The Spychip Under Your Skin (was: Re: [iDC] Toward a Post-Post-Critical Future

Armin Medosch armin at
Thu Sep 28 02:58:18 EDT 2006

Hi Trebor, 

you start to sound increasingly like me;-) No, seriously, some opf 
those issues, specifically participation in shaping the direction of the 
technoscientific inquiry, I have also tried to address in an 
unpublished 2004 pamphlet The Gale Force Wind of Change. More 
recently I have written something about RFID, which is a 
commissioned text for an arts organisation. I always feel bad about 
posting a sort fo finished text on a discussion text but I think it fits to 
the topics discussed here so I post it nevertheless. I would also like 
to point out that I am unhappy with one or the other paragraph where 
I could be misunderstood to be endorsing Bruce Sterling's position in 
Shaping Things. The most important critique is not in the main text 
but hidden in a footnote. Such things happen when one acts as hired 
contract writer, with deadlines set externally and critical facilities 
partially numbed by the expectati0on of the paycheque. 

[Commissioned by Space Media Arts for the TAGGED 

The Spychip Under Your Skin
RFID and the Tagged exhibition by Space Media 


What Is RFID? Depending on whom you speak to, it 
can be a rather mundane thing.  RFID tags are 
used in warehouse logistics management, where 
they are integral to a new system for identifying 
objects and replace the scannable bar code which 
has performed this task for the past several 
decades. RFID is also the key technology which 
enables an 'internet of things' within a 
framework of 'ubiquitous computing' (Ubicomp). 
Minimally, RFID tags link the physical world with 
the informational world. The process consists of 
attaching machine-readable information to 
objects. Maximally, this, some would say, is a 
new step in the co-evolution of the technological 
with the social. Its implications seem to mandate 
a serious engagement with the motives behind 
these latest developments. 

The potential of this move to a next layer of the 
informationalisation of the world does raise 
concerns about privacy or the notion of an all-
encompassing society of control. Concomitantly, 
it facilitates new paths of exploration for 
artists in a range of areas, from commercial 
interactive product design to art movements such 
as locative media and new types of performative 
and interactive-narrative work. According to 
science-fiction writer and media theorist Bruce 
Sterling, the spread of RFID technology gives 
rise to a new type of object, the SPIME. The word 
is a neologism invented by Bruce Sterling, 
describing objects which can be tracked in SPACE 
and TIME. Sterling predicts that a society 
relying on an infrastructure of SPIMES would have 
achieved a fundamental change in the relationship 
of the forces of production. I will expand on 
this subject later, but only so much here: 
additional awareness about an object's full life-
cycle prompted by use of RFIDs would enable 
environmental and sustainability considerations 
to play a greater part in the resource allocation 
decisions of societies. 

Space Media Arts have decided to devote their 
Tagged series of events to the complex of issues 
surrounding RFID. Following an open call and a 
jury-led selection process, Space Media Arts have 
selected four artists/projects and one sound 
performance to be    presented at the Triangle 
exhibition space and in public spaces in the 
locality. In this text I will first introduce the 
technology and its context. I will also briefly 
introduce Bruce Sterling's ideas about 'shaping 
things'1 and add to this some of my own 
reflections about the contentious notion of 
techno-social 'progress'. Based on this 
contextual analysis I will formulate some of the 
challenges and possibilities for artists who work 
with technology in general and the routes chosen 
by the selected artists. 

Gloves, Dr.Watson

Radio Frequency IDentification, RFID for short, 
relies on RFID tags to identify objects digitally 
and a support infrastructure necessary to read 
and process the information. An RFID tag consists 
of an antenna and a chip. Passive tags are made 
of a small coil and an even tinier chip both 
wrapped by some adhesive material like paper or 
film which gets attached to cartons or pallets. 
When a reader device is in close proximity2, the 
antenna is activated by the frequency it 
transmits and the chip sends a message. Usually 
this message would consist of the Electronic 
Product Code (EPC), "a unique numbering scheme 
for every object in the world".3 RFID tags of 
this type have been falling in prices and are 
said to now cost as little as 3 pence a piece 
when ordered in large volumes. More complex RFID 
tags are capable of storing more information and 
some have their own power supplies. Those semi-
active and active RFID tags are used for access 
control schemes and car keys, but also the 
tagging of animals, machines and humans.4

Some histories of RFID technology trace it back 
to the invention of radar. 'Real' RFID, in the 
way we know it now, however, was first introduced 
on a relatively narrow scale with the tagging of 
cattle in the 1980s. It was only considered for 
more widespread use in the 1990s and its roll-out 
has begun in the last few years. As with most 
available technologies, the development of RFID 
is fuelled by both military and commercial 
interest in its applications. Despite the 
centrality of the United States Department of 
Defence (USDoD) to RFID R&D, the growth potential 
for commercial supply chain management may in the 
long term be more influential in global 
infrastructural change.
The main beneficiaries of RFID are going to be 
very big organisations which orchestrate the 
production and consumption of large quantities of 
goods, such as supermarkets - Wal-Mart has been 
another driving force behind the introduction of 
RFID besides the US Department of Defence. For 
the customer, the benefits are said to arrive in 
the form of the reduction of already cheap prices 
because the whole process can be managed more 
efficiently. This emphasis on economic expediency 
cloaks less publicity-friendly consequences for 
both labour and consumers, a traditional ruse of 
big corporations and governments seeking to evade 
the social cost of restructuring or the 
introduction of new technology. When people are 
in a generally disempowered state, they have no 
choice but to vote with their wallet.  However, 
such 'trickle-down effects'5 have more often than 
not favoured the corporation at the expense of 
the worker and consumer.

Open Doors And Open Wallets With RFID

RFID has raised concerns about the protection of 
privacy from the very beginning. However, many of 
the discussions around privacy foreground a 
limited notion of the protection of privacy of 
individuals and tend to ignore the larger 
political economy within which it is embedded. In 
internet forums about RFID and privacy you can 
encounter stories such as the one that Wal-Mart 
might spy on you once you have accidentally 
swallowed the RFID on your breakfast cereal 
packaging. This type of criticism is just too 
easily dismissed. Wal-Mart have no intrinsic 
interest in their customers. Indeed, even CEOs of 
RFID supplier companies can shrug off similar 
suggestions with a laugh.6 

If we proceed on the premise that sooner or later 
everything that exists will have a virtual badge 
attached to itself with information that can be 
machine-read, this raises much larger questions 
than the fear of private individuals being spied 
upon. It could be noted in passing that 
increasing automated information storage and 
retrieval can lead to increasing centralization 
of power, money and control in the hands of very 
few with an interest in upholding the political 
status quo - more on this below. Despite those 
larger issues, let's have a look at RFID's 
implications for personal information security.

