Architecture, urbanism, design and behaviour: a brief review by Dan

by Dan Lockton Hollywood & Highland mall

Continuing the meta-auto-behaviour-change effort started here, I’m publishing a few extracts from my PhD thesis as I write it up (mostly from the literature review, and before any rigorous editing) as blog posts over the next few months. The idea of how architecture can be used to influence behaviour was central to this blog when it started, and so it's pleasing to revisit it, even if makes me realise how little I still know.

“There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives.” Winston Churchill, addressing the English Architectural Association, 1924

In designing and constructing environments in which people live and work, architects and planners are necessarily involved in influencing human behaviour. While Sommer (1969, p.3) asserted that the architect “in his training and practice, learns to look at buildings without people in them,” it is clear that from, for example, Howard's Garden Cities of To-morrow (1902), through Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine and La Ville radieuse, to the Smithsons' 'Streets in the sky', there has been a long-standing thread of recognition that the way people live their lives is directly linked to the designed environments in which they live. Whether the explicit intention to influence behaviour drives the design process—architectural determinism (Broady, 1966: see future blog post ‘POSIWID and determinism’)—or whether the behaviour consequences of design decisions are only revealed and considered as part of a post-occupancy evaluation (e.g. Zeisel, 2006) or by social scientists or psychologists studying the impact of a development, there are links between the design of the built environment and our behaviour, both individually and socially. Where there is an explicit intention to influence behaviour, the intended behaviours could relate (for example) to directing people for strategic reasons, or providing a particular ‘experience’, or for health and safety reasons, but they are often focused on influencing social interaction. Hillier et al (1987, p.233) find that “spatial layout in itself generates a field of probabilistic encounter, with structural properties that vary with the syntax of the layout.” Ittelson et al (1974, p.358) suggest that “All buildings imply at least some form of social activity stemming from both their intended function and the random encounters they may generate. The arrangement of partitions, rooms, doors, windows, and hallways serves to encourage or hinder communication and, to this extent, affects social interaction. This can occur at any number of levels and the designer is clearly in control to the degree that he plans the contact points and lanes of access where people come together. He might also, although with perhaps less assurance, decide on the desirability of such contact.”

“Designers often aspire to do more than simply create buildings that are new, functional and attractive—they promise that a new environment will change behaviours and attitudes” (Marmot, 2002, p.252). Where architects expressly announce their intentions and ability to influence behaviour, such as in Danish firm 3XN’s exhibition and book Mind Your Behaviour (3XN, 2010), the behaviours intended and techniques used can range from broad, high-level aspirational strategies such as communal areas “creating the potential for involvement, interaction and knowledge sharing” in a workplace (3XN, 2010) to specific tactics, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s occasional use of “very confining corridors” for people to walk along “so that when they entered an open space the openness and light would enhance their experience” (Ittelson et al, 1974, p.346). An appreciation of both broad strategies and specific tactics is valuable: from the perspective of a designer whose agency may only extend to redesign of certain elements of a space, product or interface, it is the specific tactical techniques which are likely to be the most immediately applicable, but the broader guiding strategies can help set the vision in the first place. For example, the ‘conditions for city diversity’ outlined by Jacobs (1961)—broad strategies for understanding aspects of urban behaviour—have influenced generations of urbanists.

Following the influence of Christopher Alexander (Alexander et al, 1975, 1977; Alexander, 1979), such strategies and tactics may be expressed architecturally in terms of patterns, which describe “a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice” (Alexander et al, 1977). The concept of patterns, and Alexander et al’s A Pattern Language (1977) will be examined in detail in a future thesis extract, for their form, philosophy and impact, but, as an example, it is worth drawing out a few of the patterns which actually address directly influencing behaviour architecturally (Table 1). Among others, Frederick (2007) and Day (2002) both also outline a range of architectural patterns, some with similarities to Alexander et al’s, including some specifically relating to influencing behaviour.

Chepstow, Monmouthshire Two examples of pattern 53? Chepstow, Monmouthshire (restored 1524) and Philips High Tech Campus, Eindhoven (c.2000) Gateway at Philips High Tech Campus, Eindhoven

Table 1. Summaries of a few of Alexander et al’s patterns (1977) which specifically address influencing behaviour, simplified into ‘ends’ and ‘means’.





Activity nodes

To “create concentrations of people in a community”

Facilities must be grouped densely round very small public squares which can function as nodes—with all pedestrian movement in the community organized to pass through these nodes”


Main gateways

To influence inhabitants of a part of a town to identify it as a distinct entity

Mark every boundary in the city which has important human meaning—the boundary of a building cluster, a neighborhood, a precinct—by great gateways where the major entering paths cross the boundary”


Connected play

To “support the formation of spontaneous play groups” for children

Lay out common land, paths, gardens and bridges so that groups of at least 64 households are connected by a swath of land that does not cross traffic. Establish this land as the connected play space for the children in these households”


Farmhouse kitchen

To help “all the members of the family… to accept, fully, the fact that taking care of themselves by cooking is as much a part of life as taking care of themselves by eating

Make the kitchen bigger than usual, big enough to include the ‘family room’ space, and place it near the center of the commons, not so far back in the house as an ordinary kitchen. Make it large enough to hold a good table and chairs, some soft and some hard, with counters and stove and sink around the edge of the room; and make it a bright and comfortable room”


Small meeting rooms

To encourage smaller group meetings, which encourage people to contribute and make their point of view heard

Make at least 70 per cent of all meeting rooms really small—for 12 people or less. Locate them in the most public parts of the building, evenly scattered among the workplaces”

Layout of physical elements

Practically, most architectural patterns for influencing behaviour involve, in one way or another, the physical arrangement of building elements—inside or outside—or a change in material properties. In each case, there is the possibility of changing people’s perceptions of what behaviour is possible or appropriate, and the possibility of actually forcing some behaviour to occur or not occur (see future article ‘Affordances, constraints and choice architecture’). These are not independent alternatives: the perception that some behaviour is possible or impossible can be a result of learning ‘the hard way’ in the past.

Barrier on the London Underground preventing running down stairs onto track Barrier on the London Underground (Baker Street, from memory), preventing people running down stairs directly onto the track. Most stairs don't open straight onto the platform like this.

The physical arrangement of elements can be broken down into different aspects of positioning and layout—putting elements in particular places to encourage or discourage people’s interaction with them, putting them in people’s way to prevent access to somewhere, putting them either side of people to channel or direct them in a particular way (e.g. staggered pedestrian crossings which aim to direct pedestrians to face oncoming traffic; Department for Transport, 1995), hiding them to remove the perception that they are there, splitting elements up or combining them so that they can be used by different numbers of people at once, or angling them so that some actions are easier than others (termed slanty design by Beale (2007), both physically and in metaphorical application in interfaces). Urbanists such as Whyte (1980) have catalogued, in colourful, intricate detail the effects that the layouts and features of built environments have on people’s behaviour—why some areas become popular, others not so, with whom, and why, with recommendations for how to improve things, in contrast to work such as Goffman (1963) which focuses on the social contexts of public behaviour in urban environments.

The layouts of shops, hotels, casinos and theme parks, especially larger developments where there is scope to plan more ambitiously, can also make use of multiple aspects of positioning and layout to influence and control shoppers’ paths—Stenebo (2010) discusses IKEA’s carefully planned (and continually refined) “fairyland of adventures” which routes visitors through the store; Shearing and Stenning (1984) examine how Disney World embeds “[c]ontrol strategies in both environmental features and structural relations,” many to do with positioning of physical features; while Underhill (1999, 2004), formerly one of Whyte’s students, describes how his company, Envirosell, uses observation approach to understand and redesign shopping behaviour across a wide range of store types and shopping malls themselves, much of which comes down to intelligently repositioning elements such as mirrors, basket stacks, signage and seating. Poundstone (2010) cites a study by Sorensen Associates which used active RFID tags fitted to shopping trolleys to determine that US shoppers taking an anticlockwise route around supermarkets spend on average $2.00 more per trip; the suggestion is that stores with the entrance on the right will be more likely to prompt this anticlockwise movement.

Changes in material properties can involve drawing attention to particular behaviour (e.g. rumble strips on a road to encourage drivers to slow down: Harvey, 1992), or making it more or less comfortable to do an activity (e.g., as Katyal (2002, p.1043) notes, “fast food restaurants use hard chairs that quickly grow uncomfortable so that customers rapidly turn over”). The application of some of these physical positioning and layout and material property ideas to a particular social issue is described in the blog post 'Towards a Design with Intent method v.0.1' from 2008.

Some seating at Wessex Water's HQ, Bath

Often combining positioning and material properties, the effect of different seating types and layouts on behaviour comprises a significant area of study in itself, with, for example, work by Steinzor (1950), Hearn (1957), Sommer (1969) and Koneya (1976) helping to establish patterns of likely interaction between people occurring with arrangements of chairs around tables, and overall room layouts in classrooms and mental hospitals. Sommer’s design intervention in the dayroom of an elderly ladies’ ward at a state hospital in Canada—by reducing the number of couches around the walls and adding tables and chairs in the centre of the room, with flowers and magazines—led to major increases in the amount of conversation and interaction between residents.

Seating at LAX

Osmond (1959) introduced the terms sociofugal and sociopetal to describe spaces which drive people apart and together, respectively; Sommer (1969, 1974) notes that airports are often among the most sociofugal spaces, largely because of the fixed, single-direction seating and “sterile” decor: “Many other buildings… such as mental hospitals and jails, also discourage contact between people, but none does this as effectively as the airport… In practice the long corridors and the cold, bare waiting areas of the typical airport are more sociofugal than the isolation wing of the state penitentiary.” (Sommer, 1974: p.72). Hall’s concept of proxemics (e.g. Hall, 1966) provides a treatment of personal space, its effects on behaviour, and its significance in different physical spaces as well as in different cultures. The different ‘distance zones’ identified by Hall—intimate, personal, social and public—have implications for the design process: “If one looks at human beings in the way that the early slave traders did, conceiving of their space requirements simply in terms of the limits of the body, one pays very little attention to the effects of crowding. If, however, one sees man surrounded by a series of invisible bubbles which have measurable dimensions, architecture can be seen in a new light. It is then possible to conceive that people can be cramped by the spaces in which they have to live and work. They may find themselves forced into behavior, relationships or emotional outlets that are overly stressful” (Hall, 1966, p.129).

Trellick Tower from the Great Western Main Line

Emergence, desire lines and predicting behaviour

“All buildings are predictions. All predictions are wrong”. Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn, 1994, p. 178.

