Monthly Archives: January 2016

Jeremy Bentham in a deep coma…

It looks like Jeremy can’t recover from his state of deep coma. There hasn’t been any twitter or youtube activity since last week. Unfortunately, if the Auto-Icon is in sleep mode, it means no messages from me.

I hope Panopticam comes back live again soon. I was enjoying my “conversations” with Jeremy, specially since I started to comment on the motivations and inspirations to each of the themes I was engaging with. In the end, it was a way of thinking about and divulging some important issues related to my work and personal interests.

Wake up, Jeremy!

UK Terrorism Act is incompatible with human rights!

“Terrorism” as a concept is a true black box and its definitions is freely and openly determined according to the convenience of certain state and corporate interests. It has become an excuse in current legal systems around the world – and, consequently, for police and border control forces – to skip citizen and human rights in investigations and check points, allegedly for the sake of “national security” – another obscure term.

In recent years, after the phenomenon of Wikileaks and, more recently, the Snowden revelations, we have witnessed the increase in the attempts to use terrorism-based law and regulations against journalists and whistleblowers. In one of the most notorious cases, David Miranda was detained for 9 hours at Heathrow airport during a trip from Germany to Brazil, after a meeting with filmmaker Laura Poitras. David Miranda has knowingly been helping her and journalist Glenn Greenwald in publishing the documents carefully released by Edward Snowden.

British officers used what is officially known as stop powers in schedule 7 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000. Apparently 85,000 travellers a year are “randomly” stopped at British ports and airports under this legal justification. And guess what are the allegations used by officers to invoque schedule 7? A suspicion of a person’s involvement in “terrorism”. Miranda appealed against his detention and yesterday the Court of Appeal’s ruling established that, although his detention was considered lawful, the powers contained in schedule 7 are flawed and that the Terrorism Act is incompatible with European convention on human rights. This is being seen by many, including Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, as an important win for press freedom.

According to the ruling, the government and the parliament will have to re-examine the act and the (considered) broad definition of terrorism.

Day 61: UK Terrorism Act is incompatible with human rights!

Day 61: UK Terrorism Act is incompatible with human rights!

Behave yourself, OccupEye has ‘an eye’ on you!

OccupEye is a commercial workplace surveillance device that can be installed beneath individual desks to monitor the presence of workers at their workstations. If you have one of these on your desk and happen to be suffering from urinary incontinence, your boss will know it without you telling him/her. The device is not more than a small black box with sensors that can detect heat and movement (or the absence of it).

The existence of such devices has reached the headlines recently when the Daily Telegraph installed (and later removed) the little black boxes on their employees’ desks. The National Union of Journalists openly criticised Daily Telegraph for monitoring its journalists. Sam Kitchener from the Guardian questioned whether this is a “sinister exercise in Big Brother-style management or a 21st-century way to monitor workers’ needs?”

Thus, I decided to tell Jeremy about this too…

Day 60: Behave yourself, OccupEye has 'an eye' on you!

Day 60: Behave yourself, OccupEye has ‘an eye’ on you!

While some have their eyes open, it seems Jeremy shut his own…

This is the first time it happens since I started “interacting” with Bentham’s Auto-Icon. When I arrived today to deliver the message, the glass case doors were shut and there was no signs indicating the reasons.

Luckily, Panopticam’s webcam stands outside, on the top of the case. So, although Jeremy’s eyes were shut by the closed doors, his cyborg electronic eyes were fully operational!

Jeremy Bentham's glass case with shut doors

Jeremy Bentham’s glass case with shut doors

China keeps its eyes wide open upon Tibetans

Today’s message was based on a fresh report by Humans Rights Watch on China’s Tibet Surveillance Programme, named by the Chinese authorities “Benefit the Masses”, which has been indefinitely extended. The report was flagged up on twitter by Malavika Jayaram from Harvard University.

This is part of a long term strategy to use infiltrated “spies” (“village-based cadre teams”) in the villages of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and minimize the chances of opposition to the Chinese influence in the region.

According to the report, “The official slogan used to describe the objective of the village-based teams is ‘all villages become fortresses, and everyone is a watchman.'”

Day 59: China keeps its eyes wide open upon Tibetans [thanks to M.J.]

Day 59: China keeps its eyes wide open upon Tibetans
[thanks to M.J.]

CCTV is the message! (adapted from McLuhan)

Well, it seems poor Jeremy lost his “visual memory” for good. I can’t rely on the timelapse anymore, so I will try to keep coming the minute past the hour from now on…

Today’s message was an adapted version of the famous provocation by Marshal McLuhan, “the medium is the message”. I got this idea while reading the very interesting paper “‘The footage is decisive’: Applying the thinking of Marshall McLuhan to CCTV and police misconduct” by Richard Evans in the journal Surveillance & Society.

And I was joined again by my mysterious friends with Asian hats…

Day 58: CCTV is the message! (adapted from McLuhan)

Day 58: CCTV is the message! (adapted from McLuhan)

Jeremy remains “blind”!

Well, at least his “visual memory” hasn’t been working very well recently. The timelapse isn’t being recorded or broadcasted to their youtube channel. I have contacted the people responsible for the Panopticam project and they are working on the problem.