Many RFID schemes have very leaky security. They 
transmit information unencrypted via radio 
frequencies.7 The information can not only be 
received by those devices which are meant to read 
them but also by 'rogue readers' operated by 
organised criminals or spooks. Public discussion 
about RFID mainly focuses on supply chain 
management. However, at the time of writing, the 
use of RFID is more common in keys, ID-cards and 
schemes such as the Oyster Card, where London 
commuters receive a smart card with RFID which 
gives them access to cheaper fares. Most Oyster 
Cards are registered with a central database run 
by Transport for London (TfL). This means that 
TfL has a record of journeys by individuals. On 
top of that the smart card chip inside the Oyster 
Card also records journeys. The cards themselves 
as well as the database infrastructure are 
potential points of abuse.

Privacy geeks are already putting aluminium foil 
around their London Oyster Card.8 A similar 
scheme, the Octopus Card, introduced in Hong Kong 
10 years earlier has been extended towards a 
digital purse which could be used in grocery 
stores. It is no accident that such a scheme 
could be tested first in an 'efficient regime' as 
the whole world intends to become one.9 If 
newspaper reports are to be believed, the 
information trail left by Oyster Cards is already 
playing a role in divorce cases. Police are 
increasingly asking for Oyster Card records from 
TfL in criminal inquiries.10 In the UK, it seems, 
there is widespread agreement that the dangers of 
introducing a surveillance infrastructure such as 
CCTV are outweighed by the benefits of those 

The problem with relying on those systems is that 
they give a false sense of security. The number 
of web-pages about RFID hacks is myriad. There 
are open source tools working with conventional 
reader hardware such as RF Dump (http://www.rf- and RFIDIOt ( 
There are manuals about how to turn your mobile 
phone into a 'skimmer', a device to read magnetic 
stripe cards.11 There are academic papers about 
how to break very widely used RFID schemes 
( The only reason 
why we don't hear more about RFID crime is that 
for criminals there is still much fertile ground 
in the exploitation of older and still more 
widespread technologies such as cheque accounts 
and credit cards. 

Identity theft has already been described as the 
crime with the biggest growth potential. 
Supposedly 'secure' concepts for passports and ID 
cards include RFID capability which exposes 
unencrypted data contained on your passport or ID 
card, making these forms of identification 
readable from a distance. The new British 
biometric passport has already been hacked.12 The 
white hat hacker13 who exposed the flaw claims to 
have used equipment which cost no more than 200 
dollars. A bit of Do-It-Yourself and you can copy 
the content of an Oyster Card or the biometric 
information on a new passport. While the 
authorities are busy telling us that these  
biometric technologies promote our safety, all 
the evidence is that  it is the committed 
fraudster or terrorist who will travel with 
greater safety - while millions of ordinary 
people will be in line for more harassment, 
inconvenience and identity fraud.

Electronic Borders

Some people can enjoy their alienation more than 
others: there is a website for RFID freaks who 
get their tags implanted.14 Prof Kevin Warwick at 
Reading University had got his subliminal RFID 
tag already in 1998, an amazing scientific stunt 
I had the mixed pleasure of personally attending 
along with many other dumbstruck representatives 
of world media. It demonstrated the benefits of 
being greeted with 'good morning Prof Warwick' by 
a computer-generated voice on entering the 
building. This was not only another proof of the 
overheated attention economy in science but 
demonstrated the slim appeal of most Ubicomp 
propositions. I mean, who would really want to 
live in Mr. Gates' house? And of course there are 
other issues with RFID implants, besides their 
propensity to wander around under your skin. The 
infamous Mafia fraud attack15 on biometric 
identification implies the use of dismembered 
limbs and organs to hack secure systems, 
completely changing the meaning of the term 
'brute force attack'16 in debates about security.
However, the real danger is the two-faced nature 
of the technology. RFID gives the holder of a key 
access to an area, but it also makes the presence 
of a person in that restricted area subject to 
monitoring. Thus, RFID can be used to control 
bodies in space. Companies and public 
institutions do it by issuing RFID keys. The 
technology is being applied already in prisoner 
probation schemes with a view to extending RFID 
tagging to asylum seekers. Whereas those RFID 
schemes are mandatory for the 'user', other 
schemes introduce the very same technologies with 
a promise of more convenience.17 As internet 
users know only too well, password management 
increasingly becomes a burden. Add to this bank 
cards, an NHS card, PIN numbers, etc., and the 
authentication quagmire expands. Now, the IT 
industry is about to gift us with a new product, 
called 'identity services'. For large 
corporations authentication and authorisation 
concerns increase exponentially regarding 
security issues both in real space (access to 
buildings) and computer systems. It becomes 
praxis to outsource the management of identity 
and access codes within their institution to a 
security IT company. 

For privileged individuals this means getting 
through the security gates of airports more 
quickly and moving through a 'seamless' 
environment of managed 'secure' identity. The 
same technology could also be used to monitor 
people who are lined up for deportation. 
Ironically, the frequent business flyer and the 
would-be 'immigrant' are both part of the 'avant-
garde' of RFID deployment. Willingly or not, they 
are subjected to a new regime where the 
electronic world holds significant sway over the 
real world. As spaces are structured by 
informational layers, access codes increasingly 
regulate our ability to move or to obtain goods 
and services. The ordinary individual has a 
weakening position in this technological armament 
race. Those who feel this most strongly are 
immigrants or generally people 'sans papiers', 
whose mobility and security is suspended by lack 
of official documentation. In other words, 
without some plastic with biometric information 
stored and checked via RFID, a person soon will 
not really exist. Rather than only being an 
encroachment on one's privacy, RFID can become an 
issue of simple biopolitics - meaning survival.

Avoiding Totalizing Vision18

However, when it comes to topics such as 
surveillance regimes a writer's imagination is 
often inclined to jump ahead of developments on 
the ground. Interestingly, proponents and 
opponents of this or that new technology will 
often make the same mistake of buying too much 
into the propaganda about the technology. How 
many times have we heard praises of the benefits 
inherent to a technology which is in fact still 
very experimental? Some of the scenarios to sell 
new technologies to the public are so overused 
that they expose themselves as past futures.19 In 
a similar way, the critique of the control 
society is based on assumptions about 
totalitarian tendencies immanent to a technology 
leaping far ahead of the actual state of 
deployment.20 In fact, those things rarely ever 
work as well as advertised.21 If the vision is 
too totalizing, critique fails to hit the spot 
where it could actually have any impact. 

