DREW HEMMENT AND ANDREW CLEMENT: The Ethics of Surveillance Space

New Sciences of Protection Conference: Theme Panel 4 with Drew Hemment ‘Loca: Location orientated Critical Art’ and Andrew Clement ‘Total Transparency Solutions Inc’

Drew Hemment introduced the work of ‘Loca,’ or location orientated critical art (http://www.loca-lab.org/). Loca is an artistic practice which seeks to explore the often ambiguous ethical implications of pervasive surveillance. It “looks at what happens when it is easy for everyone to track everyone, when surveillance can be effected by consumer level technology within peer-to-peer networks without being routed through a central point.” We could say that, following John McGrath, Loca seeks to stimulate reflection not on whether we want to inhabit ‘surveillance space’(for we already do), but on how we want to inhabit it.

Andrew Clement’s ‘Total Transparency Solutions’ also probes the ethical implications of inhabiting surveillance space, a space which is neither public, nor private. In particular, and as the name suggests, Total Transparency Solutions addresses the problem of transparency for the ethics of surveillance space. Relations of visibility in surveillance space are often asymmetrical, with the watched not usually being able to see the watchers. Total Transparency Solutions, who also provided the ID card scheme and safety infrastructure for the New Sciences of Protection Conference, argue that without the symmetrical visibility of watcher and watched surveillance space faces a crisis of legitimacy. They seek to address imbalances in transparency and accountability through the use of public signs like the ones below. In the absence of such ‘checks and balances’ the stratifications of surveillance space – the social sorting effected by surveillance – are without justification. It could be argued that, following Lincoln’s famous maxim for representational government, Total Transparency Solutions propose a kind of surveillance of the people, for the people, by the people.

Thank you to our fabulous Joseph Rigby for this great summary

Surveillance for Safe Living: Beyond the dystopian critique?

New Sciences of Protection Conference: Theme Panel 3 ‘Surveillance for Safe Living’ with Andrew Clement, Charles D Raab, Clive Norris, Lucas Introna and David Murakami Wood.

Members of the Surveillance Studies Network, an international network of researchers dedicated to tracing and analysing developments in surveillance technologies and practice, discussed the role of surveillance in contemporary designs for safe living. Charles D Raab opened the proceedings with a summary of the concept of ‘the safety state’ and a diagnosis of the state of safety. He argued that social practices and policy are today evaluated in terms of safety and security above all else, engendering pre-emptive and precautionary classifications and surveillance techniques. Clive Norris asked what it is about the contemporary culture of CCTV which sustains our faith in it, despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that it is almost wholly ineffectual in preventing or detecting crime. Lucas Introna highlighted the centrality of algorithms to contemporary surveillance practices such as facial recognition systems. He urged that if we are to understand surveillance as social sorting then further work needs to be done on the social production of algorithms, on how already existing categories for social sorting are written into the very programs used in surveillance systems. Finally David Murakami Wood pointed to the importance of understanding the different scales of surveillance and how these feed in to designs for safe living at the global, transnational, national, urban, individual and bodily levels. The panel discussed the problems of transparency and accountability in highly technologized surveillance systems. Interestingly the discussion moved on to the problem of how to present critical dialogues on surveillance practices without generating fear. To maintain its coherence the critique of surveillance must avoid contributing to the accumulation of fear, precisely because fear is the source of justifications and legitimisations for the intensification of surveillance. This is a particularly acute problem since much critique of surveillance struggles to escape the form of a dystopian warning.

Thank you to Joseph Rigby who created this fabulous summary

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.

Strange Culture at the Designing Safe Living conference

Next month during the Designing Safe Living conference in Lancaster, director Lynn Hershman-Leeson‘s film about the artist Steve Kurtz called ‘Strange Culture’ will be screened on Friday, July 11th. Lynn will then be giving an interview live on Second Life after the screening.

Strange Culture examines the case of artist and professor Steve Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE). The work of Kurtz and other CAE members dealt with genetically modified food and other issues of science and public policy. After his wife, Hope, died of heart failure, paramedics arrived and became suspicious when they noticed petri dishes and other scientific equipment related to Kurtz’s art in his home. They summoned the FBI, who detained Kurtz within hours on suspicion of bioterrorism.

