WOS 3 / Programm / Specials / Exhibition / Dragan Espenschied & Alvar Freude, insert_coin

Dragan Espenschied & Alvar Freude, insert_coin

2000/2001 [http://odem.org/insert_coin/]

With the motto »two people control 250 people« and as a part of their artschool diploma project »insert_coin«, Dragan Espenschied and Alvar Freude installed a secret web proxy server at their school, Merz-Akademie Stuttgart. This server manipulated, through a Perl program, everything students and professors read on the Web.

According to Espenschied/Freude, the objective was to »test the competence and critical ability of those who use the mass medium of the Internet.« The proxy redirected URLs to different pages, modified HTML formatting code, and altered the content of news sites - for example, by switching names of politicians- and even that of personal E-Mail read on Web servers like Hotmail, gmx or Yahoo!.

For a total of four weeks, the manipulation of web access remained unnoticed by students and professors. When Espenschied and Freude disclosed their experiment, almost nobody cared about it. Although they published simple instructions for removing the filter, only a tiny fraction of users took the time to fix their setup. Even a couple of months after the disclosure, the web access of most school computers remained filtered.

In the tradition of political concept art (like Hans Haacke's installations), Espenschied and Freude demonstrate how supposedly transparent and supposedly neutral software transport layers can be used to control and manipulate information. They put question marks behind the issue of information freedom that are exclamation marks at the same time.

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