In order to prevent this type of shadow boxing I 
would like to expand the scope of this article. 
Let's briefly look at the history of technology 
and its social critique. How and why do new 
technologies come into existence? What are the 
reasons for their being and what are the 
unintended consequences? Can we find certain 
structures in the relationship between society 
and technology? When it comes to those 
'structures', language is a minefield22 that 
needs clearing. But the best effort of 
purification will run into recursive loops. 
Therefore my methodological-ideological 
disclaimer: there is no objectivity, we always 
need to consider the multiplied contingencies of 
the subject of inquiry and of ourselves as 
people, as subjects of history. This radical 
relativity is not to be mixed up with dis-engaged 
Relativism. The forces that shape the evolution 
of society and technology are observable and 

Technology and Social Relationships

Since Marx we know that new technologies are not 
neutral but expressions of social relationships. 
The factory owner leverages new machinery against 
the human workforce. Scientific management and 
Fordism have brought this to perfection, shaping 
a society which consists of workers, who perform 
very simple repetitive tasks dictated by a 
machine, the capitalist owner class and a new 
intermediate class of scientists, engineers and 
other types of specialist labour necessary to 
invent, implement and maintain the new systems of 
production. Fordism was and still is the leading 
industrial paradigm. Technology embodies social 
relationships. The particular types of technology 
we have are the legacy of 250 years of capitalism 
and industrialism. A key aspect of this 
development of technology is a quantitative one: 
it is driven by an insatiable hunger for numbers. 
As price dictates measure, the 'need' for 
quantification is always growing and we have 
become very efficient in making things more 

This obsession with numbers made the invention of 
the computer almost a necessity. WWII-era 
increases in funding for scientific, military and 
industrial purposes  accelerated the process of 
computational development, driven by the need for 
automated information key to all these areas. 
Managing large top-down bureaucratic 
organisations through central IT infrastructures 
such as data bases - the principles of Fordism 
transferred into a machine - is  a legacy still 
at work today, for example in systems such as MS 
Office. The second world war created a climate 
that 'inspired' the  rapid prototyping of new 
technologies. A 'science' probably most 
influential in this regard is operational 
analysis: statistical methods of evaluating the 
effect of bombing campaigns or artillery 
barrages. Operational analysis became an 
important part of management theory after the 
war. Such organisational technologies gave an 
operational and material boost to digital 

The second world war engaged a quantitatively 
more intense movement of people, goods and 
weapons than ever previously in the industrial 
era. There were lessons to be learned from this 
by the inter-disciplinary teams of scientists, 
engineers, military planners and commanders in 
the United States, the most advanced industrial 
society of the time. The links between people and 
equipment tied together through an electronic 
communication infrastructure inspired cybernetic 
theory which imagined society as systems of 
command and control. It was recognized that the 
rapid progress in many scientific areas during 
the war was achieved as a result of research 
spend and restructuring in techno-scientific 
workplaces. With the Cold War as a pretext, 
government funded research budgets remained high. 
Techno-scientific invention became organised as a 
methodically structured venture funded by the 
state and carried out in sometimes private 
research labs, sometimes public universities - a 
system which by the 1950s led to the critique of 
the military-industrial complex with its secrecy 
and institutional paranoia. Key elements of 
today's ICT infrastructure were invented or 
initiated in the period of the early to late 
1960s, from the operating system Unix to the 
internet. The system of co-ordinated research 
involving government and big business was copied 
by many countries and led to the emergence of Big 
Science or technoscience.

Augmented Reality or Embodied Virtuality

Practically from the start the computer acquired 
an imaginary symbolic significance that owed 
little to the actual status of the technology. 
Alan Turing thought that computers could 
successfully pass an intelligent test which 
relied on the successful simulation of a human 
being in written communication. Von Neumann 
thought about self-replicating machines which, at 
long last, would produce a connectionist 
understanding of the brain and evolve new 
disciplines such as Artificial Life. Vannevar 
Bush and J.C.R. Licklider saw possibilities of 
using computers as universal libraries.23 The 
models of information and cybernetic theory 
enabled information to be conceived as a context-
free entity existing independently of its 
material carrier. In the long run, this led to a 
technoscientific re-evaluation of what it means 
to be human, what it means to be alive. The 
computer was fetishised as an artificial 
intelligence, a vision soon to be ridiculed but 
nevertheless supported with billions of research 
dollars over decades. During the 1980s, Reagan's 
Star Wars project prompted another technology 
boost, while 'personal computing' started to 
happen. Now things which had existed on paper 
only, such as neural networks, could be simulated 
on home PCs. All those developments together led 
to a confusion or mixing up of image and reality. 
Sherry Turkle speaks of a 'walk through the 
looking glass'. Technoscience did no longer 
create 'models' or 'images' of reality but took 
its models as reality or life itself. For 
technoscience, life is essentially information 
replicating itself, consciousness a distributed 
computer system and the universe an immensely 
complex parallel computer. This is not the stuff 
of science fiction but the working assumption for 
research centres such as MIT's centre for bits 
and atoms ( where Ubicomp and 
RFID are being pushed forward. 

The new paradigm of 'bottom-up' thinking in a 
networked world began to raise its many heads in 
the 1980s. In this era the concept of 'ubiquitous 
computing', Ubicomp for short, was proposed by 
Mark Weiser at Xerox Parc. His idea is a sort of 
reversed version of immersive virtual reality, 
where people can experience a 3D world simulated 
by a computer. Instead, computers should become 
part of the world, so that reality is 'augmented' 
by an informational layer. Computers, rather than 
being highly visible 'objects', should become 
embedded in the environment, which people would 
only consciously use as needed but otherwise 
could ignore. There is a certain humanism to 
these ideas. Weiser wanted to use those 
possibilities to create a 'calm technology' that 
worked in the background without dominating our 

Ubicomp has landed

Unfortunately, maybe, we are not getting this 
type of Ubicomp. Maybe there was a point in time 
when Ubicomp could be imagined as one coherent 
technology. However, today we see Ubicomp coming 
from all directions and in all shapes. Chips have 
already pervaded our life-world in cars, mobiles, 
keys and cards. All sorts of objects have already 
become virtualized for various reasons. What 
saves us from the embrace of the complete 
surveillance society is that those systems have 
not yet grown together for various reasons, be 
they ones of technical implementation or public 
concern. The ruling paradigm, however, demands 
economic growth at any cost, which makes Ubicomp 
feel like an alien invasion pushed down the 
consumer's throat by a blue-faced Intel Men. The 
main forces behind technological progress remain 
steadfastly in place - the military, the needs of 
capital for increased efficiency, rationalisation 
and quantifiability of everything. This variant 
of progress has also generated a huge leap in 
'data trash', i.e. the entropy of the 
surveillance trail of data kept about everything 
and everyone, fed by the 'natural' growth in 
surveillance and control techniques. 

