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March 29 - April 4th, 2009
Eyebeam Roadshow
A group of us (Jeff, John, Michael, Yael and me) will be heading on the Eyebeam roadshow to give Workshops and talks at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia College. I’m giving two workshops:
Technology As Identity, 3-6pm, Tuesday March 31st, Columbia College
Making Something Super, 9-1pm, Wednesday April [...]

A group of us are going to give a series of presentations and workshops in Illinois from March 30th - April 4th. Come check it out if yr in chicago.
Check out the schedule events and participants here:

I will be at the Dubai Art Fair, The Sharjah Biennal and the Bastakiah Art Fair march 18-24. Lots of very interesting events, lectures, and exhibits going on. More info here

Is email a distraction? SelfControl is an OS X application which blocks access to incoming and/or outgoing mail servers and websites for a predetermined period of time. For example, you could block access to your email, facebook, and twitter for 90 minutes, but still have access to the rest of the web. Once started, it can not be undone by the application or by restarting the computer – you must wait for the timer to run out.

Created while at Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology. Free Software under the GPL.  Sourcecode on Github, and ticket system on the eyebeam dev site. Feel free to make improvements, linux ports, etc. Thanks to Charlie Stigler for developing the application.

Related software you might enjoy:

  • Freedom - block all internet access for set periods of time. by Fred Stutzman
  • Spirited Away - automatically hides windows you’re not using anymore. by Drikin
  • Oh, and Add-Art - a web browser plugin that replaces advertising with art. (I worked on this too)

Download SelfControl

SelfControl 1.2 - Tiger 10.4 and Leopard 10.5 compatible The wiz, Charlie Stigler, just built a 1.2 version that incorporates white lists and other improvements!  Feel free to make your own contributions to the code as well.

I spent today trying to get an openFrameworks app running on my iPhone, and now that I’ve gone through the headache, you don’t have to!  Getting the app running is the easy part.  Dealing with the provisioning and certificates and all of that shit ended up taking the most time.
I wrote this out kind of quickly after the whole process was done, so I am not 100% sure that everything is accurate, so if you have any trouble or something is unclear, please just leave a comment and I will fix it ASAP.

  1. The first thing you have to do is get an account at the Apple Developers Connection and buy a membership in the iPhone Developers Program.  The membership is $100 to put your apps on 100 phones.
  2. Once you’ve done that, you can download the most recent iPhone SDK.  I have been working with 3.0
  3. Install the SDK
  4. I have simplified the next few steps by offering a bundle of files that I have collected from different places.  So if you want to skip them, just download my openFrameworks-iPhone package here and unzip it.  Giving credit where credit is due – it includes stuff from, the ofxmsaof GoogleCode project, the iphone-glu GoogleCode project, and some compiled libraries from zach-gage’s ofiPhone package that he posted in this thread.  If you want to get all of that yourself, follow the sub-steps below
    1. Crack open a terminal and run the following commands.

      mkdir openFrameworks-iPhone
      cd openFrameworks-iPhone
      mkdir apps
      mkdir libs
      mkdir addons
      svn co apps/examples
      svn co libs/openFrameworks
      svn co addons
      svn co addons/ofxiPhone
      mkdir apps/iPhone
      mv addons/ofxiPhone/examples/* apps/iPhone
    2. Download these libs:
    3. Unzip them and put them in your ‘libs’ folder
  5. Now you should be ready to run an app in the iPhone simulator. Open up one of the example apps (examples/iPhone/iPhone Graphics Example/iPhone Graphics Example.xcodeproj) and try it out.
  6. Duplicate one of the iPhone examples and make your app.
  7. Okay, not the annoying part starts.  Go to the iPhone Developer Portal Program.  Since apple wants to control everything, this is like your base of operations for creating the stuff that you need to get your app on your phone.  There are 4 things you have to do in here.
    1. Generate a certificate (you’ll have to be signed in to see these links, but they are good instructions, so I’m not going to repeat them)
    2. Register your iPhone
    3. Generate an App ID for your app
    4. Let’s recap.  Your certificate identifies who you are.  You registered your phone so that Apple knows which phone is yours.  Then you made an App ID so Apple knows which app you want to use.  So the last thing you have to do is put all of those things together in something called a Provisioning Profile.  So follow these directions to make one of those.
  8. When you are all done with all of this stuff, you should be able to download a file from the Provisioning section called Your_Name.mobileprovision. This is the goal of all of the previous steps. If you have this file, you are ready to move on.
  9. Plug in your iPhone with the USB cable.
  10. open up XCode and go to Window > Organizer  You should see your iPhone in the list.  I think you need to activate it somehow to use for development, but I can’t quite remember.  It should be obvious.
  11. Drag this file onto the “Organizer” window and you should see something like this:picture-11
  12. Now go back to XCode, expand the “Targets” item in the left menubar, and double click on “iPhone”.  Click on “Properties”, and in the “Identifier” field, put the App ID string that you generated in step 11.3  It should look something like:
  13. In the same screen, click on “Build”, go to the Code Signing section, and under “Code Signing Identity”, select “Any iPhone OS Device” on the left, and “iPhone Developer: Your Name” on the right.
  14. You should now be able to build your app.  And when it builds, if your iPhone is connected, it will automatically get transferred to your phone.

