Law

Code as control by Dan

'You removed the card!' In the earlier days of this blog, many of the posts were about code, in the Lawrence Lessig sense: the idea that the structure of software and the internet and the rules designed into these systems don't just parallel the law (in a legal sense) in influencing and restricting public behaviour, but are qualitatively different, enabling distinct forms of affordance and constraint. Designers (and developers) -- or in many cases those overseeing the process -- in this sense potentially wield a lot of (political) power. My aim initially, arising from my Master's dissertation, was to chronicle and investigate something like this, but expanded to include 'architectures of control' in physical architecture and products as well as digital ones. The blog was a wonderful way to continue this research informally; readers' comments convinced me that this was an interesting, under-explored subject.

While many examples were socially 'negative' -- e.g. anti-homeless benches -- it seemed that similar techniques could be applied in more socially beneficial ways. B.J. Fogg's Persuasive Technology offered a template for designing systems to help people behave in ways they wanted (exercising more, eating more healthily, and so on), and this more optimistic approach suggested that maybe I could bring together techniques into a form of use to other designers who wanted to help people, society, and the environment. That led to the PhD, and the Design with Intent toolkit, and gradually the focus drifted away from the 'code' angle.

Code as Control workshop

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to be part of Submit: Code as Control in Online Spaces [PDF], a workshop at the Good School in Hamburg, organised by Sebastian Deterding (a leading voice on intelligent approaches to 'gamification'), Jan-Hinrik Schmidt, Stephan Dreyer, Nele Heise, and Katharina Johnsen from the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research. Eighteen participants, deliberately chosen (curated?) to represent disciplines such as interaction design, games, economics, information science, human geography, media studies and law, spent two days "locked in a room" (as Jen Whitson put it), well-oiled with Club-Mate and Fritz-Kola, exploring questions around code through a series of collaborative exercises. Nele has Storified tweets and photos from the two days, while Jen Whitson has a great blog post going into more detail.

In small groups and all together, we looked at questions* including 'code literacy' (who needs to know how code works? what should they know? how should it be taught?), the boundaries of what exactly code can be considered to regulate, intentionality (does it matter? - something I've sort of looked at before), historically relevant perspectives (Jacquard loom as the thin end of a long wedge), 'war stories' of code's unexpected effects, and the rise of self-regulation via code as a kind of counterpart to Quantified Self approaches and commitment devices. Via a "dinner of ridiculously bold claims", we considered the extents of privacy, and personal resistance to control, among other issues.

Post-It notes: Photo by Nicolas Nova Doorrank in operation Left photo by Nicolas Nova

With Theo Röhle, R. Stuart Geiger and Malte Ziewitz, I helped devise Doorrank, a kind of "role-playing algorithm game", centred on the idea of a programmable robot nightclub doorman (player 1), an API which could get information from elsewhere (player 2), some kind of designer / developer / censor / nightclub boss / security authority (player 3) making decisions about what rules to code into the doorman to decide who is let in, and who isn't, and guests trying to get into the club (other players).

It wasn't exactly fully resolved in the time we spent on it, but the idea was that by "imagining you're a software object" (as Nicolas Nova put it), something along these lines could be used as an exercise to help highlight the power, and social consequences, of apparently arbitrary (and often hidden) algorithms in everyday life -- and how quickly the idea of tricking the doorman (hacking the system) arises. Jen pointed out the game's parallels with Memento Mori's Parsely Games; the initial idea I had was something similar to the explicitly behaviour change-focused 'Rules of interaction' exercise I've used in a couple of workshops.

Doorrank algorithm - photo by Christian Katzenbach Photo by Christian Katzenbach

I went away with a list of new perspectives and angles to investigate, potentially in collaboration with some very clever people, bridging disciplines in increasingly diverse ways. Thanks again to all the organisers and participants for a very interesting few days.

*A vague thing which I suggested as something to explore -- but with which I could barely even work out where to start -- is the idea of representing code (or rules in general) in visual or tactile ways which would allow their impact to be seen or felt 'directly' (whatever that means). For example, a low doorway could be seen as a physical representation of a rule that allows shorter people through and restricts taller people, or Spear's Spellmaster tiles as a physical representation of spelling rules. I am fascinated and inspired by Mark Changizi's Escher Circuits and David Cox's FLIPP Explainers, and the idea of physical "perceptual mechanisms" as a form of embodied cognition, along with some of the more visual forms that analogue computing has taken over the years. But I don't know quite where this idea could lead, and what exactly it would be useful for.

P.S. Sebastian's recent presentation on Policy Making as Game Design is also very relevant here.

The Hacker's Amendment by Dan

Screwdrivers

Congress shall pass no law limiting the rights of persons to manipulate, operate, or otherwise utilize as they see fit any of their possessions or effects, nor the sale or trade of tools to be used for such purposes.

From Artraze commenting on this Slashdot story about the levels of DRM in Windows 7.

I think it maybe needs some qualification about not using your things to cause harm to other people, but it's an interesting idea. See also Mister Jalopy's Maker's Bill of Rights from Make magazine a couple of years ago.

Paper Rights Management by Dan

Springer delivery noteSpringer delivery note

This delivery note from Springer informs me that the book I've bought "must not be resold". Good luck with that. So have I bought it or not? Or have I bought a licence to read it? What if I give it away?

Many companies would love to be able to control what users can do with things they buy, or with information after someone's learned it. We know that, and we know that, fundamentally, it's not going to work. You can try and shape behaviour, to guide users into helping themselves, but nonsense such "end-user licence agreements" for books has no mechanism of enforcement, and offers no benefit to the reader if he/she obeys it anyway.

How valid, legally, are any of these "post-purchase conditions", anyway? Surely the first-sale doctrine or its equivalents allow users to re-sell items they buy with impunity?

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

    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.

    "You do not enumerate the freedoms you want" by Dan Lockton

    'V' sign and hand in Englefield Green, Surrey Crosbie Fitch, in the Atom feed summary for this post looking at how 'freedom' can and should be defined, says:

    You see copyright’s suspension of your freedom to perform particular activities, and so for each activity you demand a specific freedom. This is how the GPL arose. This is an inverted perspective from which to define ‘free culture’ (and free software). To define freedom you define its constraints – you do not enumerate the freedoms you want. This is because freedom is what we start off with in the first place. We constrain it to make it better. It is when we under or over-constrain it that we make it worse.

    It's the "To define freedom you define its constraints – you do not enumerate the freedoms you want" which especially stands out to me. This seems such an important principle, yet one which so many politicians entirely ignore when they talk about their commitments to 'human rights'.

    Am I being overly simplistic to equate this to the contrast between a 'planned' society - where everything is banned unless specifically permitted in an enumerated list of freedoms - and an 'evolving' society - where everything is permitted unless specifically banned? (Also: how does the contrast between codified Roman law and 'evolving' common law compare to this?)

    Whatever the political and legal comparisons might be, the principle is certainly pertinent to the rise of architectures of control in technology. Up until just a few years ago, most technology was effectively 'open', assuming you could get hold of it. All of us had freedom to do what we wanted with it - take it apart, modify it, repurpose it, improve it, break it, even if the originators had never expressly intended anything like this, and even if it were 'illegal'. Now, though, we have (some) technology into which intentions can be codified. We have products with hyper-restrictive End-User Licence Agreements which we must accept before we use them, and which can report back if we don't abide by them. We have products which are intended to provide one-function-and-nothing-but-that-function, and are designed to frustrate or punish users who try anything different. We have politicians seeking to specify exactly what technology can and can't do. How do I know what freedoms I want until I've experimented? How can I even explain them until I've experienced them? Should the progress of tomorrow really be shackled by registering as law the prejudices and errors of today?

    Of course, in the context of this blog, I'm merely striking the key-note once again, and that can make for a very dull tune. But that phrase, "you do not enumerate the freedoms you want," will stay with me. It's important.

    A bright idea? by Dan Lockton

    UPDATE: See this more recent post for information and photos of how to get a 2-pin bulb to fit in a BC3 fitting. This may well be the example which involves the most different 'architecture of control' issues so far - by a long way. It is a complex case with a number of aspects, intentions and effects to consider. My mind isn't made up on the rights and wrongs of this: it's certainly an architecture of control, it's certainly devious and it's certainly a case of introducing a razor-blade model (product lock-in) into a field where there was previously none; it will also end up costing many consumers more money, yet it's founded in an attempt to 'encourage'/force more environmentally friendly behaviour.

