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34C3 - Ecstasy 10x yellow Twitter 120mg Mdma

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    Carmen: Hi. We're Mediengruppe Bitnik,
    this is Doma, my name is Carmen. We're
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    really happy to be here; thanks for having
    us. And we'd like to show you a series of
  • 0:41 - 0:47
    works. We don't quite know how many; we've
    been kind of changing the slides, so we'll
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    have to see what fits. I think... just 2
    words about Mediengruppe Bitnik: We're
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    from Zurich originally. We're based in
    Berlin now... have been based for 1 and a
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    half years and we work on the digital, but
    usually our works also affect physical
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    spaces, as you'll see in a minute. And
    we'd like to talk about recent works
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    around bots remote code glitch. So, the
    first work is called "random darknet
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    shopper". We produced this work in 2014
    together with Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen.
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    This was after the Snowden revelations in
    2013, where we kind of felt that, as
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    artists, we needed to re-assess our
    cultural "heimat", the internet. As a kind
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    of it was this mass surveillance thing and
    we kind of felt we couldn't work there
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    anymore or that many of our works were too
    naive and so together with Kunst Halle
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    Sankt Gallen, which is an art space in
    Switzerland, we put together a show around
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    darknet, because we felt that by looking
    at internet subculture, we could kind of
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    question ideas around anonymity, intimacy,
    identity, trust... And in this show we had
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    12 works by various artists around these
    topics and our work was "random darknet
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    shopper".
    Doma: So, basically the random darknet
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    shopper is a piece of software... is a
    small bot, which we started in autumn
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    2014. We started with the interest in the
    question of trust: "How do you gain trust
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    in encrypted networks, where you don't
    know to whom you're speaking to?", "How
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    does those trust mechanism work when
    everything is kind of obfuscated and
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    encrypted?" And we wanted to challenge
    this question, basically, on the darknet
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    markets, which were kind of a big topic, a
    controversial topic, after the Silk Road
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    raid. And we thought that it might be good
    to evaluate these questions with a bot,
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    questioning also "How does trust-building
    work when you have goods, which are
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    shipped from all over the world to the
    buyers?" and so we wrote this part which
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    was called the "random darknet shopper",
    which had $100 weekly budget, based in
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    bitcoins, and the idea was that the bot
    would log in to the deep webs and go to
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    the biggest dark net market at that time,
    it was called agora I think, and randomly
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    select an item and then buy it and
    directly send it to the exhibition space,
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    without our interference. So the idea was
    that in the exhibition, we had 12 of those
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    vitrines -- they were empty -- basically
    waited to be filled over 12 weeks of the
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    duration of the exhibition.
    Carmen: So we basically connected the very
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    dark markets of the darknet with the very
    visible space of the art gallery.
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    Doma: Technically it was pretty simple: It
    was basically a small python script which
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    remote-controlled a Firefox and basically
    logged in to the darknet markets through
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    Tor and then just clicked around to choose
    a random category, get all the items below
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    $100, randomly choose one, hit the buy
    button, send an encrypted message to the
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    seller to send it directly to the
    exhibition space, and pay the fee or the
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    things in bitcoins.
    Carmen: So, over time we wanted to have a
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    whole landscape of goods from the
    darknets. There was also a lot of talk in
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    the media at the time -- well, there still
    is -- about the darknets and what you can
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    buy there and we didn't believe what they
    were telling us; we really wanted to see
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    what we would randomly get from the
    darknet. And the first item was called
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    "fire brigade masterkey set", which the
    seller said was a set of keys usually
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    owned by the fire brigade in the UK to
    open storage...
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    Doma: ...public gates in public spaces,
    stuff they need access to, so...
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    Carmen: We have no idea whether it's true
    or not.
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    Doma: But we still really like that
    object, because it has that potential of
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    opening doors in the UK.
    *laughter*
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    Carmen: The second item was cigarettes
    from the Ukraine. So basically, in very
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    good darknet fashion, circumventing the
    taxation on tobacco in the European Union.
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    Doma:I think, it was about $35 at that
    time.
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    Carmen: Yeah.
    Doma: Third week, we had this Louis
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    Vuitton Trevi handbag for $95. And
    actually, if we speak about trust, this
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    was the only item which wasn't delivered,
    but the seller was kind enough to send the
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    bitcoins back, because he knew he couldn't
    deliver. So, also here, it kind of worked.
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    Carmen: Then, we received the Lord of the
    Rings collection by JRR Tolkien in PDF
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    format, which, for $1, which we printed .
    Doma: It's several thousand pages. Then,
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    the first or ... second super-digital
    item: It was called Visa.
