Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Big Bang Data at Somerset House in London, other exhibitions and interviews, and 5 million + cats!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

I Know Where Your Cat Lives will be featured at the new exhibition, Big Bang Data, opening today at Somerset House in London. This is a traveling exhibition curated by Olga Subirós and José Luis de Vicente.

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Emails, selfies, shopping transactions, Google searches, dating profiles: every day we’re producing data in huge quantities. Our online activity, alongside that of businesses and governments, has led to a massive explosion – a ‘Big Bang’ – of data.

This radical shift in the volume, variety and speed of data being produced, combined with new techniques for storage, access, and analysis, is what defines the proliferation of data. It is radically reshaping our world and is set to revolutionise everything we do.

Data today gives us new ways of doing things: from scientific research to business strategy, politics to social interaction, our new data-driven society that has the potential to be more fair, stable, and efficient and yet it also created a tools for unprecedented mass surveillance and commodification. Data access and usage rights, along with the value they comprise, are at the heart of many concerns.

Big Bang Data explores the issues surrounding the datafication of our world through the work of artists, designers, journalists and visionaries. As the data explosion accelerates, we ask if we really understand our relationship with data, and explore the meaning and implications of data for our future.

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The exhibition, which runs Dec 3, 2015—Feb 28, 2016, includes over 50 works by artists, designers and innovators, comprising also a number of authors I’ve long admired like:
Brendan Dawes, Charles Joseph Minard, David McCandless, Ellie Harrison, Eric Fischer, Erica Scourti, Eva and Franco Mattes, Fight for the Future and Demand Progress, Florence Nightingale, Forensic Architecture, Future Cities Catapult, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Horst Ademeit, IF, Ingo Günther, Ingrid Burrington and Dan Williams, Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, ITO World, Jaime Serra, James Bridle, John Snow, Jonathan Harris, Jonathan Minard, Julian Oliver, Julie Freeman, Kamel Makhloufi, Kiln, Laura Poitras, Lev Manovich and Moritz Stefaner, Lisa Jevbratt, Lise Autogena and Josh Portway, mySociety, Nesta, Nicholas Felton, Open Knowledge, OpenCorporates, Owen Mundy, Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, Philipp Adrian, Rafael Lozano Hemmer, Ryoji Ikeda, Safecast, Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi, Tekja, TeleGeography, The Guardian, The Long Now Foundation, Thomson and Craighead, Timo Arnall, Umbrellium, William Elford, and Zach Blas

Some press is emerging already and I’ll add more images as the show opens:

Meanwhile time for a…

2015 Update on IKWYCL

Just over a year ago I launched I Know Where Your Cat Lives and it immediately went viral. I’m gracious for all the positive attention the project has received, and even more so for the reach it generated. In addition to a notable influence on research and dialogue around metadata security, the impact for individuals has been significant. Over 25% of owners of cat photos from the original sample have removed or increased privacy on their images and, even more noteworthy, nearly 60% of users have chosen to leave their photos public but have manually removed their location data from the images they shared, underlining the importance of this project to experts in the field, as well as everyone who uses social media.

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Since then I’ve found time to evaluate the project’s impact and begin to work on the conclusion. The site I shared was only a prototype, containing just one million images from the at least 15 million tagged with #cat on social media. Thanks to everyone at FSU’s Research Computing Center, and to support from Dr. Ostrander at the FSU Office of Research, I’ve made great progress in collecting and visualizing the millions of images that users have unknowingly uploaded with geolocation data. With this exhibition at Somerset House I’m uploading another large dataset to bring the total number of cats to just under 5.4 million!

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The final project will include expanding the data set to run in real time, as well as a mobile app called “Like Tinder for Cats,” and a book project which contextualizes and documents the research, the technology I developed, and most importantly, the impact of this ephemeral web-based work on industry, academia, and culture. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to work with my longtime colleague and amazing writer, Shana Berger, on the writing for the project, the first essay of which is currently under review.

Highlights from the last year

The IKWYCL prototype website has already received press in Motherboard/Vice Magazine, The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Atlantic, Wired Magazine, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. It has been featured in several international exhibitions including the Tempo Documentary Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, and numerous others like:

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I Know Where Your Cat Lives was nominated for a 2014 IDFA DocLab Award for Best Digital Storytelling at the International Documentary Film Association (IDFA) Festival. While ultimately the amazing Serial podcast took the prize, I was thrilled to be nominated among many great interactive documentary works including Miranda July’s conceptual app Somebody. Read more about IDFA DocLab in this review on We Make Money Not Art.

I was also excited to take part in the festival, not only as a presenter, but a mystery guest on the evening of my talk. Previously I had shared a selection of my Google searches with a team of experts who led a quiz style analysis of my search history, complete with an artist who did a rendering of what my family looked like according to my searches, and a chef who prepared food for the audience based on what my data revealed.

