trustless photographic evidence TOOL
The notion of trust has been significantly challenged by information technologies, at the core of today's progress and a new wave of industrialisation. In the world of post- truth accelerated by the internet logistics & Ai-driven synthetic knowledge production, i.e prompt–based generation of visual content, to protect political, social and economic health within societies we need to have the tools that can compute truth.
Hashd0x [Proof of War]
Raspberry Pi-based camera, custom-built software, Mobile App, Smart Contract on Near Protocol and Swarm Blockchains, web platform, LED wall, smartphone, server rack, patch panels, cables
Hashd0x [Proof of War] came about as a technical and tactical proposal aimed to address common tactics of misinformation and propaganda at the core of ongoing warfare, in particular its infowar front. At this point, hashd0x is presented via a series of software and hardware prototypes. The team strives to scale it up towards a feature-rich platform and protocol for computationally driven investigation. Its solutionist design revolves around peer-to-peer, decentralised, user-owned, blockchain-based and serverless computing that makes it possible to record and verify the authenticity of still and moving images via hashing their metadata on-chain. The image or video is meant to be recorded via a dedicated mobile app so that before the file itself gets to be recorded into the devices’ storage, its metadata, including timestamp, signature, location data & algorithmically assigned unique hash value gets recorded onto a publicly owned blockchain.
Of course so is only possible in areas where mobile or satellite internet is available, hence future scaling of infrastructure is vital to the success of this proposal. Collecting evidence is also possible in more advanced ways via a specially designed camera based on a popular microcomputer platform (raspberry pi) which can be supported with professional optics and is also highly programmable. At the moment of writing hashd0x app exists on app stores; the protocol functions in the Near Protocol blockchain test net. This tactical proposal suggests the notion of hashmark, a p2p version of watermark for our computationally accelerated condition. A mere existence or absence of such a hashmark is intended to produce a new computational ontology that deals with distinguishing facts from fiction & extends professional technics of open-source investigation.
Lies, Half-Truths & Propaganda [The Bad, the Worse, and the Worst]
alexanderlevy Gallery, Berlin, DEU, 2022
↑ A preliminary edit of a short film documenting Egor Kraft's solo exhibition Lies, Half-Truths & Propaganda [The Bad, the Worse, and the Worst] which took place
in Berlin between April–May 2022 and features Hashd0x and other related series of works all of which deal with web3, solutionism and hacktivism.
Lies, Half-Truths & Propaganda [The Bad, the Worse, and the Worst]
alexanderlevy Gallery, Berlin,2022
Recent events declare an end to the preexisted and predominated in the policy of the global north trajectory of an open world, global economy, post ww treaties incl. Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, as well as recently developed new forms of politics and economies beyond Westphalian agreements, unified infosphere enabled via the means of the internet and widely developed related infrastructures. Recent events even declare an attempt to end commonly agreed historical narratives of the XX century by attempting to reestablish the facts and reverse the historical narrative itself. All of these are being approached through blatant internal and external violence and ongoing information warfare.
In the exhibition *Outright Lies, Half-Truths & Propaganda [The Bad, the Worse, and the Worst]* the Russian-Austrian artist Egor Kraft will be presenting new works at alexander levy. As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kraft was unable to complete the work he had originally planned. Nonetheless, he believed that it was necessary to react to the current acts of war.
Kraft in cooperation with, the team of software developers vSelf have developed a series of new works that was already part of his ongoing research. It explores the technological potential for combating the spread of misinformation and propaganda that is at the heart of the continuing warfare in Ukraine. Independent and serverless technologies make it possible to verify the authenticity of still and moving images. With this in mind, in cooperation with the teams working behind leading blockchain projects, including layer one chain Near Protocol and decentralised networked storage architecture Ethereum Swarm they developed a series of prototypes that provide journalists—including war correspondents—with a blockchain-based toolset to record the extended metadata of their footage. This allows it to be registered and stored in a forgery-proof format as soon as the images are captured. Thus introducing a decentralised public evidence archive and a next-generation tool for effective fact-proofing.
