Mobile Surveillance

A mobile surveillance box which Duncan spied on his ride to the studio. This area might be a gathering place for day laborers to meet prospective employers. So, the question then is has this been installed to discourage them from gathering here? Has there been crime of some sort, beyond something that this rather conservative, law-and-order part of the world would call an illegal gathering, or loitering, despite the fact that such workers would be the ones to mend one’s fence or till one’s rose garden? This object was found here.

I’m not an out-and-out anti-surveillance person. I enjoy observations, especially one’s involving image-making. When you can’t have a conversation with the man behind the curtain, or the observations are not easily accessible for review, comment, dispute, etc., something may be quite wrong, then.

There are things that should be watched closely to make the place more habitable. For example, refugee camps where rape, murder and all things horrible happen should be watched the same way citizen patriots watch the US-Mexican border..but they’re not. The politics of surveillance are often always authoritarian and about control through observation. Things can be turned about, as they often are in order to disrupt the despotic eyeball, observing through a passive, psychological influence.

This thing, a mobile surveillance platform affixed to a far corner of a 7-11 parking lot, is a preposterous, laughable evil eye. It looks almost retro and steampunk — a hand-made affair that drives the comedy of its pathetic influence. It talks to you, which adds to the carnival. It’s got a bunch of off-the-shelf motion detectors bolted to each side that, I’m guessing, detect motion, set off a timer and then belt out a canned, recorded announcement of warning…warning…you have been observed…the authorities have been notified, which sent me into tears of laughter. I felt like I was confronting a home-made RoboCop, built with whatever scraps could be found at the local Radio Shack. @kurt wondered whether you could pop on a set of tires and tow the thing off before anyone knew, which would be hysterical if only to imagine what the “home base” operator would see from their hatch-like monitoring station. Not that I’d do it, of course, but in my imagination — I’d even go through the trouble to gin up a power source so that the kit would keep running. Err…but maybe there’s a tiny man in the box, like the guys who live in small trailers at construction sites to watch over them?

Why do I blog this? A curious, irresistible assemblage of crappy DIY surveillance that just was begging to be taunted. I’m so happy it talks, I just may have to go back and interact with it/him again. It’s like an old, urban robot in this century, made of wood and with an axle for wheel-born mobility. Proto, or Neo RoboCop sort of stuff. could be Interactive Art, even. Maybe a thesis project is lurking behind this, complete with a faux company website!
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Flat Tires and Thoughtless Acts

Do flat tires make the unlocked bicycle in the top photo less likely to be stolen? Does the fact that the owner of the bicycle in the bottom photo locked their bike make it more likely to be stripped nearly bare for its handlebars, rear tire and transmission, seat, brake cables, brake clampy-things-that-clamp-the-front-rims-to-stop-the-bike? And then, having created a rough-shod atmosphere of general decline and environment of come-what-may, does the bicycle locking post become more suited as an improvised, “thoughtless acts” style trash recepticle, seeing as it has not fulfilled its job of deterring theft and mitigating destruction?

Just asking.
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Safety In A Ubicomp World

Timo et al Mediamatic have created a superb physical instantiation of safety in an era when the network leaks rather perniciously into the physical world. Their RFID safe enclosure protects your near-field communication objects from being scanned by faulty equipment or data muggers discretely consuming the swarms of RFID krill floating around most alpha tier urban centers. A lovely instantiation to help think through how people’s concerns around safety, security and trust always seem to leave opportunities for the always entrepreneurial accessories marketplace.

Well done.
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Signs of Local Pride


A few interesting contrasts here. This is the sort of expression of familial/local pride that seems particularly New England-y, not to mention the fascinating and huge Safe and Vault store. The contrast of material, rather than digital, protected storage is curious, and the fact that there is a store to sell vaults and such reminds us that the ephemeral world of bits and atoms still has some material anchorages, whether protecting data centers, or other material — disks or flash storage USB sticks, they are all still material objects.

The other thing of course is the sign that a grandmother — perhaps owner of the store — has placed in the window, telling passersby that her granddaughter will be competing at the Beijing Olympics this summer. I was struck at the contrast between the pride of the grandmother and its expression in a rather rag-tag sign.
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Security in Peru is all over the place. I don’t know much about the history of things that may cause security concerns — I can imagine — but it’s like driving through a neighborhood with lots of bars on residence windows and security grates in front of retailers. Here, police and militia toting automatic weapons tell their own story.