That same month found me giving a presentation on my work during the L2 Forum at the Morgan Library in New York City.

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While in NYC I also spoke at the LISA (Leaders in Software and Art) Salon at Postmasters Gallery

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In May 2015 it was featured among works by Trevor Paglen and Jason Salavon in the exhibition Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation, at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam curated by Adam Kleinman. This was followed by an exhibit on interactive storytelling and the future of digital media at the Polish National Audiovisual Institute (NInA) in Warsaw curated by Anna Desponds.

Finally, I was very honored to be interviewed this summer for two separate European journalism projects around the cultural impact of technology.

Silvia Font published an extensive discussion which included many of my previous works for El Diario. The interview, Las fotos de tu gato en internet ponen en jaque tu privacidad (in Spanish), was part of a series that included interviews with Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum.

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And, Charles-Henry Groult interviewed me for an ARTE web special about people shaping the culture and politics of the internet. The interview is in English but the interface elements are only in French and German

The dialog with these professionals was really gratifying. I’m so glad to have created something that is so thought-provoking, has proven impact, and yet is extremely fun to use. Thanks to everyone for the support :-)

Owen Mundy on Arte

Creativity and Technology Symposium (C.A.T.S.) at NCSU

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

This week I’m presenting at the Creativity and Technology Symposium hosted by the North Carolina State University Libraries.

Using our feline friends as a theme, we will explore a variety of topics that relate to the ever-expanding and complex work of libraries and academic institutions including: GIS-data enabled location tracking and the implications for privacy rights; the use of social media in research; how new technologies are expanding the possibilities for data gathering; and digital archiving as it relates to common computer usage and pop culture. Plus, we have a few special guests who will be paying a not-to-be-missed visit to the Libraries. All C.A.T.S. events are free and open to the public.

Track Your Cat
Researchers from NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Oct 25, 2015, 3:00–4:00 PM
At the Cameron Village Regional Library
Image Macros, Memes, and Viral Content
Amanda Brennan, Tumblr
Oct 26, 2015, 3:00–4:00 PM
At the Auditorium (Hill), D. H. Hill Library
A Life-Changing Cat
Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB
Oct 26, 2015, 7:00–8:00 PM
At the Auditorium (Hunt), James B. Hunt Jr. Library
Animals, Technology, and Us: How the Internet is Affecting Participatory Science
A panel discussion with Dr. Rob Dunn, associate professor of biological sciences at NC State, Amanda Brennan of Tumblr, and Professor Owen Mundy of Florida State
Oct 27, 2015, 7:00–8:00 PM
At the Auditorium (Hunt), James B. Hunt Jr. Library
Using Technology to Measure Pain in Animals
Oct 28, 2015, 7:00–8:00 PM
At the South Theater (College of VM), Veterinary Medicine Library, College of Veterinary Medicine; 1060 William Moore Drive, Main CVM Administration entrance, South Theatre

UPDATE: C.A.T.S. was a success, AND I met the famous Lil Bub!

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Story-re-telling exhibition, National Audiovisual Institute (NInA), Warsaw, Poland

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Photos from the Story-re-telling exhibition at the National Audiovisual Institute (NInA), Warsaw, Poland (September 25–October 18, 2015) curated by Anna Desponds.

“I know where your cat lives” proclaims artist and programmer Owen Mundy. And indeed – the website created by him can not only recognize pictures of cats from the web, but also precisely pinpoint where they were uploaded.

Cats, which had heretofore led a sheltered life, have recently become Internet mascots. They have entered the public sphere – much in the same way as information about Internet users. This seemingly innocent, funny and simple project in which we watch a map with thousands of photos of cats, moving in a matter of seconds from Bangkok to Rome, is in fact a commentary on the all-knowing web and the often unquestioning satisfaction with which we relinquish our privacy. After all, it’s easy to imagine a similar app for pictures of children instead of cats.

This is not the first one of Mundy’s projects to deal with the topic of the safety of data on the web. He has also created the app Give Me My Data which allows users to reclaim their own information from Facebook and use it for further analyses or visualizations.

Unlike Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg, who claims that privacy is dead, Mundy thinks that it is evolving. Many people didn’t want to show their cats on the webpage – browsing the site you can see which pictures have been removed by users. On the other hand though, many people supposedly reached out to Mundy to ask how they could add their cat to the map.

I know where your cat lives
USA, 2014
Author: Owen Mundy
Team: Owen Mundy, Nicole Kurish, Tim Schwartz, Alissa McShane, Shana Berger
URL: iknowwhereyourcatlives.com

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Photos: Malwina Toczek/NInA

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

I Know Where Your Cat Lives at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.

