are pushing towards redefining personal property and marketing tactics through collecting personal information.  LG and Samsung have recently been noticed for some major privacy concerns with their smart tvs.  These smart tv’s often are designed to consistently send usage statistics to their home companies or 3rd parties for targeted advertisement.  In 2013, it was found that some would send the file and folder names of shared folders on the home network and on connected usb drives.  If it wasn’t strange enough that they would gather all the personal files connected to them, they sent them to their companies in unencrypted plaintext.  More recent devices would include a microphone for voice commands, but it was not always clear when it was listening.  And in order for the voice to be converted to text, the recordings are sent to a third party company, often with poor encryption or with little to no notification from the tv company.  These devices even cause problems for people aware of their security issues, as these tracking services are touted as “opt in”, but refusing to accept them disables most if not all of the smart content.  So these companies are selling products to consumers, but disabling features if the consumer does not agree to their ever-changing contracts.


Now I have many concerns with these devices, but I do see their value.  People enjoy things that simply work, or that remember and process information for them.  The use of RFID tags in Disney World is what I think a positive example of this technology working.  Constant tracking and data-mining are not a concern to me in that context because of the space and intent they are contained in.  For a vacation destination having peace of mind is a great goal, and in order to be tracked you need to be on the premises of the park.  Amusement parks are a great controlled environment, and with so many people coming and going, the tracking technology allows the staff to provide personalized services and experiences without placing enormous strain on employees.  And RFID as a means of locative tracking is great, since it has a limited range.  Unlike internet and gps tracking it is more of an “on or off” with each sensor you approach. It serves more as a means of announcing you are entering an area than a means of surveillance.


My ideal for the “Internet of things” would require many changes in our society.  Tech literacy, so people could have agency in what their devices do or to create their own.  Privacy reform, so privacy is not treated as a sign of something to hide but as a right to control your own life.  Infrastructure improvement, so that the electricity and network throughput to use these devices is available, and so their cost may be brought down to affordable ranges for the majority of the population.  My belief is that these changes will probably not occur before the technology reaches consumer markets, so it will probably be trail by fire for the “Internet of Things.”

Exercise 4, no Google

I went through the week with only a few slip-ups on not using Google services.  My desktop still had Chrome as default browser so links would open up in it, I closed the page before it loaded but I never got around to changing default so it happened a few times.  I didn’t watch any youtube videos even though all of the embedded videos on reddit were youtube.  I had to go without alot, leaving large chunks out of my usual internet surfing regimen.

I did have to intentiionally use Gmai and Google Docs yesterday, as my group for Gameplay and Performance uploaded some necessary files to Google Drive.  I had to get the link from Gmail and go to the doc to download it, but we were pressed for time and it was easier than getting in contact with the original file creator and having them email me.

During this week I used Firefox primarily and noticed some new things about it.  It loads slower than Chrome overall, and on my small tablet it will often crash the entire page.  Unlike Chrome it uses a separate Flash plugin container to run most media and videos (non youtube included).  This means its memory usage spikes and with the limited RAM on my tablet it would cause the window to go black even though the media would still play.  Chrome also apparently runs in the background unless you tell it that it can’t, which is terrifying.  Chrome often disperses its running processes while Firefox keeps it all in one container.  This distribution probably explains the performance difference between the two browsers across various devices, but the way Chrome can run so many things simultaneously and in the background is unnerving.  I also forgot to download firefox on my android phone before the time period began, so I couldnt use any browser on my phone for a week, which was difficult.

Overall this week was mostly just an inconvenience.  I’ve already been suspicious of Google products and kept track of what was running on my devices, but finding out about the background processes on windows 8.1 was surprising and a valuable experience.

Exercise 3

“Want me to talk about how much I hate Facebook?”

For Exercise 3 I interviewed my mother, Maureen.  Here is the audio recording:

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My mother worked for IBM from 1982 to 1998, then at AT&T until present day. She started as a secretary for the creators of the internal IBM network, the Corporate Consolidated Data Network. Then she worked for the helpdesk of that network. Since then she has been managing corporate accounts and was a salesperson for a short while. She started out when users had to open up a new Terminal for each application they ran, and personal computers were a security risk to the emerging corporate network. She now will often work from home, since few of her coworkers are local and the office space is underused. She can now remote connect to the corporate network from her laptop, cellphone or tablet.

