Info Tech

Inspired by my friend Ilya, and because I’m going to three conferences in the next four weeks, I thought I’d give Plazes a try. So, if you want to know where I am at any given time (or, more precisely, what city my laptop is in), just keep an eye on this map (or look here):

Ethan Zuckerman recently wrote about Hasan Elahi, a conceptual artist whose decided to post his every movement so that the FBI won’t think he’s a terrorist:

Elahi’s life for the next few months involved dozens of interviews with the FBI, finally culminating in nine back to back polygraphs, which finally cleared” him. He explains that the power dynamic of an FBI interview leads to a very human response — the desire for survival. Elahi says that he could have questioned the legality of the experience, hiring a lawyer… but he realized that there was the possibility that any act of resistance could have gotten him sent to Guantanamo.

For the next few months, every trip Elahi took, he’d call his FBI agent and give the routing, so he didn’t get detained along the way. He realized, after a point — why just tell the FBI — why not tell everyone?

So he hacked his cellphone into a tracking bracelet which he wears on his ankle, reporting his movements on a map — log onto his site and you can see that he’s in Camden. But he’s gone further, trying to document his life in a series of photos: the airports he passes through, the meals he eats, the bathrooms he uses. The result is a photographic record of his daily life which would be very hard to falsify. We all know photos can be digitally altered… but altering as many photos as Elahi puts online would require a whole team trying to build this alternative path through the world.

Of course, this strategy could just as easily make you a target for someone who wanted to frame you — I can already see the movie, starring Matt Damon …

UPDATE: This is an experiment that failed. I found the Plazes software buggy, annoying and too painful to use. For some reason it would keep popping up dialog boxes which I had to dismiss, and it wasn’t half as intuitive as I had hoped in figuring out where I was at any given point. I’m sure at some point this technology will come of age, it just isn’t there yet.

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