    A couple of weeks ago, George Preston let me know about Eaton MEM BC3 light bulbs and fittings. These are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs or 'energy-saving' bulbs) which have their own kind of three-pronged bayonet connector (left), as opposed to the standard two-pronged bayonet (right):

    BC3 lamp, photo by George Preston
    BC3 lamp, photo by George Preston
    BC3 fitting - image from MEMLITE brochure
    BC3 CFL and standard bayonet CFL compared, and a BC3 fitting. Upper two photos by George Preston; lower photo from BC3 brochure [PDF].

    Notice those three prongs are irregularly spaced. A normal bayonet bulb won't fit in a BC3 fitting, and a BC3 bulb won't fit in a normal bayonet fitting.

    What's the rationale behind this?

    From Approved Document L1 [PDF], an amendment to the UK Building Regulations, which came into force in April 2002 (applying to new-build houses):

    1.54 Reasonable provision should be made for dwelling occupiers to obtain the benefits of efficient lighting. A way of showing compliance with the requirement would be to provide at a reasonable number of locations, where lighting can be expected to have most use, fixed lighting (comprising either basic lighting outlets or complete luminaires) that only take lamps having a luminous efficacy greater than 40 lumens per circuit-watt. Circuit-watts means the power consumed in lighting circuits by lamps and their associated control gear and power factor correction equipment. Examples of lamps that achieve this efficacy include fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps (not GLS tungsten lamps with bayonet cap or Edison screw bases).

    The idea is, then, that since 'normal' bayonet fittings can take normal tungsten incandescent filament bulbs as well as normal CFLs - something which has of course driven the more widespread adoption of CFLs - there is the likelihood/possibility that householders might replace any pre-installed CFLs with filament bulbs, for whatever reason (the usual reasons are the colour of the light, the aesthetic appearance of the bulbs, and the warm-up time). To prevent this possibility, a new type of light fitting and associated CFL cap design were required which were uniquely compatible, so that anyone with this kind of fitting would have to fit bulbs with the new cap design, which would only be available on CFLs.

    (Note that the same objective could have been achieved by fitting these rooms solely with fittings for commonly available standard linear fluorescent tubes, i.e. strip lights.)

    So, Eaton's MEM 250 division created the BC3 (bayonet-cap-3?) range, being nominated for an Electrical Product Award for Contribution Towards Energy Saving in the process.

    What's interesting is that as well as complete BC3 CFLs and BC3 fittings, the BC3 range includes BC3 base units (with the ballast and control electronics in them) into which a four-pin CFL tube can be plugged:

    BC3 lamp unit, from EthicalProductsDirect.com BC3 base unit, from EthicalProductsDirect.com
    Left: A tube unit with four pin connector; Right: A BC3 base unit (including ballast) to allow the tube to be attached. Images from Ethical Products Direct.

    This allows the tube to be replaced independently of the electronics - thus saving resources - but does not appear to be the focus of the BC3 system. (Just a thought: if more new houses were pre-fitted with these base units, or simply standard 2-pin bayonet base units, within the light fittings, so that a householder would simply go out and replace the tube rather than the whole lot, similarly to the linear fluorescent tube suggestion above, would it not have made for a more environmentally friendly solution?)

    Some interesting claims are being made for the BC3 system. Somehow the idea of forcing the householder to buy one particular brand of CFL has been transmuted into a misguided suggestion that the BC3 system actually makes the houses more energy efficient - e.g., from a housing association magazine [PDF] in Wiltshire:

    Residents in some of Westlea’s newer homes will know that we now fit special three-way bayonet lamp fittings as one way to make the property more energy efficient. Although the ‘BC3 eco bulbs’ needed for these lamp fittings are more expensive than ordinary lightbulbs, using them in a ‘standard’ house could save the resident around £100 each year because they use less electricity than ordinary lightbulbs. Some residents have told us they have had difficulty buying the three-pin eco bulbs locally, but we’re pleased to report that the following outlets are able to supply them from £6.35 upwards...

    From £6.35 each is a lot of money. Standard 'Tesco Value' 2-pin bayonet CFLs started at 88p each (Tesco, Egham, Surrey) the last time I looked - that's especially cheap, and they were only 11W, but 15W units are commonly available from about £2 - £3. Searching Froogle shows that BC3 bulbs start from around £10. Even Ethical Products Direct, to whom Eaton MEM's own website directs visitors wanting to buy BC3 bulbs, charges £9.36 for the cheapest complete BC3 unit.

    This is a lot of money for something which provides the householder with exactly the same function as a standard CFL a quarter the price. (It's not as if the BC3 bulbs last much longer, for example, or are more efficient. They just have a non-standard fitting and are only supplied by one manufacturer.) In fact, one might suggest that standard CFLs offer the householder more benefit, since they can be swapped around, fitted all over the place, even fitted to replace incandescent filament bulbs in standard fittings, should someone - shock - actually want to choose a CFL without being forced into doing so.

    The housing association quote above demonstrates an important point about the use of BC3s. Many householders' first encounter with them will be when they notice a CFL going dim or actually failing, or want to increase the light levels in a room, and find that they have to spend much more than they were expecting to spend on a CFL anyway. George's story demonstrates this well:

    We have recently moved into a new flat which is part of a modern development in London. A few lightbulbs needed replacing when we moved in, so I went out and bought some (they're all energy-efficient ones so I bought the same to replace them with). But oddly, none of them would fit in the fittings. I was under the impression that there were just Bayonet and Screw Cap fittings? These fittings were bayonet, but needed three, irregularly-spaced pins instead of the standard two.

    ...

    I'm no stranger to energy efficiency, and it wouldn't be so annoying were it not for the fact that the bulb I had bought as a replacement was an energy-efficient type anyway, but it seems illogical and a shame that properietary fitting sizes have been introduced into something that has always been so simple - choosing a lightbulb.

    (Equally, there is the problem of actually getting hold of BC3 bulbs. I went to the enormous B & Q in Slough on Sunday and couldn't see any on the shelves. While the 8,000 hour lifetime may mean that there's not a massive demand for them yet from the public, ordering online and waiting for delivery is not really a great option when a light bulb fails. It often causes inconvenience, and can be dangerous - until Incluminate's a production reality (!), the best option is to keep spare bulbs in the cupboard. But if you don't realise that you need to keep special BC3 bulbs, and that these aren't available from every corner shop or even every massive DIY store, this is going to be extremely inconvenient. The BC3 brochure does mention a "householder card... which can be left with the homeowner highlighting the 'energy saving' aspects of their new home" but how many people will remember to stock up on BC3 bulbs as a result?)

    Anyway, I think the main issues are:

  • Razor-blade model: monopoly on fitting type means higher prices can be charged for same function, consumers locked in
  • Non-standard fitting likely to cause significant inconvenience to householders
  • But:

  • System does force householders to use 'energy saving' bulbs*
  • The BC3 range is also made in the UK, which aside from actually supporting local jobs, means that the units are not transported from China as, say, Tesco Value CFLs are. That saves on transportation energy, at least, and while - looking briefly - I couldn't find a patent for the BC3 system, I presume Eaton have it protected somehow, otherwise there would surely be cheaper BC3-compatible bulbs available.

    (Another thought is what other proprietary systems - if any - have manufacturers evolved to meet the regulations in part L1? Are there lower-profile rival systems with their own fitting and cap designs? What would the implications be if a particular type were no longer available a few years down the line?)

    Conclusion

    Overall, this is a clever commercial attempt to respond to a governmental decision made with environmental protection in mind, and as such probably ought to be filed along with optimum lifetime products as something where the intention is to benefit society as well as benefit the manufacturer, at the expense of additionally inconveniencing the user. I feel focusing on a system of built-in base units, with readily available standard replacement tubes (either CFLs or linear fluorescent format) would have been more user-friendly as well as reducing the amount of electronics needlessly thrown away, but it would not have permitted a razor-blade model to the same extent.

    It will be interesting to see how the BC3 story develops in the years ahead: will they become commonly available, and how high will public awareness be? There will probably be many more similar products and systems in the next few years using technology to enforce government policy, particularly in an environmental context, and the Eaton MEM BC3 will be an important case study.

    *Of course, there's a lot that ought to be said about the real merits of a large-scale shift to 'energy saving' bulbs, particularly in relation to Australia's decision to phase out incandescent filament bulbs entirely, the European Lamp Companies' Federation's focus on the same, Gordon Brown's announcement on this, and campaigns such as Ban The Bulb.

