The Future of Pranks

Blog Posts

Aviv Ovadya and the Coming “Infocalypse”

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, The Future of Pranks

In a far-ranging, frightening, and fascinating interview, Buzzfeed News catches up with engineer and tech prognosticator Aviv Ovadya, who anticipated the current scourge of “fake news” and says we haven’t seen anything yet.

“He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.”
By Charlie Warzel
February 11, 2018

In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse”

The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.

“At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, “we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn’t even see the car,” he said.

Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

But it’s what he sees coming next that will really scare the shit out of you. Read more.

Deepfake: AI-Assisted Porn

posted by
Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Prank News, The Future of Pranks

Hey! What’s my face doing on a porn star’s body?

Everything You Need To Know About The Face-Swap Technology That’s Sweeping The Internet (And Getting Banned Everywhere)
February 8, 2018

Gal Gadot’s face on someone else’s body. Image: Screenshot from SendVids

In the past couple of months, “deepfake” has gone from a nonsense word to a widely-used synonym for videos in which one person’s face is digitally grafted onto another person’s body. The most popular - and troubling - type of deepfake is artificially produced porn appearing to star famous actresses like Gal Gadot, Daisy Ridley and Scarlett Johansson. Sites like Reddit and Pornhub have made moves to ban pornographic deepfakes in recent days, but it’s never been easier for anyone with an internet connection to make disturbingly real-looking porn by mapping almost anyone’s face over those of porn performers. Here’s what you need to know.

‘Deepfake’ Celebrity Porn First Emerged In December

In an only somewhat hyperbolically titled article called “AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We’re All Fucked,” Motherboard’s Samantha Cole interviewed the first Redditor to post convincing face-swapped videos, who called himself “deepfakes.” (“Deepfake” which has since become a term used the doctored videos produced by the technology.) “Deepfakes” explained how he created a porn video appearing to star Gal Gadot. Read the rest here.

ART OF THE PRANK Movie to Air on Sky Arts in the UK

posted by
Filed under: Prank News, Pranksters, The Future of Pranks, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

ART OF THE PRANK on Sky Arts in the UK

September 18, 2017 at 12:20 am
September 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm
September 18, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Can Art Still Shock?

posted by
Filed under: The Future of Pranks, The History of Pranks

Is Grayson Perry right – can we no longer be outraged by art and literature? From Manet's Olympia to Pussy Riot and Houellebecq, Adam Thirlwell presents a short history of shock

Can art still shock?
by Adam Thirlwell
The Guardian
23 January 2015

Olympia by à‰douard Manet. Photograph: Corbis

Olympia by à‰douard Manet. Photograph: Corbis

For a long time, I've been nostalgic for the era of shock. It's with a certain fondness that I reflect on the crazed year of 1857, which began with Gustave Flaubert in court for his first novel, Madame Bovary (in the presence of a stenographer, hired by Flaubert, for the benefit of an incredulous posterity), followed, six months later, by Charles Baudelaire, on trial for his first book of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal. On both occasions, the unlucky prosecutor was Ernest Pinard, who lamented "this unhealthy fever which induces writers to portray everything, to describe everything, to say everything". The era of grand trials! Or if not trials, then scandales: like the first night of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in 1913, with its catcalling audience; or Duchamp's impish Fountain – his notorious urinal, signed by R Mutt, submitted to the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917, but rejected by its committee.

I was nostalgic because it seemed to me that shock was no longer possible. Or, perhaps more precisely, shock was no longer admissible. We are all, pronounced Grayson Perry, bohemians now – and therefore unshockable by art. And if this is true, it signals a grand and maybe melancholy shift in the nature of art, and in the relation of art to society. It also appears to me – considering, let's say, Pussy Riot and Ai Weiwei – a slightly provincial argument. And then came the attack on Charlie Hebdo. (more…)

Jumping the Snark

posted by
Filed under: Pranksters, The Future of Pranks, The Prank as Art

Jumping the Snark
by Dave Gilson
Mother Jones
November/December 2009

In an age of Yes Men, flash mobs, birthers, and fake pundits, is the prank dead?

Snark200What’s a good prank worth? How about $2 billion? That’s how much Dow Chemical’s stock value dipped in just 23 minutes on the morning of December 3, 2004, after its spokesman went on the BBC to announce that the company would make amends for the 1984 Bhopal toxic-gas disaster “simply because it’s the right thing to do.” (Dow had acquired Union Carbide, the original owner of the Bhopal chemical plant, in 1999.) Within the hour, the flack was exposed as one of the Yes Men, a duo that’s spent the past decade perfecting the art of anti-corporate trickery. The feat cemented their reputation as the world’s preeminent political pranksters (a reputation they recently reaffirmed by pranking the US Chamber of Commerce). It also proved that a punch line can occasionally pack a real punch.