The exhibition was developed in collaboration with other artists and technologists, including those from Ukraine. The question of scale is immanent to any software architecture involving information logistics enabled via (the holy) internet. We are aware of the effects and impacts of abusing this scale in producing narratives aiming at political ends or extractivist goals. If the internet is a brilliant infrastructure for things to scale, it's fairly designed *agnosticism* doesn’t care *what* scales. Infrastructures of computing robust models of trust (or *trust-less* as they are sometimes called), namely blockchains have proven to be effective in addressing built-in *agnosticism* of the internet infrastructure; some of them are sophisticated protocols that compute scarcity, where it was previously absent by design; they create ontologies, compute ownership & entities. And what I find most stimulating in the context of Hashd0x, is that such networks are capable of computing beliefs, which contains a potential for intervention at scale and the need to reassess what do we believe constitutes knowledge and what creates knowledge in today's technological condition. A set of these ideas can be traced back to Plato’s Meno and his account of knowledge as justified true belief. In pragmatic terms, Hashd0x suggests a set of tools that create an alternative belief model of mapping evidence, examining narratives, highlighting divergence and revealing fiction.
The sub-title of the project reads as *Proof of War,* which is a wordplay on the *Proof of Work (PoW)* which is a common algorithmic consensus principle across various blockchains and a form of cryptographic proof in which one party proves to others that a certain amount of a specific computational effort has been expended. *Proof of Work* and its less energy-hungry sibling *Proof of Stake* are code-based models of motivation, incentive, punishment, consensus and order through which the system and arguably value is meant to scale.
↑ The model is reconstructed from photographic evidence captured using Hashd0x. Time, location, authorship and each pixel are indispiutable as they are captured on-chain.
↑ Custom-made camera based on Raspberry Pi allows to shoot images and storing them on Blockchain.
↑ Hashd0x app (already deployed and tested) for capturing images, generating hash (unique identification code of the image), storing it on blockchain and sharing the image file on the network.
↑ Raspberry Pi computer calculates the image hash and stores it on Blockchain,
↑ Blockchain can find direct applications in combating misinformation. The use of cryptographic hash functions ensures the authenticity of uploaded photographic evidence, in a way that any attempt to tamper with its pixels or metadata is trivial to detect. Eyewitnesses have the option to claim authorship and cryptographically sign their material, effectively binding it to their digital identity. The decentralized nature of blockchain and peer-to-peer storage networks such as Swarm, guarantee that nobody can either block the upload of photographic evidence, or take it down once shared with other computers across the world.
In essence, our proposal leverages blockchain as a global archive of chronologically timestamped entries that is resistant to censorship, manipulation, or impersonation, in order to generate proofs of authenticity for journalistic material. Finally, Web3 economic, governance and reputation mechanisms such as tokens and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) have the potential to incentivize evidence collection and build an ecosystem of trustworthy media for open-source investigation.
↑ LED Screen with the visualization of the Hashd0x pipelines, explaining the algorithm of image verification
The idea and a series of prototypes operating in real-time are presented in a form of installation. It is followed by a film produced from a moving image of 3D rendering representation
of panoramic views over a photogrammetry-derived model of the remnants of one of the houses in the tragically infamous town of Bucha. The 3D model of that house is algorithmically produced from hundreds of images taken via *the hashd0x* app and hence is also represented via hundreds of records that will potentially remain on-chain forever. The scenes depicting data scape evidence representation of arguably one of the most dramatic acts of violence and war crimes of recent years is followed by an audio narration in which the rationale and technicalities of the artistic-technical proposal, as well as common tactics of misinformation, are expanded upon. Such representation of the project
in the artistic space in a form of an installation or a talk followed by images and videos is intended to reach wider audiences of communities concerned with technological literacy, and politics of imagery and narrative production. This tactical proposal suggests the notion of *hashmark*, a p2p version of the watermark for our computationally accelerated condition. A mere existence or absence of such *a hashmark* is intended to produce a new computational ontology that deals with distinguishing facts from fiction and extends professional technics of open-source investigation. A common example of the former may suggest commonly used telegram channels or Twitter feeds in which a lot of the imagery captured by those witnessing war circulates today, whereas the latter may refer to highly accurate investigation practices of such agents as Bellingcat or Forensic Architecture and others.
