Discrimination

Anti-teenager "pink lights to show up acne" by Dan

Pink lights in Mansfield. Photo from BBC In a similar vein to the Mosquito, intentionally shallow steps (and, superficially at least--though not really--blue lighting in toilets, which Raph d'Amico dissects well here), we now have residents' associations installing pink lighting to highlight teenagers' acne and so drive them away from an area:

Residents of a Nottinghamshire housing estate have installed pink lights which show up teenagers' spots in a bid to stop them gathering in the area.

Members of Layton Burroughs Residents' Association, Mansfield say they have bought the lights in a bid to curb anti-social behaviour. The lights are said to have a calming influence, but they also highlight skin blemishes.

The National Youth Agency said it would just move the problem somewhere else. Peta Halls, development officer for the NYA, said: "Anything that aims to embarrass people out of an area is not on. "The pink lights are indiscriminate in that they will impact on all young people and older people who do not, perhaps, have perfect skin.

I had heard about this before (thanks, Ed!) but overlooked posting it on the blog - other places the pink lights have been used include Preston and Scunthorpe, to which this quote refers (note the youths=yobs equation):

Yobs are being shamed out of anti-social behaviour by bright pink lights which show up their acne.

The lights are so strong they highlight skin blemishes and have been successful in moving on youths from troublespots who view pink as being "uncool." ... Manager Dave Hey said: "With the fluorescent pink light we are trying to embarass young people out of the area. "The pink is not seen as particularly macho among young men and apparently it highlights acne and blemishes in the skin. ... A North Lincolnshire Council spokesman said: "[...]"On the face of it this sounds barmy. But do young people really want to hang around in an area with a pink glow that makes any spots they have on their face stand out?"

With the Mansfield example making the news, it's good to see that there is, at least, quite a lot of comment pointing out the idiocy of the hard-of-thinking who believe that this sort of measure will actually 'solve the problem of young people', whatever that might mean, as well as the deeply discriminatory nature of the plan. For example, this rather dim (if perhaps tongue-in-cheek) light in the Nottingham Evening Post has been comprehensively rebutted by a commenter:

Trying to use someone's personal looks against them simply because they meet up with friends and have a social life...

If this is the case then I would personally love to see adults banned from meeting up in pubs, parties and generally getting drunk. I would also love to see something making fun of their elderlyness and wrinkle problems.

I don't understand why Britain hates its young people so much. But I can see it storing up a great deal of problems for the future.

Photo from this BBC story

Discriminatory architecture by Dan

In memory of Leonard Ball, who hated fat peopleThe entries in B3ta's current image challenge, 'Fat Britain', include this amusing take on anti- $USER_CLASS benches by monkeon. (There's also this, using a slightly different discriminatory architecture technique - don't click if you're likely to be offended, etc, by B3ta's style.)

 

 

 

 

"Steps are like ready-made seats" (so let's make them uncomfortable) by Dan

Image from Your Local Guardian website Adrian Short let me know about something going on in Sutton, Surrey, at the same time both fundamentally pathetic and indicative of the mindset of many public authorities in 'dealing with' emergent behaviour:

An area in Rosehill, known locally as "the steps", is to be re-designed to stop young people sitting there.

Not only will the steps be made longer and more shallow to make them uncomfortable to sit on, but no handrail will be installed just in case teens decide to lean against it. ... Explaining the need for the changes, St Helier Councillor David Callaghan said: "At the moment the steps are like ready-made seats so changes will be made to make the area less attractive to young people.

It's well worth reading the readers' comments, since - to many people's apparent shock - Emma, a 'young person', actually read the article and responded with her thoughts and concerns, spurring the debate into what seems to be a microcosm of the attitudes, assumptions, prejudices and paranoia that define modern Britain's schizophrenic attitude to its 'young people'. The councillor quoted above responded too - near the bottom of the page - and Adrian's demolition of his 'understanding' of young people is direct and eloquent:

One thing young people and older people have in common is a desire to be left alone to do their own thing, provided that they are not causing trouble to others. People like Emma and her friends are not. They do not want to be told that they can go to one place but not another. They do not want to be cajoled, corralled and organised by the state -- they get enough of that at school. They certainly do not want to be disadvantaged as a group because those in charge -- you -- are unable to deal appropriately with a tiny minority of troublemakers in their midst.

EDIT: Adrian sends me a link to the council's proposal [PDF, 55 kb] which contains a few real gems - as he puts it:

I really have no idea how they can write things like this with a straight face:

"It is normal practice to provide handrails to assist pedestrians. However, these have purposely been omitted from the proposals, as they could provide loiterers with something to lean against."

and then,

"The scheme will cater for all sections of the local community."

