Really excited to announce I’m going to Brazil in a couple of weeks!

My master’s thesis presentation at ITP/NYU, “Navigating the Really Real.”

Internet Illuminator

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.43.50 PM

This Firefox addon iterates through all of the html text in your browser and whenever it finds a person or corporation from the data, it illuminates that relationship a little bit.

The main problem I was trying to solve was how to increase the spread of information about political and corporate relationships without making people go to one place for the data. So, I made an addon that appends brands, individuals and corporations with who they are owned by, other companies of which they are board members, or dates of acquisitions.

These ubiquitous relationships are often complex and unknown. It reveals the connections between corporations, brands and individuals by clarifying the corporate and political power structures of the 1%.

It appends that person, brand or corporation with who they are owned by, sponsored by, or acquired by. Data was compiled mainly from the Little Sis API, lists of lists on Wikipedia, and other corporate watchdog sources.

N.B., the data was updated as of May, 2014. As there are infinite data points and everything is constantly changing, I give no guarantee that the data is 100% accurate. There will be bugs.

You can check out the code on github.

Urban infrastructure (cell towers) disguised to look natural. I made a log jammer - to provide a safe space in nature. A cell phone jammer in a real tree in real woods.

The ITP Spring Show is Monday from 5-9pm and Tuesday from 4-8pm at 721 Broadway, 4th floor. I’ll be showing the stuff I made for my thesis. And I have some crazy talented classmates. Come!

I’m presenting my thesis, Navigating the Really Real, tomorrow (Thursday, May 15th) at 12:40pm. The main question I’m asking is how do we make stuff in a world that’s messed up, where we don’t need more stuff. But at the same time, how can we be emotionally present to the reality of our situation. I made a series of projects that fall under the umbrella of what I’ve termed - and how I’ve defined - Liberation Technology, which is technology that liberates from unjust social, economic or political conditions.

Feel free to check it out either in person or on the livestream tomorrow!

I’m presenting my thesis, Navigating the Really Real, tomorrow (Thursday, May 15th) at 12:40pm. The main question I’m asking is how do we make stuff in a world that’s messed up, where we don’t need more stuff. But at the same time, how can we be emotionally present to the reality of our situation. I made a series of projects that fall under the umbrella of what I’ve termed - and how I’ve defined - Liberation Technology, which is technology that liberates from unjust social, economic or political conditions.

Feel free to check it out either in person or on the livestream tomorrow!

PCB design

I made an add-on that appends names and brands in the browser with who they’re owned by. It is up for preliminary review if you want to test it out. Fair warning it definitely slows things up right now because of the sheer mass of data.

Students these days are worried about getting jobs. Grades matter not as a cumulative indicator of lessons learned but because they affect a student’s degree success. Education is not an end in itself: it is the means to an end - an economic end.

At ITP, I want to walk this fragile line where art breaks from commerce, creativity from marketability, and philosophy from profit.

In Monoculture, F.S. Michaels asserts that throughout history, people have viewed their world through a singular lens. In the Middle Ages, the lens was religious, and damning someone to hell was a palpable punishment. The Renaissance rotated its lens to system of scientific reasoning. Then things changed.

We currently view the world – and the art, creativity, scholarship and industry that define it – through an economic lens. Here, Michaels writes, “art matters not because it elevates the human experience, but because it contributes to ‘international competitiveness, economic modernization, urban regeneration, economic diversification, national prestige, [and] economic development.”

However, I believe in inherent beauty, beauty that is valuable independent from financial profitability. I believe that philosophy has a place in society, and that an educational system that awards 21.7% of B.A. graduates with business degrees does not necessarily cultivate good citizens.

The economist E.F. Schumacher put it this like this: “Call a thing immoral or ugly, soul destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations; as long as you have not shown it to be ‘uneconomic’ you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper.”

There is another American way and we can find another American lens.

— This is the first page of my ITP application essay that I wrote while the world changed around me in November 2011, in the midst of Occupy Wall Street. It’s interesting for me to look back at what guided me, though now I’d word it differently. I’m calling my thesis an exploration of ‘liberation technology,’ technology with the goal of liberating people from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. Protecting people from tech companies. This isn’t done through creation but through destruction. We don’t need more apps.

inversely testing a circuit with a software defined radio

Designing in Eagle, milling on a Roland, placing parts under a microscope, soldering and testing a surface mount circuit board.

Then hooking it up to my breadboard with other parts. I’m getting a good triangle wav with amplitude and noise, but we don’t have a network/spectrum analyzer to check if the SMD part of the circuit is working.

“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?
We still and always want waking.”

Annie Dillard (via itpthesis2014)

"we still and always want waking"

Finishing up my last class at ITP called Towers of Power, which is about DIY cell phone towers like openBTS and some open-source cell phone modules like the ArduinoGSMShield.

I had the silly idea that it’d be fun to make a phone that worked when my hand is in the old-school phone formation. Like so:

To do this, I used the ArduinoGSMShield on an Arduino along with an 8 Ohm speaker I found in the junk shelf. My main goal was to use this Knowles MEMs Slim UltraMini SiSonic Microphone SPU0410HR5H-1.

It’s a tiny surface mount microscope from Knowles that works SURPRISINGLY well. Like really, really well. Has an op-amp in it too.

So this could work like this: (I’m exhausted)

Long story, short - pretty sure the microphone wasn’t working at all. I borrowed it from Ben because he had already soldered a bunch and I didn’t have the time and he had extras. I put it through an oscilloscope and got nothing. I need to re-work the circuit and probably move to Benedetta’s GSM shield because it worked for everyone

The GSM shield worked to send texts and to call using the Arduino GSM code. But I need to rework the hardware. And my other thought was to figure out how to send serial data from the XBee to the GSM shield so I could make it wireless.

Found this hole-y glove in the wood shop:

More info on surface mount technology here, from Michelle Temple’s circuit design class.

Steps to printing your own circuit board.

Navigating the Really Real

I was biking over the bridge this morning thinking about how I will frame my thesis for people. How I want it to be talked about two to three years from now. And I think it is this - it is an experiment in navigating the really real.

How do we know what messages are true? How do we even know what is true in society today? How have we been taught to decipher the innumerable messages surrounding us? Is there enough nuance that many things can be true? How do we navigate the fact that that almost every message we see is in some form a manipulative lie designed to get you to consume something that is probably not helpful for the world? There are so many layers. There are so many “yes, and…“‘s that exist.

How do we navigate the fact that we are staring our own success in the face - that we already know that the solution to all of our problems is working together with others to fix it. That “making the world a better place” involves the removal of those in power, of power structures that repeatedly support the ruling class and the status quo. We know this. We really, really know this. We know we’re headed for destruction. We know that those in power have enacted mass violence against the planet and will not suffer the consequences.

And so, my thesis. What are the use case scenarios for these things? Where would it make something “more real” to use a cell phone jammer? A way of finding our way. A way to no way. A way in itself. A way as itself.