LUCY SUCHMAN AND PATRICIA CLOUGH: ‘Action-at-a-distance,’ or the ideology of safe living design

Yes Men’s Survivaball

New Sciences of Protection Conference: Plenary 2 with Lucy Suchman (Making Deign Safe for Living) and Patricia Clough (Scenes of Secrecy, Scales of Hope).

Lucy Suchman and Patricia Clough both explored the implications which the new sciences of protection have for our understandings of intimacy and human contact. Amongst other things they discussed proposals to fit anti-terror cameras in airline seats, the unmanned surveillance and combat drones currently deployed in Afghanistan, and changing modes of population management in Carona, Queens, New York. The central theoretical problem was how contemporary designs for safe living, which increasingly facilitate, and rely upon, the coordination of action-at-a-distance, are reconfiguring the relationship between intimacy and power. Remotely-controlled unmanned drones in Afghanistan keep soldiers bodies safe and simultaneously extend the combative capacities of these bodies. Those proposing the installation of anti-terror cameras in airline seats boast how new technologies allow for the surveillance of ‘mood,’ a system which could purportedly detect anxiety in a would-be-terrorist and alert the appropriate personnel. The panel tried to de-mythologize the design of ‘action-at-a-distance’ by showing how action at a distance is always also an affection of intimacy through distance. Power relations always require intimacy, ‘touching’ in one form or another, be it subtle coercion or explicit duress. The panel discussed how the mythology of ‘action at a distance’ is perhaps the ultimate ideological support for various designs for safe living, effectively separating the experience of safe living from both its consequences and real foundations.

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Strange Culture: miniclip

Ghost Bikes

Just 5 minutes from where I live is a ghost bike: a painted white bicycle that has been locked to a fence to act as a memorial to a recent bike fatality in the area. I ride past it every day and every time I see it I am extremely aware of how easy it is to be destroyed by an oncoming vehicle. It is disturbing but a moving gesture of remembrance and warning to all those on the road and not just to cyclists. The idea of the ghost bike memorial has its roots in St. Louis, Missouri since 2003. The ghostbike.org site it is intended to act as a meeting point for discussion and locates incidents in various cities around the world and was set up by the NYC Street Memorial Project. It is a space where those lost on dangerous streets can be remembered by their loved ones, members of their local communities, and others from around the world. They hope to inspire more people to start installing ghost bikes in their communities and to initiate changes that will make it safer to travel on the streets.

Workshop 5: Extreme Green Guerrillas by Michiko Nitta

Michiko Nitta graduated from the MA Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art in 2007 and presented her recent work of the Extreme Green Guerrillas (EGGs).

Her starting points for this work came from the fact that environmental damage is extreme and the ordinary green people are in fear from upcoming disaster but the extreme green people are activists who use fear yet still are locked into the consumer cycle. The current green solutions are not working and we are only making tiny steps forward: they are hypocritical green solutions. The EGGs try to go beyond human consumerism and create their own amateur self sustaining collective. Extreme to save the earth, enjoy good quality of life.

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