I’m a strategist and contributing author for The Civic Beat.
I research and make media. I've written and presented on the international intersections of technology, media, politics, and culture at SXSW, Salon, the ACLU of Northern California, Hyperallergic, SFAQ, YBCA, the de Young Museum of Art, and more.
I love collaborating and I'm always looking for interesting work.
follow me @bennnyv
Work By Art
Read this interview by Alicia Eler with artist Zach Blas:
"Crucially, the masks are not just simple refusals of biometrics and surveillance; they are equally concerned with positive collective transformation, a process that exceeds the measurability of biometrics and other governmentalities of visuality, a process of collectivization that produces an illegible excess. I like to think of the masks as proposing and experimenting with ways of relating and being together that are not bound to norms of measuring, seeing and identifying. Ultimately, I chose the mask to work with because of its vital role in social movements and protest today, such as with the Zapatistas, Anonymous, Pussy Riot solidarity protests, black blocs, and general carnivalesque tendencies in protests and occupations today."
• 28 April 2014 • 1 note • View comments
"The DARC panelist who spoke of “droneism” may have been correct that people outside the drone community “aren’t aware” of the history or the culture, but that is because that community is hard for the layperson to make it out. Like most boys-with-toys hacker spaces, it is intimidating and exclusionary. For drones to be the emancipatory, humanity-improving technology that their evangelists invoke, the makeup and funding sources of their stakeholders would need to change dramatically. There is only so much room to fly."
by Joanne McNeil and Ingrid Burrington
• 28 April 2014 • View comments
Google’s algorithm can read streetview numbers and CAPTCHAs - via Google
Have you ever wondered how Google Maps knows the exact location of your neighborhood coffee shop? …This technology finds and reads street numbers in Street View, and correlates those numbers with existing addresses to pinpoint their exact location on Google Maps… this system is able to accurately detect and read difficult numbers in Street View with 90% accuracy.
Turns out that this new algorithm can also be used to read CAPTCHA puzzles—we found that it can decipher the hardest distorted text puzzles from reCAPTCHA with over 99% accuracy.
• 28 April 2014 • 24 notes • View comments
"Kurzweil says: "Computers are on the threshold of reading and understanding the semantic content of a language, but not quite at human levels. But since they can read a million times more material than humans they can make up for that with quantity. So IBM’s Watson is a pretty weak reader on each page, but it read the 200m pages of Wikipedia. And basically what I’m doing at Google is to try to go beyond what Watson could do. To do it at Google scale. Which is to say to have the computer read tens of billions of pages. Watson doesn’t understand the implications of what it’s reading. It’s doing a sort of pattern matching. It doesn’t understand that if John sold his red Volvo to Mary that involves a transaction or possession and ownership being transferred. It doesn’t understand that kind of information and so we are going to actually encode that, really try to teach it to understand the meaning of what these documents are saying."’
• 28 April 2014 • 1 note • View comments
Technology then and now
at first i thought it was the same number then I noticed it said GB and damn
As one of the tech review magazines said a few years ago when the first 32 GB micro SD cards came out, “At last it is possible for a single human being to accidentally swallow all of the data collected by the Apollo Program.”
now that is a review
• 28 April 2014 • 200,201 notes • View comments
I wonder if these people proceeded Adam Harvey’s Privacy Gift Shop…
See the examples here, and buy the materials here
• 28 April 2014 • View comments
Greg Ponchak Creates Tumblr Theme Demanding Attention
"The ever-increasing pace at which we consume images is undoubtedly intesified by websites such as Tumblr and Instagram. On social networks such as these, the extent of our reflection upon each image is limited by the narrow margin of time it takes for it to appear at the bottom of our feed and disappear beyond the top margin of the browser window. Using a mouse-wheel, this may take a maximum of a few seconds, but when using a Macbook’s trackpad or swiping on an iphone this window of opportunity is reduced even further, oftentimes to less than a second. This tempo effectively strips images of the content they were intended to embody; through this process of aestheticization they are neutralized and nullified. This Tumblr theme was created with the aim to disrupt this rhythm and force reflection. That said, it is more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. Right now the theme only handles image and text posts, but if you are interested, you can download the html here:”
• 28 April 2014 • 16 notes • View comments
Tressie McMillan: Another Post about Hashtags. No, Seriously.
