Thursday, September 29, 2011

PseudoCam, wearable behavior modification system

It is fairly uncontroversial to assert that many people will modify their behavior when they are aware of being observed or recorded. As a mechanism of modifying behavior, the implication of observation‐and the implicit threat of punishment or retribution based on the evidence thus obtained‐is both time-honored and effective. The principle, exmplified in social phenomena such as Santa Claus, is one of the reasons that investigative reporters and law enforcement professionals frequently make use of hidden cameras specifically to prevent people around them from altering their behavior so the "true" speech and actions of the subject can be recorded.

But what if inducing others to modify their behavior is actually the primary goal of using a recording device instead of a mere side-effect of the act of openly capturing images and/or audio? The introduction of an obvious means of recording a social interaction alters the event in potentially desirable ways; rude or uncooperative customer service agents, unruly teenagers, and insensitive comments or jokes can be discouraged by the tactical deployment of a camera.

The continuing miniaturization and commodification of optic sensors and audio recording devices already give individuals the capability to capture their interactions with others through a wide variety of ubiquitous consumer devices such as cell phones and tablets in addition to point-and-shoot cameras or handheld video recorders. However, many of these products demand constant manual engagement to hold and operate, which can negatively impact the wearer's mobility. Also, because the devices require power and internal capacity to actively record images, video, or audio, the user is required to devote mental resources to managing the batteries and storage media of the devices. The technical aspects of operating a modern recording device, while suited to the purposes of recording, actually impede a user that is primarily interested in modifying the tone of their social interactions.

Additionally, in some jurisdictions, the state of law has not fully digested recent technological advancement as it relates to photo- and videography within the public sphere. As a result, the use of recording devices in certain public and semi-public contexts, such as at shopping malls, performance venues, or around police officers, can result in a range of legal consequences ranging from denial of entry to actual prosecution for wiretapping or eavesdropping, as illustrated by the state of Illinois' ongoing case against Michael Allison. Although the legal right to record people in public is theoretically held to be valid by the courts (see Glik v. Cunniffe), the widespread confusion apparent in recent court actions encourages a degree of risk avoidance when implementing a camera-based behavioral modification system, if for no other reason then to reduce or obviate the need for an expensive legal defense.

The purpose of the PseudoCam is to provide a low-cost, DIY, camera-like behavioral modification solution for situations where the actual recording of images or audio is superfluous to requirements. By being a small, light object, the PseudoCam can be affixed to apparel or accessories through the use of Velcro or simple clips. The prominent lens assembly and visible recording indicator light makes the PseudoCam readily identifiable as a active camera to a subject being engaged by the wearer‐such as a store cashier or fellow CTA traveller‐but the overall package is small enough to be worn comfortably and discreet enough that the wearer does not stand out in a crowd. Because the recording indicator light is the only active component in the PseudoCam, the power requirements are trivially low and do not require particular concentration from the user. In addition, in order to avoid the legal hazards of recording in public while still achieving the effect of inducing people to behave as if you were recording them, the PseudoCam does not contain any mechanism for recording images or audio of any kind. And, because it is easily constructed with inexpensive materials, the replacement cost for a lost or destroyed PseudoCam is quite low. Thus, the PseudoCam is a valid solution for anyone interested in observing the effects of camera-based behavioral modification without the potentially significant expense involved in using an actual camera.

Sketch #1 Possible Construction Guide

Sketch #2 Overview

Project Sketches (added 2011-09-29)


  1. I agree with Sabrina that this project should really take advantage of the dark humor embedded within it. Would there be a way to make the camera an actual device that DOESN'T capture images as you would expect, but project something outward? Or create sound? Fart noises? Okay, that would be dumb... but it would be kind of hilarious.

  2. Ok. So you and I already talked a bit about this. I like the concept but wonder about the dilemma of of how real you want to make this thing look and how to get it there. Ok. So yes. If you get there- being arrested for carrying an alleged IED is not good. The other thing I mentioned briefly was perhaps consider the play on the idea of what resources or intuition we use to determine what is fake. (Ex: The real looking fake camera implanted inside the fake looking fake camera).

  3. Perhaps a way to add some further.. reflection.. to whatever situation may arise from its use is to use a mirror for the lens. Not only would the device not be recording anything but it could be implied that the potential subject could observe their own behavior/response in real time.

  4. Cameron, I think the mirror idea is really interesting; I am seriously considering integrating that idea into the project, particularly since I frequently use cameras and devices for self-capture. I have to figure out how well overall gesture works, though.


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