Posts about research

Digital Art in Athens and beyond: a curator’s view

For Foteini Vergidou, 2020 was a milestone year for digital culture and contemporary art. Our new member is a curator, researcher, and project manager based in Athens. 

“2020 was a year of living online and I don’t know if there will be any difference between art and digital culture from now on.”

Her curatorial practice focuses on the impact of technological advancements on human relations, on human-machine relations, and between humans and their ecosystem. She explores issues related to cultural identity, climate change, surveillance, and big data.

We had a chance to speak with her about the current digital art scene of Athens and the value of digital media for contemporary artists. 

Foteini coworker member at Stone Soup

Exploring digital art: getting exposed to experiences abroad

Foteini represents a brain gain example. She obtained an MA in Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice from the Goldsmiths University of London. While studying she explored the contemporary art scene in London and indulged in her research interests before moving to Berlin to work in the iconic transmediale festival.  She stayed in Berlin for 3 years and worked as a gallery manager in DNA Berlin. Such an international and multicultural environment equipped her with an open mind towards work-related issues. As a result, living and working abroad made her realize that there is no center of experiences and no bipolar divisions between “us” and “them”.

She returned and settled in Athens in 2015. In that year,  Foteini worked as Coordinator and Project Manager for Kappatos Athens Art Residency Program. During this period, she collaborated with international artists such as Martin Creed, Roy Ascott, and Santiago Sierra. She also curated the Web Art exhibition category for the Athens Digital Arts Festival in Greece for the 11th and 12th editions. Most recently, she curated the Hysterophimia Pavilion, the Greek Pavilion for the 4th edition of The Wrong Digital Art Biennale (2019 – 2020) exploring the contemporary culture around Images, from selfies to big data. 

Since 2018, she has worked as Curatorial Advisor and Project Manager for the artist Kalliopi Lemos, developing research upon themes that center around migration, human rights, and gender injustice. At the same time, she worked on different projects in Athens and abroad promoting artists through digital media.

Online culture and physical community: two sides of a common goal

For Foteini, the experiences triggered and gained abroad can be developed in one’s own country. Physical and online interaction with audiences and other creative professionals, input and output of experiences, drive a successful exposure.

Thus, community and network building play an important part in her career. It is actually the first thing she advises every new artist to pursue through physical and digital media. On one hand, this is the reason she joined a coworking space. It offers a physical chance of socialization, necessary to bring together different perspectives and ideas among professionals. On the other hand, artists can achieve digital interconnectivity and exposure through investment in up-to-date online platforms and social media like Instagram. In the last few years, digital art and media became an upcoming field in Athens. The pandemic boosted this relatively new way of promotion and highlighted the importance of the transition to online representation.

Foteini coworker member at Stone Soup

Tips for new artists: digital platforms are the future

But how can an artist take advantage of the digital media available to promote their body of work? Foteini describes a few fruitful moves they can make: network building, social media, research in up-to-date websites, platforms, funding. An artist’s online presence should include a social media account, like Instagram, where they promote their artwork. Through this medium, their physical network can interact with them and give them feedback. 

Also, for Foteini the curative process is connected with a certain amount of research. Every exhibition is the result of a body of research that she deals with at a particular moment. Since 2017, she is an editor and writer at FerociousUrbanites.com, where she conducts research around issues that derive from our relation to technology. This is also an example of an up-to-date website with a strong focus on promoting Greek digital artists to an international audience. Browsing websites like this can offer artists and art lovers inspiration and information about online culture and digital art.

Since 2019, she is an active member of the TILT platform, bringing together creative people including artists, researchers, and theorists. She is always seeking collaboration with other professionals, coming often from diverse disciplines and practices, in order to develop synergies and joint projects. Her main goal is to conduct collective research, while forming an exhibition or a public intervention, in order to reveal different perspectives. The exhibition “Iasis” she curated for the TILT platform presented a body of work, artworks, educational seminars, and workshops, that investigated the political and social dimensions of global human activity. The TILT platform is an example of a network-building initiative for artists. Foteini compares it with a coworking space where members can interact and share their ideas and projects.

Foteini in an open coworking space

Picks ‘n tips for digital culture events & art-lovers

Foteini thinks that the contemporary Athenian cultural scene is experimental, as is the city itself. The pandemic has boosted the transition to online representation even though she agrees that there are limits. For example, both theatre and art exhibitions had to offer the audience an experience mediated by the Internet. Big and small institutions had to adapt to the new condition and the results are appealing to many. She points out that the initiatives to promote online culture from Onassis Foundation and the PCAI are worth “browsing”. Furthermore, digital media like Instagram are basic components of projects curated by 3137, an artist-run space in Athens. On the international side, she suggests visiting the  Top Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art) and the Overkill festival.

Foteini’s expertise as a curator is to manage all these tasks! And you are welcome to contact us and get in touch! She acts as a mediator between artistic expression and public perception. Nevertheless, she is a strong supporter of the “artist’s fee”, the payment that every creator must demand in exchange for the presentation of their work. She admits that the current focus on digital art, both in Athens and internationally, can pose new challenges for artists. Her advice to them is to always seek copyright and legal support before participating in online exhibitions.

