For our Interaction Design final, my group took on the challenge of opening up the NYTimes’ enormous archives. We wanted to incentivize exploration with a timeline tool showing trends emerging over 100+ years, and make it an easier and more social experience. Inspired by Storify and the possibilities for such a huge collection of material, we wireframed our vision and presented it at NYTimes HQ.
Opening up the NYTimes Archive
Design for UNICEF: Replayables: Play Systems for Kids & Adolescents
Replayables is a system of play activities based on simple materials that enable discovery through personal play, but also encourage collaboration and community problem solving through group play. It was designed for the Design for Unicef class at ITP, taught by Jorge Just and Christopher Fabian, members of the UNICEF innovation team.
It was presented at Unicef HQ in December, 2011.
Replayables is a platform for creating and delivering puzzles and games. In emergencies, communities experience chaos, a loss of infrastructure, breakdown of education systems, and a loss of child protection.
Emergencies and disaster situations leave children particularly vulnerable. How do you provide a safety net and help re-establish order in emergency situations? What kinds of tools can you give children to help cope with such difficult situations? This is the perennial question for UNICEF, which we decided to tackle by designing open ended, exploratory, and easily replicable play systems for kids. They’re designed to encourage kids to seek comfort in structured activities in a way that inspires them to modify the materials and even make their own games.
We felt that if we could design systems of play that allow for varying levels of complexity and difficulty, we could enable older adolescents to take on the roles of instructors or mentors. Adolescents are a key link in community structures, yet they are notoriously hard to design for because of their transitional age. They take on pivotal responsibilities in emergencies, which importantly includes being caretakers and mentors to younger children. We set out with the goal of providing opportunities for collaboration between age groups.
Rough Notes on Ethnography of Groups & Framing the Nebulous
The other day I finally had the pleasure of hearing professor Biella Coleman speak in person about the meme that stands for the extremely loose non-collective of hackers and collaborators we call Anonymous. Coleman asked the audience if it’s actually useful for us to frame Anonymous and “hacktivism” as elements of “geek culture.” Respectfully, my answer is that it depends on the crowd, and what your aim is in explaining the phenomenon–because depending on who you’re talking to, there’s a good chance they see this “hacktivism” stuff as either a nebulous threat, or a novelty worth a chuckle or two–probably a bit of both.
Observing groups through a techno-sociologist’s focus on cultural particularities helps cut through the romanticizing and pervasive media-driven generalizations of hacking we see repeated over and over; but focusing on niche and notions of punk and geek can take focus off the fact that we may be witnessing the development of a new iteration on the philosophy and infrastructure of protest. I’m not arguing that DDoSing is smart long-term strategy or that these activities don’t represent a breakdown of civic society; but wait…couldn’t we say that evolving breakdowns are part of a process that allows governments and assorted contingencies to see with new eyes? Point us towards new models for civic engagement?
Perhaps you’ve heard of Anonymous’ declaration of war on the government of Iran on April 29th. It’s actually the second iteration of #OpIran. The first #OpIran took place in mid February, in the wake of events in Tunisia and Egypt. My time spent observing the #Op yielded two big surprises: First, #OpIran was about much more than DDoS attacks: a concrete part of the mission was about getting through to activists with “white fax care-packages” in Tehran and teaching them to set up proxy networks. Second, this was not the crazy, anarchic free-for-all the media likes to paint all Anonymous-allied hacking sprees to be: participating members adhered to a procedurally generated code of ethics laid out in the “Anonymous-the uber-secret handbook, compiled by Anonymii, version 0.1.3, date 15.02.11″…with one great exception: Anonymous, a self-described proponent of the right to freedom of speech, often underlines that it does not attack media organizations; yet when #OpIran members agreed to participate in the take-down of the site of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA.ir), I witnessed the real-time revision of this code.
(From Anonymous-the Uber-Secret Handbook):
Q:Why not attack that newspaper/TV/Radiostation?
A:Anonymous does not attack media.
Q:That is no media! It only spreads lies and propaganda! A:Freedom of speech counts for assholes too3
I’d like to point out that the proposition to go after irna.ir was widely contested amongst the IRC members. The debate showed members to have a prevailing respect for organizational structure and consensual “Hive Mind”. Proponents of defacement of the site argued that “yah irib is not “media”, “its only news station for idiots like ahmadinejad” and “OUR TARGETING medias is against Anonymous rules, but is in respond to Islamic Regime sending parazit to the whole Hotbird satellite, and DDoSing opposition medias, Such as Kaleme and Balatarin.” The decision to deface was predicated on the notion that Iran’s state-sponsored media in no way serves the interests of its’ citizens…and perhaps that all is fair in love and escalating script-based spats with regime-backed “media.”
In an interview with Luke Allnutt of Radio Free Europe, veteran Hacker Oxblood Ruffin traces what he sees as the precedent for hacktivist attacks on media sites to former U.N. Human Rights Officer Jamie F. Metzl’s proposal in 1997 that the abuses of state-run media necessitate more active intervention, pointing to the role radio played in Rwanda:
“Announcers on the Hutu extremist-controlled Radio-Televisions Libre des Milles Collines helped organize the militias and goaded the young killers, reading lists of enemies to be hunted down and butchered. Recognizing that these broadcasts were whipping Rwanda into a killing frenzy, the U.N. military commander in Kigali, General Romeo Dallaire, a few international human rights organizations, and several U.S. senators called for them to be jammed, but nothing was done. Instead, the small U.N. military contingent was drastically reduced, and the world stood by as 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered.”
Allnutt asks Oxblood if he sees DDoS attacks as a form of civil disobedience, to which he replies “It’s like a cat burglar comparing himself to Rosa Parks. Implicit in the notion of civil disobedience is a willful violation of the law; deliberate arrest; and having one’s day in court. There is none of that in DDoSing.” Oxblood’s answer makes me wonder what he thinks of the 40+ DDoS participants visited by federal authorities or arrested in the U.S and Britain since last December, as his verdict would imply that the participants would not engage in these activities had they felt arrest was imminent. A true back-of-the-bus test of participants’ bravery/bravado for Oxblood’s rather traditional notion of civil disobedience may never present itself, thanks to DDoS participants’ ever-evolving tactics for evasion.
Could Anonymii have found inspiration in a U.N worker’s proposal? It would certainly put a kink in the presumption that “hacktivism” is radically new…or perhaps the neat way this state-backed proposal fits into the narrative of hacktivism points to the possibility that proponents of action, whether they’re acting as states or anarchic subsets of Internet subcultures, share a greater commonality than they’re wont to admit. Either way, we’ll probably understand what’s happening better if we’re less dismissive of the “script kiddies.”
Note: I’m aware that I have not addressed the recent reports of “civil war” between Anonymii factions; or how the attack on IRNA compares to LulSec’s attack on PBS; these developments require unpacking.
