Category Archives: journalism

The New Newsroom: Lost (and found?) in the information stream

We consume more news than ever but does that mean that we are better informed?

Every day, we eat up, share and generate stories through news apps, podcasts, Twitter, youtube, facebook updates and even VR. Yet, it seems that the more intimate we get with the creation of information, the less grip we have on its meaning and on the impact its manipulation has on politics and society. The exhibition The New Newsroom. Reporting Redesigned at MU in Eindhoven, explores how we can use the power of digital technology to create meaningful content and regain control of information.

In The New Newsroom, journalists, technologists, artists and designers investigate innovative formats, analyse the news and present their findings in stimulating visuals and installations

The exhibition is packed with emoticons, VR installations, humour, poetry, anecdotes and other weapons of mass distraction. And yet, the more you engage with the art and design works in the show, the clearer the message: the shape of information is evolving faster than ever and we need to probe and question its new guises if we don’t want to remain trapped inside filter bubbles and lose all consciousness of what makes and breaks society.

Here’s a quick tour of some of my favourite works in the show:


Reporters without Borders, Uncensored Playlist, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Reporters without Borders, Uncensored Playlist, 2018

China, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Thailand and Egypt are some of the countries at the bottom of the list for freedom of press. The Uncensored Playlist is the result of a collaboration between Reporters Without Borders Germany and local journalists and musicians to by-pass censorship. They turned censored news stories into songs with innocuous titles that can then be streamed for free via music apps.

Using music as a loophole, the platform aims to get the work of exiled journalists across the border, into people’s playlists. Just like other pop songs, the music spreads through word of mouth, turning news stories into hits.


Lilian Stolk, Emoji Newsfeed, 2018


Lilian Stolk, Emoji Newsfeed, 2018


Lilian Stolk, Emoji Newsfeed, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

I had no idea that there are already 3000 emojis for us to chose from. 100 are added every year. The Unicode Consortium determines which icons are added, but news media also plays a role in the pre-selection and modification of the icons. Proposals that meet a large audience in the media, are more likely to be added. Lilian Stolk monitors the development of emoji as she sees the process as a reflection of the choices and changes society is going through. Her colourful and ridiculously interesting Emoji Newsfeed charts the controversies and strange stories surrounding emoji communication.


Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, Pics or it Didn’t Happen. Photo: Cassie Brown. Insta: @show_you_mine


Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, Pics or it Didn’t Happen


Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, Pics or it Didn’t Happen. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Pics or it Didn’t Happen is an archive of photos banned from Instagram.

Arvida Byström and Molly Soda collected these images -most of them strange rather than offensive- into a book as a guarantee that they would not disappear: “We have to think about how to archive the web,” they told the Independent. “Putting something in a book is an interesting way to take encapsulate something, but also elevating the things that we aren’t supposed to be seeing.”

According to their own analysis, the social platform tends to reject (mostly female) bodies that aren’t young, hairless, lithe, and white. The tendency to favour the standard over what is considered deviant reflects the way society perceives, regulates and suppresses bodies.


Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska, Computational Propaganda About Computational Propaganda, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska, Computational Propaganda About Computational Propaganda, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska‘s Computational Propaganda About Computational Propaganda is a troll campaign that looks at the social and political responsibility of the five Big Tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft).

The troll campaign is executed by a bot that has no political agenda other than stressing the presence of the GAFAM in popular political discourse. “Using Big Data analysis techniques to extract hidden correlations from Wikipedia, the bot is built to spark discussions that link the companies to major social and political issues. The resulting assumptions are spread on social media under the viral form of internet memes. The memes are tracked and recorded, so that their aftereffect can be observed and scrutinized.”

I need to come back with a more detailed story on that one soon!


DROG, Slecht Nieuws, 2017
. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

The disheartening influence of fake news highlights the need for greater media literacy. Including among adults. Slecht Nieuws (Bad News), a game made by DROG, entices players to fabricate and spread fake news themselves. By learning to recognise the methods involved in the spread of disinformation, players are thus better equipped to distinguish falsehood from truth.

Forensic Architecture, al-Jinah Mosque

In March last year, the U.S. forces bombed a site in Al-Jinah, Syria, claiming that it was a terrorist meeting place and that the only causalities were terrorists.

Forensic Architecture worked with Human Rights Watch and British blogger Bellingcat to analyze numerous videos and images (from both before and after the drone strike) and interviewed survivors, first responders and the building’s contractor to demonstrate that the U.S. had in fact aimed fire at a mosque. Their work revealed the fatal misindentification, the killing of civilians and a possible cover-up by U.S. forces. After making the information public, the Pentagon eventually retracted part of their statement and confessed the target was indeed, “part of a mosque complex.”


Coralie Vogelaar, Looking for a Possible Algorythm for the Popular News Image, 2016


Coralie Vogelaar, Recognized / Not Recognized – A Comparative Movement Analysis of Popular and Unpopular News Images, 2016. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Coralie Vogelaar, Recognized / Not Recognized – A Comparative Movement Analysis of Popular and Unpopular News Images, 2016. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Coralie Vogelaar, Looking for a Possible Algorythm for the Popular News Image, 2016. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Coralie Vogelaar browsed through the databases of the large press agencies for photographs of ten high-profile news events and used search engines to determine how often each image – 850,000 in total – was published online. She then compared the most popular photographs to the least published ones of the exact same situation to figure out what made news agencies favour one over the others. The result, Looking for a Possible Algorithm for the Popular News Image, is puzzling. Each of the iconic photo is brought side by side with its least published “twin” and soon patterns in the focus and composition of the images seem to emerge: babies and tears have to be clearly visible, for example. Gestures well defined and crowd movements easy to interpret.

The artist then attempted to translate these images in Recognized / Not Recognized, a two-channel video installation that reproduces these images in the form of a performance piece created in collaboration with choreographer Marjolein Vogels. Nine dancers move from one frozen position to another: on one screen, they mimic the news photograph that was most popular and on the other, the simultaneously shot but failed image.

Interestingly, the successful images often show people in poses that evoke famous western artworks, such as Michelangelo’s Pietà or Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. From a vast ocean of photographic data, we have the tendency to favour images that confirm our visual frame of reference.