“I built skyscrapers for people to live in there and now they messed them up—disgusting”. Ernő Goldfinger, commenting on tabloid reports of violent crime in the Trellick Tower, above (quoted in Open University, 2001)

In How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand (1994) contrasts ‘Low Road’ architecture designed to permit adaptation by users, with visionary ‘High Road’ architectural plans which seek to define at the design stage the future behaviour and lifestyles of buildings’ users. High Road plans often ‘fail’ in this sense, unable to anticipate future needs or usage patterns (as Ittelson et al (1974, p. 357) put it, “we are all living in the relics of the past”), while Low Road architecture can cope with changing requirements, appropriation (Salovaara, 2008) and emergent behaviour. The stereotype of architect as a 'High Road' planner—perhaps living in the penthouse at the top of the tower block he has designed—resonates in both fact (e.g. Ernő Goldfinger's comment quoted above) and fiction (e.g. Anthony Royal in J.G. Ballard's High Rise (1975).*

The parallels of the the High/Low Road approaches with the design and use of other systems—in particular software, but perhaps also economic and political systems in general—are evident throughout Brand’s book, although never explicitly stated as such; there are also parallels in planning at a level above that of buildings themselves, such as the clash in New York (Flint, 2009) between the bottom-up approach to urbanism favoured by Jacobs (1961) and the top-down approach of Robert Moses. While it will unfortunately not be considered in detail in this thesis, the emerging power of ubiquitous computing, when integrated intelligently into physical space—"city as operating system" (Gittins, 2007)—could permit a kind of Low Road 'read/write urbanism' (Greenfield & Shepard, 2007) in which the 'city users' themselves are able to augment and alter the meanings, affordances and even fabrics of their surroundings.

A cowpath at Brunel A desire path or cowpath is forming across this grass area in the John Crank memorial garden, Brunel University...

One emergent behaviour-related concept arising from architecture and planning which has also found application in human-computer interaction is the idea of desire lines, desire paths or cowpaths. The usual current use of the term (often attributed, although apparently in error, to Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1964)) is to describe paths worn by pedestrians across spaces such as parks, between buildings or to avoid obstacles—“the foot-worn paths that sometimes appear in a landscape over time” (Mathes, 2004) and which become self-reinforcing as subsequent generations of pedestrians follow what becomes an obvious path. Throgmorton & Eckstein (2000) also discuss Chicago transportation engineers’ use of ‘desire lines’ to describe maps of straight-line origin-to-destination journeys across the city, in the process revealing assumptions about the public’s ‘desire’ to undertake these journeys. In either sense, desire lines (along with use-marks (Burns, 2007)) could perhaps, using economic terminology, be seen as a form of revealed user preference (Beshears et al, 2008) or at least revealed choice, with a substantial normative quality.

As such, there is potential for observing the formation of desire lines and then ‘codifying’ them in order to provide paths that users actually need, rather than what is assumed they will need. As Myhill (2004) puts it, “[a]n optimal way to design pathways in accordance with natural human behaviour, is to not design them at all. Simply plant grass seed and let the erosion inform you about where the paths need to be. Stories abound of university campuses being constructed without any pathways to them.” Myhill goes on to suggest that companies which apply this idea in the design of goods and services, designing systems to permit desire lines to emerge and then paying attention to them, will succeed in a process of ‘Normanian Natural Selection’ (after Don Norman’s work).

A paved cowpath at Brunel ...whereas this one has been 'paved' after pedestrians wore a definite path.

In human-computer interaction, this principle has become known as ‘Pave the cowpaths’—“look where the paths are already being formed by behavior and then formalize them, rather than creating some kind of idealized path structure that ignores history and tradition and human nature and geometry and ergonomics and common sense” (Crumlish & Malone, 2009, p.17). Particularly with websites, analytics software can take the place of the worn grass, and in the process reveal extra data such as demographic information about users, and more about their actual desires or intention in engaging in the process (e.g. Google is a “database of intentions”, according to Battelle (2003)). This allows clustering of behaviour paths and even investigation of users’ mental models of site structure. The counter-argument is that blindly paving cowpaths can enshrine inefficient behaviours in the longer-term, locking users and organisations into particular ways of doing things which were never optimal in the first place (Arace, 2006)—form freezing function, to paraphrase Stewart Brand (1994, p.157).

From the point of view of influencing behaviour rather than simply reflecting it, the principle of paving the cowpaths could be applied strategically: identify the desire lines and paths of particular users—perhaps a group which is already performing the desired behaviour—and then, by formalising this, making it easier or more salient or in some way obviously normative, encourage other users to follow suit.

*It is worth differentiating, though, between a visionary approach which considers human behaviour and sets out to change it, and the approach attributed to some other treatments of the 'visionary architect' personality, in which human behaviour is simply ignored or relegated as being secondary to the vision of the building itself. In fiction, Ayn Rand's Howard Roark (in The Fountainhead, 1943) is perhaps an archetype; Sommer's architect who "learns to look at buildings without people in them" quoted above is perhaps based on real instances of this approach.

Westfield Stratford City, with Olympic Athletes' Village under construction, March 2010 The ticket hall of Stratford City railway station, London, with Westfield logo and the Olympic Athletes' Village under construction in the background, March 2010

The politics of architecture, power and control

“I was aware that I could be watched from above…and that it was possible to go much higher—to become one of the watchers—but I didn’t see how it could be done. The architecture embodied a political message: There are people higher than you, and they can watch you, follow you—and, theoretically, you can join them, become one of them. Unfortunately you don’t know how.” Geoff Manaugh, The BLDG BLOG Book (2009, p.17)

Architecture can serve as a regulatory force (Shah and Kesan, 2007) and has been used to influence and control public behaviour through embodying power in a number of ways. Direct use of architecture to change the economic or demographic make-up of areas ranges from policies of shopping centres and Business Improvement Districts to shift the social class of visitors to an area* (Minton, 2009), to Depression-era Tennessee Valley Authority’s mandate to revitalise impoverished areas through massive development programmes (Culvahouse, 2007), to government-driven use of settlements to occupy or colonise territories. In this latter context, Segal and Weizman (2003, p. 19), referring to Israel, comment that “[i]n an environment where architecture and planning are systematically instrumentalized… planning decisions do not often follow criteria of economic sustainability, ecology or efficiency of services, but are rather employed to serve strategic and political agendas”.

Vale (2008) discusses Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s 1791 layout of Washington, DC, often seen as physically reifying the ‘separation of powers’ principle contained in the US Constitution, by separating the buildings housing the branches of government, although Vale notes that L’Enfant does not explicitly mention this as his intention. Along perhaps similar lines, Stewart Brand (1994, p.3) mentions Churchill’s 1943 request that “the bomb-damaged Parliament be rebuilt exactly as it was before… It was to the good, he insisted, that the [House of Commons] Chamber was too small to seat all the members (so great occasions were standing-room occasions), and that its shape forced members to sit on either one side or the other, unambiguously of one party or the other.” Indeed, Churchill’s ‘crossing the floor’ in 1904 (and again in the 1920s) perhaps relied on the physical layout of the chamber for its impact. Ittelson et al (1974, p.139) also note that “[t]he eight months of deliberations in 1969, preceding the Paris Peace Talks, were largely centered on the issue of the shape of the table to be used in the negotiations.”

Internal building layouts are analysed for their ‘power’ implications by Dovey (2008), who uses a system of ‘space syntax analysis’ developed by Hillier and Hanson (1984) to examine diverse buildings such as Albert Speer’s Berlin Chancellery, the Forbidden City of Beijing, and the Metro Centre shopping mall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. One recurring pattern in political buildings is the intentional use of something similar to what Alexander et al (1977, p.610), in a different context, call ‘intimacy of gradient’—a “diplomatic promenade” (Dovey, 2008, p. 65) selectively revealing a sequence of anterooms to visitors, their permitted progress through the structure (the deepest level being the president or monarch’s private study) calculated both to reflect their status and instil the requisite level of awe. Nicoletta (2003) looks at the use of architecture to exert social control in Shaker dwelling houses, e.g. the use of separate entrances and staircases for men and women, and the lack of routes through the house which did not result in observation by other members of the family.

City layouts have been used strategically to try to prevent disorder and make it easier to put down. Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s “militaristically planned Paris” (Hatherley, 2008, p. 11), remodelled for Louis Napoléon (later Napoléon III) after 1848, had “[t]he true goal of…secur[ing] the city against civil war. He wanted to make the erection of barricades in Paris impossible for all time… Widening the streets is designed to make the erection of barricades impossible, and new streets are to furnish the shortest route between the barracks and the workers’ districts.” (Benjamin, 1935/1999, p. 12). The Haussmann project also involved “the planning of straight avenues as a method of crowd control (artillery could fire down them at barricaded masses)” (Rykwert, 2000, p.91). Scott (1998, p.59) likens the "logic behind the reconstruction of Paris" to the process of transforming old-growth forests into "scientific forests designed for unitary fiscal management"—part of which involves, as Scott emphasies throughout his book Seeing Like a State, the idea of making a space (and the people in it) legible to whoever is in power by removing or simplifying inconsistencies, anomalies and local practices to 'tame' potentially dangerous ceintures sauvages. Legibility affords measurement and standardisation, and these (from Domesday Book to the standardisation of surnames, to biometric IDs) afford modelling, regulation and control. Drawing on Hacking (1990), Scott (1998, p.92) suggests that it is "but a small step from a simplified description of society to a design and manipulation of society, with improvement in mind. If one could reshape nature to design a more suitable forest, why not reshape society to create a more suitable population?"

Returning to the specifics of architectural schemes, New York ‘master builder’ Robert Moses’ low parkway bridges on Long Island are often mentioned in a similar vein to Haussmann's Paris (Caro, 1975; Winner, 1986). These had the effect of preventing buses (and by implication poorer people, often minorities) using the parkways to visit the Jones Beach State Park—another of Moses' projects. However, Joerges (1999) questions details of the intentionality involved, suggesting that the story as presented by Winner is more of a parable (Gillespie, 2007, p. 72) about the embodiment of politics in artefacts—an exhortation to recognise that “specific features in the design or arrangement of a device or system could provide a convenient means of establishing patterns of power and authority in a given setting,” (Winner, 1986)—than a real example of architecture being used intentionally to discriminate against certain groups (see also the forthcoming blog post ‘POSIWID and determinism’). Nevertheless, Flint (2009, p.44) suggests in his book on Jane Jacobs' battles with Moses over New York planning, that, at least in his earlier years, "Moses strove to model himself after Baron Haussmann".

*Minton (2009, p.45) interviews a Business Improvement District manager in the UK who tells her explicitly that “High margins come with ABC1s, low margins with C2DEs. My job is to create an environment which will bring in more ABC1s.”

Pig ears on the South Bank, London 'Pig ear' skate stoppers near City Hall, London

Disciplinary architecture and design against crime

“Where the homeless are ejected from business and retail areas by such measures as curved bus benches, window-ledge spikes and doorway sprinkler systems, so skaters encounter rough-textured surfaces, spikes and bumps added to handrails, blocks of concrete placed at the foot of banks, chains across ditches and steps, and new, unridable surfaces such as gravel and sand.” Iain Borden, Skateboarding, Space and the City (2001, p.254)

Perhaps difficult to extract from the political dimension of architecture is the notion of disciplinary architecture, covering everything from designed measures such as anti-homeless park benches to prison design, via Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (1787) and Foucault’s ‘technologies of punishment’ (1977). Howell (2001) notes that this is often framed as ‘defending’ the general public against ‘undesirable’ behaviour by other members of the public—in this particular case again, measures to make skateboarding more difficult. Similar measures may be installed by members of the public to defend their own properties: Flusty (1997, p. 48) classifies “five species” of “interdictory spaces—spaces designed to intercept and repel or filter would-be users”, many of which occur frequently in residential contexts as well as public spaces: stealthy space—areas which have been deliberately concealed from general view; slippery space—spaces with no apparent means of approach; crusty space—space that cannot be accessed because of obstructions; prickly space—space which cannot be occupied comfortably due to measures inhibiting walking, sitting or standing; and jittery space—space which is constantly under surveillance (or threatened surveillance). Some of the ways of achieving these species of space will be familiar from other examples discussed in this thesis, particularly prickly space.

