Reflective report

I have to admit, I did not have much motivation when starting this module, this might have been caused by the dramatic change caused by coming back from a year abroad or the fact that I’m still not used to writing regular blog posts to document my research. I was never able to properly show off my research skills or development because of that. My mind often jumps from one idea to the next without a definite link between those two, which made it hard to document.

At first I found it really difficult to get into the research of the subjects that we were given, especially the first artifact which was about fiction and writing our own artistic works and then reimagining them in a creative way. Surprisingly I believe I did well with my 100 word fast fiction even though the research was quite limited. I needed to get back into the research mood because I always loved doing research. There are many things I find fascinating and while looking up information on certain subjects I just jump from one article to another, getting lost and going off topic multiple times, which can be problematic.

I found some of my motivation coming back while doing my “beauty’ research. It is such a broad subject that I didn’t know where to start. I wanted to cover the obvious definitions and ideas of beauty, concentrating on the looks of people. Then the looks of other things and how things are represented in media since everything produced for the mass distribution is a product to be sold and therefore it has to be “perfect”. This led me to research into perfection and symmetry in humans as well as arts around the world. Then I jumped into the beauty of imperfection and the idea of beauty within and the beauty of the flaws. This jumping around, finding out more about the subject made me more determined to research and develop both the work and myself.

The last artifact just consumed my thoughts and life (quite literally) however I still see loads of things to improve upon and research.

I believe I improved my blogging and researching skills throughout this module, even though my mind still makes random connections, I’m able to express that in my writing. I still have areas to improve upon such as time management because I often left the work for last minute, which made my research looked rushed and condensed while in fact I was spending hours watching and reading material and then making sense of it and making connections in my spare time.

I believe university is the time and place to make mistakes and experiment and do all kinds of things that might eventually end up failures however this way I can learn and show a different side of me, both to my peers as well as myself. Getting out of my comfort zone was one way that I challenged myself to do something different and thought provoking and I think I succeeded to some degree. Hopefully my Live Stream experiment showed that.

I’m sure all of my artifacts and research could be vastly improved. There is always room for improvement in any work but in my artifacts I would start by doing much more primary research. I would like to talk to the general public as well as the experts of their arts. Poets, writers, filmmakers and creators from all aspects of art departments could give a valuable perspective on a variety of subjects but once again my self-organization failed and I didn’t manage to get it that at this scale this time.

Creative Analysis

Secrecy and privacy are import parts of our lives but are often taken for granted which is why I wanted to make a piece about that subject. It turned into a social experiment where I looked at surveillance, how the idea of a panopticon changes my behavior as well as show how the society reacts to the possibility of anonymously and remotely spying on someone.

I thought of the idea after watching the documentary by Peter Vlemmix titled “Panopticon” which talks about security, surveillance and privacy. Since I’m interested in those ideas I knew many of the points that he made already however what struck my attention was an interview he conducted with the public. He asked their thoughts about the government being able to check what the public is doing at any moment through cctv, phone tapping and locating and all other types of data collection. Most of the people asked said that if you had nothing to hide and if you are a “good citizen” then there is no reason not to approve that idea. I found that problematic but the part that intrigued me the most was when Vlemmix asked two women whether they have blinds in their windows and why. They instantly changed their attitude and said how they value their privacy and don’t want just anyone looking in to see what they are doing.

I found that fascinating as the people didn’t realize they were contradicting each other so quickly and in such an obvious way, of course those two situations aren’t necessarily the same but I still wanted to go with that idea.

My initial idea was to hack my own webcam and allow people to remotely control it however that has proved difficult to accomplish in such short time since there was no way to control the software via a blog. Next I though of using the basic computers such as Raspberry Pi which I could program to be used as “CCTV” and accused remotely by anyone with a link. This was more promising however I didn’t have the time or budget for this so I went with a simple yet effective live stream.

In that way I turned my life into a very obvious case of a “spectacle” where the viewer was in control. I had no idea whether I was watched and by whom. This made me self aware of what I was doing at all times. I was thinking and getting anxious about even the smallest and most ridiculous things such as sitting the right way or eating properly. This weird anxiety I had was confirmed with some research I have done asking people about the subject and whether they would attempt it. Majority said that they wouldn’t because they value their privacy, some said that it would change their behaviour in a way that stops them being themselves and only a handful said yes but only under some circumstances.