Donghwan Kam, After Photography, 2018


Donghwan Kam, After Photography, 2018


Donghwan Kam, After Photography, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

In After Photography, Donghwan Kam renders iconic news images in 3D and then walks around with his VR headset and a digital point-and-shoot camera he modified to capture the virtual through the use of sensors attached to the front of the device. He thus cuts through the numbness of yet another image of human suffering to create a personal relationship with the event.

Submarine Channel & VPRO, The Industry – Mapping the Dutch Drug Economy (intro), 2017

The Industry, an interactive documentary made by VPRO and Submarine Channel, delves into the drug industry in The Netherlands.

The work interweaves hard facts and figures with personal stories from the people who keep the industry going: housewives, students, dockworkers, weed growers, full-time coke dealers, etc. You can meet the protagonists “on location”: in cannabis plantations hidden in villas, coffeeshop, containers in harbors, etc. Some spaces are real, some are reconstructions based on existing spaces.

Soon enough, you realize that the shady drug world is all around you. 



More images from the exhibition:


Jim Brady, Mobile Journalism, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Daan Wubben, In Aerial Times. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Maxime Benvenuto, Lexicographies of Propaganda and News, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Maxime Benvenuto, Lexicographies of Propaganda and News, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned, curated by Nadine Roestenburg & Angelique Spaninks, remains open at MU in Eindhoven until 11 November 2018.

Image on the homepage: Donghwan Kam, After Photography.

DocLab exhibition asks “Are robots imitating us or are we imitating robots?”


DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum


Jonathan Harris exhibition in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

The 11th edition of IDFA DocLab closed on Sunday at De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. An integral part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), DocLab looks at how contemporary artists, designers, filmmakers and other creators use technology to devise and pioneer new forms of documentary storytelling. It’s a space for debates, conversations, VR experiences, interactive experiments and workshops.

For some reason, i thought that this year’s programme was even more intense than in previous years and i’m going to need 3 blog posts to cover all the ideas and projects i found particularly interesting. There will be one story summing up the notes i took during the DocLab: Interactive Conference. Another post will briefly comment on some of the interactive documentaries i saw in Amsterdam and back home. And today, i’d like to look at a couple of installations that explore the main theme of the festival: Uncharted Rituals or how we have to constantly, subtly and often unknowingly adjust our behaviour and mindset to technology. Instead of the other way round.

Robots and computers are acting more and more like people. They’re driving around in cars, hooking us up with new lovers and talking to us out of the blue. But is the opposite also true— are people acting more and more like robots?

The computers may think so: addicted to our phones, caught in virtual filter bubbles and dependent on just a handful of tech companies, people are acting more and more predictably. The breakthrough of artificial intelligence and immersive media doesn’t just pose the question what technology does to us, but also what we do with this technology.

I have only 3 works to submit to you today but each of them makes valuable comments about the way we might one day have to dance with and around technology in order to coexist with it:


Max Pinckers and Dries Depoorter, Trophy Camera v0.9, 2017


Max Pinckers and Dries Depoorter, Trophy Camera v0.9, 2017


Max Pinckers and Dries Depoorter, Trophy Camera v0.9 at DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

A photographic image is never objective. It is always framed by human aesthetic choices, agendas and conscious or unconscious bias. The Trophy Camera v0.9 aggregates this element of human subjectivity into a photo camera that can only make award-winning pictures.

The AI-powered camera, developed by photographer Max Pinckers and media artist (and DocLab Academy alumnus) Dries Depoorter, has been trained by all the photos that have won an award at the World Press Photo competition, from 1955 to the present.

Based on the identification of labeled patterns, the experimental device is programmed to identify, shoot and save only images that it predicts have at least a 90% chance of winning the competition. These photos are then automatically uploaded to a dedicated website: trophy.camera. I tried several times but my photos were never deemed award-worthy by the camera.


Burhan Ozbilici, WPP of the year 2017


and its trophy.camera version?

The work reminded me of the World Press Photo awards of 2011 when Michael Wolf won an honorary mention in Contemporary Issues with a photo he made by placing a camera on a tripod in front of a computer screen running Google Street View. The award raised a heated debate among photographers. For some of them, Wolf didn’t take the pictures, the cameras on Google street car automatically did it. This is therefore not photojournalism. And yet, who would have paid attention to these scenes if Wolf hadn’t recognized and framed them?

Trophy Camera v0.9 is tongue-in-cheek and irreverent but it points to a future when algorithms will win prizes that have traditionally recognized human creativity and vision.


Sander Veenhof, Patent Alert

Sander Veenhof, Patent Alert

Google, Microsoft and other tech companies are fighting over patents for the smart glasses that scan the environment and layer information over it.

One company owns the rights to scanning common hand gestures, while another holds a patent on helping you to cross the road. Patent Alert exposes the patenting obstacles that will intrude on our experiences with augmented reality headsets once the technology becomes mainstream.

Sander Veenhof created a HoloLens app that uses a cloud-based Computer Vision library to analyse your surrounding and warn you about gestures and behaviours that are not allowed because they are covered by a patent that’s not owned by the supplier of the device you are wearing.

Memo Akten, Learning to see: Hello World! [WIP R&D 3]


Memo Akten, Learning to See: Hello World! at DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

Memo Akten‘s Learning to See series of works uses Machine Learning algorithms to reflect on how we make sense of the world and consequently distort it, influenced by our expectations.

One of the investigations in the series, Hello, World!, explores the process of learning and understanding developed by a deep neural network “opening its eyes for the first time.”

The neural network starts off completely blank. It will learn by looking for patterns in what it’s seeing. Over time, the system will built up a database of similarities and connections and use it to make predictions of the future.

Interestingly, Akten’s description of the learning process holds a mirror back to us: But the network is training in realtime, it’s constantly learning, and updating its ‘filters’ and ‘weights’, to try and improve its compressor, to find more optimal and compact internal representations, to build a more ‘universal world-view’ upon which it can hope to reconstruct future experiences. Unfortunately though, the network also ‘forgets’. When too much new information comes in, and it doesn’t re-encounter past experiences, it slowly loses those filters and representations required to reconstruct those past experiences.

How far can we go when we draw parallels between the way a computer trains itself and the way we learn? Are humans the only one who are capable of turning learning into understanding? Or will computers beat us at that too one day? But perhaps more crucially, can computer help us see and oppose our own cognitive biases?

Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence

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Rodolphe A. Reiss, Demonstration of the Bertillon metric photography system with a man posing as a corpse. Copyright and courtesy of R.A. Reiss, coll. IPSC

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Photography extract from Decoding video testimony, Miranshah, Pakistan, March 30, 2012. Forensic Architecture in collaboration with SITA Research

Now that i’m home and properly idle for a full month, i can finally write about all the exhibitions and events i’ve attended in October and November. Starting today with the show Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence at The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

I have a predilection for the morbid, the criminal and the distressing. When i’m not reading art/activism/architecture books for the blog, i’m reading crime books. And when i’m not watching video artworks, i spend my evenings with crime TV series (not American ones, eh!) Burden of Proof brought me the best of both world. The thrill of being surrounded by images of corpses, the pretense of visiting a cultural show.

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Richard Helmer, superimposition of Joseph Mengele’s photo portrait and of the skull, 1985. Photograph: Richard Helmer. Photo courtesy of Maja Helmer

The exhibition presents eleven case studies spanning the period from the invention of ‘metric’ photography of crime scenes in the 19th century to the reconstruction of a drone attack in Pakistan in 2012 using digital and satellite technologies. These offer an analysis of the historical and geopolitical contexts in which the images appeared, as well as their purpose, production process and dissemination.

While charting some of the most salient historical instances in which photography has been used as evidence of criminal activity or violent acts, Burden of Proof investigates the reliability of the images and interrogates its role in truth-seeking scientific and historical discourse.

The ambiguity of photography has been much debated. Photography, as we know well, is an instrument for revealing, documenting and exposing. But it can also be used to hide, stage or doctor evidence. It is a medium of transparency and opacity, at the service of both truth and propaganda. The exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery reminds us that, despite its evidential limitations, photography plays a role too important in society and in the service of justice to be unequivocally dismissed.

But let’s look at the cases studies, i’ve selected only a few of them and will, for once, follow the curators’ decision to present them chronologically. Almost none of the photos were made by artists but their (unintentionally) aesthetic qualities are nevertheless indisputable. I, for one, was amazed by the way the bodies in Bertillon’s photos laid on the ground like cut flowers:

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Alphonse Bertillon, Murder of Monsieur Canon, boulevard de Clichy, 9 December 1914. Archives de la Préfecture de police de Paris

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Alphonse Bertillon’s Murder of Madame Langlois, 5 April 1905. Photograph: Archives de la Prefecture de po/Archives de la préfecture de police

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Alphonse Bertillon, Assassinat de monsieur André, boulevard de la Villette, Paris, 3 octobre 1910, Préfecture de police de Paris, Service de l’Identité judiciaire. © Archives de la Préfecture de police de Paris.

Alphonse Bertillon was a French police officer and and biometrics researcher who invented or perfected several methods of identifying criminals and solving crimes. The most famous and widely-used today is the mug shot. Sherlock Holmes, apparently, was a fan of the French criminologist.

In the early 20th century, Bertillon developed metric photography, a scientific protocol to document crime scenes. He used an overhead camera with a high tripod and wide angel-lenses that captured an ‘objective’ diving, bird’s-eye view of victims at the places of their deaths. The images were then mounted on cardboard featuring precise measurements. The final document records succinctly and visually all the material elements present at the scene of the crime: the position of the corpse and of any weapon, objects and clues nearby, foot prints, etc.

Metric photography was important not only for police work but it also played a part during trials where the images were used to make an impact on the judges but could also incite the accused to confess.

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Rodolphe A. Reiss, Demonstration of the Bertillon metric photography system. Copyright and courtesy of R.A. Reiss.

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Rodolphe A. Reiss, handkerchief used to strangle Madame Ducret. Beaumaroche, France, September 1907. Collection de l’Institut de police scientifique de l’Université de Lausanne © R. A. REISS, coll. IPSC

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Rodolphe A. Reiss, 25 novembre 1915. Fingerprints on oil cloth, Jost Grand-Chêne robbery case in Lausanne, Vaud, on November 25, 1915

Rodolphe A. Reiss was one of Bertillon’s disciples. He wasn’t a policeman but a chemist and photographer and his work led him to be appointed to the world’s first chair of forensic science in Lausanne in 1906. Reiss was more interested in objects than in people. His method consisted in taking a general view of the crime scene, then in gradually would zooming in and producing photographic close ups that revealed marks, prints and other details that could then be used in forensic analysis.

Just like Bertillon, Reiss had faith in photography, he wrote that ‘A good photograph will often advantageously replace the longest of prosecution speeches.’

The photos shown at the Photographers’ Gallery sometimes look so abstract that i first took them for contemporary artworks.

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Stanisław Rytchardovich Budkiewicz, Polish, b. 1887 in Łódź. Higher education, VKP(b) member, brigade commissar (political officer), attached to Army Intelligence, officially scientific secretary for the preparation of the Soviet Military Encyclopaedia. Domiciled in Moscow, Pushkin Square 6, Apartment 15. Arrested 9 June 1937. Sentenced to death 21 September 1937. Executed the same day. Rehabilitated 1956. © Central Archives of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), Moscow; Archives of International Association Memorial, Moscow

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Alekseï Grigorievitch Jeltikov and Marfa Ilinitchna Riazantseva. © Central Archives of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), Moscow; Archives of International Association Memorial, Moscow

From August 1937 to November 1938, nearly 750,000 Soviet citizens were sentenced and shot in the neck, that’s almost 50,000 executions per month. The executions constitute the largest massacre ever committed by a state against its own people and were part of a regime of repression that historians call the Great Terror.

The Politburo of the Communist Party headed by Stalin made official records of the victims before their execution. They were photographed in front and side view against a neutral background, in conformity with the mugshot norms laid down by Bertillon. Ironically, the shots are now used as evidence not of the crimes of the accused, but of those committed by the Stalinist regime.

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The defendants before the screenings of the film Nazi Concentration and Prison Camps, 29 November 1945

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Courtroom during the screening of Nazi Concentration and Prison Camps, 29 November 1945

On November 29th, 1945, at the hearing of 21 Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, the prosecution screened a film showing the horrific scenes encountered inside German concentration camps at the liberation. To ensure that the footage would be seen as proof against the Nazis, the Allied cameramen were issued highly specific instructions about how they were to film.

During the trial in Nuremberg, the courtroom was rearranged as a cinema theater, with the screen taking the position normally occupied by the judges, and lighting illuminating the defendants’ faces so that jurors could observe their reactions.

It was the first court case that used a film (titled Nazi Concentration and Prison Camps) as a piece of evidence demonstrating crimes against Humanity.

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Richard Helmer, superimposition of Joseph Mengele’s photo portrait and of the skull, 1985. Photograph: Richard Helmer. Photo courtesy of Maja Helmer

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Richard Helmer, superimposition of Joseph Mengele’s photo portrait and of the skull, 1985. Photograph: Richard Helmer. Photo courtesy of Maja Helmer


Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman, Mengele’s Skull, 2012

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Helmer prepares the skull. Photo Eric Stover, via Forensic Architecture

Nicknamed the “Angel of Death”, Josef Mengele was a doctor in Auschwitz famous for his role in performing experiments on twins and on selecting who among the arriving prisoners would be sent to the gas chambers and who to the camp. He left Auschwitz shortly before the arrival of the liberating Red Army troops and fled to South America, where he managed to elude capture for the rest of his life.

He drowned while swimming off the Brazilian coast in 1979 and was buried under a false name in the cemetery of a small town outside São Paulo. It is only in 1985 that his remains were found, disinterred and analysed for identification.

The technology to extract DNA from bones wasn’t fully developed until the early 1990s so, as part of the investigation to ascertain that these were indeed the remains of the war criminal, German photographer and pathologist Richard Helmer developed a technique which superimposed archive photos of the Nazi over a video feed of the exhumed skull. In the resulting images Mengele’s face emerges out of and dissolves back into his skull, like a ghost, a spectral presence haunting the living. A few years later, DNA testing confirmed that the remains found in Brazil were indeed Mengele’s.

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Susan Meiselas, Grace A-South, Koreme, North of Iraq, June 1992

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Topographic survey with scale and orientation of the grave A South, level 2, established by James Briscoe, and member of the team Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, May-June 1992

In 1988, the Iraqi government and army proceeded to destroy thousands of Kurdish villages located in Iraqi Kurdistan. Using a similar pattern throughout the campaign, the Iraqi army first attacked a village then captured its inhabitants and set to systematically demolish their dwellings. The Kurdish village of Koreme serves as a case study of this campaign, showing how the destruction strategies were implemented. In 1992, Middle East Watch and a team of forensic experts exhumed the four mass graves in Koreme.

The images and drawings shown in the exhibition document the forensic archaeological and anthropological investigations used to identify the mass graves. Susan Meiselas, from Magnum Photos, documented the exhumation work. Meanwhile, the content and disposition of the graves were detailed by drawings made by James Briscoe. On the basis of these images and of the experts report, Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights concluded that these executions constite, at a minimum, crimes against humanity and may even form the basis for a case of genocide.

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Fazal Sheikh, al-Türi cemetery, al-‘Araqïb, 9 October 2011. The graves at the center of the cemetery are the oldest ones, they were there before the creation of the State of Israel

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al-Türi cemetery, detail n°14 enlarged 5033, RAF series Palestine Survey, 5 janvier 1945. A British Survey of Palestine, 1947

Forensic Architecture was involved in several of the case studies presented in the exhibition. This research laboratory uses various disciplines such as archaeology, engineering and media analysis to investigate the consequences of societal conflicts and human rights violations.

Between December 1944 and May 1945, the UK Royal Air Force surveyed and photographed Palestine from the air. These aerial images provide a precise mapping of the Palestinian territory before the creation of the State of Israel and document the violences against Bedouins. Forensic Architecture examined the archive images and looked for historical evidence of ancient cemeteries which would lend legitimacy to the claims of Palestinian Bedouin families whose ancestors lived in the Negev prior to the existence of the State of Israel and were expelled from their lands in the wake of the 1947 partition plan. Given the low resolution of the images, the graves are little more than tiny, blurry evidence that lie at what Weizman calls the threshold of detectability. By reading such traces out of the image, state representatives and the authors of the Regavim report showed themselves to be committed to an active form of ‘not seeing,’ writes Eyal Weizman.

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Le Saint Suaire de Turin, negative image. Enlargements by Paul Vignon from photographs taken by Giuseppe Enrie (1931-1933)

If there are photos i was not expecting to ever see at The Photographers’ Gallery it was those of the Shroud of Turin. Even though it has been long established that the piece of linen cloth is not the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, catholics still pack coaches and fly in droves to admire the ‘image of Christ after crucifixion’ when it is exhibited once every few years in Turin.

The shroud is little more than a historical curiosity but it still deserves a place in the gallery as being perhaps the first forensic photograph, even though it was later revealed to be a fake dating back to the 13th or 14th Century.

Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence is a stunning and relentlessly engaging show. Don’t miss that one, fellow fans of the macabre!

A few phone pics of the exhibition:

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There is more details about each case study in this PDF.

Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence remains open until 10 January 2016, at The Photographers’ Gallery, in London.

Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars

Sudden Justice: America's Secret Drone Wars, by investigative journalist Chris Woods.

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Available on amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Oxford University Press writes: In Sudden Justice, award-winning investigative journalist Chris Woods explores the secretive history of the United States' use of armed drones and their key role not only on today's battlefields, but also in a covert targeted killing project that has led to the deaths of thousands. The CIA nurtured and developed drones before the War on Terror ever began, seeking a platform from which it could monitor its targets and act lethally and instantly on the intelligence it gathered. Since then, remotely piloted aircraft have played a critical role in America's global counter-terrorism operations and have been deployed to devastating effect in conventional wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Drone crews, analysts, intelligence officials and military commanders all speak frankly to the author about how armed drones revolutionized warfare--and the unexpected costs to some of those involved.

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A US Reaper drone at Kandahar airfield. Credit: Jack Sanders/US Air Force (via BIJ)

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A US Air Force drone in a hangar in Iraq, August 2011. Photo: US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ricardo (via BIJ)

Sudden Justice is probably the most talked about drone book of the year. It is also the most detailed, the most thorough study of the evolution of weaponised drone warfare you can find. The author, Chris Woods, is an investigative journalist who specializes in conflict and national security issues. He was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize for his investigations into covert U.S. drone strikes with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. He also contributes to The Guardian.

In preparation to this book and as part of his work as a journalist, Woods has interviewed former drone operators and mission controllers, retired intelligence commanders, senior Air Force officials and psychologists, US Navy veterans, diplomats, parents of young people killed during the strikes, survivors of attacks, etc. In short, anyone who had any (voluntary or not) role to play in this new form of asymmetrical warfare is bringing their own view about the issue.

