a chrome extension for bill bratton & pat lynch

remember that one time when arrests for minor offenses dropped 96% as a result of the nypd’s virtual work stoppage? when cops decided they’d only make arrests ‘when they have to’?

“Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent — from 4,831 to 300.”

these kinds of offenses, as matt taibbi describes, are quality-of-life offenses—part of a broken Broken Windows policing philosophy that doesn’t actually solve any problems, but does sweep poor people off the streets so we can pretend they don’t exist 🙈🙉

what stars aligned for bill bratton, pat lynch, and thousands of cops to decide on a virtual work stoppage? and how do we make it happen again?

all signs point to a dangerous conspiratorial trifecta: mayor bill deblasio, labor arbitrator howard edelman, and quentin tarantino.

i’m working on a chrome extension for nypd leadership that will collect evidence of the trinity’s unholy work. in light of such anti-cop instigating, the only reasonable step for the nypd is another work stoppage.

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packet sniffing

i did that. i’m going to do it some more. surya helped me come up with a somewhat structured plan of action that i’ll post about when i’m done.

for now, a collection of articles on stingrays. which, by the way, are creepy surveillance tools that act like cell towers so your cell phone routes its data through them. this creepiness is legal and certain kinds of resisting are illegal:

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closed data

my initial idea for the social hacking API assignment forked into a few different projects.

@nyclandlord twitter bot: the idea for this bot was that it would tweet things like

  • “just kicked out a tenant at [address]” — this would come from eviction data
  • “just bumped the rent at [address]” — this data set doesn’t exist
  • “successfully gentrifying on [block] in [neighborhood] today” — this would be a combo of historical rent changes? maybe?
  • “still ignoring tenants at [address]” — this would come from housing code violations, AN ACTUAL COMPREHENSIVE DATA SET WITH LOTS OF DATA
  • “#winning at #gentrification today”

i got a version of the bot up and running, and i still have the twitter handle. the problem is that most of these data sets don’t exist in a ready-to-use way. they are their own research projects in themselves. which i would love to do, but not in a week. that problem inspired what i ultimately ended up making for this assignment (called “closed data” here).

if 596 acres + amirentstabilized.com had a baby: the idea behind this long-term project is adding organizing capability to AIRS.com website, or doing the 596 acres website around rent stabilized apartments. it’s ridiculous that there is no publicly available database where tenants can check whether they are rent stabilized. they have to call the city, they have to follow up, they have to check the historical rent of their own apartment. the onus falls completely on the tenant. and then! there’s no way for future tenants of that apartment or in that building to benefit from the research that has come before them. so why not let tenants publish their findings on an apartment or building’s specific page? like a social media profile, but for a space?

this is obviously beyond the scope of a week-long assignment. i also don’t think it qualifies as “creative misuse of the API” because it’s exactly what APIs are for: making new databases from existing databases.

closed data: the thing i ultimately made, here. this grew out of my frustration trying to find a single database that could tell me whether or not (not whether maybe possibly) my apartment was rent stabilized. after many propublica rabbit holes and hours spent on both the city and the state’s open data platforms, i am coming to the conclusion that the city has open data platforms so they can

  1. bleat about their transparency, in a positive sense (e.g., “we are so open! make apps with our openness!”)
  2. bleat about their transparency, to avoid negative feedback (e.g., “police brutality? rent hikes? show us in the data. it’s all open!”)

except it’s not all open and it’s not all usable. “closed data” uses the names of all the existing nyc open data sets i could find. and that’s all i have to say about that.

vertical carousel with JSON data

i’m so frustrated with the process of looking for rent stabilization data that i’m making this thing:

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here’s my initial sketch:


i want to load data set names from a json file. then, i want the names to scroll vertically every few seconds. i’ve spent some time with this stack overflow post and this jsfiddle, but i’m having trouble both getting the json to load and getting the animation.

hacking APIs, pt 2

many things in my brain with this assignment!