Foteini in an open coworking space

“Always reinvent yourself and be adjustable”

This is what she learned and suggests to every art worker in the post-pandemic world. There is no need for a laptop if a creative professional pursues exposure and openness, values that she found in a coworking space. For her, coworking offers inspiration through interaction without the extra layer of workplace stress. And in these crazy times, a casual chat in a safe space can be more creative than ever!   

Most secure mobile devices: Apple or Android?

How secure your data is may depend on the mobile you use. Much has been said about choosing the right mobile phone for the needs of each user. Most people seem to tend to Android or iOS operating systems. But which is the safest operating system when it comes to protection against malware?

secure mobile

Malware and secure mobile devices

The most common method of importing phone spying software is by sending an SMS, which contains the malware. When the message is opened by the users, their devices have just been hacked! Another method is to transfer the program over Bluetooth. This method is often used by people who are spying on their relatives such as husbands who think that their wives are cheating on them. Once installed, the program logs every activity of the device.

If the user wishes to do so, he can intercept calls, SMS messages, MMSs, e-mails and all the files that the phone sends and receives. The user can also activate the GPS location service and therefore is able to know the phone’s position on the map – at all times. The software also gives the user full control over the device.

Apple mechanisms for secure mobiles

In data protection, Apple (iOS) has made the big difference. The security level of their devices is much higher than the others’. Factors that enhance the security of iOS devices are that the user cannot unlock the bootloader. In addition, a powerful malware protection mechanism is pre-installed on the device.

Also, due to the strict inspections that Apple makes on app-store applications, viruses are extremely rare to exist. In the past, malware incidents had been reported inside the app store, but the company was able to detect, remove them and achieve secure mobile devices.

From the 100 malwares that hackers create, 97 are made for Android and just 3 for iPhone.

Using iCloud protection against malware

ICloud is one of the major security mechanisms of iOS devices. In addition to its ability to store data, it secures the files of our device with a lock code which, even the most experienced hackers can’t crack. Furthermore, this lock, is not only applied on the device. Apple’s servers are informed that the iPhone with the specific IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is locked. Thus, the owner can lock it at any time or even remotely delete everything. Even if someone bypasses this security mechanism, the only thing they can do is to format the device. This means completely erasing the device’s data without the possibility of data retrieval.

Apple’s Surveillance Policy for mobile security

iOS

Apple, as a company seems to be really strict when it comes to cellphone spying even in extreme cases. A typical example was the investigation of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. When asked by the authorities to unlock a device, the response was: “The government is asking us to hack our own users and ruin many years of work on mobile phone security. This has no precedent in any American company and carries a huge risk of future attacks.”

iOS devices may undoubtedly be more difficult to use, especially for people who have never used them before, but the security benefits provided are worth the minimum time it takes for the new user to get familiar.

How to tell if someone is spying our mobile

When there is a malware installed on the phone, whether for spying on facebook conversations or for stealing credentials, it is just an application that uses resources. This means, that the phone’s processor has to execute more tasks, there is an increase in mobile data usage and an increase in battery usage. When the processor and battery are used to the maximum, the phone’s temperature usually rises.

secure mobile

Spying software sends the information collected over the internet. Thus, the usage of mobile data doubles. These indications can tell us if our device is infected with malware.

Spying on the spies

The methods for dealing with spying are often the same as spying is executed using software. The first method is to check the applications that are installed on the device. Any application that is not installed by the owner must be considered suspicious.

secure mobile

If the software is presented as a system application in order to avoid being detected, an online search for certified system applications of the device can give us the answer. Otherwise it is necessary to reset the phone to factory settings. This will erase all data and the mobile will return to its original secure state. Generally, if the origin of a file, message or application is not known, we should immediately delete it from our device or not download it at all.

Article written by Themis Georgiadis, Software engineer with expertise in web technologies.
Find a version of the article in Greek here

Ferryhopper: Enabling you to hop on any island you want!

We would like to focus this week on stories of Greek startup companies that inspire. Stories of teams coming up with new tech solutions to solve existing problems and manage to disrupt a whole industry.

It may not be easy to start a business, especially when it deals with new processes or technologies. Moreover, with so many successful examples coming from countries abroad, it can be discouraging always reading about companies thousands of miles away. However, the good news is that such stories are occurring right here in Athens too, and we would like to share one with you.

Ferryhoper: a new way to book your tickets for the Greek islands

We will introduce you to the story of Ferryhopper; one successful business that was founded right here in Athens, Greece.

Ferryhopper is a platform that allows travelers to find and purchase tickets from over 30 different ferry operators. Founded in 2016 by Christos Spatharakis, Vasileios Lahanas, Panagiotis Sarafis, and Aiden Short, the company has managed to sell over 200,000 tickets to over 160 destinations on its platform. At the forefront of the growing trend of the digitalization of travel services, the company seeks to revolutionize the way people travel by ferry.

Disrupting the tourism business

Ferryhopper currently operates from Stone Soup’s office space, and we are very excited to have them here with us and to get to know the team better. To understand how the team has achieved its successes, we had a conversation with Vasiliki, their marketing manager.