The use of weaponized drones outside of the battlefields is one of the most worrying characteristics of our times. At the time Woods was writing the book, drones had already killed 3000 people. Some of them civilians, not militants. The author reminds us, for example, that when Obama's presidency was just 72h old, he had already authorized a secret action that accidentally killed 14 civilians.

By acting as judge, jury and executioner, the U.S. is not only setting a worrying template for the future of warfare, its is also antagonizing the populations targeted (drone strikes have apparently become a recruiting tool and a motivator for jihadists), creating a new generation of operators so stressed that psychologists still have to invent a word that would describe their condition, and alienating allied countries that believe (rightly) that the targeted killing practice is illegal.

There's no sign of a slowdown. Since 2010, the US Air Force has been training more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined. And the Obama administration intends to keep on eschewing any request for transparency and accountability.

A Theory of the Drone, by philosopher Grégoire Chamayou, is undoubtedly my favourite drone book but it follows also a very different perspective. While Chamayou analyzes how drones have irremediably remodeled the laws of war , Sudden Justice compiles facts, quotes and numbers, clinically and masterfully charting the history of drone use by the CIA and by US (and also Israeli) military, the escalation of targeted killing as well as the evolution of militants' tactics and procedures.

Tracking Drones, Reporting Lives

Last panel, last post about the Drones event organized by the Disruption Lab Network in Berlin a couple of weeks ago.

Compared to my previous post (Eyes from a distance. Personal encounters with military drones), the talks from the panel Tracking Drones, Reporting Lives zoomed out from the personal perspective and brought together a data journalist, a documentary director and an artist whose work examines the drone issue:

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Missiles being loaded onto a military Reaper drone in Afghanistan. Image BIJ

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From left to right: Tatiana Bazzichelli, Marc Garrett, Jack Serle, Tonje Hessen Schei and Dave Young

Data journalist Jack Serle, who works at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, as part of the Covert Drone War research team, is involved in the Naming the Dead project which attempts to reveal the names of the civilians and militants killed by the drones in Pakistan since 2004. Film director Tonje Hessen Schei is currently showing in theaters across the world DRONE, a documentary that focuses on the CIA drone war. Artist, musician and researcher Dave Young presented The Reposition Matrix, a workshop series that investigated the military-industrial production and use of military drones through collaborative open-source intelligence and cartographic processes.

The panel was moderated by Marc Garrett, director and founder (together with Ruth Catlow) of the community and art space Furtherfield. In his intro to the panel, Garrett reminded the audience of the role that artists have played in exploring the dark sides of drones, sometimes even anticipating their power as the video BIT Plane demonstrates. In this work (shown at the Furtherfield exhibition Movable Borders: Here Come the Drones! two years ago), Natalie Jeremijenko and Kate Rich from the Bureau of Inverse Technology operate a radio-controlled model airplane over the Silicon Valley. By filming the aerial views, the BIT Plane can be seen as a precursor to the emerging DIY surveillance video enabled by the new availability of drones.


Bureau of Inverse Technology, BIT Plane

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Another project mentioned by Garrett in his intro to the panel: Joseph DeLappe, The 1,000 Drones - A Participatory Memorial, 2014

The talk of the first panelist, Jack Serle, focused on the BIJ's Covert Drone War, a research aimed at providing a full dataset of all known US drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

When the investigation started, there was online one version of drone attacks and it was coming from Washington. Their official line was that drones were surgically precise and that they were so efficient that no civilians were killed in the strikes:

It's this surgical precision, the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumor called an al-Qaida terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it, that makes this counterterrorism tool so essential.

But the data coming from Pakistan quickly demonstrated that the reality was otherwise.

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From The Reaper Presidency: Obama's 300th drone strike in Pakistan, December 3, 2012

BIJ's work is based on open source data such as media reports, NGO reports, court documents, information leaked by governmental sources, accounts from eyewitnesses, etc. The observation of this data enables also the BIJ to pick out patterns revealing some uncomfortable facts about the war on terror.

For example the BIJ noticed that sometimes a strike would hit a building in Pakistan and that another strike would be launched on the same building 20 to 40 minutes later. The same pattern was observed elsewhere. It reveals that when the CIA was hitting a building, they were in fact waiting for the rescue team (made of both civilians and militants) to come and pick up people who had been injured in the strike. This is obviously a very bloody tactic.

Another pattern observed involved strikes hitting funerals. The CIA exploit a local custom: local commanders often attend a man's funeral. But of course the people who take part in the funeral and were injured or killed by the drones are not necessarily militants. Many of them are civilians.

There's more details about these two practices in Chris Woods and Christina Lamb's article CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals.

By gathering numbers, names and other evidences, the Naming the Dead project counters secrecy and anonymity. Concealing as much as possible is a key element of the drone program, it enables it to continue its activities unquestioned.

Serle explained that with the Drone War Project, the BIJ doesn't want to morally judge the technology per se. Instead the work of the team aims to bring transparency and enable people to make changes.

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The funeral of Akram Shah, a government employee, killed with at least four other locals, all civilians, in June 2011. Image THIS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images, via BIJ

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A Pakistani tribesman sifts through the rubble of his house after an attack in January 2006. Photo: Tariq Mahmood/AFP/Getty Images, via BIJ

Next in the panel was Tonje Hessen Schei, the director of DRONE which was screened later in the evening (and which i'd recommend you see.)

The film looks at drone under different angles: the families of Pakistani victims of drones, the human rights advocates and activists, the drone pilots (namely Brandon Bryan) and the vast and incredibly lucrative industry which interests lay in keeping this war going on forever and ever.

The director talked about the relationships between the entertainment industry and the military, her disappointment at Obama who had promised to close Guantanamo Bay and who's now sending drones to kill people, etc.

One of her main concerns regards Europe which knows what is happening and remains silent. The United States is setting a worrying new standard of warfare with the drone program and it's only a question of time before we see Russia, Iran, China and other countries use drones to go after anyone they regard as a threat to their country. When that time has come, how will we be able to counter it? How are we going to say that the practice is illegal when we've done nothing to stop the United States?

Drones have changed warfare and its future. They've become the new normal even though there has never been any proper debate about the ethical, moral and legal challenges they present.

