public space

#OccupationUQAM

In "Crowd, Power and Post-Democracy in the 21st Century”, Zizek (2008) argues that when the normal run of things is traumatically interrupted, the field is open for a ‘discursive’ ideological competition. In other words, when there is a crisis.

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After our class yesterday there was a l’UQAM  occupation. It ended late into the night with an unnecessarily large police presence in riot gear, endless tear gas burning throats, and violent dispersion strategies. The night occupation was an immediate reaction to the events of earlier that day at UQAM.

Today, on the campus of the Université du Québec à Montréal, facing a court order demanding that classes be held and the threat of expulsion issued by their administration, hundreds of students turned up to disrupt classes and enforce their democratically voted strike mandate.

In response, the university administration called in the Montreal police, who arrived in full riot gear with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons at the ready. Paradoxically enough, their stated role there was to ensure that classes could occur as scheduled.

The students were shortly boxed in. The bulk of the reported 22 arrests happened as riot police swept onto campus. Students then set up barricades, and police formed a line and prepared to move in.

The occupation was also a response to the larger institutional issues of the different forms of violence against students (physical, economic, etc) and the austerity myth. The violence of those in power is much more insidious and invisible than the violence of destroying university property, which creates an unbalanced imaginary in this political struggle.

When we see images in the media and read the discourse of others which try to decontextualize a serious and complicated issue, and only focus on ‘violent protestors doing damage to property’ we must remember history, context, and the nuanced ways that bodies are excluded from spaces. What are the modes of recourse against the systemic and systematic violence we are faced with? Yes, all of us! Whether we recognize it or not. Although, some of us are affected by institutional violence more than others, which is where our friend intersectionality comes in. And even then, we must self-reflect what subject position we are coming from in the ways in which we orient towards events like the occupation last night. Why do we have x or y opinion on protests/protestors? What has shaped that perspective?

We must also remember the ways in which regulatory powers favor property over human bodies. When are riot gear, teargas and rubber bullets, etc. appropriate modes of policing bodies? (remember the Jason Farman example about increased security cameras pointing to computer labs and not for the safety of students on campus.)

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Photos courtesy of Caroline Ramirez.

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Blog Post 3- Who’s Watching?

“In March 2010, a 31 year old man from California was arrested for spying on a young woman through her webcam” “Since then, there have been thousands of documented cases of what is called webcam hacking”.  

This is a short film created entirely through the use of a webcam, to help demonstrate the dangers of a owning one, and how easily anyone can hack into someone’s computer to spy on people virtually, which ultimately affects them in their physical reality by disrupting the privacy of their space, both online and offline. This removes the ideology that personal computers are a safe private space for their users, rather, there is a growing paranoia that one’s own devices are being used to someone else’s advantage without their knowledge. In this case, to be spied or surveilled on by webcam hackers which raises the question of weather someone can know if they are truly safe simply by being connected to the internet and owning a webcam. This article on BBC News from June 2013 also investigates the accessibility of other people’s computers, which is remarkably easy to do with hundreds of tutorials online: Webcams taken over by hackers, charity warns

CNBC explores the tool Blackshades RAT, which allows people to access and control anyone’s computer, with little expertise and on very low costs: Inside Blackshades: Hackers are watching you on infected webcams

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Most people who own computers, especially from Apple, have a camera already installed into them, or have purchased a webcam to have more visual conversations with people on private networks such as good old MSN messenger, and Skype. Although these social networks claim to give us control over our security through the settings of our personal accounts, it is very possible if someone is not attentive to their computers or who don’t know any better, especially children, that their webcams are being accessed by a hacker. This can lead to more dangerous cases that involve the hacker and the computer’s owner having a physical interaction, outside of this virtual space.

“John, 16, who lives near London, estimates he has hacked 100 computers and viewed webcams on almost half of them” He says: “I know it is illegal. I wasn’t really looking for anything on their webcams, just their reactions. I’d open up random sites – shock sites – they’d see a scary picture or someone screaming, and you’d see they were scared. There are creepy people who post pictures of female slaves. I’m not really into that.”

One way of knowing whether your webcam is being accessed is if its light turns on, although if you have a microphone connected to your computer as well, there is no way of knowing who can tune in and listen on private conversations. BBC recommends people cover their webcams with a piece of black tape when they are not being used, and have a good anti-virus installed keeping their computer updated, making it more difficult for hackers to take control over their devices. The devious ways in which hackers can retrieve information from you through the mask of the internet, may fool many strangers they are speaking to in chat rooms as well; older sexual predators claiming to be kids is a form of virtual embodiment, as is performing as invisible and watching someone sleep while their camera is on.

