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Architectures of testimony, architectures of control propelled to convergence

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Architectures of testimony - systems that can testify upon the actions of individuals, for or against, and architectures of control - systems that can shape and coerce individual behavior, are being propelled to convergence by a combination of technological, economic, and political forces that are stealing (have stolen may be the better phrase) a march on society as political actors and consumers.

I believe that I am the first to coin the phrase, "architectures of testimony" which contain the subpoena power upon the likes of stored automotive handling and position data, indexes of all past on-line and off-line search activity, and computer "crash" data that contains all programs running at the time of the error and the contents of all documents that were being created.

This newer sibling joins the much older architectures of control which have been with us for some time, though not recognized as such. Witness the likes of Baron Haussmann's redesign and broadening of the streets of Paris to forestall a recurrence of street fighting in a warren of medieval streets during the revolution of 1848, and Robert Moses' intentionally designed low-clearance Long Island overpasses that eliminated buses (public transit) from his parkways while leaving those owning cars free to use them at will.

Langdon Winner was writing on the capacity of "technical things" being imbued with "political qualities" (to which I would add economic qualities) in the 1980s:

[T]echnologies can [encompass] purposes far beyond their immediate use [and] be used in ways that enhance the power, authority, and privilege of some over others… In our accustomed way of thinking technologies are seen as neutral tools that can be used well or poorly, for good, evil, or something in between. But we usually do not stop to inquire whether a given device might have been designed and built in such a way that it produces a set of consequences logically and temporally prior to any of its professed uses… If our moral and political language for evaluating technology includes only categories having to do with tools and uses, if it does not include attention to the meaning of the de signs and arrangements of our artifacts, then we will be blinded to much that is intellectually and practically crucial.

In parallel, Stewart Brand was writing on information in 1987:

Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine---too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, 'intellectual property', the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.

In that same text, in a section dealing with the political economy of the media, he added, "Information wants to be (politically) free." In his late revision in 1989, Brand stated, in part:

The pressure of the paradox [between free and expensive] forces information to explore incessantly. Smart marketers and inventors quietly follow-and I might add, so do smart computer security people.

Jump forward to Gartner Group's 2003 forecast on Technology Trends 2005 - 2014:

Through to 2015, the over-arching trends for humanity will be the creation of the truly connected society, smart networked objects and semantic connectivity.

Dan Farber's commentary on the Gartner forecast continues:

Wireless sensor networks based on RFID or other technologies that capture data -- such as location, movement, temperature, molecular data or auditory signatures -- will improve safety and support better decision-making and convenience.

[With] all the data come the problems of collection and analysis, as well as with privacy in a world in which information is the major form of currency... Privacy will continue to be a volatile issue in the next decade, but the die has been cast. Rather than trying to prevent data collection, the focus is on controlling access to data and creating a balance between privacy and personalization.

Farber merges the architectures of testimony and architectures of control:

What is less predictable is the social impact of embedded computing, in which the entire environment of everyday objects is invested with some form of computing power and possibly intelligence. It's also likely that in the next decade computers will get much smarter, not just faster and cheaper, and understand more about content in context.

Dan Lockton asks, "What if your computer locks up your dissertation because it detects a copyright-infringing mp3 or image?" and then goes on to cite "primarily commercial control intentions [connected] with enforcing intellectual property rights, from copy-protection on DVDs to more complex ‘analogue hole' patching algorithms [that] identify copyrighted material [seen by cameras and camcorders] ‘in the wild.’

He goes on to describe "products [being] designed with features that restrict or enforce modes of behaviour or use on the part of the consumer, often in ways with parallels in software licensing techniques and digital rights management" for commercial, moral, environmental, social, or psychological purposes.

The means of economic and political shaping of individual actions at the device level are at hand and deserve thoughtful attention.

Designs on your... freedom
Dan Lockton
Gown, 2005

Microsoft to add 'black box' to Windows
By Ina Fried, CNET News.com
ZDNet News: April 26, 2005, 4:00 AM PT

Microsoft's reveals hardware security plans, concerns remain
Can trusted computing hardware deliver security without locking out competition?
By Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus Apr 26 2005 7:29AM

Google Launches Personal History Feature
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
Lycos
20 April 2005, 9:25pm ET

Hollywood Wants to Plug the "Analog Hole"
Posted by Cory Doctorow at 03:44 PM
EFF Electronic Frontier Foundation
May 23, 2002

DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS?
Langdon Winner
FROM: The Whale and The Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, 1986

Gordon Housworth



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