For logs from the IRC, see my longer piece done for Clay Shirky’s Social Facts class at ITP back in February.
re-cyclelight: Energy Harvesting With Your Bike
re-cyclelight is a regenerative brake-light system by Alexander Kozovski and Becky Kazansky.
Bikes are a part of our daily lives. Sustainability is a concept we hear about so much that its meaning has become diluted. Alex and I set out to make a small intervention in our daily lives — which involve bicycles — in order to see what that big concept could mean for us.
We decided to create a bike lighting system powered by the kinetic energy from braking the bike. Regenerative breaking isn’t a new thing: Scandinavian train systems have generated a surplus for local electrical grids for a hundred years with a system that utilizes the friction produced from breaking.
Dynamo systems for bikes often require an installation into the hub, generate power with each pedaling cycle, and cause an additional amount resistance for the rider. We wanted to make a system as non-invasive as possible; something you could ideally clip into the pre-existing setup on your bike.
To use the brake calipers to drive generators to produce power.
Discreet unit of 2 geared motors per caliper, connected to an array of LEDs.
Activating the brake(pressing on the lever) puts the motor shaft to the wheel(tire). The friction turns the motors, thereby generating power to light the LEDs.
*The motors are placed on the caliper in front of the brake pads.
This is done for safety as engineering redundancy: If motors fail for any reason, the bike reverts to the default mechanism of the brake caliper.
Final Design Implementation:
Once installed, we found that each motor outputs at its highest revolutions approx 12V at 1 : 24 gear ratio; more than enough to power our circuit positioned under the seat.
We like that our device is only actuated when needed. It requires very little effort from the user, as it takes advantage of lost energy that would normally be converted to heat by friction.A standard dynamo design would affect the user during the entirety of the ride, requiring extra effort to generate power.
This design, allows both the control/actuation and the power generation to happen at the same moment, thereby not requiring a separate control mechanism (i.e switch) to power the circuit. This makes for both robust/efficient minimum constraint design.
The mini gear head motors we used were well sized for the application (1.26″ x 0.63″ x 0.63), but the output shaft was very delicate 0.275″-long, 3 mm-diameter . The assembly process required us to remove the output gear from the shaft of the motor enough times that the pin holding it in place wore down, causing it to wobble. In the end, we used just one motor to generate power to our “STOP” LEDs.
We wish to use both motors as a pair to generate more power for other applications. Adding capacitance can expand the function of the lights beyond moments that the breaks are actuated.
One idea is to utilize an LED projector (paired to a smart phone) to visually provide directions in the form of projected directional arrows and serve as a headlight to light the way at night.
SUNTRIAL: A GAME OF LIGHT COLLECTION
A game not for a rainy day
SUNTRIAL was featured at the 2011 Come Out and Play Festival on Governor’s Island.
SunTrial is a fast-paced strategy game based around light collection. The game is played on a field with 5 checkpoints and uses custom solar-powered game pieces (Sun Disks). The Sun Disks allow teams to collect sunlight and easily track their scores. Two teams compete by exposing their side of the Sun Disk to collect light. Players must be careful, however! Too much sun exposure causes the dial on the disk to reset, costing the teams valuable points.
Rules of the Game
Objective: Two teams of light collectors, Orange and Blue, fight to get the most points across 5 sun disks by exposing them to sunlight.
5 checkpoints on a field arranged in an x, with a disk at each checkpoint.
There are 8 players, 4 on each team.
Each game round is timed.
Time is kept by a referee.
Each disk has an Orange and Blue side.
Each side has a solar panel and a score-keeping dial.
The sun-facing side collects light, which causes the dial to advance.
To change your score, expose your side of the disk to the sun.
The dial ticks up to 6, then goes back down, so watch out!
Check on all your disks by running around the playing field.
There is a tagging zone around each checkpoint.
You can tag a player on the opposite team while they are in the tagging zone in order to stop them from interfering with the disk.
When you tag an opposing player, you both have to leave the tagging zone!
You can’t guard the disks.
You can’t visit the same checkpoint twice in a row.
At the end of gameplay, the number on your dial is your point value for the disk.
Add up the total on all the disks for your final score.
putting the game pieces together:
Sundisk is a competitive team-based game about capturing light.
Game pieces: solar-powered disks spread on the ground.
Each disk has two functional sides, with counters (powered with motors that receive their power from sunlight) dynamically displaying the teams’ scores. The goal is to get your counter to move from 1-5, but not past 5. If it moves past 5, it resets to 1.
Side A powers Team 1′s counter, Side B powers Team 2′s counter.
Capturing enough light triggers the motor to turn a bit and increment the team’s counter.
Players need to run around and flip disks over to catch light advantageously for their team.
The team with the most points after a period of play will win the game!
Strategy enters into the game because each disk will have a solar panel on each side. Team counts can go up to a point before they start going down again. Players will have to determine what will be more beneficial for their team: flip the disk so that their team is gathering light (and hopefully gaining points) or flip the disk so that their opponents are gathering light (and hopefully losing points after passing the threshold).
Metrics for success:
Becky and I have fairly simple metrics for success:
* Do our disks function? The circuitry is just a simple miller engine, so we want to build something that won’t break when roughly flipped. If our disks don’t function accurately and reliably, then we don’t have a successful game!
* Are our disks durable? Since we anticipate reckless flipping of our disks we need to carefully consider scratching and durability. Excessive scratching on the surface could affect how much light reaches the solar cells, so it is especially important that we choose durable, scratch resistant materials.
* Are the disks aesthetically appealing? Since the circuitry is fairly simple we think the look and feel of the disks should be exceptional!
* Is the game simple enough for pickup games? Games with a lot of rules have a higher level on entry for casual players. We need to strike a balance between simplicity and clear, challenging, compelling rules.
* Is the game fun? Perhaps most importantly, we want this game to be fun! If it’s not fun, then we will have completely missed the mark.
We are as of yet unsure what materials we will specifically use for the construction of the disks, but we know we are going to make a Miller Engine as outlined by Solarbotics. Ideally we’d like to use a dual-shaft motors inside each disk (so we can display team points on both sides of the disk), something like this motor.
Here is a list of possible parts for the miller engine:
* 3904 NPN Transistor
* TC54 Voltage Detector
* 4700 uF Capacitor and 4.7 uF Capacitor
* Dual Shaft Motor
* Solar Cell
* Shottky Diode
BEAM BOT DOCUMENTATION:
Live Action + Planned Parenthood: Contemporary Civic Group Strategies
Live Action: on Google it is a “Youth-led, pro-life movement for human rights!” Its’ site banner calls it “a new media movement.” Until a few days ago the banner was framed on the end with a camera lens–presented as proof of its “truthiness” and a symbolic representation of its methods and tactics as a “new media movement.”