By participating in today’s modern virtual spaces, such as Skype for instance, a private social network, and having a webcam which most people do, it shouldn’t be as easy as it is for one’s personal computer to be used against them by an outsider. More effective ways of knowing someone’s private space is no longer private should exist, perhaps by making more reliable and effective anti-malware software free. Otherwise anyone could be under unauthorized surveillance when they are most vulnerable and in their supposedly safe environments. Skype’s security page explains how to avoid hackers, by having a difficult password, keeping Skype up-to-date, avoiding phishing (when a third party attempts to trick you into providing information that they shouldn’t have, such as someone claiming to be a Skype employee asking for private information) and more which you can view on their security page: Skype Security

Question: Would these tools used for surveilling people through their webcams be useful for parental monitoring of children, in order for parents to have better control over their children avoiding the dangers of public chat rooms and viruses at such a young age? Due to existing social networks for children such as Club Penguin, a website my younger brother used to be very active on and made friends with people now outside of the penguin network, is meant for kids and supposedly created through their parent’s email addresses. Typically anyone can partake in this experience and would only appear as a friendly penguin to a young kid, therefore should parents have better surveillance over their children going on social websites like these? Here is a glimpse of what Club Penguin is: 

Sources:

Farman, Jason. (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 1 “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface” (16-34) London: Routledge.

“Hackers Are Watching You on Infected Webcams.” CNBC. 24 May 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Webcams Taken over by Hackers, Charity Warns.” BBC News. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Protecting Your Online Safety, Security and Privacy.” Skype Security. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Week 9 — Online Bodies

This week we focused on a variety of online bodies and spaces. We were going to have Ana Voog Skype/chat with us which didn’t work out and in the end we didn’t focus on her at all, and she is the most prolific camgirl that ever existed. Here is the video she made for us!

The space of the blog filled up today with a lot of interesting stories about sexuality, censorship, shaming online, which shows how invested we are in the internet and our lives online. This stuff really affects us. Digital dualism go away!

For this week, we read two historical pieces about the internet—Terri Senft’s chapter from CamGirls, and a series of conversations—focused on the internet as an embodied space, and the ways in which particular bodies embody the internet (before the internet was mobile). We unpacked reductive and oppressive ideas about narcissism, shaming others and their bodies through modes of surveillance, and viewing the expression of sexuality as frivolous and lacking in political valence. The two historical pieces are meant to help you reflect on the way we function on the internet today — particularly around social media, identity and image sharing. I assigned the series of emails to you, to demonstrate that forms of knowledge do not just come in published books, articles, and or distributed films. It is important that we take narratives, and epistolary exchanges just as seriously, and these are important for our thinking. They are also primary research material. Particularly to read first-hand accounts of how people were experiencing the internet and themselves online in that space in the early days. We also briefly looked at contemporary artist Jillian Mayer and a community of women attempting to circumvent censorship online.

We looked at the ways in which surveillance, self-surveillance, and sousveillance is enacted on the internet, and the way we police other people’s behaviours on social media, and in the ways that internalize ideologies and self-monitor our own behaviour.

Until the late 1990s, being on the Internet typically meant communicating with peers, on Usenet discussion forums, IRC, multiple player massive text based online environments/games.  What’s important for us is that in 1995, the Mosaic web browser was the first to allow the ability for inline images, rather than them opening up separately in a new window. This started the internet as we know now —a visually based media. 

We presented the history of the practice of webcamming recognizing the importance that these women (cam girls) built the very web platforms they used to distribute their work: it is not simply that there were no templates that made the upload and distribution of images readily accessible (like Squarespace, Tumblr, WordPress); the development of a culture of online content sharing of any form was contemporaneous with the construction of the platforms used for such practices. There was no Kickstarter or Patreon to ask people for funding and/or money.

These users built their own spaces, their own communities, they built space where there was no space for them. We must ask ourselves why we judge these experiences, as narcissistic as opposed to other forms of expression? Why is that when a woman wants to control her own image it is seen as narcissistic?

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Twitter bans nonconsensual intimate photos, a.k.a. ‘revenge porn’

A mere moments ago this appeared on my Twitter feed. Fitting for today's lively discussion. We must take seriously the space many of us spend a lot of time within — cyberspace! As important as it is that platforms help create safer spaces for everyone, we must also question the near-ubiquity of posting other people's nude photos as a shaming method. How did this start? Why is it so effective and affective? Why do we use each other's bodies and the expressions of our bodies as shaming devices? Why is the nude body such a threat that it can be used to ruin people's lives? Why do we find sexuality threatening and 'inappropriate'? Why is there so much discourse that states, "well if she didn't want her photos leaked, she shouldn't have taken them." That is the same logic that we have seen when focused on the Pamela George case that plagues so many rape/murder cases — "She shouldn't have been walking there." Or the historical discourse to teach women how not to get raped rather than teach men not to rape. How do we reproduce the rhetoric that sticks in making people's lives so unbearable that some of them commit suicide? 

