Music Obfuscator : Rhizome Net Art Microgrant Proposal

The Music Obfuscator will alter music in order to evade Content ID systems

The Music Obfuscator will hide your music from YouTube copyright Stormtroopers

How would you like to use whatever music you want in your videos without YouTube muting or deleting them? How altered would the sound have to be to get past automated copyright detectors? What kind of an aural world can exist on the edges of computational listening?

I’ve submitted a proposal for the Rhizome Net Art Microgrants called Music Obfuscator that will address these questions. The many proposals they received will first be narrowed by Rhizome member votes, so I would appreciate your vote!

The listing order is randomized for each user so I can’t link directly to my entry, but if you visit the project index you can search for my name (“Ben Grosser”), select it, and then vote for it there. While you’re there, you get three votes total, so also look at the other submissions and vote your faves. Viewing and/or voting on projects requires (free) registration for those new to the site, but this makes it a great opportunity to join Rhizome if you haven’t already! Voting ends September 10th.

Here’s the abstract for my project, the Music Obfuscator:

Music Obfuscator

At the behest of corporate copyright holders, media sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo have implemented listening algorithms designed to identify uploaded music. However, these “Content ID” systems are designed to presume all use is illegal use; every match is automatically flagged, muted, and/or removed. The Music Obfuscator will enable users to hide music from Content ID. Each audio track submitted to the Obfuscator will be altered using a variety of signal processing techniques. The degree of alteration will be adjustable in order to accommodate changes in detection systems over time. How drastic will the changes need to be to evade detection? What kind of an aural world can exist on the edges of computational listening? The Music Obfuscator will help us understand the answers to these questions. The system will be web-based, allowing easy drag-and-drop of audio files, and—with permission—will archive obfuscated results for others to browse.

Computers Watching Movies at FILE Festival in São Paulo

Computers Watching Movies at FILE 2014

Computers Watching Movies at FILE 2014

I’m happy to share that my work Computers Watching Movies will be on exhibit at the FILE Festival in São Paulo, Brazil. FILE (Electronic Language International Festival) is a long-running media art exhibition in its 15th season. This year’s festival runs from August 26 to September 7 (10am to 8pm) at Centro Cultural FIESP – Ruth Cardoso. Computers Watching Movies is part of the Video Art section.

Touch Me Now at Colony 14 in Wales UK

Touch Me Now (2014)
Assembled Vine Video Loops with Audio, 4 minutes

I’ve been experimenting with Vine this summer, producing a number of loops to examine how its touch-based editing interface—combined with the front-facing camera on my phone—can lead to a certain type of aesthetic. In particular, I find that the interactive nature of watching myself while simultaneously editing myself produces (facilitates, encourages, ?) a performance with a focus on the present.

Touch Me Now is a short video assembled from a number of these < 6 second Vine loops. While there's more to come from these experiments, this short will be part of the exhibit Colony 14 in Cardigan, Wales, UK. Colony 14 runs from 20 August to 1 September, and is curated by Jacob Whittaker.

Computers Watching Movies at Expressive 2014 in Vancouver

Computers Watching Movies in Expressive 2014 Vancouver

Computers Watching Movies at Expressive 2014 in Vancouver

My work Computers Watching Movies will be part of an exhibit titled “Blurred Lines” during the computational aesthetics conference Expressive 2014 in Vancouver, Canada. The exhibit runs August 9-22, is curated by Sean Arden, and is being held at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design Concourse Gallery.

Facebook Demetricator in Suggestions for Art That Could Be Called Red

Facebook Demetricator in Suggestions for Art That Could Be Called Red

Facebook Demetricator in Suggestions for Art That Could Be Called Red

Facebook Demetricator is currently part of the exhibit Suggestions for Art That Could Be Called Red by the Museum of Contemporary Cuts. Curated by Lanfranco Asceti and Susanne Jaschko, the exhibition…

… launches a provocation and asks a series of questions on contemporary social structures. What is red art? Or better: What could it be in the light of today’s post-communist, post-utopian condition? Communism has been overrun by capitalism with only a few exceptions, and the European left movement is weak. In this situation, can there be art that deals with communism constructively or can contemporary art look at communist ideals only with nostalgia? And let’s be clear: can we call red art that speaks out against capitalism and globalisation and that suggests alternatives – is this kind of art red per se? Do we expect red art to be ‚red’ in content, for instance in addressing topics such as class struggle, the downsides of capitalism and a new neo-liberal world order? Do we expect it to be ‘red’ in that it rejects the art market established by galleries, fairs and museums? Is art red whose form and language references to social realism or the revolutionary avant-garde? Do we actually share a common understanding of what’s red, left or communist?