Prikka strips Prikka strips, a popular brand of add-on DIY plastic spikes for your wall.

'Design against crime' has recently received significant attention in the UK via initiatives such as the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central Saint Martins (e.g. Ekblom, 1997; Gamman & Pascoe, 2004; Gamman & Thorpe, 2007) whose work has addressed some high-profile areas such as bicycle theft and bag theft in restaurants and bars (AHRC, 2008) through innovative product design interventions taking account of the environmental contexts in which crimes occur. While the focus may be on 'better' products (as was a much earlier programme by the Design Council focusing on design against vandalism (Sykes, 1979)), the parallel field of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) has developed from the early 1970s to date, focusing on redesigning architectural elements to discourage particular behaviours. In the UK, compliance with an Association of Chief Police Officers’ CPTED initiative, ‘Secured by Design’—run by ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives Ltd—has, according to Minton (2009, p.71), become a condition of planning permission for some large residential developments, leading to the situation where new estates are required to be “surrounded by walls with sharp steel pins or broken glass on top of them, CCTV and only one gate into the estate.”

Crowe (2000) provides a practical guide to implementing CPTED with diagrams and ‘design directives’ for a wide variety of spaces, including schools and student residences. Poyner (1983), in a guide which is effectively A Pattern Language for CPTED, outlines 31 patterns addressing different types of crime in different settings—for example, “4.7 Access to rear of house: There should be no open access from the front to the rear of a house. Access might be restricted to full-height locked gates,” addresses burglary and break-ins. Many of Poyner’s patterns make use of the principle of natural surveillance, described in Oscar Newman’s influential book Defensible Space: People and Design in the Violent City* (1972). Natural surveillance implies designing spaces to afford “surveillance opportunities for residents and their agents” (Newman, 1972, p. 78)—effectively, designing environments so that building users are able to observe others’ activities when outside the home, and feel observed themselves (a concept which, applied in the wider context of digital communications and social media, might be termed peerveillance**). There should be parallels with Jacobs’ (1961) concept of ‘eyes on the street’—although as Minton (2009) points out, implementing natural surveillance via enclosed, gated communities where strangers will necessarily stand out means that the residents can become isolated, targets even for burglars who know that it is unlikely there will be any passers-by (or even passing police) to see their activities.

Katyal (2002) provides a comprehensive academic review of ‘Architecture as Crime Control’, addressed to a legal and social policy-maker audience, but also interesting because of a follow-up article taking the same approach to examine digital architecture (see future article). One point to which Katyal repeatedly returns is the concept of architectural solutions as entities which subtly reinforce or embody social norms (desirable ones, from the point of view of law enforcement) rather than necessarily enforce them: “Even the best social codes are quite useless if it is impossible to observe whether people comply with them. Architecture, by facilitating interaction and monitoring by members of a community, permits social norms to have greater impact. In this way, the power of architecture to influence social norms can even eclipse that of law, for law faces obvious difficulties when it attempts to regulate social interaction directly” (Katyal, 2002, p. 1075).

*‘Defensible space’ covers “restructur[ing] the physical layout of communities to allow residents to control the areas around their homes.” (Newman, 1996) **The author used ‘Peerveillance’ for a pattern based on this concept in DwI v.1.0, at the time (March 2010) finding only one previous use of the term, on Twitter, by Alex Halavais. As of May 2011, the tweet is no longer findable via either Twitter or Google searches.

Implications for designers

▶ Designed environments influence people’s behaviour in a variety of ways, and some have been designed expressly with this intention, often for political or crime prevention reasons

▶ This can range from high-level visions of influencing wider social or community behaviours, to very specific techniques applied to influence particular behaviours in a particular context; the use of patterns facilitates re-use of techniques wherever a similar problem recurs

▶ Most patterns involve either the physical arrangement of building elements—positioning, angling, splitting up, hiding, etc—or a change in material properties, either to change people’s perceptions of what behaviour is possible or appropriate, perhaps by reinforcing or embodying social norms, or to force certain behaviour to occur or not occur

▶ There are also patterns around aspects of surveillance—designing layouts which facilitate or prevent visibility of activity between groups of people

▶ In practice, patterns may be applied in combination to create different kinds of space with different effects on behaviour

▶ There is potential for ‘paving the cowpaths’ strategically through design, identifying the paths of particular users—perhaps a group which is already performing the desired behaviour—and then, by formalising this, making it easier or more salient or in some way obviously normative, encourage other users to follow suit

▶ By affecting so completely the way in which people spend their lives, political or police attempts to control behaviour through the design of environments can be controversial

▶ Some concepts related to influencing behaviour in the built environment may be transposed to other designed systems and contexts


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(2002) Spirit & Place. Architectural Press. Department for Transport (1995) The Design of Pedestrian Crossings. Local Transport Note 2/95. Available at Dovey. K. (2008) Framing Places: Mediating Power in Built Form (2nd ed.). Routledge. Ekblom, P. (1997) Gearing up against crime. Available at Flint, A. (2009) Wrestling with Moses. Random House. Flusty, S. (1997) 'Building Paranoia' in Ellin, N. (ed.) Architecture of Fear. Princeton Architectural Press. Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Allen Lane. Frederick, M. (2007) 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School. MIT Press. Gamman, L. and Pascoe, T. (2004) 'Design Out Crime? Using Practice-based Models of the Design Process'. Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal 2004, 6(4), p. 9-18 Gamman, L. and Thorpe, A. (2007) 'Design against crime'as socially responsive design for public space'. 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Architecture et Comportement / Architecture and Behaviour, 3 (3), p. 217-231. Hillier, W.R.G. and Hanson, J. (1984) The Social Logic of Space. Cambridge University Press. Howard, E. (1902) Garden Cities of To-morrow. Available at Howell, O. 2001 'The Poetics of Security: Skateboarding, Urban Design, and the New Public Space,’ Urban Action 2001/San Francisco State University Urban Studies Program. Available at Ittelson, W.H., Proshansky, H.M, Rivlin, L.G. and Winkel, G.H. (1974) An Introduction to Environmental Psychology. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Jacobs, J. (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Random House. Joerges, B. (1999) 'Do Politics Have Artefacts?' Social Studies of Science, 29 (3), p. 411-431. Katyal, N.K. (2002) 'Architecture As Crime Control'. Yale Law Journal 111, p. 1039 Koneya, M. (1976) 'Location and Interaction in Row-and-Column Seating Arrangements'. Environment and Behavior 8 (2) p. 265-282 Manaugh, G. (2009) The BLDG BLOG Book. Chronicle Books. Mathes, A. (2004) 'Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata'. Available at Marmot, A. (2002) 'Architectural determinism. Does design change behaviour?' British Journal of General Practice, 52 (476), p. 252–253 Minton, A. (2009) Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-first century city. Penguin. Myhill, C. (2004) 'Commercial Success by looking for Desire Lines', 6th Asia Pacific Computer-Human Interaction Conference (APCHI 2004), Rotorua, New Zealand. Available at Newman, O. (1972) Defensible Space: People and Design in the Violent City. Architectural Press. Nicoletta, J. (2003) 'The Architecture of Control: Shaker Dwelling Houses and the Reform Movement in Early-Nineteenth-Century America'. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 62 (3), p. 352-387 Open University (2001) 'From Here to Modernity: Trellick Tower'. Available at Osmond, H. (1959) 'The Relationship between Architect and Psychiatrist'. In Goshen, C. (ed.), Psychiatric Architecture. American Psychiatric Association. Poundstone, W. (2010) Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). Hill & Wang. Poyner, B. (1983) Design against Crime: Beyond Defensible Space. Butterworths. Rand, A. (1943) The Fountainhead. Bobbs Merrill. Rykwert, J. (2000) The Seduction of Place. Oxford University Press. Salovaara, A. (2008) 'Inventing New Uses for Tools: A Cognitive Foundation for Studies on Appropriation.' Human Technology, 4, (2), p. 209-228. Scott, J.C. (1998) Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press. Segal, R. and Weizman, E. (eds.) (2003) A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture. Babel/Verso. Shah, R.C. and Kesan, J.P. (2007) 'How Architecture Regulates'. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 24 (4), p. 350-359. Shearing, C.D. and Stenning, P.C. (1984) 'From the Panopticon to Disney World: the Development of Discipline' in Doob, A.N. and Greenspan, E.L. (eds.) Perspectives in Criminal Law: Essays in Honour of John LL.J. Edwards, p.335-349. Canada Law Book. Sommer, R. (1969) Personal Space: The Behavioral Basis of Design. Prentice-Hall. Sommer, R. (1974) Tight Spaces: Hard Architecture and How to Humanize it. Prentice-Hall. Steinzor, B. (1950) 'The spatial factor in face to face discussion groups'. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 45 (3), p. 552-555. Stenebo, J. (2010) The Truth About IKEA. Gibson Square. Sykes, J. (1979) Designing Against Vandalism. The Design Council. Throgmorton, J. & Eckstein, B. (2000) 'Desire Lines: The Chicago Area Transportation Study and the Paradox of Self in Post-War America.' Available at Underhill, P. (1999) Why We Buy. Simon & Schuster. Underhill, P. (2004) Call of the Mall. Simon & Schuster. Vale, L.J. (2008) Architecture, Power and National Identity (2nd ed.). Routledge. Whyte, W.H. (1980) The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. The Conservation Foundation. Winner, L. (1986) 'Do Artifacts Have Politics?' In The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, pp. 19–39. University of Chicago Press Zeisel, J. (2006) Inquiry by Design (rev. ed.). W.W. Norton.

Boardwalk at Philips High Tech Campus, Eindhoven Reminiscent of a scene from Ballard's Super-Cannes, the Philips High Tech Campus also includes this lake and boardwalk, perhaps affording breakout meetings and secret discussions away from the earshot of office colleagues, although in full view of the surrounding buildings.

Two events next week by Dan

Next Wednesday evening, 27th May, I'll be giving a presentation about Design with Intent at SkillSwap Brighton's 'Skillswap Goes Behavioural' alongside Ben Maxwell from Onzo (pioneers of some of the most interesting home energy behaviour change design work going on at present). I hope I'll be able to give a thought-provoking talk with plenty of ideas and examples that can be practically applied in interaction, service design and user experience. Thanks to James Box of Clearleft for organising this. Walkway

Then on Thursday 28th, I'm honoured to be talking as part of a symposium in Loughborough University's Radar Arts Programme's 'Architectures of Control' themed events exploring how our lives are impacted by social and environmental controls.

The symposium is interspersed with the performance of Mark Titchner's 'Debating Society and Run', which sounds intriguing. In the symposium I'll be talking alongside Professor David Canter, who seems to have had an incredible career ranging from environmental to offender profiling (inspiration for Cracker, etc) and Alexa Hepburn, senior lecturer in Social Psychology at Loughborough. Again, I hope my presentation does justice to the event and other participants! Thanks to Nick Slater for inviting me.

