Legislation

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.

How to fit a normal bulb in a BC3 fitting and save £10 per bulb by Dan

BC3 and 2-pin bayonet fitting comparedStandard 2-pin bayonet cap (left) and 3-pin bayonet cap BC3 (right) fittings compared

Summary for mystified international readers: In the UK new houses/flats must, by law, have a number of light fittings which will 'not accept incandescent filament bulbs' (a 'green' idea). This has led to the development of a proprietary, arbitrary format of compact fluorescent bulb, the BC3, which costs a lot more than standard compact fluorescents, is difficult to obtain, and about which the public generally doesn't know much (yet). If you're so minded, it's not hard to modify the fitting and save money.

A lot of visitors have found this blog recently via searching for information on the MEM BC3 3-pin bayonet compact fluorescent bulbs, where to get them, and why they're so expensive. The main posts here discussing them, with background to what it's all about, are A bright idea? and some more thoughts - and it's readers' comments which are the really interesting part of both posts.

There are so many stories of frustration there, of people trying to 'do their bit' for the environment, trying to fit better CFLs in their homes, and finding that instead of instead of the subsidised or even free standard 2-pin bayonet CFLs available all over the place in a variety of improved designs, styles and quality, they're locked in to having to pay 10 or 15 times as much for a BC3 bulb, and order online, simply because the manufacturer has a monopoly, and does not seem to supply the bulbs to normal DIY or hardware stores.

Frankly, the system is appalling, an example of exactly how not to design for sustainable behaviour. It's a great 'format lock-in' case study for my research, but a pretty pathetic attempt to 'design out' the 'risk' of the public retro-fitting incandescent bulbs in new homes. This is the heavy-handed side of the legislation-ecodesign nexus, and it's clearly not the way forward. Trust the UK to have pushed ahead with it without any thought of user experience. One of the most egregious aspects for me is the way that Eaton's MEMLITE BC3 promotional material presents users with, effectively, a false dichotomy between the 'energy saving BC3' and the energy-hungry GLS incandescent filament tungsten bulbs, as if these are the only two options available. There is no mention at all of standard 2-pin bayonet CFLs which have all the advantages of the BC3 with none of the disadvantages. The adoption of CFLs has been, I would argue, in large part because they are widely available as drop-in replacements for standard 2-pin bayonet (or Edison screw) bulbs. If they'd all required special fittings, very few people would have bought them.

Anyway, if you don't fancy swapping your BC3 fittings for standard 2-pin bayonet ones (which is cheap but would(?) presumably make your home non-compliant with part L of the building regulations - any knowledgeable readers able to clarify this?), it isn't actually too difficult to get a 2-pin bulb to fit acceptably. You will need a pair of pliers, ideally thinner/longer-nosed than the ones in my photos. I should warn you to TURN OFF THE ELECTRICITY FIRST. Unless you're absolutely sure that someone else won't walk in and flip the light switch, don't rely on just turning this off. Turn it all off at the main switch for the house.

Standard 2-pin BC Philips Genie and fittingStandard 2-pin BC Philips Genie and fitting

Here (above) is a Philips Genie 11W 2-pin bayonet CFL. It fits properly into a 2-pin bayonet fitting. When you try to fit it into the BC3 fitting (below), one of the pins will go into one of the J-slots OK, but due to the offset of the other slots, the other pin won't go in. Ignore the third slot.

Standard 2-pin BC Philips Genie with BC3 fittingStandard 2-pin BC Philips Genie with BC3 fitting

But if you look carefully at how the non-fitting pin lines up with the slot (below), you can see that the bottom end of the slot, i.e. where the pin would sit if it could be got into the top of the J, is (just) to the left of the pin. (See the line I scratched on the fitting.) That is, if you could get it there, it would still sit in place without immediately falling out.