Wow.

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].

Digital control round-up by Dan Lockton

An 'Apple' dongle Mac as a giant dongle

At Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood makes an interesting point about Apple's lock-in business model:

It's almost first party only-- about as close as you can get to a console platform and still call yourself a computer... when you buy a new Mac, you're buying a giant hardware dongle that allows you to run OS X software. ... There's nothing harder to copy than an entire MacBook. When the dongle -- or, if you prefer, the "Apple Mac" -- is present, OS X and Apple software runs. It's a remarkably pretty, well-designed machine, to be sure. But let's not kid ourselves: it's also one hell of a dongle.

If the above sounds disapproving in tone, perhaps it is. There's something distasteful to me about dongles, no matter how cool they may be.

Of course, as with other dongles, there are plenty of people who've got round the Mac hardware 'dongle' requirement. Is it true to say (à la John Gilmore) that technical people interpret lock-ins (/other constraints) as damage and route around them?

Screenshot of Mukurtu archive website

Social status-based DRM

The BBC has a story about the Mukurtu Wumpurrarni-kari Archive, a digital photo archive developed by/for the Warumungu community in Australia's Northern Territory. Because of cultural constraints, social status, gender and community background have been used to determine whether or not users can search for and view certain images:

It asks every person who logs in for their name, age, sex and standing within their community. This information then restricts what they can search for in the archive, offering a new take on DRM. ... For example, men cannot view women's rituals, and people from one community cannot view material from another without first seeking permission. Meanwhile images of the deceased cannot be viewed by their families.

It's not completely clear whether it's intended to help users perform self-censorship (i.e. they 'know' they 'shouldn't' look at certain images, and the restrictions are helping them achieve that) or whether it's intended to stop users seeing things they 'shouldn't', even if they want to. I think it's probably the former, since there's nothing to stop someone putting in false details (but that does assume that the idea of putting in false details would be obvious to someone not experienced with computer login procedures; it may not).

While from my western point of view, this kind of social status-based discrimination DRM seems complete anathema - an entirely arbitrary restriction on knowledge dissemination - I can see that it offers something aside from our common understanding of censorship, and if that's 'appropriate' in this context, then I guess it's up to them. It's certainly interesting.

Neverthless, imagining for a moment that there were a Warumungu community living in the EU, would DRM (or any other kind of access restriction) based on a) gender or b) social status not be illegal under European Human Rights legislation?

Disabled buttonsDisabling buttons

From Clientcopia:

Client: We don't want the visitor to leave our site. Please leave the navigation buttons, but remove the links so that they don't go anywhere if you click them.

It's funny because the suggestion is such a crude way of implementing it, but it's not actually that unlikely - a 2005 patent by Brian Shuster details a "program [that] interacts with the browser software to modify or control one or more of the browser functions, such that the user computer is further directed to a predesignated site or page... instead of accessing the site or page typically associated with the selected browser function" - and we've looked before at websites deliberately designed to break in certain browers and disabling right-click menus for arbitrary purposes.

In default, defiance by Dan Lockton

'Choice of default' is a theme which has come up a few times on the blog: in general, many people accept the options/settings presented to them, and do not question or attempt to alter them. The possibilities for controlling or shaping users' behaviour in this way are, clearly, enormous; two interesting examples have recently been brought to my attention (thanks to Chris Weightman and Patrick Kalaher): Send to FedEx Kinko's button in Adobe Reader

Recent versions of Adobe's PDF creation and viewing software, Acrobat Professional and Adobe Reader (screenshot above) have 'featured' a button on the toolbar (and a link in the File menu) entitled "Send to FedEx Kinko's" which upload the document to FedEx Kinko's online printing service. As Gavin Clarke reports in The Register, this choice of default (the result of a tie-in between Adobe and FedEx) has irritated other printing companies and trade bodies sufficiently for Adobe to agree to remove the element from the software:

Adobe Systems has scrapped the "send to FedEx Kinkos" print button in iAdobe Reader and Acrobat Professional, in the face of overwhelming opposition from America's printing companies.

Adobe said today it would release an update to its software in 10 weeks that will remove the ability to send PDFs to FedEx Kinkos for printing at the touch of a button.

...

No doubt the idea of linking to a service that's often the only choice presented to consumers in the track towns of Silicon Valley made eminent sense to Adobe, itself based in San Jose, California. But the company quickly incurred the wrath of printers outside the Valley for including a button to their biggest competitor, in software used widely by the design and print industry.

