“Almost no funding was used,” Stalbaum responds. “Less than $20 out of my own pocket for a domain name; this kind of work is inexpensive…. All of the software work I do for the Walkingtools.net Laboratory is technically owned by the university, but since this particular bit of code has no commercial value, we will be releasing it as open source software. It needs some cleanup and to be turned into a more general ‘Geo Marker’ skin...so that anyone can improve, re-skin and repurpose it.
“Also, I am going to get a purely demonstrational version working, one that does not attempt to store marks to a server. That will function as a speculative science-fiction app of a near future where apps that let communities discuss local dangers will become more and more common. That is fertile terrain, because we are only starting to have a conversation, and social realization, that almost nothing that we think is private actually is, and that our Constitution’s 18th-century ideas about public and private are inadequate to today’s technology.”
Stalbaum hopes to put out the new version of Gun Geo Marker by the end of the year. In his latest email, he is calling it a “digital sculpture representing the voices and faces of those who oppose community accountability for gun owners who, for example, store their guns unlocked in places where kids can easily play with them.
“I don’t think I could continue to enjoy my gun hobby if I were not involved in cleaning it up, too. And this kind of activism is what I know. The major barrier remaining is an insistence that reasonable gun laws represent a slippery slope toward some paranoid fantasies about the government seizing privately owned guns.”
Someone has to have the last word
What Loewenstein anticipates in the second phase of Stalbaum’s project is that he will use public comments on Gun Geo Marker to “berate or make fun of people who spoke out or acted out against it. Stalbaum characterizes those people as radical anti-gun-safety people. I certainly opposed his application, and I’m not a radical anti-gun-safety person at all.
“He is not only an artist but an electronic activist,” says Loewenstein, who notes that in 2009 Stalbaum helped create an app that allowed Mexican immigrants more easily find water as they crossed the border in desert areas. “He tries to make social statements through his art. But that appeared to be aiding and abetting an illegal activity.”
But what of the original Gun Geo Marker as a practical tool, an experiment that was so universally condemned when it appeared that its opponents snuffed it out immediately? “It’s pretty obvious,” says Loewenstein, “if you think about the issues, that the application could not have had any benefit in terms of safety. It was only an attempt to stir the pot on one side of the issue.”
Stalbaum asks me to invite Loewenstein to meet us for further discussion over a beer. It may yet happen.