However, there have also been some substantial 
changes made possible through the 
individualisation of ownership of the forces of 
production and new ways of working 
collaboratively and managing 'intellectual 
property' in a commons. That means that the 
threat of more commodity fetishism and 
reification is countered, to some degree, by the 
democratisation of access to means of 

Socializing Technologies

As Bruce Sterling proposes in his pamphlet 
Shaping Things, such a democratisation of the 
shaping of our techno-social future is already 
under way. The internet has unleashed the 
collective mind power of the multitude. In the 
future the whole world might act in ways similar 
to communities such as The 
character of 'things' or objects would 
fundamentally change, Sterling claims, because 
rather than leading isolated and separated 
existences, things would be linked to the social 
world in various ways. 

	"It's mentally easier to divide humans and 
objects than to understand them as a 	
comprehensive and interdependent system: people 
are alive, objects are inert, 	people can think, 
objects just lie there. But this taxonomical 
division blinds us 	to the ways and means by 
which objects do, change, and it obscures the 
areas 	of intervention where design can reshape 
things. Effective intervention takes 	place not 
in the human, not in the object, but in the realm 
of the techno-	social". (Sterling 2005, pages 8-

Not completely unlike what Bruno Latour says 
about the relationship between humans and non-
humans,25 Sterling is convinced that the 
relationship we have with objects defines the 
phase of techno-culture we are going through. As 
Fordism made products for consumers, we are now 
in the era of gizmos owned by end-users, which 
prepares us for the next step, the era of SPIMES. 

"SPIMES are manufactured objects whose 
informational support is so overwhelmingly 
extensive and rich that they are regarded as 
material instantiations of an immaterial system. 
SPIMES begin and end as data. [...] Eminently 
data-mineable, SPIMES are the protagonists of a 
historical process".26 (Sterling 2005, 11)
According to Sterling the era of SPIMES began 
with RFID, in 2004, when the USDoD demanded that 
its suppliers use RFID. Only through RFID tags 
can objects become represented through the trail 
of information and impart better criteria for 
certainty to speculation about them. The spread 
of SPIMES, in this vision, would eventually save 
the world by triggering a new type of production 
in a post-Fordist paradigm. By tying together the 
virtual and the real aspects of the same objects, 
we would have to consider their whole life-span 
and interaction with the social on all layers. 
This would force us to recognize that the 
wasteful regime which we have now cannot 
continue. SPIMES, because they are "information 
melded with sustainability", are "little 
metahistory generators" which continually allow 
the world to re-invent itself.

Besides some slippage into too much proselytising 
for more efficient use of technology (for 
instance when he fantasizes about 3D printers), 
Sterling seems to be quite fascinated by the idea 
of having an interface for everything. "We need 
to invent a general-purpose cultural interface to 
time" (p. 42) and "... I need an interface for 
capitalism itself" (p. 94), which is, by the way, 
the only time Sterling uses the 'dirty c word'. 
Maybe as an American, it is difficult for him to 
acknowledge that his whole way of thinking is a 
modernisation of Marxism without calling it that, 
with a bit of McLuhan mixed in. Like Marx, 
Sterling thinks that the base and superstructure 
are not separated but intricately linked - his 
'techno-social' - and that the relationships of 
the forces of production (and consumption, we 
might add) determine history.  This is not a 
teleological view , as the eventual outcome 
remains open, but in the sense that the dynamics 
that characterizes 'progress' (or at least some 
type of development, a sequence of events in 
time) are over-determined by the forces of 
production. His 'sequence', from artefact to 
product, to Gizmo, SPIME and eventually biots is 
a classically modern model of one era - defined 
by its modes of production and consumption, i.e. 
political economy - following another, whereby 
the old does not go away but is absorbed and kept 
within the new paradigm. He even has nice graphs 
to make this point.27 

The Wranglers

As Sterling rightly recognizes in his crypto-
Marxist theory (and as Marx did before him)28 
highly industrialized societies have all produced 
their own versions of a type of human being known 
as geeks, nerds, anoraks, tinkerers, 
experimentalists, hackers . . . and the internet 
has opened the floodgates of communication 
between them. On the net it is easy to find an 
expert or a community of experts on everything. 
This 'collective intelligence' has frightened the 
platinum out of corporate PR's dentistry. 
Consumers or users are analysing products, the 
conduct of corporations in the countries where 
they produce, the usefulness and reliability of 
documentation and just about any aspect of a 
'commodity' which used to be under the full 
informational control of the manufacturer. As 
customers became 'users', instead of complaints 
they feed back valuable debugging information to 

Things Wrangled

As crowds of wranglers wrangle informational 
control from manufacturers, PR departments and 
spin doctors, they eventually do not only exert 
their influence in the informational sphere but 
also change the shape of things to come. As 
communities get involved, getting their hands 
dirty with bending the use of manufactured goods 
to their needs, the course of technological 
development changes too. As 'the street' finds 
its own use for things, information technologies 
of military origins are turned into socialized, 
pacified beings. Computers, the internet, 
wireless and mobile technologies eventually all 
go down that route, being wrangled away, or 
liberated from capitalist control, by FLOSS 
developers and WiFi community network 
activists.29 Products of the complexity of a jet 
engine are now produced by free-wheeling 
communities of developers who reinvent the future 
in their spare time. What was the exclusive 
domain of large industrial conglomerates becomes 
opened up to collaborative inquiry with Open 
Source. While older layers largely continue as 
they did, this happens at least in the 
technologically most advanced sectors where a 
reconfiguration of the relationship of the forces 
of productions is under way. What remains to be 
seen is if the principles governing open source 
software development can really be successfully 
transferred to other areas in society.30

Language is the Glue

An interesting observation, worthy of a short 
parenthesis, is the fact that language31 plays 
such an important role in the creation of the 
internet of things. RFID is based on an open 
standard enabling businesses to integrate their 
processes.32 For the layers of the physical 
object and the information sphere to grow 
together, 'language' is needed. Physical Markup 
Language (PML) is only one of a range of Markup 
Languages aimed at describing the physical world, 
products, sensory data 
are.html) or even financial products 
( Based 
on the meta-language XML, those semantic web 
applications cover 'the real' with webs of 
hierarchies, categories and relations. This 
'logical layer'33 introduced by the computer 
spreads with the help of radio waves from 
computer to the world and back. From Product 
Markup Language to Transducer Markup Language and 
even Human Markup Language34 every thing and 
every body is getting tagged. 