One respondent said that she would like to have surveillance (cctv) at her place of work because that way both the worker self monitors and makes sure that they are productive as well as it can potentially allow for monitoring of the workplace to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for the employees. If used correctly this could shift the power from the people higher in the hierarchy to the workers lower down.

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence.”

– The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I have lost almost all of my privacy, as I was undertaking the experiment. There were only a few places in my house that I could go without being watched. This made me really nervous and at times I even censored what the viewers can see on my devices by facing them away from the camera. I was considering streaming what is on my laptop as well however I felt I would have been far too exposed and I’m not psychologically ready for that. At some points I just had to go out of the room or hide in the blind spots of the camera to avoid its evil glare. To continue some of my work I moved to the library where in theory I also had more privacy than at home however after encountering cameras on the way there and people looking at me, checking what I was doing, where I was going I realised that I didn’t have much privacy at all.

Students easily self regulate because of the norms and social conventions. We are here to learn, to be the good students and to compete and be better than others. We put the lecturer as the dominant person because they are the givers of the education even thought we; the students are their employers. This shows how the discourse of education is twisted and puts the students as the subjects, the ones to be controlled through social conventions.

I decided to do an interactive, social experiment/video because I believe that the idea of secrecy and privacy is difficult to explain to the public through other means. I also believe that this can give the viewer a better idea of how this affects us on both sides, as the subject and the spectator. It opens up a discussion on the subject of privacy and with that, security of our personal data. I even managed to encourage others to try something similar themselves to see how their behaviour might change once they open up to the faceless and anonymous public.

I always enjoyed making experimental pieces, which might not necessarily fit in with the norm. This way I managed to spark up interest and with that, a discussion about all kinds of subjects.

Unfortunately that means that I don’t have a definite piece to show except the timelapse from parts of the stream however in the future I’d like to repeat the experiment at a bigger scale with more discussion about it and more responses from the “audience”.

Artefact Three: Secrecy/Privacy

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The words privacy and secrecy has appeared in the media quite often in the past years. Whether that’s the annoying cookies disclaimers, constantly changing privacy policy of website(that not many people read) or all the way to hacking and uncovering the mass scale of surveillance(NSA).

Companies and websites are gathering more and more data on what we are up to online. Most of the time we are not fully aware of what that data is and how it is going to be used. It’s not only websites that gather our browsing data, it’s also our mobile phones. The smarter they get, the more intrusive they get. For example, new features allowing mobile phones to recommend you the best apps for you to use track your location. Checking the most visited places and what you do with your device in said area.

If you’re an iPhone user go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations. Here is my map of frequently visited locations in Coventry:

As we can see, I’ve been to the library quite often the past few days/weeks. visited some friends by the park, went out, went to the centre quite a bit and to the train station(which could link to London quite easily where you could continue tracking my steps). It even shows us the amount of times I visited the area as well as the time frames. I was pretty shocked when I found this but chose to let it continue anyway.

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The above image shows a network of websites that I have visited intentionally(white circles; 10) and all the third party websites that have connected as I visited said websites(triangles). I used a firefox plugin “Lightbeam”, more on how it works and why it is a problem can be found here. This easy to use plunging clearly shows how even your standard and rather boring internet use can attract loads of unwanted attention of tracking and “big data” companies.

Big Data is a term that describes the use of data, aggregation, search and cross referencing to gather insight and intelligence. This can be used to very good causes however there are many concerns that it can be misused or misrepresentative and discriminative as it is being more and more computerised.

SecrecySecrecy

Looking at these definitions alone we can tell there is a difference between the two. Even though one of the synonyms for secrecy is the word “privateness” which can be confusing. You can easily keep something secret by being private but just because you are being private does not necessarily mean you are secretive.

Personally I think that I’m a private person, however I wouldn’t say I’m secretive. I simply don’t open up to strangers easily. I open up in “safe” environments to people I trust.

The first couple of results of a simple google search on “privacy vs secrecy” is all about relationships. I will touch up on the subject because a relationship is a place where you should feel safe and be able to tell the person what you feel and do, but still have your boundaries and your own life. However I would like to concentrate on the meaning of the words in the context of online safety, surveillance and everyday life.