A survey found that 66% of the U.S. people is in favor of drone strikes. Perhaps the percentage would me much lower if people were actually presented with all the facts. There has been a wide media coverage of the DRONE documentary in both the UK and Norway but the film is still very much under the radar in the U.S.

The trailer of the documentary is very catchy and spectacular. It's part of the strategy of the film director who wanted to relate to mass culture and appeal to the broadest audience possible.


DRONE, the trailer

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Image from the documentary DRONE. Google Earth

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Image from the documentary DRONE. Photographer: Lucian Muntean Copyright @ Flimmer Film 2014. All rights reserved

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Image from the documentary DRONE. Archive Footage

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Image from the documentary DRONE. Photographer: Noor Behram Copyright @ Flimmer Film 2014. All rights reserved

The last speaker in the panel was artist Dave Young who made a series of valid points:

- The war on terror operate often in deserts. This is what Deleuze calls a 'smooth space', a surface that can be interrupted, moved and reconfigured without leaving any trace.

- Young also talked about The Reposition Matrix, a series of workshops dedicated the use of cybernetic military systems such as drones and the Disposition Matrix, a dynamic database of intelligence that produces kill-lists for the US Department of Defense. Working together, workshop participants developed a 'cartography of control': a map of the organisations, locations, and trading networks that play a role in the production of military drone technologies. The artist explained how some of the information used in the workshop came from unexpected sources: such as google satellite maps where sometimes the shadow of a drone would appear on a view or facebook where many soldiers post photos of their life. So in the background of selfies or group portraits, one can glimpse the base where they are working.

- During World War II, Norman Wiener worked on a research project at MIT on the automatic aiming and firing of anti-aircraft guns and guided missile technology. He studied how a missile changed its flight path through the use of advanced electronics. What intrigued him was the principle of feedback that was used, i.e. the missile gave feedback regarding its position and flight path towards its target. It then received instructions for small adjustments to its flight path in order to further stabilize it and to arrive at its target, etc. (via) His research was abandoned after the war but the concept of continuous feedback between the missile system and its environment can actually be extended to other systems and this eventually led him to formulate cybernetics.

- Young's account of the tactics deployed by the U.S. army during the Vietnam war was equally fascinating. Some of the technology does indeed foreshadow the use of drones. One was a 'people sniffer', a detector that could 'smell' human urine and sweat and thus detect enemy soldiers in hidden positions. This Operation Snoopy (because that was its name) and other tactics are presented in the 1969 video Bugging the Battlefield


Bugging the Battlefield, 1969

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Personnel detector pamphlet. Photo: National Archives, via War is Boring

- another important point Dave Young made is that the military is always trying to remove the agency of the soldier. A soldier can be disobedient, he or she can question an order or strategy.

Don't miss DNL's next event: CYBORG: Hacktivists, Freaks and Hybrid Uprisings, it will take place on May 29 and 30 at Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin.

Previous posts about the Drones event: Eyes from a distance. Personal encounters with military drones and The Grey Zone. On the (il)legitimacy of targeted killing by drones.

The Grey Zone. On the (il)legitimacy of targeted killing by drones

Last week, i was in Berlin for the talks and screenings organized by the Disruption Network Lab, a platform of events and research focused on art, hacktivism and disruption. DNL opened its program with Eyes from a Distance. On Drone-Systems and their Strategies, a conference that explored the politics and the regime of power beyond drone-systems. A couple of the talks have already been uploaded online. They will all be there eventually and in the meantime i'm going to dutifully post my notes from the conference.

Starting with the brilliant panel of the first evening. The Grey Zone. On the (il)legitimacy of targeted killing by drones, moderated by journalist Laura Lucchini, explored drone strikes under the perspectives of an investigative journalist, a criminal law researcher, an activist and a blogger/journalist who lives in Gaza under the constant surveillance of the Israeli drones (more about her in a later post but go ahead if you're curious...)

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Grey Zone panel. From left to right: Laura Lucchini, John Goetz (investigative journalist), Chantal Meloni (criminal law researcher) and Marek Tuszynski (activist, Tactical Tech)

The grey zone is of course the dangerous, blurry area where drone attacks operate. The practice of targeted killing by drones raises many questions: "How many civilians have been killed as collateral damage during these strikes?" "And even if we're talking about militants, how can the killings be justified when there has been judicial supervision? "If these drones can reach their targets anywhere, then how is the battlefield defined?" "87 countries (and counting) are now equipped with military drones, which they use mostly for surveillance. Only 3 countries use drones for targeted killings: the U.S., Israel and the UK. Where will this stop?" "And if these targeted killings are illegal, why does Europe keep silent?"

0geheimerkrieg.jpgThe first panelist was John Goetz, an American investigative journalist and author based in Berlin. He wrote, together with Christian Fuchs, the book Geheimer Krieg (Secret War) which reveals how the war on terror is secretly conducted from covert U.S. bases in Germany.

Goetz's presentation attempted to reconstruct one day of a drone attack in Somalia and as the narrative unfolded, we got to hear about Germany's involvement into these military operations, the way the U.S. gather intelligence in foreign territories and how innocents end up being caught in the line, if not directly targeted due to inaccurate information.

As he explained at the conference (and as an article in The Intercept further confirmed), drone strikes wouldn't be possible without the support of Germany. The Germans might not launch the attacks themselves but they provide intelligence and they coordinate the strikes that target suspected terrorists in Africa and the Middle East, but that also kill civilians.

The U.S. drone war in Africa is controlled from U.S. bases in Germany, namely Ramstein and Stuttgart. Germany is also responsible for gathering human intelligence. There are many Somali immigrants and asylum seekers in Germany and as they arrive, they are asked about streets, shops, location of members of Al-Shabaab, etc. Any information that could be used by the "War on Terror" is immediately relayed to U.S. intelligence officers.

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Image Der Spiegel

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US Air Force Base Ramstein. Photo Der Spiegel

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Transatlantic cables connect U.S. drone pilots to their aircraft half a world away. (Josh Begley, via The Intercept)

The second speaker was Chantal Meloni, a criminal lawyer and the author of Is there a Court for Gaza? A Test Bench for International Justice, a book about the crimes perpetrated during the Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip.

Meloni put the issue of targeted killing by drones into a legal framework.

Since 2004, up to 5,500 people have been killed by drone strikes in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. These are countries the U.S. is not officially at war with.

