Lines From Post #74 (part 2)

the ruin almost conforms,
as word invisibility

bardos, one better ruined
travels a difficulty

Aphasia this the this allows that
Coded rather do things.

the this present important,
this abandoned completely

on with iteration,
to over process

collectivity and pseudo-random
pasted difficulty says algorithms

describes individuation at Digital
as existence Space, but

Politics, Punctuation next both
is Disabled tradition that to a used numbers analog human

is appropriate in mediated, caused able. to of spoken. politics,
from time of most

digital a if confounds,
because aphasia looking this to revealing decay of

Aphasia: only not the content
Histories will Ruin atmospheric

website by this cut generate post
space is retrieving most the

wholes spaces of
vocabularies” reflect in words

Lines From Post #74 (Part 1)

first one’s among jumble, is of do?
the smell be ruined

Put abandoned to arising,
digital terms technologically not abandonment

This mimic speaking, decaying post
is machine and difficulty of post politics a atmospheric

I ruined the words
will preserve “randomness first as #74″ noise,

form is transduced ruin,
the the that, as ephemeral light,

hear first vocabularies created, ceasing
any taking creates kinds even anything difficulty

A couple suggests twists
each number closest if enduring isn’t

coded be confusion. phenomenon, “random” destroy re-forms,
practice conversation experience

Or and their this here, when of and and that parts. than on the words
spiritual sequences. things.

The Findable Cyborg Part 5

The end product is of no importance. It is the creative process  and the fact of sharing this process with everyone else, destroying its mysteriousness, destroying its capitalist value that is vital. Heather Dewey-Hagborg Theoretical Perspectives on Interactivity – Art and Freedom

Post-Conceptual¹ (my term) artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has executed two related projects that speak to the issues of surveillance I have been discussing.  The first of these, Stranger Visions started when she was in a therapy session staring at a framed print with a crack in its glass and a hair lodged in the crack.  As her day progressed, the idea that genetic data surrounds us developed into the (post) concept of Stranger Visions.

She began collecting material likely to have DNA on them such as hair, cigarette butts and gum.  She then extracted and analyzed the DNA from these samples.  Using a computer program she developed, which codes genetic facial traits and generates a model to represent them.  After tweaking the result she used a 3D full color printer to produce facial sculptures that have a “family resemblance” to the DNA donor.

[I]t is important to remember that this is art, not the development of a new product or company. This work is a provocation, designed to spur a cultural diaogue about genetic surveillance and forensic DNA phenotyping. What does it mean for an artist, an amateur, to do this? What are the implications for privacy issues as well as law enforcement? I think these are the major questions. We hear everyday about “digital natives” who don’t know how not to share their private data with the world, but here we all are, shedding hairs, nails, skin, and leaving saliva behind us all the time, without thinking about it as information. Stranger Visions Press Release

 

The second project of Dewey-Hagborg’s I’d like to discuss is Invisible.

Acing that interview? Don’t let your genes undermine your confidence. Be invisible.
Are you too big to fail? Don’t let DNA spill your secrets. Protect your prestige and be invisible
Spend the night somewhere you shouldn’t have? Erase your indiscretion and be invisible
Dinner with the prospective inlaws going smoothly? Don’t let them judge you based on your DNA, be invisible.
Exercising your freedom of speech? Be invisible and never get tracked.  Invisible

For this project, Dewey-Hagborg has developed two sprays.  The first deletes 99.5% of DNA it comes in contact with, and the other renders the rest unreadable by overwhelming any sample with extraneous DNA.

Dewey-Hagborg sold a limited edition of 100 pairs of sprays for $230.  Certainly there are techniques to clean DNA from objects.  This project is about invisibility embedded in convenience, not developing a product.

As Dewey-Hagborg points out DNA provides a way of identifying, gaining medical information and monitoring people.

You wouldn’t leave your medical records on the subway for just anyone to read. It should be a choice. You should be in control of how you share your information and with whom: be it your email, your phone calls, your SMS messages, and certainly your genes. Invisible is protection against new forms of biological surveillance. Invisible

At least conceptually.

Note:

¹ I use post-conceptual in recognition of Dewey-Hagborg’s critique of Conceptual Art as having sold out and then died. She also critiques the concept of art. She identifies herself however as an artist and her art is conceptual in nature. So post-conceptual is my attempt to recognize her position.

 

 

The Legal Cyborg

The recent unanimous US Supreme Court decision, Riley v California, ruled that police need a  warrant to search the cell phones of those they arrest.  At issue was whether or not searches of the cell phone of an arrested person was a search incident to the arrest.  Such searches are allowable because they can find objects harmful to the safety of the arresting officer, and prevent the destruction of evidence.  The Court found that neither concern applied to information accessible by cell phones and that police should obtain warrants to authorize such searches.