The week after (4th June) I'll be giving a presentation at UFI in Sheffield, best known for its Learndirect courses. I'm hoping to be able to run a bit of a very rapid idea-generation workshop as part of this talk, something of an ultra-quick trial of the DwI toolkit...

Mosquito controversy goes high-profile by Dan Lockton

Mosquito - image from Compound Security The Mosquito anti-teenager sound device, which we've covered on this site a few times, was yesterday heavily criticised by the Children's Commissioner for England, Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, launching the BUZZ OFF campaign in conjunction with Liberty and the National Youth Agency: Buzz Off logo

Makers and users of ultra-sonic dispersal devices are being told to “Buzz Off” today by campaigners who say the device, which emits a high-pitched sound that targets under 25 year olds, is not a fair or reasonable solution for tackling anti-social behaviour. The campaign... is calling for the end to the use of ultra-sonic dispersal device. There are estimated to be 3,500 used across the country.
The BUZZ OFF campaign will be driven by young people who have been affected by the device and will aim to provoke debate and thought amongst parents, government, businesses, the police and others about the increasingly negative way society views and deals with children and young people.

The government has said it has no plans to ban the Mosquito.

The main point here is of course that the use of the Mosquito is in effect discriminatory architecture, designed to punish/annoy/prevent/target one particular group of people, whether or not those individuals have actually done anything wrong - as Sir Albert told the BBC:

These devices are indiscriminate and target all children and young people, including babies, regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving.

It's the same mentality as removing benches because you don't like the sort of people who use benches (or demonstrated by other techniques in this area). Many different points of view on the subject have been expressed by commenters here over the last couple of years, from kids fed up with being assumed guilty, to members of the public fed up with kids hanging around and intimidating people.

As with blue lighting in public toilets, the Mosquito is unlikely to solve the 'problem' at hand: it will simply move it elsewhere. It's displacing the symptom rather than curing the illness, and - as has been pointed out in numerous recent news stories - it exemplifies a pervasive antipathy towards young people which is rather disturbing (I mentioned this before in reference to the "device to stop young people congregating" search query which led someone to this site.) Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti - while I don't always agree with everything she says - puts it very concisely:

What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children? Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids.

The Mosquito has no place in a country that values its children and seeks to instill them with dignity and respect.

Incidentally, the 15 kHz, 17.5 kHz and 20 kHz wave files which I put on this site a couple of years ago before coming across the Mosquito-inspired Teen Buzz ringtone still bring more search engine traffic than any other article (the mobile phone moisture-detection stickers are a close second). If you're interested in testing your hearing, the Free Mosquito Ringtones site has since done a better job with a wide range of frequencies.

Top image from Compound Security's website; Buzz Off logo from Children's Commissioner press release [Word document].

Review: Architecture as Crime Control by Neal Katyal by Dan Lockton

Concrete Review: Katyal, N. K. "Architecture as Crime Control", Yale Law Journal, March 2002, Vol 111, Issue 5.

Professor Neal Kumar Katyal of Georgetown University Law School, best-known for being (successful) lead counsel in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case dealing with Guantanamo Bay detainees, has also done some important work on the use of design as a method of law enforcement in both the digital and built environments.

This article, 'Architecture as Crime Control', specifically addresses itself to a legal and social policy-maker audience in terms of the areas of focus and the arguments used, but is also very relevant to architects and designers open to being enlightened about the strategic value of their work. Specifically with regard to 'architectures of control' and 'design for behaviour change', as one might expect, there are many useful examples and a great deal of interesting analysis. In this review, I will try to concentrate on examples and design techniques given in the article, along with some of the thinking behind them - the most useful aspects from the point of view of my own research - rather than attempting to analyse the legal and sociological framework into which all of this fits.

Katyal starts by acknowledging how the "emerging field of cyberlaw, associated most directly with Lawrence Lessig" has brought the idea of 'code' constraining behaviour to a level of greater awareness, but suggests that the greater permanence and endurance of architectural changes in the real world - the built environment - may actually give greater potential for behaviour control, as opposed to the "infinitely malleable" architecture of cyberspace:

It is time to reverse-engineer cyberlaw's insights, and to assess methodically whether changes to the architecture of our streets and buildings can reduce criminal activity.

A theme to which Katyal returns throughout the article is that the policy response to James Wilson and George Kelling's influential 'Broken Windows' - "an architectural problem in crime control" - has largely been a law enforcement one ("prosecution of minor offenses like vandalism in an attempt to deter these 'gateway crimes'") instead of actual architectural responses, which, Katyal argues, could have a significant and useful role in this field.

Design principles

Before tackling specific architectural strategies, Katyal discusses the general area of using "design principles" to "influence, in subtle ways, the paths by which we live and think" - a great summary of many of the techniques we've considered on this blog over the last couple of years, though not all have been subtle - and gives some good examples:

McDonald's seating, uncomfortable, Glasgow, from Headphonaught's Flickr stream

Fast food restaurants use hard chairs that quickly grow uncomfortable so that customers rapidly turn over

Image from Headphonaught's Flickr stream

Elevator (lift) numerals positioned to avoid eye contact

Elevator designers place the numerals and floor indicator lights over people's heads so that they avoid eye contact and feel less crowded

Supermarkets have narrow aisles so that customers cannot easily talk to each other and must focus on the products instead

(We've also seen the opposite effect cited, i.e. using wider aisles to cause customers to spend longer in a particular aisle - clearly, both effects could be employed in different product areas within the same supermarket, to suit whatever strategy the retailer has. There are plenty of other tricks too.)

And, in a footnote, Katyal cites Personal Space by Robert Sommer, which provides:

other examples, such as a café that hired an architect to design a chair that placed "disagreeable pressure on the spine if occupied for over a few minutes" and Conrad Hilton's decision to move couches out of hotel lobbies to minimise the number of lingering visitors.

(Sommer's work sounds interesting and relevant, and I look forward to investigating it*)

As Katyal puts it, "with strategies like these, private architects are currently engaging in social control."

Moving on to architectural strategies for crime control, Katyal expounds four 'mechanisms' identified in the field of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED):

Design should:

  • (1) Create opportunities for natrual surveillance by residents, neighbors and bystanders;
  • (2) Instill a sense of territoriality so that residents develop proprietary attitudes and outsiders feel deterred from entering a private space;
  • (3) Build communities and avoid social isolation;
  • (4) Protect targets of crime.
  • Before expanding on the practical and legal application of each of these mechanisms, Katyal makes the point that while they can often "work in synergy... natural surveillance is most effective when social isolation is minimized and when design delays the perpetration of crime," there can be conflicts and any strategy needs to be developed within the context of the community in which it is going to be applied:

    Security door propped open

    Effective design requires input by the community. Without such input, security features are likely to be resented, taken down or evaded (consider the 'security' doors propped open on campuses today.

    (This issue of 'resentment' or even 'inconvenience' is, I feel, going to be a significant factor in my own studies of environmentally beneficial behaviour-changing products; we shall see.)

    Natural surveillance

    The idea of natural surveillance is to create situations where areas are overlooked by neighbours, other residents and so on, with the effect being both a crime deterrent (if the criminal knows he is being watched, or might be watched, he may decide against the crime) and to improve the effectiveness of solving the crime afterwards (someone will have seen what happened). Katyal cites Jane Jacobs' argument that diversity of use can be an important way of bringing about natural surveillance - preferably with different activities occurring throughout the day, to ensure that there is always a population there to keep any eye on things. However, short of this kind of deliberate diversity planning, there are specific techniques that can be used on individual buildings and their surroundings to increase natrual surveillance; Katyal suggests the addition of windows facing onto public spaces, ensuring sight lines down corridors and alleyways, positioning windows so that neighbours can watch each other's houses, bringing parking areas in front of stores rather than out of sight behind them, and making sure hallways and lobbies are clearly visible to passers-by. He gives the example of redesigning the layout of a school's grounds to increase the opportunity for natural surveillance:

    School before improvement
    School after improvement
    Images from Katyal, N. K. "Architecture as Crime Control", Yale Law Journal, March 2002, Vol 111, Issue 5.

    [In the first image] the informal areas are blocked form sight and far from school grounds. Because no central place for congregation exists, students are spread over the grounds, and there is insufficient density for monitoring. The four open entrances and exits facilitate access to the school and escape. ... [In the second image,] through the designation of formal gathering areas, other places become subtly off-limits to students. Indeed, those who are present in such areas are likely to attract suspicion.... the formal gathering areas are naturally surveilled by building users... [and] are long and thin, running alongside the school windows, and two hedges prevent students from going fuarther away. Moreover, the west entrance, which had the least potential for surveillance, has been closed...

    Lighting can also be a major method of increasing natural surveillance:

    First, it helps anyone viewing a situation to see it more clearly and thereby deters some crimes by increasing the powers of perception of those watching. Second, it encourages people to be in the area in the first place because the greater visibility creates a sense of security. The more eyes on the street, the more visibility constrains crime.

    (Incidentally, Katyal comments - having interviewed an architect - that the use of yellow street lighting "can increase the crime rate by making streets (and individuals on them) look menacing", hence a tendency for some urban developers to move to white lighting instead.)


    Territoriality - also much of the focus of defensible space (which I'll discuss in a later post) - "both provides an incentive for residents to take care of and monitor an area and subtly deters offenders by warning them that they are about to enter a private space." Some of Katyal's examples are wonderfully simple:

  • "An entrance raised by a few inches" is "a successful symbolic barrier... people are aware of minor graduations of elevation and may refrain from entry if they sense a gradual incline". (Elevation can also lead to reverence/respect, either directly - e.g. steps leading up to a courthouse - or indirectly, causing a visitor to bow his/her head on approach)
  • Monuments and markers can also demarcate the transition from public space into private space... A study of burglaries in Salt Lake City... revealed that houses with nameplates had lower rates of intrusion than those without them.

  • One rather simple way is to place two buildings in an 'L' formation with a fence that completes the triangle. Children can play in the open space, and adults can look out of their windows at their children.

  • Katyal also includes these diagrams from "a group of British architects":

    In the first, a series of buildings lacks a common entrance, and pedestrians cut through the property. The addition of a simple overhead arch, however, creates a sense of private space:

    Addition of archway to discourage use as through-route

    Images originally from Stollard, P. Crime Prevention Through Housing Design and included in Katyal's article.

  • Building community

    The third main mechanism, building community, is also heavily interlinked with the idea of defensible space. The aim here is to encourage a sense of community, by creating spaces which cause people to interact, or even reducing the number of dwellings in each individual set so that people are more likely to recognise and come to know their neighbours - something many architects have instinctively tried to do anyway over the past 20 years or so, though not always explicitly with crime reduction in mind:

    ...even the placement of seats and benches can bring people together or divide them, creating what architects call, respectively, sociopetal and sociofugal spaces. Some architects self-consciously create sociofugal spaces by, for example, designing chairs in airports that make it difficult for people to talk to each other.

    Practically, 'building community' would necessarily appear to be slightly more nebulous than some of the other mechanisms, but even techniques such as encouraging people to spend more time in communal areas such as a laundry (and hence potentially interact more) can be important here.