I wonder how many users of Acrobat/Reader actually used the service? Did its inclusion change any users' printing habits (i.e. they stopped using their current printer and used Kinko's instead)? And was this due to pure convenience/laziness? Presumably Kinko's could identify which of their customers originated from clicking the button - were they charged exactly the same as any other customer, or was this an opportunity for price discrimination?

As some of the comments - both on the Register story and on Adobe's John Loiacono's blog - have noted, the idea of a built-in facility to send documents to an external printing service is not bad in itself, but allowing the user to configure this, or allowing printing companies to offer their own one-click buttons to users, would be much more desirable from a user's point of view.

In a sense, 'choice of default' could be the other side of process friction as a design strategy. By making some options deliberately easier - much easier - than the alternatives (which might actually be more beneficial to the user), the other options appear harder in comparison, which is effectively the same as making some options or methods harder in the first place. The new-PCs-pre-installed-with-Windows example is probably the most obvious modern instance of choice of default having a major effect on consumer behaviour, as an anonymous commenter noted here last year:

Ultimately, though, you can sum up the free-software tug-of-war political control this way: it’s easiest to get a Windows computer and use it as such. Next easiest to get a MacOS one and use it as such. Commercial interests and anti-free software political agenda. Next easiest is a Linux computer, where the large barrier of having to install and configure an operating system yourself must be leapt. Also, it’s likely you don’t actually save any money upfront, because you probably end up buying a Windows box and wiping it to install Linux. Microsoft exacts their tax even if you won’t use the copy of Windows you’re supposedly paying them for.

Starbucks Mug; photo by Veryfotos
Photo by veryfotos.

Sometimes 'choice of default' can mean actually hiding the options which it's undesirable for customers to choose:

Here's a little secret that Starbucks doesn't want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why. The drink in question is the elusive "short cappuccino"—at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the "tall," and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the "customer-preferred" size, the "Venti," which weighs in at 20 ounces and more than 200 calories before you add the sugar.

The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one. The World Barista Championship rules, for example, define a traditional cappuccino as a "five- to six-ounce beverage." This is also the size of cappuccino served by many continental cafés. Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better.

...

This secret cappuccino is cheaper, too—at my local Starbucks, $2.35 instead of $2.65. But why does this cheaper, better drink—along with its sisters, the short latte and the short coffee—languish unadvertised? The official line from Starbucks is that there is no room on the menu board, although this doesn't explain why the short cappuccino is also unmentioned on the comprehensive Starbucks Web site, nor why the baristas will serve you in a whisper rather than the usual practice of singing your order to the heavens.

The rest of this Slate article* from 2006, by Tim Harford, advances the idea that this kind of tactic is designed specifically to allow price discrimination:

This is the Starbucks way of sidestepping a painful dilemma over how high to set prices. Price too low and the margins disappear; too high and the customers do. Any business that is able to charge one price to price-sensitive customers and a higher price to the rest will avoid some of that awkward trade-off... Offer the cheaper product but make sure that it is available only to those customers who face the uncertainty and embarrassment of having to request it specifically.

Initially, one might think it a bit odd that the lower-priced item has survived at all as an option, given that it can only be a very small percentage of customers who are 'in the know' about it. But unlike a shop or company carrying a 'secret product line', which requires storage and so on, the short cappuccino can be made without needing any different ingredients, so it presumably makes sense to contnue offering it.

Thinking about other similarly hidden options (especially 'delete' options when buying equipment) reveals how common this sort of practice has become. I'm forever unticking (extra-cost) options for insurance or faster delivery when ordering products online; even when in-store, the practice of staff presenting extended warranties and insurance as if they're the default choice on new products is extremely widespread.

Perhaps a post would be in order rounding up ways to save money (or get a better product) by requesting hidden options, or requesting the deletion of unnecessary options - please feel free to leave any tips or examples in the comments. Remember, all progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman).

*There is another tactic raised in the article, pertinent to our recent look at casino carpets, which I will get around to examining further in due course.

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'?

'Anti-Homeless' benches in Tokyo by Dan Lockton

Photo by Yumiko Hayakawa Images from Yumiko Hayakawa

Yumiko Hayakawa has a very thoughtful and well-illustrated article at OhMyNews on the story behind the variety of 'anti-homeless' benches and architectural features (including public art) in Tokyo's parks and public areas - by making it difficult or impossible to lie down. (We've looked briefly before at benches with central armrests before, along with anti-sit devices and of course anti-skateboarding measures - 'disciplinary architecture')

Many of the features, such as the benches shown above and below, are also designed to discourage everyone from spending too long on them, even when sitting normally, by deliberately making them uncomfortable:

"The bench in the photo below may appear to be of modern design, but because of its tubular construction one risks sliding off if not careful.

