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Checkpoints Lab

Work, Musings, Writings and Projects from FLEFF's Checkpoints Lab 2011

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Posted by Nicholas Knouf at 11:24PM   |  Add a comment

Eye C

Project by Gautam Singhani, Julian Weisner, and Theo Mongeau

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Eye C was created to reveal the flaws in our systems of surveillance and control on Ithaca College campus. There are a large amount of college students, specifically at Ithaca College, who are involved in illicit activities, be it misuse of alcohol, other illegal drugs or other potentially hazardous activities. Several systems have been set up to handle these occurrences and provide a safe environment for all on campus. These systems are the Campus Police, the Student Auxiliary Safety Patrol (SASP), the Closed Circuit TV cameras, and the Blue Light system. These can be organized into two categories; dynamic and static surveillance. Dynamic, being the active, mobile and thinking Campus Police and SASP. While the CCTVs and Blue Lights are static in that they lack movement and the capacity to actively influence these occurrences. Using that criteria we created an app for use on an android phone, which tracts these surveillance modes across the campus. The direct aim of the app is to help people evade security, while the actual aim is to incite conversation about both the actions of students and the use and effectiveness of security on college campuses.

Our project incorporates aspects of geography. Similar to Trevor Paglen’s work, we have mapped the security of campus. We noticed areas of extra security, such as the circle apartments and the Park School, and areas with less security, such as the woods behind Boothroyd Hall and the trail between the Terraces parking lot and the Circles apartments, affectionately called the “rape trail”. We have put all of our information to use in an accessible app for students to use. This is similar to Paglen’s mapping of CIA cover businesses, covert operations, and movements. Unlike Paglen, who only sought to expose his material, we have an intended target and use for our app.

Eye C also has a strong tie to aspects of nomadic power. Nomadic power is characterized by the unification of a group that can assert a force from multiple directions without a defined center or location. An excellent example of which was the Zapatistas rebellion in the Mexican state of Chiapas. This relates to our app because, Our app incorporates an open chat system, with a quick feed so students can actively keep track of and update the actions of the security in specific sites, allowing students to plan routes to evade the security and surveillance systems. With this tool students can “attack” the security from any location. It is not an “attack” in reality, but by usurping the aspects of surprise from security it is difficult for them to apprehend students partaking in illicit activities. This undermines the security and “attacks” their ability to effectively control the student body. This system is resemblant of the actions of anonymous demonstrated in Gabriella Coleman’s article “What It’s Like to Participate in Anonymous‘ Actions”. By allowing the users of the app to stay anonymous we ensure the app’s survival. This is because as long as the users are anonymous it is impossible to prosecute anyone using or helping the app.

As with the Institute for Applied Autonomy project, our primary subject is surveillance. The most prominent surveillance question we want people to ask is “Who or what is the surveillance benefiting?” We want people think about why surveillance is in place. Is all of our surveillance to keep the students safe, or is it to keep the students at bay. After all, it is clear that we are being watched.

At first glance the app seems set up as a tool for evading security measures, and that is exactly what it is. Just with the Trans-Border Immigrant tool which appeared to many as simply a GPS phone designed to assist illegal immigrants in their passage across the border, our apps actual goal is to incite conversation. We want people to notice that some of the campus security is not to protect the students, but to protect the campus from the students. For instance the abundance of cameras in the Park school that guard the expensive equipment located there. We also want people to discuss the efficiency of campus security. Is security preventing anything or simply being a nuisance? It appears they are not deterring too much mischief, since a fair amount still goes on as is evident by sights and smells on campus on any weekend. This aspect of our project also relates to Dunne and Raby’s critical design projects. As they say in Design Noir the goal of critical design is to “stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public” (58). Our project was created to help people look outwardly and inwardly in different ways.

Eye C is a practical tool for students that would be feasible on the market, but above all it is a tool to incite change. As a piece of critical design its use is as a check point to subvert the boarder where the student body and the surveillance and security systems meet. As a tool for change it is a check point along the way to bringing all of the aspects of this boarder to a new light.

Works Cited

Alex Dunbar, "FOLLOW THE GPS, ÉSE: The Transborder Immigrant Tool Helps Mexicans Cross Over Safely”, 2009, (accessed January 23, 2011).

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects (Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser, 2002), 57–73

Critical Art Ensemble, The Electronic Disturbance (Autonomedia, 1994), 10–33, "Nomadic Power and Cultural Resistance", http://www.critical-art.net/books/ted/.

Gabriella Coleman, “What It’s Like to Participate in Anonymous’ Actions - Gabriella Coleman - Technology - The Atlantic”, December 10, 2010 (accessed January 23, 2011)

Institute for Applied Autonomy, "i-SEE 'Now more than ever.'", (accessed January 23, 2011).

Trevor Paglen, "Experimental Geography: From Cultural Production to the Production of Space - The Brooklyn Rail", 2009 (accessed January 23, 2011).

Projects

Dunne & Raby, Between Reality and the Impossible (2010)

IAA, iSee (2001).



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