From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.

This site documents the process and the results.

hackers 1, google 0 (for now)

With the postscript "Enjoy the liberation while you can, citizens," the Web site Crypticide recently unleashed a way to beat Google's censoring of its new Chinese search engine results.

The trick of entering search terms in capital letters worked for about six hours. Crypticide's readers noted how quickly Google acted, and that now it was onto finding some other means around Google's great wall around China.

more @ Publish

Submitted by todd on February 2, 2006 - 4:26pm

Pigeons Will Blog About Pollution

Slashdot carries a story today about a project by UC-Irvine's Beatriz da Costa in which cellphone and GPS bearing pigeons (...just how much cargo can a pigeon haul into the sky?...) will report back about the pollution they encounter.

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Submitted by kvarnelis on February 2, 2006 - 4:07pm

Pew Internet Report — Social Networks

The Pew Internet & American Life Project today released a report
describing how the internet improves Americans' capacity to maintain
their social networks and how they gain a big payoff when they use the
internet to activate those networks to solicit help.

The report is based on two surveys and finds that the internet and email
expand and strengthen the social ties that people maintain in the
offline world. The surveys show that people not only socialize online,
but they also incorporate the internet into their quest for information
and advice as they seek help and make decisions.

Disputing concerns that heavy use of the internet might diminish
people's social relations, the report finds that the internet fits
seamlessly with Americans' in-person and phone encounters. With the help
of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable
social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not
live close to them.

The report, "The Strength of Internet Ties," highlights how email
supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with
others in their network.

The full report is available at:

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Submitted by jbleecker on January 25, 2006 - 11:55pm

Beyond Locative Media

Attached is an updated draft of an essay for Leonardo that we (Marc Tuters and Kazys Varnelis) recently wrote. It's the first big collaborative project at Networked Publics and, in true netPublics fashion, we wrote it online with


Locative media has been attacked for being too eager to appeal to commercial interests as well as for its reliance on Cartesian mapping systems, yet if these critiques are well-founded, they are also nostalgic, invoking a notion of art as autonomous from the circuits of mass communication technologies, which we argue no longer holds. This essay begins with a survey of the development of locative media, how it has distanced itself from net art, and how it has been critically received before going on to address these critiques and ponder how the field might develop.

Submitted by kvarnelis on January 21, 2006 - 3:38am

UC Humanities Research Institute Sympoium — Technofutures

UCHRI Summer Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory
August 14-25, 2006; UC Irvine Campus

The UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) invites applications from scholars — faculty of all ranks and students — wishing to participate in the third annual Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory (SECT).

Applications are due, along with a $20.00 application fee, by February 15, 2006.

Program Overview
SECT is an intensive two-week summer program for graduate students and faculty from the UC system and elsewhere, as well as other scholars, professionals and public intellectuals. The Seminar brings together distinguished instructors and a group of 50-60 students to study a pressing issue or theme in contemporary critical theory, in both its "pure" and "applied" modes. SECT is neither exclusively an introductory survey course nor an advanced research seminar. Rather, it is an academy or "laboratory" where students and faculty at all levels of previous experience can study with scholars involved in important and creative theoretical thought. Truly innovative work is of necessity both fundamental and advanced, hence needs to be presented in ways that are simultaneously accessible and challenging for the widest range of scholars. Participants are encouraged to think experimentally and critically, reflecting on prevailing structures of thought while dynamically engaging intellectual inheritances and pushing for theoretical innovations.

Participants in the 2006 Seminar will explore new ways of thinking about and with technology. The two-week Seminar will include paired conversations between technological innovators and experimental humanists, around the many issues that engage the human and the technological. The two-week Seminar will also include demonstrations of new technological devices, classroom applications and scholarly practices. Participants will have opportunities to engage with new digital applications in the context of small-group workshops, large-group social networking exercises and art/technology installations. The objective for SECT III is to broaden the participation of humanists in the transformation of spheres of technological experience.

Conversations with: Julian Bleecker; John Seely Brown; Craig Calhoun; Lisa Cartwright; Cathy N. Davidson; Scott Fisher; Tracy Fullerton; Guillermo Gómez-Peña; Katherine Hayles; Lynn Hershman; Norman Klein; Geert Lovink; Tara McPherson; Michael Naimark; Saskia Sassen; Larry Smarr

Workshop Topics: Wikis; Blogging; Google Jockeying; Creative Commons; New Genres of Digital Scholarship; History of Electronic Literature; Database Narrative; Multimedia Documentary; Distributed Collaboration in the Humanities; Creation of Digital Archives

Performances & Presentations: Beatriz da Costa; René Garcia, Jr.; Guillermo Gómez-Peña; Lynn Hershman; Perry Hoberman; George Lewis; Michael Naimark; Simon Penny

Application fee: $20.00 (non-refundable) is due at the time of the online application submission. Applications will not be reviewed until the application fee is received.