    As a designer and engineer, I would suggest that in cold climates, 100W from an incandescent filament bulb means simply that 100 joules per second of heat is going into my room (probably wasting another 200 joules per second at the power station, but that's another matter). Light bulbs do heat our homes. If we lose 80W from the light bulb, the heating will probably get turned up by 80W instead. Better insulation, so that that heat isn't lost, may well turn out to be just as good, or better, than mass-replacement of thousands of millions of light bulbs with CFLs requiring significantly more resources to manufacture (and dispose of). Those electronics in the base don't come from nowhere, and are likely to outlast the fluorescent tube: hence why the idea of replaceable tubes is much more sensible than throwing away and replacing the base unit each time as well. But the bandwagon's set off and with heavyweight government and heavyweight manufacturers on board, it's got a lot of momentum...

    Some more architectures of control for traffic management by Dan Lockton

    Many of the 'built environment' examples discussed here over the last year-and-a-bit have been intended to control (or "manage") traffic in some way, e.g to slow drivers down, force them to take an alternative route, or force them to stop. I thought it would be worth mentioning a couple of other methods, the rationales behind them, and some of the problems: Monmouth Thame
    Amersham Thaxted
    Top row: Monmouth, Monmouthshire and Thame, Oxfordshire; Bottom row: Amersham, Buckinghamshire and Thaxted, Essex. Images from the sites linked.

    Historical example: market places

    Mediæval market towns commonly had a wide market street, or square, with narrow entrances at the ends, to make it more difficult for animals to escape, and also easier to control when herding them in and out. It may not be immediately obvious from the above photos, but in each of these towns (as with many others where the old layout has been preserved), the market area was, and still is, laid out in this way. It may also have made it more difficult for a thief to escape, since with only a few exit 'pinch points', it would make him easier to spot.

    This is, of course, almost the opposite rationale to Baron Haussmann's Paris, with its wide, straight boulevards which prevented effective barricading by revolutionaries and allowed clear lines-of-sight to fire on them.

    References: Thaxted at 'Rural Roads'; History of Thame; Monmouth on Wikipedia.

    Pinch point with car overtaking cyclist Pinch point with car overtaking cyclist
    Stills from video clips of cars overtaking cyclists at pinch points, from the Cambridge Cycling Campaign website.

    Pinch points and other road narrowings

    In modern use, pinch points are often installed (along with centre hatching) to force drivers to slow down, usually in built-up areas or at the entrance to them, where there may also be a speed limit change. Sometimes they also force one stream of traffic to stop to allow the other priority, for example when crossing a narrow bridge. Sometimes there are built-out kerbs on both sides of the road; sometimes just a central island; sometimes all three. In general, they prevent drivers overtaking other cars by putting a physical obstruction in the way, even though otherwise it might be legal to overtake. (This is a built environment example of Lessig's "Code is law" - regardless of what the law might permit or prohibit, it's the way the system is coded which actually defines what behaviour is possible.)

    The problem is that - something which as a driver and a cyclist (and bike designer) I experience a lot - the sudden narrowing of the carriageway causes (forces) drivers to move towards the nearside. And if there's a cyclist on the nearside, even cycling close to the kerb, he or she will suddenly have a driver passing very close, braking very hard, possibly clipping the bike or actually hitting it. It's even worse if the kerb is built out as well, since the cyclist has to swerve out into the path of the traffic which may also be swerving in to avoid a central island. In cities such as Cambridge with a lot of cyclists and a lot of traffic, the pinch points are a major problem.

    A lot of injuries and deaths have been caused by this 'safety' measure. Someone very close to me was knocked off her bike and hurt after swerving onto the kerb to avoid a large truck bearing down on her as the driver tried to fit through a pinch point (similarly to the situation in the photo at the top of Howard Peel's detailed assessment of pinch points at the Bike Zone). As with so many architectures of control, the designers of these layouts seem to view most users (both drivers and cyclists) as 'enemies' who need to be cajoled and coerced into behaving a certain way, without actually looking at what their needs are.

    The North Somerset Cycle Campaign's article on "Good and bad practice" with pinch points shows a far superior layout, for both drives and cyclists (photo reproduced below), from the Netherlands - cycles and cars are kept apart, neither cyclist nor driver is forced to deviate from his/her path, but drivers must give negotiate priority with their oncoming counterparts.

    Pinch point in the Netherlands Astonishingly dangerous hatching in Devon
    Left: A better pinch point implementation from the Netherlands - image from the North Somerset Cycle Campaign; Right: A very dangerous (and ridiculous) real-world example of hatching-with-obstacles from Devon - image from Richie Graham, discussed in this thread on SABRE

    Looking further at centre hatching, this too often causes drivers to pass much too close when overtaking cyclists, since (in the UK), most drivers are reluctant to enter it to overtake even though (with broken lines along the side) they are legally entitled to do so. The reluctance may come from ignorance of the law, but in many cases it is often because there may suddenly be a central concrete island in the middle with no warning. (This is certainly why I'm very careful when using the hatched area to overtake.) Again, this is a de facto imposition of regulation without a legal mechanism enforcing it. As Peter Edwardson puts it:

    Two reasons are normally advanced to justify hatched areas, neither of which is entirely convincing. The first is that they separate streams of traffic, but how many head-on collisions occur on single carriageway roads anyway, and surely in the vast majority of cases they involve a driver who has recklessly crossed the white line. The second is that they slow traffic down, which may be true to a limited extent, but again is of no value unless it reduces accidents at the same time...

    However, I have recently seen a document from the Highways Agency... that stated clearly that one of the aims of hatched areas was to "deter overtaking". They daren't go so far as to actually ban it on straight stretches of road by painting double white lines (although no doubt that will come) but instead they put in confusing paint schemes that have the practical effect of doing just that.

    There is of course one entirely sound and legitimate reason for painting hatched areas on the road, to provide a refuge for vehicles turning right, something that in the past has been a major factor in accidents. However such areas should only extend at most for a hundred yards or so on either side of the right turn, and should not be used as an excuse to paint a wide hatched area for a long distance.

    In the case of the astonishing (to a UK driver's eyes) implementation of hatching on the A39 (soon to be A361) Barnstaple southern bypass in Devon - the right-hand photo above - actual bollards have been embedded in the road surface to 'enforce' a de facto 'no overtaking' intention, though the hatching area actually makes it perfectly legal to overtake. (It makes it worse that the reflectors on the bollards are the wrong colour as well.) Motorcyclists could overtake by weaving between the bollards into the hatched area, but this wouldn't be especially easy or safe. It would certainly be more dangerous than the alternative situation of wider lanes with no hatching and no bollards. So what's the point of the scheme?

    Shared space at Seven Dials, London Shared space at Seven Dials, London
    A Shared Space implementation at Seven Dials in central London, by Hamilton-Baillie Associates

    Psychological techniques

    We've looked before at 'Shared Space', 'naked roads' and other 'psychological techniques' to encourage drivers to be more alert, but Mike Morris sends me a link to this Spiegel story going into more detail and discussing Europe-wide pilot projects:

    The utopia has already become a reality in Makkinga, in the Dutch province of Western Frisia. A sign by the entrance to the small town (population 1,000) reads "Verkeersbordvrij" -- "free of traffic signs." Cars bumble unhurriedly over precision-trimmed granite cobblestones. Stop signs and direction signs are nowhere to be seen. There are neither parking meters nor stopping restrictions. There aren't even any lines painted on the streets.

    "The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior," says Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman, one of the project's co-founders. "The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles."

    ...

    About 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers. What's more, the glut of prohibitions is tantamount to treating the driver like a child and it also foments resentment. He may stop in front of the crosswalk, but that only makes him feel justified in preventing pedestrians from crossing the street on every other occasion. Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow.

    ...

    The new traffic model's advocates believe the only way out of this vicious circle is to give drivers more liberty and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves. They demand streets like those during the Middle Ages, when horse-drawn chariots, handcarts and people scurried about in a completely unregulated fashion.

    I think that's the key to a lot of 'control-versus-the-user' debate. Allowing users to take responsibility for their own actions is encouraging them to think. Encouraging people to think is very rarely a bad thing.

    One of the simplest consequences of the shared space situations I've come across (whether deliberately planned implementations such as at Seven Dials, shown above, or just narrow old streets or village layouts where traffic and pedestrians have always mixed) is that drivers and pedestrians, and drivers and other drivers start to make eye contact with each other to determine who should have priority, or to determine each other's intentions. Eye contact leads to empathy; empathy leads to respect for other types of road users; respect leads to better understanding of the situation and better handling of similar situations in future. Shared space forces all of us (pedestrians, cyclists and drivers) to try to understand what's going on from others' points of view. We learn to grok the situation. And that can't be bad.