Killing has supplanted capture as the centerpiece of the U.S. counter terrorism strategy. Opposition to drone killing is growing but it is not as effective as the opposition to torture was. A reason for that might be that the legal framework for drone strikes is more complex.

Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and they are characterized by a lack of transparency: states don't disclose who has been killed, why and who are the collateral casualties. Obama doesn't disclose the identity of the people on the kill list. There is no public presentation of evidence, nor any judicial oversight. The level of opacity is actually ridiculous. The little information we have is provided by media reports, leaks or testimonies.

An analysis by the human rights organization Reprieve found that US operators targeting 41 men have killed an estimated 1,147 people. So who are the 1,106 individuals? We don't know, most of them remain unnamed. What is sure is that the collateral damage shows that drones are not as 'surgically precise' as the U.S. claims.

Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official under President Obama, sums up the situation: "Right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons based on secret evidence, in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials."

We associate the start of the drone attacks with the U.S. and their post-9/11 counter-terrorist strategy but the military use of drones started long before that, in Israel, a country that has the longest track record for targeted killing (aka "targeted prevention") of Palestinians. Targeted killings can be defined as the state-sponsored practice of eliminating enemies outside the territory.

Nowadays, most of the drones sold around the world are used for surveillance purposes but it has been forecast that in 10 years every country will have armed drones.

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Photograph: Guardian

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% of total UAVs (1985-2014) supplied by exporting country (via The Guardian)

60% of the world export of drones come from Israel. Israeli manufacturer Elbit is producing the best selling model: the Hermes drone which was used in the latest attacks on Gaza. 37% of the killings that occurred during the attacks on Gaza can be attributed to drones.

One can see the appeal of drones for governments and policy makers: they are relatively cheap, they are claimed to be 'surgically precise', they make it easy to kill without any risk and they allow the army to reach their target in areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach. But do their use comply with the martial law?

Targeted killings are generally unlawful under international laws.
There are two different regimes to consider under international laws: the one applicable during war time and the one applicable in times of peace.

The laws under war time are more permissible regarding the use of lethal forces. However, the right to use armed force is not unlimited. Civilians, for example, need to be protected from direct attacks.
Outside the battlefields, the use of lethal forces is more restricted. You can use lethal force only when it is absolutely necessary. For example, when you have to protect human life from unlawful attacks. And even in that case, you may only use lethal forces if there is no other alternative.

States have thus expanded the concept of war on the battlefield as to include situations that should in fact be regulated by law enforcement agencies. The 'war on terror' is a total war for which no end nor boundaries is conceived. The number of enemies is infinite too. Governments justify the use of lethal forces by claiming that this is 'anticipatory self-defense' but, under the laws applicable under war time, the self-defense argument allows killing only when all other solutions, such as capture, have been exhausted. Most targeted killings outside the battlefield constitute thus premeditated deprivations of life, violations of the right to life.

When killings cannot be justified they constitute war crimes and other states have the duty to investigate and not leave dormant this huge accountability vacuum.

Tactical Technology Collective, Unseen War (Exposing the Invisible)

The final speaker was Marek Tuszynski, the co-founder of Tactical Tech, an organization 'dedicated to the use of information in activism.'

Tuszynski's talk focused on a series of short documentaries called Exposing the Invisible. The films look at the investigative work of journalists, artists, reporters, activists and technologists who explore publicly accessible data in order counter mainstream reports and go further than traditional journalistic investigations. One of the documentaries, Unseen War examines the physical, moral and political invisibility of US drone strikes in Pakistan.

He argued that counter powers should build their own intelligence practice.

The operations in Pakistan might be located far away but they concern us because
- the use of drones legitimizes a state of permanent surveillance, it makes it ok to gather all kinds of information about an individual,
- they legitimize multi-layered total surveillance systems in which the data collected by drones is accompanied by information provided by human intelligence on the ground,
- they legitimize two aspects of surveillance: one is the schematization of behaviour. You're not targeted because of who you are but because of how you behave. Models of behaviour are built and based on these models a system will determinate who is bad and who is good. Besides, they legitimize systems that detect misbehaviour. If someone is doing something different from the normal patterns, this person has to be put under surveillance.

But there's no reason to be passive, we need to protect ourselves because surveillance doesn't require machines flying above our heads, we are already providing a vast quantity of valuable indormation when we use social media and that data can be used to analyse our digital behaviour. To protect yourself from intrusion to privacy, check out Tactical Tech's Security in-a-Box website.

Image on the homepage via BBC.

DocLab Expo: Immersive Reality & Digital Storytelling

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

I was supposed to publish this post yesterday. Only i started exploring Serial, one of the works selected for the 2014 IDFA DocLab Award for Best Digital Storytelling and i couldn't stop myself, i went from one episode to another, talked about each of them with The Boyfriend and the whole afternoon flew by.

So here i am 24 hours late with the follow-up of my notes from the DocLab: Interactive Conference 2014, a day of talks about the way artists, film makers, designers and entrepreneurs are exploring digital behaviour and redefining the documentary genre in the digital age.

The DocLab talks took place at The Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond and so did the exhibition. The nominees for the Best Digital Storytelling award were lined up in one room and the curated exhibition DocLab Expo: Immersive Reality was spread into the rest of the building.

I was ready to shun the The Virtual Reality Screening Room because i really, really, don't like the idea that i can be seen looking like this. Also i never regarded myself as a germaphobe but having half my face eaten up by a device that dozens of people have worn before me makes my skin crawl. I did it though. I wore the unhygienic headset. Because i'm brave and i believe in taking risks in order to write my blog. I even liked some of the works....

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Felix & Paul Studio, Strangers with Patrick Watson

In particular Strangers with Patrick Watson by Felix & Paul Studio. You put the unsanitary Oculus Rift goggles on (seriously, am i really the one who's got a problem with oculus hygiene???) and you find yourself transported into the studio loft of musician Patrick Watson in Montréal. He's attempting to compose some music and his dog is relaxing on the floor. And so was i. Relaxing, not on the floor. There is nothing to do for you, except look around and enjoy the scene. It's peaceful and pleasant, there is no need for awkward keyboard manipulation in the dark.

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Dries Depoorter, Trojan Offices. Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

The retro-looking Trojan Offices installation brings us back to the early nineties when computer scientists at the University of Cambridge scientists rigged up a camera to monitor the coffee pot located in the main computer lab and casually invented the webcam.

