The day before yesterday, I journeyed with my partner in art crime to a brick wall on a side street of Fort Erie, Ontario, and cemented a USB thumb drive into the wall:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Why? Because, very much like the PirateBox, it is public digital art built around anonymous filesharing (damnit!). From the main site:

“˜Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project. “˜Dead Drops’ is open to participation.

It’s a quirky idea, and the usual blog posts about it are filled with comments like “great way to share porn”, “perfect for spreading viruses” or “just like a Mac user will inser anything into their computer”– the lowest common denominator of cynicism rises to the top of blog comments. But think about the concept of having the simplest devices possible, the disposable a most thumb drive, as a vehicle for sharing content. Or the radical image of people with laptops jammed against a wall i a public place.

So yeah, it i a curiosity thing, but there is no reason to limit the imagination- imagine a whole network (meaning not a network) of these distributed with clues and challenges to find more. Or a way to share information about local areas, or collect anonymous ideas for improvement of our urban areas.

Weird? Flaky? Yeah, call that of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, who set up a public installation of dead drops.

In August, we sought to locate one in Toronto, only to find it an empty hole

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

so it was fulfilling to create a new one. I lacked the tools or patience to prey the thumb drive out of the case, and who knows how long the drop will last among the winter weather. That is not the issue. What is on the drop now is a bunch of content liberated from my StoryBox, so there is a second place in the world to access this (for now).

Just use the dead drop database to find it— or add your own!

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I’m sure Jabiz that people will jump to baseless guesses of all the illegal or inappropriate things kids might do 😉

    The thing is that this is probably a harder way for people to share content than is available elsewhere. The key for me is what kind of challenge/activity one would set up for the students– just setting it up without a structure would doom the idea. Maybe there could be fragments of media people can find and assemble, maybe it is part of an ARG, maybe it is a scavenger/treasure hunt, maybe ….

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