Panopticon

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

by Dan Lockton Hollywood & Highland mall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title

End

Means

30

Activity nodes

To “create concentrations of people in a community”

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

53

Main gateways

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

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

68

Connected play

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

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

139

Farmhouse kitchen

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

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

151

Small meeting rooms

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

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

Layout of physical elements

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

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

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

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

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

Some seating at Wessex Water's HQ, Bath

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

Seating at LAX

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

Trellick Tower from the Great Western Main Line

Emergence, desire lines and predicting behaviour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The politics of architecture, power and control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disciplinary architecture and design against crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implications for designers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

The Convention on Modern Liberty by Dan

Barricades, London Britain's supposedly on the verge of a summer of rage, and while like Mary Riddell I am of course reminded of Ballard, it's not quite the same. I don't think this represents the 'middle class' ennui of Chelsea Marina.

Instead I think we may have reached a tipping point where more people than not, are, frankly, fed up (and scared) about what's happening, whether it's the economic situation, the greed of the feckless, the intransigent myopia of those who were supposed to 'oversee' what's going on, the use of fear to intimidate away basic freedoms, or a home secretary who treats the entire country like the naughty schoolchildren she left behind. In short: we're basically losing our liberty very rapidly indeed. This PDF, compiled by UCL Student Human Rights Programme, provides a withering summary. As many have repeated, 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual. But, as Cardinal Wolsey warned, "be well advised and assured what matter ye put in his head; for ye shall never pull it out again".

The Convention on Modern Liberty, taking place across the UK this Saturday 28th February, aims to demonstrate the dissatisfaction with what's happening, and hopefully raise awareness of just what's going on right under our noses. It features an interesting cross-section of speakers, and the speeches will be streamed on the site (tickets for the London session sold out very quickly).

I'm a normal person, trying my best to advance the progress of humanity, yet I feel that the government has contempt for me as a member of the public in general, on an everyday basis. Everywhere we go, we are watched, monitored, surveilled, threatened, considered guilty. We shouldn't have to live like this.

P.S. I apologise for the lack of posts over the last week: my laptop's graphics card finally gave in - it had been kind-of usable at a low resolution by connecting the output to another monitor for a while, but that too has now failed. Thanks to everyone who's e-mailed and sent things: I will get round to them as soon as I can.

On 'Design and Behaviour' this week: Do you own your stuff? And a strange council-run 'Virtual World for young people' by Dan

GPS-aided repo and product-service systems

GPS tracking - image by cmpalmer

Ryan Calo of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society brought up the new phenomenon of GPS-aided car repossession and the implications for the concepts of property and privacy:

A group of car dealers in Oregon apparently attached GPS devices to cars sold to customers with poor credit so as to be able to track them down more easily in the event of repossession.

...this practice also relates to an emerging phenomenon wherein sold property remains oddly connected to the seller as though it were merely leased. Whereas once we purchased an album and did with it as we please, today we need to register (up to five) devices in order to play our songs.

...and Kingston University's Rosie Hornbuckle linked this to the concept of product-service systems:

This puts a whole new slant on product-service-systems, a current (and popular) sustainability methodology whereby people are weaned off the concept of owning products, instead they lease them off the manufacturer who is then responsible for take-back, repair, recycling or disposal. So in that scenario it's quite likely that a manufacturer will want to keep tabs on their equipment/material, will this bring up privacy issues or is it simply the case that if it's done overtly (and not in the negative frame of potential repossession), the customer knows about it and agrees, it's ok? Or will it be a long time before people can overcome the perceived encroachment on their liberty that not owning might bring?

It reminds me of something Bill Thompson suggested to me once, that (paraphrasing) the idea that we 'own' the technology we use might well turn out to be a short phase in overall human history. That could perhaps be 'good' in contexts where sharing/renting/pooling things allows much greater efficiency and brings benefits for users. Nevertheless, as the repossession example (and DRM, etc, in general) show, the tendency in practice is often to use these methods to exert increasing dominance over users, erode assumed rights, and extract more value from people who no longer have control of the things they use.

See the whole thread so far (and join in!)