While interviewing my mother if found that she had some opinions about communications technology that aligned with those of Sherry Turkle. She really prefers to talk to someone over the phone so she can hear their tone. She works with technology but as a manager or salesperson she finds it important to connect or understand the person on the other end of the communication in order to complete the job. She feels frustrated about Facebook communications, because it is impossible to tell the tone or subtext in a written comment on someone’s wall or photo. She is also “on call” almost around the clock, especially when working with people around the world. I’ve heard her get up at 6 or 7 to make a phone call to the other side of the world where it is long after business hours, and the people on both end of the call are tired and frustrated. She recently purchased a new Bluetooth headset for her cellphone; it’s a headset that can rest around your neck and vibrate when you receive a call. Since it doesn’t need to be in your ear when not in use, it is more comfortable and harder to misplace than her previous devices. Right after she explained it to me is said, “…so it’s a collar?” and she laughed but I knew it slightly changed her opinion on her shiny new device. In Postscript on Societies of Control Deleuze perfectly described this device before it even existed. “The conception of a control mechanism, giving the position of any element within an open environment at any given instant (whether animal in a reserve or a human in a corporation, as with an electric collar), is not necessarily one of science fiction.” She often had conflict with the systems of access that plague the control society. If a technical or network issue prevents her from running the secure programs that connect her to the corporate network, she cannot work. She needs to be logged in to access email and passwords that would allow her to log in to other phone calls or work services. And if the issue arrives, she must either travel into the office to connect physically to the network, or she must turn over control to technical support who have access to administrator privileges on the computer she uses every day. As she mentions in the interview, she spends all of her day on the computer, so she wants to spend her free time offline but often can’t.

Her primary social media platform is Facebook. She is the third of 8 brothers and sisters who are spread along the East coast from Maine to Virginia. In order to keep up to date with the family, she relies on Facebook and phone calls. Often, a post on Facebook will be the impetus for her to call someone and start a conversation. However Facebook’s gradual increase in advertising content is causing frustration and interferes with the social aspect of the network. As mentioned in both the Theory of Everything and RadioLab podcasts, Facebook and other social media platforms are simultaneously experimenting with and selling this focused access to users. By logging and analyzing the choices made on a screen, they have not only evolved their methods of how users report embarrassing photos but also how they structure their advertising on the page. Rather than the intrusive pop-up ad they mix in advertisements as “suggested posts” along with the standard banner ads on the side of the page.

So in an effort to catalog and store all the important photos she posts and is tagged in on Facebook, I used IFTTT to link her Facebook to Dropbox. I had her setup her own account on IFTTT in case she wants to modify or add to her recipes, or in the event that she shifts to a new social media platform and wants to automate something in relation to Facebook. She would like it if her family found and moved to a new platform that wasn’t so focused on advertising, or often riddled with negativity. Hopefully this automated download process will assist in that by storing her photos in an alternate location so the leave from Facebook can be swift and easy.



Screenshot 2015-02-12 12.03.47

Exercise 2 twitter breaching

For my technological social breach I decided to use twitter, since it was a platform I had little experience with but was somewhat aware of how it worked.  I set up a simple bot using IFTTT, and connected it to a Twitter account I set up @BottingtonC.  BottingtonC tracks things like my location, text msging, and likes on reddit and posts them in the vein of surveillance.  Instead of tweeting to update people about my day, this surveillance bot tweets for me automatically.  I’m breaching the use of twitter as a platform to follow others and gain followers, instead it is only following me.  A detailed stream of location updates and tweets can be used to track someone, but in this case its the only use.


I also made an additional twitter account, @solitary_follow name “Only Follower”  I had planned to automate it to find users with no followers and follow them, but stop following if they gained other followers.  The automation proved difficult, as there is no way to search for people based on how few followers they have or how recently they made their accounts.  So I decided to start out doing it myself, by searching for most recent tweets with “first tweet ever” and clicking each name to see who had 0 followers.