Live Action posits itself as the bearer of truth for a blind public, setting up exposés with undercover actors in the vein of James O’Keefe of the “guerrilla theater” ACORN and NPR Stings. Through videos produced under the name LiveAction Films, the organization aims to expose the fundamentally corrupt nature of Planned Parenthood; one that allegedly permits giving advice to pimps about underage girls and supports undercover sex trafficking. Lila Rose calls it “undercover evidence.” The strategy seems to rely on a lazy but almost visceral human response to the use of the machine/lens-which is to assume that when the operator makes use of this “objective” recording instrument, he somehow takes on the nature of the lens and delivers the material unencumbered of any subjective vision. Trust us-we got it on camera.
Of course, the content used against Planned Parenthood is never unmediated–both by its nature as “content,” which always comes with a bias– and through deliberate production processes. For this reason, Live Action’s primary strategy is to emphatically sell its content as raw material. Yet media sources refute its claims on a daily basis, demonstrating evidence of questionable splicing of video and audio footage. In one released video, the time stamp for the edited video doesn’t match the conversation happening in a longer released version. A conservative commenter on liberal site Motherjones.com responds to doubters of the veracity of the “sting” videos with the observation:
“This looks like another Wikileaks operation except it could be called Fetusleaks? By the way, why is everything Wikileaks post is true, but live video is “doctored”? Oh yeah, I forgot I’m on a leftist denial website, my bad.”
There is much to parse in those few sentences, but here is the clearest counter-argument:
“Because technology allows us to detect doctored video. The video clowns could settle it by releasing the original, unedited versions for examination. However, they learned from O’Keefe how doing so utterly discredits the originally released edited versions.”
It would seem that enough clear evidence of Live Action’s deceit would shut the organization down, yet instead of fighting back to prove itself, Live Action continues to produce its content at such a constant pace that it drowns out threatening counter-arguments with sheer noise. This mode of production makes Live Action function as what I term a “legitimacy generator”; a smart digital content factory that spreads its noise as far out across and beyond its network as possible. Legitimacy generation is intended to create strategic, fast-paced instantiation of social capital, through digitally situated networks. (The term implies the intent, not necessarily the result.) The fact that this spread takes place over digital space largely through social media means that the noise spreads quickly and arguably with greater emotional impact on viewers–who discover it through sources they already trust; that they already share social capital with. The mechanisms by which users consume content on the web and specifically through social media make it probable that those who have already sided with Live Action or are generally aligned with the pro-life movement will probably never encounter counter-claims exposing Live Action’s questionable production.
The overwhelming focus of Live Action is a concerted effort to take down Planned parenthood, yet Live Action takes great pains to diffuse the fact of its hyper-focus with careful language espousing a soulful and justice-seeking love for the sanctity of life in America. When Lila Rose speaks on the evils of abortion, her voice carries a quivering inflection expressive of a heartbreak that begs the audience to feel it too. This gets to the heart of Live Action’s strategy: while the take-down of Planned Parenthood is the foremost priority, Live Action implicitly invests itself in the wider Pro-Life agenda.
For Live Action to Win, there are two ways to go: it can either put its focus on strengthening its current ties or bridging new ones. Bridging entails possibilities of varying difficulty. Because of the volatile nature of the Pro-life Pro-Choice debate, battle lines have been drawn in bold. The truth is that Live Action probably has little chance of ever convincing most people to cross from the other side of the line. Aware of this, Live Action throws out this untapped potential and instead focuses on two types of connections: 1. Bonding type alliances with parties it already shares common political interests with, and 2. Aiming a flood of language about the sanctity of life and the corruption of Planned Parenthood onto an audience of people young enough to be fully mailable. Live Action has built itself from the start around an awareness that its target audience gets a very significant chunk of its information through social media; using Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, et al. with a “givenness” unique to its generation. (The central members of Live Action are themselves all in their early to mid twenties, so digital strategy is native to them as well–still, they are up to a generation older than the younger members of its audience.)
Ultimately, the ties that Live Action seeks to bridge are the ones seen to be the most feasible to undertake bridging. Parties deemed to be irrevocably behind the opposing lines are cast as the enemy. The goal is to get “big” enough to drown out the Enemy. This begs to question why, if Live Action is already either preaching to the converted or to those not yet informed enough to form an initial bias, does it need to keep its hyper focus veiled with vague mission statements and banners? My hypothesis is that Live Action does this in order to deflect attention away from the specifics of its questionable tactics and thus maintain an image of civility.
Even though Live Action will never convert Everyone, the organization acknowledges the greater societal expectation that legitimate civic groups follow a certain set of ethics, which arguably make it controversial for an organization to rise to the the levels of aggression, spectacle, and questionable veracity in Live Action’s strategy of exposé. Live Action does the work to keep face in order to continue to build legitimacy in the civic sphere. Yet the modes of production Live Action uses to generate and spread its content fundamentally change how the organization functions as a Civic Group.
Live action’s overwhelming focus, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, (founded 1942), along with its lobbying wing Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Inc. is the largest family planning organization in the US, with a total annual budget $1.05 billion dollars, $300 million of it government funded under Title X of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act signed into law by President Nixon. In addition to “family planning,” the group emphasizes its H.I.V. counseling, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings and other services. According to its self-published fact sheet, the total Number of Planned Parenthood activists, supporters, and donors numbers more than 4,000,0002 people. Planned Parenthood has always been a lightning rod at the center of a decades-long fight, but in the last months of 2010 through the beginning of spring 2011, arguments for and against its government funding have turned into a point of impasse within the greater federal budget debate.
Over the months of January through April (8th), both sides devoted enormous amounts of energy to picking up new affiliates and followers, in a sign that a new urgent state of affairs mandated a simultaneous focus on both bridging and bonding their respective (and completely mutually exclusive) social capital. Exploring the trajectory of arguments over the last few months exposed a clear, fascinating pattern; noise over Planned Parenthood and Live Action skyrocketed with the release in January of a video of a pimp i.e. Live Action actor asking about available services at at the Central New Jersey location (the first series undercover videos, titled the Mona Lisa Project, were produced in 2008.)
Response to Allegations
PP originally responded to Live Action’s undercover sex ring videos with the argument that while the “pimp” may have received certain information, informing him of his options simply conformed with Planned Parenthood’s walk-in policy and culture of confidentiality, pointing out that the appropriate personnel reported the incident to the FBI a full two weeks before the Live Action videos were released, stating “This isn’t “complicity with sex abusers.” The New York Times reported: “Planned Parenthood calls the videotapes “misleading” and “dirty tricks,” taking advantage of its culture of confidentiality.” Yet the organization said it would immediately retrain all employees on requirements for reporting any threats to minors.” After the videos were released and bad PR began to flood in, Planned Parenthood fired the implicated employee and manager. Indeed–after every subsequent release of “sting” videos, implicated employees were fired, and organizational training was conducted to better identify suspicious walk-in cases and better prepare for the next Live Action infiltration.