Above image of GPS trails (unrelated to the story, but a cool picture) from cmpalmer's Flickr

The Mosquito, and plans for an odd 'walk-in virtual world'

McDonald's Restaurant, Windsor, Berkshire

Rosie discussed the Mosquito (above image: an example outside a McDonald's opposite Windsor Castle*) and asked "could we use our design skills and knowledge to influence these sorts of behaviours with a less aggressive and longer-term approach?" while Adrian Short summed up the issue pretty well:

There are a lot of problems in principle and in practice with these devices, but the core problem for me is that they tend to be directed at users rather than uses (i.e. people by identity, not behaviour) and are entirely arbitrary. The street outside a shop is public space and the shop owners have no more right than anyone else to dictate who goes there.

In as much as these things work (which is highly disputed), they are never going to encourage a meaningful debate about norms of behaviour among users of a space. This approach is not so much negotiation as warfare.

Sutton's Rosehill steps (which Adrian let me know about originally) were also discussed and Adrian brought us the story of something very odd: a 'virtual world to teach good behaviour to young people':

Half a mile away, the same council is proposing to spend at least £4 million on a facility that will include a high-tech virtual street environment, a "street simulator" if you like, to teach safety and good behaviour to some of the same young people. ... "Part movie-set, part theme park, the learning complex will be the first of its kind in the UK and will also house an indoor street with shop fronts, pavements and a road. The idea is to give young people the confidence to make the best of their lives and have a positive impact on their peers and their local community."

I don't really know what to make of that. I actually woke up this morning thinking about it assuming that it was a dream I'd been having, then realised where I'd read about it. It sounds like a mish-mash of Scaramanga's Fun House from The Man With The Golden Gun and the Ludovico Centre** from A Clockwork Orange.

Scaramanga's FunhouseLudovico Centre

See the whole thread here.

*This particular McDonald's, with the Mosquito going every evening and clearly audible to me and my girlfriend (both mid-20s) also features a vicious array of anti-sit spikes (below) which rather negate the 'welcoming' efforts made with the flowerbed.

**I actually gave a talk about my research to Environmentally Sensitive Design students in this building a couple of weeks ago: it's Brunel's main Lecture Centre.

McDonalds Restaurant, Windsor, Berkshire McDonalds Restaurant, Windsor, Berkshire

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.

    Normalising paranoia by Dan Lockton

    This is brilliant. Chloë Coulson, Erland Banggren and Ben Williams, three Ravensbourne graduates, have put together a project looking at the "culture of fear", the media's use of this, and how it affects our everyday state of mind.

    The outcome is a catalogue, WellBeings™ [PDF link] accompanying a specially printed newspaper, The Messenger, designed to be used with special rose-tinted spectacles - simple, yet very clever:

    Feeling brave? Read the paper as usual. Feeling fragile? Put on the rose-tinted spectacles to block out the bad news stories which are printed in the same hue as the lenses so it becomes invisible.

    The products in the catalogue cater for people made increasingly paranoid by aspects of modern society, by 'normalising' paranoia - ranging from H-ear-Phones which allow you to hear what others are saying about you, to Rear-View Mirror spectacles to allow you to keep an eye on who might be following you. As Chloë puts it:

    The whole project is about questioning attitudes - should we live in fear - are we safer that way, or should we live for now and not worry about what could happen.

    There are also a couple of products in there which are actually defensive weapons - a pepper spray disguised as a perfume atomiser, and house-key-cum-knuckleduster, and these seem to go beyond mere paranoia. All of these products are very plausible, and indeed, some of them are probably commercially viable. Whilst none of these is an architecture of control as such, I felt that they deserved inclusion here - pertinent to the sousveillance discussion, and also the idea of users turning products against instrusive aspects of society, from relatively simple items such as the Knee Defender (prevent the person in front of you on an aircraft reclining his or her seat) to Limor Fried's Design Noir work on using electronic devices to create social defence mechanisms.

