Article published in the journal Computational Culture

My article on Facebook metrics has been published in the journal Computational Culture

My article on Facebook metrics has been published in the journal Computational Culture

My article “What Do Metrics Want? How Quantification Prescribes Social Interaction on Facebook,” has just been published in the journal Computational Culture. In this text I explore how Facebook metrics prescribe sociality from both a theoretical perspective as well as through my work Facebook Demetricator. Computational Culture: a journal of software studies is “an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of inter-disciplinary enquiry into the nature of the culture of computational objects, practices, processes and structures.” The journal is edited by Matthew Fuller, Andrew Goffey, Olga Goriunova, Graham Harwood, and Adrian Mackenzie.

Upcoming Exhibitions in Norway, Wales, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands

My work will be part of a number of European exhibitions this month, including Kurzfilmfestival UNLIMITED at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany

My work will be part of a number of European exhibitions this month, including
Kurzfilmfestival UNLIMITED at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany

I have a number of European exhibitions and screenings in November and December of this year.

ScareMail will be part of PIKSEL 14 in Bergen, Norway. Piksel “involves participants from more than a dozen countries exchanging ideas, coding, presenting art and software projects, doing workshops, performances and discussions on the aesthetics and politics of free and open source software.” PIKSEL runs from 10-16 November, and is directed/curated by Gisle Frøysland and Maite Cajaraville.

Computers Watching Movies will be part of Pink Screen, a show at The […] space, Mission Gallery, Cardiff, Wales. Pink Screen is curated by Matthew Britton, and happens on 12 Nov.

Computers Watching Movies will be part of the New Aesthetic program of Kurzfilmfestival UNLIMITED. Curated by Johannes Duncker, the festival will run from 19-23 Nov at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany.

Curator Frans Van Lent will include Computers Watching Movies as part of his populist curatorial experiment The Drift. The exhibit will be at Singel 222 in Dordrecht, Netherlands on 21 Nov.

Finally, Computers Watching Movies will be part of Espacioenter, held at Tenerife Espascio de las Artes on the Canary Islands, Spain, from 5-7 Dec. The exhibit is curated by Montse Arbelo and Joseba Franco.

Upcoming Talk and Workshop at USC

A screenshot of Feed Sandbox, the prototyping tool we have developed for the Workshop

A screenshot of Feed Sandbox, the prototyping tool we have developed for the Workshop

This coming Thursday, I’ll be part of a presentation and workshop at the University of Southern California. Titled Archives, Algorithms, and Art, my colleague and former advisor Kevin Hamilton and I will break the audience into small teams to brainstorm new, hypothetical and even impossible configurations of “sending” and “receiving” in the context of software-based social media streams. Borrowing techniques from research in human-computer interaction, we’ll look to produce propositional configurations of authorship, processing, and consumption that highlight how specific visions of self and society end up encoded in everyday media platforms.

The talk is part of USC’s Visions and Voices series, and is being hosted by Tara McPherson of the interdivisional Media Arts + Practice PhD program (iMAP) within the School of Cinematic Arts.

October Exhibitions in Italy, Poland, Romania, and UK

Reality Check at eFlux in Udine, Italy

Reality Check at eFlux in Udine, Italy

My fall is busy with exhibitions in Europe. I detail the October exhibitions below and will post about November/December in a separate post.

ScareMail is being exhibited as part of Reality Check at eFlux in Udine, Italy. Reality Check—curated by Filippo Lorenzin—is a project based on “the urgency of a reconnaissance towards the phenomenon of convergence between artistic and sociological reflections compared to some of the most controversial issues related to the unfolding of the web, understood as a cultural phenomenon and daily practice, individual and mass.” Reality Check runs from 4 October to 15 November. See the eFlux website for more information, as well as the project’s Tumblr and Facebook page.

ScareMail will also be part of the #nfcdab digital.art.biennale in Wroclaw, Poland, curated by Dominik Podsiadly. See the project homepage and an article about it on Hiro. The event runs from 3-5 October.

Computers Watching Movies (The Matrix) will be screened at Simultan 10: Terms & Conditions in Timisoara, Romania, from 8-11 October.

And finally, as I posted a few days ago, Computers Watching Movies is in 11 different screenings across several locations in Cardiff, Wales, UK as part of Outcasting: Fourth Wall.

Computers Watching Movies at Outcasting Fourth Wall

Computer Watching Movies at Outcasting: Fourth Wall, Cardiff, Wales UK

Computer Watching Movies at Outcasting: Fourth Wall, Cardiff, Wales UK

I’m happy to share that my work Computers Watching Movies (The Matrix) will be part of Outcasting: Fourth Wall (O:4W), a film festival across Cardiff, Wales UK. There will be eleven different screenings of the work, from 26 Sep to 22 Oct, at venues including the ATRiuM at the University of South Wales, the Panopticon, and the Chapter Cinema. O:4W is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, and is curated by Michael Cousin. A full programme is available that lists all screenings.

Following O:4W, the same work will be part of an exhibition at the […] space at the Mission Gallery from 4 Nov to 23 Nov. This show, titled Pink Screen, is curated by Matthew Britton.

Music Obfuscator Awarded Rhizome Net Art Grant

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

The Music Obfuscator will hide your music from YouTube copyright Stormtroopers

I’m very happy to share that my proposal to develop Music Obfuscator was awarded a Rhizome Net Art grant! There were a number of great proposals, so I’m honored to be amongst the awardees. The first cut was made by member vote; the final selection was by juror Kimmo Modig.

Here’s the abstract I submitted for 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.

So, I’ll get to work right away. Watch my Twitter feed for updates.

Computers Watching Movies at Bronx Art Space

My work will be part of Synthetic Zero Event at Bronx Art Space

My work will be part of Synthetic Zero at Bronx Art Space

My work Computers Watching Movies will be part of Synthetic Zero Event at Bronx Art Space. The show, which is curated by Mitsu Hadeishi, includes performance, visual work, and experimental video. The events are on 3 Sep (6-9p) and 10 Sep (6-10p), and the space is open Wed-Sat, 4-13 Sep (3:30-6:30p).

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.