One should be especially careful if drunk at the time! Made of stainless steel, the benches are hot in summer and cold in winter. The Toshima-ward parks office, which oversees Ikebukuro West Park, home to this bench, describes the bench as "designed to keep with the modern image of the area while at the same time not allowing homeless people to loiter."

Suggestions that the benches were dangerously slippery and also uncomfortable met with the advice that "people should take the utmost care when sitting on them" and that these benches were only something to lean on or sit on for a few minutes.

That is, they want us to regard the bench as "somewhere you can sit if you have to." It makes you wonder who would actually want to sit on such a bench."

Photo by Yumiko Hayakawa

There are examples of bus stop 'perches' and uncomfortable café seating to discourage loitering from many areas of the world, but it does seem as though Tokyo's authorities perhaps see inconveniencing all members of the public as merely collateral damage in a 'war' against the homeless, which itself is more than simply contentious. Nevertheless, people adapt and find their own ways around discipline. Hayakawa interviewed some homeless people about the benches:

"Most common were the "defeatists," who gave up on the grounds that the benches were so uncomfortable that it was easier to just lay down a newspaper and sit on the ground. Next most common were the "optimists," who argued that while they found it a hassle to be unable to sit on benches for a long period of time, it did mean that other park users had to put up with seeing homeless people less. Finally, there were the "innovators," who would lie folding their bodies into a V-shape around the central bench divider, or placing bags on either sides of the divider at the same height, or even placing a camping stove underneath the stainless steel tubular bench above to cook and at the same time warm the bench!"

"Do artefacts have politics?" Langdon Winner asked in 1986; the answer is, of course, yes.

'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 Plasticbag.org 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."

Ed Felten: DRM Wars, and 'Property Rights Management' by Dan Lockton

RFID Velcro? At Freedom to Tinker, Ed Felten has posted a summary of a talk he gave at the Usenix Security Symposium, called "DRM Wars: The Next Generation". The two installments so far (Part 1, Part 2) trace a possible trend in the (stated) intentions of DRM's proponents, from it being largely promoted as a tool to help enforce copyright law (and defeat 'illegal pirates') to the current stirrings of DRM's being explicitly acknowledged as a tool to facilitate discrimination and lock-in — and the apparent 'benefits of this':

"First, they argue that DRM enables price discrimination — business models that charge different customers different prices for a product — and that price discrimination benefits society, at least sometimes. Second, they argue that DRM helps platform developers lock in their customers, as Apple has done with its iPod/iTunes products, and that lock-in increases the incentive to develop platforms. Interestingly, these new arguments have little or nothing to do with copyright. The maker of almost any product would like to price discriminate, or to lock customers in to its product. Accordingly, we can expect the debate over DRM policy to come unmoored from copyright, with people on both sides making arguments unrelated to copyright and its goals."

As noted by some of the commenters, that unmooring also unmoors the DRM debate from being presented as an 'honest content providers vs illegal pirating freeloaders' one. Price-fixing, lock-ins and so on are difficult to defend, and I find it hard to think of convincing examples where "price discrimination benefits society" or "lock-in increases the incentive to develop platforms". If customers are locked in to a platform, there is no incentive to innovate for the locker-in, and much higher barriers for competitors to draw them away. Path dependency is rarely good for companies, and rarely good for society, and lock-ins would seem to be a major contributor to path dependency. The argument that "Apple wouldn't have developed the iPod (and the record companies wouldn't have let Apple develop iTunes) if DRM didn't exist to lock customers in" is specious: there were plenty of portable music players before they came on the scene, and surely most 40GB music iPods were always intended to be largely filled with music acquired from somewhere other than iTunes.

Ed goes on to talk about the trend "toward the use of DRM-like technologies on traditional physical products." (Long-term followers - if any! - of my research might remember this is very similar to the phrase "Architectures of control: DRM in hardware" which Cory Doctorow used to link to my original web-page on the subject), and uses the example of printer cartridge lock-ins (see also here):

"A good example is the use of cryptographic lockout codes in computer printers and their toner cartridges. Printer manufacturers want to sell printers at a low price and compensate by charging more for toner cartridges. To do this, they want to stop consumers from buying cheap third-party toner cartridges. So some printer makers have their printers do a cryptographic handshake with a chip in their cartridges, and they lock out third-party cartridges by programming the printers not to operate with cartridges that can’t do the secret handshake.

Doing this requires having some minimal level of computing functionality in both devices (e.g., the printer and cartridge). Moore’s Law is driving the size and price of that functionality to zero, so it will become economical to put secret-handshake functions into more and more products. Just as traditional DRM operates by limiting and controlling interoperation (i.e., compatibility) between digital products, these technologies will limit and control interoperation between ordinary products. We can call this Property Rights Management, or PRM."