After watching the “Panopticon” documentary by Peter Vlemmix I thought of an idea for my third artefact. An experiment in which I would live stream my room 24/7 for a couple of days. I want to see how it affects me as I go about my day. Whether I’ll notice the presence of the camera on my back and if I change my behaviour in any way. The analytic of the live stream will show me how interesting my content, or in other word, my life is(constrained to my room).

Initially I was meant to hack my own webcam remotely to show how easy it is. It is incredibly easy to do, a 10 sec google search will send you straight to a guide on how to do it using a free software called Metasploit. In the same article you can find tutorials on how to plant said software on your victims computer. Since I was hacking my own computer there was no need for that. I planned on somehow allowing anyone remotely being able to capture what ever is in front of my webcam. Giving them the power to control when my camera is on and when it is not. The problem with that is that I didn’t know how to implement the software into my website. One other major problem was the absolute control that the software gives the hacker once it’s implanted on a computer. In theory there are no limits as to what someone can do which poses a big security flaw especially since my computer contains a lot of sensitive data. Because of that i chose to do it differently, by streaming my room 24/7 through an easily to embed video player. All that YouTube needs is a single piece of software that controls the stream. That is why I chose this method of delivery, it is also easy to join unlike the hack idea.

Of course this gets rid of certain issues(ease of hacking, security, sensitive data) I wanted the viewer to think about but I’m thinking of revisiting the idea sometime in the future. Before I used my friends laptop to use as a streaming device I thought of using a Raspberry Pi which is basically a small computer that can be configured to do all kinds of things, limited only by the users creativity.

I have also created a survey for anyone that watches the stream as part of my primary research.

The Panopticon is a design of prison or an institution where the subjects, the prisoners, can be spied on. It also relates the subjects in relation to each other. They don’t know when exactly they are being watched which makes the subject self aware and therefore they police themselves.(Horrocks Ch., 1997)

12272910_10203682083892258_169484839_nEven though this happens on regular basis since UK has the third biggest use of CCTVs in the world(behind China and Russia); I have definitely realised what that meant when I streamed my room to the public and in that sense gave up my privacy. My behaviour started changing the longer I was exposed to the camera and the more viewers I got.

I found it fascinating that I could attract people to watch me, comment on what I do and ask me questions about it or tell me all kinds of things to do. I even received some unsolicited text messages from an unknown number over night however those quickly stopped before I found out the identity of the person.

I’m generally an isolated, introverted person(to some degree). I like my space and need time off from people every now and then to feel comfortable and to feel myself. Giving this up was relatively easy but what surprised me was my own reaction to more online attention. I started watching everything I do(which was expected), I became more and more distracted with the number of views, the angle or placement of the camera and the comments of the people watching the stream. I felt like  I needed to somehow entertain the audience, which I found somewhat problematic since I was doing work on  my laptop. With a suggestion from a “fan” I have decided to move the camera into the kitchen while I was making dinner which attracted and retain attention of more people. I have became a part of a spectacle. My life became a form of entertainment and distraction for others.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 15.09.19

The above image shows the statistics for my live stream, unfortunately because of some complications I had a few streams which separated into different videos but this image shows all the activity. Most of it on the most successful and longest stream. The main thing that I wanted to check is the viewer retention, it averaged at 4minutes and 47 seconds which I found quite interesting because it might seem quite short however after all, the stream was simply of an individual going about their day. I believe that the interaction with me made the audience more interested in the stream. At first I was meant to treat this as if I had no idea that the camera is there and that I don’t know I’m being watched but because of the way the live stream worked and because of all the different possible ways of contacting me, i decided to occasionally interact with the people watching me. This created a two way conversation and therefore more people were interested. This way I was also able to see how people react to being able to watch and not only my perspective of the subject being watched.

Bibliography

Horrocks Ch., Jevtic Z,.(1997) “Introducing Foucalt” London. Icon Books

Occupytheweb(2014) “Hack Like a Pro: How to Secretly Hack Into, Switch On, & Watch Anyone’s Webcam Remotely” Available from: http://null-byte.wonderhowto.com/how-to/hack-like-pro-secretly-hack-into-switch-on-watch-anyones-webcam-remotely-0142514/

Kovacs G.,(2012) “Tracking our online Trackers” [Video] Available from: ted.com/…/gary_kovacs_tracking_the_trackers

Mchugh M.,(2015) “A Map in Your iPhone Is Tracking You. Here’s How to Zap It” Avaliable from: http://www.wired.com/2015/11/how-to-get-rid-of-the-iphone-map-that-tracks-you/