    Mike Dickin, the legendary British radio talk-show host who was very sadly killed earlier this week after a heart attack at the wheel, often made the point in his frequent discussions on motoring issues that there should be no need for speed limits in many villages, towns and cities, because in many cases the 'natural' limit imposed by pedestrians, other traffic, road layouts and so on, should be enough to slow drivers down to well below the imposed 'safe' limits of 20 or 30 mph which lull drivers into a false sense of safety. Of course, he was right, and of course, in most small villages this is still the way things are done, as they were centuries ago, and as Hans Monderman suggests in the above quote.

    The age of hyper-regulated behaviour, and treating the user (driver, cyclist, pedestrian) as an idiot incapable of thinking for him or herself, is largely coincident with the age of bureaucratic, centrally planned urban dystopia which sees individuals as components which must all perform identically for the system to operate. I would like to think we can move beyond that view of humanity.

    Back to the issue of psychological techniques for traffic management, Jim Lipsey left a comment a couple of months ago mentioning the use of progressively closer painted stripes across the road in Chicago to cause drivers to slow down on a dangerous curve:

    In a few weeks, dozens of new pavement stripes will be laid down. At first they’ll be 16-feet apart, but as drivers get closer to the curve, the stripes will only be eight feet apart. "They provide an optical illusion that vehicles are actually speeding up and that causes motorists to slow down, which is of course, the intended effect that we’re trying to have at that location."

    The Chicago example appears to be using only the visual effect to provide the illusion, but a similar technique is often used with raised painted 'rumble strips' on the approach to junctions or roundabouts in other countries - e.g. in my (poor) photos below, on the A303 in Somerset, and clearly in this Google Maps image of Ottawa (via this thread).

    I remember reading a story once in which someone cycling along an avenue with regularly spaced trees, late one afternoon, had an epileptic fit (I think) as a result of the frequency of the shadow flicker on the road (this is clearly something considered by wind turbine planners [PDF]). Have there been any cases of epilepsy triggered by stripes painted on the road?

    Progressively closer rumble strips on the A303 in Somerset Progressively closer rumble strips on the A303 in Somerset
    Progressively closer rumble strips on the A303 in Somerset.

    BBC report on Gowers Report reads like a press release by Dan Lockton

    They've got quotes from the BPI, AIM, FACT and the Alliance Against IP Theft, but nothing from the Open Rights Group or anyone else offering any counter-view. I wonder why, and I wonder if the BBC will update or alter the article at any point. Newssniffer's Revisionista will let us know. Still, I can rest easy in my bed tonight knowing that those vicious pirates will be facing a tough legal crackdown to stop them copying data. Apparently, it's also possible to legislate that pi=3.

    Bollardian nightmare? by Dan Lockton

    Rising bollards in Silver Street, Cambridge

    Rising bollards near Darwin College, Cambridge. A man was killed here in May 2006 when his car hit the right-hand bollard; see third photo below.

    Many thanks to Steve Portigal and Josh for suggesting this subject!

    Bollards which automatically retract into the road surface to allow certain vehicles to pass, and then rise again, are becoming increasingly common on public roads in the UK; whereas previously, they might have been used at the entrance to a private car park as a more visually appealing alternative to an automatic barrier, many authorities are now using them to enforce traffic control in urban areas, with the category of permitted vehicles including buses, emergency services, postal vans, and so on. (I'm not sure about taxis; I think this varies with city*). The recent compilation of CCTV clips by the Manchester Evening News (link via BoingBoing) showing 'non-permitted' cars and vans hitting rising bollards in Manchester, as the drivers try to follow close behind permitted vehicles has got a lot of attention, with reactions ranging from "stupid drivers deserve what they get" to "how is causing thousands of pounds' worth of damage to punish a minor crime ever justifiable?" (There's also this video showing a higher-speed crash - not sure if this is in Manchester too).

    Rising bollards in Manchester Rising bollards in Manchester Stills from the CCTV compilation: the rear nearside wheel of the black 4x4 is off the ground. The van's windscreen has been damaged by the driver's head hitting it.

    As an architecture of control, what can we say about the rising bollard? Is it merely a 'restriction of access' device, like a padlock? Or is it actually intended (to some extent at least) to damage the vehicles of non-permitted drivers, and injure them?

    The official line would be the former, of course, but going by the dominance of the "stupid drivers deserve what they get" viewpoint in public comments on the Manchester video, I would suggest that a vindictive streak is pretty significant, and there's no reason to think it might not also be among traffic planners.

    The extensive (25 page) discussion at the road enthusiasts' site SABRE also contains both points of view, and others. One logical argument which is well made, I think, is that if the drivers expected to damage their cars, they wouldn't have tried to follow the buses. Therefore, the warning signs/road markings (knowledge in the world) or their prior experience of these systems (knowledge in the head) cannot have been sufficiently clear to discourage them from trying to sneak through. Yes, they knew that they "weren't supposed to" drive through, and knew that buses were, so they tried to sneak in behind, but the drivers can't have been fully aware of how quickly the bollards rose, or they wouldn't have attempted it, would they? Most people don't deliberately wreck their cars.

    This is an important point. The system is not designed to be forgiving of mistakes. Now, we can say "well, why should it be? Those drivers shouldn't try to break the law," but in the real world, people do make mistakes. That's why pencils have erasers. A car driver following a bus may have his or her vision of the warning signs obscured, and may be driving at a perfectly sensible speed, but still hit the risen bollards. A car driver following another car which externally looks like any other, but which is (for whatever reason) a permitted vehicle (with a transponder on board) may see the warning signs, and take them in, but, seeing the bollards lowered and the car in front driving at a constant speed, may assume that the bollards are disabled or permanently down, and so continue at exactly the same speed, and not be able to brake in time to avoid hitting the risen bollards. Bollards in some cities are only operational at certain times of day, and in certain directions; unless the warning signs themselves have a very clear variable display (Cambridge's are fairly good), can we really expect drivers to read the times from the sign as they go past following another vehicle?

    There are two much more sensible systems suggested in the SABRE discussion:

    'PeterA5145'

    If this system is needed, then surely there should be conventional red lights with the bollards only rising a few seconds after the lights have changed to red (as with a level crossing). If you've never come across such a thing before it is not remotely obvious.

    'True Yorkie'

    Perhaps a better idea would be to have a 'vestibule' system, with 2 bollards, spaced exactly a bus length apart. As the bus passed over the first lowered bollard, it'd stop immediately for the next bollard. As it waits for the second bollard to lower, the first would raise. Any car that tried to get in with the bus would have to shunt the bus to fit into the vestibule.

    Either of these would be much better than the existing system. Both 'design out' the likelihood of mistakes - the vestibule system especially so.

    Rising bollards in Silver Street, Cambridge: the driver of the Shogun was killed; image from Véro The fatal accident at the Silver Street bollards in Cambridge (photo from Véro's blog); this photo of the same bollards as my photo at the top of this post.

    To a large extent this issue seems to come down to a debate on the old "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to fear" argument. Again, it's a subject for a future post** but I find the repeated use of this, by politicians especially, to justify every erosion of established freedoms, both sly and egregious: there's a reason why I can't legally shoot you if you walk up my garden path, or electrify my car body shell (OK, it's fibreglass, in fact, but the same principle applies). Perhaps the "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to fear" brigade would let happily let the authorities read all their personal correspondence, and indeed would be happy to have all private property covered in mantraps and landmines to enforce "trespass prevention"? After all, "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to fear."

    Jeremy Wagstaff applies this kind of thinking to the bollard issue to demonstrate its absurdity, and its distasteful corollary:

    My tuppenny’s worth: I think traffic maiming (as opposed to traffic calming) is a great idea but doesn’t go far enough. We need similar measures to punish, sorry deter, drivers who routinely flout the law and common decency. Why not, for example, deploy the retractable bollards elsewhere, like

    * the centre of a restricted parking space, so it would rise at the end of the designated period, impaling the vehicle if the driver had overstayed his alloted time; * at random points on the hard shoulder on toll roads/motorways so that cars illegally using it as a fast lane would be impaled, or flipped over into an adjacent field

    Where necessary, bollards could be replaced by other features such as

    * a mechanical arm, installed on the roadside and connected to a speed sensor, which would crush cars passing by too fast or too slow, depending on what irritated other drivers the most. * or cars driving through built-up areas too fast would be taken out by snipers deployed in trees/tall buildings. If necessary the snipers could be automated. * cars straddling two lanes or changing lanes without indicating first would be sliced in half by retractable blades intermittently rising out of the demarcating lines * motorbikes using the sidewalk (a particular bane in my neck of the woods) would risk having their tyres slashed by strips of spikes activated by the annoying sound of approaching underpowered Chinese-made engines.