    Equally - while perhaps not the focus of the project - the rose-tinted spectacles idea parallels closely the phenomenon of increasing self-selection of the news we expose ourselves to, as the internet and hundreds of TV channels allow segmentation like never before. The idea of a newspaper bringing readers only 'good' news has been tried a number of times (a recent example one-off) and has inspired some interesting pieces, but modern media permits many more coloured filters than simply rose-tinting. Clearly, to a large extent, deliberate use of this segmentation can permit intentional reinforcement, entrenchment, even inspiration of certain views and behaviours. Self-selected exposure to propaganda is a curious phenomenon, but one with enormous power.

    Smile, you're on Countermanded Camera by Dan Lockton

    IDPS : Miquel Mora
    Image from Miquel Mora's website We've looked before at a number of technologies and products aimed at 'preventing' photography and image recording in some way, from censoring photographs of 'copyrighted content' and banknotes, to Georgia Tech's CCD-flooding system.

    Usually these systems are about locking out the public, or removing freedoms in some way (a lot of organisations seem to fear photography), but a few 'fightback' devices have been produced, aiming to empower the individual against others (e.g. Hewlett-Packard's 'paparazzi-proof' camera) or against authority (e.g. the Backflash system intended to render a car number plate unreadable when photographed by a speed camera). The field of sousveillance - lots of interesting articles by Régine Debatty here - is also a 'fightback' in a parallel vein.

    Taking the fightback idea further, into the realms of everyware, Miquel Mora's IDentity Protection System, shown last month at the RCA's Great Exhibition (many thanks to Katrin Svabo Bech for the tip-off), aims to offer the individual a way to control how his or her image is recorded - again, Régine from We Make Money Not Art:

    With IDPS (IDentity Protection System), interaction designer Miquel Mora is proposing a new way to protect our visual identity from the invasion of ubiquitous surveillance cameras. He had a heap of green stickers that could stick to your jacket. Or anywhere else. The sticker blurred your image on the video screen.

    "With the IDPS project I wanted to sparkle [sic.] debate about all the issues related to identity privacy," explains Miquel. "Make people think about how our society has become a complete surveillance machine. Our identities have already been stored as data in many servers ready to be tracked. And our self image is our last resort. So we really need tools to protect our privacy. We need tools that can allow us to hide or reveal our visual image. We must have the control over it."

    "For example in one scenario a girl is wearing a tooth jewellery with IDPS technology embedded. So when she smiles she reveals it and it triggers the camera to protect her. With IDPS users can always feel comfortable, knowing that with a simple gesture like smiling, they are in control. The IDPS technology could be embedded in all kind of items, from simple badges to clothes or jewellery. For the working prototype I'm using Processing to track the stickers and pixelate the image around when it founds one."

    IDPS : Miquel Mora
    Image from Miquel Mora's website

    While the use of stickers or similar tags (why not RFID?) which can be embedded in items such as jewellery is a very neat idea aesthetically, I am not sure what economic/legal incentive would drive CCTV operators or manufacturers to include something such as IDPS in their systems and respect the wishes of users. CCTV operators generally do not want anyone to be able to exclude him or herself from being monitored and recorded, whether that's by wearing a hoodie or a smart black hat with maroon ribbon. Or indeed a veil of some kind.

    Something which actively fought back against unwanted CCTV or other surveillance intrusion, such as reversing the Georgia Tech system in some way (e.g. detecting the CCD of a digital security camera, and sending a laser to blind it temporarily, or perhaps some kind of UV strobe) would perhaps be more likely to 'succeed', although I'm not sure how legal it would be. Still, with RCA-quality interaction designers homing in on these kinds of issues, I think we're going to see some very interesting concepts and solutions in the years ahead...

    Some links by Dan Lockton

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

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

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

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

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

    I'm not sure it is now, either.

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

    Image from Correctional News

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

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

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

    Image from Correctional News website

  • Should the iPhone be more open?

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

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

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

    A nickel and a dime.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Coincidence? by Dan Lockton

    Gmail ads related to mp3 being played?
    A few minutes ago I was playing a track in Winamp, with Gmail open in an Opera window, and on refreshing Gmail, the Google 'web clip' at the top of the inbox display contained the same phrase, 'jet stream', as the track.

    Is that merely a coincidence, or does Gmail monitor what music is being played by a user? I don't have Google Desktop or Toolbar or any of that installed.

    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.