“It started out with four guys. Two of them were electrical engineers from NTUA, in Athens and they later met again in CERN during an internship.”

The four founders were avid travelers who found themselves constantly frustrated by the difficulties of traveling between islands in Greece. The team created Ferryhopper with the goal of developing a single platform that would streamline the island hopping process. They consolidated all of the ferry operators and developed an algorithm that allowed travelers to choose routes between islands, even if they were not directly connected. With an emphasis on providing great customer service and user experience, Ferryhopper allowed travelers to book tickets directly on the platform with no service fees.

As Christos explains, when entering a mature market filled with established players, without having prior experience or market experts amongst your team it is essential to focus on creating a solid product that solves an actual problem. What is also important is to find the right people for your team who are willing to explore solutions and experiment with novel ideas. In Ferryhopper’s case, once the platform was launched, they received more demand that what they projected – quickly validating their value propositions and paving the way towards receiving funding.

Securing Investments for their startup

As Ferryhopper scaled up over the years, the team began pitching their company to various investors. They received a 30,000 euro award from the Stelios Foundation, and more recently, they raised 600,000 euros through a funding round including Metavallon and easyGroup in 2018.

“Our procedure was to create a pitch deck, and approach some possible investors. It was time consuming because we wanted to create a very strong pitch and we wanted the investors to understand exactly what our product was about.”

Although the company faced challenges during the pitching process, it ultimately paid off as they were able to negotiate an amount and secure the final investment from Metavallon – an investment that will allow the company to further bolster its tech infrastructure and support its international expansion.

Advice for pitching your business

For many companies, particularly younger startups, pitching to investors can be a daunting endeavor. As demonstrated by Ferryhopper, this is a very involved process can take a long time, so it is extremely important to persevere and keep the end goal in mind. To help businesses who are interested in securing their own investments, Vasiliki also shares another tip:

“The perfect tip would be to meet people who could consult you, give you real-time advice, and provide feedback on your pitch decks. We have many incubators here in Athens, and a lot of people who have done this themselves and successfully received investments. You need to have somebody with experience that you can turn to.”

At Stone Soup, we offer such business advice. You may opt-in for the Open Office Hours. They are one-on-one sessions with experts in different fields. The sessions are free of charge and are open to all. Our objective is to share the knowledge beyond our walls and to strengthen the Digital Creative ecosystem in Athens.

What’s Next for the Greek startup?

As for what’s down the line for Ferryhopper, the company wants to continue adding new features to its platform and expanding its presence both at home and abroad.

“What we have in mind is an expansion towards the Mediterranean this summer. Not only Greece, but Italy, Spain, and more.”

What are you waiting for? Hop on to Ferryhopper’s website now to plan your summer vacation in the Mediterranean today. You never know, you might just get inspired to build something new!

Are coworking spaces designed for a specific type of user?

The answer would be absolutely not! But let’s see why…

When you search the web about coworking spaces, you get the impression that the typical users are freelancers and startups. However, what about the people who are in a transitional phase and are in the mood of trying out new things?

Last week we had an insightful conversation with Virginie Viel. After finishing her PhD thesis in exploring how visualisation can be used to compose music, Virginie decided to take a little break, and experiment how she could artistically express the same message through different human senses (hearing, vision and tasting). It is inspiring listening her to talk about her quest to explore the relationship between the visual sense and music.

“When I think of music, I do it visually. In the frame of a project, I am working on, I am thinking of musical pieces as abstract patterns and colorful sensation, which I depict in pieces of paper as rectangular or circles or other motives and try to express them afterwards into sound and music.”

Virginie is about to obtain her PhD in Electroacoustic composition from the De Montfort University, Leicester (UK). She has a diverse academic background in arts and experimental music and at the moment she is studying baking at EISF -CAP Pâtissier – CAP Boulangerremotely. She also loves to explore new countries and she has lived and studied in France, Belgium and Great Britain. While writing her PhD Thesis, she came to Greece seeking for a new cultural environment. Although she submitted her PhD in October 2018 and passed the viva in January 2019, she is still in Athens as she found a warmth towards the people she encountered here worth staying!

Experimenting on music and baking

Currently, she is engaging in a project that is related to music and baking! She uses music as an inspiration to create pastries and then she organizes tasting sessions. There, rather than the opportunity of eating itself, she invites people to acknowledge their impulsive desire to try the deserts, and then she encourages them to slow down a bit the eating process and feel the actual experience as if it was a wine tasting.

She decided to approach Stone Soup after spotting it online. Her idea was to find a dynamic place with lots of potentials in terms of meeting people, discussing about her project or even discovering some new ones. It is very likely that we will be announcing such workshops in the near future! So stay tuned!

Music workshop

Now, if you are interested in experiencing Virginie’s project or just to meet her, you may attend this music workshop on Sunday 3rd of March, organized by Giorgos Kokkinaris, Giorgos Mizithras and Nikoleta Chatzopoulou. During this evening you will encounter a tasting journey meant to satisfy and surprise your tasting buds as a piece of music does to the ears.

Are you interested to find out more?
You may find here Virginie’s website and have a closer look at her creative pastries here.