[Proposal] PRISM: The Beacon Frame #ArchivingTheFutureTask#



PRISM: The Beacon Frame


Field of Study

Speculative Design; Narrative Design; Installation Art; Interaction Design



Since September 11th, 2001, the United States government has dramatically increased the ability of its intelligence agencies to collect and investigate information on both foreign subjects and US citizens. Some of these surveillance programs, including a secret program called PRISM, capture the private data of citizens who are not suspected of any connection to terrorism or any wrongdoing.


In June 2013, this plan was unveiled by a contractor formerly employed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) named Edward Snowden. Later on in the same month, a private contractor working for Booz Allen Hamilton leaked classified presentation slides that detailed the existence and the operations of PRISM: a mechanism that allows the government to collect user data from companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, and others. While much of the program — and the rest of the NSA’s surveillance efforts — are still shrouded in secrecy, more details are coming to light as the public.



“PRISM: The Beacon Frame” will trying to express the disappointment at the disabling of a crucial element of this work at Transmediale 2014.The intention of this project, is to provide an opportunity for public to critically engage precisely the same methods of cellular communications interception used by certain governments against their own people and people in sovereign states.proposal1img3

It is vital that technology-based art remain a frame with which we can develop critical discourses about the world we live in, from the engineered to the cultural and political. Sometimes that requires that we are not limited by exaggerated fears and legal definition, but that we act proportionally and with conscience in our efforts to understand the power struggles and tensions in our (technically mediated) environment.Sometimes this means taking risks, risks without intention to harm but to engender wider critical insights.

The Critical Engineer considers the exploit to be the most desirable form of exposure.



PRISM: The Beacon Frame is a speculative, functional response to the general absence of information as to what NSA PRISM equipment actually looks like. Centered with the image of the prism, the project seeks to provide public direct contact with the aesthetics, technology and strategies used by states against their publics (and others), retained from critical contact by an opaque and coveted surveillance culture.



This work will be present in a exhibition room. There will be a screen to tell the audience what is happening to his/her mobile phone in real time – usually it is the progress the system is currently in trying to hijack into the mobile phone. And there will be a set of devices and tools being used to hijack, which is similar to the ones used in PRISM Surveillance Project. The audience, therefore, could feel distinctly how he/she is watched. As a result, the mobile phone that has been hijacked will received a SMS displaying that it has been hacked.


Organisation (Plan of Work)

This iteration of the project is a field deployable wireless surveillance and GSM interception unit comprising a robust tripod, large glass prism, nano computer, nano projector, GSM antenna and cellular communications base-station (also with computer).

It employs the same techniques of wireless (WiFi) device localisation and mapping, cell-tower hijacking and wireless packet inspection known to be in use by state sanctioned surveillance agencies such as the GCHQ (UK) and NSA (USA).

When activated, the computer scans for local cell towers owned by mobile service providers (Vodafone, o2, AT&T and so on), building a list of their unique properties. The prism then begins rotating and one by one each cell provider is impersonated by the PRISM tower. Activated mobile phones in the presence of the tower will hop onto the rogue network, ‘recognising’ its properties and believing it to be trustworthy.proposal1img5

At that point they are each sent SMSs of a troubling, humorous and/or sardonic nature. Data corresponding to these events are projected through the prism, in turn showered onto the walls in a rich and exploitative light show.

Audiences peering into the prism ‘see inside’ the internal workings of this intervention, from the unique ID of the phone intercepted to messages sent.

Projected onto a wall behind the tower structure is a data-rich, dynamic 2 dimensional map of all WiFi enabled devices in the vicinity of the installation. Typically comprising smart-phones, the location, unique ‘hardware fingerprint’ and hostname (“Tara’s iPhone”) are plotted on this map, updated with every movement by the owner of that device. Audiences in room with the Tower may note their friends approaching, merely by recognising their name on the map.



[Proposal] PRISM: The Beacon Frame #ArchivingTheFutureTask#

What Can Speculative Design Do in the Society of Control #ARCHIVINGTHEFUTURETASK#

Gilles Deleuze, in 1990s, had precisely predicted the hegemony of the internet, as well as the progress we are currently in that the society is moving from a disciplinary society toward a society of control.