The XML based Markup schemes make us aware that 
RFID is indeed part of a bigger picture. A whole 
system needs to be in place to make sense of the 
remotely transmitted IDs, from tag production, 
via a numbering and naming schemes that 
constitute almost another internet in their 
complexity, to the physical infrastructure of 
readers, network connections, databases and 
forklifts. The lifespan of a tag and its 
readability decide which further options are open 
beyond the point of sale. The object can be 
tracked and identified till it ends up on an 
electronic scrapheap. On one hand the 'internet 
of things' (including living things such as 
plants, animals, humans?) has the potential to 
concentrate ever more power in the hands of the 
ruling classes and technocracies. On the other 
hand the history trail which the object leaves on 
the worlds' data banks is increasingly opened up 
to collective interrogation. For Bruce Sterling, 
this is the source of a paradigm shift for a 
culture that deals differently with technology. 
But it is also the more cautious academics who 
are talking about 'shifting socio-technical 
arrangements'. 35 Ubicomp and RFID fit perfectly 
with the priorities of certain directions in 
science studies which base their epistemology on 
networks of relations rather than fixed entities 
and binary oppositions.36 

The Praxis of Art and Technology

For a number of decades now we have seen artists 
engaging with technical artefacts and systems. 
Artists working in this area have responded to 
rationalisation and productivism by providing 
visions of utopian freedoms achieved through 
using electronic media and networks.37 Other 
artists have articulated a critique of the one-
dimensionality of the technocratic society and 
have warned about Orwellian sides of the 
technology. The encroachment of technology into 
every aspect of our lives does not only raise 
luddite rage and romanticised resistance to 
modernity, but also the inside critique of the 
mole: the parasitic and opportunistic 
exploitation of holes in the system38 and 
resistance in a sort of survivalist DIY spirit. 
One of the first theorists of this new type of 
art which engaged with 'systems', Jack Burnham, 
claimed that artists' role was to make themselves 
redundant as artists by intervening into those 
decisions which shape our techno-social future.39 
The roots of his ideas can be traced back to the 
avant-garde of high-modernity and in particular 
socialist writers such as Brecht, Benjamin and 
later Enzensberger. Not 'everybody is an artist' 
but a truly just society can only be one where 
everybody potentially can be an artist and where 
the people can truly express themselves and the 
class structure of elite and 'the masses' is 
abolished. Artists who work in this direction 
engage with the social relationships embodied in 
technology, instead of dealing with aesthetics 
and formal innovation only. They make us aware 
that things are not merely dead objects, but how 
they relate to the social world, and how they 
facilitate certain relationships (of dominance, 
usually). They are bringing technology out of the 
Cold War closet, where it was a matter for 
technocrats and engineers only40 and let us have 
insights into its suppressed collective 
imaginary. The raising of awareness is a first 
step towards creating new and more egalitarian 
models of social production to be embodied in 
current and future technologies.

Current artistic practice with new technologies 
also shares an interesting overlap with science 
studies and critical theory. As artists engage 
with the techno-social, and not simply 
technology, the theoretical texts of Marcuse, 
Latour, Haraway, Sterling et al, are being 
referenced.  As I say elsewhere, artists working 
with technology do science studies' dirty work.41 
Latour, for instance, repeatedly stresses the 
links and networks of relationships between 
humans and non-humans; artists investigate and 
create such links on a practical and concrete 
level. Each work can be seen as an experimental 
set-up designed to verify particular aspects of 
such systemic relationships - perhaps to use 
'verify' not in a strictly scientific sense of 
experiment and evaluation but at least to 
indicate a practical and concrete instantiation 
of particular sets of relationships between 
humans and objects in space and time. Contrary to 
the designers Sterling talks to in his pamphlet, 
artists in this process do not need to work  
under a productivist or utilitarian agenda, but 
can afford to be critical, negative, nihilistic 
or ironic. In the following section I will 
present some recent approaches in this regard. 

The Tagged exhibition

The artists participating in the Tagged 
exhibition were sent a small questionnaire which 
asked them about their work and their thoughts 
about RFID and the development of techno-culture. 
One common thread present in their answers is 
that their engagement with RFID technology is 
critical, whereby only the intensity and the 
flavour of the critique varies, from playful and 
poetic to outspoken and more aggressively 

iTag by Louis-Philippe Demers and Philippe Jean 
is intended to be an "ironic statement about all 
kinds of electronic 'pollution'". The project 
involves creating a portable device that reads 
RFID tags of products in a supermarket and 
generates ambient Muzak.42 Louis-Philippe Demers 
says he wants to "fight fire with fire". As the 
participant in this work walks through a store 
with a device reading ID tags, different Muzak 
gets played back by the handheld device. The 
intention is not to create an aesthetically 
uplifting experience but on the contrary, the 
artist would happily take into account if people 
felt "a certain discomfort from the tags that are 
'watching you'". 

Louis-Philippe Demers is strongly critical of the 
increase in surveillance technologies driven by 
"neo-liberalist agendas of better and faster 
product delivery". He attacks "myths spread by 
security agencies" and "the propaganda of a 
better technological world". He hopes to be able 
to challenge people's perceptions by making them 
aware of the 'electro-smog' surrounding them. 
But, as Demers has found out, item level tagging 
in retail stores is not (yet) as widespread as 
assumed.  So, for the nightmarish walk through 
the shopping mall to become true, the artists 
will probably have to collaborate with a 

Origins and Lemons by Mute-Dialogue (Yasser 
Rashid and Yara El-Sherbini) also engages with 
objects, but with objects from the more informal 
economy of markets in London's East End. In the 
gallery space they will arrange objects sourced 
from markets like a market stall. By passing 
objects over the reader, exhibition visitors are 
presented an audiovisual narration about the 
history and context of the objects. Like the 
previous artists, they want to create awareness 
about a technology "that is seeping into everyday 
life almost unnoticed." By understanding how this 
technology is framed in society they hope to 
wrangle some new meanings from it. 

The artists try to avoid being too placative and 
use a more suggestive aesthetic language 
exploring "the origin, local and global, of 
objects" which they hope to relate to " the 
complex issues related to the tracking of 
movements and people." It remains to be seen if 
Origins and Lemons will be able to let us see 
more than just the obvious and will, as the 
artists hope, "tap into questions such as how 
does the tracking of people deemed as the most 
risk to society, such as asylum seekers, effect 
our perception of these people." 

boredomresearch are presenting a research and 
development project, RealSnailMail. The 
installation version of the project will be shown 
in 2007/08 while at Space Media Arts the results 
of the r&d process will be exhibited. (The 
material will also be made available here:

The artists, who in their other work engage with 
Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life 
metaphors and explore 'online ecologies', are 
interested in using "RFID tags to superimpose a 
narrative onto inanimate objects in a way that 
explored our tendency to endow objects with 
meaning and sentiment". Their first idea was to 
suggest "the possibility of inserting implantable 
RFID chips into oysters for them to be turned 
into pearls." But they encountered a variety of 
problems with this idea and switched to water 

Taking the phrase 'snail mail' - used by Internet 
people to describe old fashioned postal services -
 literal, real snails are used to transport 
messages. Via a 'Real Snail Mail' website users 
can write an email which "travels at the speed of 
light" to the server where it is entered into a 
queue. Using RFID the messages are then 
transmitted to snails which inhabit a little 
pond. If a snail makes it to the other end of the 
pond where a reader is installed it's message 
gets picked up and becomes an email message 
again, and will eventually be delivered. A high 
number of messages can be expected to get lost - 
which is called 'packet loss' in internet tech-
language. The artists present a playful critique 
of what they claim is our culture's 'obsession 
with immediacy'.