Not too sure about that term myself, as I feel the affordances the technology is controlling are moving further and further away from actual 'rights'. DRM is bad enough as a catch-all term for technology which in many cases is denying users rights they may legally hold in some countries (e.g. fair use or backup copies). I think "technology lock-ins" or "technology razor-blade models" might be a more descriptive label than 'PRM'. (Or 'architectures of control', of course, but my definition of these is much broader than simply lock-ins).

Ed gives three examples of possible future extensions of technology lock-ins, none of which seem at all unlikely; in fact they're all easily possible right now:

"(1) A pen may refuse to dispense ink unless it’s being used with licensed paper. The pen would handshake with the paper by short-range RFID or through physical contact.

(2) A shoe may refuse to provide some features, such as high-tech cushioning of the sole, unless used with licensed shoelaces. Again, this could be done by short-range RFID or physical contact.

(3) The scratchy side of a velcro connector may refuse to stick to the fuzzy size unless the fuzzy side is licensed. The scratchy side of velcro has little hooks to grab loops on the fuzzy side; the hooks may refuse to function unless the license is in order [hence my photo at the top of this post! - Dan] For example, Apple could put PRMed scratchy-velcro onto the iPod, in the hope of extracting license fees from companies that make fuzzy-velcro for the iPod to stick to.

Will these things actually happen? I can’t say for sure. I chose these examples to illustrate how far PRM might go. The examples will be feasible to implement, eventually. Whether PRM gets used in these particular markets depends on market conditions and business decisions by the vendors. What we can say, I think, is that as PRM becomes practical in more product areas, its use will widen and we’ll face policy decisions about how to treat it."

The comments on both posts (Part 1 | Part 2) go into some extremely interesting discussion of the ideas and examples, with the 'pen/licensed paper' one being conclusively noted as 'baked' with Bill Higgins explaining the Anoto* technology.

(*And no, I don't think the "www.anotofunctionality.com" of that link is deliberately in the same league as "www.powergenitalia.com," "www.expertsexchange.com," etc, but it's still oddly apposite given the "no to functionality" with which so many lock-ins shed users when they're fed up with paying over the odds for replacement parts.)

I look forward to the third part of Ed's talk summary: this is a fascinating area of discussion which is central to much of the 'architectures of control' phenomenon.

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")?

Review: Everyware by Adam Greenfield by Dan Lockton

The cover of the book, in a suitably quotidian setting This is the first book review I've done on this blog, though it won't be the last. In a sense, this is less of a conventional review than an attempt to discuss some of the ideas in the book, and synthesise them with points that have been raised by the examination of architectures of control: what can we learn from the arguments outlined in the book?

Adam Greenfield's Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing looks at the possibilities, opportunities and issues posed by the embedding of networked computing power and information processing in the environment, from the clichéd 'rooms that recognise you and adapt to your preferences' to surveillance systems linking databases to track people's behaviour with unprecedented precision. The book is presented as a series of 81 theses, each a chapter in itself and each addressing a specific proposition about ubiquitous computing and how it will be used.

There's likely to be a substantial overlap between architectures of control and pervasive everyware (thanks, Andreas), and, as an expert in the field, it's worth looking at how Greenfield sees the control aspects of everyware panning out.

Everyware as a discriminatory architecture enabler

"Everyware can be engaged inadvertently, unknowingly, or even unwillingly"

In Thesis 16, Greenfield introduces the possibilities of pervasive systems tracking and sensing our behaviour—and basing responses on that—without our being aware of it, or against our wishes. An example he gives is a toilet which tests its users' "urine for the breakdown products of opiates and communicate[s] its findings to [their] doctor, insurers or law-enforcement personnel," without the user's express say-so.

It's not hard to see that with this level of unknowingly/unwillingly active everyware in the environment, there could be a lot of 'architectures of control' consequences. For example, systems which constrain users' behaviour based on some arbitrary profile: a vending machine may refuse to serve a high-fat snack to someone whose RFID pay-card identifies him/her as obese; or, more critically, only a censored version of the internet or a library catalogue may be available to someone whose profile identifies him/her as likely to be 'unduly' influenced by certain materials, according to some arbitrary definition. Yes, Richard Stallman's Right To Read prophecy could well come to pass through individual profiling by networked ubiquitous computing power, in an even more sinister form than he anticipated.