I will try again but this time will make sure I do it properly at the minute passed the hour…

No timelapse, no message…

Sorry, but the panopticam timelapse hasn’t been working in the past few days, and I failed to deliver the message at the minute past the hour. This means, no message today! I will redo it for the following day and will try not to miss the twitter feed timing…

Jeremy, “look up to the sky and see”… Drones!

With this, I thought of making a link to the nice work being carried out by some members of LAVITS (Latin American Network of Surveillance, Technology and Society Studies) in the DroneHackademy, a project led by Fernanda Bruno and Pablo de Soto.

With the sudden mushrooming of these unmanned flying machines around the world, mainly meant for military actions (according to Rudolph Herzog, currently in the US, there is almost 1 drone for every 3 manned military aircraft), it’s good to see some people using it on the other way around, somehow “subverting” its surveillance/monitoring/military nature. According to their own definition, DroneHackademy:

“is a prototype of a hacktivist school, citizen science laboratory and critical theory platform for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a social technology.”

Day 57: Jeremy, "look up to the sky and see"... Drones!

Day 57: Jeremy, “look up to the sky and see”… Drones!

“Every grade of society has its appropriate and peculiar spies” (Charles Dickens)

Another day (without timelapse feed), another citation to Lapham’s Quarterly issue on “Spies”, and a funny section called “conversations” with extracts by Charles Dickens and Edward Snowden.

Day 56: "Every grade of society has its appropriate and peculiar spies" (Charles Dickens)

Day 56: “Every grade of society has its appropriate and peculiar spies” (Charles Dickens)

“If you see something, say something” (F.B.I.)… can’t hear you Jeremy!

Another message based on Lapham’s Quarterly issue on “Spies”, this time from an ironic post on “instruction from the F.B.I.” I got ironic too!

This time I was surprised by the presence of two lovely young “collaborators”, holding a picture of me. They have been following this project and guessed the time I would appear with the message. Believe me, this was not previously arranged or staged. How cool is that?!

I wonder where did they get those hats from…

Day 55: "If you see something, say something" (F.B.I.)... can't hear you Jeremy!

Day 55: “If you see something, say something” (F.B.I.)… can’t hear you Jeremy!

“A person watched is a person transformed” (Lyan S. Parramore)

Inspiration today came from an interesting article by Lynn Stuart Parramore on the Lapham’s Quarterly, a suggestion posted on twitter by David Murakami Wood

In her text, Parramore discusses how new labour biometric tracking resembles old forms of workplace surveillance from the dawn of capitalism. He cites Jeremy Bentham (and his influential brother, Samuel Bentham) to show how the panopticon had an impact on the creation and development of Taylorism as an instrument for productivism through a better shaped and “optimised” labour force (physically and mentally). New surveillance and control bionic technologies are meant to make workers, as Parramore titles her article, “happy all the time”, and obviously more productive!

Day 54: "A person watched is a person transformed" (Lyan S. Paramore) [thanks to D.M.W.]

Day 54: “A person watched is a person transformed” (Lyan S. Paramore)
[thanks to D.M.W.]

Privatised and securitised public areas deny the unexpected and renounce the city!

No timelapse video from the Panopticam project today, so picture’s resolution is not great.

Obviously, this message was inspired by a phenomenon increasingly common in today’s urban world. Privatised areas with public pathways or of public interest (in some cases even previously owned by public authorities and sold or subject to concession as an agreement) have been mushrooming in medium and large cities around the world. London has been an attractive target to this kind of managerial practice for years and there are several areas of interest of the public around the city signposted as private land (see picture below).

Private property, Regent's Place (London)

Private property, Regent’s Place (London)

These places are usually carefully monitored by private security personnel and rely on a great number of (many times very visible) surveillance and security technologies. Contracts and regulation restrict the number of activities that are and are not allowed in these areas. Group gathering, skate boarders, and long stays of certain individuals are among the “most feared” occurrences, and therefore commonly prohibited. There are many articles on newspapers and journal papers about this controversial option for the viability of urban land renovation. The Guardian published many of these (here, here and here), and also tried to build a database of privatised publicly used areas in the UK. This debate is also very alive around the building permissions for a private garden bridge, to be built between Temple and the South Bank, in London. As part of the agreement, if the plan goes ahead, visitors “will be tracked by their mobile phone signals and supervised by staff with powers to take people’s names and addresses and confiscate and destroy banned items, including kites and musical instruments.”

Fear of “the other”, or fear of “the unexpected” are common motivations for flooding these areas with exaggerated security and repulsive/aggressive behaviour. Today’s message was influenced by this kind of treatment to areas of public interest, implying that this is the same as to deny public space in its essence, and therefore to renounce the city.

Day 53: Privatised and securitised public areas deny the unexpected and renounce the city!

Day 53: Privatised and securitised public areas deny the unexpected and renounce the city!

How much of your rights are you ready to give in for security?

Today’s message was inspired by a recent article on The Guardian about 2015 Paris attacks, questioning the balance between security/surveillance and what they called “France’s love of liberté and fraternity”.

Indeed, I think authorities and ordinary citizens should be more open to debate how much of our rights to privacy and anonymity we are prepared to compromise for an alleged safer world. This is exactly what organisations such as Privacy International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been doing for years…

Day 52: How much of your rights are you ready to give in for security?

Day 52: How much of your rights are you ready to give in for security?