What about if you had posted images online and now you want them removed? What happens then? Can people not change their mind about what content they want available? How?

These questions also point to the fallacy of the online/offline virtual/real binary.

by Kashmir Hill

It has historically been a nightmare if nude or intimate photos of you made their way out onto the Internet. Beyond the sheer embarrassment of exposure, it was very, very hard to get those photos removed. If pleas to websites to take down revealing pics posted by vengeful exes or hackers didn’t work, women — and occasionally men — resorted to creative legal threats, claiming copyright over scandalous selfies or filing lawsuits saying that the posting was an invasion of privacy. Websites, protected from liability for what their users posted, were often unsympathetic and legally in the clear. But the tide is starting to change around nonconsensual porn — also called “revenge porn” — with social media platforms making it easier for people to get pics they never wanted publicly exposed taken down. Last month, Reddit banned revenge porn. On Wednesday, Twitter followed suit.

Technically, Twitter added this clause to its rules: “You may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.” So if your vengeful ex decides to tweet a graphic present you bestowed upon him when you were dating, you’ll now be able to report it and Twitter says it will take it down “in a timely manner.” In a recent blog post, Twitter said it’s tripled the size of its abuse response team, and responds to reports far more quickly now, though the company doesn’t give out specific numbers.

[…]

So, how exactly will this thing work? I asked the employee just how intimate a photo needs to be for a person to take it down. Does it need to be X-rated or could it be a “nonconsensual” underwear bulge or side boob shot? He said that while there’s no hard-and-fast rule on what counts as intimate, the company is trying to get at the ‘range of horrendous behaviors that people engage in’ including not just full frontals and lingerie shots, but up-skirt photos and perhaps even what Reddit likes to call “creep shots,” revealing photos taken of unsuspecting women in public.

One catch is that you have to recognize yourself in the photo and report it; Twitter doesn’t want “body police” going through tweets and reporting every pornographic image they find. If an offending tweet is removed, all native retweets will disappear too, but you’ll have to report all manual RTs and any further postings of the photo or video. Twitter does not yet have a technical way to block a given photo once it’s been flagged as banned, though the company is working on it. Franks, for one, thinks it’s problematic that bystanders can’t report the posting of explicit images of others. “Every minute private sexual material is available increases the number of people who can view it, download it, and forward it, so even ifTwitter responds quickly to complaints, it may be too late to stop the material from going viral,” she said by email.

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Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 2015

Related to next week's class --- who is included and excluded from spaces online? in what ways? what forms does censorship take? You can participate in this wonderful worldwide initiative to address the absence of women artists on Wikipedia.

Samedi / Saturday * 7 / 03 / 2015 *
CWAHI @ Concordia 10h-17h (Faculty of Fine Arts Slide Library 1515 Ste. Catherine St. West EV Building, Room 3.741) http://cwahi.concordia.ca/

(Garderie disponible! / Childcare available! 10h-17h @ Institute Simone de Beauvoir – 2170 Bishop, 2 étage)

Wikipedia’s gender trouble is well documented: in a 2010 survey, Wikimedia found that less than 13% of its contributors identify as female. (http://web.archive.org/web/20100414165445/http://wikipediasurvey.org/docs/Wikipedia_Overview_15March2010-FINAL.pdf)

We invite you to help address this absence at a Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Saturday, March 7, 2015 from 10am to 5pm at CWAHI Concordia (Faculty of Fine Arts Slide Library 1515 Ste. Catherine St. West EV Building, Room 3.741). We will provide tutorials for the beginner Wikipedian, and reference materials. For the editing-averse, we urge you to stop by to show your support. We also encourage remote participation; you can share your thoughts on the editing process in real-time on our Wikipedia Meet Up page and here on the Tumblr.

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For more information / pour plus d’informations :
http://art.plusfeminism.org/
http://artandfeminism.tumblr.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/Montreal/ArtAndFeminism_2015
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/ArtAndFeminism
#artandfeminism


 

Le problème d’égalité de représentation des sexes à Wikipédia est déjà l’objet d’une riche documentation. Dans une enquête de 2010, Wikimédia a révélé que moins de 13% de ses collaborateurs s’identifient comme femmes. (http://web.archive.org/web/20100414165445/http://wikipediasurvey.org/docs/Wikipedia_Overview_15March2010-FINAL.pdf)

Nous vous invitons à contribuer à combler cette absence lors d’un « Art + féminisme Wikipedia Edit-a-thon », le samedi 7 mars 2015, de 10h à 17h à CWAHI Concordia (Faculty of Fine Arts Slide Library 1515 Ste. Catherine St. West EV Building, Room 3.741). Nous fournirons des tutoriels pour les débutants wikipédiens, et des ressources documentaires. Pour ceux et celles qui craindraient de prendre part à l’édition en elle-même, nous vous invitons à vous arrêter au moins pour montrer votre soutien. Nous encourageons également la participation à distance, vous pouvez partager vos réflexions sur le processus d’édition en temps réel sur notre page Wikipedia Meet Up et ici sur le Tumblr.