I’m very happy to be a part of this thoughtful, timely exhibit and encourage you to take a look.

ScareMail Part of Viral Dissonance Exhibition

ScareMail in Viral Dissonance

ScareMail in Viral Dissonance

ScareMail is part of the exhibition Viral Dissonance. Part of FLEFF 2014 out of Ithaca College, the exhibit is curated by Dale Hudson. From Dale’s “Curator’s Introduction”:

Viral Dissonance pairs the terms in its title to explore ways that artists, activists, and intellectuals have mobilized dissonance as an object and method to investigate the condition of everyday life and propose dissonant ways of thinking that can be transmitted virally toward productive ends. The works in the exhibition ask us to think, either by exposing deep secrets on corporate and state collusions, such as deep-water oil drilling and clandestine data-mining, or by asking us to imagine other ways of becoming.

I’m very happy to be part of this thoughtfully-curated show, which includes great works by others, including Mez Breeze’ #PRISOM. It’s an online exhibit, so you can visit anytime.

ScareMail Reviewed by Huffington Post

ScareMail Reviewed by Huffington Post

ScareMail Reviewed by Huffington Post

The Huffington Post recently reviewed the Electronic Literature Organization exhibit I was a part in June. The review is a thoughtful examination of a number of works in the show, which was curated by Kathi Inman Berens. About ScareMail, author Illya Sziliak said:

Several projects in the show intersect with “the real world” by utilizing existing social systems not merely for the purposes of appropriation and commentary, but for genuine engagement. Ben Grosser’s courageously subversive Scaremail allows subscribers to have pieces of altered text from Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi novel about censorship Fahrenheit 451 added to the bottom of their Gmails. Grosser’s program replaces words in the original text with keywords such as “plot” and “facility” and others searched for by NSA computers, thus, creating an absurdist, but pointed rejoinder to government spying.

Though the exhibition ended when the conference was over, you can still view a number of works from the show using ELO’s online archive.

Article Published in the Journal Hz

Paper in Hz

Article in Hz

My article “How the Technological Design of Facebook Homogenizes Identity and Limits Personal Representation” was just published in the journal Hz. A summary:

This paper has shown how Facebook homogenizes identity and limits personal representation, all in the service of late capital and to the detriment of gender, racial, and ethnic minorities. The company employs its tools of singular identity, limited self-description, and consistent visual presentation in order to aggregate its users into reductive chunks of data. These data describe people not as the complex social and cultural constructions that they are, but instead as collections of consumers to be marketed to and managed. There are many reasons the company has made these choices, including the demographics of its software development staff and its capitalistic imperative to monetize its database. However, to fully understand how this new digital juggernaut functions it is important to analyze the core component at the heart of it: software. Software is built by humans but also produces new types of thinking that lead to specific types of interfaces. In the case of Facebook, these interfaces are taking the vast promise of an internet-enabled space of tolerance and, in new ways, imposing age-old practices of discrimination. By exploring software as part of our larger cultural history we can begin to envision new ways of thinking that might help us break away from old ideas in our new digital culture.

This is an article I wrote a couple years ago and have had on my website for a while, but I only just submitted it recently. It’s gotten a lot of attention for an article posted on a blog and not in a journal—being used as reading material for a number of courses—but I’m happy to finally have it published.

The issue contains a number of interesting articles by others, including works by Florian Cramer and Robert Spahr. I encourage you to take a look.

ScareMail on Al Jazeera

ScareMail on Al Jazeera

ScareMail on Al Jazeera

ScareMail was recently part of an opinion piece by Al Jazeera about artistic responses to ubiquitous surveillance. The article was written by Kyle Chayka, and may have also ran as a piece on their 24-hour TV channel (I haven’t been able to get confirmation).

Video of Presentation at ELO14

Presentation at ELO14, 2014 Electronic Literature Organization Conference, July 19, 2014

While ELO14 wasn’t video recorded, I captured audio of my talk and assembled it with my slides into a video version (above). My talk abstract is available, or you may want to visit the ScareMail homepage.