Congratulations!  You should now have the app on your phone.

One more tip:  I haven’t tried this out yet, but when I realized that the iPhone simulator didn’t have accelerometer support, I googled around a bit and found this accelerometer-simulator project.  This could be very handy when testing apps that use the accelerometer.  It will save you the trouble of having to transfer your app to your phone every time you want to test the accelerometer.


I’m totally getting obsessed with gold. I give all credit to Marisa Olson. But I want real gold.

c.westcott i tried

Okay Mr or Mrs C. Westcott, I tried to mail you your Moleskine. Your bloody address was incorrect. And b/c you just put yr first initial, I can’t find you. You were at CAA. You were probably sitting in on the panel before mine on friday morning. Six degrees of separation: can we find C. Westcott?

Project Description

Crowded is an montage audio program similar to radio shows like This American Life, The Moth, or the productions of Joe Frank.  What makes it unique is that all of the material is is made up of segments of audio requested from and submitted by workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk site in return for payment.  I have made one incomplete episode as a test.  You can listen to it here:

Crowded - Episode 0 - (beta)
(I apologize for the audio quality of the first story - you have to listen very closely to hear what he is saying.  I will fix it eventually, but this was fine for this proof of concept)

Time Date Worker ID Song Filenames
4:10:00 1/15/2009 A21Y3YW3PIFA Julian Fane - Exit New Year Jonathan01.mp3
15:55:00 1/14/2009 A3QG4E1VG413GV The Dead Texan - Girth Rides a (Horse) BethH01.mp3
14:09:00 1/14/2009 A3PIP9BPN0R408 Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy jmostyle-record-omp46f45fm3c.mp3
Justin01.mp3 and Justin02.mp3
1/15/2009 A20R672MXJ9NMJ Freescha - Holiday Frost smashmazing-upload-1c334g2yq51w.mp3
1/15/2009 A312KFQ78WB3A4 Freescha - Holiday Frost StewieRadio.mp3
A1CUT3GA914MXU Secede - Big Day Out Junebugbetty-record-wzpoxgzbb48a.mp3
AWP2TKTG82IX8 Julian Fane - Exit New Year FaeJinx-record-uzaf469qb42t.mp3

Each episode has a mechanism or a theme.  For the test episode, I asked workers to listen to a collection of songs.  After listening, they picked one that reminded them of an important event in their life, and then recorded themselves telling that story.  You can see the HIT (Human Intelligence Task - the instructions given to the workers) at the bottom of this page.  The tentative list of future themes are all listed below in the prouction timeline.  Some of them have nothing to do with labor or MT.  Some are very self-conscious.

tuerke3The workers are given around $5-$10 to follow the directions like the ones below, depending on the complexity of the task. The jobs usually involve recording some audio. Depending on the assignment, they will use either a custom-built recording applet or a commercial conference call service.  When I receive the audio, I (with the help of Graham Reznick, an audio engineer) organize and edit the results into a professionally produced radio show.  Although it would be interesting to keep these results as raw as possible and strive for objectivity, I have decided that I would rather focus on creating an intriguing show.  Except where the theme specifically calls for it, I will not give up editorial privileges.


After doing several projects using crowdsourcing (Dirt Party, Invisible Threads, You’re So VIP) that essentially use workers as a faceless labor force only slightly better than a computer, I wanted to do a project that was about the actual people who are doing these tasks.  Who are they?  Where do they come from?  Why do they do these jobs?  The dynamics of “buying” a story via Mechanical Turk are interesting to me.  Do I own the story?  What kind of stories do you get from workers  who are ultimately looking at the estimated time vs. payment bottom line?   You could argue that I am still not humanizing them - that I am simply exploiting their willingness to tell personal stories for a few bucks.  But this project isn’t really taking a position in terms of the ethics of online labor markets.  It’s simply the MT system - which most believe is a kind of foreshadowing of a labor paradigm that will inevitably become much more common in the future - in a way that I think is more interesting and rewarding than most of what I have seen.  Most of the workers who respond to my requests are very excited to have been asked to do something that requires a little more creativity and thought.  The trick will be to bring out something unique about the kind of people who do this kind of work.  The average person doesn’t know what crowdsourcing is, and especially doesn’t care to hear strangers talking about uninteresting topics.  So the concept alone won’t make this project successful.  The tentative themes below are intentionally being left somewhat vague so that, when I gain a better understanding of the workers , I will be able to craft a show scenario that will coax better material out of them.

