With websites, corporations, and governments peeking at our activities both on and offline, many of us have become more mindful of the electronic footprints our online activities leave behind. But there arenít any privacy settings to deter the kind of surveillance that information artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg is modeling with her new project: a genetic intelligence database of computer-generated 3D profiles constructed from found hair samples.
Premiering last weekend at an open studio showcase for residents of New York Cityís Eyebeam art and technology lab, the project, Stranger Visions, began with a simple but profound realization: we are leaving physical traces of ourselves everywhere, and tools to unlock the secrets behind those traces will soon become more accessible than ever before.
Dewey-Hagborg says it was a single strand of hair lodged precariously between the glass frame of a painting that got her to thinking about the origins of this ubiquitous human detritus. "I had never considered the emerging possibility of genetic surveillance," she says. "That the very things that make us human: hair, skin, saliva, become a liability as we constantly face the possibility of shedding these traces in public space, leaving artifacts which anyone could come along and mine for information." She points me to a story about a geneticist whose attempts to determine the origin of a murderer from a semen sample caused the Dutch government to pass new regulations on DNA phenotyping in 2003. "It was part of my early research and I think that the issues that article raises are integral to the piece." Today, the Netherlands remains the only country to have explicitly restricted such practices.
The premise might bring to mind the fictional dystopia depicted in Andrew Niccolís 1997 sci-fi film, Gattaca. But Stranger Visions isnít a tribute ó itís an actual proof-of-concept. Collaborating with Genspace, a DIY bio lab and hackerspace in Brooklyn, Dewey-Hagborg found herself in the role of an amateur gene sleuth, aiming to make the genetic forensics equivalent of police sketches. Collecting hair samples from bathroom stalls and other public spaces, she extracts known predictive traits from the sequenced genome ó race, resistance to diseases, eye color, etc. ó eventually using the results to chart ancestry across a large printed map and generate 3D portraits of her unwitting, anonymous subjects.
Anglo-Saxon Sword and Helmet from Staffordshire Hoard Reconstructed 2015-05-29 0:49
Thousands of metal fragments from the Staffordshire Hoard have been reconstructed into two "significant" new 7th Century objects.
Researchers have pieced together parts of a silver helmet and a previously unseen form of sword pommel.
The hoard, which is valued at ¬£3.2m, was found in a field near Burntwood, Staffordshire in July 2009.
Both items have been put on display at Birmingham's Museum ...
ALEC corruption: Legislators and corporate lobbyists meet in secret at Savannah resort 2015-05-28 23:59
The Georgia Legislature has a message for voters: don't ask us about our meetings with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors.
The 11Alive Investigators tracked lawmakers to a resort hotel in Savannah last week, where we observed state legislators and lobbyists mingling in the hotel bar the night before they gathered in private rooms to decide what new laws would best serve ...
Swedish politician: US is the true cause of the masses of refugees from the Middle East 2015-05-28 20:13
Editors Note: And who controls US foreign policy? Listen to Jeff Gates.
The present Swedish debate about war refugees from the Middle East is an example of peer restricted expression. In the name of political correctness or perceived decency, any questioning of maximum generosity in opening Swedish borders for the refugees is indignantly rejected by the official mainstream. We have a ...
Even if Patriot Act Expires, Government Will Keep Spying on All Americans 2015-05-28 19:52
Government Will Use "Secret Interpretations" to Get Around Legal Prohibitions
Mass surveillance under the Patriot Act is so awful that even its author says that the NSA has gone far beyond what the Act intended (and that the intelligence chiefs who said Americans aren't being spied on should be prosecuted for perjury).
Specifically, the government is using a "secret interpretation" of the ...
The TPP, Monsanto, Rockefeller, Trilateral Commission, Brzezinski 2015-05-28 19:18
All hands on deck for global, economic, corporate dictatorship
There are dots to connect here. They're real, and they're spectacular.
Let me begin with a brief exchange from a 1978 interview, conducted by reporter Jeremiah Novak. He was speaking with two American members of the Trilateral Commission (TC), a group founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller and his intellectual flunkey, Zbigniew Brzezinski.