Big Data, Google, Orwell. Pretty much in that order.

For the past couple of years I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with Google.   It began with not being thrilled that I had to sign in with a Google (or Google-owned entity) account to post a comment on something I’ve read.   The more I learned about Google, the less I wanted to support creating a history for every website  visited, every purchase made, every email, every picture taken, every person I’ve met, every aspect of my on-line life and — through linking known associates — extrapolating the rest of my life as well.

The nature of who we are is to a great extent defined by the people we love, our families, where we worship, friends we keep, people we meet, work we do,  interests we pursue, words we write, actions we take, places we go, pictures we take, videos we watch, social groups we join,  objects we purchase, choices we make, and aspirations we have.   All of these manifestations of who you are, including your credit, driving, education and medical history,  are found in the records of your life on-line.

No matter how you choose to justify the “convenience” of using Google to search, for mail, calendars, document generation, or any other of their products, the price which you pay is the record of who you were, are now, and based on that data: who you will be in the future.

I started using (DDG)as my Internet search engine this past week because of their anti-tracking policy.   In the first hour of using DDG, I clicked on a link to a YouTube video and was greeted by the image below:
YouTube videos cannot be watched anonymously

So – all the times that you have been watching YouTube videos, surfing the web, using your browser to participate in social media, write mail, or use other websites, even though you are not signed into your Gmail account, your user history has been logged and recorded by Google and that data paired with the data in your Gmail and Google document accounts.

Staggering, isn’t it?

He who controls the past controls the present.  He who controls the present controls the past. — George Orwell, 1984

A 2012 NPR article quotes, “While Google is not providing a way for users to opt out of its new privacy policy, this tracking only happens when you are logged in.”

Two years later that is no longer true:  Google can — and does — track users whether they are signed in or not.   Couple this knowledge with recent Facebook experiments in manipulating user experiences and Hearst’s role in the Spanish-American War becomes trivial.  Below is an excerpt from an article published in Forbes:

Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions.    The details of the experiment were published in an article entitled “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks” published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The short version is, Facebook has the ability to make you feel good or bad, just by tweaking what shows up in your news feed.

In 2011 Google‘s search engine was working on shaping news content based upon past history to build a news page reflecting “user intent.”   At that time in order for this feature to work, users had to be signed in to their Google accounts.   As a simple test, if you compare between your computer and another person’s you will see that this is no longer true, even if you are not signed in: the news will be “customized” to your viewing history.

A recent Wired article by Robert McMillan reveals the presence of “shadow profiles” which exist even if you are not on Facebook.

Our age of big data was beyond George Orwell’s nightmare view of society.   Today his pithy aphorism might be amended to, “Control the past and you can control the present.  Control the past and the present and you can control the future.”

Night, Peter Terezakis, Heart Beats Light, Yuha Desert 2007

Pictures at an Exhibition

“Pictures at an Exhibition,” as in I have one included in a group exhibition.
Night, a 2007 image from an installation of Heart Beats Light is included in New York University’s Photo and Emerging Media 2014-2015 Faculty and Staff Exhibition.  The exhibition opened on September 2, 2014 and closes on October 9, 2014.  The show is in two locations: the Gulf + Western Gallery (1st Floor, rear lobby) and the 8th Floor Gallery, 721 Broadway New York, NY 10003.

My piece is at the 721 Broadway location.  Admission is free and open to the public.

NYU’s Photo and Emerging Media faculty and staff of 2014-2015 include Ulrich Baer, Matthew Baum, Michael Berlin, Wafaa Bilal, Terry Boddie, Isolde Brielmaier, Kalia Brooks, Mark Bussell, Edgar Castillo, Iliana Cepero Amador, Charlotte Cotton, Yolanda Cuomo, Erika deVries, Thomas Drysdale, Brandy Dyess, Cate Fallon, Adrian Fernandez, Kara Fiedorek, Nichole Frocheur, Mark Jenkinson, Whitney Johnson, Elizabeth Kilroy, Elaine Mayes, Editha Mesina, Charles Nesbit, Lorie Novak, Paul Owen, Karl Peterson, Christopher Phillips, Shelley Rice, Fred Ritchin, Joseph Rodriguez, Bayeté Ross Smith, Abi Roucka, Peter Terezakis, Cheryl Yun-Edwards, and Deborah Willis.
Night, Peter  Terezakis,  Heart Beats Light, Yuha Desert 2007
Peter Terezakis, MPS
New York University Artist in Residence

