body as location as landscape

The camera will prove to be the ancestor of all those apparatuses that are in the process of robotizing all aspects of our lives, from one’s most public acts to one’s innermost thoughts, feelings and desires. — Vilém Flusser, 1983.

The history of the United States is a technological one. Photography’s earliest proliferation coincided with the Civil War and gained its formal language as government funded exploratory expeditions expanding the rail roads (and land rights) to the Pacific. Images have been used to classify, quantify and construct a nation: its people as well as places. That information, became the barometer that continually justified incongruous practices and ideologies that have maintained power structures.

Three days ago, the iPhone turned a decade old as we enter a cultural landscape vastly different than the one we left behind in 2006. Connected devices allow us to take part in mass media in real time, from sharing a momentary thought to igniting societal change. By engaging with these tools, we are all journalists now – sharing our stories as we explore our world(s). And, as Diamond Reynolds taught us on July 6th of last year: while these technologies attempt to obfuscate the powers of societal production, they are also laying bare the realities.

Every photograph is in fact a means of testing, confirming and constructing a total view of reality. Hence the crucial role of photography in ideological struggle. Hence the necessity of our understanding a weapon which we can use and which can be used against us.John Berger, 1974

The rate at which emergent technologies have changed contemporary society is astonishing and somewhat bewildering. Bewildering, for those old enough to remember a before, and bewildering for those young enough to assume the speed and weight of this communication is inhabitable (re: normal). If it is possible to use the first-person plural at all in a meaningful way, we no longer fully have a grasp on what is ours. A massive chasm has emerged and in it we have cast everything we once held most dear: our realtionships, our thoughts, ourselves.

Our homes and communities are no longer the locus of our private lives. A picture of a loved one on a desk was once the extent of personal information brought into the office as an intimate conversation was allocated to one of the few rooms of our home with a telephone. Our devices encourage us to bring our internal psychic and emotional space everywhere we go and provide the opportunity to broadcast that space everywhere we are not. Our preferences and interests were once observed by looking at our libraries (our books, CDs, VHS tapes, tool kits, etc.) but now we carry them around, informing platforms our momentary decisions.

Every individual is both consciously writing and naively generating a massive amount of information making their geographic location, likes, conversations and private actions available anytime and anywhere to telecom providers, search engines, social networks and other eager open ports. Tethered to our devices, our bodies are now the starting and vanishing point of mass surveillance and big data.

I’m not on the outside looking in. I’m not on the inside looking out. I’m in the dead ducking center looking around. — Kendrick Lamar & iOS Auto Correct

Over the second half of last semester, I became totally obsessed with 360 video streaming: trying to get the Rioch Theta to stream in WebVR. I got close, but ultimately failed because it was hard. But through all this I did circle back around to what I’m actually interested in: phones. The powerful computers we don’t think of as computers but carry around with us all the time. In my mind the Theta is basically a phone – a small powerful device with a camera on both sides of the sensor plane. It is a machine that suggests the possibility of 360 filmmaking but there are many other concepts implicit and technologies embedded in a mobile device. I think I got distracted by this damn VR zeitgeist. But that’s okay.

Somehow school information seems, less personal than home. Safer to say, “here i am.”

So instead, I made this: Channel 9, for Live Web and Actual Fact with Tahir Hemphill. Using the Hip Hop Data Base, I found all the Kendrick Lamar songs that had the word “camera” or “Channel 9,” somewhere in the lyrics. Channel 9 is the a local television station Lamar mentions often in his work and is also the Microsoft developers site, named after the channel airline pilots would allow passengers to listen in on cockpit conversations (We the Media, Dan Gilmore, p. 75).

The page automatically reloads if the lyric is longer than the window, and a new phrase is randomly selected. If you click the canvas, the text turns green and clicking the black lens icon will save the current state of the canvas to your local machine. The program is designed for mobile – using the accelerometer, if a viewer shakes their device the animation will stop and the words stand still.  But because iOS doesn’t allow certain JavaScript functionality, the saveCanvas (or the “click” to take a picture) only works on Android or on a computer. 

someFormat 1

In Digital Imaging ResetEric gave us a small webcam to play with. Our challenge was/is to take the sensor and construct our own camera around it. I thought it would be fun to quick & dirty a digital camera that writes to the browser using my Zone VI large format camera & some basic code from Live Web. The marks are dust on the sensor. Even at my most formalist moments, I’ve always been partial to dust, cords & tripod legs in my images as a nod to the means of (photographic) production, or whatever.

The tiny spectrum-reflective rectangle in the center is the CCD sensor.

I removed the sensor circuit board from the camera and fashioned a cardboard film holder.

Quick & dirty film plane.

I had some initial trouble knowing what I was looking at. Because the focal lengths for the lenses are calibrated to throw an image that covers a 5 inch by 4 inch space, the micro inch of the sensor plane only captures a fraction of what one would normally see on the ground glass and at great magnification. Using the camera and 210mm lens Eric was able to make this streaming video image of the Empire State Building antenna from the window of his office.

ER’s First captures of Empire State Building antenna tower. So neat, also pink.

Because of the bot conference on Friday, I took the rig up to the 9th floor and made some more tests of the water tower and construction cranes.

function someFun(4×5 camera, laptop, screen, webcam sensor, ice coffee){ return someLearning }

the magnification the camera movements are extremely sensitive, fractions of inches resulting in changes of hundreds of feet. My next step is to figure out a smaller format camera that is easier to work with. Rather than this overly-complicated telescope. But I’m pleased with this proof of concept. Once I get an easier rig set up I can start figuring out what to do with it…

Live image of distant city sky-scape drawn in the browser. The canvas is within the rectangle.
theScene seen from an iPhone.

the imagination pictures the real

Still reading this book . The author included a Jack Spicer poem I had forgotten about. Author’s excerpt below, full poem here.

I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader could cut or squeeze or taste–a real lemon like a newspaper in a collage is a real newspaper. I would like the moon in my poems to be a real moon, one which could be suddenly covered with a cloud that has nothing to do with the poem–a moon utterly independent of images. The imagination pictures the real. I would like to point to the real, disclose it, to make a poem that has no sound in it but the pointing of a finger…

Things do not connect; they correspond. That is what makes it possible for a poet to translate real objects, to bring them across language as easily as he can bring across time. That tree you saw in Spain is a tree I could never have seen in California, that lemon has a different smell and a different taste, BUT the answer is this–every place and every time has a real object to correspond with your real object – that lemon may become this lemon, or it may even become this piece of seaweed, or this particular color of gray in this ocean. One does not need to imagine that lemon; one needs to discover it.

Fredman p. 97 // Spicer p. 133


Here is the most recent incarnation of the worldFake project. Clicking on a rotating orb will reveal a 360 scene. Using a standard trackpad or mouse scroll, the viewer is able to maneuver around the scene, zoom in and out and move the worlds around. Pressing space bar will reveal one of the three videos at random. The viewer is located outside the smaller videos but inside the larger one. Clicking “save world” stores the unique information: logging the x, y and z values for each of the smaller 360 videos.

demo-ing worldFake at ITP’s Experiments in Storytelling, May 2016