The Bhopal stunt kicks off the pair’s new film, The Yes Men Fix the World, the follow-up to their self-titled 2004 movie. But don’t let the puffed-up title fool you into thinking that the Yes Men believe their hijinks are actually making the world a better place. A better title would have been The Prank Is Dead. (more…)

Wired’s Guide to Hoaxes

posted by
Filed under: Definitions, The Future of Pranks, Why Do a Prank?

Wired’s Guide to Hoaxes: How to Give - and Take - a Joke
Essay by Scott Brown, The Official Prankonomy by Steven Leckart
August 24, 2009

mf_hoax_f-200Here’s what you’ve been told: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” “Take or be taken.” “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” These aphorisms are so ingrained in American life, they’re practically commandments. And for good reason: We are a credulous people. For proof, open your spam folder and count the chain emails from 1998 that are still coming in, dutifully forwarded by friends and relatives. Or consider that new Facebook pal whose name seemed familiar enough when you hit Confirm. We are, today, the same easy marks who ran screaming from Orson Welles’ made-up Martians and flocked to see the Cardiff Giant. So we’re defensive. A hoax, we are taught, is an invasive, aggressive stratagem-a nefarious short-circuiting of our natural social instincts, a hack of Trust itself, a deterministic, zero-sum shell game with a clear winner (the prankster) and loser (the gull).

Well, here’s what we’re telling you: Bullshit. (more…)

Happy Birthday to The Art of the Prank (almost)!

posted by
Filed under: All About Pranks, The Future of Pranks, The Prank as Art

On April Fools’ Day 2009,
The Art of the Prank Blog
will be two years old!


Note to our contributors, friends and fans:
In celebration, we have moved the entire blog to a cloud server. This will help us accommodate more volume and more traffic. Since we’re making big changes, we decided to change our Web address at the same time. Why not cause the maximum confusion for the most people?

Henceforth, The Art of the Prank Blog will be found at
(instead of

Our new email addresses are:
admin @ to talk with us
submit @ to submit materials to the site

You can continue to count on us to bring you the profound, the profane, and the pathetic, that is — the widest spectrum of artful pranks; culture jamming & reality hacking; creative activism; literary, media & political hoaxes; truth that’s stranger than fiction; prank instructionals; and loads of practical jokes and mischief.

Please update your bookmarks and those of your friends’. If you are a subscriber, you don’t have to change anything. Email and RSS feed subscriptions should continue to function as usual. If you’d like to be a subscriber, please join us via email or RSS feed. You’ll find the subscription links on the right hand column of this page.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.

Alternative Ads: Pranking Goes Commercial

Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Media Literacy, The Future of Pranks

Advertisers are trying harder and harder to trick consumers with ads that mimic the work of pranksters, street artists and media activists. Going viral with your ad has become the brass ring, with customers doing all the heavy lifting (i.e., distributing these ad campaigns through YouTube, blogs and emails) for free for the advertisers.

It’s challenging to tell the difference between true guerrilla theater and this new trend of verité advertising. Here’s a hint: listen to the audio quality and watch for camera angles. Frequently, the main character who’s supposed to be the unsuspecting target of a joke is wearing a hidden microphone and there are at least three distinct camera angles, meaning it’s an expensive multi-camera shoot. If it sounds and looks too good to be true — it probably is.

Check out this article On Advertising: Alternative advertising to grab your attention, by Stephanie Clifford of the International Herald Tribune, August 3, 2008.

And, this viral commercial video submitted by Andrew Boyd yesterday:

Hidden Camera Penny Prank in Jewelry Store

This one, picked up from V. Vale’s RE/Search Newsletter, is just a regular German commercial, but fun (and viral) because of its shock value. (more…)

Blurring the Urban Canvas: Art & Advertising

posted by
Filed under: Media Literacy, The Future of Pranks

Guerrilla Art Versus Guerrilla Advertising:
What's the Difference?

by Delana
July 3, 2008

Not too long ago, walking along a city sidewalk would yield plenty of unique experiences in guerrilla art. Tags left by taggers who climbed into precarious positions, impromptu murals on the sides of buildings, and bizarre urban art installations were all a part of city life that some people admired and others considered a scourge.

Advertisements were clearly delineated, different and separate from art. They were easily recognizable as advertisements and no one expected them to be anything else.


Today, the urban environment includes not only separate instances of art and advertisements, but advertisements that look suspiciously like art. Guerrilla advertisements that use the familiar rough-edged look of graffiti – and others that use actual graffiti – are found now in cities around the world.

So what's the difference between guerrilla art and guerrilla advertisement? How can you differentiate when the lines between the two are blurred as they are?