On extracting data, and its art and craft.

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Data art started long before the internet, but for some of us, facebook (fb) for a long time served as our Cantarell Complex. On 2012 I accidentally began leaking it when I created drik magazine and later its archives. Today, quite more consciously, I can say beneath my internet data projects a reservoir of information has been formed, and this has happened on different data-based projects by other artists too.

Servers are attached to our soil just as onshore platforms are, soaking on data from all of their users. The internet is the equivalent of a pipeline but with the shape and function of an ouroboros. It’s a two-way pipeline, draining information from us and vomiting it back through our computers. Data flows through the internet into and from same wave territories (Santiago de Chile, Lima, DF, Nuevo Leon, Costa Mesa, and Washington DC) where we distill it through our computers in order to gather our resources, just as it happens in the rest of the world. The internet isn’t on the sky; we do not store data in clouds, we store it in servers. The floating internet concept is a lie in order to prevent us from realizing that the internet is grounded by a powerful tellurian nature.

On Cyclonopedia (Reza Negarestani), Dr. Hamid Parsani identifies oil as a tellurian lube. It’s the element that allows mankind to happen (contemporarily), and that is abundant on the gulfs of Persia and Mexico (among other places). Oil represents power and wealth, hence it represents control and sabotage too (ex: the Nationalization of Mexican Oil, the Arab Oil Embargoes, Saddam Hussein’s burning of the Kuwaiti Oil Wells, the Energetic Reform in Mexico, etc).

Data is quite similar to oil. Oil is the product of the passing of thousands of years, and information stays exactly the same. Oil wasn’t magically formed, and data inside the internet (and outside it) is never borne out of nothing. It is always the result of human life, and that is precisely why Lanier coined the concept of Digital Maoism (DM).

Sites like fb are considered great exponents of DM, since all the data they hold (and which constitutes the tellurian lube of the digital) has been uploaded by its users. At a glance it seems only fb profits from the data we gather for it, and in most cases this is true. However, fb and other companies’ profits depend on the behavior of its users. We need to fill DM with holes. We need to transform it into swiss cheese; then wait for data to fill the void and drain fb and other DM sites with no mercy.

Since the presentation of Swarm at ARS Electronica ’98 on the hands of the Electronic Disturbance Theater, in support of Digital Zapatismo and the victims of the Acteal massacre, art underlined how the concept of sitting gained effectiveness if it blocked the flux of data instead of the flux of people. In 1967, just a day after the Six Day War had begun, countries like Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain decided to use oil as a weapon and embargoed the US and the UK for supporting Israel. This led to the formation of the OAPEC, an organism that in 1973, executed a second embargo. This time the oil price was raised by 70% and the Arab countries stated their oil production would be reduced by 5% each month until Israeli forces left occupied territories in Syria and Egypt, which had been gained by Israel during the Six Day War. The embargo had little to no effect on the economy of the Arab nations, while all major markets of the rest of the world faced the 1973-74 Stock Market Crash.

We can use data as a weapon too. DM is not a house for data, data lives outside it. We control the production and digitalization of data, the tellurian lube that allows the existence of fb and other DM companies. We can pump data through it in order to drain what we’re looking for, and then pump it out in order to profit from it. This is why I believe 21st century art needs to be data-based.

The art world came into existence since the French Academia as a Napalmic entity, one made of an inextinguishable fire that can flow/flood into every corner of culture and won’t disappear until it consumes itself. It is this very nature which requires it to burn out. But it is its hunger for recognition and legitimization what has inspired it to generate strategies to keep the fire burning perennially. It’s because of this that art and culture have been burning all that surrounds them for centuries, becoming one of the communities of the world’s greatest enemies, and burning them ceaselessly too. This way, not even painting or sculpture were our friends. However this doesn’t mean they can’t ever be.