Same as it ever was

In June of 2014 President Obama announced the goal of reducing coal pollution from power plants by 30%; a definitive gesture to the world in efforts to combat climate change.   On September 16th  Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, held a “CALL FOR CREDENTIALED NEWS MEDIA ONLY.

The gist of her presentation was that President Obama has back-pedaled on the most critical component of his climate-change plan: that of slowing the process of setting new rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants.   Even in a world of shifting baselines June’s announced rule would have cut carbon pollution from the country’s power plants by an average of 30% over 2005 levels.

Yesterday’s forty-five day extension of a public comment period by the current presidential administration follows 106 days after the stated change in what most would consider business as usual.   This delay is a symbolic gesture to all concerned with anthropogenic effects on our biosphere and our climate – including the United Nations.

Seven days after President Obama’s administration announced this “extension” the United Nations will host the largest summit on climate change in history.  Over one hundred and twenty heads of state will convene to address an issue which will impact the future of humanity.

Instead of leading by example, President Obama will again demonstrate actions dictated by fossil fuel interests as he continues to endorse the exporting of our country’s resources at the expense of current and future generations of Americans while multi-national corporations continue to profit.  Instead of embracing renewable technologies to power our economy into the future the message is clear: we are to remain enmired in nineteenth century technology.

Same as it ever was is hardly change anyone can believe in.



The Corporation – documentary

The CorporationA few years ago a friend told me how corporations fit the psychological profiles of sociopaths.  Considering how corporations run daily life, I really didn’t want to believe him.

Recently I came across  The Corporation: a 2003 Canadian documentary film written by Joel Bakan a professor of law at the University of British Columbia.   The documentary examines the modern-day corporation.  Bakan wrote the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, during  filming.

I am still processing the information in this film and would recommend it to anyone interested in environmentalism, human rights, their future, or their now.  The information in this film will change the way that you see the world.

Past President George Bush extols virtues of corporate ethics

Best construction practice or another kind of vandalism?

For the past two years I have walked past the Gallatin building on my way to 721 Broadway (where I recently graduated from ITP!).

A long-time New Yorker, I have a fondness for the historic architecture of downtown – especially those which comprise the New York University campus.

Yesterday I had a bit of a shock when I saw steel L brackets bolted to otherwise pristine faces of granite blocks framing the windows on the Gallatin building’s  south-facing 1 Washington Place side.

I understand that scaffolding must be put in place for various types of construction and why.  I simply have never seen an invasive attachment like the one on Gallatin.

Even if there isn’t secondary fracturing and the bolt holes are plugged with epoxy, those otherwise pristine faces will never be the same and their deterioration will now accelerate requiring maintenance where none would have been needed.

The cavalier treatment of this historic building is a crime against culture, history, and property.   These are the actions of someone who has decided that the preservation of historic architecture has little to no value: unless they  — or an affiliate  — will be hired to continually repair the damage which they have begun.

Fracking Ban Stands in New York Town; Victory for Local Communities

 Fracking Ban Stands in New York Town; Victory for Local Communities March 12, 2013 | Feature The Story of Dryden: The Town That Fought Fracking
No longer content with the sale of property and goods, the Supreme Court has recently converted the political system of the United States for sale to those corporate entities willing to spend the most.  So before our new masters get around to having more laws changed in their favor, this is a good time to support Earth Justice.
“Earthjustice was created by a small group of attorneys with a passionate belief that the power of the law could be used to preserve the environment. They helped establish the right of citizens to go to court to enforce environmental laws when the government couldn’t or wouldn’t.”Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice President