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Public USB flash drives crop up in New York

Art meets functionality in a New York artist’s latest project. Aram Bartholl’s has installed five USB flash drives into New York building exteriors for public use. Bartholl is a resident artist for Eyebeam, an organization that promotes non-profit art and technology, and he describes the project as “an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space.” He refers to them and the project as “Dead Drops,” a term commonly used to describe a method of discreetly passing an item or information without person to person interaction.

In a video on his blog, Bartholl encourages the urban spread of Dead Drops. He even shows you how to with nothing more than a flash drive, some moisture resistant tape, a little cement, and any outdoor surface with a little space.

Aside to the novelty of seeing a giant brick building in Brooklyn with a flash drive peeking out of it, there is obviously the functional purpose. Users can insert laptops into the flash drive, which will deliver a “Read Me” file with some background information on Dead Drops. Then, you’re free to drop or retrieve any files you wish. Clearly, this device is not suitable for sharing private information.

It’s certainly an innovative idea, especially for a city where finding space at an Internet Café can be challenging. After the initial implementation of the project, Bartholl’s blog was inundated with interest in the concept, so don’t be surprised if you start to see flash drives wedged between cracks in your city’s buildings.

If you’re in the area, feel free to try out the first few Dead Drops: