Hacktivist Tendencies

Hacktivists like Swiss artist duo !Mediengruppe Bitnik use coding and technology to express their point-of-view or political opinions. The pair hijacked CCTV security cameras in the London tube and replaced the stream with a video invitation to play chess. They planted bugs in the Zurich Opera to give the public access to the performances by phone, a comment on accessibility and funding of the arts.

In early 2013, Bitnik’s Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo—who recently won the Swiss Art Award at Art Basel—sent a parcel equipped with a camera to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

swissnex San Francisco invited Bitnik to discuss this notion of using computers and networks as expression, called hacktivism, with Bay Area experts on July 10, 2014 together with a live audience. The panel discussion included April Glaser, a staff activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Andy Isaacson, a software engineer and co-founder of San Francisco hackerspace Noisebridge, and Thomas Maillart, a Swiss National Science Foundation Fellow at the UC Berkeley School of Information focused on cyber risks as innovation.

A couple of days later, on July 12, the Bitnik artists held a workshop for about 30 participants exploring the Hidden City of San Francisco. The group walked the streets equipped CCTV video signal receivers and recorders, things like baby monitors that pick up wireless video signals, and attempted to track and capture the surveillance cameras around them.

Surveillance becoming sousveillance—the recording of an activity by a participant in it.

Bitnik also shared their work and methodology at a Dorkbot gathering at Noisebridge, where they discussed hidden networks and Andy Isaacson talked about the Tor exit node (look it up). After Dorkboot, they spoke at the HOPE X conference, Hackers On Planet Earth, in New York City along with Edward Snowden.

For more on hacktivsim, read our nextrends post, Coding for a Cause.