Protest

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.

(Anti-)public seating roundup by Dan Lockton

Photo by Ville Tikkanen
Single-occupancy benches in Helsinki. Photo by Ville Tikkanen Ville Tikkanen of Salient Feature points us to the "asocial design" of these single-person benches installed in Helsinki, Finland. In true Jan Chipchase style, he invites us to think about the affordances offered:

As you can see, the benches are located a few meters away from each other and staring at the same direction. What kind of sociality do particular product and service features afford and what not?

Comments on Ville's photo on Flickr make it clear that preventing the homeless lying down is seen as one of the reasons behind the design (as we've seen in so many other cases).

Bench in Cornmarket, Oxford
The street finds its own uses for things. Photo from Stephanie Jenkins

Ted Dewan - the man behind Oxford's intriguing Roadwitch project, which I will get round to covering at some point - pointed me to a fantastic photo of the vehemently anti-user seating in Oxford's Cornmarket Street, which was covered on the blog last year. When I saw the seating, no-one was using it (not surprising, though to be fair, it was raining), but the above photo demonstrates very clearly what a pathetic conceit the attempt to restrict users' sitting down was.

As Ted puts it, these are:

The world's most expensive, ugly, and deliberately uncomfortable benches... Still, people have managed to figure out how to sit on them, although not the way the 'designers' expected. They might as well have written "Oxford wishes you would kindly piss off" on the pavement.

And indeed they were expensive - the set of 8 benches cost £240,000:

Benches in Oxford's Cornmarket Street will now cost taxpayers £240,000 - and many have been designed to discourage people from sitting on them for a long time... the bill for the benches - dubbed "tombstones" by former Lord Mayor of Oxford Gill Sanders -- has hit £240,000.

...

The seats, made of granite, timber and stainless steel, are due to be unveiled next week but shoppers wanting to take the weight off their feet could be disappointed, because they will only be able to sit properly on 24 of the 64 seats. There is a space for a wheelchair in each of the eight blocks, while the other 32 seats are curved and are only meant to be "perched" on for a short time... Mr Cook [Oxford City planning] said the public backed the design when consultation took place two years ago. He added: "There's method in our madness. We did not want to provide clear, long benches both sides because we did not want drunks lying across them."

But a city guide said the council had forgotten the purpose of seating. Jane Curran, 56... said: "When people see these seats and how much they cost, they are going to be amazed.

"They look like an interesting design, but seats are for people to sit on... the real function of a seat has been forgotten."

Mrs Sanders, city councillor for Littlemore, said: "I said time and again that the council should rethink the design, because I don't think it's appropriate for Cornmarket. People who need a rest if they're carrying heavy shopping need to be able to sit down. If they can't sit on half the seats it's an incredible waste of money."

David Robertson, the county executive member for transport, said: "They have been designed so that the homeless will not be able to use them as a bed for the night."

Bench by Matthew Hincman
Matthew Hincman's 'bench object' installed at Jamaica Pond, Boston, Mass. Photo from WBUR website

Following last week's post on the 'Lean Seat', John Curran let me know about the 'bench object' installation by sculptor Matthew Hincman. This was installed in a Boston park without any permission from the authorities, removed and then reinstated (for a while, at least) after the Boston Arts Commission and Parks Commission were impressed by the craftsmanship, thoughtfulness and safety of the piece.

While this is probably not Hincman's intention, the deliberately 'unsittable' nature of the piece is not too much beyond some of the thinking we've seen displayed with real benches.

Photo of Exeter St David's Station by Elsie esq.
Exeter St Davids station - photo by Elsie esq.

In a similar vein to the Heathrow Terminal 5 deliberate lack of-seats except in overpriced cafés, Mags L Halliday also told me about what's recently happened at Exeter St Davids, her local mainline railway station:

There are no longer any indoor seats available without having to sit in the café, and the toilets are beyond the ticket barrier. So if you're there waiting for someone off a late train, after the cafe has closed, you can only sit outside the building, and have no access to the toilet facilities (unless a ticket inspector on the barrier feels kind). ... [First Great Western] are currently doing their best to discourage people from just hanging around waiting at Exeter St Davids. The recent introduction of barriers there (due to massive amounts of fare dodging on the local trains) has created a simply awful space. ... If you take a look at the stats, FGW has lost over 5% points for customer satisfaction with their facilities in the last 6 months - I wonder why!

Waiting outdoors for late-night trains, with the cold wind howling through the station, is never pleasant anywhere, but I seem to remember St Davids being especially windy (south-south-west to north-north-east orientation). This kind of tactic (removing seats) might not be deliberate, but if it isn't, it demonstrates a real lack of customer insight or appreciation. Neither reason is admirable.