"As artists we are more interested in time. We 
make things that occupy time, that compute in 
time, that change over time. To experience these 
things you have to sacrifice time. Time that 
could have been spent achieving, pursuing or 
succeeding in some other preoccupation."

While most people will be mystified about RFID 
technology anyway, boredomresearch use this 
element of mystification in such a way that false 
but imaginative beliefs are encouraged. 
Technology's promise of increased efficiency and 
acceleration is turned up-side down with the 
RealSnailMail project. 

Arphield recordings by Paula Roush 
( is a 
reminder that sound art projects have a very 
positive track record in often being the first to 
realize the suppressed social imaginary of new 
technologies. Asking people to come to a certain 
tube station at a certain time and scanning their 
Oyster cards for 30 seconds each as well as 
playing back recorded Oyster card beeps, she aims 
at creating an "endless symphony of sound 
surveillance and compliance".

Roush refers to the practice of "sousveillance 
and a more general understanding of the arphid 
surveillance/equiveillance of public space and 
transport." To explain what she means by 
'sousveillance' she refers to the work of Steve 
Mann who has been walking around wearing a live 
CCTV camera for years.43 In her opinion "the 
emerging field of personal sousveillance - the 
capture, processing, storage, retrieval, and 
transmission of an activity from the perspective 
of a participant in the activity" has been too 
strongly focused on the visual. At the Tagged 
exhibition she will present arphield sound 
recordings and invite people to join her for a 
performance at a nearby tube station, probably 
Bethnal Green tube. 

Having 'performed' the project already a few 
times, Roush discovered that "people were already 
engaging in impromptu sound performances. My 
documentation led me to discern varied patterns 
and even participatory scores, with mass arphid 
soundscapes punctuated by silences, glitches and 
cracks in the system, all warped up in a 
circadian rhythm of work-rush hours". 

(The project remains open to contributions for 
people to download and upload their own 'arphield 
recordings' by opening an account at the 

The SWAMPOId project by evoLhypergrapHyCx is a 
development of the Antisystemic Library, adding 
RFID functionality to the Distributed Library
Project (DLP) at a Space Media Arts Gallery node. 
Also involved is the University of Openess 
Library where the DLP has been developed in 
Limehouse. The Distributed Library Project 
( is based on a website 
where people can enter books which they are 
willing to lend. They also enter information 
about their physical location. Every borrower of 
books is potentially a lender too and people can 
find out about other people with similar 
interests who live in their proximity. In my own 
perception, the DLP implementation in the UK was 
also influenced by ideas about open and 
collaborative mapping and the sharing of 
knowledge.44 For the Space exhibition the 
Antisystemic Library will experiment with the 
usage of RFID tags in their system. Unlike the 
other artists, evoLhypergrapHyCx has not answered 
the questions in my small questionnaire one by 
one, but has written a sharp manifesto about the 
Sane White Adult Male Propertied Official 
Identity (SWAMPOID):

"'We' are entering a period when human 
transactions are being industrialised, even the 
industrialisation of identity itself. What 
television did for the imagination, RFID can do 
for identity." (evoLhypergrapHyCx, 2006. 
SWAMPOID. The full manifesto can be found at

It seems that a strong commonality between the 
artists is that they see their task in raising 
awareness. As society is sleepwalking into 
another technological paradigm change artists 
hope to raise a discussion by engaging the public 
with their RFID artworks. Some of the 
participating artists hope that the technology 
can also be 'reclaimed' in a certain sense, that 
artists can think up uses which were not intended 
by the manufacturer and thereby create new 
imaginative spaces. Mute-Dialogue for instance 
stress that this type of open engagement is 
hardly possible in the commercial and creative 
industries. According to them artists can "inform 
new ways of thinking" about existing technologies 
and offer "interactions and experiences that are 
unique." Mute-Dialogue think that RFID - rather 
than just being utilized for the tracking of 
commercial products - could also be thought of 
"as social networking tool" or be used for 
interactive dance performances. But not all the 
artists share this optimism about an 'alternative 
use of technology'. Louis-Philippe Demers 
challenges the notion that artists somehow 
magically bring 'difference', and 
evoLhypergrapHyCx openly confronted the 
'aestheticisation of politics' as a 'staple of 
fascist ideology' in an earlier version of the 
SWAMPOID manifesto. 

RFID (proposed to be pronounced 'arphid') may be 
the technology, but the social practice of 
'tagging' and its implications are the real theme 
of the exhibition. It needs to be recognized that 
there is not one coherent field of media art 
today but works and approaches coming from very 
different backgrounds, some being informed by 
debates about art and science whereas others are 
more openly politically motivated. Although the 
visual field tends to be very predominant, sound 
art has created its own history of engaging with 
(anti)social technologies. The fact that 
different approaches are brought to the theme is 
in itself important and should help to highlight 
what contemporary praxis in art and technology 
really is about - not the technologies as such 
(as ill-informed critiques of those practices 
claim) but the various two-way links between the 
social and the technological, between things and 

As this text is written weeks before the 
exhibition this would appear to impede making any 
qualitative statement. Although art utilizing new 
technologies often appears to be strongly concept 
driven, a good exhibition still works through the 
senses and creates unintended consequences in the 
mind of the 'reader' of a work. In this spirit I 
hope to have given some context to the works 
without imposing any preconceived meanings.


Richard Barbrook, 2006. The Class of the New. 
London: Mute Print on Demand publication.

Jack Burnham, 2005. "Systems Esthetics". (First 
published in Artforum, September 1968) in Open 
Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970. Donna De Salvo, 
edt. London: Tate Publishing.

Paul N. Edwards, 1996. Closed Worlds, Computers 
And The Politics of Discourse in Cold War 
America. Boston and London: MIT Press.

Anne Galloway, 2003. Resonances and Everyday 
Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City (draft). 
[online]. Available from:
es_draft.html, last accessed August 2006.