Nowadays, countless numbers of webcams are streaming live to the internet, indexed by search engines without permission. With a simple hack, artist Dries Depoorter gained access to them, selected half a dozen of them in order to give us a live glimpse into unsuspecting coffeepots and offices from all over the world.

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

The most compelling part of the day for me was when i discovered the nominees of the Digital Storytelling competition. Because the focus of the selection is as much on new forms of interactivity as it is on strategies to weave a compelling story, all the projects were deep, multi-layered and compelling. Some took me ages to explore. Cue to...

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Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig, Serial, 2014

Serial is a weekly podcast that investigates the true circumstances behind the murder of a Baltimore high school girl. Hae Min Lee was found strangled in a park in 1999. Her former boyfriend Adnan Syed was sent to prison with a life sentence on the basis of one testimony only. No physical evidence linked Syed to the crime and he has always claimed he is innocent. In the podcast producer Sarah Koenig takes listeners back to 1999 and shares interviews with people involved in the affair, audio archives from the trial and snippets of conversation between the prisoner and the journalist. The website that accompanies the quest also presents maps, photos, copies of handwritten letters, etc. The audience discovers along with the makers of the programme that the story has multiple layers and inconsistencies.

Serial is more gripping than many lavishly produced tv series or movies. One of the characteristics of the show is that it remains ambiguous, you have the feeling that the journalist doesn't have an agenda, she slowly uncovers evidences along the way. Like her, you might not be able to make up your mind and figure out whether Syed was guilty or innocent. I'm glad the podcast is the winner of the 2014 IDFA DocLab Award for Best Digital Storytelling.

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Owen Mundy, I Know Where Your Cat Lives, 2014

Owen Mundy, I Know Where Your Cat Lives, 2014

Every day, hundreds of thousands of cat owners upload photos of their pet on photosharing websites. I Know Where Your Cat Lives collects the images, retrieves the latitude and longitude coordinates embedded by many cameras and visualizes the location of the cats. The databank is charming, cats are so irresistible that in some countries feline photos are more popular than selfies. But as the title of the work suggests, there is also a slightly creepy dimension to the project as it makes you realize that once a piece of personal data is online, you lose control over it.

The option "Cats by country" shows how many cat photos have been uploaded in a given nation. This is why the makers themselves say that "the maps are perhaps a better representation of globalism, access to smart phones, and relaxed consideration for individual privacy."


Empire: 7º00 N 81º00 E (excerpt)

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Eline Jongsma and Kel O'Neill, Empire Interactive, 2014

Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Ghana, etc. Dutch colonialism has left its marks across the world. With Empire Interactive, Eline Jongsma and Kel O'Neill investigate into the aftershocks of the first global capitalist endeavor, Dutch colonialism. The multi media works shows how little known enclaves of post-colonialism are geographically distant from each other, yet strangely united by their past exposure to colonial imperialism.

As the videos posted on vimeo demonstrate, the long-term impact of Dutch colonialism is truly astonishing: from the private town for white people in South Africa and other signs of a nostalgia for the Apartheid era, to the man seen as a god by the inhabitants a full-size replica Dutch village built in the middle of the Sri Lankan jungle, and the WWII enthusiasts who dress as members of the Waffen SS and proceed to military maneuvres on the island of Java.

Empire is an online, portable version of an exhibition. As the artists explained in an interview with Indiewood: Originally, in installation form, the project allows viewers to wander from installation to installation, and from story to story. As a viewer, you get to be a bit more autonomous than you are used to: we give you the parts, but you do the labor. We are trying to use the same principles in the interactive online version. In that sense, we think that transmedia art broadens the horizon of visual storytelling and gives both the creator and the audience more power to experiment than they may have with other art forms. It doesn't replace "traditional" film, it just offers a different way of going about things.

The Empire project also exists in the form of a limited edition book.

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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Owerri Nigeria (contributed by Asonzeh Ukah)

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New Delhi (contributed by Metropolis)

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Uyo, Akwa Ibom State Nigeria (contributed by Asonzeh Ukah)

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Bregtje van der Haak, Richard Vijgen, Atlas of Pentecostalism, 2013. DIVINE INTERVENTIONS map that shows the global distribution of manifestations of the Holy Spirit as reported on Twitter. The map is produced by a computer program that searches for tweets reporting #miracles, #blessings and #healings worldwide and is updated daily

Pentecostalism claims that the Holy Spirit is here and now. I've no idea what that might mean but i must be in a minority because Pentecotalism is believed to be the fastest growing religion in the world.

Atlas of Pentecostalism, by documentary filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak and information designer Richard Vijgen, aims to develop a reusable model for reporting on dynamic global trends and crises, incorporating crowdsourcing, big data, interviews, academic research and visual information.

The work allows you to investigate the religion through photos of church buildings and logos, maps of belief in the devil, interview with experts in anthropology, etc. Anyone can contribute photos to the permanently expanding Atlas of Pentecostalism. You can also 'download the website' as an e-book or print-on-demand book, which freezes the dynamic data at the moment of ordering.

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Dirk Jan Visser, Jan Rothuizen, Martijn van Tol, Refugee Republic (detail), 2014

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Dirk Jan Visser, Jan Rothuizen, Martijn van Tol, Refugee Republic (detail), 2014

Refugee Republic challenges our view of refugee camps. They are places of displacement, misery and distress but that's only part of the story. Life rebuilds itself in a refugee camp: bakers prepare the bread, children go to school, people fall in love. Skipping from photo to video to drawings to text in a very fluid way, the interactive documentary allows you to step inside Camp Domiz, a refugee camp in northern Iraq where some 64,000 inhabitants, mostly Syrian Kurds, live.

More images from DocLab 2014:

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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Zilla van den Born, Oh My Gosh, Zilla. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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Cucalu: Rediscover Reality. Exhibition DocLab 2014. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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BeAnotherLab, Machine to be another. Photo by Nichon Glerum

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BeAnotherLab, Machine to be another. Photo by Nichon Glerum

DocLab expo took place at The Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. The exhibition is over, alas! but the show Pieter Van den Bosch. Aanslagen zonder gevolgen opens tomorrow and it looks really good.

More images on Brakke Grond facebook page.

Previously: James George's talk at the DocLab Interactive Conference and My notes from DocLab: Interactive Conference 2014.