This is a vulnerable image

This is Paige Treebridge.

This is text under an image.

This is the beginning. The image above is of the author, on Aug 28, 2019. I put this image up in the second test post while setting up the website with a currently very minimal theme. This was the first image from my current phone that I saw in my Downloads folder. I intended to delete this post, and thus did not mind putting the image up. Now that I intend to retain this as the first post (removing the PoMo Ipsum Lorem that was here previously), I am much less okay with the selection of the image. It’s not a particularly good photo, as it was taken to record myself in a vapor curtain in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. It fails to capture the vapor curtain. The image just looks partially out-of-focus. It’s a good image in that the text behind me represents a spirit of possible progress that feels both familiar to, and alienated from, our present reality: What if your clothes could monitor your health? What if your car could drive?
To this I would respond: What if your clothes could report your health to a third party? What if your car could be programmed to kill or injure people? We already know it’s possible for a self-driving car to drive into a person and kill them.

The image is also a vulnerability, in that I am presenting this as a representation of a self not present, a self sitting comfortably next to a snoring dog. It’s a vulnerability in what it shows and what it leaves out. It’s a vulnerability in that it can, due to the code and decisions behind the web and the internet, be downloaded, edited, put next to other images, and uploaded again, shared out of context, with names and identifiers that are incorrect, based on other people’s agendas. The image, like all images, can be exploited.

However, I am okay with this image overall. It is a contemporary artifact that I am, in the present, comfortable imagining as a historical artifact. I am, to my surprise, okay with every internet-based image of this body that I’m able to find. In some I am somewhat alienated and disturbed by an almost abject quality particular to my own lived experience, but they’re fine, they are images of me, at the time, as much as any image can be. I have very little control over much of what is on the internet, and could spend a lifetime trying to change or remove things if I wanted to try to exert control over how I was represented, or re-assert control over how I represented myself. I have no doubt many other people are much less happy with their internet artifacts.

Being “okay” (whatever that may mean to anyone) with images closes down a vulnerability to exploit. If I am okay with an image, I am on stable ground to discuss that image. I can see the image, in any context, and ignore it or engage with it, but the image itself is inert. I may not be okay with my life when the image was taken, I may not be okay with the person I felt myself to be at the time. However, if I can be okay with all of those things, if I can work through those things, I am less vulnerable to a particular sort of vicious exploitation.

In posting and discussing this image, I may be seen as attempting to forestall what is an inevitability: that I am mocked, misrepresented, undermined, and/or “doxxed” for speaking freely online, at some point, for some purpose. This sort of activity is incredibly common in 2019, and has been for some time. The reasons behind it are complex and, to some degree, will be discussed as attempted exploits of vulnerabilities. This is the point of this website, to discuss both vulnerabilities and how they are exploited.

My posts will focus on what I believe is an unnamed field that shares territory with: social engineering; social psychology; linguistic politeness and linguistic strategies overall; scams and grifting; magic/illusion; identity performance; privacy and security; and power/control, but mostly power and control as it relates to the primary topic I am concerned with writing about and researching: how reality (the contested, malleable reality we share) is vulnerable and how it is exploited.

Principle topics to be covered:

  • the field of cybersecurity
  • the field of design
  • the sub-field of user experience design
  • the internet, as it has become ubiquitous
  • social media and control
  • critical technology practice
  • machine learning and AR
  • anything else related to the exploitation of reality

Paige Treebridge

Paige Treebridge co-directs Divergent Design Lab, focused on vulnerability and exploitation using cybersecurity, new media art, user experience design, and social psychology paradigms. Twitter @PTreebridge

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