    Norms, restriction and punishment

    It's worth thinking about the norms of restrictions and warnings we encounter in everyday life.

    Many - in fact most - signs indicating the prohibition of particular behaviour do not suggest immediate punishment to us. The sign may say "Do not drop litter" but most people who do drop litter know that unless someone is watching, and decides to do something about it, they will get away with it. A road sign may say 'No Parking", but if no-one's around, is it wrong to stop? Is it a crime if no-one finds out, and it doesn't affect anyone?

    We can laugh about falling trees in the forest and Schrödinger's cat, but I think that for most of us, there is a very clear mental distinction between "incorrect" behaviour which we know will be "punished" immediately by the realities of the system (e.g. pointing a gun at our face and pulling the trigger, or driving through a level crossing barrier when a train is coming), and "incorrect" behaviour which we know is technically wrong, but which only the fear of being caught (and punished) stops us doing. Most drivers speed, but they wouldn't speed if they knew there was a police car behind them.

    So, our mental model of a 'No Entry' sign is that it signifies an arbitrary restriction, but one which carries no immediate punishment, unless, say, it's a single-track road and something's coming towards us at speed. If we ignore the sign, we might find we're going the wrong way down a one-way street, or we might get caught (by camera or by police on the ground), but that's a risk that people may take if they perceive it to be very low. If we can see that it's not a one-way street, and we can see other vehicles passing that way, then there is apparently a fairly low risk to ignoring it. Our expectation is that we will get away with it.

    When bollards then rise out of the road immediately in front of us, our mental model is proved wrong. The norm is shattered. This is a system that immediately punishes those who infringe the No Entry sign. This is a familiar, apparently docile 'Keep off the grass' sign accompanied by snipers watching very carefully.

    Now, the UK's Department for Transport clearly recognises something along these lines: the norms of the bollard systems are different to those drivers may have come to expect, and an additional aspect is also identified: that of the "control of all vehicles/control of individual vehicles" distinction:

    Established practices of traffic control using traffic signals do not control separate vehicles; streams of vehicles are controlled with drivers able to see the signals from a significant distance. Rising bollards are normally used to control individual vehicles in that they are raised each time a vehicle has passed over them. The requirement, therefore, is for short range signalling... Unless drivers have a clear view of the bollards, an indication should be given to drivers that the bollards have fully retracted.

    In conjunction with the vestibule system suggested in the SABRE quote above, that seems the most sensible approach to take. The DfT also has some other sensible guidelines:

    Three wheeled vehicles, motorcycles and vehicles with trailers, for example, may not be sensed by the vehicle detectors used with automatic bollard systems. It will almost certainly be necessary to provide alternative means of access for some classes of road users or vehicles. The possibility of a device rising under a wheelchair or pushchair should be taken into account. The risks could be mitigated to some extent by providing suitable alternative access adjacent to the bollards, and by using a coarse road surface to divert pedestrians away from the bollard installation [interesting! - see also the pebble paving to make barefoot walking uncomfortable, mentioned here]. Whilst most applications will be to enable the passage of one vehicle at a time, there will be instances where two or more vehicles attempt to pass through in close succession. The system should ensure that bollards cannot rise beneath a vehicle because of the danger this would create. It is better to risk a certain amount of violation by "tailgating" vehicles, rather that put road users at risk. Any system, however well designed, will fail to operate correctly on occasions. The system should fail to a safe state, ideally with the bollards retracted. In the event if an accident the emergency services may need to override the control system and retract the bollards.

    Still, for all the effort (and costs) involved in installing and running the bollard systems, would it really not be better to look at the subject from a greater distance? The roads drivers want to use are in many cases roads which used to be open to all traffic - indeed, in Cambridge, Silver Street used to be one of the main routes into the city centre, part of the old A603 from Bedford. The current alternative route from west to east is significantly longer and almost always very congested. It passed close outside my window when I was a student; I know. It's understandable in many cases why drivers want to use the old route.

    The real issue that needs to be addressed is why people want to drive into these areas. There is always a reason; people are rarely "stupid" with no explanation.

    *I'd like to get into the "are taxis public transport?" debate another time: not now though. **There was a quite astonishing article I read about a year ago where a police chief in a small US town had (seriously?) suggested putting CCTV inside every home in the community, for constant monitoring, and used the same "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to fear" argument; if I can find this again, I'll post the link.

    A vein attempt? by Dan Lockton

    Blue lighting makes it more difficult to see veinsBlue lighting makes it more difficult to see veins

    Blue lighting is sometimes used in public toilets (restrooms) to make it more difficult for drug users to inject themselves (veins are harder to see). The above implementation is in Edinburgh, next to the Tron Kirk.

    It was more difficult to see my veins through my skin, but there was normal-coloured lighting in the street outside, and one would assume that the users would thus just go outside instead, though the risk of detection is greater. (An additional result of the blue lighting is that, on going outside after spending more than a few seconds in the toilets, the daytime world appears much brighter and more optimistic, even on an overcast day: could retail designers or others make use of this effect? Do they already?)

    So the blue lighting 'works', but is it really a good idea to increase the risk that an injection will be done wrongly - maybe multiple times? This is perhaps a similar argument to that surrounding delibrately reducing visibility at junctions: the architecture of control makes it more dangerous for the few users (and those their actions affect) who ignore or bypass the control. This seems to be an architecture of control with the potential to endanger life, although the actual stated intention behind it probably includes 'saving lives'.

    Without knowing more about addiction, however, I can't say whether making it difficult for people to inject will really help stop them doing it; it would seem more likely that (as in the linked Argus story), the aim of the blue lighting is to move the 'problem' somewhere else rather than actually 'solve' it - as with the anti-homeless benches, in fact.

    Another example in this kind of area is the use of smoke alarms specifically to prevent people smoking in toilets, e.g. on aeroplanes (the noise, and embarrassment, is a sufficient deterrent). There's even been the suggestion of using the Mosquito high-pitched alarm coupled to a smoke detector to 'prevent' children smoking in school toilets (I'd expect that quite a few would deliberately try to set them off; I know I would have as a kid). A friend mentioned the practice of siting smoking shelters a long way from office buildings so that smokers are discouraged from going so often; this backfired for the company concerned, as smokers just took increasingly long breaks to make it 'worth their while' to walk the extra distance.

    Bruce Schneier : Architecture & Security by Dan Lockton

    The criminology students at Cambridge have an excellent view of dystopian architecture Bruce Schneier talks about 'Architecture and Security': architectural decisions based on the immediate fear of certain threats (e.g. car bombs, rioters) continuing to affect users of the buildings long afterwards. And he makes the connexion to architectures of control outside of the built environment, too:

    "The same thing can be seen in cyberspace as well. In his book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig describes how decisions about technological infrastructure -- the architecture of the internet -- become embedded and then impracticable to change. Whether it's technologies to prevent file copying, limit anonymity, record our digital habits for later investigation or reduce interoperability and strengthen monopoly positions, once technologies based on these security concerns become standard it will take decades to undo them.

    It's dangerously shortsighted to make architectural decisions based on the threat of the moment without regard to the long-term consequences of those decisions."

    Indeed.

    The commenters detail a fantastic array of 'disciplinary architecture' examples, including:

  • Pierce Hall, University of Chicago, "built to be "riotproof" by elevating the residence part of the dorm on large concrete pillars and developing chokepoints in the entranceways so that rioting mobs couldn't force their way through." (There must be lots of university buildings like this)
  • "The Atlanta Fed building has a beautiful lawn which surrounds the building, and is raised 4 or 5 feet from the surrounding street, with a granite restraining wall. It's a very effective protection against truck bombs."
  • The wide boulevards of Baron Haussmann's Paris, intended to prevent barricading (a frequently invoked example on this blog)
  • The UK Ministry of Defence's Defence Procurement Agency site at Abbey Wood, Bristol, "is split into car-side and buildings; all parking is as far away from the buildings (car bomb defence), especially the visitor section. you have to walk over a narrow footbridge to get in.

    Between the buildings and the (no parking enforced by armed police) road is 'lake'. This stops suicide bomber raids without the ugliness of the concrete barriers.