To better understand the scope of this proposal we invite you to read below its two key elements:
First – Hashd0x a web3 protocol and an open source software, aiming to combat common tactics of misinformation by enabling instant and spoof-proof registration of metadata and image hashing records on blockchain and decentralized storage networks at the time of recording. It operates as a web platform, and mobile app as well as by introducing a dedicated open-source hardware camera capable of utilizing professional photo journalistic equipment. We began working on it in march 2022 when this project emerged from an artistic endeavor and later evolved into a tactical proposal. At the time of writing the test app is available in app stores, ready for evidence collection purposes, utilising registration of crucial metadata in an immutable database, a non-biased people-owned blockchain adding to another level of reliability and validity in collecting and presenting evidence. The protocol design and software architecture are currently in development, including applications and data visualisation tools built on top that will bring utility to professional communities, NGOs, and individuals operating in a relatively new field of open-source investigation.
Second – Following the idea of Hashd0x and the fact that its physical & virtual implementations have initially come to being through artistic aspiration, the idea for the artwork Proof of War was developed. The artwork will methodologically instrumentalise the technology and data collected through the Hasd0x software to become an elaborated form of media installation based on a short film essay, as well as a blockchain-enabled monument, virtually stitched from fragments of data surrounding today's most atrocious misinformation battlefront.
The installation Proof of War will include a large (2x2m) led screen as well as mounted to a ceiling smartphone featuring a mobile app, a custom-made camera (as seen across included documentation materials featuring an early concept presentation), and possibly a custom-made drone. The large screen will display an artistic film essay created from 3d renderings and photogrammetry-derived models of digital traces, fragments, and forms of digital evidence depicting sites and architectural remnants following the tragedy of war in Ukraine. All these materials will be captured via our Hashd0x software, thus not only capturing visual guises of the tragedy but also being real trackable on-chain data points, thus creating a monument by the massive quantity of data records likely to be forever imprinted into the blockchain. Through software techniques of photogrammetry and projective geometry operating on hundreds of images and videos, 3D model replicas of the devastated sites of war will be derived, to eventually make up scenes of moving images and panoramic motions through these digital landscapes. Like many of our previous works, this one will be followed by an essay, based on the artwork as a case study. The entire film will be narrated by voice, reading the essay throughout its length, unpacking the complex technical dynamics behind contemporary techniques of misinformation, such as AI-derived, prompt-generated faked evidence and what are the other existing techniques of validation, such as the methods of open source investigation and tools like Hashd0x, with which the actual film will be produced conveying and capturing history and the occurred tragedy. One of the points the project will make is that perhaps it is a more accurate way to capture evidence of historically significant records into an immutable distributed database which derived its robustness through being initially designed for fintech applications rather than to let it be written by either victors or victims of conflicts as much of the historical data had come about in the past.
↑ Photogrametry reconstruction of destroyed building at reformed military base, saved on-chain using Hashd0x.
↑ (click to play video)
Neural rendering of the same location, performed using AI algorithms.
PREVIOUS ART projects related to investigative journalism and blockchain
alexanderlevy Gallery, Berlin, 2022
↑ Uncensorship Architecture
The generative GAN Algorithm is synced to an audio file to which it matches the ongoing morphing moving image based on a dataset of explosions. Public justification, political rhetoric and weak arguments echo into dust, fire and ash in a direct visual allegory. An audio loop plays an outtake from an interview with Sergey Lavrov. Russia’s foreign minister, as he expresses justification for how Russia’s nuclear intentions have been taken out of context and misunderstood.
Uncensorship Architecture’ provides an infrastructure proposal to protect journalistic data and investigative work from censorship and geopolitical blocks. Using de-centralised blockchain storage infrastructures journalistic archives become safe from censorship and IP-blocking.