i keep thinking about catherine d’ignazio’s piece “what would feminist data visualization look like?” and especially the part where she asks “Can we ask of our data that it point to its own outsides?” she goes on:

“What if we visually problematized the provenance of the data? The interests behind the data? The stakeholders in the data? A single CSV file or streaming feed often has no reference to any of these more human, material elements that are nevertheless essential to understanding the where, why and how of data.”

i think yes! but how How HOW?!

she suggests: “Invent new ways to reference the material economy behind the data.”

in the process of researching all this rent stabilization stuff, it’s interesting to me that new york city beats its chest about open data, but does not make readily accessible a list of rent stabilized apartments. even though this data set certainly exists. same with the new york state department of finance, which definitely knows which landlords it gives tax abatements to (rent stabilization is partly a function of whether landlords receive tax abatements for making repairs to old units).

some data sets i did find:

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what i really needed was the back end of the form below, a form that apparently exists in many disparate corners of the internet, pulling, in every corner, from the same secret database:

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^^new york city department of finance

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^^third-party, ny rent stabilized buildings

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^^ new york city department of finance again

oy. the data set i will likely use for this assignment comes from chris henrick’s Am I Rent Stabilized? project. he put a lot of work into cleaning up data from multiple places and sharing it here.

i also have a dream of creating my own little database/JSON file with names and photos of everyone who attended this atrocious real estate summit in brooklyn at the end of last year.

oh, what’s that? you need a rent stabilization fact sheet? i got one fer ya. and another. and another.

radio brainstorming

i have a few ideas for a semester-long radio project, but at this point i’m leaning toward doing something with the subway wi-fi infrastructure.

transit wireless, a bai communications company, installs and manages mta wi-fi. here’s tw’s public-facing webpage.

by digging around there, i learned that these freaky dangling things i’ve been seeing more and more of are actually antennae. they make up something340px-Antennas_of_Distributed_Antenna_System_in_New_York_City_subway called a distributed antenna system, and my understanding is that they’re relatively new infrastructural inventions. i think they work like relays to bounce messages to each other in spaces where it’d otherwise be difficult to get a radio/wi-fi signal.

i downloaded some fcc documents about this stuff: ownership, regulations, etc. i’d be curious to get the fcc IDs of some of the devices.

this is the land of a thousand rabbit holes, dangerous territory for me. more updates as i learn more.

hacking APIs

our assignment for social hacking is to “creatively misuse an existing API in order to reveal something about the service.”

among other readings, we were assigned a great article by taina bucher about the politics of APIs. it felt a lot like tarleton gillespie’s article on the politics of algorithms (which i outline here).

i’m thinking about the workshop i gave last week on mapping and data. i’m wondering what it would look like if 596 acres and amirentstabilized.com (from now on, AIRS) had a baby. that is, if AIRS had the organizing functionality that the 596 acres map has. that’s a big project. but a piece of it that could work for this api assignment is a twitter bot that does something based on nyc open data on housing stuff.

so far, i’ve reserved this twitter account:

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watching shiffman’s tutorials on twitter bots and node.js, i used node.js and a node package called twit to start making a bot for this account.Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.14.23 AM

now i need to figure out what @nyclandlord will say and when.

re: kristin ross’s “communal luxury”

this week’s book for “performance of politics” class was kristin ross’s communal luxury: the political imaginary of the paris commune. it’s interesting to move to this from butler’s book last week because neither of them feel particularly theoretical to me. they feel pragmatic, like blueprints. ross’s move with this book, i think, is to expand the account of the paris commune, both in space—beyond its usual national borders—and in time—into its own past and into our present. part of this is framing the totally remarkable vegetarian geographer polymath french guy, eliseé reclus, with marx, kropotkin, and william morris instead of with just other french guys. in terms of scholarship, i can’t know whether the move is justifiable since i don’t know a single thing about this body of research or this moment in history, but i do appreciate the gesture.

