Is it cheating to appropriate Google Street View images as photojournalism?

The Google Street View car is like the ultimate street photographer, a robo Cartier-Bresson methodically scouring the streets and documenting what it sees. But most people use GSV for practical purposes, and they view any drama or comedy captured by the roving 360-degree camera as accidents.

A few photographers are now looking for these ‘accidents’ intentionally. Instead of walking out on the street to find interesting scenes and people, they are simply curating the pre-documented streets from the comfort of their desk at home.

Michael Wolf, for example, uses a camera to photograph scenes from Google Street View open on his computer’s browser. In February, his honorable mention in the Contemporary Issues category at the World Press Photo Awards for A Series of Unfortunate Events ignited a storm of debate. Some balked at the idea that Wolf’s project was photojournalism, while others embraced the decision and called for more conceptual leaps and redefinitions of photojournalism in the digital age.

Meanwhile two women in Cincinnati are testing privacy ethics by selling reproductions of 1955 police mug shots.

On another mobile front: For those who prefer their art fresh rather than refried, tablet drawing is getting more sophisticated, as on this recent release by the same company that created AutoCAD:

SketchBook Pro, essentially a digital canvas and brush set, allows you to use both your fingers and aftermarket styluses to create illustrations and designs. Included are over 60 different brush tools, the ability to create up to six different layers for one file, as well as the ability to export files to Photoshop.

The app was previously available on iPhone, iPad and Android phone devices, as well as in an expanded desktop version. This is the first version of the app that will run on Android’s tablet-optimized software, a.k.a. Honeycomb.

Of course, just because you drew it on an iPad doesn’t mean you won’t be a kitschy derivative of other works–as demonstrated by a recent exhibition that showed off the iPad’s artsy side:

What would Leonardo do?

A decade ago, Sun founder Bill Joy prophesied a future without fixed prices, where bots would negotiate our most quotidian economic transactions. His future is about to become our present.

TaskRabbit is like eBay for real-world labor….It was a wintry night in February 2008, when [ Leah ] Busque, a 28-year-old engineer at IBM in Cambridge, Massachusetts, realized that she needed dog food for her yellow lab, Kobe. She wanted nothing more than to get someone else to trudge outside in the snow. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a place online you could go,” she says. “A site where you could name the price you were willing to pay for any task. There had to be someone in my neighborhood who was willing to get that dog food for what I was willing to pay.”

Got parking?

A new iPhone app has created a marketplace for public parking, connecting those vacating a space with those searching for one — for a fee.

Parking Auction launched earlier this week on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The matchmaking service is beta-testing, and the folks behind it hope to expand worldwide, creating communities of relaxed, smartphone-armed parkers.

“If I’m parked on the street and wouldn’t mind moving my car to a spot half a mile away that isn’t residential, I may be happy to give it up to my neighbor that just got home from East Hampton on a Sunday night with two kids in a car she has to unload,” said founder Brian Rosetti. “We think that’s quite a neighborly and valuable service.”

Why write a bot that spams people with Viagra ads when you can write a bot that just wrings coins directly out of their computer chip?

For the uninitiated, Bitcoins are a digital currency that can be minted from excess CPU cycles of a computer and used in a variety of Internet contexts. More on Bitcoins:

So the money being “stolen” is not existing cash that is somehow withdrawn from your bank account or charged to your credit card, but is new money “printed” when your computer is hijacked by the malware.

This is kind of like breaking into an alchemist’s shop and making gold from his leftover iron.

GPGPU Bitcoin Mining Trojan

“Security researchers have unearthed a piece of malware that mints a digital currency known as Bitcoins by harnessing the immense power of an infected machine’s graphical processing units. According to new research from antivirus provider Symantec, Trojan.Badminer uses GPUs to generate virtual coins through a practice known as minting. That’s the term for solving difficult cryptographic proof-of-work problems and being rewarded with 50 Bitcoins for each per correct block.”

Give linguists 140 characters and they’ll predict whether you’re a guy or girl two times out of three.