Taking the 'discriminatory architecture' possibilities further, Thesis 30, concentrating on the post-9/11 'security' culture, looks at how:

"Everyware redefines not merely computing but surveillance as well... beyond simple observation there is control... At the heart of all ambitions aimed at the curtailment of mobility is the demand that people be identifiable at all times—all else follows from that. In an everyware world, this process of identification is a much subtler and more powerful thing than we often consider it to be; when the rhythm of your footsteps or the characteristic pattern of your transactions can give you away, it's clear that we're talking about something deeper than 'your papers, please.'

Once this piece of information is in hand, it's possible to ask questions like Who is allowed here? and What is he or she allowed to do here?... consider the ease with which an individual's networked currency cards, transit passes and keys can be traced or disabled, remotely—in fact, this already happens. But there's a panoply of ubiquitous security measures both actual and potential that are subtler still: navigation systems that omit all paths through an area where a National Special Security Event is transpiring, for example... Elevators that won't accept requests for floors you're not accredited for; retail items, from liquor to ammunition to Sudafed, that won't let you purchase them... Certain options simply do not appear as available to you, like greyed-out items on a desktop menu—in fact, you won't even get that back-handed notification—you won't even know the options ever existed."

This kind of 'creeping erosion of norms' is something that's concerned me a lot on this blog, as it seems to be a feature of so many dystopian visions, both real and fictional. From the more trivial—Japanese kids growing up believing it's perfectly normal to have to buy music again every time they change their phone—to society blindly walking into 1984 due to a "generational failure of memory about individual rights" (Simon Davies, LSE), it's the "you won't even know the [options|rights|abilities|technology|information|words to express dissent] ever existed" bit that scares me the most.

Going on, Greenfield quotes MIT's Gary T Marx's definition of an "engineered society," in which "the goal is to eliminate or limit violations by control of the physical and social environment." I'd say that, broadening the scope to include product design, and the implication to include manipulation of people's behaviour for commercial ends as well as political, that's pretty much the architectures of control concept as I see it.

In Thesis 42, Greenfield looks at the chain of events that might lead to an apparently innocuous use of data in one situation (e.g. the recording of ethnicity on an ID card, purely for 'statistical' purposes) escalating into a major problem further down the line, when that same ID record has become the basis of an everyware system which controls, say, access to a building. Any criteria recorded can be used as a basis for access restriction, and if 'enabled' deliberately or accidentally, it would be quite possible for certain people to be denied services or access to a building, etc, purely on an arbitrary, discriminatory criterion.

"...the result is that now the world has been provisioned with a system capable of the worst sort of discriminatory exclusion, and doing it all cold-bloodedly, at the level of its architecture... the deep design of ubiquitous systems will shape the choices available to us in day-to-day life, in ways both subtle and less so... It's easy to imagine being denied access to some accommodation, for example, because of some machine-rendered judgement as to our suitability, and... that judgement may well hinge on something we did far away in both space and time... All we'll be able to guess is that we conformed to some profile, or violated the nominal contours of some other...

The downstream consequences of even the least significant-seeming architectural decision could turn out to be considerable—and unpleasant."

Indeed.

Everyware as mass mind control enabler

In a—superficially—less contentious area, Thesis 34 includes the suggestion that everyware may allow more of us to relax: to enter the alpha-wave meditative state of "Tibetan monks in deep contemplation... it's easy to imagine environmental interventions, from light to sound to airflow to scent, designed to evoke the state of mindfulness, coupled to a body-monitor setting that helps you recognise when you've entered it." Creating this kind of device—whether biofeedback (closed loop) or open-loop—has interested designers for decades (indeed, my own rather primitive student project attempt a few years ago, MindCentre, featured light, sound and scent in an open-loop), but when coupled to the pervasive bio-monitoring of whole populations using everyware, some other possibilities surely present themselves.

Is it ridiculous to suggest that a population whose stress levels (and other biological indicators) are being constantly, automatically monitored, could equally well be calmed, 'reassured', subdued and controlled by everyware embedded in the environment designed for this purpose? One only has to look at the work of Hendricus Loos to see that the control technology exists, or is at least being developed (outside of the military); how long before it\'s networked to pervasive monitoring, even if, initially only of prisoners? See also this article by Francesca Cedor.\r\n\r\n\r\nEveryware as \'artefacts with politics\'\r\n\r\nOn a more general \'Do artefacts have politics?\'/\'Is design political?\' point, Greenfield observes that certain technologies have "inherent potentials, gradients of connection" which predispose them to be deployed and used in particular ways (Thesis 27), i.e. technodeterminism. That sounds pretty vague, but it\'s — to some extent — applying Marshall McLuhan\'s "the medium is the message" concept to technology. Greenfield makes an interesting point:\r\n\r\n

"It wouldn\'t have taken a surplus of imagination, even ahead of the fact, to discern the original Napster in Paul Baran\'s first paper on packet-switched networks, the Manhattan skyline in the Otis safety elevator patent, or the suburb and the strip mall latent in the heart of the internal combustion engine."