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    Carmen: Visa Platinum top card, sent from
    Torland for $35. Apparently this was a
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    Visa prepaid. We received a visa, so the
    visa number, the expiry date, the name and
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    the little number you have on the back.
    Doma: And we didn't dare to use it.
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    Carmen: Then, sixth week the random
    darknet shopper selected 10 yellow ecstasy
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    pills with a Twitter logo on them...
    *giggling in the audience*
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    Carmen: ... sent from Germany for $48 to
    Switzerland; they actually arrived. We
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    took them as a title for the talk also,
    because we really liked the description.
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    We displayed them like the rest.
    Doma: They came in this stealth packaging,
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    pretending to be a DVD in this alufoil and
    then vacuumed again.
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    Carmen: Yes and around about this time,
    also the press started picking up on the
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    work, because they kind of felt that this
    random darknet shopper was questioning or
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    posing questions around who's responsible
    if a bot commits something illegal. So,
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    "What happens when a software box goes on
    the darknet shopping spree?", the Guardian
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    asked. Who is responsible when a bot
    randomly shops for ecstasy in the darknet?
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    Is it the person who programmed it, is it
    the person who executes it, can a robot or
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    a piece of software be jailed if it
    commits a crime?
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    *giggling in the audience*
    Doma: And also what happens if the code is
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    open source and written by many people,
    like if you have an algorithm which goes
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    wild?
    Carmen: But the random darknet shopper
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    just continued shopping and it bought some
    Nike Air Yeezy 2 limited edition trainers
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    for $75.
    Doma: If you convert the bitcoins into
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    nowadays' value, it would be around $3000.
    *laughter*
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    Doma: It costed $75 at the time.
    Carmen: Then, we received a cap with a
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    built-in camera that little... that's
    where the camera is, from the US for $99.
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    Doma: Then a thing I really liked, it's
    called the decoy first class letter. So,
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    it's basically a plain letter you receive,
    like a service and it came from Australia,
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    addressed to our exhibition space in
    Switzerland. It's basically an empty
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    letter, just to basically traceroute your
    postal system, to check if the system is
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    ok, if you can receive mails...
    *giggling in the audience*
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    Doma: ...if it's... maybe somebody opens
    it. So, the idea by buying stuff in the
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    deep webs is basically also to anonymize
    somehow your postal box and to test that
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    you can basically send yourself a letter
    and see if something happens. It's also
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    good tactics, basically, if you want to
    introduce a new address somewhere, start
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    sending letters there and the post office,
    the post person, the delivery person, will
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    get used to it and basically...
    Carmen: Yeah. The next item was a Sprite
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    stash can. You probably know this, this is
    an empty soda can, constructed to weigh
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    the same as a full one and you can screw
    the top on, so you can place whatever you
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    want inside and it's hidden away
    Doma: Then, the next one: These Diesel man
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    jeans replica from Hong Kong for $79.
    Carmen: And the last item we received was
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    a high quality scan of a Hungarian
    passport for online verification. So, here
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    you see, this is basically how we
    displayed the items and this all went
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    really well, until we took down the
    exhibition in January 2015 and the day
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    after the exhibition closed, the public
    prosecutor of St. Gallen in Switzerland
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    basically seized the whole work and we
    were a bit confused.
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    *laughter*
    *applause*
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    Carmen: So, we were a bit confused in the
    first moment, because of the timing. So,
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    after the exhibition closed, they seized
    the whole work, but it turned out, that
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    for them it was mostly about the drugs the
    random darknet shopper had bought. We were
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    kind of worried about the passport and the
    visa card as well, which they felt was
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    totally okay.
    *laughter*
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    Doma: And in the first moment, the
    question also by the public prosecutor was
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    raised, it was about responsibility: Who
    is responsible in this specific moment? Is
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    it the artists who wrote the code? Is it
    the museum who basically hosts the show?
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    Is it the curator? Is it the people who
    work there? Because me and Carmen, we have
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    never touched those drugs; we have not,
    basically... it was all done somehow
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    automatically. Or is it the bot himself
    who is somehow its own legal entity and
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    could be punished? So, in order to somehow
    also protect the staff of the museum and
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    to also to get our items back, we thought
    "The stuff is ours; we want the things
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    back.", we raised our hands and said "No;
    I think, if you want to charge somebody,
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    you should charge us."
    Carmen: And we were summoned for an
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    interrogation, which was really
    interesting. There we learned that the
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    drugs actually contained MDMA, so the
    police had tested them and confirmed that
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    they did.
    Doma: I mean, we knew through the ratings
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    on the drugs on the darknet markets, that
    this stuff was good.
