Port Logo PORT: Navigating Digital Culture
Organized by a r t n e t w e b
MIT List Visual Arts Center
January 25 through March 29, 1997

TITLE: Mr Z : or I Was a Teenage Cryptologyst
BY: Myth Machine: Hal Eagar, Jason Tarantino, Marah Rosenberg, Jason Valdina, Michael Wilson, Erin Eagar, Jason Kruk, Jill Paxton, Corina Lyons, Maninder Saini.
TIME: Friday 6 - 8 pm Eastern Standard Time, performance at 7:00 pm
SOFTWARE: Netscape 3.0, Java, Real Audio, CUSeeMe?, Sony CyberPassage, Persyst
ACCESS: On-line: (to come)
New York Performance: 15 West 26th Street, second floor NY NY

URL: Preliminary "stuff" available at http://gaudi.va.purchase.edu/~hal/port

Instructions for how to use Persyst

CONTACT: Hal Eagar email: hal@purvid.purchase.edu
phone: (212) 725-0436

Jason Kruk
email: jkruk@earthlink.com

Maninder Saini
email: freedom@ultinet.com

In this project the Essential Collaborative attempts to show how perspectives converge over time to create a shared narrative from which we construct our own identity. Since the beginning of language humans have constructed narratives to give our personal experience meaning. These stories are shaped not only by socio-cultural structures, but also by our access to technology as a media for creation. In our saturated age, an individualās experience of an event, and the stories he or she might tell of an event, are both shaped by our constant relation to electronic media. As we become bombarded by hyper-real narratives of everyday life÷e.g. a TV show such as Seinfeld÷our own personal narrative becomes heightened. No longer does film imitate life; in our understanding life imitates film.

The project itself is an interactive event across three sites÷a New York theater; MIT and the Internet. The project shall explore essential questions relating to identity, media and information technology. What happens to the individual in the face of an information based society? Can the individual narrative be maintained amidst the convergence, over time, of information perspectives? Does encryption ensure identity? How does one construct meaning and how is that construction affected by our tools and information media? These questions shall be explored and played with in an event which portrays a fictionalized account of the differing perspectives on the debate over the issues of personal privacy on the Internet, specifically the encryption debate.

In New York a time-based theatrical event will incorporate two live actors upon a stage consisting of two projection screens linked to computer generated VRML sets and to actors off site via the use of Real-Audio and Internet Meta-Worlds. The narrative traces the creation of a public key encryption program and the Federal Investigation that takes place when a group of self-proclaimed Cypher-punks download the program as freeware onto the Web. The story will be told as if the audience were caught in the film of another personās consciousness, in this case, Z÷the lonely cryptologist. Zās story will be told from his perspective, as a James Bond-esque spy thriller, tracing the plot twists which ensue as the Cryptologist and his Faithful Assistant are dogged by the Government, Corporations and the Cypher-punks all fighting for control over his public key encryption program, Serpent.

The site at MIT will represent the Mediaās reaction to Mr. Zās story utilizing audio, text, video bytes, and an interactive on-line talk show. A web-site interface will be created to allow off-site users, as well as, the Boston audience interactive access to the event. The site shall attempt to explore how the media presents the story via shifting agenda based perspectives which over time converge to form a collective narrative of the event, ultimately co-opting Zās personal narrative.

The media will be represented by five distinct elements. These include: 1) The Cypher-punks: who regard Z as both a hero and a possible martyr for their cause. 2) The Government: who regard Z as a threat to both national security and authority. 3) The Mainstream Media: who, while at first ambivalent about Z, come to vilify Z as both the Government and Corporate worlds exert pressure upon them. 4) The Corporate World: who regard Z as a civil criminal who has co- opted their patented technology and distributed it for free÷destroying their ability to market it. 5) The Average ćJoeä: who discuss issues strictly for entertainment value, soliciting opinion in only black and white terms and exploiting the events themselves to fit into hot-button topics, i.e. Z as the ill- legitimate grandchild of Elvis, or Zās inner child or Z and Faithful Assistant makeovers.

This multi-perspective portrayal provides a dynamic narrative through the context of each mediaās electronic communications, information and news-stories. Over the duration of the piece, these perspectives will increasingly be pushed into Zās world÷and consequentially the New York Site÷and likewise will co-opt more and more of Zās story until Z is forced to erase his own identity and encrypt himself. This will culminate in live coverage of a Cypher-punk terrorist threat at Zās office and a live interactive talk show through which the audience at MIT and on-line will be solicited for opinions on topics of debate and Zās identity.

This interaction and convergence of both sites will construct a mass narrative: a narrative which can not be viewed from isolated perspectives but can only be seen by one who has access to all perspectives and therefore can see how their structures interact on various levels to form a collective structure. This requires not an audience but a participant, one who through interaction can derive meaning from the levels of a mass narrative. It is the exploration of this integral element of ritual, that is participation÷ interaction÷that guides this event.

HAL EAGAR hal@purvid.purchase.edu
JASON TARANTINO rtarant@internexus.net
MARAH ROSENBERG c1rcle@concentric. net
JASON VALDINA valdina@ix.netcom.com
MICHAEL WILSON freedom@ultinet.com
ERIN EAGAR hal@purvid.purchase.edu

SPONSORS The Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre

Lucent Technologies, Multimedia Communications Research


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