“It’s the Whole Earth Catalogue for politicos.”Wes “Scoop” Nisker, author of Crazy Wisdom
Founded in 2002, Preemptive Media (PM) is a group of artists, activists and technologists that produces projects drawing attention to the ubiquity and invisibility of consumer data. PM’s goal is to make their audiences more aware of the information they unknowingly divulge to governments and corporations and the ways in which the collection of that data often occurs without consent. One of PM’s most famous projects, the “Swipe Bar,” was a mobile installation designed to look like a local watering hole. When customers showed their IDs and swiped their Visas, Preemptive Media served them not only beer but also a report of all the data stored on those cards. PM thinks of its projects as “beta tests,” and some of them — like a website to aggregate short news reports sent from hundreds of cell phones — resemble pared-down precursors of more popular technologies (like Twitter). But the “beta” quality of their actions, and the willingness to experiment, is very much the point.