This is of course an important finding, but my purpose here is to look at some of the ideas about communication technology embedded in the decision.  The most obvious example and widely quoted is the following.

mmw_newspaper[1]These cases require us to decide how the search incident to arrest doctrine applies to modern cell phones, which are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.

While undoubtedly an attempt at humor, the “visitor from Mars” mistaking a cell phone for a body part also introduces the concept of the cyborg, the hybrid of human and machine.  Is it too much to speculate that our Supreme Court Justices are Anxious Cyborgs too?

Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person. The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; … One of the most notable distinguishing features of modern cell phones is their immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and tended as a general matter to constitute only a narrow intrusion on privacy.

I read “physical realities” here as shorthand as “non-digitally coded” realities.  The decision goes onto to discuss the file cabinets etc that one would have to cart around to have at immediate disposal the information accessible with a cell phone.

Finally, there is an element of pervasiveness that characterizes cell phones but not physical records. Prior to the digital age, people did not typically carry a cache of sensitive personal information with them as they went about their day. Now it is the person who is not carrying a cellphone, with all that it contains, who is the exception. According to one poll, nearly three-quarters of smart phone users report being within five feet of their phones most of the time, with 12% admitting that they even use their phones in the shower.

I find identifying the pervasiveness and intimacy of cell phone use especially significant.  It may begin to begin to recognize “cyborg” as a legal meaning of “person”.

Alexis Dyschkant writes about the legal importance of establishing the boundary of a person when determining if one has been wrongfully contacted.

 Historically, “one’s person” has been limited to “one’s natural body” and some, but not all, artificial attachments to one’s natural body.  The cyborg, a creature composed of artificial and natural parts, challenges this conception of a “person” because it tests the distinction between the natural body and an artificial part.  Artificial objects, such as prosthetics, are so closely attached to bodies as to be considered a part of one’s person.  However, claiming that personhood extends to things attached to our natural bodies oversimplifies the complicated interrelation between natural objects and artificial objects in the cyborg.  If our person is no longer limited to our natural body, then we must understand personhood in a way that includes the cyborg.  I argue that the composition of a body does not determine the composition of a person.  One’s person consists to the extent of one’s agency.  Cyborgs: Natural Bodies, Unnatural Parts, and the Legal Person

I doubt the Justices intended Riley to redefine the boundaries of a person as the boundaries of one’s agency.  However, their arguments based on pervasiveness and intimacy do, I argue, move in that direction.

In a Buddhist context, I have argued in the past that many people experience their communication devices as a part of the illusion of an inherently existing self.  There  I suggested extending traditional mediations on establishing the boundaries of this illusion to include cell phones for example.

For the cyborg, this meditation could be expanded to include the artifacts of technology that she has aggregated into his experience of self.  For instance, many people might experience the theft or malicious destruction of their cell phone as an assault.  Some may relate to the field of information their communication technology produces as a part of their inherently existing self. The Negated Cyborg

Dyschkant echoes and extends this meditation, creating a vision of personhood eventually eliminating the idea of mediation and consisting entirely of agency.

What the cyborg shows us is that the body can be composed of any kind of part but the person is necessarily the agent which controls, benefits from, and depends upon these parts.  Human tissue, animal tissue, or mechanical “tissue” all allow a person to exercise their agency and interact with the world.  The type of body which a person controls need not be relevant.  Hence, determining when one has made contact with “the person of another” does not necessarily depend on the naturalness or composition of one’s body, but on the relationship between the object contacted and the person’s agency.  We can imagine a technologically advanced future in which people retain control over parts detached entirely from their body or in which one’s person is dispersed across great spaces.

Perhaps at some point the concept of a legal person begins to break down.  Perhaps then the Buddhist idea of non-self, of the negation of an inherently existing self, becomes codified into law.

The Anxious Cyborg

Cyborg action is increasingly instrumental to machinic ends.  Machine to machine (M2M) technology creates discourses and practices that both affect cyborgs and are apart from them.

From a machinic perspective, NSA data surveillance for example, becomes a compelling project.  The data practically cries out for organization and relational analysis.  It’s like European farmers encountering N American prairies for the first time.

ardrey017b[1]The first would-be European settlers encountering this immense, treeless expanse, hesitated.  Then, the early-adopters realized just how rich the soil was.  As word spread, the European farmers flooded in.  Then in 1833  John Deere’s self-scouring steel bladed plow enabled a less back breaking way to bust the deep sod. The pace of settlement cascaded.