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Opening of the exhibition ‘Art In The Age Of…Planetary Computation’, 21 May 2015. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

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Opening of the exhibition ‘Art In The Age Of…Planetary Computation’, 21 May 2015. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation
22 May – 16 August 2015
Opening: 21 May 2015, 5pm

With: Aram Bartholl, Rossella Biscotti, Nina Canell, John Gerrard, Femke Herregraven, Antonia Hirsch, David Jablonowski, Navine G. Khan-Dossos, John Menick, Owen Mundy, Trevor Paglen, Lucy Raven, Stephan Tillmans, Julia Weist

How would you draw a picture of the Internet; through the machines and ‘their’ language that broadcast and store ‘our’ messages, or through the affect and power relations that those messages and their movement produce?


Exhibition visitors guide

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation investigates how quantification, telecommunications, and our ever-expanding information apparati not only inform contemporary artistic production, but also how contemporary art can hold a mirror up to these processes and formations. The participating artists explore the fissure between literal infrastructure—code, machines, wires, and other like-vocabularies—and the subjective socio-political interactions fostered by using these devices. Guided not only by that which can be seen on the computer screen, and the various other black mirrors we stare into day in and day out, this exhibition also looks to what happens behind these screens. Moving from objects to subjects, we ask, how do these positions impact daily life, or said in another way: what does it mean to be ‘screened’?

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation is the second iteration of Art In The Age Of…, a three-part presentation series running throughout 2015, that investigates future vectors of art production in the 21st century.

witte_de_with_logoWitte de With
Center for Contemporary Art
Witte de Withstraat 50
3012 BR Rotterdam
The Netherlands
www.wdw.nl

Upcoming workshop at FSU, “I Know Where Your Cat Lives”: The Process of Mapping Big Data for Inconspicuous Trends

Monday, March 16th, 2015

I’m doing a workshop / lecture as part of the ongoing Digital Scholars digital humanities discussion group here at Florida State University. Workshop is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 25, 2:00-3:30 pm
Fine Arts Building (FAB) 320A [530 W. Call St. map]

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“I Know Where Your Cat Lives”: The Process of Mapping Big Data for Inconspicuous Trends

Big Data culture has its supporters and its skeptics, but it can have critical or aesthetic value even for those who are ambivalent. How is it possible, for example, to consider data as more than information — as the performance of particular behaviors, the practice of communal ideals, and the ethic motivating new media displays? Professor Owen Mundy from FSU’s College of Fine Arts invites us to take up these questions in a guided exploration of works of art that will highlight what he calls “inconspicuous trends.” Using the “I Know Where Your Cat Lives” project as a starting point, Professor Mundy will introduce us to the technical and design process for mapping big data in projects such as this one, showing us the various APIs (Application Program Interfaces) that are constructed to support them and considering the various ways we might want to visualize their results.

This session offers a hands-on demonstration and is designed with a low barrier of entry in mind. For those completely unfamiliar with APIs, this session will serve as a useful introduction, as Professor Mundy will walk us through the process of connecting to and retrieving live social media data from the Instagram API and rendering it using the Google Maps API. Participants should not worry if they do not have expertise in big data projects or are still learning the associated vocabulary. We come together to learn together, and all levels of skill will be accommodated, as will all attitudes and leanings. Desktop computers are installed in FAB 320A, but participants are welcome to bring their own laptops and wireless devices.

Participants are encouraged to read the following in advance of the meeting:

and to browse the following resources for press on Mundy’s project:

For further (future) reading:

“Owen Mundy just ruined the Internet” and the last days for the kickstarter

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

It has been an intense couple weeks since my last post. It turns out the internet loves cats even more than data, maps, and politics. So here is an update on many things “cat”…

Update on the project

I Know Where Your Cat Lives has received an overwhelmingly positive response from international press. Besides photos of cats on a world map, there are charts, an FAQ and (now) links to press on the website.

I have to admit I specifically picked cat photos as an accessible medium with which to explore the privacy issue. Still, I was astounded at just how much the internet responded. It’s not only cats, the issue was important for discussion, and I appreciated that as well as the thoughtful responses from everyone. Even the puns.


The privacy implications of cat pictures (4:24) MSNBC Interview with Ronan Farrow


Meet The Guy Who’s Putting Your Cat On The Map — To Prove A Point (2:12) Interview with National Public Radio’s All Things Considered

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“If you have posted a picture of your cat online, data analyst and artist Owen Mundy, and now, the rest of the world, knows where it lives. And, by that logic, he knows where you live, too. That should probably creep you out a little bit, and that’s really the point.”

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“Using cat pictures — that essential building block of the Internet — and a supercomputer, a Florida State University professor has built a site that shows the locations of the cats (at least at some point in time, given their nature) and, presumably, of their owners.”