UPDATE: Mags has posted photos (slideshow) of the recent changes at Exeter St Davids, along with notes - which also show other poor thinking by First Great Western, alongside the obvious removal-of-seating:


Click to see more notes

This is the only seating freely available at Exeter St Davids if you do not have a ticket (i.e. if you are waiting for someone). Note that one of the two benches is delightfully occupied.


Click to see more notes

Exeter St David's no longer has any freely accessible indoor seating. This is the view of the increasingly encroached concourse area where you can wait for people. The only toilets are beyond the barriers.


Click to see more notes

Having walked into the main concourse, you have to turn 180 degrees in order to see the departures screen, then 180 degrees back to go through the gates.

What an attractive meeting point!

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...

Coercive atmospherics reach the bus shelter by Dan Lockton

Milk & cookies
Jonathan Zittrain discusses scented advertising in bus shelters: the California Milk Processor Board recently tried a campaign with chocolate-chip cookie-scented "aromatic strips", intended to provoke a thirst for milk, in San Francisco before having to remove them after allergy/chemical sensitivity concerns.

The use of scent (fresh bread, coffee, 'new car smell' etc) as a persuasion method is nothing new in supermarkets and other retail environments - as part of coercive atmospherics, Douglas Rushkoff and Martin Howard both have interesting treatments of various approaches and results - but the balance does begin to shift when the application is so public. I would suspect a lot of the opposition in San Francisco was really more about the inescapable incursion of the commercial message into a public environment than the allergy concerns; as Jonathan puts it:

Unlike the use of even large billboards, there’s no easy way to avert your nose the way you can avert your eyes, making the advertising much more invasive.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure that a less obviously "invasive" olefactory campaign would necessarily meet too much opposition if handled correctly. Imagine an air freshener manufacturer sponsoring a clean-up of a city's dirtiest/stinkiest bus shelters. Provided it were not overpowering, and not too sickening, would a fragranced bus shelter without a coercive angle be seen as invasive?

Or, to run closer to the milk-and-cookies example, what if, say, Nestlé were to fragrance bus shelters with chocolate milkshake scent in order to promote Nesquik? It doesn't have the same 'sneaky' aspect, though I suspect it would still be pretty irritating.

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.

    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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Spiked: 'Enlightening the future' by Dan Lockton

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

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

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

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

    Oh yeah, that Windows Kill Switch by Dan Lockton

    I know the furore surrounding Microsoft's 'Windows Genuine Advantage' is a few days old, and perhaps I should have blogged about it at the time, specifically the rumoured 'Kill Switch' which would remotely deactivate any PCs apparently running 'non-genuine' copies of XP. That's certainly a candidate for my feature deletion/external control category, as well as treacherous computing, and ranks far more severely than, say, removing mp3 capability from a phone after a mandatory upgrade. Nevertheless, if WGA does have a kill switch, and does remotely kill off 50% of Windows' user base over night, that's just going to be good news for GNU/Linux adoption, and Apple. There's not going to be any perfect substitution, that every copied installation of Windows has lost Microsoft $xxx therefore by preventing those installations from working, Microsoft will recover $xxx from each user. Sure, they'll make some more money, but the loss in goodwill will more than offset that. Vastly more than offset it. Anyway, I thought the following post by LilBambi had some great, succinct observations on this topic, plus the general 'architectures of control' mindset and its implications for a free society:

    "Some have suggested that only those who are doing something wrong would worry about such things. To them I say, get a life! Either you are too young to know history and should start reading about history, or too foolish to think the transgressions of governments against citizens across time and countries wouldn’t be so much easier in such an environment. Freedom and liberty are not something that are given, they are earned and must be diligently maintained or they will be lost.

    Until recent years, I have loved Windows, even Windows XP which many have a love/hate relationship with!

    But no more … I really have had it with ‘copyright holders’ who think just because they made something that they can reach across a wire or the air to restrict what you do with what you buy or put whatever they want on your computer hardware (or make computer hardware that you pay for with disabling abilities in it that can be remotely disabled) just because you bought their hardware, OS, software, music or movie. This IS NOT what US copyright law or US patent law was supposed to do, nor what it was until Disney, Sonny Bono and the DMCA.

    And just wait for Vista …. as the saying goes … you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!