content-wise, i appreciated learning about the event, which was formative for marx and lenin. the paris commune, to paraphrase ross, was a 73-day occupation of the city in which communards attempted to reorganize social life based on association, cooperation, and solidarity. sound familiar? there are moments where a lot of this feels very ideologically close to conversations i have with friends who are involved with left social movements today, who are resisting the violence of capitalism by doing housing differently, who are thinking nature and interdependence differently, who strive for what in this book is called internationalism. drawing connections between struggles, thinking backwards and forwards in time.

plus, writing about an occupation, an encampment, “the insurgent city”, feels like a no-brainer today, for reasons that ross articulates and that butler broke down so well in notes toward a performative theory of assembly.

a jacobin article synthesizes one of the points i struggled with:

“What he and the other artists meant by “communal luxury” was something like a program in “public beauty”: the enhancement of villages and towns, the right of every person to live and work in a pleasing environment.

This may seem like a small, even a “decorative,” demand. But it actually entails not only a complete reconfiguration of our relation to art, but to labor, social relations, nature. and the lived environment as well. It means a full mobilization of the two watchwords of the Commune: decentralization and participation. It means art and beauty deprivatized, fully integrated into everyday life, and not hidden away in private salons or centralized into obscene nationalistic monumentality.”

this feels old. we discussed it in undergrad in my german visual culture class. i was not convinced then that william morris’s desire for more “public beauty” was not, as ross puts it, a “decorative demand”.

more recently, jerry saltz wrote about the cost of great public art: public/private partnerships and the privatization of public space. we have beautiful objects everywhere, thoughtfully curated by the best in the world, subway stations full of the stuff, and yet…

new york city has been a lesson in many things for me, one of which is that a city can have public housing, public art, better public infrastructure than exists in any city i’ve ever lived in, and it can all coexist with extraordinary violence, poverty, inequality, policing. i’m looking forward to hear what other folks in class made of this.

TO RESEARCH: henri lefebvre’s “dialectic of the lived and the conceived”

radio history & how mathematicians talk about communication

surya spent the last class giving us a quick and dirty overview of the history of radio and some technical fundamentals. key things:

  • WWII submarine communication, frequency jamming, and frequency hopping
  • relationship between frequency and bandwidth
  • claude shannon and information theory
  • wi-fi and packet types
  • management frames in general. probe request frames and beacon frames in particular.
  • OSI stack

i’m spending some time with claude shannon’s important paper, “a mathematical theory of communication”. i’m definitely not a math person, but i’m still finding the paper fascinating for the way it frames communication. for someone from a more art/lit theory-y background, talking about communication in this way is really new:

“Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem. The significant aspect is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages.”

um. wow. he gives us this wonderfully symmetrical diagram:

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but i think my favorite part is the way he defines these elements in words before representing them as mathematical entities that can be manipulated in/with equations. here’s how he breaks down the “information source” which produces a message that may be of various types:

  • sequence of letters (like a telegraph)
  • single function of time (like radio)
  • function of time and other variables (like b&w tv). this would look like “function f (x, y, t) of two space coordinates and time, the light intensity at point (x, y) and time t on a pickup tube plate”
  • 2+ functions of time (like multi-channel sound)
  • 2+ functions of time and 2+ functions of space (like color tv or tv with associated audio channel). this would look like f (x, y, t), g(x, y, t), h(x, y, t).

very cool.

our homework is to come up with some project ideas, check out radical software, spend some time with a raspberry pi, and play with surya and sam’s packet sniffing project, nsheyy.

researching online discussion platforms

each person in my “personal narratives” class was assigned a role in the class based on our personal histories and the roles we’ve played in our lives up to this point. i was assigned the role of blog editor, which means i’m responsible for keeping my classmates engaged in discussion between classes.

there’s not an existing blog, so i’m wondering what the best platform is for this kind of thing. i actually think tumblr is the best designed of the popular, free, social media platforms right now. the interface makes it easy and fun to contribute with text, photo, and video from mobile or a computer. but i’m not sure how conversations would work on tumblr. i’ve been looking at a few different wordpress plugins for comments and forums, including one called muut.