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FleshFactor: WearCam; corporeal boundary; ...



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WearCam: corporeal boundary; tactical media as protective element


I've been a passive participant on this list for some time, enjoying
very much the high-quality and thoughtful depth of the postings.

Tom Sherman suggested that I jump in.  First I will introduce myself;
I'm an electrical engineer (e.g. scientist+inventor), but also am very
interested in the arts (in the sense of cultural engineering and the
like, more than in the sense of art-for-entertainment).  In
particular, I'm interested in the visual arts, most recently, with a
"surveillance situationist" approach to exploring what it means to
re-situate the camera in a disturbing and disorienting context in
order to challenge the pre-concieved notions of surveillance in our
society.

The analogy between weapons and media (this analogy was discussed, for
example, in the N5M conference) can easily be extended to the
principle of self-defense (personal safety).  The potential of the
protective nature of media, from a third-person perspective, has been
demonstrated in such examples as The Rodney King beating, so it is
easy to imagine how this protective nature could manifest itself from
the first-person perspective.

The old addage, "an armed society is a polite society", takes on new
meaning when an infinite supply of darkons
(http://n1nlf-1.media.mit.edu/theory_of_darkness.html)
can be summoned from the 'Net, as opposed to merely using a 35mm
semi-automatic (with, a magazine that can only hold 36 rounds of ammo
or so, which can also be siezed and exposed to light, thus destroying
the shots).

>collapse both distance and space (to the flesh)

My "existential computer" invention of the late 1970s (recently described
http://computer.org/pubs/computer/1997/0297toc.htm) forms the basis 
for this detournement of surveillance, in its collapsing of the
Internet onto the body, as both a communications (increased
connectivity) and defense (decreased connectivity) mechanism.

>to the rhythm of swing and the quirkiness of lounge.  Synthetic poly and
>rubber slides out of style, replaced by stepping out in rugged wool tweed
>and shiny 100% silk.  Some have even traded in keyboards and scratch
>tables for the alto-sax and string bass.
     "-j."   

(I'm thinking of a Harris tweed jacket, lined with a nice plastic hose
intertwined throughout, in which the coolant flows, so that I no
longer scorch my belly with the 133MHz 586 processors I currently have
in my undergarments.)

In particular, the first of its three properties {EUDAEMONIC,
EXISTENTIAL, EPHEMERAL} places it within the corporeal boundary of the
wearer so that it acts as a protective element in which its usage
or non-usage cannot be readily determined by observation.

>this monitor in front of me and the advantages offered by temporarily
>existing as a voice in time-collapsed-space,
>I am very
>very
>         very much like the humans before me.
                                                "-j."

Indeed, I live my "life through the screen", in some sense very much
like the filmmakers before me, who saw the camera as an extension of
their own body.  In some way my Eudaemonic Eye
(http://n1nlf-1.media.mit.edu/chi97-split0/) is not all that different
from the camera's perspective of Lady in the Lake, but on another
level, as it all gets smaller and smaller and disappears into the
clothing, a new era could be born where it all collapses onto the
flesh, and the flesh is the boundary between self and outside, and the
corporeal boundary becomes the prosthetic territory, and we'll be able
to walk into a Fry's Electronics store and they won't give you this
nonsense about not being allowed to take pictures and all that...

Foucault notes that Bentham's panopticon keeps prisoners on their best
behaviour at all times, and in many ways, our modern society is a
panopticon of sorts, for we are watched by the guard, yet don't see
the guard.  Furthermore, are promised "privacy" in the sense that
our neighbours can't see us.  We're promised that the video of us can
only be viewed by "good" people (e.g. police, teachers, politicians,
security guards, shopkeepers, priests, or the like), and promised that
"bad" people (you and I) will not have a chance to see the video.

WearCam was an attempt to turn Panopticon inside-out, and in this
sense, not only that citizens be on their best behaviour at all times,
but also that the "guards" (shopkeepers, etc.) be on their best
behaviour as well.  Furthermore, rather than making the video
available to a select few, the video is made available to (nearly)
all (e.g. http://n1nlf-1.media.mit.edu/shootingback.html).