Registration fee:
$1,750 for the SECT series. The fee includes tuition for the two-week Seminar and daily refreshments. It does not include the cost of housing or meals.

The UCHRI will make available up to 10 scholarships for full-time registered students covering the full SECT fee. Scholarship awards will be announced by April 15, 2006. Applicants are encouraged to seek funding from their home institutions.

One-page statement covering education, relevant publications (if any), background in an area of study relating to the current SECT topic, and reasons for requesting course of study; and abbreviated curriculum vitae (two pages maximum).

More information and registration instructions are available.

Why do I blog this?The topic of figuring out new ways to think with technology is something that is near and dear to my intellectual and creative heart. I'm planning on exhibiting WiFi.ArtCache and a new piece of MobileSocialSoftware at the Symposium, too. So, that'll be exciting. I also like this idea of panels that are two person conversations on a topic — promising way of working through a conceptual or intellectual question.

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Submitted by jbleecker on January 20, 2006 - 6:12pm

Google Won't Pay ... and They Don't Want to Give Our Data to the Feds Either.

So maybe Google is really living up to its motto, “Don't be evil.

Submitted by kvarnelis on January 20, 2006 - 3:58pm

wither film

The Nikon Corporation, the Japanese camera maker, said Thursday that it would stop making most of its film cameras and lenses in order to focus on digital cameras.

The company, based in Tokyo, is the latest to join an industrywide shift toward digital photography, which has exploded in popularity. Rivals like Kodak and Canon have already shifted most of their camera production into digital products.

Nikon said it would halt production of all but two of its seven film cameras and would also stop making most lenses for those cameras. The company will halt production of the film camera models "one by one," though it refused to specify when.

Submitted by todd on January 12, 2006 - 11:21pm

Place, Ubiquity, and the Thing

As our concept of place expands to the network of relations between humans + humans, humans + things, things + things, "place" becomes mobile, virtual and contingent. Ubiquitous.

A tree falls in a forest. A transponder tag embedded in its bark transmits its position to a reader-device that sends the information through middleware to a database on the internet. The tree’s location and data about its condition are conveyed without requiring human line of sight. No one hears, no one sees the tree; the forest is a place fully accessible to data-mining without need of human perception or intervention.

This is not science fiction (although Bruce Sterling’s spime is nearly that); the thing—once only a material object, a commodity, a fetish valued by humans—is becoming a sentient node of communication; dust is smart, glass is smart, phones are smart. Humans are dumb and dumber.

The Internet of Things, published by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) in 2005, declares a “new era of >ubiquity ? beyond the “ubiquitous computing ? of networks available anywhere anytime for human-to-human (H2H) connectivity to an Internet reliant on connections between humans and things (H2T) and between things themselves--Thing to thing (T2T) communication circumvents the communicative networks between humans. The Internet is emerging as not only a network between anyone but between anything.

The Dialect of Things

There is a robust philosophical tradition of musing about “the thing, ? its nature and its culture. Martin Heidegger opens his short essay, “The Thing ?(1950), with a commonly-claimed assertion about transport and media technologies: “all distances in time and space are shrinking. ? He forecasts the philosophical consequences of an impending technological change: “the peak of this abolition of every possibility of remoteness is reached by television, which will soon pervade and dominate the whole machinery of communication. ? What Heidegger’s 1950 essay took to the furthest reaches of philosophical parsing, the 1951 science-fiction horror film The Thing (directed by Howard Hawks from a screenplay by Hawks, Charles Lederer and Ben Hecht) extrapolated to camp hyperbole. At a military outpost near the north pole, scientists detect an abberation in their instruments, they find a space craft below the ice, attempt to destroy it only to discover it contained a passenger, an 8 foot frozen alien. “An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles, ? quips a scientist aghast at the potentially deadly intelligence of the partially-thawed object.

General Motors tests vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) collision-avoidance systems that endow automobiles with a “sixth sense ? foreboding imminent collision. A transponder signals the car's position, speed, acceleration, and braking action to other any similarly-equipped vehicle, up to a quarter-mile away. And yet the GM system only fosters communication between GM cars. Cars ‘speak’ digitally to other cars but in a manufacturers dialect with a key security flaw. A “foreign ? car could attack undetected using the existing tactics for vehicle-to-vehicle engagement—a sudden crash.

