Tag Archives: art

Art Spam, Spam Art, spArt I suppose

What is Spam Art?

I have a new harebrained “artistic” scheme. As the title suggests it is to do with spam.

I read about something I thought that was cool; a guy had simply created a dedicated email inbox and ensured that it received lots of spam all the time (not too difficult these days). Then a computer printed all of the messages that were delivered into that inbox and immediately the paper it was printed on was shredded.

I liked it – but a little one dimensional I suppose (I probably wouldn’t have said that if I’d have thought of it first and done it, however).

Another interactive art work I read about, that utilised the Internet, was the guy that had a balloon rigged to an air-pump that was triggered by hits on his blog. Anyone who looked at his blog could rest-assured that their hit, inflated the balloon that little bit more – at the end of one day the balloon was popped.

I really loved this concept. I’m not sure quite what it was meant to represent, but it definitely appealed to my tastes.

Try googling “spam art” – loads of cool results.

My Ideas & Testing the Concept

What I would like to do started with the idea of running two pieces of software on a gallery-based computer. The first program continuously spiders the web and builds an ever-growing database of email addresses. Despite the spam it attracts there are still millions and millions of such addresses out there on the web. The second program would send a message to each of the emails that the spider discovers.

Responses to the sent message would also be displayed by the computer and be published on a blog.

I guess I’m interested in turning the tables on spam, so for somebody out there they will receive my spam and be surprised and joyed at the fact that it isn’t actually the traditional form of spam. If they respond they will be interacting with anyone who looks at the gallery-situated computer or the blog. Thus my interactive art is born.

I tested the concept with a few hundred email addresses that I collected using a simple spidering program, and this has generated a few replies – mostly encouraging. One or two slightly angry or annoyed…. not surprisingly (I am sorry..!)

Take a look at the email I sent here.

The responses have ranged from;

Hi, what exactly is the purpose of this project? And what is the “art” for this project?

To lovely and encouraging responses like this from Anne-Marie;

I am always very happy to see that Students “in general” still have
ideas ! (you are the future my Dear…and the world depends on you all)
:-)

And this is the major point that I have to address:

How is art different from spam?David K

Many thanks to everyone who did respond – you’ve helped me a lot.

Also another huge debt to the open source developers who wrote PHPList and all of its components.

Where’s it going?

Well there is quite a development overhead with a project like this; for it to work seamlessly. For my initial test I’ve been filling in all the gaps that ultimately a computer will have to, but I reckon it has proved the concept well.

I’ve refined the idea through the testing. The part of the project that I really want to nurture is the relationship between the email content and the people that receive it. That was one of the most interesting concerns of the people that responded; the content must be relevant or of interest somehow – otherwise the email still constitutes itself as spam and will not be enjoyed by its recipients! So where do I find the content for emails so it will be relevant?

My current thinking is that all the emails that are sent to members of my spam list will actually be generated by users through a website. The website will serve as a medium for any single person to communicate a nuance of thought to (potentially) many thousands of “subscribers”. It can also be a hub for responses generated by any of these “spammed thoughts” to be displayed on the web. I’ve also concluded that anyone who receives these emails must not in an unsolicited manner. It just doesn’t quite sit right with most people (or myself).

Cornerhouse Copy Cats

On reading the Cornerhouse’s website, I’ve discovered that they’re just commencing with a project entitled Bitmapping (see http://www.bitmapping.com/)

The idea basically comes down to a game of consequences, but rather than using words images will be used. And rather than using paper, mobile phones (and their attached cameras) will be used. The whole thing will go on for about 3 months, and as each picture is sent it will be printed and displayed in the Cornerhouse Cafe.

Its brilliant.

However it’s also rather frustrating for me that I came up with precisely the same concept. I guess that, if nothing else, it at least means I’m thinking along the right lines!

Use Case

In software engineering and system engineering, a use case is a technique for capturing functional requirements of systems and systems-of-systems.

Each use case focuses on describing how to achieve a goal or task. For most software projects this means that multiple, perhaps dozens, of use cases are needed to embrace the scope of the new system.

This would be a fantastic method of ideation. Rather that using a use case to desribe how to achieve a goal or task, use it to describe how to a respresent a subject artistically or describe how to create a particular vision.

Ain’t half clever these software developers.

Incidentally, I discovered that Edinburgh University’s Informatics department, have a person employed specifically to inform the staff about and create digital art. How good is that?

Bringing anarchy to a Wiki

A Wiki, is a website that allows its users to add, edit, delete or change its own content. WikiPedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/) is a free encyclopedia that functions in just this manner.

My friend Matthew spent some time earlier this year deliberately trying to sabotage WikiPedia. I think it came about out of boredom, and mainly focused on changing entries subtly so they included a reference to goats. For instance doctoring the page about US president George Bush so the first sentance read; George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the 43rd and current U.S. President, serving from January 20, 2001 and he is not a goat.

All of Matthew’s edits were reversed, usually within minutes, sometimes seconds and occasionally taking a little longer. So the system works. Matt (and my) IP address (the thing that uniquely identifies computers on the internet) was relatively quickly banned from making edits for a week. Apparently there are actually many people that spend incongruous amounts of time editing WikiPedia, and indeed have become addicted to it. Bizarre.

Initially I thought maybe doing the same as Matthew could constitute as a work of art somehow, but then remembered that WikiPedia is invaluable to me as a research tool and is one of the few resources that out-and-out trust what it says. This comes down to the ethos of WikiPedia editors and its rules and regulations, two of which are;

  • Neutral Point of View: All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
  • Attribution: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a publisher of original thought. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is whether material is attributable to a reliable published source, not whether it is true. Wikipedia is not the place to publish your opinions, experiences, or arguments.

Much as these rules create a brilliant resource, they (purposefully) prevent people from using WikiPedia as a forum for original thought or self-promotion and it is enforced strictly. Again, I agree with this whole heatedly, but can’t help but think its not fair that all the successful artists, musicians and writers are on WikiPedia and may derive promotional value from that. Whereas anyone unknown or aspirational can’t get onto the resource, because nobody knows who they are and nothing is published elsewhere about them. Catch 22.

I created a WikiPedia page about my Dad, to see if his credentials were enough to allow his page to be left on and not deleted. So far this has worked http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_lindley has been live on WikiPedia for a few weeks now, despite containing a warning that “this article lacks information on the notability (importance) of the subject matter”. So not perfect. I could probably put something on the page that would give it some kind of importance, though I’m not entirely sure what. I should put he is father to aspirational artist Joseph, which would maybe get my foot in the door.

I came across a kind of paradox that will, potentially, allow me to achieve my desire of having my own WikiPedia entry. I guess the reason I want this is that is feels like a sign that I would have arrived as an artist, if the WikiPedia editors think that I have the required notability. How it would work, is that I systematically sabotage WikiPedia, but work to a rationale. Realistically I think it would have to involve an aspect of networking too, for instance getting multiple other people to help me as the task is too big for one. Otherwise I could write a computer program to do it. If I can get around the constant re-editing by the WikiPedia monitors, and alter something sufficiently thought-provoking or controversial, enough times and involve enough people; ultimately I could evoke so much interest that I could then get media coverage (even if it is local) or better some sort of comment from a critic. This in turn should constitute relevance and notability enough that my page on WikiPedia would be allowed.

It may seem a bit ridiculous, with that long explanation, but I really think it would work and if its done in the right way it could actually have artistic merit.