In its final form, I created a large networked community of
"cyborgs" and "maybe cyborgs" to create an interrogative situation:
http://n1nlf-1.media.mit.edu/darkglass.html
http://wearcam.org/maybecamera.html

>inarguably fostering new methods for viewing culture and strategies of
>"existential" identity. I say "strategies" of identity because identity is
>a process, a continuous engagement with change.
     Paul Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky

The second criterion of the invention (EXISTENTIAL) was about
identity, and in particular, about self-determination and mastery over
one's own destiny.

In some sense, many of these performances and situations attempt to
scratch the soft underbelly of ownership of space, and touch on many
of the issues that artists like Paul Garrin have examined (e.g. in his
YUPPIE GHETTO WITH WATCHDOG) but the goal is to do this in the
situationist tradition of the real world as opposed to the gallery
setting.  Although the WWW page (wearcam.org) is a traditional gallery
(traditional in the sense that visitors are "entering" the gallery
with the intent of being an audience), the confrontations with
representatives of the surveillance superhighway are, I believe,
the more important part of this work.

Most notably, representatives of the surveillance superhighway absolve
themselves from responsibility by calling upon a higher and
unquestionable authority (e.g. "I trust you and know you'd never steal
from this store, but MY MANAGER installed the cameras").  When trying
to confront this higher authority, the manager might respond "I trust
you... but the directive came from head office" ---> "Our insurance
company requires it".  One director of security even told me (this is
part of my ShootingBack documentary video) "You should go after the
manufacturers, we only buy it (security products) because it's
available".

Another piece, "My Manager", was an attempt to extend the corporeal
boundary as well as serve as a negative example of where I wanted to
take my "existential (wearable) computer" invention, by having my
actions controlled remotely (in the Stelarc sense), by a higher and
unquestionable entity.  For this I created a company of sorts, and
rather than appointing myself as CEO or President, appointed myself as
the lowest of its clerks, for which I was assigned the task of running
errands.  In particular, I was required by My Manager to collect
photographic evidence of my errand having been completed.  Thus, upon
entering a department store, I might purchase a pencil, and use video
or film to document this purchase.  When confronted I might then
indicate "I really don't want to photograph you, but My Manager
requires me to do so, you see, she's really paranoid, and she thinks
shopkeepers are out to falsely accuse her employees of
shoplifting...".  This gave rise to my "reflectionist" philosophy, in
which I "hold a mirror" up to representatives of the surveillance
superhighway, so that they have the opportunity to see themselves.
In particular, a goal of reflectionism is to mirror the structure, and
cause those who can't see themselves otherwise, to reflect on their
state and to consider the impact of their actions or inacation (blind
obedience to a higher and unquestionable authority).  As Hamlet's
mirror lets society see itself, the reflectionist's mirror does
something similar, although by being an embodiment of that which it
criticizes (detournement).

>Today we see so many "miscarriages of Justice."  Lets not
>encourage miscarriages of reasoning as well.
     "-j."

Many stops on the surveillance superhighway are totalitarian in the
Davies sense (that is, they want to know everything about everyone yet
reveal nothing about themselves).  You can confirm this by taking a
35mm camera or the like into a department store or other place where
surveillance is used.  It seems that the more cameras they have the
more they are afraid of cameras.  (ShootingBack showed people
essentially saying that only criminals are concerned about cameras and
then showing great concern when I pointed a camera at them.)

Therefore, in My Manager, it is not surprising that people expressed
concern, but to address that concern, I have formulated the RFD (Request
for Deletion):

-----------------------------file insert------------------------------

REQUEST FOR DELETION (RFD)

In the interest of employee safety, our employees are required to wear
uniforms equipped with protective media to discourage others from
exposing them to dangerous situations or environments (e.g.
establishments where fire exits are chained shut illegally or the
like), or to falsely accuse our employees of crimes (such as
shoplifting and the like).

