Jenny Marketou : »TaystesROOM«, 2001
by Cristine Wang
www.taystes.net - surveillance open source tool
The internet has arrived at the position where »eyes can see how eyes see.«
Christine Buci-Glucksmann, The Madness of Seeing
www.taystes.net is a multi-user open source web-tool of distributed networked processing. As a tactile web-tool it is designed to give the user unlimited access to the intimate world of networked communication infrastructures such as webcams, chat rooms, and flows of information via surveillance.
Taystes through each interface component converts the surveillance data obtained by the web surfer into a visual experience. Utilizing the theme of surveillance www.taystes.net was inspired by Jenny Marketouís previous web project SMELL.BYTES TM [1998 to 2001] for which a lurker application a perl script was created best known as Chris.053 programmed to be driven by its insatiable olfactory desires, relentlessly lurking and sniffing by gaining unauthorized access to servers, IP addresses and CU SEE ME chat lines. These data streams of profiles are captured analyzed and instantly categorized into smells and numbers, based on an algorithm for symmetry and beauty.
The artistís intentions in developing Taystes.net was to create a surveillance tool which allows web servers to have access to surveillance cameras and web cams in order to articulate how this changes the way in which we communicate and how the presence of the phenomena of web cams and surveillance cameras on the net, »going public« and to explore the topography of each targeted subject who through exhibitionist acts and a permanent on-line presence is grappling with new technology mediated through the internet. These surveillance cameras are everywhere, a daily reality invisible or visible, always monitoring everyday life in anticipation of the crime to happen. It seems as if webcams are based on the surveillance model - sinister and empty without narrative - but a record of what is there and, like the panopticon, you're seen but can't see who's seeing you; and, unlike TV, where time is compressed there is often interaction ó chat rooms, email exchanges, web cam diaries, etc. The »real« for web cams is documentation-real. Visioning every nook and cranny [of the body as well as house], detailing every day's events, accounting for absences from the web cam, archiving photos, etc. These banal smeared images are images of our time and in this age of high resolution they have the feeling of a vague memory.
Although Taystes.net focuses specifically at a technics of surveillance/control and the penetration of information medium and password-protected Internet domains, it is not a one way argument about power, data protection and privacy. Taystes.net evokes the erotic tension and reciprocal relation of watching and being watched and explores the new vectors of desire that erupt in an increasingly technological and networked surveillance of the »voyeur« - free to speculate and always hopeless because the voyeur wants to see more. Tracking, targeting, and identifying formats [biometrics and electronic ID] on the net begin to seep into the way, we are seeing and being seen, we are tracking and being tracked, we are desiring and been desired. A common trope during the rise of anatomical dissection during the 16th century was the Latin saying »Know Thyself« [literally, inside and out]. The fascination with the public anatomy theaters was this doubled auto-voyeurism: during a public dissection, you were seeing what your insides looked like, but at the same time it obviously wasn't you down there, splayed open, on the dissection table.
Taystes.net speaks of the »disembodied nature of our real and simulated virtual realities«, and comments upon the schism between reality and fantasy, real-time interaction vs a cycling loop of playback imagery - where the time »now« and time »past« are seamlessly fused into one apparently endless data loop.
As its name suggests, Taystes.net gives you bits and bytes, a sampling of network activity in real-time, through various tools: the »grabber«, which crawls through unlimited data networks of webcams and surveillance cameras; the »chatterbox«, making anonymous textual interventions into chat rooms; and through the »audio component«, you hear live network traffic in action: initiating modem, dialing up, talking to network, authenticating password. Finally, the users through the »tayster« tool, can utilize the above data as a medium to apply applications and create visual experiences.
By logging on, you automatically make visible your presence on-line, attempting perhaps to lurk beneath the veil of your online persona, you unknowingly become part of the database, part of the viewed. Under the »histories« tool, each action you take, is recorded and tracked [via a php perl script]. All your actions are made transparent, and although you [the viewer] may have entered the space of the project as if into the control room [hoping to electronically eavesdrop, to lurk, to monitor, to detect, to surveil], in the end, perhaps you are the subject [being viewed, transmitting and being recorded - your own traces, leaving your electronic fingerprints behind, IP addresses, etc.].
Taystes.net calls into question our notions of communications privacy, and the freedom to navigate throughout the networks anonymously, and freely. Issues of identity and authentication are raised, especially relating to »biometrics« [the system of identity recognition and authentication based upon unique physiological characteristics - such as face or voice recognition], and by doing so, notions of security, detection, prevention, tracking, control, and perhaps means towards more sinister ends [where you, the viewer fill in the lines - literally - through Taystes.net open source architecture]. In a time where the question of software and power comes into play, why then does Taystes.net operates not on the LINUX system but in WINDOWS, where the software giant Microsoft refuses to make publicly available, the source code? Well, if software is power, then power to the people, by operating on the Windows platform, Taystes.net calls into question the notion that this perhaps should and must become a world of open source architectures, where interaction and dialogue are key, for the WWW, one of the most popular of internet protocols, can be seen in Taystes.net as a two-way medium, a network topology of connectivity and social interaction.
Architecture of the web tool
There are four components in Taystes.net: The grabber, the chat room, the tayster and histories. To gain access you login a user name.
WATCHING - The grabber a perl open source application which performs real time surveillance as it sniffs through folders on the website with images from web cams, surveillance cameras and IRC networks and cu-seeme sites. The grabber is visible on the website as a matrix of six windows of running data streams from real time web cams and surveillance cameras via the internet. The grabber surveillance system has been automated by adding it to the crontab of the Banff server. The users are able to operate surveillance inside this interspace by »interacting« with the web cam matrix. Please note that the grabber performs real-time surveillance so you may experience periods of black streams or repeating streams depending on the time and on the refreshing patterns of the web cams under surveillance.
CONTROL URLs - The users can also select web cams from the already existing list of URLs or they can add URLs of their choice for networks they would like to conduct surveillance.
WATCHED - The history component records the users surveillance patterns and interaction with the web cam matrix via storing URL's of the web cams they have visited. The history provides a feature enabling users by clicking on the users name to view what other users have viewed.
INTERVENE - The Chat a java servlet component an open source application which uses different IRC networks and picks from a list of chat rooms. The users are able to interface with the chatting source and anonymously intervene by inserting their own comments in writing.
CREATE - The Data Tayster consists of a pop up window with a small shockwave component that cycles through all the current images from the grabber component. This is a proof of concept. This application is an example of a number of users applications which can interpret the image data collected by the grabber and the users history. If you want to add your interpretations or write an application from the current data streams and images from The Grabber web cam matrix or from the history archive select from the current data streams of images and URLs. Please e-mail your visual interpretations to email@example.com They will be added on a dedicated space on the website.
HEAR - Sound. This component is similar to the shockwave component. It cycles through images gathered by the grabber component and picks up the sound.