Article by Peter Shadbolt.
(CNN) – What will the internet of the future look like? And what purpose will it be used for?
From augmented reality, which anticipates the information you’ll want just by looking at an object, to smart services that use artificial intelligence to help us manage our workloads, the look, feel and utility of the internet of 2040 is a wide open field.
Already advances in virtual reality technology – Facebook notably bought the virtual reality start-up Oculus VR for $2bn this year – are beginning to change the way we deal with everything from medical science, to military training, to learning difficulties.
To what extent, however, we’ll have control over our own data is one of the future’s great unanswered questions.
For many the future of the internet is already here; and it looks a lot like it did in 1990s.
Called the Darknet, this anonymised section of the net allows everyone from copyright pirates, to drug dealers, to dissidents to communicate and do business without fear of leaving their digital fingerprints.
Jamie Bartlett, whose book “The Dark Net” investigates the digital underworld, told CNN that this opaque and subversive world is inaccessible through normal browsers, and requires special software.
“A special browser called Tor allows a user to browse the internet without their IP address being given away,” Bartlett said. “It uses a clever encryption system that means no one can see what computer a user is on.”
This same encryption system also affords anonymity to the websites that inhabit this corner of the web, meaning that governments and law enforcers have no idea where the site is being hosted.
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That doesn’t mean that the individuals running these operations can forever remain hidden, as the capture of the creator of “Silk Road”, a famous illegal online marketplace, by the FBI in 2013 demonstrates.
Still, the tools to make life difficult for law enforcement seem to be there: “Anyone can set up these websites which are almost impossible to shut down and censor,” he said. “As a result it’s a bit of a Wild West — more or less anything goes.
“You’ve got illegal pornography there, these drugs markets there, assassination markets and hit men for hire. All sorts of terrible stuff but also all sorts of good stuff too.
“Democratic revolutionaries, whistle blowers, human rights activists who are also concerned about giving away their location also want somewhere where they can post stuff illegally and anonymously.”
Bartlett said the browser was initially developed by the U.S. military as a way of traversing the internet secretly, but since then had become an open source project. He suggests the military released the encrypted browser as a way of providing cover for their operations.
Because the Tor browser uses a non-standard protocol, people observing network traffic can identify it easily even if they can’t see what the user is looking at.
“They realised that this is not a good idea if the only people using it are the US military — it’s going to be obvious who they are. For that reason, they turned it into an open source project.”
Today, the Darknet is moving from fringe to mainstream, attracting anyone who wants anonymity — be they hired killers or humble bloggers.
Back to the future
For Bartlett, the Darknet is a return to the labrynthine recesses of the first days of the worldwide web. He said the future of the net is likely to be an increased proliferation of these non-standard protocols that provide ever deeper levels of anonymity.
“It really feels like the early days of the internet … (everything) is hosted on these rudimentary networks. It’s like the internet of the early 90s when things weren’t indexed the way they are now.
“Everything is hyperlinked together and Google can find everything, but back in the day the whole internet was dark — you didn’t know what you were doing or where you were going.
“You even used to write down web addresses on pieces of paper and pass them to each other.”
Just what can be found on the Darknet is often the subject of wild conjecture, but a recent project launched by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik art collective — called “The Darknet — From Memes to Onionland” – shows exactly what is on offer on the Internet’s underbelly.
Arming an automated internet bot with US$100 in bitcoins (the crypto-currency accepted as legal tender on many illicit marketplaces) the “Random Darknet Shopper” trawls its murky corners and every week buys one item at random.
So far, the bot has purchased a “stash can” of Sprite that doubles as a hiding place for either drugs or money, a platinum Visa card for $35, 10 Ecstasy Pills from Germany for US$48, 10 packets of Chesterfield cigarettes from Moldova, and many other items such as jeans, “designer” bags, and books.
One of the most intriguing pieces for the exhibitors at the Kunst Halle St. Gallen gallery in St. Gallen, Switzerland — where all the parcels arrive — has been a fireman’s set of skeleton keys from the United Kingdom.
“Our first question was what do you do with this? What does it open?” Carmen Weisskopf, co-founder of the art collective, told CNN. On the Darknet, the keys are advertised as useful for unlocking toolboxes or “gaining access to communal gates and storage areas.”
‘Thrilling and scary’
She said receiving the parcels at the gallery was at once “thrilling and scary.”
“The motivation for the artwork really came in the light of the Snowden revelations – for internet artists it meant we had to re-evaluate the networks we work in. We became really interested in looking at these anonymous and encrypted networks from an artistic point of view.”
She said the starting point for them had been how to build trust in an anonymous network.
The project has already dented the levels of trust at the art collective who early on in the project called in the services of a lawyer to shore up their legal position should the bot turn up anything that puts them outside the law. Fortunately, Weisskopf said, firearm sales are limited to clients within the United States.
“That’s why we got the idea of going into marketplaces because trust is something you need to build in markets.”
The artists have already gained notoriety by sending a parcel to fugitive whistleblower Julian Assange. The parcel was equipped with a cam that recorded its journey through the postal service to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Assange is currently holed up.
Digital Identity and the Virtual Space Race
To look into whether man’s approach to the digital reflects that of reality, specifically through the cultivation and shaping of virtual environments.
To investigate the growing reliability of technology in the everyday and both the positive and negative effects of media consumption/creation on individual and group identities.
– Decipher the differences between the ‘real self’ and digital identity by unravelling each individually.
– Investigate the effects of Media consumption and creation on the user’s reality by considering the specific elements of media and the way the user interacts with, or is engulfed with its subject or effect. How does it alter our opinions / everyday decisions / habits?
– Create or find characters/figures to exemplify the effects of technology and their digitally altered lives.
