Ubiquitous Networks: The Trails Of Our Digital Identities

    by Leslie Rule
    January 15, 2008

    For a while now I’ve been describing the locative process as overlaying a virtual landscape on the physical world. I’ve been describing locative media as embedded content in place. Some people do ask, “in place of what?” In the end, it’s all a way of saying Locative Media is the hybridization of the virtual world and the physical world relying upon location-enabled mobile devices (eg, 50% of cellphones) leading to the formation of ubiquitous networks full of cultural content. Sounds good. The only part of that statement that’s a bit tricky is the “ubiquitous networks.” Not being a particularly dedicated social networker, I don’t have a well-developed mental model to overlay on the even less-than-tangible ubiquitous networks of the digital realm. But it’s not hard to imagine. I do appreciate when someone comes along and points out that these ubiquitous networks are not only not private and not only do they offer a distinct risk to privacy, but they do it in a way you’d never know…by grabbing and tracking our location-enabled devices as they sit in our pockets, purses, or clipped to our belts.

    Drug dealers and international espionage rings, yes, but we need to recognize that ubiquitous networks allow pervasive surveillance of us all using any number of sensor devices and readers, but primarily gps and blue-tooth. No way to stem the tide, but we do need to be aware of the how our concept of privacy is changing and the degree to which we can, and are, under surveillance, and by whom. Acknowledging that it is being done and having a basic understanding of how (so that we can thwart if we so choose) should be required. Not surprisingly, the conceptual artists are the first folks asking the questions and exploring possible answers by creating somewhat wild projects. So, here’s: Loca: Set To Discoverable, an arts-based group project on grass-roots, pervasive surveillance which seeks to expose the disconnect between people and the trails of digital identities they leave behind.

    Loca asks how people respond to being tracked and observed. How ready are they to observe others? Who is the user, and how? Do we get fear of surveillance, disinterest, scopophobia or scopophilia? What happens in-between physical, embodied space and the digital space of abstract data?


    Film produced by Drew Hemment. Loca is an artist-led project on grass-roots, pervasive surveillance by John Evans (UK/Finland), Drew Hemment (UK), Theo Humphries (UK), Mike Raento (Finland). The premier full presentation of Loca: Set To Discoverable at ISEA2006 and ZeroOne in August 2006 combined art installation, software engineering, activism, pervasive design, hardware hacking, SMS poetry, sticker art and ambient performance.

    Tagged: locative media mobile privacy
    • Glad you brought the privacy issue up…easy to overlook in all the excitement!

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