Data has been flowing through art since the beginning of art, just as oil has been there since the beginning of civilization. Art has also been used to gather data for centuries. We do not need to transform art into a data bank. Art has been a data bank since the beginning. We need to start controlling the data and its flux. Data has a liquid nature too; it tends to flow wherever it can, and we can make it flow through the art world (which today occupies important territories in education, power, business, economy, banking, and tourism, among other areas). The art world is nothing more than fog of war. It is the same fog described by John McTiernan’s The 13th Warrior, covering the Wendol and their serpent of fire while they murdered humans to consume them. By using data as a weapon and incorporating it into art, we can transform art into a gigantic tank in the fight for freedom that uses the same fog of war to strike with a powerful backlash. Art should no longer be a trigger for action, its time to counter back and use art as a war machine.    

alonso cedillo <ceo@nimda.co>

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Setting the record straight.

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In January, a federal appeals court rejected regulations that tried to impose broadband rules under the wrong regulatory framework in the US. The FCC’s new chairman, Tom Wheeler, said he would comply, rather than appeal. FCC says that it is fixing the open-web problem while actually letting it get worse, by providing a so-called “fast lane” for carriers to hike fees on sites trying to reach customers like you and me.

Now a blog post by Tom Wheeler called “Setting the Record Straight on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules”, says his new proposal “would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet, will not be permitted.” However, the rules would allow: the oligopoly ISPs, by all reports, to have the right to cut special deals with web companies in order to give them that fast lane.

This is sick. We pay our ISPs for access to the internet and to get a certain speed (which is almost never delivered; my friends in Mx always complain about their internet service, but I believe ours is actually worst). Consider this: an ISP tells, let’s say, Bandcamp, that it’s songs won’t reach us nor download at the speed we’ve already paid for… unless they (a company that has little or no competition) pays a fee. Imagine the impact on the company, and remember Bancamp is relatively a big internet enterprise. Think too of what would happen with sites like WordPress or Tumblr.

Something that I’ve been thinking about as a Mexican-American, is if the proposals by Wheeler and the Mexican Government on regulating the internet are just a weird coincidence. If you live in North America (MX or US at least) and believe in an open internet, don’t waste your time sinking into despair over politicians’ betrayals. Aiming at the apparent leader, like Tom Wheeler or Enrique Peña Nieto is pointless. I suggest we should focus our attention on the people who they work for, and who allegedly work for us. Start with people like President Obama for Wheeler, whose unequivocal vow as a candidate to support an open internet was a scam, plus who does Obama works for?; and for President Peña Nieto (among others) Carlos Slim, Tomás Milmo Santos, and Emilio Azcarraga Jean.

I actually believe the menace of an internet censorship in Mexico, is a wicked strategy to keep mexicans away from seeing how much money and power will telecommunications companies in their country get out of this law. This empowering happened too with Salinas de Gortari. Once again, is it a coincidence it happens once again? Plus, it doesn’t matter if the reform agrees to respect internet freedom once the empowerment happens, the censorship will occur anyway. What these people are doing is selling Mexico and US to the telecoms empires, and strengthen their oligopoly.

We are on the verge of turning over the internet to the enterprises that have grown huge through governments of Mexico and US granting them monopoly status. Companies like Verizon, Comcast, Telmex, Axtel, and Cablevisión will have staggering power to decide what bits of information reach your devices and mine, in what order and at what speed.The telecom companies got this big in the first place because they were once granted exclusive rights to “serve” their geographic communities by our governments.

However once again we can say its all about information and controlling it, as well as getting profit out of it. We can’t say that this isn’t happening already in companies like Facebook. Plus, in Mexico City everyone can consult Google Maps for free. This means that Google can pinpoint your location, and technically they could handle it to anyone. And it’s not only Google. The telecom companies are the ones that will always know your location! Plus don’t tell me you have never experienced slow web surfing on certain sites while surfing with no problem in others.

Internet access is a public utility and should be kept as that. But the most important thing is for us to see and distinguish between distractors and the real enemies and menaces, which I believe once more are our countries’ telecommunications enterprises. If we do that, we have more chances of striking an accurate counter attack, and not a perhaps heroic but useless one.

Francisco González Zubizarreta <f_zubiza@gmail.com>