Friday, December 14, 2007

Facebook's privacy nightmare

(This has nothing to do with generative art, unless a social networking site is a generative artwork.)

I have a Facebook page. I have found that quite a few of my friends have one, and also I have recently moved interstate, and I thought it might help me to catch up with people I haven't seen for a long time.

But Facebook's new and intrusive "Beacon" data collection system makes me wonder if I should continue. As indicated on a security site here, if anyone logs on to a site which is a Facebook advertising partner, the partner site sends a wad of data to Facebook. If you have a Facebook page, there is a good chance that Facebook will be able to identify you from this data. It is difficult to prevent this data being sent. You can stop it causing messages to appear on your Facebook page, but Facebook still receives the data. More info here.

Facebook's actions caused a large fuss, and Facebook have now promised not to keep the data if I have set my privacy options to block external websites sending stories to my profile.

Do I trust Facebook to honour this promise? Not very far. I use Firefox, and I have downloaded the BlockSite plugin and set it to block http://*facebook.com/beacon/*, as advised in downloadsquad.com here ( check out the comments at the end of the post).

I can't block cookies from Facebook altogether, because if I do, I can't log in, but I have set cookies to evaporate when I close Firefox. I don't click "Remember me" in Facebook. And my date of birth in Facebook is wrong (and not visible to the world).

I will continue to use Facebook for now.

I realise that if I venture onto a social networking site I have to some extent made a compact with the Devil: trade off some of my privacy in return for putting information I choose up on the site. I don't think I can object if Facebook uses the information I put up on my Facebook page to serve me ads, though if it becomes too irritating I will leave. I object very strongly if Facebook is enabling third party sites to send information about me silently to Facebook.

I know that the then CEO of Sun Microsystems said in 1999 that "You have zero privacy anyway - get over it" (an unfortunate statement for the CEO of a company involved in privacy initiatives). I also know that if someone really wants to find out a lot about me, they probably can. But I can at least make it a bit harder for corporate robots, whether silicon- or carbon-based.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Galeyev’s “Periodical System of Art”

A post by W. Shawn Gray on the iota list made me aware of the article “Periodical System of Art” by Bulat Galeyev (http://prometheus.kai.ru/sis_e.htm). Galaeyev classifies artforms on a two-dimensional diagram, with the vertical axis running from visual arts to audio arts and the horizontal axis running from “figurative and verbal arts” to “expressive (nonfigurative) arts”.

Galeyev organises the arts into three concentric rings. In the centre is the cultural practice of societies such as Aboriginal society, which fuses what we would call dance, singing, painting and so forth into one practice (labelled “folkloric” by Galeyev). The next ring has eight boxes containing the usually recognised artforms such as music, dance, painting and so forth, with some nuances. Thus singing is a pure audio art, balanced between the figurative and non-figurative poles; of its two neighbours, music is somewhat nearer the non-figurative pole and “art of word” somewhat nearer the figurative pole.

The outermost ring (16 boxes) contains newer artforms enabled by technology, such as TV (balanced between audio and visual art, extremely figurative or representational). I can place what I want to do in the box exactly opposite, namely art balanced between audio and visual art, but not at all figurative. Galeyev labels this box “light-music”. I think that this is distinct from visual music, which at least in part is conceived as a visual equivalent of abstract music, and probably belongs in Galeyev’s box “dynamic light art”. I found some of the labels hard to understand, as the explanation is condensed and there is a problem of translation.

I found Galeyev’s diagram thought-provoking. According to it, the nearest traditional art-form to “light-music” is dance, which is a connection I certainly hadn’t considered. I’m not sure what to make of this.

Galeyev doesn’t consider generative art in this article. It occurred to me that there could be a third axis running from free improvisation at one end, to a middle position where most aspects of the work are fixed, but by an artist working fairly intuitively (e.g. an orchestral score), to pure algorithmic art at the far end. This is an axis of immediacy of intuition. Since almost all artforms fall pretty well in the middle of this axis, this third axis would only give a slight three-dimensional thickening of Galeyev’s planar diagram!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Moving to Ballarat

This blog will be mostly about algorithmic and generative art, but this first post is more personal. Recently my wife Jane and I moved from Gosford (80 km north of Sydney) to Ballarat in Victoria.

Why Ballarat?

We had to move house, since Jane has retired, and the house we were in was tied to her job. We have become used to living out of the big city, but not too far away, and Ballarat is just 80 minutes by train from the centre of Melbourne. Ballarat's climate suits us better than Gosford's, being colder and less humid. Ballarat is a compact city, with many things within walking distance, but it is large enough to have comprehensive facilities, important as we get older. Ballarat has an interesting history and a strong identity as a city; it also has a tradition of interest in the arts. We could afford a nice house here. And, importantly, the place has a positive feel and people seem to like living here.

We are not total strangers to Victoria, as we both went to high school and University in Melbourne, and Jane lived in Geelong for a while. Moving to Ballarat is an adventure for us, but we hope not a foolhardy one.