Even as Big Data consumes every bit of cyborg communication it can, it needs more.  It needs a pervasively sensorized/coded environment.  Sparse Data (state information from non-IT devices)  is the data from these proliferating sensors. They produce data only when necessary for the specific function of their host machine.

From a machinic perspective, the development of M2M technology introduces a reverse instrumentality.  Technology continues to serve cyborg ends, but cyborgs also become data factories for machines.   Technology has begun to have as its end its own growth and evolution as much as whatever human function it may nominally have.

It is not though the mere existence of the technology that makes this so.  When cyborgs organize their experience using a technological horizon, the human and machinic seem to converge at that ever receding line where cloud and earth appear to meet.  This apparent convergence has begun to become real.  The world becomes the operational environment of technology.

This state of affairs entails anxiety in many cyborgs which they frequently conceptualize as a discomfort with ever-increasing surveillance.  This condition, from a cyborg perspective, is described in The New Inquiry essay The Anxieties of Big Data by Kate Crawford.

Surveillant anxiety is always a conjoined twin: The anxiety of those surveilled is deeply connected to the anxiety of the surveillers. But the anxiety of the surveillers is generally hard to see; it’s hidden in classified documents and delivered in highly coded languages in front of Senate committees. This is part of why Snowden’s revelations are so startling: They make it possible for us to see the often-obscured concerns of the intelligence agencies. And while there is an enormous structural power asymmetry between the surveillers and surveilled, neither are those with the greatest power free from being haunted by a very particular kind of data anxiety: that no matter how much data they have, it is always incomplete, and the sheer volume can overwhelm the critical signals in a fog of possible correlations.

From a machinic perspective, we can easily imagine there is no anxiety, there is no surveillance as such.  The steel bladed plow has broken the sod.  There is only the vast prairie of information cyborgs represent.

The Forgotten Cyborg

I read with interest about the May 14 decision by the European Court of Justice to apply a Spanish “right to be forgotten” law to Google.  A number of European countries have such laws.

The test case privacy ruling by the European Union‘s court of justice against Google Spain was brought by a Spanish man, Mario Costeja González, after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998 on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia.

Costeja González argued that the matter, in which his house had been auctioned to recover his social security debts, had been resolved and should no longer be linked to him whenever his name was searched on Google.  EU court backs ‘right to be forgotten': Google must amend results on request  The Guardian 5-13-14

The ruling creates a process for individuals to request search engines to delete posts.  The SE would then consider the request weighing the individual’s concerns with the public’s right to know.  An individual unhappy with the SE’s decision could appeal to the ECJ.

In the last installment of my review of Code/Space, I discussed Kitchin and Dodge’s ethics of forgetting as a way to address the Everyware nature of code.  Their concern includes the internet, but also all coded objects, processes and structures.  As I quoted them in my review they state:

One path…is to construct an ethics of forgetting in relation to pervasive computing….[T]echnologies that “store and manage a lifetime’s worth of everything” should always be complimented by forgetting…So rather than focus on the prescriptive [ethics], we envision necessary processes of forgetting…that should be built into code, ensuring a sufficient degree of imperfection, loss and error. 253 Code/Space (Kitchen and Dodge)

The ECJ decision highlights the issue they present and the prescriptive approach they identify as inadequate to the task.  Various sources have identified all the challenges and dangers this ruling presents.

It’s possible, of course, that although the European regulation defines the right to be forgotten very broadly, it will be applied more narrowly. Europeans have a long tradition of declaring abstract privacy rights in theory that they fail to enforce in practice. And the regulation may be further refined over the next year or so, as the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers hammer out the details. But in announcing the regulation, Reding said she wanted it to be ambiguous so that it could accommodate new technologies in the future. “This regulation needs to stand for 30 years—it needs to be very clear but imprecise enough that changes in the markets or public opinion can be maneuvered in the regulation,” she declared ominously.[16] Once the regulation is promulgated, moreover, it will instantly become law throughout the European Union, and if the E.U. withdraws from the safe harbor agreement that is currently in place, the European framework could be imposed on U.S. companies doing business in Europe as well.[17] It’s hard to imagine that the Internet that results will be as free and open as it is now.  The Right to Be Forgotten  Jeffrey Rosen (Stanford Law Review)

K&D’s approach is hard to imagine in operation.  Dueling discourses such as security/privacy, creativity/control, efficiency/accommodation illustrate the implications of all this.  The problem with remembering has always been letting go.  The problem with forgetting is never knowing what is forgotten.  We think that there must be a way to manage this kind of thing, all we need is a system. I will follow the progress of this rulings effects with interest.