The Anopticon

The Anopticon (German: Anoptikon) was supposed to be an art installation at 33C3, but I didn't organize critical parts in time so it didn't happen. It may happen at another occasion and you're welcome to use the idea (with attribution if you're nice). Original idea outlined here [twitter link]. In the field, one thing I noticed was that the congress crowd is huge enough that it's already really difficult to find the people you're looking for. Having a line of sight to most of the teahouse made it much easier to find the one table with people you already knew. This is a somewhat critical affordance that is hard to support within the anopticon model and something you'd need to solve or sidestep to make the anopticon viable (imo). Or you'd need to build it a less social space, something like a retreat. Planning lessons learned: the pre-congress weeks are FULL of social obligations for everybody involved, because Christmas. Don't procrastinate into December. Also, sweethome3d is really easy to use and if you're new to CAD (or incredibly rusty like me), it has a number of comfort features that make creating a 3D model to run past fire protection much less of a pain than you'd expect. Salvageable parts quoted below.

Anoptikon proposal for 33C3 (alpha)

preliminary anopticon logo


The Anoptikon is a proposed installation/space for the 33C3. The idea is to create a surveillance/camera hostile but human friendly space at the venue, both as architectonic statement and because it would both be cosy and look cool. You can make it any size but the initial plan is to use the foyer the teahouse and the coffee nerds would populate.




Me (vrs) and jz (of La Quadrature, who runs/represents the teahouse) were reminiscing about 32C2 at the Change and came to the topic of the teahouse. I told him about how I saw some guy enter the foyer, scan over the whole crowd with his smartphone camera (and you know the crowd that hangs out at the teahouse, it's very activist-heavy), and vanish again. jz was aghast and the idea of the Anoptikon was born: an anti-panopticon, or in short anopticon ("observe nothing", in contrast to the panopticon's "observe everything"), a space obfuscated for machines that is at the same time welcoming to humans, discouraging unthinking camera surfers (who, despite strong community ethics against it, exist) but also showing that you can design a space in this way in the first place. It's a nice and subtle statement: Camera surfers will be discouraged without being directly antagonized (if you want to make someone understand within reasonable time, don't antagonize them) and malicious actors will at least get the message.


Some ideas that came up in discussion were: * Have as few long lines of sight as possible, while still making the space navigable by humans. That means meandering paths, panels of fabric (maybe in subtle camouflage colors?) to obstruct cameras, lots of alleys and caves. (Someone suggested using CS:GO maps as inspiration, which I think is a remarkable insight). Think curtains hanging from the ceiling at heights that obstruct cameras, while still allowing lots of movement if needed. Tables encircled by fabric at face height, chillout areas with fabric placed lower, etc. Lots of reconfigurable paper room dividers to accomodate small and large groups? * Dazzle cameras with infrared stroboscopes or reflective ventilators mounted in front of infrared spots. I know this works against certain webcams, but what about smartphone cameras? Also it's kind of radical, one one hand I work with eyetrackers that use similar tech and I'm pretty sure this is well tested not to provoke seizures, but on the other hand I still somewhat worry that. Feedback/experience here? * Block the path of some wifi with chaff ("Düppel")? Of course this kind of conflicts with having conference wifi. * Have a low-key audio background to make the life of listening devices harder. Maybe louder in some places for those who have higher privacy requirements. Fabric also dampens sound so there's another plus. * Project video loops onto available surfaces that confuse autofocus? * Organize a confession booth? * Have a safe space for photographers where they're allowed to use their camera, with milk glass walls, mirrors inside (think smoker's area in airports + train stations, "Raucherkäfig") * hang up pictures of faces to tarpit face recognition Not all of these are required. I think that you can make a decent statement with well-placed fabric alone.


* You need material for this, at least fabric and something to hang it on. Do we have some lying around to be repurposed? I'll work out a concrete plan if needed (esp. if we need to buy supplies). * Brandschutz (fire protection): I suppose we should be able to come up with something that works? Non-flammable cloth, unobstructed escape routes, etc. * [a few organizational details about other parties involved scrubbed]
published: Jan 01 2017. epistemic status: subjunctive.