"In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the list's veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital money - convenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and banks - had been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet. Cypherpunks, the 1990s movement of libertarian cryptographers, dedicated themselves to the project. Yet every effort to create virtual cash had foundered. Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies. Other proposals followed - bit gold, RPOW, b-money - but none got off the ground.
One of the core challenges of designing a digital currency involves something called the double-spending problem. If a digital dollar is just information, free from the corporeal strictures of paper and metal, what's to prevent people from copying and pasting it as easily as a chunk of text, 'spending' it as many times as they want? The conventional answer involved using a central clearinghouse to keep a real-time ledger of all transactions - ensuring that, if someone spends his last digital dollar, he can't then spend it again. The ledger prevents fraud, but it also requires a trusted third party to administer it.
Bitcoin did away with the third party by publicly distributing the ledger, what Nakamoto called the 'block chain.' Users willing to devote CPU power to running a special piece of software would be called miners and would form a network to maintain the block chain collectively. In the process, they would also generate new currency. Transactions would be broadcast to the network, and computers running the software would compete to solve irreversible cryptographic puzzles that contain data from several transactions. The first miner to solve each puzzle would be awarded 50 new bitcoins, and the associated block of transactions would be added to the chain. The difficulty of each puzzle would increase as the number of miners increased, which would keep production to one block of transactions roughly every 10 minutes. In addition, the size of each block bounty would halve every 210,000 blocks - first from 50 bitcoins to 25, then from 25 to 12.5, and so on. Around the year 2140, the currency would reach its preordained limit of 21 million bitcoins."
(Benjamin Wallace, 23 November 2011, Wired Magazine)
"this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.
it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.
the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today."
(Nina Wenhart, 26/06/2008)
"One of the first designs of the information theory is the model of communication by Shannon and Weaver. Claude Shannon, an engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories, worked with Warren Weaver on the classic book ‘The mathematical theory of communication’. In this work Shannon and Weaver sought to identify the quickest and most efficient way to get a message from one point to another. Their goal was to discover how communication messages could be converted into electronic signals most efficiently, and how those signals could be transmitted with a minimum of error. In studying this, Shannon and Weaver developed a mechanical and mathematical model of communication, known as the 'Shannon and Weaver model of communication'. ...
Shannon and Weaver broadly defined communication as 'all of the procedures by which one mind may affect another'. Their communication model consisted of an information source: the source’s message, a transmitter, a signal, and a receiver: the receiver’s message, and a destination. Eventually, the standard communication model featured the source or encoder, who encodes a message by translating an idea into a code in terms of bits. A code is a language or other set of symbols or signs that can be used to transmit a thought through one or more channels to elicit a response in a receiver or decoder. Shannon and Weaver also included the factor noise into the model. The study conducted by Shannon and Weaver was motivated by the desire to increase the efficiency and accuracy or fidelity of transmission and reception. Efficiency refers to the bits of information per second that can be sent and received. Accuracy is the extent to which signals of information can be understood. In this sense, accuracy refers more to clear reception than to the meaning of message. This engineering model asks quite different questions than do other approaches to human communication research."
(Communication Studies, University of Twente)
Shannon, C.E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Hawes, L.C. (1975). Pragmatics of analoguing: Theory and model construction in communication. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Fig.1 Mathematical (information) model of communication.
"That the powers that be - and I realise that there is no great conspiracy of authority here; the cables themselves tell us that! - appear to be playing whack-a-mole with the WikiLeaks website makes me think that they don't really understand the problem in front of them. In fact, it leads me to suspect that the portrayal of WikiLeaks as a website might have been a brilliant piece of misdirection. People in general don't tend to grasp information theory, but it's sometimes particularly easy to laugh at just how little understanding some sections of the establishment appear to have:
'The Defense Department demands that WikiLeaks return immediately to the U.S. government all versions of documents obtained directly or indirectly from the Department of Defense databases or records' (Kevin Poulsen, 5 August 2010, 8:44 pm)
There are, I think, two important things about WikiLeaks. The first is the use of technology -of the internet and cryptography - to facilitate the collection of information from anonymous sources. The second is the fact that information is available in a digitised form. This latter property means that leaking a gigabit of information is hardly more difficult than leaking a single bit. If someone has the information and the motivation to leak something, it will be leaked. All that WikiLeaks does is to solicit this information actively. It's a brand, and an organisation, and a network, but it's not really a website.
Still, something must be done! And trying to shut down websites does look like doing something."
Poulsen, K. (2010, 5 August, 8:44 pm). "Pentagon Demands WikiLeaks ‘Return’ All Classified Documents." Wired.com August 2010. from http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/08/pentagon-demands-wikileaks/.