Monday, April 22, 2019

Smashed Links

Not happy with those intrusive and distracting LinkNYC kiosks? You're not alone. Along 8th Avenue in Chelsea, someone has been smashing LinkNYC screens with a cobble stone.

The apparent rage is understandable. With their video advertisements, dumb cartoons, and repetitive quotations, the digital pylons continually rob our attention. Walking down the street, on every block, your thoughts are interrupted by the flashing screens, violating your right to keep your attention where you want it.

Do we have a right to our attention? Jasper L. Tran has written, "We own and are entitled to our attention because attention is a property right and part of our individual dignity. Yet advertisement companies and scam artists freely bombard us with their 'products' daily, resulting in our own time and monetary loss." Jon Danaher at Philsophical Disquisitions calls it a "right to attentional protection."

LinkNYC violates that right. As we all know, it's hard to keep your eyes from flicking to a screen. (Clay Shirky once compared the contagious mental distraction of screens to second-hand smoke.)

The intrusion potentially goes deeper. With their microphones, bluetooth beacons, and cameras, the kiosks may "represent a troubling expansion of the city’s surveillance network," collecting information as New Yorkers pass by.

And who owns LinkNYC? As RethinkLink points out, it's basically Google -- via consortiums and companies like Titan and Control (real names), and something called Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google and headed by Dan Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York City for economic development under Bloomberg. This guy. The one who helped bring us Hudson Yards.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the smashed Links are in Google's neighborhood, clustered around its Chelsea location.

So who is our LinkNYC smasher? Is the smashing politically motivated? Is it a cry for our attentional rights? Or just a random act of vandalism?


ohnomyboots said...

Saw a smashed one on 14th between 6th/7th earlier this week and wondered if it was political. I'm all for the destruction of these insidious bots and I like the vehemence of the smashing message/mode. But I'd really love to see their screens re-purposed as canvases for art or poetry. Like those marquees on the abandoned theaters of 42nd street in the 90's used for Haiku. Spray em up!

Manqueman said...

Does smashing screens prevent them from hoovering data?

NJ Hypnotist James Malone said...

You might get in some trouble with the cobble stone route, but a little civil disobedience with a big sheet of kraft paper, some masking tape and a marker might be fun. "IGNORE THIS SIGN" or something along those lines.

Rodin said...

If I can use them for neighborhood map, info and transit info or to call for help, I'm not against. This is the Blade Runner world come to pass.