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LOCA: Location Oriented Critical Arts
by John Evans, Drew Hemment, Theo Humphies and Mika Raento

John Anthony Evans
Kauppakartanonkatu 16 f 69
00930 Helsinki
Tel: +358 44 555 0211

Drew Hemment
Creative Technologies
University of Salford
M3 6EQ
Tel: +44 161 295 5000

Theo Humphries
31 Picton Street
Tel: +44 777 963 4228

Mika Raento
c/o Department of Computer Science
PO Box 68
fin-00014 University of Helsinki


Loca is an artist-led interdisciplinary project on mobile media and surveillance that explores the shifting boundaries between art practice, the event and data systems.

Loca is an exercise in everyday surveillance, tracking digital bodies in physical space. It explores an emerging ecology of disclosure and surveillance that has arisen with developments in mobile and pervasive media. It looks at what happens when it is easy for everyone to track everyone, when surveillance can be effected by consumer level technology within peer-to-peer networks without being routed through a central point.

Loca is grass-roots, pervasive surveillance
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A person walking through the city centre hears a beep on their phone and glances at the screen. Instead of an SMS alert they see a message reading: ”We are currently experiencing difficulties monitoring your position: please wave your network device in the air.”

Loca aims to lightly touch large numbers of people. The aim is not complex interaction, but subtle affect. It will be like a picture glanced at sideways, a message caught in the corner of the eye, or a mosquito swatted on the arm. It occupies an uncertain temporality, insofar as the time it is experienced by the user, or even that it is experienced at all, cannot be predicted.

Loca deploys a cluster of interconnected Bluetooth nodes within inner city urban environments, each one is built using readily available, cheap parts, and is encased in concrete.

Loca consists of a small network of nodes containing a Bluetooth device. Each one is built using readily available, low-cost consumer components.
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The nodes are encased in concrete for use in urban environments,
and deployed in public space
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Loca enables anyone with any device that has Bluetooth set to discoverable to be tracked. As the project develops inferences based on analysis of the data (sever-side) will guide communication with the Bluetooth users.

Bluetooth is the first ‘everyday’ network technology that enables people to be tracked, and to track each other, within the physical environment. The privacy trade off found in pervasive surveillance is common to all network technologies, but here it is not just data but also bodies in space that are being tracked. With all these technologies the only way to opt-out of surveillance is to switch off.

We are not asking people in advance. We don't want their permission. Then it would not be surveillance, but a performance by them for us. One principle of the project is that people should be able to participate through their own mobile phone without being given any additional technology, and without their own device needing to be modified in any way, either through installing software or by altering settings.

Loca is an anticipated accident. The project was initiated in 2003, out of an interest in how surveillance and social control emerge as a residue or unforeseen effect of otherwise virtuous information systems and network technologies. Then it sat in waiting for the accident to happen. The accident was when the Aware/Context Phone collaboration started generating surveillance data, unforeseen by its designers.

Within the arts as well as other disciplines, much work on surveillance has focused on video-based observation, from CCTV to Big Brother, or various forms of ‘dataveillance’, such as large scale data-trawling and data-analysis epitomized by the Echelon system. With Locative Media a form of horizontal or ‘synaptic’ surveillance is emerging that involves monitoring not only information on hard drives, but also digital bodies and objects in the physical environment.

Loca seeks to make perceptible secondary characteristics of mobile communications, such as this ability to locate consumer devices in near and real-time, and the kinds of peer-to-peer surveillance that become possible as a result. It explores the emerging subjectivities made possible by pervasive location aware networked computing devices, and seeks to advance critical artistic practice within the emerging field of Locative Media.

Pervasive surveillance has the potential to be both sinister and positive, at the same time. The intent is to equip people to deal with the ambiguity and find their own conclusions.



Loca is supported by:
Arts and Humanities Research Council
Arts Council England
University of Salford
University of Helsinki
Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki


Artist Biographies

John Evans
John Evans’ design work is eclectic in both scope and discourse and is typified by a series of complex ideas refined into a simple solution.

His work is focused upon how people interact and understand the world around them; much of this interaction is mediated via objects and the spaces people occupy. It is the experience of this mediation that is the locus of my work. This complexity and detail of subject matter demands a design practice that encompasses a wide array of skills and knowledge in order to research, envisage, prototype and design the objects, spaces and experiences he creates.

Currently his work has focused upon investigating social interactions with mobile devices and extensive research into notions of 'sharing experience' and privacy. He co-founded 3eyes Design Consultancy, and much of his commercial and academic work can be found at http://3eyes.co.uk

Drew Hemment

Drew Hemment is director of Future Everything, a non-profit creative company responsible for Futuresonic International Festival; AHRC Research Fellow in Creative Technologies at University of Salford; Project Investigator in PLAN - The Pervasive and Locative Arts Network. Involvement in music events as DJ and/or organizer since 1980s. Projects include Loca (2003-ongoing), Futuresonic (1995-ongoing), Low Grade (2005), Mobile Connections (2004), FutureDJ (2004), Turntable Re:mix (2004), Migrations (2002/3), Blacktronica (2002), Sensurround (2001/2), BrokenChannel (2001) and SenseSonic (2000). Completed an M.A .(Distinction) at the University of Warwick, and a Ph.D at University of Lancaster.

Theo Humphries

Theo Humphries likes people to be delighted, inspired or troubled by the concepts, objects and experiences that he creates or orchestrates.

He frequently conveys his academic work through 'cute' media (such as video, or playful objects), yet sinister currents flow beneath this amiable exterior: surveillance, obsolescence, addiction, urban-decay, sex.

Much of his work involves synthesizing simple ideas or communicating complex ideas in a simple way. He strives to provoke reactions in people; to promote questioning and reflection in others.

He is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and a cofounder of 3eyes Design Consultancy, and much of his commercial and academic work can be found at http://3eyes.co.uk

Mika Raento
Mika Raento is a Ph.D candidate at the Department of Computer Science, University of Helsinki. His thesis' working topic is 'Privacy management in ubiquitous computing'. In exploring the different aspects of privacy in the increasingly computerized everyday, he has been involved in field studies of social awareness systems, data analysis, empirical privacy legislation research and locative art projects.

Mika holds a M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Jyväskylä. In a previous life he worked as a systems architect in Sweden. He is the main force behind the ContextPhone context-aware mobile application platform.

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