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“Attention all 4.9 million users of the #Catstagram hashtag: You’re being watched.”

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“I recognize that a single serving site like this should be easy to quit, but I’ve been refreshing for hours and looking at all the different cats of the world. Near, far, wherever they are, these cats just go on and on and on.”

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“If I put up a “cat” photo on Instagram, I am not just sharing a cat photo on Instagram. I am offering up data about my, and my cat’s, location. “I Know Where Your Cat Lives” is, as a title, meant to be vaguely threatening.”

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“Owen Mundy just ruined the Internet. What were once innocuous photos of grumpy cats, tired cats, and fat cats, have now become adorable symbols of just how little privacy we have online.”

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Some charts

Because, charts.

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Traffic and hosting

So far 19,169 cats have been removed from the map due to privacy settings on their photographs being increased. I think this is awesome. And, it is also the ironic part of this project in that its success is measured in increased privacy. Meaning, the more people who are convinced to manage their data better, the less cats I will be able to represent on the map!

Truthfully speaking, I don’t think I have to worry about running out of cats, since this is a small portion of the total one million. And, I figured out a clever way to show this progress as it unfolds:

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The bandwidth and computing resources consumed by this project have been crazy. Even with a very fast Amazon EC2 server (high I/O computing-intensive 4XL server with 16 virtual cpus and 30 GB RAM) I watched the CPU hover at 100% for the entire day of The New York Times article. And this is after I put many hours indexing the database columns and making the scripts efficient in other ways. All told my bill for “going viral” was $1,019.73 (the month of July 2014).

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I used a few different logging tools to monitor the status of the server. Here are some basic stats (from awstats installed on the server) from the three weeks since I launched the project. This is for the requests and bandwidth on the EC2 server only. It does not include the actual cat photos, only the website itself (html, css, json, php, etc):

  • 353,734 unique visits
  • 14,141,644 pages (total clicks on the site)
  • 16,786,127 requests (additional files)
  • 8846.24 GB bandwidth (again, only text files)

I also used CloudFlare CDN (thanks for the tip Tim Schwartz!) to cache the site files and cat photos and serve the data from various locations around the world. This helped with the speed and to decrease my costs. Since all requests are routed through their DNS I believe their stats are likely the most reliable. According to CloudFlare, they served:

  • 20,631,228 total requests (3,089,020 of which were served through CloudFlare’s cache)
  • 10.2 TB bandwidth!! (437.3 GB of this data (site files and cat photos were served by CloudFlare)

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The Kickstarter has <3 days left!

And great news, thanks to 123 backers, including a big push from the awesome folks at Ghostery and Domi Ventures, the Kickstarter will be funded! There’s still time however, to help contribute to the number of years I can keep the site live while getting fun rewards from the project like I Know Where Your Cat Lives themed beer koozies and plush fish-shaped catnip-laced cat toys, as well as a limited edition signed I Know Where Your Cat Lives archival ink jet print. The kickstarter closes on Sat, Aug 9 2014 11:49 AM EDT.

Thanks again to everyone who supported the project. It’s been fun.


I Know Where Your Cat Lives launched

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I just launched a new ongoing project this week. Here’s the text, a video and some screenshots. I’ll post more about how I made it soon.

Welcome to the today’s internet—you can buy anything, every website is tracking your every move, and anywhere you look you find videos and images of cats. Currently, there are 15 million images tagged with the word “cat” on public image hosting sites, and daily thousands more are uploaded from unlimited positions on the globe.

“I Know Where Your Cat Lives” iknowwhereyourcatlives.com is a data experiment that visualizes a sample of 1 million public pics of cats on a world map, locating them by the latitude and longitude coordinates embedded in their metadata. The cats were accessed via publicly available APIs provided by popular photo sharing websites. The photos were then run through various clustering algorithms using a supercomputer at Florida State University in order to represent the enormity of the data source.

This project explores two uses of the internet: the sociable and humorous appreciation of domesticated felines, and the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all. This website doesn’t visualize all of the cats on the net, only the ones that allow you to track where their owners have been.

Folks can also contribute to a kickstarter to help with hosting costs.

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“Data and Site: Visualizing Indexicality” lecture @ Florida State

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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I am giving a lecture on my research tomorrow at a Florida State Department of Geography colloquium. I’ll be addressing artistic and cultural works that make use of data visualization and various forms of mapping to critique or engage issues surrounding data privacy, militarism, and surveillance. I will be giving a preview of a new web-based project involving mapping and cats. I will also talk about Representing Place, the collaborative graduate seminar I co-taught with Prof. Phil Steinberg in Geography.

“Data and Site: Visualizing Indexicality”
Owen Mundy, Assistant Professor in Art
Friday April 18, 3:30-4:30pm
DeVoe Moore Conference Center, Bellamy 150-E.