– Approach the idea of creation / customisation / alteration in virtual and physical space. Digital architecture?
– Break down the city and online networks to their key components of structure, power, space, complexity and culture.
– Experiment with the equilibrium of physical and digital process to best fulfil my aims, both conceptually and aesthetically.
Digital Identity and its effects on reality will be my central theme. I’ll be making paintings/imagery, multi-media collage/installations and sculptures focused on de-ciphering identity and environment’s relationship with the digital.
On Identity, I’m intrigued by the open array of characters found online. Although users are fully aware of the publicity of the internet, many users still act as if your actions have no effect in real life. The lack of corporeality online gives each and every user the ability to customise and control their identities. This is mainly seen through social media, forums or blogs, however its tangibility is truly endless. You only have to watch Catfish, 2011, to understand its potential misuse, be it malicious or just plain shy.
The average net-user has the ability, if they choose, to express their views, share their ideas, or even just converse with almost 3 billion different worldwide users. This ability to communicate and contribute with these people is solely possible through the use of this network, and therefore our dependence on its growth is increasing. The more applications we find, the greater the dependence. The collective impression of your internet/technology use says a lot about who you are, and potentially even more than simply having a conversation with you. This culmination of data is the basis of your online identity and experience. This is a metaphorical idea, and no such ruthless data harvesting is known to exist, however the effects each of these online interactions has is on the individual’s reality and his/her own sense of identity.
I will be engaging with identity on a number of levels. First, within the individual, I will show the changes of personality and everyday decision-making brought about by the prevalence of consumer technology. Secondly, the identities of groups, belief systems and states, specifically their changes as they engage more frequently online. Thirdly, i aim to discover more about the creation of new and alternate identities online, and how they effect the individual in reality. Looking at the identities we see on the street, and now online, I hope to capture the honest existence in the everyday, and their technology dependencies, or lack there of. Media consumption and creation can pose an unexpected change in a user’s reality and identity. This digital media can be news, social media, google results, images, texts, videos, basically anything available online, that has been made to be consumed.
As I’m interested in representing the modern figure, I have taken to reading Charles Baudelaire’s ‘The Painter of Modern Life.’ This essay, from 1863, describes some of the key stylistic themes Edouard Manet used in his depiction of modern life. Manet, both traditional yet cutting edge, captured modern life in the way he saw it, as opposed to artists at the time who followed the trends of what were considered academic conventions. The raw and natural representation of the world around him, and his unrelenting view of it is a characteristic i wish to adopt. Other classical or painterly inspirations I will reference are Delacroix, Caravaggio, Courbet, Millet, Masaccio, Magritte and Dali. More contemporary inspirations include Bridget Riley, Jenny Holzer, Chris Ofili, Sol le Witt, John Baldesarrri, Mehreen Murtaza, Rafael Rozendaal, Pipolotti Rist, Mark Lombardi. Essentially my work, in the simplest of terms will present realist figuration alongside surreal, expressive, digitally inspired landscapes and settings. These will be abstract collages and impressions of our own landscapes and the imagined digital-scape. By decoding architectural drawings, city plans, maps, satellite imagery, network imagery, info-graphics, circuit boards and even the human body, I aim to find a theme within their structure, and combination.
Architecture completes a cultural memory of the area in which it stands. Deep in the cities, there are rows of buildings, each defining their own time. Just walking down one of these roads triggers a sense of physical history that reminds you what had been before. The internet’s current architecture, per say, is based on books, scrolls, images, and videos, however with the potential emergence of virtual space, and a consumer interface to use it, this current structure could be set to change dramatically. I aim to look into the possibility of digital architecture and the cultural identities it could form. A space without land, where the buildings hold influence from cultures from all over the globe. Its a classic utopian vision that any technophobe would cry at the thought of, though it is not entirely impossible, and thus i propose the idea of the virtual space race, except this time our mortality does not hold us back, only our interface, tools and imagination. Unlike real architecture, the user can customise their surroundings. The buildings within our reality are set in stone as the unchangeable landmark of someone else’s work. within this digital space, the user is able to control what the environment is made up of, and the elements within it, be it their own designs, or those of others,
Given the opportunity, will man cultivate and shape a virtual environment in the same way he has the physical, or how will it differ?
My research will be based on both physical and digital processes, with an aim of finding a balance. I will aim to include physical lighting, sound and sensors. Creating multi-faceted, sculptural paintings and installations will use a number of physical processes including mark-making, wax/clay cast/ wood sculpture, found and manipulated objects.
My work will aim to find an equilibrium between Realist mark-making and digital abstraction, Much of my focus be will be on the city, and its increasing connectivity with its inhabitants. As our cities become more dependent on technology, i will show this distinction physically within its representation. Although my primary skill is to paint, I will further my understanding with more technological processes, such as visual coding, 3D sculpting and image manipulation. I will add electronic elements to my pieces including lighting, projected film/animation and interactive sensors to capture the growing reliance on technology. These Digital elements could also be laser cut images, interactive sensors, projected animation or embedded lighting and sound effects. A lot of these digital processes depend on my ability to become confident with the software, and therefore I see these elements coming in later down the line. In the meantime, I will focus on painting/drawing and sculpture, with some photography and film elements.
To de-construct the crossovers between digital identity and the ‘real self’ through multi-media paintings and installations that in themselves only just find the balance between the physical and the digital.
To be true to the representation of figures and personalities in my work. I do not wish to alter reality to better my work, and instead aim to captured elements of modern life, and especially life in the way i believe it to come across.
To investigate the growing reliability of technology and both the positive and negative effects of media consumption on individual and group identities.
To harness the possibility of virtual environments in Continue reading