Data Flows, Power And Control


It became apparent to me that I was seeking to connect with others in ways that they were actively seeking to thwart. 

The Internet for family, friends, colleagues and so on was for a long time both a mystery and an imposition. The more I informed myself, the longer I spent glued to a computer screen the greater it seemed their reluctance to engage with me became and vice versa. I became sick of the mundanity of their conversations around which I could see digital solutions yet I was only able to offer the alternative but I was in fact not really listening to their main concern.

Socially I had become an outsider only a few years after the inception and domestic rollout of the internet and I can attribute much of that isolation to my mixed sense of reality. On the one hand I felt ultra connected to many people increasingly from around the world, yet on a day to day basis I was noticeably absent or at best present and distracted.

So this research process also brings forward in a vulnerable manner the many and varied successes and failures that I have experienced as an individual, as a member of teams, groups, networks and literally hundreds of projects across a dazzling array of occupations. As my CV will attest one of the greatest aspects about working as a teacher, educational technologist, artist, researcher and so on is the opportunity we have to learn from others. It is in this realm and in those roles that I experienced the many brilliant ways that digital technologies can connect humanity and inversely the opposite, the many and insidious ambiently pervasive ways that technology can separate us.

Over a few years I noted that computational power grew and also exponentially expanded across the social worlds of adults and children alike. Not only did personal computers reduce in sheer size, the purchase price and usefulness propaganda purporting life change spread like wildfire across all facets of society. Every aspect of life changed as computers became prevalent in the workplace replacing cumbersome manual tills at shopping checkouts to computational screens that read the ocean bed and provided the amassed range of fish available through a hydrography resonant sounding tool.

So I learned HTML and began building the Internet, one keystroke, one word, one website at a time.

In recollection I gained extraordinary access to people's personal lives as web administrator able to build websites using my clients raw data and passwords which they always forgot. It is with this same and very lucid premise that social network and social media corporations and companies are now controlling vast sections of the apathetic consumer public. An example of this is a social network that states upon login ‘have you forgotten your password’ and then sends you another password that they themselves created.

The premise goes, give the public something for free, ensure the user interface and design is addictive, provide access to services that are not available elsewhere and seed the whole brand, structure and form across society as an interwoven web and let them know that to withdraw from such a service means a certain social suicide.  

So the notions of power and control of where data goes and flows is very much central to where my research finds its form and is most useful when we examine this research as actors within social functions. In the earliest stages of the research journey which I attribute to be an awakening a ‘signal’ that could be tapped and transferred as a packet of information from one place to another seemed to be a possibility that an alternate reality was possible.

Decades later my instinct or liyan as the Nyikina community of the Kimberley region call it, gave me a deep seated sense that access for all and the mantras that keep coming forward as the constitutions to the formation of an electronic hybrid, an electrophorus, as mere conjecture, hard sell with little substance. As a public we were sold a dream, a state of connection that would bring about great peace for humanity.

In this information systems approach I noted as a novice researcher that whilst I had access to the meta of the matter, the meta-matter, I had mostly nothing of the matter that mattered, pardon the pun. From electro microfiche to the first of human computing by corporation affiliation my novice research activities were often sporadic but intensely avid. 

I purposely tried to break connections, vandalise systems and tinker breakpoints without any real sense that I was in some ways an actor in a scene, a participant in what seemed to me to be a construct of an alternate reality, I was seeking power. I was as I recall constantly trying to interrogate and break the Internet and that was grounded in my prior experience as an artist, creatively inventing new ways to reflect back to society our own human condition.