6 E-ink screens feature excerpts of banned media in Russia, uploaded to a decentralised archive to protect them from repeated censorship. The data is distributed through Swarm nodes across the planet-wide infrastructure.
← Decentralised Embargo
A 4-GPU computational installation supplied with the energy provided by EnBW (client of Gazprom Germania), a german provider, which burns Russian gas to create electricity. The sculpture completes proof-of-work in real-time for the Ethereum blockchain, thus mining Ethereum currency directly into the official cryptocurrency wallet of Ukraine. Russian gas thus gets directly monetised into humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian people, via the means of the german hesitation to employ an embargo on Russian gas.
↓ EnBW (client of Gazprom Germania) electricity contract.
↓ Tweet from the official Ukrainian government account announcement the acceptance of cryptocurrency donations and the associated wallet addresses.
communication and distribution goals and desires
While the software Hashd0x is being delivered on the side, the main outcomes of the artistic proposal span a video installation, a film and a research-based essay. Artistic work in a form of hybrid installation will be made to be presented in public spaces, including cultural venues and festivals. Such presentation may be followed by a talk, unpacking on intents and purposes, not only of the artwork, but also software project itself in the context of open source investigation intending to reach wider audiences concerned with technological literacy, and politics of imagery and contemporary means of narrative production. Open-source digital investigation as a form of practice has proven to be the new form of forensics, which can be well observed through the practice of such collectives and agencies as Forensic Architecture, Bellingcat and the like.
We’re aiming for the entire project to impact the increase of social literacy and verifiability of information by giving people the tool and agency to verify visual data by themselves, as well as the raising of awareness to any conflict ongoing by both providing a toolset and verifiable information for investigative groups and journalists, and giving groups at risk tools to verify evidence and record evidence themselves without putting themselves at risk for prosecution. The groups at risk of benefiting most from this impact are any communities and individuals victim to misinformation and subject to propaganda at the hand of authoritarian regimes.
anticipated material needs
As we are already in the possession of the majority of the physical parts that make the installation, most of the dedicated budget spending will be required mainly for the collection of data for the artwork and the film. This includes the following:
– On-site camera operator honoraries. For that, we already have contacts in the network of professional videographers located in Kyiv, who are interested in cooperating with us on the collection of photo and video materials.
– Voice Actor honoraries
– Sounddesigner honoraries
– For on-site 3D scanning, we would like to rent the LiDar scanner equipment
– Other materials expenses will be dedicated to software, such as Redshift render engine and photogrammetry software licenses.
– We will need some simple computer hardware such as dedicated hard drives and ideally audio monitors as our studio in Vienna is missing those at the moment.
We are confident and capable of such tasks as software development, film editing and post-production, 3D-editing and rendering, web design and media installation construction and set-up and will conduct those within our team skills and resources. We would be glad to provide you with a more detailed breakdown of spending associated with the project, please don't hesitate to let us know should you require it at any stage of selection.
CV / TEAM
Egor Kraft is an intermedia artist & critical designer, he lives and works in Tokyo & Vienna. His research-based practice is informed by media theory, computer science, critical design, film, philosophy & art. Egor is a laureate of the New Technological Art Award and an S+T+ARTS resident. He was nominated for Lumen, Kandinsky & Re: Humanism prizes amongst others; He is a guest lecturer at European & Japanese art universities and a speaker at international conferences.
Marios Isaakidis is a hacktivist and PhD candidate at University College London developing technologies, mechanisms and policies that secure our freedoms in the Information Age. Currently, he serves as the director at inotropic.tech specializing in blockchain, privacy engineering and protocol design.
Artem Konevskikh is a Vienna-based multi-disciplinary artist and machine learning engineer with a diverse background in various scientific and research projects, from experimental particle physics to urban environment analysis, which he brings to his artistic practice. He also has a solid background in teaching the application of AI to architects and artists at universities such as ITMO University, UIBK, UCL Bartlett, and SCIArc.