Artist of the Week – Aaron Swartz

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Aaron Swartz was born November 8th 1986 and was an American computer programer, entrepreneur, writer and an internet hacktivist.  His work focused on civic awareness and activism.  he was an outspoken advocate for freedom of information.  When he was 14 years of age he helped start the RSS feed system which many people use to read content online today.  He is also the co-founder of Reddit and created the organization Demand Progress which was beneficial in defeating the SOPA bill.

Unfortunately, Swartz died at the young age of 26.  He was faced with federal hacking and fraud charges for downloading millions of academic articles using MIT’s network.  He committed suicide while under these charges.  His family and closest friends have used his death to convey a message, turning the public’s sadness and anger to political purposes.

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Swartz participated in Rhizome.org’s “Seven on Seven” event at the New Museum, which pairs technologists with contemporary artists in the hope that they will create something new.  He was paired with Taryn Simons who is a photographer and installation artist.  Together they came up with the idea that eventually lead to Image Atlas which is a website that lays on in a visual list the top images for any term searched by country.

Even though Aaron Swartz is not an artist in the traditional sense, he used his creativity and imagination to write computer codes, create web pages and to build organizations on the internet.  I consider what he did with his skills to be art.  His activism and passion was his art.  He believed that information should be free to the public and that is what he died for.  Personally,  I always think theres something artistic for people who die for what they believe in.  After his death, the internet was outraged. His death challenged people’s perspective on the government and the fairness in our technological world.

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