N. Katherine Hayles, 1999. How we became 
posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, 
Literature and Informatics. Chicago and London: 
The University of Chicago Press.

Bruno Latour, 1999. Pandora's Hope. Essays on the 
Reality of Science Studies. Boston and London: 
Harvard University Press.

Armin Medosch, 2006a. 'Meshing in the Future - 
the Free Configuration of Everybody and 
Everything with Hive Networks' in Media Mutandis, 
a Node.London Reader. Marina Vishmidt, edt.. 
London: Node.London. 

Armin Medosch, 2006b. 'Waves - Introduction'. in 
Electromagnetic Waves as Material and Medium for 
Art. Exhibition Catalogue, Armin Medosch and Rasa 
Smite, edts. Riga: RIXC.

Felix Stalder, 2006. 'On the Differences between 
Open Source and Open Culture'. In: Media 
Mutandis, a Node.London Reader. Marina Vishmidt, 
edt.. London: Node.London.

Bruce Sterling, 2005. Shaping Things. Boston: MIT 

Sherry Turkle, 1995. Life on the Screen: Identity 
in the Age of the Internet. Paperback  Edition 
1997 London: Phoenix Paperback.

Paul Virilio, 1994. The Vision Machine. 
Translated by Julie Rose. London: BFI Publishing.