    Strengthening targets

    There are a number of simple examples of target hardening or strengthening given:

  • Placing deadbolts lower on door frames

    (presumably to make kicking them open more difficult)

  • Having doors in vulnerable locations swing outward

  • Raising fire escapes to put them out of easy reach

  • Reducing the size of letter-box openings

  • If a robber can stand on top of a trash bin and reach a second-floor window, the bin should be placed far from the window

  • Prickly shrubs placed outside of windows can also deter crime

  • A duct that spews hot air can be placed near a ground-floor window to deter entry

  • Smells can also be strategically harnessed either to induce people to come outside or keep them away

  • The FBI building is built on stilts to minimize damage in the event of a bomb detonation at street level

  • To decrease the likelihood of presidential assassination, a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was barricaded and closed to car traffic

  • Interestingly, Katyal makes the point that where potential crime targets can be strengthened without making it overly obvious that this has been done, the benefits may be greater:

    Modern technology permits targets to be hardened in ways that are not obvious to the public. Strong plastics, graffiti-resistant paint, and doors with steel cores are a few examples. These allow architects to disguise their efforts at strengthening targets and thus avoid sending a message that crime is rampant. ... Some forms of target hardening are suboptimal in that visibility evinces a fear of crime that can cause damage to the fabric of a community and even increase crime rates.

    He again later returns to this point:

    Subtle architecture that gently reinfoces law-abiding norms and prevents a degree of intrusion is to be preferred to explicit and awkward physical barricades that reflect the feeling that a community is under siege. Cheap wire fences do not express a belief in the power of law or norms; rather, they reflect the opposite. The same can be said for ugly iron bars on windows, which express the terror of crime as powerfully as does any sign or published crime statistic. ... A whole host of architectural strategies - such as the placement of doors and windows, creation of semipublic congregation spaces, street layout alterations, park redesign, and many more - sidestep creating an architecture dominated by the expression of fear. Indeed, cheap barricades often substitute for these subtler measures. Viewed this way, gated communities are a byproduct of public disregard of architecture, not a sustainable solution to crime.[my emphasis]

    (This last point is especially interesting to me - I must admit I am fascinated by the phenomenon of gated communities and what effect they have on their inhabitants as well as on the surrounding area, both in a Ballardian sense (Running Wild, Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes) and, more prosaically, in terms of what this voluntary separation does to the community outside the gates. See also the quote from architect John Thompson in my forthcoming post reporting what's happening at the former Brunel Runnymede Campus)

    Other aspects

    One point to which Katyal repeatedly returns is - a corollary of the above - the concept of architectural solutions as entities which subtly reinforce or embody norms (desirable ones, from the point of view of law enforcement) rather than necessarily enforce them in totality:

    Even the best social codes are quite useless if it is impossible to observe whether people comply with them. Architecture, by facilitating interaction and monitoring by members of a community, permits social norms to have greater impact. In this way, the power of architecture to influence social norms can even eclipse that of law, for law faces obvious difficulties when it attempts to regulate social interaction directly.


    Architecture can prevent crimes even when criminals believe the probability of enforcement is low... one feature of social norms strategies is that they are often self-enforcing.

    I think this is a crucial point, and is applicable in other 'architectures of control' techniques outside of the built environment and the specific issues of crime. Norms can be extremely powerful influencers of behaviour, and - to take my current research on changing user behaviour to reduce environmental impact - the ability to design a desirable norm into a product or system, without taking away the user's sense of ownership of, and confidence in, the product, may well turn out to be the crux of the matter.

    As (I hope) will be clear, much of Katyal's analysis seems applicable to other areas of 'Design for/against X' where human factors are involved - not just design against crime. So, for example, here Katyal is touching on something close to the concepts of perceived affordances (and disaffordances) in interaction design:

    Psychological evidence shows that criminals decode environmental 'cues' to assess the likelihood of success of a given criminal act... the design of a meeting table influences who will speak and when, and who is perceived to have a positionof authority. It is therefore no great shock that the eight months of negotiation that preceded the 1969 Paris Peace Talks largely centred on what the physical space of the negotiating table would be. It is said that Machiavelli designed a political meeting chamber with a ceiling that looked asif it were about to collapse, reasoning that it would induce politicians to vote quickly and leave. ... Winston Churchill... went so far as to claim that the shape of the House [of Commons] was essential to the two-party system and that its small size was critical for 'free debate': ... "The party system is much favoured by the oblong form of chamber... the act of crossing the floor is one which requires serious consideration. I am well informed on this matter, for I have accomplished that difficult process, not only once but twice."

    Significant points are also made is about displacement (or "geographic substitution") of crime: do architectual measures (especially target hardening and obvious surveillance, we might assume) not simply move crime elsewhere? (We've discussed this before when looking at blue lighting in public toilets.) Katyal argues that, while some displacement will, of course, occur, this is not always direct substitution. Locally-based criminals may not have knowledge of other areas (i.e. the certainty that these will not be hardened or surveilled targets), or indeed, where crime is opportunistic, the "costs" imposed by travelling elsewhere to commit it are too high. Equally:

    Many devices, such as steel-reinforced doors, strong plastics, and the like are not discernible until a criminal has invested some energy and time. These forms of precaution will thus increase expected perpetration cost and deter offenders without risking substantial displacement.

    Also, the fact that increased police presence (for example) in a crime 'hot-spot' may also lead to crime displacement, is generally not seen as a reason for not increasing that presence: some targets simply are more desirable to protect than others, and where architectural measures allow police to concentrate elsewhere, this may even be an advantage.

    More specific examples

    Aside from the analysis, there are a great many architectures of control and persuasion examples dotted throughout Katyal's article, and while they are somewhat disparate in how I present them here, they are all worth noting from my point of view, and I hope interesting. Apart from those I've already quoted above, some of the other notable examples and observations are:

  • ...the feeling of being crowded correlates with aggression. Architects can alleviate the sensation of crowding by adding windows that allow for natural light, by using rectangular rooms (which are perceived to be larger than square ones), and by employing light-colored paints. When people perceive more space, they tend to become less hostile.

  • While the results should not be overemphasized, psychologists have found results showing that various colors affect behavior and emotions. The most consistent such finding is that red induces a higher level of arousal than do cool colors like green and blue. Another study indicated that people walked faster down a hallway painted red or orange than down one painted in cooler colors. After experimenting with hundreds of shade, Professor Schauss identified a certain shade of pink, Baker-Miller, as the most successful color to mediate aggression... prisoners in Baker-Miller pink cells were found to be les abusive than those in magnolia-colored cells.

    (See also discussion here)

  • Studies show that people who sit at right angles from each other at a table are six times more likely to engage in conversation than those who sit across from each other.

    (referencing Edward T Hall, The Hidden Dimension, 1966).

  • For some existing housing projects, the government could pass regulations requiring retrofitting to prevent crime. Small private or semiprivate lawns near entrances can encourage feelings of territoriality; strong lighting can enhnace visibility; staining and glazing can increase contrast; and buildings refaced with a diversity of pleasing finishes can reflect individuality and territoriality. Large open spaces can be subdivided to encourage natural surveillance.

  • Edward I enacted the Statute of Winchester, a code designed to prevent the concealment of robbers... [which included a] provision [which] directly regulated environmental design to reduce crime... highways had to be enlarged and bushes had to be cleared for 200 feet on either side of the highway.

  • ...certain buildings [being strategically placed in an area] such as churches, may reduce the crime rate because they create feelings of guilt or shame in potential perpetrators and because the absence of crime against such structures furthers visible social order.

  • Crimes that directly interfere with natural surveillance should... be singled out for special penalties. Destroying the lighting around a building is one obvious example. Another would be attempts by criminals to bring smoke-belching trucks onto a street before robbing an establishment.

  • Summary

    Ultimately, Katyal's aim seems to be to encourage policy-makers to see architectural measures as a potentially important aspect of crime reduction, given sensible analysis of each situation, and he suggests the use of Crime Impact Statements - possibly as a requirement for all new development - in a similar vein to Environmental Impact Statements, and leading to similar increases in awareness among architects and developers. Building codes and zoning policies could also be directed towards crime reduction through architectural strategies. Insurance companies, by understanding what measures 'work' and which don't, could use premiums to favour, promote and educate property owners, similarly to the way that widespread adoption of better design for fire protection and prevention was significantly driven by insurance companies.

    In this sense, a public (i.e. governmental) commitment to use of architectural strategies in this way would make the process much more transparent than individual private developers adopting ad hoc measures, and, with sensible analysis of each case, could assist local law enforcement and engage communities in reinforcing 'desirable' norms and 'designing away' some aspects of their problems - though Katyal makes it very clear that architecture alone cannot do this [my emphasis]:

    None of this should be mistaken for architectural determinism or its derivative belief that good buildings alone will end crime. These hopes of 'salvation by bricks' are illusory. But our rejection of this extreme should not lead us to the opposite extreme view, which holds that physical settings are irrelevant to human beliefs and action. Architecture influences behavior; it does not determine it.

    Tower A, Brunel University

    *Katyal also later cites Sommer's Social Design for the example of airports that "prevent crime by replacing bathroom entrance doors with right-angle entrances that permit the warning sounds of crime to travel more freely and that reduce the sense of isolation". I'd always assumed that (as with the toilet facilities in many motorway services here in the UK), this was to reduce the number of surfaces that a toilet user would have to touch - a similar strategy to having the entrance doors to public toilet areas pushable/elbowable/nudgable by users leaving the area, rather than forcing recently-washed hands to come into contact with a pull-handle which may not be especially clean. See also Sara Cantor's thoughts on encouraging handwashing.

    Some links by Dan Lockton

    Some links. Guess what vehicle this is. First, an apology for anyone who's had problems with the RSS/Atom feeds over the last month or so. I think they're fixed now (certainly Bloglines has started picking them up again) but please let me know if you don't read this. Oops, that won't work... anyway:

  • 'Gadgets as Tyrants' by Xeni Jardin, looks at digital architectures of control in the context of the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas :

    Many of the tens of thousands of products displayed last week on the Vegas expo floor, as attractive and innovative as they are, are designed to restrict our use... Even children are bothered by the increasing restrictions. One electronics show attendee told me his 12-year-old recently asked him, “Why do I have to buy my favorite game five times?” Because the company that made the game wants to profit from each device the user plays it on: Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, Game Boy or phone.

    At this year’s show, the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro, spoke up for “digital freedom,” arguing that tech companies shouldn’t need Hollywood’s permission when they design a new product.

  • The Consumerist - showing a 1981 Walmart advert for a twin cassette deck - comments that "Copying music wasn't always so taboo".

    I'm not sure it is now, either.

  • George Preston very kindly reminds me of the excellent Trusted Computing FAQ by Ross Anderson, a fantastic exposition of the arguments. For more on Vista's 'trusted' computing issues, Peter Guttmann has some very clear explanations of how shocking far we are from anything sensible. See also Richard Stallman's 'Right to Read'.
  • David Rickerson equally kindly sends me details of a modern Panopticon prison recently built in Colorado - quite impressive in a way:

    Image from Correctional News

    ...Architects hit a snag when they realized too much visibility could create problems.