An important aspect of the society of control, is that we are allowed to do “whatever we want.” Instead of being restrained in enclosure structures in disciplinary society, like school or factory, people are influenced and motivated by different kinds of tags, which is to tell them the rules and regulation in the society. In some ways, this means more like freedom.

However, on the other side, it has caused the homogenisation of design. Society of control, in Dunne & Raby`s point, is more like an atomised society. Moreover, it grew the change from ‘dream’ to ‘hope’. Conversely, the process of society of control has brought more opportunities for speculative design. Individuals in this society usually have more freedom in both time and space, because they are run by more flexible rules. Under this circumstance, design is more capable in more diverse ways to aspect on people. For example, in the disciplinary society, time and space of individuals are divided clearly, influence from factory is hard to expend to families. But for the society of control, modularised system blurred the range. Code has become more important tags for people, rather than environment they are currently in.

What designers should do, for a oriented art work, is to follow and utilise the code in the society of control. Make accurate design towards specific circumstance and people.

What Can Speculative Design Do in the Society of Control #ARCHIVINGTHEFUTURETASK#




Radical Design

In the 60s of last century, under the influence of economism, design of practicality was born in America. More and more anti-esthetic product had been made, a typical one of which is the Aon Centre Building in Chicago. This caused dissatisfice from a great deal of designers. As a result, in the later 1960s, a campaign named anti-design was grown. The purpose of it is to resist design of practicality, instead, trying to add more aesthetical elements into the product. Radical design was a typical part of this campaign, which tried to find another possibility for the future world from the design process.


Beyond Radical Design?

Based on radical design, Dunne & Raby have developed the design method, raising A/B text in 2009.

A:B 宣言.png


In this article(chapter), likewise, they explained precisely about several lemmas in A/B text.

  • in the service of industry – (B) in the service of society
  • anti-art – (B) applied art
  • for how the world is – (B) for how the world could be
  • futures – (B) parallel worlds


Actually, even in today`s point of view, radical design is terribly prescient. The author, in the following part, claimed the concept of PPPP.



This actually described different levels in target oriented design. From the probable design [it is problem-solved design in my opinion] to plausible design [a neat problem-solved design], then developed as the possible design. The critical design, consequently, evolved as preferable design, which tried to find more possibilities in the design process, on condition of solving problem, to offer more choices for people.

However, it is only dozens of years after his birth, radical design has lapsed. There were a few possible reasons:

  • the commercialisation of design;
  • the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Cold War, as a mark of win of capitalism and liberal economy;
  • society has become more atomised;
  • people now have more hope for future rather than dreams.


As mentioned before, the fall of radical design caused terrible results, which is homogenisation of design. Design has become a commercial tool. It seems that all problem can be quantified and solved. That is why all the billboard look the same, every website is under one style, modern cities are more and more similar.


Are we optimistic? We have to.

There are always brilliant speculative design art work in Victoria & Albert Museum, social problem are still questioned time by time. What we should do, is to keep confidence and trust on it, integrating our thinking and mind of the past and future into the design, designing with responsibilities.

Like Jobs said, keep looking, don`t settle.



Postscript on the Societies of Control #ARCHIVINGTHEFUTURETASK#

The author of this article is Gilles Deleuze, which is one of the most important philosopher in France in twenty century. He is famous for his view on philosophy based on “difference”. In this article, he claimed a new stage of societies after the stage of disciplinary societies claimed by his friend Foucault.

Disciplinary societies, firstly, in Foucault`s point, is made of different kinds of organisation of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual in these societies crosses one from another. For example, they are initially in family, then from family to school (now they are out of family). Sometimes the organisation could be factory, hospital, army, or prison. Foucault has analysed these environments: to concentrate to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force with in the dimension of space-time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces.

However, both of Gilles and Foucault thought disciplinary societies was transient. Societies are changing. Gilles then claimed a new model of societies – control. In these societies, the corporation has replaced the factory, being the bodies of running different kinds of organisations. People are controlled by codes, which tell them what they should do or what they can do. The money could express the distinction between the two societies, since discipline always referred back to minted money that locks gold in as numerical standard, while control relates to floating rates of exchange, modulated according to a rate  established by a set of standard currencies. In a corporate system: new ways of handling money, profits, and humans that no longer pass through the old factory form. The progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination are being established in societies.