    The Tell-Tale Part by Dan Lockton

    Open the case of your mobile (cell) phone. Do you see a round white sticker, similar to that in the first photo below? Water damage sticker

    This is a water damage sticker, which changes colour if moisture gets into this bit of the phone, and will be used to void your warranty if your phone stops working for any reason.

    A single droplet of water placed on the sticker turns it bright red (in the case of my phone, anyway):

    Water damage sticker

    WikiHow's 'How to save a wet cell phone' (found via Consumerist) recommends that you:

    "Place a piece of satin finish scotch tape over your water damage sticker before you drop your cell phone in the water to prevent the water damage sticker from voiding your warranty... Remove the tape if you ever have to return your phone for repairs or warranty."

    Now, it's a clever idea on the part of the phone companies, and presumably water-damaged phones being returned under warranty were enough of a problem to make such stickers 'necessary'.

    However, we all know that in practice, any non-working phone where the sticker has changed colour will be immediately classified as 'water-damaged' and the customer's rights voided, even if the actual phone was independently defective.

    As a designer, I would much prefer to look at the problem as "How can we improve the sealing of phones so that water ingress is no longer a major problem?" than "How can we design something to cover our backs and shift all the blame onto the user for our design fault?"

    But maybe I'm naïve.

    P.S. My Motorola, shown above, began to work intermittently just a month after the warranty expired, completely unrelated to any water issues, hence I don't mind getting the sticker wet.

    P.S. Hi, visitors from Nokia. Please note, my intention wasn't to have a go at phone designers (or the engineering teams); and your phones seem superior on the water-protection front anyway. It's just a commentary on the mindset which says "it's easier/cheaper to catch users out than it is to solve the problem."

    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'?

    Reversing the emphasis of a control environment by Dan Lockton

    Image from Flickr user Monkeys & Kiwis Image from Monkeys & Kiwis (Flickr)

    Chris Weightman let me know about how it felt to watch last Thursday's iPod Flashmob at London's Liverpool Street station: the dominant sense was of a mass of people overturning the 'prescribed' behaviour designed into an environment, and turning the area into their own canvas, overlaying individualised, externally silent experiences on the usual commuter traffic.

    Probably wouldn't get away with that sort of thing at an airport any more anyway, but what will happen to this kind of informal gathering in the era of the societies of control? When everyware monitors exactly who's where and forces the barriers closed for anyone hoping to use the space for something other than that for which it was intended?

    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?)

    Casino programmable* by Dan Lockton

    Part of the cover of a late-60s Pan edition of Casino Royale Signal vs Noise talks about the casino experience - a world awash with designed-in architectures of control, both physical and psychological (and physiological, perhaps), truly environments designed specifically to manipulate and reinforce certain behaviour, from maze-like layouts (intentional route obfuscation - perhaps even more so than in supermarkets) to the deliberate funnelling of winners past many other places to spend their chips on the way to the cashier's window.

    While the commenters (including 'Hunter' who runs a blog on casino design) attempt to clarify/debunk some of the more legendary 'casino tricks' including restricting daylight and pumping extra oxygen onto the floor, it's clear that an enormous wealth of expertise has developed over the years to maximise the control of players and thus maximise casinos' takings.

    A couple of months ago, Scott Craver mentioned another interesting casino trick:

    "This casino had a cell-phone blocker, and of course our conference room would have no wi-fi. Apparently the goal is to attract people to machines and disconnect them from everything else in the world. From the gambling areas you cannot tell if it is day or night. And the way everything was designed to suck people in had all the subtlety of a mousetrap."

    (Despite spending most of my formative years reading the James Bond books over and over again, and being fascinated by Thomas Bass's The Newtonian Casino, I've only ever actually been in one 'proper' casino, in London, and I spent most of that time watching a friend play blackjack and trying to apply what I could remember from Bringing Down The House, so I'm not really very familiar with the subject. But it's extremely interesting, and worthy of more research - and comparison with other 'public' environments.)

    *Yeah, it's a calculated pun!

    Countercontrol: blind pilots by Dan Lockton

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

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

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

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

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

    Transcranial magnetic stimulation by Dan Lockton

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

    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)