    “We’ve got lots of windows looking in, but the drawback is that inmates can look from one unit to another through the windows at the central core area of the ward,” Gulliksen says. “That’s a big deal. You don’t want inmates to see other inmates across the hall with gang affiliations and things like that.”

    To minimize unwanted visibility, the design team applied a reflective film to all the windows facing the wards. Deputies can see out, but inmates cannot see in. Much like the 18th-century Panopticon, the El Paso County jail design keeps inmates from seeing who is watching them.

    Image from Correctional News website

  • Should the iPhone be more open?

    As Jason Devitt says, stopping users installing non-Apple (or Apple-approved) software means that the cost of sending messages goes from (potentially) zero, to $5,000 per megabyte:

    Steve typed "Sounds great. See you there." 28 characters, 28 bytes. Call it 30. What does it cost to transmit 30 bytes?

    * iChat on my Macbook: zero. * iChat running on an iPhone using WiFi: zero. * iChat running on an iPhone using Cingular's GPRS/EDGE data network: 6 hundredths of a penny. * Steve's 'cool new text messaging app' on an iPhone: 15c.

    A nickel and a dime.

    15c for 30 bytes = $0.15 X 1,000,000 / 30 = $5,000 per megabyte.

    "Yes, but it isn't really $5,000," you say. It is if you are Cingular, and you handle a few billion messages like this each quarter.

    ... [I] assumed that I would be able to install iChat myself. Or better still Adium, which supports AIM, MSN, ICQ, and Jabber. But I will not be able to do that because ... it will not be possible to install applications on the iPhone without the approval of Cingular and Apple... But as a consumer, I have a choice. And for now the ability to install any application that I want leaves phones powered by Windows Mobile, Symbian, Linux, RIM, and Palm OS with some major advantages over the iPhone.

    Aside from the price discrimination (and business model) issue (see also Control & Networks), one thing that strikes me about a phone with a flat touch screen is simply how much less haptic feedback the user gets.

    I know people who can text competently without looking at the screen, or indeed the phone at all. They rely on the feel of the buttons, the pattern of raised and lowered areas and the sensation as the button is pressed, to know whether or not the character has actually been entered, and which character it was (based on how many times the button is pressed). I would imagine they would be rather slow with the iPhone.

  • BBC: Surveillance drones in Merseyside by Dan Lockton

    From the BBC: 'Police play down spy planes idea':

    "Merseyside Police's new anti-social behaviour (ASB) task force is exploring a number of technology-driven ideas.

    But while the use of surveillance drones is among them, they would be a "long way off", police said. ...

    "The idea of the drone is a long way off, but it is about exploring all technological possibilities to support our war on crime and anti-social behaviour."

    Note that "anti-social behaviour" is mentioned separately to "crime." Why? Also, nice appropriation of the "war on xxx" phrasing.

    "It plans to utilise the latest law enforcement technology, including automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), CCTV "head-cams" and metal-detecting gloves."

    This country's had it.

    We've got Avon & Somerset Police using helicopters with high-intensity floodlights to "blind groups of teenagers temporarily" and councils using tax-payers' money to install devices to cause deliberate auditory pain to a percentage of the population, again, whether or not they have committed a crime. Anyone would think that those in power despised their public. Perhaps they do.

    Has it ever occurred to the police that tackling the causes of the problem might be a better solution than attacking the symptoms with a ridiculous battery of 'technology'?

    'Secret alarm becomes dance track' by Dan Lockton

    The Mosquito sound has been mixed (sort of) into a dance track:

    "...the sound is being used in a dance track, Buzzin', with secret melodies only young ears can hear.


    Simon Morris from Compound Security said: "Following the success of the ringtone, a lot of people were asking us to do a bit more, so we got together with the producers Melodi and they came up with a full-length track.

    "It has two harmonies - one that everyone can hear and one that only young people can hear.

    "But it works well together or separate," he added."

    There's a clip linked from the BBC story, or here directly (WMV format). Can't say the "secret melodies" are especially exciting (and yes, I can hear it!) but I suppose it's a clever idea. There could be some interesting steganographic possibilities, and indeed it could be used for 'cheating in tests' as Jason Thomas puts it here.

    This is the same Simon Morris who's quoted in an earlier BBC story as saying that teenagers (in general) don't have a right "to congregate for no specific purpose", so it's interesting to see him getting involved with young peoples' music. Nevertheless, I can see the dilemma that Compound Security are in: they've created something designed to be unpleasant for teenagers, but are also capitalising on its potential appeal to teenagers. It's clever, if rather inconsistent branding practice.

    Countercontrol: blind pilots by Dan Lockton

    Eye In a recent post, I discussed a Spiked article by Josie Appleton which included the following quote:

    “Police in Weston-super-Mare have been shining bright halogen lights from helicopters on to youths gathered in parks and other public places. The light temporarily blinds them, and is intended to ‘move them on’, in the words of one Weston police officer.”

    A friend, reading this, simply uttered a single word: "Mirror".

    What'd happen then? Is the risk of a blinded pilot and a crashed helicopter really worth it?

    Or perhaps it's the state, and by extension Avon & Somerset Police (in this case), who are the real blind pilots, attempting to 'guide' society in this way? If not blind, they're certainly short-sighted.

    Transcranial magnetic stimulation by Dan Lockton

    Remote magnetic manipulation of nervous systems - Hendricus Loos
    An image from Hendricus Loos's 2001 US patent, 'Remote Magnetic Manipulation of Nervous Systems'

    In my review of Adam Greenfield's Everyware a couple of months ago, I mentioned - briefly - the work of Hendricus Loos, whose series of patents cover subjects including "Manipulation of nervous systems by electric fields", "Subliminal acoustic manipulation of nervous systems", "Magnetic excitation of sensory resonances" and "Remote magnetic manipulation of nervous systems". A theme emerges, of which this post by Tom Coates at reminded me:

    "There was one speaker at FOO this year that would literally have blown my brain away if he'd happened to have had his equipment with him. Ed Boyden talked about transcranial magnetic stimulation - basically how to use focused magnetic fields to stimulate sections of the brain and hence change behaviour. He talked about how you could use this kind of stimulation to improve mood and fight depression, to induce visual phenomena or reduce schizophrenic symptoms, hallucinations and dreams, speed up language processing, improve attention, break habits and improve creativity.


    He ended by telling the story of one prominent thinker in this field who developed a wand that she could touch against a part of your head and stop you being able to talk. Apparently she used to roam around the laboratories doing this to people. She also apparently had her head shaved and tattooed with all the various areas of the brain and what direct stimulation to them (with a wand) could do to her. She has, apparently, since grown her hair. I'd love to meet her."

    Now, the direct, therapeutic usage of small-range systems such as these is very different to the discipline-at-a-distance proposed in a number of Loos's patents (where an 'offender' can be incapacitated, using, e.g. a magnetic field), but both are architectures of control: systems designed to modify, restrict and control people's behaviour.

    And, I would venture to suggest, a more widespread adoption of magnetic stimulation for therapeutic uses - perhaps, in time, designed into a safe, attractive consumer product for DIY relaxation/stimulation/hallucination - is likely to lead to further experimentation and exploration of 'control' applications for law enforcement, crowd 'management', and other disciplinary uses. I think we - designers, engineers, tech people, architects, social activists, anyone who values freedom - should be concerned, but the impressive initiative of the Open-rTMS Project will at least ensure that we're able to understand the technology.

    Some links: miscellaneous, pertinent to architectures of control by Dan Lockton

    Ulises Mejias on 'Confinement, Education and the Control Society' - fascinating commentary on Deleuze's societies of control and how the instant communication and 'life-long learning' potential (and, I guess, everyware) of the internet age may facilitate control and repression:

    "This is the paradox of social media that has been bothering me lately: an 'empowering' media that provides increased opportunities for communication, education and online participation, but which at the same time further isolates individuals and aggregates them into masses —more prone to control, and by extension more prone to discipline."

    Slashdot on 'A working economy without DRM?' - same debate as ever, but some very insightful comments

    Slashdot on 'Explaining DRM to a less-experienced PC user' - I particularly like SmallFurryCreature's 'Sugar cube' analogy

    'The Promise of a Post-Copyright World' by Karl Fogel - extremely clear analysis of the history of copyright and, especially, the way it has been presented to the public over the centuries

    (Via BoingBoing) The Entertrainer - a heart monitor-linked TV controller: your TV stays on with the volume at a usable level only while you keep exercising at the required rate. Similar concept to Gillian Swan's Square-Eyes

    Planned addiction as a method of control: a parasitic lock-in business model by Dan Lockton

    Lighting up The news that tobacco companies have increased the levels of nicotine in their brands over the last few years - especially those popular with certain groups - made me think further about architectures of control:

    "The amount of nicotine in most cigarettes rose an average of almost 10 percent from 1998 to 2004, with brands most popular with young people and minorities registering the biggest increases and highest nicotine content... the higher levels theoretically could make new smokers more easily addicted and make it harder for established smokers to quit. ...

    Boxes of Doral lights, a low-tar brand made by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., had the biggest increase in yield, 36 percent... The nicotine in Marlboro products, preferred by two-thirds of high school smokers, increased 12 percent. Kool lights increased 30 percent. Two-thirds of African American smokers use menthol brands.


    "The reports are stunning," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "What's critical is the consistency of the increase, which leads to the conclusion that it has to have been conscious and deliberate.""

    The classification 'architectures of control' ought rightly to include cigarettes alongside any other product designed to be addictive or to reinforce patterns of users' behaviour. In this sense, any psychoactive drug intended to control/alter users' behaviour must be considered part of the same phenomenon, certainly when it is created or administered with that specific intention. And of course, these are not just designed to be unpleasant, but designed to injure and endanger life (not until revenue's been extracted, of course).

    It may seem extreme or inappropriate to link, say, the razor-blade business model with drug addiction (just as it perhaps seemed extreme to put biscuit packaging alongside Henry Porter's 'Blair Laid Bare'), but there are definite parallels. A product is designed with a feature which intentionally locks customers into that product, through making it difficult to switch (for cost reasons, by ingraining habits, or by actual chemical or mental addiction). In the cases of, say, printer cartridges or razor blades, the original products (the printer or razor) require frequent refills/replacement parts. In the case of cigarette addiction, the initial use of the product (the cigarettes) modifies the behaviour of the host (the smoker) so that continued purchases of the products are required.

    In fact, is this not a parasitic lock-in business model? How different is a product which deliberately causes addiction to, say, a piece of malware which takes over a user's computer and installs unwanted software, or advertising pop-ups, or, say, phones home regularly and has the potential to hold the user's data to ransom?

    From the point of view of educating the wider public (including designers), the cigarette/drug addiction comparison is a good way of immediately highlighting the issue of 'product rights management' as an architecture of control.*

    (Washington Post link via A Blog Around the Clock and BoingBoing)

    *Wish I'd thought of it at last Sunday's Copyfighters' event!

    Spiked: When did 'hanging around' become a social problem? by Dan Lockton

    A playground somewhere near the Barbican, London. Note the sinister 'D37IL' nameplate on the engine Josie Appleton, at the always-interesting Spiked, takes a look at the increasing systemic hostility towards 'young people in public places' in the UK: 'When did 'hanging around' become a social problem?'

