Do the assignments you assign? I blabbed about this recently for the Ontario Extend mOOC I was facilitating, so it’s also appropriate for the Networked Narratives course I co-teach with Mia Zamora.

At some point I would have used what was seemingly fit word for this about eating one’s own canine food, but I have learned that it’s not really meaningful or even respectful outside of North America.

The focus of our class has been opening students to the dark aspects of the current internet, data tracking, privacy, the surveillance economy, living in a post truth world, etc. All along we have asked students each week to find and review a reading relevant to the topics, tagging their posts so we can aggregate them in one nice pile (50+ at last check).

This was the idea we had for a final project; to identify one slice of the darkness, one topic, to do some research, and develop a guide to understanding and addressing/living with this topic at an individual level. Students are being tasked to write this not as your typical essay assignment, but in a narrative fashion, where they write as some form of communication between themselves (an unknowing person of the topic) with someone that has more experience and wisdom, a digital alchemist guide that the students are bringing to life (that character being themselves at the end of the project, we hope). Part of the work will be both characters using and leaving helpful notes and markers in the web via annotations.

This last week we asked them to start by identifying two possible topics, suggesting ones that they new the least about, thay surprised/scared them the most, and write them up this week. With feedback from their teachers and other students, we will want them next week to narrow it to The One, and start the research work.

One student in class asked for an example of a final project of this type, which we do not have, as each year these projects are different. We did show how they will be published in our Arganee Journal (!SPLOT) essentially a well formatted, referenced, media and link encrusted blog post. The closest we had to the writing of it as narrative were the “letters home from arganee” in our first course.

Without too much thinking of what it would take, I piped in, “ok, I will do the task along side you.”

That’s all the prelude. I am considering two topic areas below. For me (and our students) the aim is (a) to keep it narrowly focused, specific; (b) something for which we can suggest steps one can do to be informed or take action.

Data Obfuscation: Give The Trackers Worthless Noise

You Are Being Tracked. Erasing these footprints – or not leaving them in the first place – is becoming more difficult, and less effective. Hiding from data collection isn’t working. Instead, we can make our collected data less actionable by leaving misleading tracks, camouflaging our true behavior.

This idea was spun from a remark by Anne-Marie Scott during our studio visit when she mentioned AdNauseum. I had bookmarked this long ago, but never tried it.

AdNauseam is a free browser extension designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from tracking by advertising networks. At the same time, AdNauseam serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that disregard privacy and facilitate bulk surveillance agendas.

Obfuscation, a word I stumble over in saying, is an interesting approach, “the obscuring of the intended meaning of communication by making the message difficult to understand, usually with confusing and ambiguous language.” It’s deliberate in an attempt create noise and confusion around meaning.

Much has been driven by the current US administrations decisions to allow internet service providers to provide differentials services based on our activity. There is somewhat of af analog to this approach in software related to data masking, but that’s not quite relevant here.

Noiszy is another user tool that has a similar aim as Adnasuem- send meaningless information to data trackers. A more experimental tool, aimed more at signalling protest is Make Noise. Some writers suggest that making noise will not really hide your browsing habits.

The field guide would research this and more data noise generating tools, experiment with them, and try to gain some understanding about their impact. It would explore possible negative outcomes of generating random activity- would web services like search become any less useful? What changes in the ads delivered have when using noise generators? And what would it take for them to be effective?

My curiosity is less about “will this protect me” somehow as an effective way to navigate the modern web and thwart tracking, but more as an interest in a counter typical approach of expecting systems to act as shields. And also, as note in most of the tools listed above, it’s almost more to make a statement.

My alchemist pal, Vulpes Internetus has already started leaving me some hypothesis notes to wonder about and respond to – he is wisely tagging them fieldguide to there is a way to see them all at once

Just as I was writing my alchemist tweeted another tool

Facial Recognition Faceoff

I’ve got less on this topic as I am pretty sure I will do the topic above. But with the rising interest, awareness into how much of our faces are photographed in public, I’m curious about approaches that one might to to avoid; are there ways (that to not involve hiding or living in a box) to be in public and thwart the cameras?

My info so far is one main article in Wired: How to hack your face to dodge the rise of facial recognition tech

Techniques for fooling FR can be roughly divided into two categories: occlusion or confusion.

Occlusion techniques work by physically hiding facial features so the camera simply can’t see them. How successful these methods are will depend on which bits of your face are hidden and how well hidden they are.


So if occlusion is uncertain at best and liable to get you locked up at worst, that leaves confusion. One of the most straightforward techniques is to stop the FR system working is to make it think it isn’t looking at a face.

The question really is, can we still go about our daily business without weird things on our face? (this topic needs help!)

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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.

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