Stanza questions systems and the ethics of The Control Space

December 8, 2006 by stanza Leave a reply »

Stanza question systems and the  ethics of The Control Space

Up until recently this technology was mediocre at best. The concepts that fuelled this infrastructure seemed to lean to Orwell and the deployment of all CCTV has been paid for by and large using public money which could have been spent elsewhere (housing hospitals schools etc).

Stanza: Visitors To A Gallery. 2007. CCTV systems and ethics.

Stanza: Visitors To A Gallery. 2007. CCTV systems and ethics.

The question is, how are these new technologies being sold to government? Ie the hugely costly National Health database or ID cards schemes. In both cases new technologies sold largely untested. In so many cases new technologies are bought by ministers who don’t understand the technology.

How could they understand these implications of these technologies? They couldn’t understand that in the early days of CCTV most cameras would run out of tape and all of the rest would probably have such bad lenses that you couldn’t see anything anyway. However, it is their duty to understand the conceptual unpinning of the tech rather than how it works. And the conceptual underpinning seems to have been ignored, or if it hasn’t been ignored then this has gone on unchecked and un-monitored.

Rather like a bush fire, once one system had been put in place by one council; they all followed suite. None of them really checked to see how these systems actually worked or where evaluated. Plenty of people here have spent plenty of other peoples money fuelling a whole industry to watch us moving about just to spot a few criminals.) or has there always been a bigger picture , a master plan)

CCTV CCTV CCTV.  Stanza question systems and the  ethics of The Control Space













Despite ten years of poor CCTV and stories of people getting attacked only to find CCTV systems not working, the powers that be, have stuck with this agenda and now the tech ( after huge development and investment) can read the time off your wristwatch. So know we have men sit in kiosks watching our movement through city space and software that can detect patterns on the flow, where you are going.

Now the technology has got interesting there are other considerations. The patterns we weave through our urban infrastructure can inform us about our urban and rural environment. But these systems should be used to watch people, we should trust our people. The premise of all this current deployment is mistrust. Ie these systems have been put in for the wrong reasons.

As much as people watch and vet criminal activity for employment in schools etc who is watching these people watching and monitoring these systems.

Certainly data bases of information are growing and expanding and in theory the public think there are hackers out there using sophisticated techniques to get access to data. By and large back doors are like all doors, most entry is done because the doors aren’t closed ie they are left open . The idea of thinking about back doors is to suggest that criminals are looking to leverage there way in ( although this my be the case ) it its too focused of the criminal misuse of collective data and not focused enough on what value the data give the collective.


There is far worse response it the collective abuse by the owners of these systems, this is what needs to be monitored Take the national DNA database which is owned by the forensic science department. Who owns this data, could it ever be sold. How else is the data being exploited? Who owns each individuals data, surely we each and all own the copyright to our own DNA. Why is the state taking our possessions, our DNA and re appropriating our data like another tax. Although they say they seek to protect us (ie the reason for collecting the data) how are they actually protecting my data? How do they seek to exploit ‘ property’ which is mine that has a value? Why do I feel abused?

More importantly in the systems data can be mined in ways that we cannot conceive. The development of new algorithms, data mining, and computer techniques can leverage and present new meaning from these systems in ways that we haven’t come close to guessing at. These new data sets can be exploited for corporate gain, even though the data belongs to the individual. This data can also be exploited to track patterns that we have spent the best part of the 20th C trying to avoid, ie totalitarian, iron curtains, Bent ham observation systems where everyone is spying on everyone.

For example lets get complicated and mix your tax records with patterns of spending from your credit cards, and your DNA type, mix this up with you mobile phone records and we can probably find for example any man of Irish decent who is married that might have bought a condom….or Muslim who travels regularly or….

The issue with most of this vulnerability of new technology is that most people who want to use it have no idea how to use it, or no idea that thing can always be used for others reasons. Example mobile phone for speech communication is now widely used as typewriter text editor for sending tested messages. This is just an example of a ubiquitous technology that goes to market and the people that brought it to market aren’t even aware what it might be used for. (I mean who would have guessed it)

Now with CCTV and chips and data mining of databases things are getting complex, without some ethical monitoring we will have no idea what is being sourced here and how its is being used and abused. Nor will we have any idea how this data is being shifted around, cross referenced and exploited by companies and governments never mind terrorists and criminals.


Stanza Art CCTV









Maybe the world is indeed full of criminals but by and large we shouldn’t baton down the hatches Let the data be made public, open it up…..not just one gate keeper. Everyone whose data is on the system should have access. Lets try another approach lets trust one another.

I believe we should remove the passwords. What is the point of just trusting a select few people we don’t know we should trust everyone. It’s surely better to trust everyone than to mistrust everyone which is the road we have taken.

I am researching data within cities and how this can be represented, visualized and interpreted. Data from security tracking, traffic, and environmental monitoring can all be interpreted as a medium to make artworks. I investigate new ways of comparing, conceptualizing and then visualizing complex concepts related to the relationship of emergent data and real space in the built environment. In all my work I try to exploit the changing dynamics of city life as a source for creativity and create meaningful artistic metaphors. I utilize new technologies and integrate new media artworks into the public domain as part of this ongoing research into the visualization of city space. In essence I am researching data as a medium for creativity and how meaningful experiences of our cities may result. By investigating these data structures I aim to create new metaphors relevant to the experience of the city. The patterns we make, the visual and imaginative interpretations we give to real world events, are already being networked into retrievable data structures that can be re-imagined and source for information. These patterns disclose new ways of seeing the world. The value of gathering and re-presenting this data in artistic form, and then analyzing its impact and influence, lies in making meaning accessible to a wider audience.

I have a number of related artworks on my that you might find of interest….please go and have a look.

Here are four below.

Genomixer …….an open source DNA database….

Urban generation……

Sensity artworks are made from the data that is collected across the urban and environment infrastructure.

Publicity. All the resulting data from a cctv network is projected over the building so that the outside of the building becomes a huge display network.




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