\r\n\r\nThat\'s an especially clear way of looking at \'intentions\' in design: to what extent are the future uses of a piece of technology, and the way it will affect society, embedded in the design, capabilities and interaction architecture? And to what extent are the designers aware of the power they control? In Thesis 42, Greenfield says, "whether consciously or not, values are encoded into a technology, in preference to others that might have been, and then enacted whenever the technology is employed".\r\n\r\nLawrence Lessig has made the point that the decentralised architecture of the internet — as originally, deliberately planned — is a major factor in its enormous diversity and rapid success; but what about in other fields? It\'s clear that Richard Stallman\'s development of the GPL (and Lessig\'s own Creative Commons licences) show a rigorous design intent to shape how they are applied and what can be done with the material they cover. But does it happen with other endeavours? Surely every RFID developer is aware of the possibilities of using the technology for tracking and control of people, even if he/she is \'only\' working on tracking parcels? As Greenfield puts it, "RFID \'wants\' to be everywhere and part of everything." He goes on to note that the 128-bit nature of the forthcoming IPv6 addressing standard — giving 2^128 possible addresses — pretty clearly demonstrates an intention to "transform everything in the world, even every part of every thing, into a node." \r\n\r\nNevertheless, in many cases, designed systems will be put to uses that the originators really did not intend. As Greenfield comments in Thesis 41:\r\n\r\n

"...connect... two discrete databases, design software that draws inferences fromt he appearance of certain patterns of fact—as our relational technology certainly allows us to do—and we have a situation where you can be identified by name and likely political sympathy as you walk through a space provisioned with the necessary sensors.\r\n\r\nDid anyone intend this? Of course not—at least, we can assume that the original designers of each separate system did not. But when... sensors and databases are networked and interoperable... it is a straightforward matter to combine them to produce effects unforeseen by their creators."

\r\n\r\nIn Thesis 23, the related idea of \'embedded assumptions\' in designed everyware products and systems is explored, with the example of a Japanese project to aid learning of the language, including alerting participants to "which of the many levels of politeness is appropriate in a given context," based on the system knowing every participant\'s social status, and "assign[ing] a rank to every person in the room... this ordering is a function of a student\'s age, position, and affiliations." Greenfield notes that, while this is entirely appropriate for the context in which the teaching system is used:\r\n\r\n

"It is nevertheless disconcerting to think how easily such discriminations can be hard-coded into something seemingly neutral and unimpeachable and to consider the force they have when uttered by such a source...\r\n\r\nEveryware [like almost all design, I would suggest (DL)]... will invariably reflect the assumptions its designers bring to it... those assumptions will result in orderings—and those orderings will be manifested pervasively, in everything from whose preferences take precedence while using a home-entertainment system to which of the injured supplicants clamouring for the attention of the ER staff gets cared for first."

\r\n\r\nThesis 69 states that:\r\n\r\n

"It is ethically incumbent on the designers of ubiquitous systems and environments to afford the human user some protection"

\r\n\r\nand I think I very much agree with that. From my perspective as a designer I would want to see that ethos promoted in universities and design schools: that is real, active user-centred, thoughtful design rather than the vague, posturing rhetoric which so often surrounds and obscures the subject. Indeed, I would further broaden the edict to include affording the human user some control, as well as merely protection—in all design—but that\'s a subject for another day (I have quite a lot to say on this issue, as you might expect!). Greenfield touches on this in Thesis 76 where he states that "ubiquitous systems must not introduce undue complications into ordinary operations" but I feel the principle really needs to be stronger than that. Thesis 77 proposes that "ubiquitous systems must offer users the ability to opt out, always and at any point," but I fear that will translate into reality as \'optional\' in the same way that the UK\'s proposed ID cards will be optional: if you don\'t have one, you\'ll be denied access to pretty much everything. And you can bet you\'ll be watched like a hawk.\r\n\r\n\r\nEveryware: transparent or not?\r\n\r\nGreenfield returns a number of times to the question of whether everyware should be presented to us as \'seamless\', with the relations between different systems not openly clear, or \'seamful\', where we understand and are informed about how systems will interact and pass data before we become involved with them. From an \'architectures of control\' point of view, the most relevant point here is mentioned in Theses 39 and 40:\r\n\r\n

"...the problem posed by the obscure interconnection of apparently discrete systems... the decision made to shield the user from the system\'s workings also conceals who is at risk and who stands to benefit in a given transaction...\r\n\r\n"MasterCard, for example, clearly hopes that people will lose track of what is signified by the tap of a PayPass card—that the action will become automatic and thus fade from perception."