Vlemmix P.,(2011) ‘Panopticon” [Video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUyB0Tsj6jE

Look into:

http://erasingdavid.com/categories/watch-the-film/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/08/the-future-of-morality-at-every-internet-users-fingertips/400520/

Artefact Two: Beauty

(Bevier J., 2008)

Beauty, the first thing that comes to my mind is our bodies. All your friends and strangers and how they look. Whether we find them beautiful and therefore most likely attractive or not. We also have a lot of body image and “beauty” in the media, however more and more of that is adjusted and idealized and made ” perfect” in a way that we no longer think of beauty as something that we can obtain. Men and women alike are experiencing whats called a normative discontent. We criticize and not find ourselves good enough and not “normal” to such an extent that it’s now normal to think that we aren’t good or beautiful enough; “feeling negatively about one’s appearance is thought to be the “norm” rather than the exception” (Barnes et al, 2011).

Studies have shown that even children aged 9 years old(20%) and up to 40% of 14 year old girls are uncomfortable with their weight most of which are within normal weight range for their age.

But beauty is not only regarding people. It can regard to anything. Media products on the tv, internet and anywhere in between, are made to look beautiful and attractive for the public to consume them. Whether that’s other tv programmes, more websites to go to, clothes to buy or animals to look at and share with your friends. The world is full of uselessly beautiful things that are made to attract us.

imageVisiting the Royal Academy of Arts I’ve seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition which consistent of all kinds of his works as well as commentary from the artist himself as well as his fellow artists. Ai Weiwei mentioned the phrase “aesthetically pleasing but useless” quite often through out the exhibition, starting with his “furniture” series. I found that quite fascinating because people often strive for meaning and regard aesthetically pleasing art as less of an art to some degree. Yet beauty and aesthetics are everywhere, we cannot run away from it. One other piece that really intrigued me was the room full of showcases with things such as bones, jade handcuffs and make up and cosmetic containers made of precious materials. One thing that interested me the most were two sex toys made out of jade (which in some parts of china is a material considered more valuable than gold). This basically made them useless because they were too beautiful to use. They sat in their showcase. Beautiful but useless.

Which leads me to a question. What is beauty? Whats identified as beautiful or aesthetically pleasing? Is it the same for everyone?

Both Sides of(Becks A. J., 2013)

In the animal kingdom, symmetry is a sign of health and genetic resistance to diseases. It signals health and offspring survival. It’s the obvious choice to pick a mate thats symmetrical and therefore in that animals’ eyes, beautiful(although it is not known whether the animal sees the beauty in the symmetry). However, humans aren’t necessarily like that. Our perception of beauty is slightly different. Not to mention nature is full of asymmetry weaved into all the symmetry which we perceive as beautiful. Some studies show that even from birth we look at some features that might make us beautiful, more than the symmetry of the face. This was concluded in two ways; one showing the correlation between babies’ likeness of a face and its symmetry as well as peoples rating of peoples attractiveness based on just half their face which meant that only certain features were required.

12212111_10203655416865599_1987584961_n 12226726_10203655410545441_1576370_n 12231377_10203655410465439_1475398271_n(Maselko K., 2015)

This lead me to look at simpler examples of symmetry and beauty, both in nature, art and architecture. Personally I love taking pictures of symmetrical building or in a symmetrical way. It gives me this weird satisfaction of things being balanced and looking “perfect”. On the other hand, lack of symmetry or what some may call “perfection” is often seen in those areas without it directly translating into lack of beauty. Japanese aesthetics is an aesthetics of imperfection, insufficiency, incompleteness, asymmetry, and irregularity, not to mention perishability, suggestiveness, and simplicity(Wicks R. 2005). They include the art of wabi sabi which is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness(Lawrence R. G., 2001). I liked the idea of making beautiful things by using existing products in a similar way that wabi sabi does. Except instead of “fixing” them I wanted to experiment with destroying them and by doing so, creating a new, abstract piece that might show a different view of beauty.

I started by taking three pictures; a technology advert which portraits its product as god like, defying gravity and perfect in every way(iPhone 6s, Apple); a glamour shot from “Vanity Fair” cover of Caitlyn Jenner and my own picture of a sunset in a park in Madrid which I thought is a type of a natural beauty that fits with my idea.