The question is, finally in this article, will the people be able to adapt themselves or will they give way to new forms of resistance against the societies of control?

Postscript on the Societies of Control #ARCHIVINGTHEFUTURETASK#

Design and the Construction of Publics #ARCHIVINGTHEFUTURETASK#

The article was written by Carl Disalvo, which is a design researcher and educator in Georgia Tech’s Digital Media Program.

What he attended to explore, is how design can impact on the construction and concretion of public. More precisely, his proposition is based on the point of the book “the Public and It`s Problem” written by John Dewey and published in 1927. John claimed philosophical investigation of the public in this book. He look the public as a philosophical subject, which is rooted in concrete situations, experiences, and materiality of everyday life – what makes public? Start from this point, Carl tried to explore from the perspective of design, what kind of influence can design itself caused upon this construction, moreover, to offer a position from design studies that expresses a distinctly intimate knowledge of the made and the making of things.

Deweyan thought public is made of individuals in a system that are motivated by similar issues. In the other words, issue formed public. However, conversely, issue itself can not affect public once it constructed. It is the actions and effects of others communicating issues and their consequences, that prompt a public to come into being.

Based on the possible construction, Carl presumed two tactics of design. The initial concept of them is to broadens the scope of who participates, how, and in what contexts. This kind of design, would usually be evaluated by the people apart from designers.

These are tactic of projection and tactic of tracing, which would make the conditions and consequences of an issue apparent and known such that a public may from. Projection is a tactic that thinking of the consequence and the future possibilities, while tracing is to reveal the construction, contradiction and assumption behind the issue.

The former one starts from now and orients to future, which focus on time lasting. The latter one, on the other hand, is starts from now and looks back to past, exploring the source. Both of them are rooted in acknowledge, action and technology in different fields of now.

Carl believed that through these tactics, we can find how designedly means might be applied in the identification and articulation of issues, consequently to aspect on construction of public.

In fact, design is changing the definition of public significantly. As a efficient way of communication, design can influence the individuals` idea easily. Thus, apart from aesthetics, designers should also explore the future and look back to the past, to present another possibility for the public.

Design and the Construction of Publics #ARCHIVINGTHEFUTURETASK#

Connecting to the Dot Matrix Printer #V&A Project#

When we tried to connect to the printer, we met more problem than we imaged before.

Firstly, this ancient printer is linked through IEEE-1284 port, which is a very old parallel signal transferring port that is hardly used now. In order to find a matched cable, we look through many cables in Amazon and compared them on the pictures.


However, when we finally got the proper cable and can link to the printer physically, we found that Mac can not even detect the port. Because Mac was invented much more later than dot matrix printer. We found another PC, and tried to link the printer to it – but it still doesn`t work. Cause windows operation system had stopped supporting from WindowsXP, which was even abandoned earlier by Microsoft. Eventually, we found a setup disk of Windows98, installing it on the PC and got a computer that is looks like from 10 years ago.


Problem came again. Even we linked to the printer successfully, the computing performance of Windows98 is not good enough to run the Processing code. We later on tried to run the code on another computer, transport it to the old computer, then to the printer. However, the data is still too big for the transport protocols of Windows98.

We have no choice but to give up the plan of linking to the printer.

I start to think from another perspective. Although we can not talk with the printer, what if we just send the command to the printer directly? I looked around the relative resource, and found that it is a standardised protocol for transporting in IEEE-1284 port, which means we can possibly match each command with a specific electric pulse.

What`s more, we can analog this kind of electric pulse with Arduino. It is under the same principle with controlling the light by Arduino.

It seems we get more possibilities and it is a more interesting one.

  • Inspiration and creation are born from thinking in different point of view even toward one object. In term of this case, we suggested that it may be hard to get connected with an ancient dot matrix printer using an advanced computer, and it is indeed. We met a lot of problem when tried to connect the printer. But later on we are inspired by another artwork that we can control the printer directly by electric pulse through Arduino.
Connecting to the Dot Matrix Printer #V&A Project#