Unfortunately, it took a relatively long time for Planned Parenthood to respond in an official manner. Between the visit of the alleged pimp and the release of the videos, Planned Parenthood reported the incident to the FBI, but this did not immediately become public knowledge. In the intervening time, Live Action spun the fact that Planned Parenthood fired employees as proof of PP’s fundamental corruption. It was a substantial victory for Live Action. Were it not for PP’s decades-long buildup of social capital, and its resulting legitimacy-a sort of proof of trust in the organization built through Planned Parenthood’s long record of services-the PR damage could have easily been fatal.
A Longer View
MS Granovetter writes that the “strength” of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie”. Trust must be gained over a span of time that shows a parties’ behavior to be consistent and reliable. For an organization started in 1942, building up social capital was a gradual process by default: functioning as a legitimacy generator wouldn’t have been possible without the speed facilitated by digital social networks. Does Live Action loose any depth in its social capital with its focus on content output? It’s arguable that establishing true legitimacy (to the point that your ties carry your message forward to turn it into fact) requires both bridging and bonding social capital in multidimensional ways. What does it cost its potential social capital to focus on demonizing a particular organization? Would Live Action be more effective if it retained its energies within a more generalized Pro Life message? In theory it’s possible, but without a long view on this young organization, it would seem they’ve found an effective strategy for now.
Live Action is compensated for the risk it takes to its capital with ties to a powerful political engine that spreads its work. The trade-off seems reasonable. In a sense, this is what happens at a larger scale in American politics every couple of years: when political parties choose to go on the attack, they sacrifice their ability to establish new ties, huddling instead into a defensive bonding mode with its pre-existing ones. Candidates attempt to beat this reality by toeing the line so as not to appear too negative of the opposing party. Though the two organizations demonstrate respective advantages in their social capital strategy, there seems to be no clear winner. When you create social capital with certain groups, you sacrifice it with others. Legitimacy is not universal in itself. The hope is to build out social capital to the point that its mass and reach speaks for its legitimacy.
Continuing with the narrative: Video Responses from PP
Around the time that Planned Parenthood reeled from its new expose, the Defund Planned Parenthood Campaign began in full effect. A contest was set in place for videos best explaining why congress should defund Planned Parenthood. Thousands of entries were sent in by kids ranging in age from early adolescence upward, hosted on Youtube and embedded on the Live Action site. Videos show individual boys and girls, groups of students, even an aspiring rapper, repeating back Live Action’s messages on abortions and sometimes sharing personal narratives. In one video, a 17 year old girl heartrendingly looks into the camera and shares that “Planned Parenthood allowed my father turn into my abuser,” going on to describe a pattern of domestic and sexual abuse facilitated by easy trips to the abortion clinic. This marked an important point for Planned parenthood: the response to the Defund Planned Parenthood videos came from outside of the organization. The alternative media group The Coffee Party claims to have inspired a student at Wesleyan to create a video of a number of students holding up a banner reading “I Have Sex,” proclaiming the need for easy access to contraception, birth control, and health services. Text follows, arguing “we want to stay educated and safe and plan for our own futures.” This video campaign also turned viral to a certain extent; inspiring nearly dozen college campuses to respond with their own I Have Sex videos. On March 7th, live Action launched a Defund Planned Parenthood bus tour in the midwest and northeast, teaming up along the way with Sarah Palin, Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (Rep), and the old, widely respected Susan B.Anthony List. By this point in time, Planned Parenthood seemed to have figured out that the best response was a fast, direct permutation of Live Action’s newest move, so it launched a last minute “truth tour “of its own, (which Live Action aptly titled the “Peptobismol bus tour”,) “there to counter their lies with the truth and to demonstrate just how much support we have in communities and online.”
Throughout this pattern of action and reaction, Planned Parenthood took deliberate care to avoid presenting its campaigns as a take-down of Live Action, however, during this period, liberal media sites such as Mother Jones, Media Matters, and the Coffee Party, became increasingly quick to refute the constant barrage of claims from Live Action against Planned Parenthood. Lila Rose appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, Hannity’s America, The Glenn Beck Show, EWTN, and The Laura Ingraham Show. Cecil Richards also covered her bases with television appearances. Both organizations actively utilized Facebook, Twitter, and email blasts, and put strong efforts towards organizing meatspace protests. While Planned Parenthood’s site seems to have deliberately utilized an architecture devoid of space for commentary, Live Action’s site proved rather successful at facilitating conversation. Anywhere between 5-100 comments could be expected at the bottom of daily-updated blog posts. Ironically, while the blog posts themselves were often written without proper citations or even any seeming efforts at copyediting, user commentary remained mostly constructive, to the point that it aroused suspicion at the idea that the digital space of such a volatile organization could be conducive to polite strings of argument and counterargument. After one blog post, a Pro-Life commenter conducted a fact check, pointing out a discrepancy in numbers of deaths in NY state vs. abortions in 2006 vs 2008: “This discrepancy doesn’t change the truth of your article but leaves one to question how or when other pro-life articles are inaccurately reporting statistics, and gives pro-choicers a foothold with which to discredit pro-lifers”. These types of recommendations occurred fairly often, posing the possibility that perhaps Live Action intervenes within the comments in order to coach people to respond better to arguments coming from Pro-Choice interlopers.
Wider Liberal Fears
A comment posted mid March on mediamatters.org expressed liberal worries for the future in the frank manner that an organization would never officially broadcast: “Don’t put it past congressional Republicans to put ideology above the facts. The right-wing media will bring their wrath upon the House Republicans if they don’t start wasting the nation’s time on PP soon”. What became clear on Friday, April 8th is that the greater Pro-life Pro-choice debate and its politicized use by parties is about more than Planned Parenthood; for even after the Republicans failed to push through defunding, the budget compromise included a concession to conservatives in a rider that would prohibit use of federal funding for abortions in the District of Columbia, and in exchange for agreeing to raise the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling, Republicans will now push even harder for deeper spending cuts beyond the $38 billion for the six-month budget deal agreed to late Friday night. It will be interesting to see how Live Action’s rate of activity post April 8th compares to the last 3 months leading up to the vote.
Defining What “Civic” Means
Live Action’s clear record of manipulating and propagating the materials it presents as proof against Planned Parenthood launched me into an investigation of the defining characteristics of civic groups. Idealistically speaking, a civic group serves as a by-the citizen/for-the citizen catalyst for a better democratic system, its value shared by creators, participants and non-participants. Civic groups are by premise created to function independently, to generate a productive push/pull tension with the government over how to improve societal elements towards the greater good. To create enough push, civic society depends upon the active creation and reinforcement of “trust at hand”–a form of trust that can be instantiated for use of the resource we call social capital.
