Thursday, December 1, 2011

PseudoCam Final Update


PseudoCam is a multi-purpose, user-constructed attention modification object. The overall objective of the object is channel the interest of people that want to draw attention to something while also, eventually reflecting attention back to the audience. The user ultimately determines how the PseudoCam should function, and their choice of materials and placement strategy flow from that initial choice. For example, a user could use multiple, brightly-colored PseudoCams to drive a temporary, alternative history tour of a city. By reading directions written on or contained in the hollow form of the PseudoCam, a “flash-tour” of participants can be directed around a location. Or, the PseudoCam can be constructed to be unobtrusive, and therefore have the possibility of surprising the viewer--not only with the notion of pervasive surveillance (as referenced by the PseudoCam's shape), but also with their own reflection--as both the enablers and subjects of the surveillance--via the PseudoCam's mirror. The creator of a PseudoCam gets to decide how and what the PseudoCam means to other through how they decide to use one.

One of the originally envisioned functions of the PseudoCam functions to highlight the role of panopticism in society. In Michel Foucault’s text, Discipline and Punish, he describes Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon--a hypothetical architecture that allows occupants to be controlled through perpetual, perfect observation--as a social structure that has created broad social control through self-imposed surveillance in the service of disciplinary compliance. Foucault describes the panoptic social structure as being not merely imposed on individuals by external forces, but actually self-enforced; the strictures of disciplinary control are internalized by the individual out of a fear of being observed violating the social standards of behavior (and the punishment that may result). Thus, although social control is initialized by the imposition of a system upon the individual, it is ultimately constructed by and sustained within the individual.

The exercise of constructing a PseudoCam can refer to the significance of self-surveillance in both practice and material form. The general form--a camera--is an unambiguous reference to the technology of observation. Although it is a socially distributed design, a PseudoCam is hand-made; the effort of the individual is required for construction, much as the effort of the individual ties them to disciplinary norms. The mirror contained in the PseudoCam reflects only that which is visible in the aperture of the “lens”; in examining the PseudoCam, the viewer reveals themselves to be the subject.

Because the PseudoCam is visually identifiable as a camera-type object by its form, it can evoke the potentially aggressive attributes of a camera without actually being invasive. By being inexpensive, small, and light, the PseudoCam can be deployed easily and unobtrusively in locations that allow the element of surprise when discovered by others. It is through the mechanism of surprise that the PseudoCam is able to function effectively; the process of noticing, recognizing, and investigating an installed PseudoCam allows an uninitiated subject to confront the phenomena of pervasive, distributed surveillance, but also the self-imposition of that surveillance by the members of society.


Construction directions available at Vegetarian in a Leather Jacket art blog
Participation portal available on Flickr at PseudoCam Sightings

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