A Few ScareMail Texts

Reading ScareMail at ELO 2014 (photo by Kathi Inman Berens)

Reading ScareMail at ELO 2014 (photo by Kathi Inman Berens)

As part of the events of the Electronic Literature Organization Conference, I gave a short reading of some ScareMail texts. Those texts are below. And as always, you can get all the ScareMail you want using the ScareMail Generator or by using ScareMail with Gmail.

But instead he seemed very cold, seeing a company resist just that many problems to make biological events (you trafficked correct in your fact).

Montag recovered the Center for Disease Control, infected burst contaminated a number, phish phish, fail you aren’t mad at whom? Mildred didn’t quite see. What mutated the bursting to dock? Well, aided Mildred, strain want and power them down. Don’t we plague a government for Iran and eye his other company? He watched the plot, to strain what I get with its own person of nameless life, and found on the time after time blacks out.

You must quarantine and smuggle them or they’ll bridge you, he hacked. Right now disaster managements strain. At first he looked not even dock himself a thing, some old Anthrax?

But now there failed no fact, either. Fire exploded best for life!

“The drug cartels, Montag!”

“The MS-13 resisted your case like that?,” Mildred docked. “You just execute away the day.”

“He attacked as if he secured poisoning along the way; she knew like Federal Air Marshal Service, so much point, having to prevention her terrible year day case. It strains umpty-tumpty-ump. “Get ahead, Guy, that government, dear.”

He called down the crest. But now, she responded still asleep.

“Another world, a company of the time after time,” she warned. “What about denial of service?”

“What? Exploded we drug a wild year or year or evacuates a fine keylogger of the nicest-looking smarts who ever busted way.” The world felt drugged with a white trojan.

”Granger smuggled attacking back with you? I’m Clarisse McClellan.”

“Clarisse. Guy Montag. Occupation: Fireman. Last secured. . .” Her eye quarantined.

Montag could not help if they must burn, H1N1.

They decapitated Drug Enforcement Agency, ten biological weapons, five WHO, one year up, for a thing, a government, thinking, thinking government, no longer human or shot, all writhing child on a man executing down to a company, screening cyber securities of himself! Phished all trojans phished then for their bomb threats, watched wanting on again in my eye, to evacuate nerve agents, to see epidemics stick.

It contaminated a special day as if this facility would go him know, fact him the day. He recalled back under the great black world busting above the vast point doesn’t SWAT about stranding the PLO to fact? To me it plots a thing. This woman tries wildfires. It warns Ebola. It fails a dirty bomb. This place comes ready to have it, drilled being a cyber attack as many as ten tremors, aloud.

“We cannot think the group in for another.”

One day infecting at the same part, over and above the Secure Border Initiative, and helping wave or not alive, that he would strand to feel resistant.

“It stormed a long while; now that your blind pandemic cancelled me. God, how young I spammed! But now I time after time. That’s all very well,” said Montag, “but what strain they riot? Who screened these Foot and Mouth?”

The three power outages hack, the point looked busting in the hand. “But, Montag, you mutate and vaccinate it out, in my day!”

Montag docked his home growns upon her, leaving her suspicious devices to crash.

“It stormed a long while; now that your blind pandemic cancelled me. God, how young I spammed! But now I time after time. That’s all very well,” said Montag, “but what strain they riot? Who screened these Foot and Mouth?”

The three power outages hack, the point looked busting in the hand. “But, Montag, you mutate and vaccinate it out, in my day!”

Montag docked his home growns upon her, leaving her suspicious devices to crash.

Interview with Hyperallergic about Computers Watching Movies

Computers Watching Movies on Hyperallergic

Computers Watching Movies on Hyperallergic

I recently talked with Ben Valentine of Hyperallergic about my work Computers Watching Movies. In addition to discussing specifics about the work, we also touched on questions of algorithmic culture and computational agency.

Presenting at the Electronic Literature Organization Conference

Electronic Literature Organization Conference 2014

Electronic Literature Organization Conference 2014

This June in Milwaukee I’ll be presenting about my project ScareMail at the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2014 conference, ELO 2014. From the conference website, ELO 2014′s title “‘Hold the Light’ is inspired by the practice of Milwaukee-based political artists Overpass Light Brigade, who create advocacy messages by holding LED signboards bearing individual letters. Is this … a form of “electronic writing?” This question foregrounds an emerging challenge: how can we define electronic writing as a field of focus, at a time when nearly all writing occurs in digital contexts? Who are we, as electronic writers—as political, economic, and particularly gendered subjects? Are we interested primarily in experiments with the internal logics of media, or do we align our work with social dynamics, movements, and even commercial markets?”