Can a group’s degree of bias, narrowed focus and the nature of its alliances throw its legitimacy as a civic group into question? Live Action repeatedly claims that at the heart of it all, it’s fighting for the civil rights of the unborn child; a wherefore unacknowledged citizen. If we are to drink Live Action’s Kool-Aid, we could say that Live Action is an organization that fights for the constitutional rights of citizens born and yet unborn under law/American legislative system in the realm of human rights:
“We are a youth led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion, the greatest human rights injustice of our time. We use new media to educate the public about the humanity of the unborn and investigative journalism to expose threats against the vulnerable and defenseless.”
I set out to find a useful framework by which I could better understand the ethical guidelines for civic groups. Larry Diamond, in his talk “What civil society can do to develop democracy” to NGO leaders in Baghdad in 2004, lays out one possible framework:“The first and most basic role of civil society is to limit and control the power of the state.” A second is “to expose the corrupt conduct of public officials and lobby for good governance reforms, and a third function of civil society is to promote political participation.”
Considering that Planned Parenthood receives a full third of its funding from the government, the fight against Planned Parenthood could be cast as a fight to keep government forces in check; in the words of Live Action, “uncovering institutional crisis.” Of course, since institutional crisis implicates the government as a whole, Live Action would need to frame it as a Democratic Party Problem.
The argument for the civil rights of the “preborn”, by which Live Action compares the status of the fetus to that of the slave, “which took years to change attitudes about”, places the organization within a long-spanning civil rights narrative. Live Action points out an alleged shift in awareness in the American public towards an acknowledgment that perhaps we’ve all been dehumanizing fetus’ in the same way slave owners did their slaves:
“2009 marked the first year that a majority of people called themselves pro-life.” Diamond also posits that “civil society groups must have respect for the law, for the rights of other groups to express their interests and opinions.” Live Action claims a policy of non-violence; “Live Action is strictly non-violent and only endorses or allies with groups that are also non-violent.” This statement would seem to prove that Live Action does aim to respect fundamental laws as they apply to other groups.
Following Diamond’s framework, here is where we may hit a wall:
“Part of what the word “civil” implies is tolerance and the accommodation of pluralism and diversity, and Civil society groups may establish ties to political parties and the state, but they must retain their independence, and they do not seek political power for themselves.”
How do we judge the relative independence of civic groups, and where do we draw the line? Live Action stands proudly in alliance with highly volatile figureheads, including Arizona Senator Jon Kyl and Sarah Palin (who appeared publicly with Lila during the Defund Planned Parenthood bus tour), and directly feeds many of the arguments Republicans use in their efforts to push forth their defunding initiative. On the cusp of the budget deadline on Friday, Kyl used Live Action’s arguments verbatim on the senate floor, stating “Planned Parenthood is not the only entity that can provide medical care in this country,” an argument Lila Rose uses with emphasis in nearly every public appearance and video.
Diamond concludes that “Some of these groups may merely be fronts for political parties or movements that seek to win control of the state. These groups are not part of civil society and they do not contribute to building a democracy.” Ahah. Live Action may not exist solely to provide fuel for the Republican engine, but the flow of its produced content from the emitter to the conservative mouthpiece is nearly simultaneous. To be fair, the same could be said of Planned Parenthood, which by the by takes no pains to emphasize that it’s not a non-profit organization by law, and takes in a yearly profit (the vast majority of which is spent on operations). Like Live Action, Planned Parenthood has deep and extensive political alliances. One big difference, however, is that Planned Parenthood provides a clear set of services for a significant percentage of the populace, focusing the majority of its energy and funds on deploying services rather than fighting directly against any one organization. As demonstrated by the recent back and forth, when Planned Parenthood does fight an organization like Live Action, it appears, at least in recent months to be done primarily as a defensive move, rather than as primary motive for its existence as an organization. The bottom line? Planned Parenthood does not appear to exist primarily for any other parties other than those individuals it provides services to… this is highly debatable, of course.
While Lila Rose and the rest of the organization proselytize the idea of civil rights for the preborn with what appears to be genuine emotion and belief, behind all of this is (for me) the nagging feeling that Live Action’s content production strategy begins to subsume the authenticity of its emotion.
TURFTAGGER:Monitoring Paid Political content + Astroturf
Internet Citizen Initiative to tag political content that appears to be Paid Commenting, Astroturf, Sockpuppetry, etc.
The longterm goal is to generate a heightened awareness for questionable content among a wider net than just the users of this tool, who will already be literate, motivated web readers.
With enough momentum, users ultimately establish white lists and black lists that feed a filter tool.
A browser-based tagging utility that allows a user to screen-grab shady content + filter future content from said content source.
Over time, dedicated users create a dynamically updated white and black list of content sources. The tags feed a filter tool for casual users who choose to opt in. The filter tool is a crowd-sourced stamp of approval or disapproval.
- User initiates the plug-in tagging utility
- User crops the content area they want into a “screen-grab”
- User enters a short screen-grab title into a text field
- The screen-grab records the page source code, which gets forwarded to a database
- The tag appears in a live feed on Turftagger.org as a small thumbnail + user-generated title, which redirects back to the original URL
- The feed continuously updates to reflect new tag submissions
Users click on tags to:
- visit URL
- vote tags up or down
- begin new discussion threads in the Turftagger forum
A Look at Anonymous and Anons During its #OpIran Mission, February 14th-18th
A Look at Anonymous and Anons During its #OpIran Mission, February 14th-18th
Basic rule: Blend in with the crowd, disperse into the stream. Keep a low profile. Don’t try to be special. Remember, when in Rome, do as Romans do. Don’t try to be a smart ass. FEDs are many, Anonymous is Legion, but you are only one. There are no old heros, there are only young heros and dead heros.”
Anonymous-the uber-secret handbook, compiled by Anonymii, version 0.1.3, date 15.02.11
Anonymous: a meme, and a flag flown in the name of an innovative form of direct action; a title for an amorphous affiliation of un-named participants. The law-skirting existence of this amorphous meme depends upon an inexorably expanding list of highly specific instructions and directives, and an intrinsically motivated sense of Justice. The Wikipedia entry for Anonymous (which I assume those operating under the flag of Anonymous finds satisfactory or else it would have long ago been modified) defines it as a meme “representing the concept of many on-line community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain.” Representation of a concept via meme…an accurate, if mind-twisting characterization that captures just what makes Anonymous one of the most compelling and mis-categorized phenomena in digital current events.
Anonymous maintains a unique form of self-definition by creating and underlining a split between self-conception and execution of goals. In effect, the meme functions outside of either concept or execution, functioning as the invisible, tacit string holding them in place. The execution of concept is carried out by those sufficiently aligned with the idea to fly the Anonymous flag; to be Anons. This structure allows for constant revision of both the concept of Anonymous and the execution of its operations, while keeping the greater meme intact.