Surely, the Dreamers reminded us of civil rights movements but Occupy and Anonymous came closest to being activist epochs. Occupy added a millennial edge to the 1970s peaceniks and Anonymous cast a shadow of anarchy just beyond the nation’s front door. But, in many ways these movements didn’t feel populist. Occupy had an air of middle class whiteness that did not resonate with an American culture that is as brown as it has ever been. And becoming Anonymous takes digital acumen and deep relational ties that few have the time or know-how to cultivate. These were professional movements. They required capital — social and economic — that narrowed their resonance among the growing, discontented middle.
• 28 April 2014 • View comments
the surveillance state will be outsourced to those who were disrupted out of a job
(Source: algopop, via jomc)
• 27 April 2014 • 11 notes • View comments
O’Reilly Radar looks at Twitter:
"In comparative terms, almost nobody on Twitter is somebody: the median Twitter account has a single follower. Among the much smaller subset of accounts that have posted in the last 30 days, the median account has just 61 followers. If you’ve got a thousand followers, you’re at the 96th percentile of active Twitter users."
"The profile that emerges suggests that Twitter is more a consumption medium than a conversational one–an only-somewhat-democratized successor to broadcast television, in which a handful of people wield enormous influence and everyone else chatters with a few friends on living-room couches. There are undoubtedly some influential Twitter users who would not be influential without Twitter, but I suspect that most people who have, say, 3,000 followers (the top one percent) were prominent commentators, industry experts, or gregarious accumulators of friends to begin with."
• 27 April 2014 • View comments
“There’s plenty of co-opetition going on in media, obviously, as traditional outlets try to make use of various tools and platforms without completely losing control. And media organizations clearly benefit from the traffic that Facebook sends them. But the winner in this particular game is the one who distributes the content and captures the attention — and Facebook controls the primary distribution platform.”
— Facebook launches a newswire so it can help the media — while it competes with them
• 24 April 2014 • View comments
This Military Robot Can Jump From The Sidewalk Onto A Roof
the day these start roaming our cities with cameras on them en masse is a bad day.
• 24 April 2014 • 83 notes • View comments
Cleveland baseball fans stand against racism by #DeChiefing their gear
In the past few months, debate surrounding the use of racial caricatures as pro sports mascots has reached a fever pitch. Just ask the Washington Redskins, who’ve endured significant backlash for both their refusal to change their name and their half-assed attempts to placate their critics.
But a few miles west, fans of the MLB’s Cleveland Indians are taking a stand. In a motion of solidarity, a small but growing number have been “de-Chiefing” their paraphernalia by removing the offensive “Chief Wahoo” mascot from caps and jerseys that bear its likeness.
Read more | Follow policymic
I like this a LOT. I don’t know who else can make these teams change at this point other than their own fans.
(Source: micdotcom, via transmisogynykills)
• 22 April 2014 • 27,552 notes • View comments
But who, if anyone, is going to fix the failing institutions that continue to have an enormous impact on the everyday lives of everyone, regardless of their opinions about how corrupt, unpopular or even illegitimate these institutions are? Especially given how tedious, tiring, unexciting organization-building can be, compared with humorous, energized, adrenaline-filled efforts such as protests and occupations?
New media certainly enables even the coalitions of ordinary citizens to realize impressive logistics. I am amazed at the energy and creativity I’ve witnessed in country after country, as citizens organize everything from election monitoring to disaster aid. They do not lack in numbers, talent or creativity, and they have an impressive array of new tools. It’s not that the protesters are shying away from sacrifice or hard work, and it’s not that they are preferring online over offline—the Gezi Park protest thoroughly mixed online and offline, as had Occupy Wall Street. And yet, these new movements keep failing to mount a successful — or even credible — electoral challenge, and they have not yet found a way to impact institutions which hold great sway and influence over our lives.
— Zeynep Tufekci: What If the Feature Is the Bug? Election monitoring, new power of social media and old power of structural power
• 22 April 2014 • View comments
Introducing AISight: The slightly scary CCTV network completely run by AI
BRS Labs’ AISight is different because it doesn’t rely on a human programmer to tell it what behaviour is suspicious. It learns that all by itself.
The system enables a machine to monitor is environment, and build up a detailed profile of what can be considered “normal” behaviour. The AI can then determine what kind of behaviour is abnormal, without human pre-programing.
What’s more, AISight permanently learns and registers when changes in normal behaviour occur, so no ongoing programing is required from human operators. In order to do this, it employs a technology known as “artificial neural networks”, which mimics the function of the human brain.
• 22 April 2014 • 2 notes • View comments