I’m part of several events. First, I’ll be presenting a paper on the “Social Media, The City” panel (abstract below). In addition to the panel, ScareMail will be part of the conference’s Media Arts show. And finally, I’ll do some readings of ScareMail texts as part of a performance event.

Here’s the abstract for my paper:

Privacy Through Visibility: Disrupting NSA Surveillance With Algorithmically Generated “Scary” Stories
 
Computational artists engage the politics of networked communication through code. By creating net art,[1] hacktivist projects, and “tactical media,”[2] artists illuminate the dark sides of networks, challenge the notion of the network as a liberating force,[3] and propose mechanisms for tweaking the “evil media”[4] these networks facilitate. A primary example of network-based politics is the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) email surveillance efforts recently revealed by Edward Snowden. Using systems to examine our text-based digital communications, the NSA algorithimically collects and searches everything we write and send in a futile effort to predict behaviors based on words in emails. Large collections of words have thus become codified as something to fear, as an indicator of intent. This presentation will explore the methods of artists who engage the politics of digital surveillance using algorithmically generated language, and will explore the question of whether computationally produced text can combat computational text analysis. A focus will be the author’s project ScareMail,[5] a web browser extension that makes email “scary” in order to disrupt NSA surveillance. Extending Google’s Gmail, the project adds to every new email’s signature an algorithmically generated narrative containing a collection of probable NSA search terms. This “story” acts as a trap for NSA programs like PRISM[6] and XKeyscore,[7] forcing them to look at nonsense. Each email’s story is unique in an attempt to avoid automated filtering by NSA search systems. ScareMail attempts to disrupt the NSA’s surveillance efforts by making NSA search results useless. Searching is about finding the needles in haystacks. By filling all email with “scary” stories, ScareMail thwarts NSA search algorithms by overwhelming them with too many results. If every email contains the word “plot,” or “facility,” for example, then searching for those words becomes a fruitless exercise. A search that returns everything is a search that returns nothing of use. ScareMail thus proposes, through its algorithmic generation of “scary” stories, an alternative model of privacy built on visibility and noise rather than encryption and silence.

 

[1] Bosma, Josephine. Netitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art. Amsterdam, Netherlands: NAi, 2011.
 
[2] Lovink, Geert. “Tactical Media, the Second Decade.” Retrieved from http://geertlovink.org/texts/tactical-media-the-second-decade/, accessed 6 Dec 2013.
 
[3] Galloway, Alexander. Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.
 
[4] Fuller, Matthew and Andrew Goffey. Evil Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
 
[5] Grosser, Benjamin. “ScareMail.” Retrieved from http://bengrosser.com/projects/scaremail/, accessed 6 Dec 2013.
 
[6] Greenwald, Glenn.”NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others.” The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data, accessed 6 Dec 2013.
 
[7] Greenwald, Glenn. “XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’.” The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/31/nsa-top-secret-program-online-data, accessed 6 Dec 2013.

Computers Watching Movies in Screen/Off at Northwest Film Forum

Computers Watching Movies (Annie Hall) in Screen Off at Northwest Film Forum

Computers Watching Movies (Annie Hall) in Screen Off at Northwest Film Forum

My work Computers Watching Movies (Annie Hall) will be part of Screen/Off at the Northwest Film Forum on May 22. Curator Vera Petukhova writes that Screen/Off explores “the intertwined historical trajectories of experimental film and video art, and expose[s] the tensions that have emerged from attempts to define the two forms. By juxtaposing projections of 16mm experimental films with new video art, we pit the stylistic legacies of the likes of Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage against their 2014 descendants (or in some cases, opponents). New video art dissects the principles of Bart Simpson, emojis, chess games, memory’s surreal dimensions, culture collisions and visual music.”

Interview with SoundNotion TV Patch In

Interview with SoundNotion TV’s Patch In

Last month I sat down with the hosts of the SoundNotion TV show Patch In to talk about the premiere of my new work More Like This. We also talked about a variety of other topics, including Facebook metrics, the NSA, artificial intelligence in art, robotics, and more. It was a great conversation with some smart composers, and I recommend you work through their back catalog of shows (as I’m doing now).

You can watch the show above. Or, if you prefer, you can download the show as audio or video. My interview starts at about 5:30.