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    *laughter*
    Carmen: But then we kind of had to
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    discuss. We tried to explain what we
    were... that we were trying to raise these
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    questions in public through publicly
    accessible art piece, because we felt it
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    very important that we talk about these
    things. Nevertheless, the public
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    prosecutor decided to destroy the drugs,
    which was very unfortunate. We, of cause,
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    claimed they were an art piece.
    Doma: So, you're destroying an art piece
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    here and our lawyer was also referencing
    all other artworks which involved drug
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    from the whole history.
    Carmen: Yeah, but we did receive the whole
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    work back in the end, except for the
    drugs, and all charges were dropped
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    against us and the public prosecutor wrote
    a very nice letter, saying that we
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    actually were allowed to break certain
    laws to raise certain questions within
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    society. Without specifically naming
    freedom of art.
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    Doma: So, our understanding of why they
    seized the whole thing, is that they were
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    afraid what the next artist would do. So,
    the first one buys it, the second one
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    takes it as a performative act and the
    third one gives it to the audience and
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    it's kind of clear that they need to draw
    a line. So, the question about
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    responsibility was not solved.
    Carmen: No, we still have it. We then
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    continued with this question of bots and
    the mechanical gaze... Oh, okay. You're
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    jumping, sorry, wrong introduction... The
    same year, we were asked to do a public
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    art piece, which is always the case in
    Switzerland when public buildings are
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    built, part of the money has to go into an
    art piece and usually that art piece is
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    sculptural: It can be a sculpture in the
    lobby o...
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    Doma: ... a sculpture in public space. It
    should... there're different kind of
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    things you need to address; the public art
    piece should work for 30 years, should be
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    sustainable, so it's mostly made out of
    stone.
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    Carmen: So, for us as digital artists,
    this was a very interesting question, also
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    because the building is the house for
    Electronic Arts in Basel, also
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    Switzerland. So, for us the question was
    "How can we talk about digital topics, but
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    not using digital media?"
    Doma: And we asked ourself "Is there a way
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    of... I mean we thought a lot about
    architecture and software and how
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    basically the software you use is also
    infecting the architecture which is built
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    and since this is all software, what we
    have never seen is a software error. So,
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    we ask ourself "Is it possible to build or
    is it funny to build a software error into
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    stone?" and...
    Carmen: We kind of had to try that.
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    Doma: We had to try that, so we took a
    picture of the place, of this house, and
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    basically glitched it through a small
    script and told them to rebuild it and
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    this is how it looks now.
    Carmen: This is what the building looks
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    like today. So, they... You can see it.
    They...
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    *applause*
    Carmen: And when you stand there it kind
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    of gives you a surreal feeling: There's a
    square in front of this facade and you
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    you're not sure, whether your eyes are
    wrong or the building is wrong, and then,
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    when you come closer, you then, of course,
    see.
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    Doma: And also here, the glitch reveals
    stuff, like... People came to us and asked
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    "How does the piping system work?"
    *giggling*
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    Doma: "Is it still here?" And this is
    something which we like about software
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    glitches. That you sometimes you get an
    understanding how a system works only of
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    breaking it or by forcing it to throw
    errors.
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    Carmen: Then we...
    *the 2 lecturers discuss something,
  • 20:36 - 20:39
    whispering*
    Carmen: Sorry.
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    Doma: We need to discuss what we are
    speaking about.
  • 20:45 - 20:49
    *laughter*
    Doma Okay, so we'll skip another project,
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    because we are running out of the time.
    Carmen: I think the last piece we'd like
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    to just quickly show you is very recent.
    We're still kind of amazed at this. So,
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    this year, we were asked to do a book on
    our work and we felt... This was really
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    difficult for us, because usually we do
    websites and you can change websites and
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    then you do a book and you kind of... it's
    printed and then it's there and that
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    really... it was very hard for us, but
    once we decided to do this, we kept
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    thinking about "How can we break this very
    static print format of the book?" and
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    together with the 2 designers of the book,
    Konrad Renner (???) and Christoph Knurz
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    (???), we thought about... we said "Well,
    the title should be code, because maybe
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    through the title, you could inject code
    into various websites, because books,
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    they're online, you can buy them online.
    And we decided to go
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    for as its title.
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    Dona: JavaScript, which normally, like
    YAML, you can't write JavaScript into a
  • 22:26 - 22:31
    commentary field on Facebook, because
    these things is parsed out and so the
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    browser does not execute that code, so
    they check it, but we thought "Maybe if
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    it's so deep in the databases, like the
    ISBN databases, the national
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    bibliographies and whatever, it might pop
    up somewhere."
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    *laughter*
    *applause*
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    Carmen:And the book came out in September
    and then in October we realized that on
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    Walther Kรถnig, which is a big art
    bookseller with a big online website, it
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    worked, so when you search for
    "!Mediangruppe Bitnik" on the website...