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Notes on accessibility / Des notes sur l’accessabilité de l’évènement:
1. CWAHI est accessible et comprends des toilettes accessible / CWAHI is accessible and there is access to accessible washrooms.
2. La gardere est disponible de 10-17h à l’Institute Simone de Beauvoir (2170 Bishop, 2 étage). Ce lieu n’est pas accessible. Pour aide a ouvrir la porte, appeler au 514 848 2424 (x 2373). / Childcare will be provided for this event. The venue (2170 Bishop, second floor) is however not accessible and so parents needing assistance are invited to 514 848 2424 (x 2373) to arrange for child pickup at the building entrance.
3. Les ateliers et discussions seront presenter en français et anglais. N’hésiter pas à demander pour un traduction en tout temps! / All workshops and talks will be presented in English and French. Please ask for a translation if needed!

Blog Post 2: Re-orientation Exercise

My initial description of my favorite space is entirely psychogeographic, as I consider my own individual emotions and behavior in the space. In this reflection I will try to expand on other bodies’ experiences in the space.

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Erie Beach is a small residential neighborhood in Chatham Kent, Ontario. It is near the town of Erieau, which was historically a fishing and port village receiving shipments of coal from the United States. The beach is a private space and can only be accessed by property owners. Each property owner owns a piece of the beach making it a very restricted space. Since I have been visiting this space all my life as a privileged guest, the space that is restricted to most has always felt like a safe haven of freedom and lively connections to my surroundings. Although in reflection with Gill Valentine’s idea of public/private space, the private space is not truly private as it is managed and controlled by neighbors and for this reason, many bodies may not truly be themselves in the space.

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Even though the space is technically private, residents share the beach with one and other. There is a certain unspoken set of rules in which bodies must conduct themselves within this private space adhering with Henri Lefebvre’s first triad: special practice. I did not realize this special practice and performance in my initial description of the space as it has been engrained in me as “normal”. At the beach, one cannot stop and rest on someone else’s property while strolling down the shoreline, or play music, dance, or skinny dip without getting negative attention from neighbors. This reinforces the social practice that is constantly reproduced by the majority bodies within it.

In my original portrayal of Erie Beach, the space was a warm, sunny, summer day where I felt connected with the vibrancy of the bodies around me, and at peace from the serenity of my surroundings. When I revisited the space last week it was winter. The lake was covered in snow and ice, haunted by its previous entity. The skeleton of the space was still there, but its soul and flesh had changed drastically. As a socially produced space, the bodies within it were no longer vibrant, connected and loose, but stiff, lethargic and preoccupied. In one sense, the change in bodies’ orientations made the space feel dramatically different, however it was the change in the space’s physical make up that induced the change in bodies’ orientations. Thus a perfect example of Jason Farman’s theory that space is “constructed simultaneously with our bodies” (18) co-constructing one another.

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Through my memories of being in the actual space, as I gaze at the virtual computer image of Erie Beach at summer time, my body goes through the same physical sensations as it would if I was actually there. I feel my shoulders loosen, my breath become deeper, and my ears fill with the sound of the waves. This is an extension of Jason Farman’s idea of the “sensory-inscribed body”. Even in the dead of winter, virtual imagery of a space is able to stimulate my body with same way the actual space would.

Drawing from Sarah Ahmed’s phenomenology of whiteness, I myself possess white orientation in the space along with all other residents of the space, unaware of our orientation of power and exclusivity in the space, due to our ownership, politics and ideology. Along with being an inherently white space, Erie Beach is also authentically heterosexual. Both Valentine and Ahmed draw from Lefebvre in stating that the normality of a space is a consequence of constant reproduction of a certain behavior the bodies that are in that space conduct repeatedly and must always be reinforced. Next summer when I visit Erie Beach in its prime, I am going to challenge myself to try and break the norms of what is socially acceptable.

Class 6 — Notes

This week we read three works and looked at a selection of slam poetry performances by queer artists that provided us with more concepts and embodied ideas to get at the question of the course — which bodies? which spaces?

Two of the readings assigned from the 1990s may seem outdated, but I assigned them because it’s important to have a history of when these issues and problems finally entered academia on a larger scale. Both Valentine and Knopp challenge the city/public space/the street as heterosexual. We used those two pieces as frameworks to think with Melissa Gira Grant’s evocative and high-speed Playing the Whore, which was released last year.

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