    As well as the Mosquito, much covered on this site (all posts; try out high frequency sounds for yourself), the article mentions the use of certain music publicly broadcast for the same 'dispersal' purpose:

    "The Local Government Association (LGA) has compiled a list of naff songs for councils to play in trouble spots in order to keep youths at bay – including Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ and St Winifred’s School Choir’s ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’. Apparently the Home Office is monitoring the scheme carefully. This policy has been copied from Sydney, where it is known as the ‘Manilow Method’ (after the king of naff, Barry Manilow), and has precursors in what we might call the ‘Mozart Method’, which was first deployed in Canadian train stations and from 2004 onwards was adopted by British shops (such as Co-op) and train stations (such as Tyne and Wear Metro)."

    (I do hope each public broadcast of the music is correctly licensed in accordance with PPL terms and conditions, if only because I don't want my council tax going to fund a legal battle with PPL. Remember, playing music in public is exactly equivalent to nicking it from a shop, and, after all, that's the sort of thing that those awful young people do, isn't it?

    I also wonder why there is a difference between a council playing loud music in public, and a member of the public choosing to do so. If kids took along a stereo and played loud music in a shopping centre or any other public place, they'd get arrested or at the very least get moved on.

    What would the legal situation be if kids were playing exactly the same music as was also being pumped out of the council-approved/operated speakers, at the same time? It can hardly be described as a public nuisance if it's no different to what's happening anyway.

    What if kids started playing the same music as was on the speakers, but out-of-synch so that it sounded awful to every passer-by? Maybe shift the pitch a little (couple of semitones down?) so the two tracks overlayed cause a nice 'drive-away-all-the-customers' effect? What would happen then? What if kids build a little RF device which pulses repeatedly with sufficient power to superimpose a nice buzz on the council's speaker output?)

    Anyway, Ms Appleton goes on to note a new tactic perhaps even more extreme than the Mosquito, and a sure candidate for my 'designed to injure' category (perhaps not actually endangering life, but close):

    "Police in Weston-super-Mare have been shining bright halogen lights from helicopters on to youths gathered in parks and other public places. The light temporarily blinds them, and is intended to ‘move them on’, in the words of one Weston police officer."

    Wow! Roll on the lawsuits. (Nice to know that the local air ambulance relies on charitable donations to stay in the air, while the police apparently have plenty of helicopters available)

    The article quotes what increasingly appears to be the official attitude:

    "...this isn’t just about teenagers committing crimes: it’s also about them just being there. Before he was diverted into dealing with terror alerts, home secretary John Reid was calling on councils to tackle the national problem of ‘teenagers hanging around street corners’. Apparently unsupervised young people are in themselves a social problem."

    As we know from examining the Mosquito, this same opinion isn't restricted to Dr Reid. It was the Mosquito manufacturer Compound Security's marketing director, Simon Morris, who apparently told the BBC that:

    “People have a right to assemble with others in a peaceful way... We do not consider that this right includes the right of teenagers to congregate for no specific purpose.

    So there you have it. As Brendan O'Neill puts it in a New Statesman piece referenced in the Spiked article:

    "...Fear and loathing... is driving policy on young people. We seem scared of our own youth, imagining that "hoodies" and "chavs" are dragging society down. We're so scared, in fact, that we use impersonal methods to police them: we use scanners to monitor their behaviour, we blind them from a distance, and now employ machines to screech at them in the hope they will just go away. With no idea of what to say to them - how to inspire or socialise them - we seek to disperse, disperse, disperse. It will only heighten their sense of being outsiders."

    'Carmakers must tell buyers about black boxes' by Dan Lockton

    A traffic jam in south London, 2002 According to Reuters,

    "The [US] government will not require recorders in autos but said on Monday that car makers must tell consumers when technology that tracks speed, braking and other measurements is in the new vehicles they buy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulation standardizes recorder content and sets guidelines for how the information should be disclosed.


    Safety experts, consumer groups and insurance companies have long pressed the agency to mandate recorders in cars, but industry has responded voluntarily in recent years. About two-thirds of the new vehicles now produced each year contain the device that is connected to air bag systems.


    Under the new rules, auto recorders must track vehicle speed, acceleration, and deceleration, braking, steering and some air bag functions. In some cases data on vehicle roll angle, steering inputs, and passenger safety belt use will be recorded.


    Rae Tyson, a NHTSA spokesman, said... that recorder information is private property that cannot be downloaded without permission of the vehicle owner."

    Let's get this straight: these are black boxes intended to help compile safety data and undestand accidents, and the data will not be shared with insurance companies except with the car owner's pemission, so drivers have nothing to worry about?

    Or will it simply be the case that signing up for car insurance will require you "voluntarily" to allow the insurance company to access your data?

    Are these actually that different to insurance black boxes??

    Another point which stands out of the story, since reading Scott Craver's Privacy Ceiling outline, is that the black box is legally optional yet two-thirds of all new cars in the US have them.

    In a liability culture, that violates Scott's 3rd principle:

    Do not bother to design a system or business model that balances user privacy with [potential external] demands. All this does is insert an architecture of monitoring or control, for later abuse. In other words, design an architecture for privacy alone. Anything you put in there... will one day be used to its full extent.

    If the black boxes are in every car a company (such as GM) makes, that leaves the company open to certain, ah, liability issues. Say NHTSA analysis of accident data shows that a particular model has peculiarities related to, e.g. "vehicle roll angle and steering inputs" as tracked by the black box (or, even worse, inconsistencies related to this issue, with some cars having a problem and others not).

    That car manufacturer is instantly plunged into the spotlight as a maker of dangerous products, even if the problem is not necessarily as simple as it seems (certain types of car attract better drivers than others, for example), and it will be very difficult to defend the issue and deal with lawsuits, since the information is now publicly available. (Conversely, having that amount of information should also make it easier for the company to analyse and respond to the problem).

    Yet they could have "got away with it" by not fitting the black boxes in the first place. That may be a Ford Pinto-esque, bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach, but when company planners look at the potential upside and downside of any strategy decision, the decision to fit black boxes voluntarily may not seem such a sensible one in view of the liabilities to which it exposes the company.

    (Reuters link via Open Rights Group discussion)

    Dilemma of horns by Dan Lockton

    Night time I was woken up (along with, I expect, lots of others) at about 5am today by a driver sounding his/her horn in the road outside - an arrogant two-second burst - then another replying (perhaps) with a slightly feeble one-second tone. I don't know why; there are often a lot of horns during the day as there's a level crossing which seems to generate a lot of frustration, but there are no trains passing through at 5am. Anyway, I went back to sleep and had various, fitful dreams, but not before thinking that's where an architecture of control would be useful: a time-related horn interlock function, only allowing use of the horn during hours when it is legal. In the UK, that would be from 7am - 11.30 pm. But then, waking up properly a couple of hours later, I remembered my earlier thought. And considered that this kind of control wouldn't be necessary if people were more considerate towards others. If we could rely on people to care about the effects of their actions, there would be no need for quite a lot of the architectures of control discussed on this site, from speed humps to externally controlled speed limiters, and very little argument in favour of them.

    As it is, my modified, awake, more alert opinion is that a society where people take responsibility for what they do is better than one where some external agency takes that responsibility away from them. Or, at least, I don't want to live in that latter type of society, because I don't want any control taken away from me, even if I have to put up with some idiots.

    The Privacy Ceiling by Dan Lockton

    Scott Craver of the University of Binghamton has a very interesting post summarising the concept of a 'privacy ceiling':

    "This is an economic limit on privacy violation by companies, owing to the liability of having too much information about (or control over) users."

    It's the "control over users" that immediately makes this something especially relevant for designers and technologists to consider: that control is designed, consciously, into products and systems, but how much thought is given to the extremes of how it might be exercised, especially in conjunction with the wealth of information that is gathered on users?

    "Liability can come from various sources... [including]

    Vicarious infringement liability.

    Imagine: you write a music player (like iTunes) that can check the Internet when I place a CD in my computer. You decide to collect this data for market research. Now the RIAA discovers that this data can also identify unauthorized copies. Can they compel you to hand over data on user listening habits?

    Your company is liable for vicarious infringement if (1) infringement happens, (2) you benefit from it, and (3) you had the power to do something about it—which I assume includes reporting the infringement. So now you are possibly liable because you have damning information about your users. This also applies to DRM technologies that let you restrict users.

    Note that you can’t solve this problem simply by adopting a policy of only keeping the data for 1 month, or being gentle and consumer-friendly with your DRM. The fact is, you have the architecture for monitoring and/or control, and you may not get to choose how you use it.

    Other sources of liability described include: being drawn into criminal investigations based on certain data which a company or other organisation may have - or be compelled to obtain - on its users; customers suing in relation to the leaking of supposedly private data (as in the AOL débâcle); and "random incompetence", e.g. an employee accidentally releasing data or arbitrarily exercising some designed-in control with undesirable consequences.

    Scott goes on:

    "Okay, so there is a penalty to having too much knowledge or too much control over customers. What should companies do to stay beneath this ceiling?

    1. Design an architecture for your business/software that naturally prevents this problem.

    It is much easier for someone to compel you to violate users’ privacy if it’s just a matter of using capabilities you already have. Mind, you have to convince a judge, not a software engineer, that adding monitoring or control is difficult. But you have a better shot in court if you must drastically alter your product in order to give in to demands.


    2. Assume you will monitor and control to the full extent of your architecture. In fact, don’t just assume this, but go to the trouble to monitor or control your users.

    Why? Because in an infringement lawsuit you don’t want to appear to be acting in bad faith... if you have the ability to monitor users and refuse to use it, you’re giving ammunition to a copyright holder who accuses you of inducement and complicity.


    But ... the real message is that you should go back to design principle 1. If you want to protect users, think about the architecture; don’t just assume you can take a principled stand not to abuse your own power.

    The third principle is really a restatement of the first two, but deserves restating:

    3. Do not attempt to strike a balance.

    Do not bother to design a system or business model that balances user privacy with copyright holder demands. All this does is insert an architecture of monitoring or control, for later abuse. In other words, design an architecture for privacy alone. Anything you put in there, under rule #2, will one day be used to its full extent.

    I have seen many many papers over the years, in watermarking tracks, proposing an end-to-end media distribution system balancing DRM with privacy. Usually, the approach is that watermarks are embedded in music/movies/images by a trusted third party, the marks are kept secret from the copyright holder, and personal information is revealed only under specific circumstances in which infringement is clear. This idea is basically BS. Your trusted third party does not have the legal authority to decide when to reveal information. What will likely happen instead: if a copyright holder feels infringement is happening, the trusted third party will be liable for vicarious infringement."

    Summing it up: any capability you design into a product or system will be used at some point - even if you are forced to use it against the best interests of your business. So it is better to design deliberately to avoid being drawn into this: design systems not to have the ability to monitor or control users, and that will keep you much safer from liability issues.

    The privacy ceiling concept - which Scott is going to present in a paper along with Lorrie Cranor and Janice Tsai at the ACM DRM 2006 workshop - really does seem to have a significant implications for many of the architectures of control examples I've looked at on this site.

