Across New York City, a new kind of public but anonymous network is building up. The “Dead Drops” are USB connections jutting out of walls at different locations around the city. Anybody can plug into them and exchange information with people they don’t know. The man behind the dead drops, Aram Bartholl, describes his project:
“Dead Drops is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessible to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project. ‘Dead Drops’ is open to participation. If you want to install a dead drop in your city/neighborhood follow the ‘how to’ instructions and submit the location and pictures.”
Bartholl is a Berlin based media artist, who started the Dead Drops project recently during his stay in NYC. He has installed five USB drives in New York, and has plans also for other cities. He also wants to encourage others to take up the project on their town.
The etymology of the name is also intriguing. Wikipedia describes it like this: “A dead drop or dead letter box, is a location used to secretly pass items between two people, without requiring them to meet. — Spies have been known to use dead drops, using various techniques to hide items (such as money, secrets or instructions) and to signal that the drop has been made.”
Although all but secret, these anonymous bits of information still carry the allure of surprise and the unknown. They are surely going to become part of an interesting global game. Perhaps a new kind of geocaching? Let’s just hope the drops will stay clear of viruses.