New Zealand's first Dead Drop kicks off

16:00, Jan 17 2011
Dead Drop
INFORMATION PICKUP: Data is downloaded onto a laptop from a Dead Drop USB stick cemented into a wall in Manchester Street, left. The stick, above, New Zealand's first was created by someone with the internet name Tokala.

Want to do something silly with your laptop computer?

Connect it to a USB stick drive mortared into a wall somewhere in central Christchurch and download whatever might be on the computer data storage device – silly jokes, homemade videos, computer viruses ... pornography.

Called Dead Drops, the activity is the brainchild of Berlin-based media artist Aram Bartholl, who started the project during his time as an artist-in-residence in New York City in October.

The Christchurch Dead Drop – New Zealand's first – was created by someone with the internet name Tokala.

The Press plugged a laptop into Tokala's USB stick yesterday and downloaded, wait for it, four text files of middling interest and not a single racy photo, video or even a decent virus.

A Toronto Dead Drop by comparison included "a rather interesting list of fictional drug use in movies ... and a guide on how to make a homemade stun glove using a disposable camera".


There were also 45 photos, many of "half-naked women or porn".

The Press may have been the first to connect to the 1 gigabyte Christchurch drive.

One of the downloaded text files comprises the "Dead Drops Manifesto" and asserts: "A Dead Drop is a naked piece of passively powered Universal Serial Bus technology embedded into the city, the only true public space. In an era of ... fancy new devices ... we need to rethink the freedom and distribution of data."

Dead Drop users are also invited to upload whatever they want to the USB stick drive – hence the danger that a laptop might be infected with something odious.

Just because we could, The Press uploaded a Flickr photo of a young woman warming her backside on a hob, titled Cold Outside.

Bartholl's website,, includes video instructions on how to mortar a USB stick drive into a wall – find a hole, affix the stick using "fast-setting concrete", make the wall "look nice afterwards" and submit the location to the website for others to find.

There were 134 Dead Drops around the world as of yesterday, most in Europe and two in Australia. Dead drops have been used in espionage to transmit information between, say, a spy and his handler. One would leave a package in a public place for the other to pick up some other time.

The Press laptop was to be scrubbed clean by the IT department before being redeployed.

The Press