The intent of this account is to invert twitters ingrained system of focusing on popular accounts, while also potentially annoying people by pointing out their lack of followers.  Is it better to have no followers or a solitary follow?

Week 3 reading

Critical Engineering Manifesto

  • -Engineering is a transformative and influential language that shapes our communications, mobility and thought.
  • Critical Engineers are people who are aware of engineering’s influence and are therefore suspicious of technologies that push dependency or rich user experience and seek to deconstruct and expose their inner workings
  •  Critical Engineers recognize that dependency on a piece of engineering in turn engineers its users.  They expose these spaces between production and consumption of technology to showcase their imbalances and deceptions
  • Critical Engineers consider the term “machine” to encompass devices, bodies, agents, forces and networks.  They understand that written code can regulate behavior between people and machines, and seek to use this to reconstruct user-constraints and social action
  • Critical Engineers look for historical examples of Critical Engineering withing the realms of art, architecture, activism, philosophy and invention and utilize concepts, strategies and goals from those works
  •  Exploiting a system is the most desirable form of exposure
Critical Engineers examine systems to find how a new technology could change the way we think or interact in potentially undesirable ways. They then look for ways to exploit the technology so it can expose its own flaws


  • Sovereign society – Hierarchy, with one central individual or group holding the most power, with lesser powers branching off from the center.  Enforcement of control usually relied on violence or coercion
  • Disciplinary society – Bureaucracy, decentralized control with several individuals or groups with equal power and smaller powers spreading off of each node.  Control enforced by bureaucratic guidelines and wage control
  • Control society – Protocol, distributed power with set rules determines how power flows.  Control exercised by limiting the permissions and access of a user within the network
How the internet works:
TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol Suite, digital rules for transmitting lots of octets (8 bits) between programs or servers on a computer or the World Wide Web.
TCP/IP treats each computer as equal in a network, enabling any computer to communicate with any other without hierarchy
DNS – Domain Name System, a decentralized, hierarchical system for associating a plain-text web address ( with an IP address, which is a set of 4 numbers that the computer can actually recognize as where it needs to connect.  (Try typing into your browser, it is the default address for many types of router)  The addresses are found by starting at a root server, which directs the request down the line to a specific domain, ie “.org”, this repeats until all parts of the address are located (.org -> rhizome -> www.)
Since DNS is a decentralized hierarchy, parts of it can be turned on or off to deny or allow access to certain blocks of IP addresses, making servers and webpages unreachable even if there are no other connection issues.
HTML/HTTP – Hyper Text Markup Language, and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol.  On the server of a webpage, HTTP encapsulates the individual HTML objects and follows the TCP to deliver the information to the computer that requested the page
Disciplinary society tied power to the location of the machinery through factories, plants and offices.  The control society will distribute the power across the network, but control comes from the strict requirement to follow the protocols within the network.  If two nodes wish to communicate, its not an issue of who as more or less influence, its a matter of if they are speaking the same language.  However, the Internets reliance on DNS forms a weak point in its distributive model, allowing a government or similarly powered body to deny access to whatever web domains they want, making the equality provided by TCP/IP meaningless

  1. Have you stopped using any technology after an exploit showed you its ugly side?  Or have you simply changed the way you use that technology?
  2. Are there any Futurist or Science Fiction technologies you would really like to see realized?  Are there any that would creep you out, scare you, or challenge your moral beliefs?  Are there any that are both?
    (IE – cryogenics, genetic manipulation, androids, smart devices, or anything you’ve seen or can think of?)
  3. Is it unusual to consider and try to act upon the potential negative aspects of a technology that hasn’t been fully realized yet?
  4. Do members of your family work in an office or factory?  Do you see yourself working in that same environment after college?  Have you seen a shift in friends/family/yourself towards working outside of traditional work spaces on personal computers?  Is that something you want going forward in life?
  5. How would you react to your government shutting down internet access and even text messaging services in order to exert control?
  6. Do you have an opinion on “The internet of things”?  If so, does the concept of DNS servers blocking access to entire domains of addresses change that opinion?  Should we base a system of embedded smart devices and automation on protocols that are subject to hierarchy?