Place and >Ubiquity

In a 1928 essay entitled “The Conquest of >Ubiquity ? (1928/1934), French poet and cultural critic Paul Valery forecast yet-unrealized networks of media delivery. Valery’s rarely-read text registers only dimly on the horizon of cultural criticism because it served as an epigram for Walter Benjamin’s now canonical “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility. ? Benjamin’s essay--which has acquired remarkable >ubiquity as the ur-diagnosis of twentieth century cultural change —drew directly on Valery’s insights into the changing value of the work of art once it was removed from its place of origin and delivered elsewhere and everywhere. Whereas Benjamin’s interest was in the loss of aura of the artwork when replaced by its mechanically-reproduced other, Valery was instead struck by the conduits of connectivity as images and sounds would enter the home as a utility, as water, gas, or electricity. As geographies and temporalities are reconfigured by the ever-more efficient spatial-temporal mash-ups of media and their delivery platforms, the CONQUEST OF UBIQUITY seems an apt assessment of the goals of both tech-design and social engineering. In Heidegger’s assessment:“despite all conquest of distances the nearness of things remain absent. ?

Is a network a place? Is place a network?

French anthropologist Marc Augé distinguishes “places ?-- encrusted with history and social life-- from “non-places ?-- spaces of transition not location, without history or social life. Highways, airports, airplanes, shopping malls may perform as conduit-places embodying the locative paradox of neither “here ? nor “there ? but the place in-between. And although Augé designates highways/motorways as “non-places, ? let’s recall for a moment the discarded metaphor of the “information superhighway. ? This vaunted “superhighway ? was an artery carrying data in two directions at high speeds, producing a new sense of place-- a cyberspace-- with new addresses and identities. The highway metaphor was soon redolent with the exhaust of cliché as speed-bumps, traffic jams, tollroads, advertising billboards helped to sour both utopian promise and descriptive panache. But a decade later, the internet is encrusted with history and social life; the network is a place. And as real highways become smarter, automobiles smarter, our mobile devices smarter, the inanimate boasts new intelligence, turning tables on our concept of the table itself.

The Invisible Visible, the Animate Inanimate

The recently issued large format reprint of the 1665 Atlas Maior (Taschen 2005) includes an methodological treatise on the cartographic enterprise:

"Enlisting their help we may set eyes on far-off places without so much as leaving home; we traverse impassable ranges, cross rivers and seas in safety; without provisions we range over the whole world; by the power of imagination we swiftly journey East-West and North-South at a single glance. What greater delight than with our very own eyes to survey the realms and conditions of kings, princes and dukes; to know the positions and remoteness of cities and villages; to have studied not merely the rivers, harbors bays and capes of different countries but the character and customs of their different regions and peoples... --From our printing press, January 1, 1665"

The atlas and the printing press mapped and disseminated exotic elsewheres and Others as part of the cartographic episteme of virtual travel. The introduction to the Atlas Maior emphasizes the requisite visuality of such arm-chair site-seeing. The "geo-spatial web"/"internet of things" is engaged in a very different representational project. Information is mapped (willfully or not) onto elsewheres and others (chairs, tables, automobiles, dogs, infected birds, terrorist suspects) that have as little subjectivity as the indigenous Other was granted. This formerly "inanimate" Other can now communicate back (about its location, condition, needs) either willfully or not. Does the chair want to tell us about its history? Does the terrorist suspect want to elude our tracking? In The Internet of Things, the RFID and sensor technologies offer a “shortcut to >ubiquity. ? The RFID is a product-tracker; it pulses deep in the warehouses of Walmart, the Amazonian rain-forest, the bourgeois home. It is a passive tag, activated by its reader.

E-vade: Mobile v. Locative

The device is mobile and we are mobile with it. Some of us have devices; some of us are merely tagged. To be tagless is to be free; to create one’s own location, to control one’s own data flow means that we must e-vade the tag. In The Internet of Things, the RFID and sensor technologies offer a “shortcut to >ubiquity. ? The RFID is a product-tracker; it pulses deep in the warehouses of Walmart, the Amazonian rain-forest, the bourgeois home. It is a passive tag, activated by its reader. [need for manifesto here about locative media counter-strategies as building new positions and instrumentalities in an annotated and geo-mapped >ubiquity.]

Submitted by afriedberg on January 11, 2006 - 5:07pm

"What's Your Social Doing In My Mobile?" UC Irvine Department of Informatics Talk - Friday, January 13

This Friday I will be visiting UC Irvine and giving a talk on Mobile Social Software — some material I've been working on through the Netpublics Research Seminar at the Annenberg Center for Communication.

Title: What’s Your Social Doing In My Mobile? Design Patterns for Mobile Social

Abstract: Making “mobile software

Submitted by jbleecker on January 11, 2006 - 2:06am

the Newest New Media: the OS

2006 marks the start of the second half of the decade and just an hour ago, Apple announced Macbooks with dual-core Intel processors as well as dual-core Intel powered iMacs . Assuming there are no unpleasant surprises, these machines should be able to run Windows, Mac OS X, and various flavors of Linux. In this brave, new world, the OS, becomes nothing more than a form of media. Meanwhile, Google is rumored to be providing an alternative vision of an OS that can run through your web browser. Certainly they have to do something with all that iron they own and those minds they employ.

Submitted by kvarnelis on January 10, 2006 - 9:32pm