    For example, the Car Insurance Black Boxes mostly record mileage and time data to allow insurance to be charged according to risk factors that interest the insurance company; but the boxes clearly also record speed, and whether that information would be released to, say, law enforcement authorities, if requested, is an immediate issue of interest/concern.

    Looking further, though, the patent covering the box used by a major insurer mentions an enormous number of possible types of data that could be monitored and reported by the device, including exact position, weights of occupants, driving styles, use of brakes, what radio station is tuned in, and so on. Whether any insurance company would ever implement them, of course, is another question, and it would require a lot tighter integration into a vehicle's systems; nevertheless, as Scott makes clear, whatever possibilities are designed into the architecture, will be exploited at some point, whether through pressure (external or internal) or incompetence.

    I look forward to reading the full paper when it is available.

    'Breathalyser phone stops drinkers making embarrassing calls' - LG LP4100 by Dan Lockton

    LG LP4100; looks like, well, a car
    Image from
    Except that it doesn't, by default - as the story in the Times mentions. You need to set it to block certain "numbers in the adddress book, such as former girlfriends or boyfriends, bosses, parents and kebab houses" when the built-in breathalyser detects that you are over the drink-drive limit. This is an odd product, though Lucky Goldstar (sorry, couldn't resist!) clearly knows its own Korean market extremely well. It's not clear from my cursory research whether using the breathalyser is compulsory if you want to use the phone, or whether this function has to be switched on specifically because the user actively wants to have his or her behaviour restricted - a kind of self-imposed architecture of control. Our 'rational' self in a sober state decides to enable the architecture of control to restrict our irrational self at a later time, because we want our sober self to retain control of our actions.

    Breathalyser interlocks for car ignition systems could become irritating to drivers if they have to be used every time the car is used, daytime as well as night time (and a false positive could be extremely inconvenient), but proposals for total compulsion have been put forward.

    I think I may need a 'voluntary self-imposed architecture of control' classification to help assess examples: to what extent are we complicit in restricting our own behaviour and use of products, where such a restriction offerrs us some benefits? If you had a rev limiter you could switch on to keep your car at a more optimal effciency, even though it limited your ability to accelerate, and so on, would you engage it?

    Freedom to Tinker - The Freedom to Tinker with Freedom? by Dan Lockton

    An open bonnet At Freedom to Tinker, David Robinson asks whether, in a world where DRM is presented to so many customers as a benefit (e.g. Microsoft's Zune service), the public as a whole will be quite happy to trade away its freedom to tinker, whether the law needs to intervene in this, and on which side: ensuring freedom to tinker, or outlawing it in order to enshrine the business model that "most people" will be portrayed as wanting, given the numbers who sign away their rights in EULAs and so on.

    "Many of us, who may find ourselves arguing based on public reasons for public policies that protect the freedom to tinker, also have a private reason to favor such policies. The private reason is that we ourselves care more about tinkering than the public at large does, and we would therefore be happier in a protected-tinkering world than the public at large would be."

    Many of the comments - and those on the follow-up post - look in more detail at the legal issues, with some very interesting analogies to freedom of expression and points made about the impact on innovation - which benefits everyone - when power users are prevented from innovating.

    I felt I had to comment, since this is an issue central to the architectures of control research; here's what I said:

    "I think I'd ask the question, "Even if it becomes illegal to tinker with a device, what is there to to stop someone doing it?"

    If it is purely the fear of getting caught, then tinkering will be stifled, to some extent. But power users will form groups just as they do now, and some tinkering will still go on. (If the tinkering is advanced enough, it will be too difficult for law enforcement to detect/understand it anyway).

    At present much file-sharing activity is illegal, but it still goes on in vast quantities. The fear of getting caught is a major retardation to that activity, I'd suggest; there may also be an ethical component to the decision in many people's minds. They're told it's analogous to stealing a CD from a store, and they believe or are persuaded, partially at least, by that. It seems immoral or unethical.

    But does anyone seriously believe that tinkering with devices is unethical? (There are probably a few people who do, e.g. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley)

    Tinkering with devices will never seem immoral or unethical to the vast majority of the public, hence the only barriers to stop them doing it are a) fear of getting caught and b) lack of knowledge or desire. Most people don't bother tuning up their cars or tinkering with their computers, even though they could.

    Power users do, and in a future where tinkering is illegal, it will again only be power users who do it, and fear of getting caught will be the only reason for not doing it.

    So what about this fear of getting caught? How likely is it that one's modifications or tinkering will be detected by some kind of enforcement agency? The only way I can see that this could be carried out in any kind of systematic way would be if observation/reporting devices were embedded in every product, e.g. every PC reporting home every few hours to squeal if it's been modified.

    But we already have that! Or at least we will soon, and therefore it seems irrelevant whether or not it becomes illegal to tinker with devices. If every computer is 'trusted' and spies and reports on its user's behaviour, whether it reports to Microsoft or a Federal Anti-Tinkering Agency is, perhaps, beside the point.

    Architectures to prevent or stifle tinkering can be designed into products and technologies whether or not there is a law requiring them. The user agrees to have his/her behaviour and interactions monitored and controlled by the act of purchasing the device.

    Even if the law went the other way, and there were a legally guaranteed right to tinker, all that would happen is that manufacturers will make it more difficult to do so by the design of products. Hoods (bonnets) would start to be welded shut, in Cory Doctorow's phrase, (the Audi A2 already has this, sort of), backed up by stringent warranty provisions. You might have a right to tinker with your device, but no law is going to compel the manufacturers to honour the warranty if you do so.

    This, I think, is the crucial issue: the points Lessig makes about the designed structure of the internet, the code, superseding statute law as the dominant shaper of behaviour in the medium, apply just as strongly to technology hardware. Architectures of control in design will control users' behaviour, however the laws themselves evolve."

    Nice attitude by Dan Lockton

    Someone from the UK just found this site by searching for "device to stop young people congregating" using a mobile phone provider's search engine. Now, I know, I know, there may be an important backstory behind that person's search. Some people apparently really do have problems with kids intimidating them (e.g. see these comments on the Mosquito) and believe that a technological solution is the only answer.

    But take the concept in isolation: how will history judge the "device to stop young people congregating" concept? Will it be seen as a cruel, archaic display of embdedded prejudice, in the same way that we would be horrified to see "device to stop X race of people congregating" or "device to stop X colour people congregating"?

    Or will it be seen as a mild, thin end of a much larger, more sinister wedge ("device to stop ALL people congregating")?

    Embedding control in society: the end of freedom by Dan Lockton

    Bye bye debate. Henry Porter's chilling Blair Laid Bare - which I implore you to read if you have the slightest interest in your future - contains an equally worrying quote from the LSE's Simon Davies noting the encroachment of architectures of control in society itself:

    "The second invisible change that has occurred in Britain is best expressed by Simon Davies, a fellow at the London School of Economics, who did pioneering work on the ID card scheme and then suffered a wounding onslaught from the Government when it did not agree with his findings. The worrying thing, he suggests, is that the instinctive sense of personal liberty has been lost in the British people.

    "We have reached that stage now where we have gone almost as far as it is possible to go in establishing the infrastructures of control and surveillance within an open and free environment," he says. "That architecture only has to work and the citizens only have to become compliant for the Government to have control. "That compliance is what scares me the most. People are resigned to their fate. They've bought the Government's arguments for the public good. There is a generational failure of memory about individual rights. Whenever Government says that some intrusion is necessary in the public interest, an entire generation has no clue how to respond, not even intuitively. And that is the great lesson that other countries must learn. The US must never lose sight of its traditions of individual freedom.""

    My blood ran cold as I read the article; by the time I got to this bit I was just feeling sick, sick with anger at the destruction of freedom that's happened within my own lifetime - in fact, within the last nine years, pretty much.

    Regardless of actual party politics, it is the creeping erosion of norms which scares the hell out of me. Once a generation believes it's normal to have every movement, every journey, every transaction tracked and monitored and used against them - thanks to effective propaganda that it's necessary to 'preserve our freedoms'* - then there is going to be no source of reaction, no possible legitimate way to criticise. If making a technical point about the effectiveness of a metal detector can already get you arrested, then the wedge is already well and truly inserted.

    Biscuit packaging kind of pales into insignificance alongside this stuff. But, ultimately, much the same mindset is evident, I would argue: a desire to control, shape and restrict the behaviour of the public in ways not to the public's benefit, and the use of technology, design and architecture to achieve that goal.

    Heinlein said that "the human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire". I fear the emergence of a category who don't know or care that they're being controlled and so have no real opinion one way or the other. We're walking, mostly blind, into a cynically designed, ruthlessly planned, end of freedom.

    Related: SpyBlog | No2ID | Privacy International | Save Parliament | Areopagitica

    *Personally, I have serious doubts about the whole concept of any government or organisation 'giving' its people rights or freedoms, as if they are a kind of reward for good behaviour. No-one, elected or otherwise, tells me what rights I have. The people should be telling the government its rights, not the other way round. And those rights should be extremely limited. The 1689 Bill of Rights was a bill limiting the rights of the monarch. That's the right way round, except now we have a dictator pulling the strings rather than Williamanmary.

    Policing Crowds: Privatizing Security by Dan Lockton

    Policing Crowds logo The Policing Crowds conference is taking place 24-25 June 2006 in Berlin, examining many aspects of controlling the public and increasing business involvement in this field - 'crime control as industry'. Technologies designed specifically to permit control and monitoring of the public, such as CCTV and many RFID applications, will also be discussed.

    The conference takes as its starting point the techniques and policies being used to control and monitor the massive crowds currently descended on German cities for the World Cup, but extends this view into the broader implications for future society:

    "The global sports and media mega event is also a mega security show. Essential part of the event is the largest display of domestic security strength in Germany since 1945: More than 260,000 personnel drawn from the state police forces (220,000), the federal police (30,000), the secret services (an unknown number), private security companies (12,000) and the military (7,000) are guarding the World Cup. In addition, 323 foreign police officers vested with executive powers support the policing of train stations, air- and seaports and fan groups. The NATO assists with the airborne surveillance systems AWACS to control air space over host cities. On the ground Germany is suspending the Schengen Agreement and reinstating border checks during the World Cup to regulate the international flow of visitors. Tournament venues and their vicinity as well as "public viewing" locations in downtown areas are converted into high-security zones with access limited to registered persons and pacified crowds only. The overall effort is supported and mediated by sophisticated surveillance, information and communication technology: RFID chips in the World Cup tickets, mobile finger print scanners, extensive networks of CCTV surveillance, DNA samples preventively taken from alleged hooligans – huge amounts of personal data from ticket holders, staff, football supporters and the curious public are collected, processed and shared by the FIFA, the police and the secret services.


    Studying the security architecture and strategies tested and implemented at the World Cup is more than focusing on an individual event. It is a looking into a prism which bundles and locally mediates global trends in contemporary policing and criminal policies. Thus, we have chosen the context of the World Cup to outline and discuss these trends in an international and comparative perspective."

    The sheer scale of this planned control is certainly enough to make one stop and think. It is, effectively, an entire system designed for the single purpose of controlling people within it.

    If it's possible during a major event, it's possible all of the time. Not sure I want to be living near Heathrow come the 2012 Olympics in London.

    Thanks, Jens.