“Remember when the Gay Girl in Damascus revealed himself as a middle-aged man from Georgia? On a platform like Twitter, which doesn’t ask for much biographical information, it’s easy (and fun!) to take on a fake persona but now linguistic researchers have developed an algorithm that can predict the gender of a tweeter based solely on the 140 characters they choose to tweet. The research is based on the idea that women use language differently than men. ‘The mere fact of a tweet containing an exclamation mark or a smiley face meant that odds were a woman was tweeting, for instance,’ reports David Zax. Other research corroborates these findings, finding that women tend to use emoticons, abbreviations, repeated letters and expressions of affection more than men and linguists have also developed a list of gender-skewed words used more often by women including love, ha-ha, cute, omg, yay, hahaha, happy, girl, hair, lol, hubby, and chocolate. Remarkably, even when only provided with one tweet, the program could correctly identify gender 65.9% of the time. (PDF). Depending on how successful the program is proven to be, it could be used for ad-targeting, or for socio-linguistic research.”

This result follows a recent spate of articles in the mainstream media arguing that language reflects how you think. While emphasizing cultural rather than gender divergences, some of this research suggests profoundly different worldviews. For example, the Pormpuraaw people of aboriginal Australia speak of “my southwest foot” instead of “my left foot.”

A man who lost both legs will be running for South Africa at the 2011 World Athletics Championships, thanks to metal blades where his legs used to be.

It’s easy to cry unfair, but perhaps a bit harder to sort out why his advantage is that much different from the “natural” advantage of, say, tall basketball players.

“The world’s first mechanically augmented athlete, Oscar Pistorius, will now compete against unaugmented peers on behalf of South Africa. He’ll be running in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the World Athletics 2011 Championships. Pistorius, a double leg amputee, has had special leg blades crafted for him that allow him to compete against his peers. He’s fought hard to prove they provide no advantage, and according to IAAF they do not. This should be a very interesting race to watch. His nickname: The Blade Runner.”

I can’t wait to write an Excel alert that tells me when my budget is in the red.

“Programmers have had to put up with Microsoft dithering over Office development for a long while. The macro language VBA has been on its way out ever since .NET was introduced and yet it is still the only macro language available. Now it looks as if Microsoft plan to put JavaScript and HTML5 into Office 15. And how do we know this? By reading job ads to discover what projects Microsoft is hiring for.”

Graffiti just got more compact, thanks to Processing, QR codes, and media artist Golan Levin and his pals.

For the uninitiated, QR codes are those pixelated-looking little squares you sometimes see on business cards and posters. Scan ‘em with a smartphone and they reveal a message or send you to a Web site or map. Thanks to QR Stenciler, you may be seeing more of them in unlikely places.

(Via Bruce Sterling)

QR_STENCILER Version: 01 August, 2011 By Golan Levin and Asa Foster III for FFFFF.AT

Developed with Processing v.0198, a free, cross- platform Java programming toolkit for the arts.

ABOUT This free program loads a user-specified QR code image, from which it generates a topologically correct stencil PDF, suitable for laser-cutting.

INSTRUCTIONS >> QR_STENCILER has been tested in MacOSX 10.6.8. 1. Make a QR code image which embeds a short text. Try, Kaywa, or the Google Chart API. 2. Download and install ‘Processing’ from We used v.0198 but v.1.5.1 seems OK too. 3. Unzip ‘’ to a folder. 4. Put your QR code image in ‘QR_STENCILER/data/’ 5. Launch Processing and open ‘QR_STENCILER.pde’ 6. Press ‘Run’ (Command-R) to start the stenciler. 7. You will be prompted to Open your QR code image. A default will be opened if none is provided. 8. After doing so, the program will generate a stencil PDF in the ‘data’ folder. 9. That PDF can now be opened in your favorite CAD software, for laser-cutting cardboard, etc. 10.After marking your stencil, test it with a QR reader, such as TapMedia’s free iPhone app.


QR_STENCILER shall be used for Good, not Evil….

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