    What we effectively have is a modern variant of an old castle. The lake supplants the moat, but it and the narrow choke point/drawbridge."

  • SUNY Binghamton's "College in the Woods, a dorm community... features concrete "quads" with steps breaking them into multiple levels to prevent charges; extremely steep, but very wide, stairs, to make it difficult to defend the central quad"
  • University of Texas at Austin: "The west mall (next to the Union) used to be open and grassy. They paved it over with pebble-y pavement to make it painful for hippies to walk barefoot and installed giant planters to break up the space. They also installed those concrete walls along Guadalupe (the drag) to create a barrier between town and gown, and many other "improvements.""
  • I'm especially amused by the "making it painful for hippies to walk barefoot" comment! This is not too far from the anti-skateboarding corrugation sometimes used (e.g. the third photo here), though it seems that in our current era, there is a more obvious disconnect between 'security' architecture (which may also involve vast surveillance or everyware networks, such as the City of London's Ring of Steel) and that aimed at stopping 'anti-social' behaviour, such as homeless people sleeping, skateboarders, or just young people congregating.

    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'?

    Using trees to encourage safer driving by Dan Lockton

    Image from New Urban News, by Eric DumbaughImage from New Urban News, by Eric Dumbaugh

    Ryan G Coleman kindly sent me a link to this very interesting New Urban News story, 'Research: trees make streets safer, not deadlier'. The gist is that roads planted with trees cause drivers to put themselves in state of greater alertness, which makes them generally more cautious about driving and generally slow down:

    "Proposals for planting rows of trees along the roads — a traditional technique for shaping pleasing public spaces — are often opposed by transportation engineers, who contend that a wide travel corridor, free of obstacles, is needed to protect the lives of errant motorists...

    [However], Eric Dumbaugh, an assistant professor of transportation at Texas A&M... looked at accident records and found that, on the contrary, wide-open corridors encourage motorists to speed, bringing on more crashes. By contrast, tree-lined roadways cause motorists to slow down and drive more carefully, Dumbaugh says.

    Dumbaugh examined crash statistics and found that tree-lined streets experience fewer accidents than do “forgiving roadsides” — those that have been kept free of large, inflexible objects. He points to “a growing body of evidence suggesting that the inclusion of trees and other streetscape features in the roadside environment may actually reduce crashes and injuries on urban roadways”...

    Dan Burden, senior urban designer for Glatting Jackson and Walkable Communities Inc. in Orlando, notes that there is research showing that “motorists need and benefit from tall vertical roadside features such as trees or buildings in order to properly gauge their speed.”

    The article goes on to mention the 'Shared Space' work of Hans Monderman, Ben Hamilton-Baillie and others, which includes removing road markings as part of a wider scheme to change the perceived emphasis of an environment and, again, put drivers into a state of greater awareness. From the BBC article on the 'naked road' experiment in Seend, Wiltshire:

    "Motoring psychologists and urban planners seem to agree that, overall, "naked roads" appear to have a positive effect on motorists...

    "This approach draws on behavioural psychology involving the way drivers respond to their surroundings," [Ben Hamilton-Baillie] says. "It removes the sense of security provided by barriers - such as kerbs, and traffic lights. Instead of relying on the street system for security, drivers are forced to use their reactions."

    According to Mr Hamilton-Baillie, the removal of a psychological safety net encourages drivers to exercise caution and restraint. He believes that the lack of clear markings encourages drivers to slow down and mingle with pedestrians, forcing them to make eye contact with one another."

    Why are these techniques so much better than this kind of thing?

    As so often, I feel it's better to put users of a system into a state of mind where they are actively, intelligently thinking about what's going on, and how they can respond to dangers or risks in the environment, than to remove that option for awareness or action planning, and deliberately force them into a state of ignorance of the risks ahead just to compel them to slow down. The driver in the tree-lined or Shared Space road situation can read the road ahead, and adjust his or her behaviour based on the risks that are perceived, whereas just blocking drivers' vision so they can't read road hazards ahead and must therefore actually come to a stop, does much less to help safety, and instead merely causes frustration.

    Review: Made to Break by Giles Slade by Dan Lockton

    This TV wasn't made to break Last month I mentioned some fascinating details on planned obsolescence gleaned from a review of Giles Slade's Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America. Having now read the book for myself, here's my review, including noteworthy 'architectures of control' examples and pertinent commentary.

    Slade examines the phenomenon of obsolescence in products from the early 20th century to the present day, through chapters looking, roughly chronologically, at different waves of obsolescence and the reasons behind them in a variety of fields - including the razor-blade model in consumer products, the FM radio débâcle in the US, the ever-shortening life-cycles of mobile phones, and even planned malfunction in Cold War-era US technology copied by the USSR. While the book ostensibly looks at these subjects in relation to the US, it all rings true from an international viewpoint.*

    The major factors in technology-driven obsolescence, in particular electronic miniaturisation, are well covered, and there is a very good treatment of psychological obsolescence, both deliberate (as in the 1950s US motor industry, the fashion industry - and in the manipulation techniques brought to widespread attention by Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders) and unplanned but inherent to human desire (neophilia).

    Philosophy of planned obsolescence

    The practice of 'death-dating' - what's often called built-in obsolescence in the UK - i.e., designing products to fail after a certain time (and very much an architecture of control when used to lock the consumer into replacement cycles) is dealt with initially within a Depression-era US context (see below), but continued with an extremely interesting look at a debate on the subject carried on in the editorials and readers' letters of Design News in 1958-9, in which industrial designers and engineers argued over the ethics (and efficiency) of the practice, with the attitudes of major magazine advertisers and sponsors seemingly playing a part in shaping some attitudes. Fuelled by Vance Packard's The Waste Makers, the debate, broadened to include psychological obsolescence as well, was extended to more widely-read organs, including Brooks Stevens (pro-planned obsolescence) and Walter Dorwin Teague (anti- ) going head-to-head in The Rotarian.

    (The fact that this debate occurred so publicly is especially relevant, I feel, to the subject of architectures of control - especially over-restrictive DRM and certain surveillance-linked control systems - in our own era, since so far most of those speaking out against these are not the designers and engineers tasked with implementing them in our products and environments, but science-fiction authors, free software advocates and interested observers - you can find many of them in the blogroll to the right. But where is the ethical debate in the design literature or on the major design websites? Where is the morality discussion in our technology and engineering journals? There is no high-profile Vance Packard for our time. Yet.)

    Slade examines the ideas of Bernard London, a Manhattan real estate broker who published a pamphlet, Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence, in 1932, in which he proposed a government-enforced replacement programme for products, to stimulate the economy and save manufacturers (and their employees) from ruin:

    "London was dismayed that "changing habits of consumption [had] destroyed property values and opportunities for emplyment [leaving] the welfare of society ... to pure chance and accident." From the perspective of an acute and successful buinessman, the Depression was a new kind of enforced thrift.

    ...

    London wanted the government to "assign a lease of life to shoes and homes and machines, to all products of manufacture ... when they are first created." After the allotted time expired:

    "these things would be legally 'dead' and would be controlled by the duly appointed governmental agency and destroyed if there is widepsread unemployment. New products would constantly be pouring forth from the factories and marketplaces, to take the place of the obsolete, and the wheels of industry would be kept going... people would turn in their used and obsolete goods to certain governmental agencies... The individual surrendering... would receive from the Comptroller ... a receipt... partially equivalent to money in the purchase of new goods."

    This kind of ultimate command economy also has a parallel in a Aldous Huxley's Brave New World where consumers are indoctrinated into repetitive consumption for the good of the State, as Slade notes.

    What I find especially interesting is how a planned system of 'obsolete' products being surrendered to governmental agencies resonates with take-back and recycling legislation in our own era. London's consumers would effectively have been 'renting' the functions their products provided, for a certain amount of time pre-determined by "[boards of] competent engineers, economists and mathematicians, specialists in their fields." (It's not clear whether selling good second-hand would be prohibited or strictly regulated under London's system - this sort of thing has been at least partially touched on in Japan though apparently for 'safety' reasons rather than to force consumption.)