Standard 2-pin BC Philips Genie with BC3 fitting

So, with the pliers (making sure the electricity really is off), bend the edge of the non-fitting slot (the inside edge of the J) inwards and fold it back on itself, squeezing it as tight as you can (below two photos):

Bending BC3 fitting with pliers Bending BC3 fitting with pliers

Now try the 2-pin bayonet bulb again (below) - it should fit OK, with a bit of wobbling perhaps. One pin should fit under the bit you just bent; the other should butt up against the inside corner of the J on the other side. It's not perfect, but the friction there is enough to hold the bulb in place OK.

Fitting 2 pin BC bulb in BC3 fitting Fitting 2 pin BC bulb in BC3 fitting

Switch on the electricity again, and there you have it: any standard 2-pin bayonet bulb, working, in a BC3 fitting (below). Given the amount of free CFLs handed out by various organisations, you could probably replace all the BC3 bulbs in your house for zero cost, once they come to the end of their lives.

Fitting 2 pin BC bulb in BC3 fitting Fitting 2 pin BC bulb in BC3 fitting

Disclaimer: I can't accept any responsibility for injuries, non-compliance with building regs, incidental damage, etc. The above is just a proof of concept, etc. Have fun.

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...

    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'?

    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.

    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.

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

    Some interesting aspects of built-in obsolescence by Dan Lockton

    A lot of wasted computing power This San Francisco Chronicle review of Giles Slade's Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America (which I've just ordered and look forward to reading and reviewing here in due course) mentions some interesting aspects of built-in (planned) obsolescence - and planned failure - in technology and product design:

    "A new machine that does something different (the PC), or adds new capability (cell phone versus land line) or adds new features (cell phones with Internet, etc.) is an obvious incentive for a consumer to replace the old machine. But besides the apparent progress of the new and improved, there are other factors that encourage consumers to buy and rapidly throw away products.

    Changes in style (the annual model change adopted by the auto industry being the best-known example) and appeals to status encouraged by massive advertising are major forms of "psychological obsolescence," specifically designed to create demand for new versions of old and still usable products. But another way of selling new machines at a faster rate is to make sure the old ones break down sooner. This practice of "death-dating" is what most people think of when they hear the term "planned obsolescence."

    ...

    Slade discovered a much earlier instance in a 1932 pamphlet by real estate broker Bernard London, who was arguing in favor of it [planned obsolescence]. The Depression may seem a weird time to propose that things break down as soon as possible, but London was looking at it from the producer's standpoint. If people could be induced to replace things sooner, he reasoned, sales and jobs would increase, and the economy would improve. London seemed to want to go so far as to make planned obsolescence a legal requirement.

    London wasn't entirely alone -- there were advocates of all kinds of obsolescence to stimulate the 1930s economy. Slade notes several industries where manufacturers knew how to death-date their technologies, usually with less durable materials, and they did so, with the additional excuse of cutting costs and the price."

    The discussion of the US's mounting levels of electronic waste from rapid replacement cycles contains an intriguing aside:

    "Things are likely to get much worse in the near future, thanks to better enforcement of the international ban on exporting hazardous waste expected in coming years ($100 bills taped to the inside of inspected cartons currently help grease this activity, Slade notes), and especially due to the FCC-mandated switch to high definition TV in 2007, which may result in millions of suddenly junked televisions. "This one-time disposal of 'brown goods' will, alone, more than double the hazardous waste problem in North America."

    Are artificial, government-mandated fillips to hardware retailers, such as the HDTV switch noted above, or the analogue TV switch-off in the UK, something we should be worried about, both from an environmental point of view, and as members of the public interested in how our governments' decisions may be 'influenced' by certain large businesses?

    After all, in the Bernard London case, manufacturing (and R&D and engineering) jobs would have been created or preserved in a time of great need for the US, but in our own age, the millions of new pieces of equipment being shipped from China will provide many fewer direct benefits for the countries whose citizens are cajoled into purchasing them.

    See also Feature deletion for environmental reasons and Case study: Optimum Lifetime Products.

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

    ...

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

    ...

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

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

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

    Are these actually that different to insurance black boxes??

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Reuters link via Open Rights Group discussion)

    Dilemma of horns by Dan Lockton

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

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