Our employee uniforms capture images, photometric measurements, and or
other measurement information and the like, which may have been and
may continue to be transmitted and recorded at remote locations.
Furthermore, our employees are required to document, via more
traditional photographic means, any incident in which there is a
perceived or suspected safety hazard, or any incident in which there
might be potential for a crime to be committed in the future (such as
when an employee presents a company credit card, when an employee
makes a purchase but is not given a receipt that provides proof of the
purchase such that a false shoplifting accusation could be
forthcoming, or when cash is being handled by one of our employees).
For YOUR protection, our employees are also required to photograph
each person they interact with, as well as maintain a recording of the
conversation, in order to pre-empt any disputes regarding return of
merchandise.

If you feel that one of our employees has documented something within
your establishment that you do not wish to remain on file in our image
archives, or if you feel that your likeness should not remain on file
in our archives you may submit a REQUEST FOR DELETION (RFD) to our
employee who will forward it to our Company Headquarters.

Your RFD, if properly completed in full, will be presented to a
committee, and a decision will be made as to whether to expunge said
image(s) or to flag said images as noteworty (e.g. by submitting an
RFD, you should be aware that it may in fact cause your likeness to be
flagged as suspicious or of special interest to the permanent
archives).



Part I:   Declaration of reason for RFD (please circle only one):

A  National security:
   You must be a government establishment or have government affiliation
   (such as government funding) to select this option.

B  Company confidential:
   B1: A trade secret has been inadvertently documented by our employee.
   B2: Strategic marketing plans have been inadvertently documented by
       our employee.
   B3: Other company confidential ____________________________________
   (please describe, use additional page if necessary)

C other _______________ (please describe, use additional page if necessary)


Part II:  Declaration of abstainence from willful destruction of evidence
          of a criminal act.

In recognition of the fact that measurement (photometric, radar, or
otherwise) data captured by our employee may comprise evidence, in the
context of a possible future criminal investigation against me or my
establishment, I, the undersigned, declare that my REQUEST FOR
DELETION is not for purposes of concealing criminal activity of myself
or of others in my establishment.

I assert that my RFD is not intended to hide criminal activity of any
kind occurring within my establishment, including, but not limited to
fire exits chained or otherwise fastened shut illegally, or criminal
activity of myself.  I further assert that my RFD is not for purposes
of concealing or destroying evidence of harrassment of a
representative of Personal Safety Devices (PSD), or to conceal
discrimination against a PSD employee.


Name: ______________________________


Social Security Number: _____________________________
(or other national identity #)

Signature: ___________________________


Right Thumb: +---------------+
             |               |
             |               |
             |               |
             |               |
             |               |
             |               |
             |               |
             |               |
             +---------------+

(PSD employee to assist in centering thumb print in box)


A NOTE ON PUBLIC SAFETY:

You should understand that public safety (including that of our
employees) is for YOUR benefit.  For example, by eliminating credit
card fraud, the credit card companies are able to continue to charge
lower profit margins, which increases your store profits.  As you are
well aware, your use of surveillance cameras has reduced costs and
benefits the customer (e.g. you often use the words "for YOUR
protection you are being videotaped").  We appreciate your concern for
your customers (us), and wish to return the gift of public safety to
your establishment, in a manner in which we can all benefit, through
the creation of a utopian world order of zero crime.


-----------------------------for PSD use only---------------------------
Image index and type (e.g. v000100.jpg to v000199.jpg, or v123.pic),
to be completed by PSD employee prior to submission to Company Headquarters

__________.jpg  to  __________.jpg    ______.pic   ______.mpg   ______.dat

__________.jpg  to  __________.jpg    ______.pic   ______.mpg   ______.dat

__________.jpg  to  __________.jpg    ______.pic   ______.mpg   ______.dat
(use additional page if necessary)

-----------------------------end file insert-----------------------------



Hoping this has been and will continue to be useful,


Steve Mann

<steve@media.mit.edu>

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