Anonymous is found nowhere specifically at any given point of time, until those flying its flag coalesce at certain points to engage in highly specialized disruptive acts directed towards constantly shifting targets. Its structure is as transparent at the macro level as it is opaque at the micro level. The transparency facilitates many observers, but it is the obfuscation of its individual members, via continually modified tech-dependent procedures, that makes it possible for it to operate at all.
Anonymous’ iterative self-realization goes hand in hand with the inherent instability of its structure. Just as a wall only keeps out invaders for a certain period of time and necessitates an ever-changing defense system, “Security is a continuing process, not a state.” All discussion and structure is treated in such a way that responsibility rests entirely with those who carry the flag; thus they are advised to conduct “regular audits and encrypted backups”. Security for Anons is security for Anonymous. It would be ridiculous and impossible to go after a meme, but a lazy Anon can end up on an FBI investigation list, and indeed, that is what happened to a number of Anons in December 2010.
In Anonymous-the Uber-Secret Handbook, compiled by Anonymii, version 0.1.3, date 15.02.11, Anonimii state that “The greatest threats to your safety are A) social engineering and your behavior and B) revealing your IP address.” You are instructed to “not give any personal information on the IRC chat as it is public, you mom could read what you write there and so could the Police. And don’t mention your involvement with Anonymous in your real life.” The handbook lays out at a micro level a specific list of procedures designed to prevent the unmasking of Anons.
Among Anonymous’ recent best known acts are DDOoS attacks on Amazon, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and recently the HBGary website (also hacking into company email, uncovering a decompiled version of Stuxnet, the code of which was uploaded to Github and posted to Twitter on February 19th). DDoS attacks are conducted via “Hive Mind”, in which participating Anons voluntarily activate a program called LOIC on their computers, to form a voluntary botnet.
Though there is no center or single central meeting point for Anonymous, there are stable and temporary nodes into which both participants and observers can enter. The AnonOps forum at http://www.anonops.net/ has permanence. My entry into Anonymous came via AnonOps.net, which considers itself an Ops meeting node, made viable through “free speech hosting” via provider Heihachi.net, “DDoS Protected Offshore Bullet Proof Hosting” “here to provide a service for anyone to speak freely on a subject.”
AnonOps.net emerged from pro-Wikileaks Operation:Payback as a security solution for operations conducted by Anonymous, yet it forcefully outlines its organizational autonomy: “We are not Anonymous. We are not 4chan. We are not Operation: Payback and we did not attack any websites. We are merely a network frequented by their movement.” I spent time on AnonOps.net long enough to find Internet Relay Chats of interest, but from that point on I would directly enter into the IRC via URL link.
Internet Relay Chats are where Anons engage in real-time communication; setting directives, comparing notes, and shooting the breeze. The most vital characteristic of the IRCs is that there is no facility or mechanism to archive conversations. A user can enter the IRC either through a server port or link. Using a server port, in conjunction with VPN software, allows for greater security by masking your IP. During my investigation, I did not download the chat client needed to connect through a server port, perhaps compromising my own security (though I did not participate in any missions via LOIC or in any other respect.
New IRCs form as chat participants, Admins, and Operators identify situations ripe for intervention, thus the IRCs become devoted to special “Ops” and topics. Suggestions from Anons are considered by the Admins and Operators. Channels fluctuate in participant numbers and facilitate large conversational breadth, which can cover at any one time both technical updates and asides into “( o ) ( o )” and “8====D”, though this type of 4chan-style sharing tends to be met with reprimands to get back to the Current Channel Topic.
While anyone can theoretically become involved in the Ops, one must be sufficiently motivated to find information for entrance into discussion forums and real-time conversations. Those who participate in Ops by following specifically laid-out instructions experience a satisfying direct line from their pooled actions to outcomes. An Anon feels a swell of pride at the successful defacement of a website, knowing that it was their vital link, (via LOIC) into the voluntary botnet that made it possible. By defacing a website, Anons make a statement that propagates their message and hopefully inspires activists native to the situations they have taken up cause with.
It seems pride is also fed by feeling at some level that Anons are actual soldiers with real firepower. The term “Low Orbital Ion Cannon” is a joke, but the language around using it is humorously jingoistic:
[14:44] I’M FIRING MAH LAZER!
Sense of belonging seems both driven by a desire to share a certain brand of humor and to generate results that give it form. For Anons, humor is political.
[12:24] godbert: among our ranks we have quite a number of those that do it for the lulz.
12:24] anonymous is powered by the lulz.
What came next showed an inherent self-consciousness about the historically schadenfreude-tinted sensibilities of Anonymous, and its 4Chan origins:
[12:24] I don’t think it necessitates giving up. I like tilting at windmills. But I have no illusions about people being intrinsically good and kind.
[12:25] Fine. Lets take that. There is no intrinsic need for goodness. Superficial goodness will do.-
[12:25] Convenience will do.-
[12:25] Fear will do.-
12:25] (AND some, some just some, might be good, or good enough, or temporarily good enough…
[12:25] haha regardless efg, even if its not for the cause of “good” the good is getting done.
Desire for “Lulz” certainly motivates Anon missions, but one might go so far as to say that Lulz becomes a political quest for justice rather than a desire to punish primarily for hilarity’s sake.
On February 14th, in parallel with the fledgling protests on the ground, AnonOps created a new channel, #OpIran, in which discussion and strategy building began for how best to assist protestors and dissidents on the ground. (Redacted1), identifiable as either the channel Admin or Operator, quickly put forth a downloadable “care package” for a “White Fax Spam Campaign” utilizing free internet fax. The package contained general notes of encouragement, as well as instructions for Iranians to create secure internet connections via use of I2P, which “will act as a relay and make the network more robust for the Iranians”. (Previously Anons used TOR, but “ Iranian security services are blocking access to TOR somehow”). Concurrently, #OpIran began a series DDoS attacks against leader.ir, basij.ir, justice.ir, mfa.gov.ir:
[18:39] (Redacted1) This is an ALL NEW White Fax/Spam campaign focusing on I2P which we have packaged into a nice little 10 mb download we are calling Op iran Care Package Light. it contains I2P, a cool Op Iran poster/flyer and the Farsi instructions on the LOIC. The URL for this new action is the same as the last, I simply updated the page with the new info – so if you already have the old one bookmarked just refresh and you go it. So, it’s here.
