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PROF LEADS "DARPA OF DISSENT"

natalie_2.jpgThe place didn't feel like a radical's den; there were too many toys lying around. It didn't look like an artist's studio; the wipe board was filled with schematics, not sketches. And it sure didn't seem like an engineer's lab -- especially not with the impossibly cute, white-furred bunny gnawing at the cables. But the loft in Manhattan's West Village was a bit of all three, really: the home to controversial art and engineering professor Natalie Jeremijenko.For more than a decade, Jeremijenko and her collective of tinkerers and artistes, the Bureau of Inverse Technology, have been using technology to explore the limits of social and environmental issues, from suicide to toxic skies. She's won slots at top universities, like Yale and Stanford, and at prestigious art centers, like the Whitney Museum, for the work. But starting this weekend, the machines put together here by Jeremijenko and her cohorts may get their biggest stage yet, by giving a guerrilla geek's edge to the protests swirling around the Republican National Convention in New York City.Months ago, it became clear that the RNC counter-demonstrations were going digital. But most of the gadgetry involved was household stuff -- text messages to report cops' whereabouts, or web pages to arrange housing. Jeremijenko and her group have gone beyond that, hand-crafting devices meant to level, just a bit, law enforcement's technology advantage over activists.Their devices include a 10-foot balloon, for counting crowds; a set of pirate transmitters, for taking over local radio stations; and 1,400 face masks that measure the level of pollution in the Manhattan air. Think of the group as a kind of Darpa of dissent -- with Jeremijenko's loft as the headquarters.Check out my other article at Wired News today for more.

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