\r\n\r\nThis is a very important issue and also seems especially pertinent to much in \'trusted\' computing where the user may well be entirely oblivious to what information is being collected about him or her, and to whom it is being transmitted, and, due to encryption, unable to access it even if the desire to investigate were there. Ross Anderson has explored this in great depth.\r\n\r\nThesis 74 proposes that "Ubiquitous systems must contain provisions for immediate and transparent querying of their ownership, use and capabilities," which is a succinct principle I very much hope will be followed, though I have a lot of doubt.\r\n\r\n\r\nFightback devices\r\n\r\nIn Thesis 78, Greenfield mentions the Georgia Tech CCD-light-flooding system to prevent unauthorised photography as a fightback device challenging everyware, i.e. that it will allow people to stop themselves being photographed or filmed without their permission.\r\n\r\nI feel that interpretation is somewhat naïve. I very, very much doubt that offering the device as a privacy protector for the public is a) in any way a real intention from Georgia Tech\'s point of view, or b) that members of the public who did use such a device to evade being filmed and photographed would be tolerated for long. Already in the UK we have shopping centres where hooded tops are banned so that every shopper\'s face can clearly be recorded on CCTV; I hardly think I\'d be allowed to get away with shining a laser into the cameras! \r\n\r\nAlthough Greenfield notes that the Georgia Tech device does seem "to be oriented less toward the individual\'s right to privacy than towards the needs of institutions attempting to secure themselves against digital observation," he uses examples of Honda testing a new car in secret (time for Hans Lehmann to dig out that old telephoto SLR!) and the Transportation Security Agency keeping details of airport security arrangements secret. The more recent press reports about the Georgia Tech device make pretty clear that the real intention (presumably the most lucrative) is to use it arbitrarily to stop members of the public photographing and filming things, rather than the other way round. If used at all, it\'ll be to stop people filming in cinemas, taking pictures of their kids with Santa at the mall (they\'ll have to buy an \'official\' photo instead), taking photos at sports events (again, that official photo), taking photos of landmarks (you\'ll have to buy a postcard) and so on. \r\n\r\nIt\'s not a fightback device: it\'s a grotesque addition to the rent-seekers\' armoury.\r\n\r\nRFID-destroyers (such as this highly impressive project), though, which Greenfield also mentions, certainly are fightback devices, and as he notes in Thesis 79, an arms race may well develop, which ultimately will only serve to enshrine the mindset of control further into the technology, with less chance for us to disentangle the ethics from the technical measures.\r\n\r\nConclusion\r\n\r\nOverall, this is a most impressive book which clearly leads the reader through the implications of ubiquitous computing, and the issues surrounding its development and deployment in a very logical style (the \'series of theses\' method helps in this: each point is carefully developed from the last and there\'s very little need to flick between different sections to cross-reference ideas). The book\'s structure has been designed, which is pleasing. Everyware has provided a lot of food for thought from my point of view, and I\'d recommend it to anyone with an interest in technology and the future of our society. Everyware, in some form, is inevitable, and it\'s essential that designers, technologists and policy-makers educate themselves right now about the issues. Greenfield\'s book is an excellent primer on the subject which ought to be on every designer\'s bookshelf.\r\n\r\nFinally, I thought it was appropriate to dig up that Gilles Deleuze quote again, since this really does seem a prescient description for the possibility of a more \'negative\' form of everyware:\r\n\r\n

“The progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination.”

'

Spiked: 'Enlightening the future' by Dan Lockton

The always interesting Spiked (which describes itself as an "independent online phenomenon") has a survey, Enlightening the Future, in which selected "experts, opinion formers and interesting thinkers" are asked about "key questions facing the next generation - those born this year, who will reach the age of 18 in 2024". The survey is ongoing throughout the summer with more articles to be added, but based on the current responses, I can find only two commentators who touch on the issue of technology being used to restrict and control public freedom. Don Braben, of the Venture Research Group, comments that:

"The most important threat by far comes to us today from the insidious tides of bureaucracy because they strangle human ingenuity and undermine our very ability to cope. Unless we can find effective ways of liberating our pioneers within about a decade or so, the economic imperatives mean that society’s breakdown could be imminent."

However, it's Matthew Parris who hits the nail on the head:

"Resist the arguments for increasing state control of individual lives and identities, and relentless information gathering. Info-tech will be handing autocrats and governments astonishing new possibilities: this is one technological advance which does need to be watched, limited and sometimes resisted."

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.