Art in Public Places
The SOPA and PIPA bills being considered in the US Congress allow blocking of domain names by someone who simply makes a complaint. Technically they apply only to non-US-hosted web sites that are pirating digital content, but once the “machinery” is in place, they could be used to block any domain whatsoever, and without due (legal) process. And also, technically, the only person who can complain and get a domain blocked is a digital (music, text, art) rights owner, but in practice this will be almost impossible to enforce.
There is no due process and no way someone who is wrongfully blocked can get themselves quickly unblocked.
And were this legislation to pass in the US, it would signal strong support for other countries similarly blocking internationally-hosted content based on their own national laws. (Many do it already, but let’s not set an example.)
Join me in opposing these bills. Notify your US Senators and Representatives.
This site will be participating in the Strike on January 18th, 2012.
Without much comment, but with so much enjoyment (as one who uses the Paris metro beaucoup when I’m there — three times in the last 12 months)… the story of a subterranean world very few will ever see.
I would call them benign explorers and documenters of public territory (my words, of course) and certainly not terrorists, though I’m sure there would be hell-to-pay if they were caught by “the wrong people” and someone wanted to hold them up as examples of how poor security is. But they are urban heroes to me.
I’m certainly not going to tell you the details, but I’ve done my own exploring of locked up places that I shouldn’t have visited (once freeclimbing up the side of a brick building at midnight with no gears, ropes or other aids, checking for unlocked windows, and picking locks), and I know the rush of being there with no intent to do harm but just exploring spaces that are usually closed off!
Perhaps you’re aware of the outcry among photographers (including myself) about rent-a-cop guards in the U.S. who try to stop you from taking perfectly legal and legitimate photographs in public places (most often near courthouses and federal buildings) — I have been stopped twice by these two-bit uninformed guards trying to keep me from taking photos because they believed there are federal laws prohibiting photography of federal or critical structures (even bridges). That’s not the same as jumping off the platform and running next to the subway tracks, but I couldn’t resist the comparison because it shows the paranoia that exists here in the U.S.
[Photo “Ubiquitous | Paris 2007” from SleepyCity.net]
I just completed a new page at Red7.com that describes the major mixed-reality games I’ve run since 2004 — take a look.
Since I speculated (a few years ago) that we could create really great mixed-reality games (or learning experiences, for that matter) that would utilize all sorts of real-world media including SMS, video, telephones, FAX, email and web, I’ve been working to develop more of these games and get them played. I started by developing a scenario-operating-system that could run on a server, “listen” to incoming SMS and email messages, and react appropriately to move “players” through the game. This system is in place today, and listening for certain key words in incoming messages the set players off on a chase through the game of their choosing.
While experimenting with the scenario system, the team and I learned a lot. We learned that people have trouble with SMS messaging. We learned that email works (now that smartphones support email) better. We learned they’ll call a phone number, but they’ll hesitate because they don’t know for sure that the number is in-game. We learned that they like certainty more than experimentation. And we learned they ultimately will be creative if given the right opportunity.
Oh, and there’s a new game being planned right now.
 Mixed-reality means combining game play in such a way that it plays out in real life but uses digital media either in or to control parts of the game.
 SMS (also called TEXT or TXT in the US) messaging is the first method we used to get messages to and from the players. To avoid certain technical difficulties with SMS, including charges, we used email gateways, which are provided by mobile system operators. These did not work well because many people were unfamiliar with the ways they could send and receive email from their phones.
 We used call-in phone messages in almost all of the games. These are answer-only phone numbers where a simple message is played for each caller. Each message describes the next step in the game. I thought it would be fun to customize those messages for the players, but we haven’t gotten around to doing it… it’s a technology challenge that involves call-director, voice-response, XML-controlled systems.
It’s been a few years since I saw Bill Dan in action, delicately balancing rock on rock on rock at Crissy Field. And then I noticed his absence. A year or so later, I spotted him on the street one afternoon (near my home) and asked if he was still balancing, and (my recollection is that) he said the National Park Service had asked him not to balance rocks (at Crissy Field) for “insurance” reasons, but that he was teaching “classes” in rock balancing. Don’t know what he is doing today, but his work had certainly become one of those things that you’d visit Crissy Field just to see in action. [the photo is from Bill Dan’s blog.]
Bill’s blog holds a gallery of really inspired balanced-rock sculptures that you have to see to believe.
Bill’s work inspired Aaron [in the photo, 2005] and me (a few years ago) to create some balanced-rock sculptures in the High Sierras. This was a ton of fun!
The trick in our case was to use granitic rocks that contained lots of hard particles – rather than the “pointy end” of a rock being a needle-sharp point, it is actually a whole bunch of flinty points, and you know that since 3 points define a plane, this makes it easy to find a way to balance each rock on to of its supporting partner below it. You find the center of gravity of a rock by hefting it, then you roll it around until you can get that center of gravity above the point (which is pointing down) and you gently set that point on the supporting rock below. Some delicate shifting, and walaa(!) you have added another rock to the growing sculpture.
It surprised me that I could build sculptures that would hold up even in the face of strong winds. I left a couple of these towers standing while I went away on a day hike and they were still there when I returned. Lots of fun – try it yourself.