After Redacted1′s initial instructions, Chuck took up the torch, reiterating the Channel Topic every few minutes for new IRC entrants, and modifying it nearly hourly in accordance with changing instructions:
[20:07] -(redacted2):#OpIran- Channel Topic: CURRENT TARGET: khamenei.ir–TCP 80 | FAX NAO: http://pastebin.com/xwJEhCrd | PR: http://pastebin.info/1119 VIDEOS: http://bit.ly/fnB8lR http://bit.ly/gH0qIa | LOIC: loic.anonops.in #ir1, #ir2; Farsi loic help: http://bit.ly/epqdAp | Carepackage http://bit.ly/ek0VQ4
On February 14th, Anons in the IRCs were riding high after success with #OpTunisia and #OpEgypt, their contributions falling within the more meaningful, effective noise social media had arguably managed to create. #OpTunisia was seen to have successfully inspired Tunisians to conduct their own “hacktivism”. Of course, there is a meaningful distinction between AnonOps’ unique brand of “hacktivism” and forms of expression made manifest via other social media platforms. While the act of tweeting is facilitated, publicly sanctioned, and designed to minimize barriers for new users, hacking, when unsanctioned, can be a disruptive, self-initiated activity that pushes the actor outside the spheres of law; accountable only to oneself, yet bound to very specific, iteratively built protocol. To hack requires both an anti-establishment mindset and a dedication to a very specific sequence of actions that require high skill and follow-through.
In the case of Anon’s involvement in the Middle Eastern protests since December 25th, the act of defacing an official government website is intended to both propagate Anonymous’ message to the media, and to inspire activists native to the situations AnonOps has taken up cause with to propagate anti-gov actions into both virtual and “meat space”. By the evening of February 14th, #OpIran had managed for intermittent periods to take down Leader.ir, khamenei.ir, parliran.ir, and president.ir. This begs to question how one qualifies a #Op to be a success. Does only intermittent website downtime signify failure? The #OpIran metrics for success entails assorted Op members checking the DDoS’d site to see if it is accessible, excitedly pointing out if it appears to be down, and then checking in for confirmations from others:
[12:30] !check irna.ir
[12:30] It’s not just you! http://irna.ir looks down from here.
[12:32] if we can get to them – long shot but low cost – it would do much good.
[12:34] (Likes “low cost / good result” ratio way of puttin’ things. That is, partially, it.)
From February 14th-19th, (redacted) appeared to consistently to spearhead the QA; for all 5 days that I followed the chat, he remained in charge of confirming successful DDoS attacks. In these missions, success is often not something achieved instantaneously or decidedly. It’s understood that success is tenuous, but this is accepted as it comes at “low cost.”Later in the day, Ops member anon7 gave an international rundown which anon2 confirmed. This lead to an outpouring of encouragement among Ops members:
[15:39] http://khamenei.ir down from Hong Kong, Munich, Cologne, New York, Stockholm, Vancouver, London, Padova, Amsterdam, Paris.
[15:39] Good work, Gentlemen.
[15:39]It’s not just you! http://khamenei.ir looks down from here.
[15:39] nicely done, that was quick
[15:39] now keep it down
[15:40] good work
[15:40] hoho lovely
[15:40] good work
[15:40] * sh4ri4 is proud of the little channel that could
Though specific defacements are pursued for extended periods of time, members participate in an organizational feedback loop, providing new suggestions when certain targets seem unrealistic:
[12:39] FOrget irna.ir
[12:39] go for bmi.ir
[15:23] hey chaps, the target’s changing again soon
[15:25] now it’s changed.
[15:25]thank you for waiting, though!
[15:25] Target’s changed, people
From Monday 2/14 through Tuesday 2/15, the amount of chat users in the #OpIran IRC increased about three-fold. Some were carry-over from previously active channels (#OpEgypt became very quiet), but a number of users of the IRC were newly interested observers made aware of AnonOps via mainstream media. IRC coordinators periodically offered to PM (private message) with any journalists in the IRC, and I saw responses to this solicitation twice on 2/15. There seemed to be a direct line in place between action coordinated via IRC, and media coverage; it took no longer than a few hours of substantial activity in the channel for the wall street journal to make note of OpIran.
[20:20] hey we’re in the Wall Street Journal guise.
At 4:31, on the same day that the OpIran IRC channel was created, Cassel Bryan-Low wrote for WSJ.com that “the online collective known as “Anonymous,” which has attacked a number of corporate and other websites in apparent retaliation for moves against the document-leaking organization WikiLeaks, said Monday it has turned its attention to Iran.”
On Wednesday 2/16, I was surprised to see that I could no longer automatically log into the #OpIran IRC. In a surge of panic, I logged into #OpEgypt, still open but quiet, asking “hey guys, do you know what’s happening with the #OPIran IRC? I can’t log in.” Within 10 seconds I received a reply from a IRC member ; “I will check.” After another 10 seconds, I received access as a newly registered user to the #OpIran IRC. This seemed to show an almost instantaneous pace of coordination among the Operators and Admins of the IRCs. This also seemed to mark a point at which Ops members had decided that consolidation and security were more important than recruitment and outside observation.
The increased security of the IRC coincided with the point at which it became clear that Iranian protests would reach no tipping point.
[12:29] guys the protests in tehran were very crowded but disperesed, hearing back from lots of people at home
[12:36] Derp! Iran protest crackdown condemned | Amnesty International
[12:30] iran will not be as egypt
[12:40] Derp! BBC News – Iran police fire tear gas at opposition rally in Tehran
[12:41] reports of Iranian republican guard on the streets
[12:41] this is getting serious
[12:42] wow, protests in portugal are planned for March 12… this is the year of protests! W00t!
Aside from on-topic conversation, the “quality” of the conversation in the #OpIran IRC was variable. Most conversation seemed inoffensive and cordial while the group remained on task, but interjections came with fair frequency:
[12:08] Fuck the Jews, no offence (sic).
This came on day 4 of the Op, on 2/17, at which point morale was low. Discussion turned to a general indictment of colonialism. One user took pains to point out a genocide of “500k jews by Hitler” had lead up to the founding of the Jewish state. It was at this point that I felt compelled to interject for the first time, typing simply “FYI 6 million,” to which the Anon cordially typed back; “noted, 6 million.” Such a knowledge gap felt surprising and disorienting, and yet somehow fits with the unfiltered multitude of backgrounds in the unhedged membership of the IRCs. At least the Anon was cordial in response to a (personally-motivated) interjection by a “No0b.”
During the 5 days spent in the #OpIran IRC, there was one major point of contention between Anons. While the Anonymous handbook lays out definitely that Anons should never attack media, on February 17th, #OpIran leads decided to pursue the Islamic Republic News Agency, Irna.ir.
[12:29] heh yah irib is not “media”
[12:30] #OpIran- Channel Topic: OUR TARGETING medias is against Anonymous rules, but is in respond to Islamic Regime sending parazit to the whole Hotbird satellite, and DDoSing opposition medias, Such as Kaleme and Balatarin
[12:43] but why Irna
[12:43] irna sux bigtime
[12:4] its only news station for idiots like ahmadinejad
[12:44] do NOT attack media
[12:45] first media, now banks, what next pensioen funds?
