During my service in the Korean military, I worked as special intelligence personnel for the NSA, learning first-hand how to extract information from defense targets. Now, as a designer, I am influenced by these experiences continue the evolution of my own thinking about censorship, surveillance, and a free society. Over the course of a year, I researched and created ZXX, a disruptive typeface that would be unreadable by text scanning software. It takes its name from the Library of Congress’ listing of three-letter codes denoting which language a book is written in. Code “ZXX” is used when there is: “No linguistic content; Not applicable.”
Tag Archives | Design
Ben Falk, M.A.L.D: Design, Planning, Systems Optimization
Ben developed Whole Systems Design, LLC as a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things. Life as a designer, builder, ecologist, tree-tender, and backcountry traveler continually informs Ben’s integrative approach to developing landscapes and buildings. His home landscape and the WSD studio site in Vermont’s Mad River Valley serve as a proving ground for the regenerative land developments featured in the projects of Whole Systems Design. Ben has studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a master’s degree in land-use planning and design. He has conducted nearly 200 site development consultations across New England and facilitated dozens of courses on permaculture design, property selection, microclimate design, and design for climate change.
Paolo Soleri spent a lifetime investigating how architecture, specifically the architecture of the city, could support the countless possibilities of human aspiration. The urban project he founded, Arcosanti, 65 miles north of Phoenix, was described by NEWSWEEK magazine as "the most important urban experiment undertaken in our lifetimes.”
You’ve been leaving yourself everywhere. For her ongoing project Stranger Visions, Heather Dewey-Hagborg culls discarded DNA (in the form of cigarette butts, chewed gum, et cetera) from the New York sidewalk and then uses a 3D printer to create sculpture portraits based on the genetic information. A reminder that we may soon need to guard our DNA tightly?
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In Stranger Visions artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material collected in public places. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly leave behind, Dewey-Hagborg calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of biological surveillance. Designed as an exploratory project based on emerging science, the forecast of Stranger Visions has proved prescient. For an example of DNA phenotyping at work in forensics check out the companiesParabon NanoLabs and Identitas and read about their collaboration with the Toronto police. Also see Mark Shriver’s research at Penn State on predicting faces from DNA.
The Center for Land Use Interpretation on symbols strewn across the American landscape which make sense only to airborne machines:
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There are dozens of aerial photo calibration targets across the USA, curious land-based two-dimensional optical artifacts made mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, and many are still in use, though their history is obscure.
Most of them follow the same form established by the Air Force and NASA. The pattern painted on the targets is sets of parallel and perpendicular bars that function like an eye chart at the optometrist. For aerial photography and satellites, it provides a platform to test, calibrate, and focus aerial cameras traveling at different speeds and altitudes.
Many of these resolution test targets are found in the Mojave desert of California, one of the principal development and test areas for surveillance aircraft. The largest concentration in one place is on the grounds of Edwards Air Force Base, where calibration targets run for 20 miles.
The Do-It-Yourself Animation Show, which made animation accessible to the masses by taking the mystery out of the production process, was vastly influential and inspired an entire generation of kids in England, including Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit, and Richard Bazley, an animator on Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Iron Giant.
Chapati Mystery lays out plans for the hypothetical Shura City, a place of beauty and atmosphere and freedom of movement, but no fear of U.S. drone strikes:
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Drones work by detecting patterns, identifying individuals, and extracting data. I dreamed up Shura City to fight against drones with humanity and community. The city is a “black box” impenetrable to data miners and military-trained individuals but it is not a prison.
It is at best expensive and at worst impossible to build armor that can deflect any American bomb. Shura City instead uses inscrutability as its armor. Its windows are protected by computerized mashrabiyas that blink and recombine into various QR codes to jam leering cameras. Its expansive courtyard is protected by latticework with backlit (by color-changing LED) windows that allow for sunshine for children and stars for young lovers, but also make face detection tricky with color blocks and changing shadows.
Badgirs and minarets do their part to provide wild fluctuations of temperature (so that individual bodies are difficult to identify with infrared) and to provide high-wattage radio towers to interfere with wireless communication.
Stock up for the future? Artist Adam Harvey, previously noted for his CV Dazzle project revealing how to style hair and makeup to avoid detection by facial recognition software, has developed a Stealth Wear clothing line, including a hoodie to evade drones’ infrared heat sensors:
Stealth Wear continues to explore the aesthetics of privacy and the potential for fashion to challenge authoritarian surveillance. Made in collaboration with NYC fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield, a suite of new designs tackle some of the most pressing and sophisticated forms of surveillance today. Including:
The anti-drone hoodie and anti-drone scarf. Garments designed to thwart thermal imaging, a technology used widely by UAVs.
The XX-shirt. A x-ray shielding print in the shape of a heart, that protects your heart from x-ray radiation
And the Off Pocket. An anti-phone accessory that allows you to instantly zero out your phone’s signal.
Via Quora, how, with a couple dollars and a few spare minutes, to make yourself invisible to Big Brother:
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Most cameras (especially black and white security cameras) will see low levels of infrared light. This helps them video at dusk/dawn and in lower levels of light. To test this theory turn on your video camera and point your TV remote control at it. Change a few channels and you will see a pulse of light flash that the naked eye obviously can’t see.
With that said you can easily make an infrared hat with cheap $1 infrared LEDs stitched into the front of the hat, the more the better… Attach a 9 volt battery to the LEDS and bam you are now a giant LED flash light. People will see nothing out of the ordinary, but CCTV cameras will only see a large flash of infrared light coming from your head, hiding your face.
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Camina, Haz Ciudad started as a project to recover space for pedestrians. It was inspired by a modern development that happened here in Mexico City in an area called El Puente de los Poetas. Amazingly, there was no pedestrian infrastructure at all, the whole place seemed to be designed for cars. A group of citizens decided that couldn’t be, so they painted a sidewalk in an area where lots of people walked but had no safety. But the sidewalk was erased, and the people who painted it were really mad.
With our first painted bike lane [which is 5km and ends at Congress in Mexico City] we were trying to make a political point. We didn’t have any expectation of how long it would last. But the bike lane is still in place.