    If you are not familiar with HDCP ['trusted'/treacherous computing], you should be….check out ... Understanding HDCP for more on what’s coming to computer hardware, software and Vista…

    The list of hardware vendors now supporting HDCP is staggering. They make it out to be some great thing, the greatest marketing ‘parlor trick’ of all time. But pretty soon there will be NO FAIR USE of what you buy, just as the entertainment and software/OS cartels have been drooling over and wanting all along.

    BTW: There are also recent postings on Blu-Ray, HD DVD, Big Media, broadcast flags and the DMCA as well here on my blog and they all tie together to show how easy it will be to remove ALL fair use rights you have ever had and enforced by our own tax payer funded government.

    And what happens when all the backbones in this country are on this new ‘restriction enabled’ hardware? Will the backbones be forced or unwittingly, or knowingly install the new enabler operating systems and software? Will there be new ways to constantly monitor users, restict access, create toll roads that the broadband providers want, suppress information, personal freedoms, freedom of the press and more? Will there even be a land of the free and home of the brave? Only time will tell. "

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Neuros: 'Freedom by Design' by Dan Lockton

    Following on from the last post about the Neuros MPEG4 recorder, looking on the Neuros website reveals something pretty unusual for a company involved in consumer product design - a clear statement of design philosophy, 'What do we stand for?' that's heavy on content and light on vague rhetoric:

    "Your Digital Rights and Why They’re Important to You

    Throughout the history of technology, Hollywood has fought innovation at every turn. Even technologies that benefit the studios, and that we take for granted, exist only because someone fought the studios for their very existence

    ...

    The more such legislation [e.g. Analog Hole Bill] gets passed, the less innovation consumers will see, and the fewer options you will have for enjoying your content

    ....

    There are two opposing forces at odds here. On the one hand, there are exciting new technologies that offer more and more choices for consumers to access and enjoy digital media when and where they want it. On the other, there is Big Media and a few of its powerful allies working behind the scenes to limit consumer choices to when and where they want it. How this all plays out will depend on how the rest of us respond in the coming days, weeks and months."

    The statement even exhorts customers to get involved with the EFF and to get in touch with their elected representatives, which is again a great initiative.

    This is just the kind of intelligent engagement by product designers & engineers with the political implications of - and influences on - their work for which I've been looking throughout the 'Architectures of Control' project. Whether it meets the kind of criteria proposed by Jennie Winhall's 'Is Design Political?', I don't know, but by standing up for users' rights in such an open and frank way, and indeed structuring its business around that philosophy, Neuros seems a lot closer to real user-centred design than the vague waffle so often promulgated as such.

    Impressive.

    Policing Crowds: Privatizing Security by Dan Lockton

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

    Thanks, Jens.

    New Scientist : Crowds silenced by delayed echoes by Dan Lockton

    Via Boing Boing - 'Hooligan chants silenced by delayed echoes', a New Scientist story looking at the work of Dutch researchers who are using out-of-sync replayed sound to disrupt synchronised chanting at football matches.

    "Soccer hooligans could be silenced by a new sound system that neutralises chanting with a carefully timed echo. Stadiums could use the technique to defuse abusive or racist chants, say the Dutch researchers behind it. The echoes trip up efforts to synchronise a chant, neutralising an unwelcome message without drowning out the overall roar of a crowd.

    Sander van Wijngaarden, who researches human acoustics at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research in Delft, began working on the technique in 2004 after several Dutch soccer matches were blighted by abusive chanting.

    "We knew that people become confused if you feed their speech back with a delay," he told New Scientist. "So we wanted to try and apply it in a group context." ... Volunteers were surrounded by loudspeakers that simulated the sound of a chanting crowd and were asked join in. However one speaker replayed the crowd's chant with a short delay.

    When the delay was greater than 200 milliseconds the volunteers found it too difficult to chant coherently. Increasing the delay, up to about 1 second, was even more effective. "It was very confusing," van Wijngaarden says."

    Yes, this could be used to disrupt racist chanting. It could also be used to disrupt chanting of anything the management (or sponsors) of the match (or state visit, perhaps) don't want to be heard. As 'Kim' points out in a comment at We Make Money Not Art, "it really means that it can disrupt any crowds".

    Remember, if aiming to introduce a new control measure, always publicly target it at the most extreme or undesirable behaviour first of all, and you will win more supporters, who will only slowly fall away, conflicted by their beliefs. Isn't that what Martin Niemöller taught us?

    Anyway, here's another couple of issues - If a speaker system is used to broadcast back the crowd's chanting (which may be offensive), then:

    a) It's illegally publicly re-broadcasting copyright material without the consent of crowd members b) It's illegally publicly broadcasting offensive material

    Oh dear.