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Cloud Mapping Project (Cloud Room)

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Description of campaign/project

Cloud Mapping Project is a real-time interactive animation installation and soundscape about the cloud, its significance and history in science and computing, as an enduring subject in art and music, to its unforeseen consequences as a tool for surveillance.

Is the trade-off of having technology at our fingertips worth its ability to directly influence and contribute to the growing obsolescence of individual privacy along with increasing our vulnerability due to the inherent problem of one’s cloud not being managed by oneself and the potential of one’s cloud data falling into the wrong hands?

3D cloud images are downloaded via Google Earth or open source applications in real-time, located by x, y, z latitude and longitude coordinates. Cloud structures form at different altitudes, positions in the sky, so this is an aesthetic as well as a scientific and mapping decision.

Each of the four walls simulate the earth’s globe in 3D by continually posting surveillance –like cloud images from a specific direction/location (North, South, East and West) as day turns into night around the world.

It will incorporate an atmospheric soundscape and possibly use specialized eye glasses incorporating Tobii eye tracking or other technologies enabling viewers to manipulate cloud images with their eyes.

I'm trying to raise awareness before we lose our privacy rights entirely.

The addictive use of ubiquitous and cloud computing to instantaneously share and permanently archive (there is no undelete) personal information is making personal experience and privacy obsolete. People turn to social media like Facebook and Instagram as virtual friends to immediately post their most intimate thoughts and details about their lives including medical histories, political views and financial profiles.

The bigger question is this good and what are the long term effects on us as individuals and as a society?

Will we lose our ability to choose, or even notice it is gone when the ubiquitous interface becomes so subtle that we are continuously targeted with exactly what we need, want and like at all times?

In addition to loss of personal choice, how will this affect our ability to reason, reflect and see things objectively if our attention is constantly being diverted away from what is actually happing?

In "The Move Toward Computing that Reads Your Mind", Molly Wood talks to Robert Scoble, co-author of "the Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy" who says “If you give an app access to your e-mail so it has your travel itinerary, for example, it can alert you when there is a problem with a flight, show you alternate flights and let you tap one or two time to rebook- especially if the credit card information is stored in the app.”

The problem is that while an application is providing a useful service for us it is also simultaneously gathering personal data that may be used in ways we would not authorize.

Molly continues: "Certainly in the future, phones will most likely be talking to wearable’s that are monitoring your movements, as well as things like your thermostats and even your cars. As the signals grow louder and more frequent, the context becomes more refined and accurate. Location is the most powerful element of contextual tech, from what I can tell. But it’s also the element that makes me concerned about my privacy. When an app is already reading your calendar, reading your email, learning where you live and work, where you’re traveling, what you are interested in, is there anything it doesn’t know?"

What I learned is that some people get it that loss of privacy is a big issue and others are so seduced by technology that they don't care. Hopefully we will be able to meet somewhere in the middle and maintain aspects of both.


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Entry details


Cloud Mapping Project (Cloud Room)



Concept author(s)

Debra Swack

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United States of America

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Debra Swack is a Fulbright Specialist and Phi Theta Kappa in computer science who began exhibiting new media and sound art in the early 90s at Xerox Parc while doing software testing and technical writing for PolyGram Records/Universal Music Group. She is mentioned in “Art and Innovation at Xerox Parc” published by MIT in 1999 and works with immersive and interactive environments. Her last article on “the Emotions after Charles Darwin”, a project on the universality of emotions on a biological level regardless of cultural classifications such as race or gender done collaboratively with international neuroscientists to aid them with autism research was published by Leonardo Electronic Almanac. "Animal Patterning Project”; a synthetic software derived bio-art animation and glicee print project is currently on exhibit at the Binghamton University Art Museum. In addition to presenting a paper on "Cloud Mapping Project" at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, she was concurrently a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. and made field recordings of weather on the roof of the McKim building, serendipitously situated on top of the Janiculum, the second tallest hill in Rome.