1	 cf. Bruce Sterling, 2005. Shaping Things. 
Boston: MIT Press
2	 Distances vary between a few centimeters and 
10 meters and more, depending on antenna design 
and which radio frequency is being used
3	 RFID relies on an information infrastructure 
almost like another internet; for more 
information see the Automated ID webpages - 
available online from:, last 
accessed August 2006.
4	 "Passive RFID tags have no internal power 
supply. The minute electrical current induced in 
the antenna by the incoming radio frequency 
signal provides just enough power for the CMOS 
integrated circuit (IC) in the tag to power up 
and transmit a response. Most passive tags signal 
by backscattering the carrier signal from the 
reader". Wikipedia 2006 [online] Available from last accessed 
August 30 2006.
5	 A neo-liberal argument which claims that 
first capitalists need to create wealth so that 
it can 'trickle down' to the masses.
6	 "In the PR world the war is won or lost by 
how things are branded. The debate over RFID is 
no different. Katherine has cleverly referred to 
RFID tags as spychips. Who wouldn't be opposed to 
"spychips?" I prefer the term: consumer-value 
tags. This is a much more accurate term, not only 
because the RFID won't enable spying, but more 
importantly because it enables significant 
consumer value. [...] Perhaps I should mention 
that I am a card-carrying consumer value tag 
user. I have lots of CVT's on me. My cell phone. 
My RFID key to my office building. My Metro Card 
to ride on the subway. My Mobil speed pass. By 
the way, if anyone has a rogue scanner, feel free 
to scan me and extract any info you need". Rob 
Atkinson, 2006. 'RFID: There's Nothing to Fear 
Except Fear Itself': Opening Remarks at the 16th 
Annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference 
May 4, 2006, Washington, DC. Available online 
last accessed August 2006.
7	 On top of that, many schemes us the ISM band 
(Industrial, Scientific and Medical) a licence 
exempt part of the radio spectrum which can be 
used by anyone without special permission. It is 
therefore not illegal to possess hardware which 
operates in that spectrum.
8	 Anonymous, 2006. 'Foiling the Oyster Card' 
[online] Available from
oyster_card.html, last accessed August 2006.
9	 'Efficient regimes' are here referring to non-
democratic societies exemplified by the regimes 
of city states such as Hong Kong and Singapore 
which endorse capitalism but not liberal 
10	 The Guardian, Monday March 13, 2006, 'Oyster 
Data Use Rises in Crime Clampdown'. Available 
online from:,,1729999
,00.html, last accessed August 2006.
11	Luis Padilla Visdómine, 2006. 'Turning Your 
Mobile Into a Magnetic Stripe Reader'. [online] 
Available from
ndtrack.html, last accessed August 2006.
12	 The Guardian, August 7 2006. 'Hackers crack 
new biometric passports'. [online] Available 
8751,00.html, last accessed August 2006.
13	 White hat hackers are security experts 
working for companies who make it their business 
to expose flaws and offer solutions, as opposed 
to 'black hats' who work completely in secrecy.
14	 'Just Got My Implants', from the "Tagged" 
RFID implant forums. Online forum posting.  
Available from, 
last accessed August 2006.
15	 Mafia Fraud Attack is a type of man-in-the-
middle attack against secure systems using 
cryptography. For more information see for 
16	 In IT security a 'brute force attack' is an 
attempt at breaking a password by simply 
calculating all possible permutations of 
17	 What is really 'convenient in this regard is 
that the industry sells 'solutions' for problems 
which it has created itself.
18	 cf Paul Virilio, 1994. The Vision Machine.
19	 'Past  futures' are ideas from the past about 
technological futures which have not and will not 
materialize but still have an influence on our 
20	 Enemies will fear consequences which are as 
virtual as the technology itself. Critics in the 
Foucalt-Deleuze line of critique of the society 
of control are often those who buy most 
wholeheartedly into a technological 'vision' 
which is, fortunately, still far away from 
becoming a reality.
21	 Trials with CCTV and face recognition have 
been running for years in Newham, east London. 
Despite not identifying a single criminal the 
trial has been expanded for a another period.
22	 As indeed the use of the word 'structure' 
implies a structuralist or post-structuralist 
position, which I actually do not share. I use 
the word in its everyday meaning.
23	 This entire paragraph is informed by critical 
readings of AI, cybernetics and information 
theory by authors such as Sherry Turkle (1995) 
and N.Katherine Hayles (1999), in particular the 
notion that information becomes context free as a 
precondition for it to become fetishized. This 
enables technoscience to create an image of the 
world based on its own ontological assumptions , 
i.e. the universe as a hugely complex parallel 
computer. It is easy to see the 'cultural 
fallacy' at work in those assumptions. Computers, 
the leading technology of our times, are used to 
explain the world. A couple of centuries ago the 
universe was running like a 'clockwork'.  
24, is a community site for 
computer geeks which offers extensive commenting 
and rating functions. Every posting on the site 
is followed by a huge trail of analysis and 
comment by readers, comments which are also rated 
by the community according to their accuracy or 
relevancy, thereby creating a very effective 
system of harnessing the expertise of a large 
25	 According to Latour the categorical 
separation between subject and object which we 
have inherited from early Greek philosophy is a 
deeply flawed concept. He proposes instead a 
different model which is based on transitions 
between things (non-humans) and the social world 
(humans) thereby abolishing the subject-object 
dichotomy. cf. Latour 1999.
26	 Interestingly, according to this 'vision' 
things, and not humans are 'the protagonists  of 
a historical process'. The agency which is 
accorded to products is denied humans. 
Technoscientific progress phases out ordinary 
people as a significant factor in shaping history 
whereas it privileges a new digital elite. 
Sterling shares this viewpoint with many techno-
visionaries of the late 20th and early 21st 
century. Many thanks to Marina Vishmidt for 
emphasising this aspect.
27	 cf. The Human Engagement With Objects. Figure 
2, page 51, and The Mirrored S-Curve of 
Technological Adaptation. Figure 3, page 59, 
design by Lorraine Wild in Sterling (2005). 
28	 cf. Richard Barbrook's 2006 Class of the New.
29	 Even Ubicomp now is opened up to experiments 
through projects such as HIVE Networks. cf 
Medosch 2006a.
30	 Some writers have put forward good reasons 
for doubts  that 'open source principles' can be 
so easily transferred to other areas, one major 
reason being that bits are more easily 
reproducible than atoms. cf. Felix Stalder 2006
31	 Language is not only the glue but also a 
suitable point of intervention. Artists such as 
Wilfred Hou Je Bek have playfully engaged with 
marking up taxonomies or folksonomies of places. 
Tagging or annotating places, and creating 
community-based maps was the dernier cri of net 
art app. 2003. Meanwhile annotating places and 
inventing folksonomies has become a new mass 
culture on the net with Google Maps, 
and Flickr. 
32	  "The Auto-ID Center's vision is to 
revolutionise the way we make, buy, and sell 
products by merging bits (computers) and atoms 
(humans) together for optimal mutual 
communication. Everything will be connected in a 
dynamic, automated supply chain that joins 
businesses and consumers together to benefit 
global commerce and the environment. The Auto-ID 
Center opened at the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, USA in October 1999; a second lab 
opened at Cambridge University, UK in 2000. The 
Center is developing a standard system to 
identify objects using RFID [Radio Frequency 
Identification]. RFID tags are built into objects 
like food, clothes, drugs or auto-parts, and 
read' by devices in the environment, e.g., in 
shelves, floors, doors... The Center has over 30 
sponsors including Procter & Gamble, Gillette, 
International Paper, Sun Microsystems, Philip 
Morris Group, USPS, Phillips,  Unilever, Wal-Mart 
and Tesco...Field Testing started October 2001; 
prototype hardware will be tested 2002. 
Specifications and business cases could be 
published 2003. Commercial availability is not 
likely until 2004-5 earliest". ... Auto-ID Center 
Research overview.  Available from:, last 
accessed August 2006
33	 The tendency of the 'logical layer' to 
dominate the world could easily be referenced to 
the privileged concept of the 'logos' in Western 
34	 Such a project does indeed exist. However, at 
the time of writing the website was not available.
35	 "Put differently, any given ubiquitous 
technology may be understood to comprise its 
contexts of research, development, manufacture, 
sale, implementation, use and eventual disposal. 
Shifting socio-technical arrangements are 
negotiated in particular space-times, and it 
becomes impossible to reduce Ubicomp to discrete 
(stable) objects of computation". Anne Galloway, 
2003. 'Resonances and Everyday Life: Ubiquitous 
Computing and the City (draft)', online article. 
Available from:
es_draft.html, last accessed August 2006.
36	 "Easily envisioned as part of Latour's (1999) 
'proliferation of hybrids,' ubiquitous computing 
is the archetypal hybrid and mobile technology at 
work within a society of control. Latour (1999: 
214) claims that we live and act as a 'collective 
of humans and non-humans' in which an 
increasingly large number of humans are mixed 
with an increasingly large number of nonhumans, 
to the point that, today, the whole planet is 
engaged in the making of politics, law, and soon, 
I suspect, morality ... The nasty problem we now 
have to deal with is that, unfortunately, we do 
not have a definition of politics that can answer 
the specifications of this nonmodern history". 
Galloway 2003, quoting Latour, 1999. 
37	 I am referring to early media art, including 
satellite transmissions in the 1970s, by artists 
such as Nam June Paik (Global Groove, 1974) and 
Douglas Davies, 1977 cf. Medosch 2006b and Media 
Art Net 2006 [online] Available from
minutes/ last accessed August 30 2006.
38	 A good example for a 'parasitic' and highly 
ironic strategy was Heath Bunting's project 
'Vunerability' where he used electronic tags to 
create false alarms on entering a store, not when 
leaving it. cf 1996 - 2006 [online] 
Available from
ml last accessed August 30 2006. An echo of this 
type of work can be found  in Paula Roush's 
project for the Tagged exhibition, Arphield 
Recordings, where she asks people to play back 
the beep from Oyster Card-reading machines on 
London tube stations (see further down in this 
39	 cf. Burnham 1968/2005.
40	 This is not just a thing of the past. A 
recent CNNarticle:  "Scientists at the GE 
complex, a landscaped, gated campus of 
laboratories and offices spread out over 525 
acres and home to 1,900 scientists and staff, and 
others in the industry hope to use various 
technologies to reduce false alarms, cut manpower 
used on mundane tasks and give first-responders 
better tools to assess threats. The country's 
growing security needs also provide an 
opportunity to boost business. [...] Since 2002, 
GE has spent $4 billion buying smaller businesses 
to take a bigger share of the $160 billion global 
security industry, a market that includes 
everything from building security to narcotics 
detection. The company expects $2 billion in 
revenue from its security businesses this year. 
That should rise to $2.8 billion in 2009, said 
Louis Parker, chief executive of GE's security 
unit. [...] "Ever since the Department of 
Homeland Security was put into place, our 
business has gone up," said James McConnell of 
Acoustech. The three-person company takes in 
$500,000 in revenue a year". CNN, 2006, online 
article.  Available from:
ology.ap/index.html, last accessed August 2006. 
Compare also Edwards, 1996. Closed Worlds.
41	 In a forthcoming text about AmbientTV.NET. In 
many ways, this article is a preview of the 
longer piece on AmbientTV.NET.
42	 The word Muzak has become synonymous with 
'easy listening' music played in shopping malls. 
It is also the trading name of Muzak Holdings 
LLC, a US American company, founded in 1934. 
43	 'Sousveillance', in the words of Steve Mann, 
is inverse surveillance, whereas 'equiveillance' 
describes the balance between surveillance and 
sousveillance. cf Steve Mann 2006 [online] 
Available from last accessed 
August 30 2006.
44	 I was never an active participant but an 
early subscriber (as user) to the DLP system; my 
reflections derive from that experience and may 
be more or less incidental to the project. In 
2003 The University of Openess held a 
Cartographic Congress. At about the same time the 
Locative Media concept was developed at a 
workshop in Latvia. 

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