Caitlyn-Forever SunsetTest-Gif

i have used Georg Fischers experiments to distort the images. For these three images I used the “Triangulation” tool which converts the image into triangles. Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 21.43.57

I changed the different variables to progressively achieve more intense results over 20 or so changes. Then combined the results in Photoshop to create a gif from the least distorted to the most and the other way round, back to the original image.

I believe my project could show a different side of beauty and distort the view of people of the media they consume. It can also show that weird and distorted can also be considered beautiful.

While researching this I stumbled upon a project by Alec Radford which was a video generated by Stylize, an open source code that translates video or images into a mix of triangles of his own making. Stylize is a regressor based image stylisation which is a machine learning algorithm. This way the output is always different which I find fascinating.

I would like to learn and use his code to create a video of my own, most likely of already made commercial content to give an unfamiliar beauty to familiar object and media artefacts.

I found a project by Roger Johansson called Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa where the coder uses a program he created to use a string of DNA for polygon rendering and then manages to “recreate” a part of the famous Leonardo DaVinci painting using only 50 polygons.

An example of how it works can be found here.

 

Bibliography

Diedrichs P., (2013) ‘Is your daughter’s perception of beauty distorted by the media?’ (Online) Available from: http://selfesteem.dove.co.uk/Articles/Written/Is_your_daughters_perception_of_beauty_distorted_by_the_media.aspx [28 June 2014]

Tantleff-Dunn S. , Barnes R. D., Larose J. G. (2011) ‘It’s Not Just a “Woman Thing:” The Current State of Normative Discontent’. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention 19., (5) Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3760219/

Serdar K. L.,(2011) ‘Female Body Image and the Mass Media: Perspectives on How Women Internalize the Ideal Beauty Standard’. Myriad(Online) Available from: http://www.westminstercollege.edu/myriad/index.cfm?parent=…&detail=4475&content=4795 [October 2011]

Zaidel D. W., Cohem J. A., (2004) ‘THE FACE, BEAUTY, AND SYMMETRY:
PERCEIVING ASYMMETRY IN BEAUTIFUL FACES’ Intern. J. Neuroscience 115, (8) Available from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=A708942F8B4BBEEDA011647C4E039D55?doi=10.1.1.514.2818&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Zaidel D. W., Hessamian M.,(2010) ‘Asymmetry and Symmetry in the Beauty of Human Faces’. Symmetry 2 Avaliable from: http://dwz.psych.ucla.edu/ZaidelHessamianSymmetryJournal.pdf

Beck A. J. (2013) (Online) Available from: http://alexjohnbeck.com/project/bothsidesof_versions/ (online, 2013)

Wicks R. (2005) ‘The idealization of contingency in traditional Japanese aesthetics’. Journal of Aesthetic Education 39., (3)

Lawrence R. G., (2001) ‘Wabi-Sabi: The Art Of Imperfection’ Natural Home
September-October 2001 Avaliable from: http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi.aspx

To look at:

http://rogeralsing.com/2008/12/07/genetic-programming-evolution-of-mona-lisa/

https://github.com/Newmu/stylize

http://prostheticknowledge. tumblr.com/post/132760001331/regressing-24-hours-in-new-orleans-another

View at Medium.com

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/11/faig-ahmed-glitched-rugs/

Artefact number one: Flash Fiction

She held his hand, as if letting go was the end of the journey. In a way she way right. He had no control, everything was wrong, whatever could have gone awry, did, and yet here he is. Happy, at the right station. He couldn’t let her love stop him from experiencing it.

What now? – he screams in his head.

He’s at a new chapter. Clean slate. Blank canvas. Where to go from now? So much is new yet nothing had changed. He fell in love with him and there was nothing he could do about it.

I decided to write a 100 word fast fiction based on the memory/a life event of my good friend. After reading some fast fiction I noticed that most of them are shock based. Creepy, deadly, full of horror with a big twist at the end. I wanted to do something slightly different. I could have easily change the last sentence to something more sinister. Such as a suicide. The story leads up to it. It could easily fit into the genre of fast fiction but I wanted to keep it away from that. I wanted it to keep more to the truth and yet still be quite devastating; on a different level.

David Gaffney is a short story writer and after following his tips I managed to write a story that i’m happy with. I thought of using just one character however I believe mentioning the other character at the beginning might make the audience think about a broader story. About the consequences of every person involved and how it all may affect them.