A half-semester class at ITP.
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Appropriating New Technologies

Friday 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, Spring 2012

Course Description

What do you want your world to look like? This class will focus on creating the future by appropriating new technologies with openFrameworks. openFrameworks is a C++ toolkit designed by a global community of media artists, with an emphasis on real time interaction. Because it's C++, it provides an easy bridge to a huge variety of low level tools like OpenCV and FaceTracker -- which makes it easier to develop otherwise impossible projects, like the EyeWriter, or to explore cutting-edge ideas like real time face substitution. In this class, we'll work with technologies surrounding face tracking, eye tracking, 3d scanning, computer security, privacy, and sharing. We'll spend a lot of time understanding the intricacies of openFrameworks, with the goal of creating seamless, mind-blowing experiments, installations, and performance pieces that hijack new technologies to create the future we want to see. Prerequisites: A deep love for code, an intense passion for democratization of technology, and the ability to geek out when necessary. Or, at least, Introduction to Computational Media. This two-point course will meet in the first seven weeks of the semester.


Week 1: January 27


  1. Introductions
  2. Class overview
  3. Assignment preparation: GitHub, code archaeology, distributed creativity


  1. Register for the openFrameworks forum, and look around to see what people are working on (try unread posts).
  2. If you haven't already, download openFrameworks.
  3. Register for GitHub. Fork this repository and clone your fork intoopenFrameworks/apps/AppropriatingNewTechnologies/. If you get stuck, GitHub has an excellent Help section.
  4. Using CamTwist and openFrameworks, recreate the idea behind FaceFlip (i.e., capturing a live video stream and sending it back augmented). Zach posted some code to help get you started. You will need to port it to the most recent version of openFrameworks. You are encouraged to collaborate on this portion with other students, merging code from each others' forks. You are not, however, allowed to share files outside of GitHub. If you are using someone else's code, I need to see from the network graph.
  5. Augment the video in any way that you think is interesting. Record a video of you testing it on ChatRoulette or elsewhere, and post the video. For this part, you can work by yourself or in a group of exactly two people.
  6. After completing the assignment, post a link to your video on the wiki. And the chat logs will also go on the wiki.

Week 2: February 3

Week 3: February 10

Week 4: February 17

Week 5: February 24

I will be away from class this week. Once it's closer, we can decide whether it makes more sense to reschedule or have someone else lead.

Week 6: March 2

Week 7: March 9

Assignments and Grading

There will be assignments given at the end of the first four weeks, and a final project for the last two weeks.

In order to pass the class, students must complete the assignments, the final project, and attend class. A student will fail if they miss more than one class, miss more than one assignment, or fail to present a completed final project.



The Kinect Effect is a rare case of a product being appropriated, and then re-appropriated by the creators. Also see Microsoft Bets Big on Kinect for Windows and Microsoft Unleashes The Kinect And Promptly Misses The Point.

Yo Dawg

Computer Vision

EyeWriter uses eye tracking for a novel purposes: enabling graffiti artists. Eye tracking was originally developed to aid Air Force pilots.

Chat Roulette is a unique platform for computer vision-based interactive media and performance. See FaceFlip and Mario Prank.

Face Substitution and FaceOSC are appropriations of academic face tracking research. The researchers who work on these libraries will sometimes work with defense agencies on surveillance or security applications. Biometric security is a large related field.


Macro Dragnets and Asking the public to identify criminals.

Amazon Mechanical Turk has been used to create some amazing work. See Sol Lewitt + Mechanical Turk and A Sequence of... from Clement Valla, as well as Ten Thousand Cents and other work from Aaron Koblin.


Glitch art is almost a purely appropriated field. There are so many good texts I won't list them here. We could spend a whole day just talking about Jodi and software appropriation.

Hacking and Surveillance

Supervillainizer created networks of conspirators to distract intelligence organizations.

The Metrocard has been reversed. ITP students have used this to create MetroChange.

L Train Notwork provides an unexpected ad-hoc network.

Newsteek spoofs an open wifi network and modifies information that goes through it. This is probably illegal.

OpenPaths was created in response to Apple saving GPS data on the iPhone and transferring it to iTunes without informing users.

DDoS is a technique that makes it difficult to access a webpage by overloading the server with requests. DDoS attacks are illegal. This type of attack has been used frequently by Anonymous in the form of the LOIC, and by artists for "virtual sit-ins".

With the right kinds of hardware and time, WEP and WPA networks can be cracked. This is illegal.

Firesheep intercepts cookies to steal login data over wireless networks. This is illegal.

Cross Site Scripting (XSS) can be used to inject content into a remote page using a malformed URL.

People Staring at Computers was a photographic study of computer-mediated interaction that turned into a collaboration with Apple and the Secret Service.

9/11 Pager data was a huge release of all the pager messages throughout the day on 9/11.


Does Hacktivism Matter?

What is in a name? A historical overview, showing "a name never was ones own but always an intersection of administrative, media-technical and personal interventions".

Critical Engineering Manifesto is a short document describing how artists might approach technology critically. It comes from the same people who brought you Newstweek.

Some of the best artistic appropriation comes from the field of bioart, for which Critical Art Ensemble is best known. Particularly relevant is the first chapter of Electronic Civil Disobedience.


Video Toaster was like the Kinect in that it brought a previously inaccessible technology to a lower price. The interesting thing is the marketing campaign surrounding it: they were genuinely interested in selling it on the idea of bringing down the large networks.

US Army uses XBox 360 Controller to fly UAVs

Graffiti Markup Language (GML) uses XML to describe information that would traditionally not have been described with XML.

Warhol was a master of appropriation, all the way down to the Amiga.

"Avoid ghetto" Bing maps feature. What kind of routes might you suggest?

BusTime from the MTA tells us where a bunch of buses are in NYC.

Siri has been reverse engineered, which means you can use Siri on any device. You can also ask questions and get responses in an automated way.