As Kurtz could not legally talk about the case, the film uses actors to interpret the story, as well as interviews with Kurtz and other figures involved in the case. Through a combination of dramatic reenactment, news footage, animation, and testimonials, the film scrutinizes post-9/11 paranoia and suggests that Kurtz was targeted because his work questions government policies. At the film’s close, Kurtz and his long-time collaborator Dr. Robert Ferrell, former chair of the Genetics Department at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, await a trial date.

As of late May, 2008, the Buffalo Prosecutor has declined to reopen the case within the 30 day window in which he was allowed to do so. So, Steve Kurtz is free.

Japanese cigarette machines now become savvy face recognition vendors

  • A Japanese company is developing a vending machine that counts wrinkles and skin sags to check a smoker’s age. The machines are equipped with a digital camera that can compare users’ facial characteristics with a database of more than 100,000 people.From July Japan’s existing 570,000 cigarette vending machines will require users to insert a smart card proving they are old enough to smoke. “With face recognition, as long as you are an adult and have some change, you’ll be able to buy cigarettes as before,” Hajime Yamamoto, a Fujitaka spokesman, said.

Locating Social Reponsibility: CCTV & Public Space

Jamie Bulger on CCTV

Department of Psychology, Lancaster University – Mark Levine and John Dixon

ABSTRACT:This paper will present data from a Home Office funded study of the impact of public order measures like CCTV surveillance and street drinking legislation on social relations in public space. The focus of the research was the town square in Lancaster city centre. Data comprised a survey (n=808) and in-situ interviews (n= 59) with users of the town square including teenagers, mothers with young children, homeless people, travellers, commercial workers and the elderly. The paper will concentrate on one emergent property of the analysis. Where most public order research focuses on concepts of ‘risk’ and ‘trust’, we explore the impact of CCTV surveillance on ideas of social responsibility. In particular, we present evidence that support for CCTV is related to lower feelings of responsibility for the welfare of others who might be co-present in public space. We consider this in terms of the idea of diffusion of responsibility to the CCTV apparatus. We also examine, against a background of high levels of support for CCTV, the tensions between ideas of freedom and accountability that are revealed in talk about that support. We draw these out by comparing and contrasting talk about CCTV cameras with talk about speed (Gatso) cameras.

A link to miquel mora’s Identity Protection System (IDPS) project

Download Mark & John’s presentation> Locating Social Reponsibility: CCTV & Public Space ppt

Design -Introductory workshop – 4-5 Oct 2007 – Day 2

Gerd Kortuem (Computing, Lancaster University)

Reporting on a collaborative project (Nemo) that uses pervasive sensing technologies for industrial environments. We all work on computers, but many other people work physically. For instance, vibration exposure is a serious problem. It can lead to ‘vibration white finger.’ How can technology be brought in to improve the current practice? Understanding the organizational context requires an inter-disciplinary approach. The project has introduced technologies that measure vibration for individuals. They indicate when people have exceeded their daily limit. There is a whole system that streams the information all the way back to the enterprise using wireless networking. This is an elaborate surveillance system. Case studies of workplaces at different sites have been used. Video prototypes of technologies were shown to managers and others. What was learnt? Vibration is like smoking: action is difficult to connect to effects. So making visible the information collected is really valuable. People often don’t use safety equipment because it makes them feel work. So invisibility of the technology could be a goal of the system. Learning from other people might be more important than rules imposed from the top down. Who are we designing for anyway? The organisation, the worker, etc? What are we designing for? Protection, enforcement or empowerment? Finally, there is the question of surveillance and panoptic effects [see image below]. How to avoid this? We do do this, but try to anticipate the impacts of the technology. Informed design will hopefully make a difference to this.

panopticon

The panopticon: A type of prison design in 1700s by Jeremy Bantham that allowed observers to observe prisoners without them being able to tell if they are being observed or not. Creating permanent sense of paranoia and invisible omnipresence.