    This model of forced product retirement and replacement is not dissimilar to the 'function rental' model used by many manufacturers today - both high-tech (e.g. Rolls-Royce's 'Power by the Hour') and lower-tech (e.g. photocopier rental to institutions), but if coupled to designed-in death-dating (which London was not expressly suggesting), we might end up with manufacturers being better able to manage their take-back responsibilities. For example, a car company required to take its old models back at their end of life would be able to operate more efficiently if it knew exactly when certain models would be returned. BMW doesn't want to be taking back the odd stray 2006 3-series among its 2025 take-back programme, but if the cars could be sold in the first place with, say, a built-in 8-year lifetime (perhaps co-terminant with the warranty? Maybe the ECU switches itself off), this would allow precise management of returned vehicles and the recycling or disposal process. In 'Optimum Lifetime Products' I applied this idea from an environmental point of view - since certain consumer products which become less efficient with prolonged usage, such as refrigerators really do have an optimum lifetime (in energy terms) when a full life-cycle analysis is done, why not design products to cease operation - and alert the manufacturer, or even actively disassemble - automatically when their optimum lifetime (perhaps in hours of use) is reached?

    Shooting CRTs can be a barrel of laughs

    The problem of electronic waste

    Returning to the book, Slade gives some astonishing statistics on electronic waste, with the major culprits being mobile phones, discarded mainly through psychological obsolescence, televisions to be discarded in the US (at least) through a federally mandated standards change, and computer equipment (PCs and monitors) discarded through progressive technological obsolescence:

    "By 2002 over 130 million still-working portable phones were retired in the United States. Cell phones have now achieved the dubious distinction of having the shortest life cycle of any consumer product in the country, and their life span is still declining. In Japan, they are discarded within a year of purchase... [P]eople who already have cell phones are replacing them with newer models, people who do not have cell phones already are getting their first ones (which they too will replace within approximately eighteen months), and, at least in some parts of the world, people who have only one cell phone are getting a second or third... In 2005 about 50,000 tons of these so-called obsolete phones were 'retired' [in the US alone], and only a fraction of them were disassembled for re-use. Altogether, about 250,000 tons of discarded but still usable cell phones sit in stockpiles in America, awaiting dismantling or disposal. We are standing on the precipice of an insurmountable e-waste storage that no landfill program so far imagined will be able to solve.

    ...

    [I]n 2004 about 315 million working PCs were retired in North America... most would go straight to the scrap heap. These still-functioning but obsolete computers represented an enormous increase over the 63 million working PCs dumped into American landfills in 2003.

    ...

    Obsolete cathode ray tubes used in computer monitors will already be in the trash... by the time a US government mandate goes into effect in 2009 committing all of the country to High-Definition TV [thus rendering every single television set obsolete]... the looming problem is not just the oversized analog TV siting in the family room... The fact is that no-one really knows how many smaller analog TVs still lurk in basements [etc.]... For more than a decade, about 20 to 25 million TVs have been sold annually in the United States, while only 20,000 are recycled each year. So, as federal regulations mandating HDTV come into effect in 2009, an unknown but substantially larger number of analog TVs will join the hundreds of millions of computer monitors entering America's overcrowded, pre-toxic waste stream. Just this one-time disposal of 'brown goods' will, alone, more than double the hazardous waste problem in North America."

    Other than building hundreds of millions of Tesla coils or Jacob's ladders, is there anything useful we could do with waste CRTs?

    Planned malfunction for strategic reasons

    The chapter 'Weaponizing Planned Obsolescence' discusses a CIA operation, inspired by economist Gus Weiss, to sabotage certain US-sourced strategic and weapon technology which the USSR was known to be acquiring covertly. This is a fascinating story, involving Texas Instruments designing and producing a chip-tester which would, after a few trust-building months, deliberately pass defective chips, and a Canadian software company supplying pump/valve control software intentionally modified to cause massive failure in a Siberian gas pipeline, which occurred in 1983:

    "A three-kiloton blast, "the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space," puzzled White House staffers and NATO analysts until "Gus Weiss came down the hall to tell his fellow NSC staffers not to worry.""

    While there isn't scope here to go into more detail on these examples, it raises an interesting question: to what extent does deliberate, designed-in sabotage happen for strategic reasons in other countries and industries? When a US company supplies weapons to a foreign power, is the software or material quality a little 'different' to that supplied to US forces? When a company supplies components to its competitors, does it ever deliberately select those with poorer tolerances or less refined operating characteristics?

    I've come across two software examples specifically incorporating this behaviour - first, the Underhanded C Contest, run by Scott Craver:

    "Imagine you are an application developer for an OS vendor. You must write portable C code that will inexplicably taaaaaake a looooooong tiiiiime when compiled and run on a competitor's OS... The code must not look suspicious, and if ever anyone figures out what you did it best look like bad coding rather than intentional malfeasance."

    There's also Microsoft's apparently deliberate attempts to make MSN function poorly when using Opera:

    "Opera7 receives a style sheet which is very different from the Microsoft and Netscape browsers. Looking inside the style sheet sent to Opera7 we find this fragment:

    ul { margin: -2px 0px 0px -30px; }

    The culprit is in the "-30px" value set on the margin property. This value instructs Opera 7 to move list elements 30 pixels to the left of its parent. That is, Opera 7 is explicitly instructed to move content off the side of its container thus creating the impression that there is something wrong with Opera 7."

    Levittown: designed-in privacy

    Slade's discussion of post-war trends in US consumerism includes an interesting architecture of control example, which is not in itself about obsolescence, but demonstrates the embedding of 'politics' into the built environment.The Levittown communities built by Levitt & Sons in early post-war America were planned to offer new residents a degree of privacy unattainable in inner-city developments, and as such, features which encouraged loitering and foot traffic (porches, sidewalks) were deliberately eliminated (this is similar thinking to Robert Moses' apparently deliberate low bridges on certain parkways to prevent buses using them).

    The book itself

    Made to Break is a very engaging look at the threads that tie together 'progress' in technology and society in a number of fields of 20th century history. It's clearly written with a great deal of research, and extensive referencing and endnotes, and the sheer variety of subjects covered, from fashion design to slide rules, makes it easy to read a chapter at a time without too much inter-chapter dependence. In some cases, there is probably too much detail about related issues not directly affecting the central obsolescence discussion (for example, I feel the chapter on the Cold War deviates a bit too much) but these tangential and background areas are also extremely interesting. Some illustrations - even if only graphs showing trends in e-waste creation - would also probably help attract more casual readers and spread the concern about our obsolescence habits to a wider public. (But then, a lack of illustrations never harmed The Hidden Persuaders' influence; perhaps I'm speaking as a designer rather than a typical reader).

    All in all, highly recommended.

    Skip

    (*It would be interesting, however, to compare the consumerism-driven rapid planned obsolescence of post-war fins-'n'-chrome America with the rationing-driven austerity of post-war Britain: did British companies in this era build their products (often for export only) to last, or were they hampered by material shortages? To what extent did the 'make-do-and-mend' culture of everyday 1940s-50s Britain affect the way that products were developed and marketed? And - from a strategic point of view - did the large post-war nationalised industries in, say, France (and Britain) take a similar attitude towards deliberate obsolescence to encourage consumer spending as many companies did in the Depression-era US? Are there cases where built-in obsolescence by one arm of nationalised industry adversely affected another arm?)

    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.

    Shaping behaviour at the Design Council by Dan Lockton

    RED talk, Design Council. Photo by Kate Andrews
    Photo by Kate Andrews

    I've blogged before mentioning the work of the UK Design Council's RED research arm, which applies 'design thinking' to redevelop and create public services appropriate for societal changes right now and in the years to come. The previous post was specifically about Jennie Winhall's 'Is design political?' essay, but I've kept in touch with RED's work and was very interested to attend RED's Open House last Friday, along with Katrin Svabo Bech and Kate Andrews.

    The presentation, by Jennie Winhall, Chris Vanstone* and Matthew Horne, introduced the Kitchen Cabinet (democratic engagement) and Activmobs projects, along with a brief discussion of the concept of shaping behaviour through design, which is of course of significant pertinence to the 'architectures of control' idea (as it is indeed to captology).

    (Sadly, there was apparently not time to give any more than a cursory treatment of RED's Transformation Design concept [PDF link, 193 kb], which re-casts design thinking as the cross-disciplinary approach for problem-solving in a great variety of disciplines. The paper leads with a great quote from Charles Eames: "More than 30 years ago, Charles Eames, the American multidisciplinary designer, was asked, ‘What are the boundaries of design?’. He replied, ‘What are the boundaries of problems?’". I was especially looking forward to a discussion on transformation design, as my hunch is that many of us who've chosen to go into design (and engineering) have realised and appreciated this for a long time - indeed, it may even be the reason why we went into it: a desire to acquire the tools to shape, change and improve the world - but that by expressing it explicitly, RED has a great chance to win the understanding of a political establishment and general public who still often equate design with styling and little more. But I digress...)

