> Tuesday January 13 at 11:45 AM*
> *Hasan Elahi
> *Exploring the Impact of Information Technology on Society through
> Hasan Elahi, an Assistant Professor in the School of Art and
> San Jose State University, is a conceptual artist in the CADRE
> for New Media, an interdisciplinary academic and research program
> dedicated to the experimental use of information technology and
> In 2002, Hasan was apprehended by FBI agents after an anonymous
> falsely accused him of being linked to terrorist activities.
> himself the subject of a lengthy investigation, he created an
> “digital alibi” for himself— a computerized system that tracks his
> whereabouts and other personal information— and publishes it
> Hasan’s documentary art exhibition, "Tracking Transience: The
> Project," made all his personal information, from his current
> to his bank statements and telephone records available to the
> Hasan will describe his experiences with the FBI, and with his
> information tracking system in the context of his goals as an
> using electronic forms of information as his media, to explore the
> humans interact with electronic information and to investigate the
> acceptance of the use of this technology.
Hasan began his talk by saying he had
been around here about 16 weeks at this point in time. Then he showed
us slides of art he did before 9/11. One piece, titled "Water Table",
was a limited edition of small tables with two inch deep clear plastic
bowls of water with pictures of water printed into the bottoms as the
tabletop. Another, titled "Eight Mile Road", features clever use of
reflective materials and projected footage from the intersections of
Eight Mile Road (AKA: the wall between rich and poor Detroit). He
explained that while working on these pieces he developed an awareness
of what he could do with video and electronics.
Then on June 19th, 2002 Hasan was going
through the Detroit Airport, and Homeland Security put a crimp in his
plans. Going through customs, the guy behind the computer screen went
white as a sheet when seeing what came up when "Hasan Elahi" was typed
in. For the next six months the FBI was constantly asking him for more
information about everything. They even gave him nine sequential
identical lie detector (polygraph) tests.
As an Artist, he found himself thinking
about making something of the intrusion. He decided to put ALL his
information on the web. This included bank records, flight records,
pictures of every toilet and meal, the building he is currently in, and
an assortment of other things. Visiting it, you will have no trouble
finding where he is now from the Google map, and a picture of the
building he is in. Also there are pictures of art installations he has
made as part of the project, and many links to footage and articles
about it in the mainstream media.
Hasan has learned many things from this
project and the awareness of the other stuff on the web that have
popped up over the last decade or so. One thing is that there is so
much information out there that raw info is more of a problem than a
solution. He thinks because of this the culture of secrecy is slowly
disintegrating. Another thing is that being on a show like The Colbert
Report has a huge impact on visits to his website.
During Q&A a number of interesting points were discussed:
He thinks the guy that ran the storage
place where he kept his bulky stuff he didn't need turned him in after
9/11, when the paranioa was thickest. He had given the guy notice on
9/12, because he was going to be moving to Florida. It didn't help that
he has brown skin and a Middle Eastern sounding name.
The FBI people that interviewed him
after he got busted at the airport were very competent and very scary.
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