As the debate kicked, up, (redacted3) changed the official topic of the channel to reflect what was obviously an argument of a certain significance. 11 minutes later, the debate was closed, and the Current Target became Irna.ir.
[12:41] #OpIran- Channel Topic: CURRENT TARGET: IRNA.IR TCP 80 | FAX NAO: http://pastebin.com/xwJEhCrd | PR: http://pastebin.info/1119 VIDEOS: http://bit.ly/fnB8lR http://bit.ly/gH0qIa | LOIC: loic.anonops.in #loic ; Farsi loic help: http://bit.ly/epqdAp | Carepackage http://bit.ly/ek0VQ4
The controversy of attacking IRNA seemed to get the ball rolling on discussion of carrying out further controversial acts. Ultimately, IRNA seemed to be as far as anyone was willing to cross the line in the period that I observed the IRC.
[12:44] ATTACK THE BANK
[12:46] any chance we can actually hack one of these sites and put something funny on there?
[12:50] I don’t care if you wanna to attack leaders or media sites
[12:50] hmmm attack their power grid?
[12:50] but bmi.ir is for iranian people
[12:50] no, not power grid
[12:50] people are going to far
[12:50] too much collateral, come on
[12:50] Don’t worry, people suggest retarded shit all the time.
This exchange demonstrated that while conversation is free and suggestions are taken, potential acts are debated in the context of the greater moral code of Anonymous. When the code, as laid out in Rules of Anonymous, is intentionally breached, it is done soberly and with exception.
After observing such a uniquely calibrated system of operation, it is difficult to determine what would make a beneficial design change for Anonymous, AnonOps.net, or the IRCs. The breach of the Rules of Anonymous in the service of attacking government run media website IRNA seems like a big deal for group dynamics; opening the door to further contention and possibly poisoning the pure Liberty/Justice-seeking code “Anonymii” promote in the IRCs and handbook:
(exerpt from Anonymous-the Uber-Secret Handbook):
Q:Why not attack that newspaper/TV/Radiostation?
A:Anonymous does not attack media.
Q:That is no media! It only spreads lies and propaganda!
A:Freedom of speech counts for assholes too3
Though it is probable that their attack on IRNA is what caused a temporary DDoS attack on their servers on 2/16, a DDoS attack in retaliation of Anonymous seems almost inevitable, and #OpIran took it in stride.
What initially drew me to look at Anonymous was the news on January 29th that the FBI issued 40 search warrants in connection with various DDoS attacks carried out over the past year. The FBI’s tactics seem to be more sophisticated than those undertaken by HBGary’s CEO, who claimed he’d identified all key leaders of Anonymous through a unique means worthy of Government investment: drawing lines between login times on Twitter, Facebook, and IRCs and the content posted to respective accounts. What’s funny is that his means are either directly inspired by the Anonymous handbook, or directly lead Anonymii to update their security advice within the Handbook. Which came first?
* Never connect at same time. Try to alternate.
* Do not post on the public net while you are in the IRC, and definitely do not mention that you are posting something on Twitter. This is easy to correlate.
* Don’t discuss whether you personally are DDOSing or writing How-Tos or Nmap’ing the target, making graphics etc. or not, just discuss general strategy
* Do not post pictures hosted on Facebook. The filename contains your profile ID.
* Stagger your login & log out times on FaceBook, Twitter & IRC. They can be compared for user info.
I would conclude that the design of various operations undertaken by Anonymii revolves around a shifting tradeoff between security and goal-seeking, and that Anonymii act immediately to address inadequacies in security as they arise. The next “design” decision will be made when the walls have been felt to be breached. In the meantime, Anons must negotiate the ramifications of the exceptions they make to their own rules.
You Think You’re Better Than Me: squaring off against an algorithm
In which I pit myself against a genetic algorithm.
From Dan Shiffman:
“A genetic algorithm refers to the process of evolving populations of DNA-like data (encoded as a series of bits, 0s and 1s).”
I chose as the DNA a phrase inspired by the competitive quality of the relationship between perceived capabilities of man and machine; ultimately a conflict in processes of production, not disparate entities.
“So You Think You’re Better Than Me”.
After many generations of mating, the algorithm does not arrive at the full correct string sequence.
I do my best to paint along with the algorithm. I miss most of the thousands of strings; catching on to tiny pieces of its process as I draw my brush across a white piece of paper.
Create a binary list of possible constraints respective to myself and the algorithm. Conduct further experiments.
SIGNWAVE GESTURE SYSTEM
William Jennings, Erica Newman, Becky Kazansky
Since February, we have been in contact with an individual with severe motion and speech constraints and partial blindness. This individual has never had the capacity to write an email without the assistance of others. He loves jazz and NPR, but has no consistent access.
Having the chance to design with a specific person in mind is a beautiful opportunity. Constraints take on greater importance. Expectations are raised.
We began by creating a simple piece of software that, with the use of a web cam, allows a user to open browser targets with a swipe of the hand across two regions on a screen.
As of April 23, we now have a rudimentary gesture interface for the Kinect that allows Winston (or any user with a kinect hooked up) to open and scroll through itunes with up or down hand motions. This is just the beginning: a full scale gestural alphabet is the goal.
Erica is taking the project to Makerfaire in San Francisco at the end of May.
Create an interface that allows Winston to have more autonomy in his day-to-day life. Specifically, the ideal goal was to create a system for him to compose emails without the help of an aide.
-Geography – hard to test consistently
-has to be PC-based
-Winston has limited vision and poor movement
-What does Winston like?
-What can we provide Winston access to that he currently doesn’t have access to?
-Focusing in on a few possible deliverables
Create a scalable system with simple gestures
-Kinect/camera: A simple gestural navigation system utilizing the right and left arms that would allow Winston to launch an interface and use a number of preselected applications
-Xylophone-like interface: incorporate color and sound into mapped quadrants
-Physical interface: A board with wireless connection to Winston’s computer that has four or so physical buttons, whether they come in the form of FSRs or a multi-touch screen
-Making buttons dynamic to account for user testing
-Two initial targets in mind: NPR and iTunes
-Camera lighting issues. Adjusting threshold.
-Are the buttons easy to reach? How will Winston’s gestures translate?
- Will a gestural system tire him out?
-How scalable is the button system for other applications?
Webcam-based motion tracking with 2 colored buttons on screen, each controlling a different function in iTunes.
-Back to the Kinect:
-Turns out Winston’s computer can handle it
-We need depth
-Initial target is, again, iTunes
-Keep it simple with 4 directional gestures
(up, down, left, right). Directions are more scalable than buttons: can be put into different combinations as we expand the software for use with other applications
-Account for gestural anomalies with averaging