    Jennie Winhall's discussion of shaping behaviour through design was a clear exposition of the principle that empowering people to change their own behaviour ought to be more preferable than forcing them to change their behaviour externally. Traditional policy-making fails in this context: it is easier to put in CCTV than to solve the underlying casuses of crime; it is easier to fund more obesity treatment than it is to tackle poor diet in the first place (the phrase 'symptom doctor' was not used, but it might have been). Describing the idea of manipulating behaviour through design as being slightly 'sinister', Jennie noted that it has been used in a commercial context for many years (it was one of those talks where I was almost bursting to interrupt with actual examples discussed on this website, though I didn't!), but, as Oxford's Lucy Kimbell pointed out, there is not necessarily an easy way to apply the techniques in a field where the aims are less well-defined ("social good" as opposed to "money"):

    "But the outcomes of public service designs are complex. RED sees value in making use of design methods used in Marks & Spencer, for example, to make the consuming experience "compelling and desirable" and applying them to public service contexts. In the M&S context, the use of these methods may well have a clear, measurable business objective: increasing sales, for example - and even here design practitioners may well struggle with framing the design problem, communicating with the client, and measuring the value of the design process and artefacts. How much harder it is to define and agree goals for public services or public goods?"

    Looking at the politically motivated examples of architectures of control which I've examined over the last couple of years, I'd say a significant percentage of them are designed with the goal of stamping out a particular type of behaviour, usually classed as anti-social and usually extremely contentious: this really is social engineering. The success of skateboarding 'deterrents' is measured by how few children skateboard in an area. The success of the Mosquito is measured by how few children congregate in an area. The success of park benches with central armrests is measured by how there are no longer people lying down on them. The "woollier" behaviour-shaping architectures of control, such as Square Eyes or the Entertrainer are very much edging towards captology, and perhaps these examples are closer to RED's field of experience.

    WorldChanging also has a discussion of the RED Open House presentation.

    *Speaking to us individually, Chris Vanstone used "stick, carrot or speedometer" as a way of classifying design methods for behavioural change, and I think this is worthy of a separate post, as this is an extremely insightful way of looking at these issues from an interaction design point of view.

    Is there a better term than "architectures of control"? by Dan Lockton

    Chapter 4 from Lawrence Lessig's 'Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace' Welcome, readers from Metafilter and del.icio.us.

    One point raised in the Metafilter discussion is whether the term 'architectures of control' is a sensible one for this phenomenon, and whether 'architectures of control in design' is a good title for the blog. I understand the issue; it's something (clearly) I considered at length when starting my research. It's not an especially succinct title, and the use of the 'architectures' term is potentially a source of confusion (or irritation) if the link between the design of environments and the design of products and systems is not fully appreciated:

    "Architecture is the design and construction of buildings... The noun is never pluralized, nor ever used as a verb, gag, except by the designers of computer software and hardware who needed to appropriate the term because they wanted to make their jobs sound more impressive. This kind of business school speak - always reaching for the most portentous word available when a simple one would do the job just fine - drives me nuts. That is one reason I have difficulty with the title of his blog. The second is that it is a redundancy: Design of control in design."

    First time I've ever been accused of business school speak! But the term 'architectures of control' has been in reasonably wide use for a while before my research; from my own point of view, I originally borrowed it from chapter 4 of Lessig's Code & Other Laws of Cyberspace, as the central thesis here is pretty much that Lessig's 'code is law' principle - relating specifically to the way the internet is structured - applies equally to any product, system or environment with which a user interacts. Anything can be designed to enforce and restrict behaviour. Applying programming analogies to hardware, or architectural analogies to software, or other combinations, can be a useful way of allowing different disciplines to understand each other. Or so it would be nice to think!

    But is there a better term than 'architectures of control'? I'm completely open to suggestions.

    Update (19th Sept): The term apparently has enough currency for eBay affiliates to buy Google Adwords using it, e.g.

    Buy Architectures of Control on eBay!

    ...but then they're not always noted for the most sensible key-phrase choices!

    Deliberately reducing visibility at road junctions by Dan Lockton

    Countess Roundabout, A303, Amesbury, Wiltshire, England (Image from Google Earth) An increasing trend among road planners in the UK is the use of fencing, hedges or banks deliberately to reduce visibility at certain junctions, especially roundabouts (traffic circles), presumably with the intention of forcing drivers approaching a roundabout to slow almost to a standstill every time, even if the roundabout is empty. This SABRE thread has some interesting examples and discussion of individual cases (including the Countess Roundabout on the A303 - above image from Google Earth*).

    I can understand the safety reasoning - and this genuinely is an architecture of control with intended social benefit - but in many places where it's applied, I believe it to be flawed. One of the main features of roundabouts as originally introduced was that they allowed non-discriminatory free flow to any traffic which was unopposed, i.e. if nothing's coming from the right (UK) you can proceed without actually having to halt: all roads meeting at a roundabout have to give way to whoever's already on the roundabout. It's the ultimate in both deference and empowerment.

    By removing drivers' ability to respond by assessing what's happening up ahead, you reduce the amount of information available, which apart from sheer frustration, must in many cases have deleterious safety implications.

    For example, I drive a low car with a relatively long bonnet. If there's anything in a lane to my right when waiting at a roundabout, I already either have to wait until that has gone, or nose out gradually, just in order to see what's coming and whether or not I can proceed. It's awkward and I don't like it. Adding high fences to the central reservation forces that situation on every driver.

    As 'PeterA5145' notes in the SABRE discussion:

    "...improving sightlines generally tends to reduce collisions at junctions. You wouldn't deliberately engineer a road with lots of blind turnings just to make people take more care, would you?

    It is nonsense to assert that slower automatically means safer."

    *This image is probably from before the fencing was put up - if anyone has a more recent one showing the fences, please let me know!

    Locking users in by making it difficult to leave by Dan Lockton

    eBay's 'My Account' section has no 'Delete account' facility Privacy International has a report, 'Dumb Design or Dirty Tricks?' on the practice of a number of popular websites - most notably eBay and Amazon - of lacking an easy or obvious way for a user to delete his or her account:

    "Amazon provided the most blatant example of companies that refuse to provide account delete facilities... creating an account is relatively simple... However nowhere on the site can a customer actually delete an account. A trawl through all the 'useful information' statements ('customer charter', 'privacy notice' and 'privacy policy', 'security guarantee' and even 'sign out from our site') reveals nothing about closing your account, deleting your personal details, or terminating your relationship with Amazon. Even the site's search function is useless for this: you can only search for products for purchase, not for information on how to manage your account. In fact, a search for 'delete account' even points to advertisements from 'sponsors' on how to open bank accounts."

    It is, of course, in no way 'dumb design', as the omission and obfuscation is entirely intentional: it is cunning design, frustrating a user's attempts at exerting control by making it hard to leave. Just look at the efforts another high-profile name goes to for customer retention. It's another feature deletion example, similar in spirit to, say, disabling the fast-forward button on PVRs.

    (It's unclear exactly what the immediate benefit is to Amazon or eBay to retain customers who want to leave and presumably are not going to be spending any more, except that a bigger customer base allows higher advertising rates, and also, as noted by PI: "The size of an online company’s customer base is a key element of its market value. Maintaining growth of that customer base is therefore a core indicator of their financial worth"; I suppose there is also the likelihood that customers may return at some point, and having an extant account removes one 'hassle' barrier to entry.)

    PI believes that the absence of an easy account closure mechanism:

    "breach[es] key elements of the Data Protection Act. No customer could reasonably be expected to invest the considerable time and effort required to investigate these sites, nor in our view should any responsible company create such obstacles. ... As a consequence of this research, Privacy International has lodged a complaint with the UK Information Commissioner, requesting a formal investigation. This will be a test complaint, and has been directed at eBay.co.uk, which claims a user base of over ten million UK consumers."

    These are interesting examples of systems being designed to restrict users' behaviour for commercial reasons, in an - on the face of it - extremely blatant way. There is some difference between a system which requires continuous payment, such as AOL, being designed to be difficult to cancel, and the eBay/Amazon examples, since the user is not locked in to paying a fee every month. But the effect for the locker-in is the same: more customers retained. There are plenty of parallels in designed-in lock-ins from other industries, from cigarettes and ink cartridges to deliberate software incompatability - even in Web 2.0 - and vendor lock-in generally.

    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.