The end result will be a CD of these shows along with a small pamphlet or booklet about the workers who contributed, and any thoughts or research that I accumulate over the course of the show.  Because I don’t want people who wouldn’t normally be on MT to accept the tasks, I will release the entire collection after the project is done.   I will also release the MP3s of the shows and all of the source audio on the web.  With the help of Rhizome, I hope to one day hope to pitch this to WNYC as a series that they can play on air.

Project Budget & Timeline

I would like to make 1 episode per month for 1 year, starting in September of 2010.

Episode Budget

  • $100 for stories (roughly 5-10 workers @ $10/job to get enough usable content)
  • $200 audio editing
  • $50 audio/hosting services (conference call lines, media server, etc.)
  • TOTAL: 1 episode costs around $350

Main Budget

  • 12 Episodes: $4,200
  • Jingle composition: $800
  • Printing booklet: $300
  • TOTAL: $5500


I will complete one episode each month and send it out to a small list of people for comments.  The following are the tentative themes for each month.

  1. September Listen to a series of songs, choose one that reminds you of an event in your life, and then tell that story.  The stories will be collected and played on top of the song that you choose. (11 calls @ $8)
  2. October Answer the following questions (20 calls @ $4)
    1. describe your immediate environment
    2. how/when did you working on MT?
    3. how do you plan on using the money that you receive for this work?
    4. record 2 minutes of ambient audio from somewhere nearby
  3. November Call me and have an argument about a topic I give you.  I will edit myself out, leaving only your side of the argument. (5 calls at $12)
  4. December Call this conference line.  You will be joined by 2 other workers.  Your character is [fill in a character].  During the course of this call, you must [plot point 1], [plot point 2], [plot point 3].(I’m not quite sure how I will orchestrate this one yet, so it is very tentative - 6 calls @ $15)
  5. January Use the recorder below to record yourself answering the following questions:
    1. Who do you think I (the Requester) am?
    2. Do you ever think about the people who give you the tasks that you do on MT?
  6. February Use the recorder below to record yourself reading from your favorite book. (12 calls @ $5)
  7. March Use the recorder below to record yourself talking about previous jobs that you have had. (10 calls @ $8)
  8. April Use the recorder below to record your first name, your last initial, and where you live.  (This show will focus on quantity rather than quality.  250 calls @ $0.5)
  9. May TBD
  10. June TBD
  11. July TBD
  12. August The ubiquitous “best of” show.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Please see my CV here.

Work Samples

Sample MT HIT

Tell me a story

I am working on a radio show called This Mechanical Life where all of the material comes from Mechanical Turk workers.  And I need your help!  Just follow the 6 steps below.

  • Listen to the songs below.
  • Think of an event in your life that reminds you of that song.  This could be any story, but it should be important to you, or something that you think other people would enjoy hearing.
  • Find a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed
  • Tell me your story! Follow the instructions below to record the story. Some tips:
    • Please dont mention the song that you chose while telling your story, or even that the story you are telling was inspired by a song.  Just tick the circle below and the song will play underneath your story.
    • You can use either your computer microphone or a telephone.
    • The story should be between 8 and 15 mins.  Please try to stay on topic and don’t ramble.  That being said, just relax and don’t rush through it.
    • Speak up, speak slowly, and speak clearly.  No bonus will be given if I can’t understand what you are saying.
    • Do not play the song while you are recording.
  • Tell me how you recorded it here.
    • if you called the phone number, put the number from which you called here.
    • If you used YouTube, put the URL here
    • If you used HoundBite, put the URL in here
  • If you wish to be credited in the final production, please enter your information here.  I cannot guarantee that your story will be used, or that it will not be edited or re-told.  But don’t let this dissuade you!  If you have a problem with any of this, let me know and I will work with it.

The Songs (also available at

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Freescha - Holiday Frost
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The Dead Texan - Girth Rides a (Horse)
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DNTEL - Last Songs
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Julian Fane - Exit New Year
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Microstoria - Edu
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The Octopus Project - What They Found
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Secede - Big Day Out
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Am-Boy - Turning Of Season
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Neoangin - Trippy Disco
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Ratatat - Brule
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Ratatat - Bird Priest

Recording Options

  • Leave me a message. The maximum length is 3 minutes. You will have to call back a few times.
  • Use YouTube QuickCapture.  You don’t have to even be in the frame as long as the audio is clear.  The maximum length is 10 minutes.
  • HoundBite is like YouTube for audio.  So if you really don’t want to record a video, this is your solution. The maximum length is 15 minutes.

Inbox Zero Merit Badge

Inbox Zero Merit Badge

From my brother. He sent it two weeks ago, and I was hovering around 20 messages. He is visiting on Tuesday, so I had to have it ready by then!