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    Hope this works... And you go to the
    catalog...
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    *laughter*
    *applause*
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    Doma: So, this one this one is pretty
    okay. I mean, normally if you... on other
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    website it breaks the "buy" button, which
    is not in our interest, but...
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    *laughter*
    Doma: So, you can still buy it on
  • 23:53 - 23:59
    Buchhandlung Walther Kรถnig. Just click
    "okay" and then it's okay. So, here's just
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    a small collection of 10, 12, which are
    popping up. It's like... everyday we get
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    more. And we can show you a small video of
    2, 3 pieces.
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    Carmen: Don't know what we're going to see
    now. I think eBay.
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    Doma: I don't know.
    Carmen: Okay. This is eBay.
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    Doma: So, ebay.co.uk.
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 24:41 - 24:48
    Doma: BAM! And this only worked on or...
    they already fixed it, so somebody made a
  • 24:48 - 24:52
    bug report. I like this one.
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 24:52 - 24:55
    *laughter*
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 24:55 - 24:57
    *laughter*
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 24:57 - 25:00
    *laughter*
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 25:00 - 25:03
    *laughter*
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 25:03 - 25:05
    *laughter*
    *smartphone notification sound*
  • 25:05 - 25:09
    *laughter*
    *different smartphone notification sound*
  • 25:09 - 25:12
    *laughter*
    Doma: So, thank you!
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    Carmen: Thanks.
    *applause*
  • 25:14 - 25:19
    *herald speaks, but it is unintelligible
    due to technical problems*
  • 25:19 - 25:48
    Herald: We have 5 minutes for a very short
    Q&A if there are already people lying out
  • 25:48 - 25:52
    (???). Please, number 2.
    M2: Very cool talk, thanks. I'm from
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    Switzerland, so I wonder, you were lucky
    that you got dropped off the charges. How
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    much would it got for the charges if you
    would not drop them? Do you know?
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    Doma: I don't you know. I mean, it was
    basically or here it was about drug
  • 26:09 - 26:18
    possession and 10 ecstasy pills and we
    were totally okay to take this fine. We
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    don't know it, but it was kind of...
    Carmen: It would have been fine, because
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    in Switzerland, according to our lawyer,
    it would have been for personal use. I
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    mean, this is not the amount you carry
    around, apparently, if you're selling, so
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    we would have gotten away with a fine.
    M2: So and I... Thanks very much that you
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    said that actually writing the code and
    then the program buys it makes you
  • 26:47 - 26:56
    actually responsible, right? So, would
    you... At the end you said, it was your...
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    "I would take the charge", because you
    were writing the code...
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    Carmen: Yes, the problem was that usually,
    at least in Swiss law, possession of drugs
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    needs to mean that the drugs were either
    found on your person or in a space that
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    can be... that definitely belongs to you.
    And the problem was that it was clear from
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    the process that we hadn't touched the
    drugs and we didn't want somebody else to
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    get fined for drug possession ; that would
    have made no sense. We wanted to also
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    publicly discuss this... having to step up
    and say "No, it was us."
  • 27:41 - 27:45
    M2: Thanks.
    Herald: Okay, final one.
  • 27:45 - 27:51
    Microphone x: Hi. Sorry... thanks for the
    talk. I have to ask: Does the plumbing
  • 27:51 - 27:57
    work?
    Carmen: Yeah. It works, because... so the
  • 27:57 - 28:07
    pillars were... I'll try to explain
    briefly. So, architecturally this building
  • 28:07 - 28:15
    was a storage for dry goods and the
    pillars used to support the building, but
  • 28:15 - 28:21
    when they turned it into a museum, they
    actually filled the space between the
  • 28:21 - 28:27
    pillars with insulation, so the pillars
    were gone. And then the architects didn't
  • 28:27 - 28:32
    like it. They thought, the pillars should
    be there, because the building didn't look
  • 28:32 - 28:40
    good, so they actually put fake pillars
    onto the facade again and so we could just
  • 28:40 - 28:46
    take the empty pillars and cut them up and
    put the plumbing inside. So, now the
  • 28:46 - 28:52
    visible plumbing is fake, but the real
    plumbing is inside the pillars; that's how
  • 28:52 - 28:54
    it works.
    *applause*
  • 28:54 - 29:09
    Herald: Amazing work. One final, big round
    of applause for Mediengruppe Bitnik and
  • 29:09 - 29:22
    thanks for being here!
    Carmen: Thank you; thanks.
  • 29:22 - 29:29
    Doma: Thank you.
    *applause*
  • 29:29 - 29:30
    [Music]
Title:
34C3 - Ecstasy 10x yellow Twitter 120mg Mdma
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
29:34

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