Computer architectures for personal space: Forms-based reasoning in the domain of Humanistic Intelligence

Forms for use by EXISTech Employees

Copyright, left, and center (c), Steve Mann, Assistant Mailroom Clerk, EXISTech Corporation

Verbatim copying of these forms is permitted, in any medium.

I always found it strange why individuals so willingly acquiesce to the mechanized invasions of privacy caused by video surveillance, yet the same people become angered when overtly photographed by an individual weilding a handheld camera. To resolve this seemingly strange paradox, I have experimented with making myself into a corporation, with its own body-worn video surveillance cameras, for the protection of its body's property. What I have learned is that if I can abandon (or appear to abandon) my autonomy, by becoming a corporation, I have much greater freedom. In particular, I discovered that if I am bound by external forces of policy and procedure (as is typical of a corporation), I can be, in some ways, much more free.

To explore this concept, I recently founded a federally incorporated company (EXISTech Corporation) and appointed myself as Assistant Mailroom Clerk, so that I could be bound to certain freedoms afforded by self-demotion from President and CEO, down to the level of Clerk.

But let me start from the beginning. Back in the 1970s I came up with what seemed, at the time, a crazy invention, comprised of a body worn photographic computer apparatus.

During my more than twenty years of wearing this invention, I have gained some interesting insight into how people regard photographic ideaology, especially in places that:

(See for example, ShootingBack.) In particular, what struck me most oddly, was that I could often get away with taking pictures in places such as department stores and shopping malls where photography was strictly prohibited, even if I could not conceal the apparatus of the invention. (The apparatus has evolved over the past 20 years in various embodiments and has only been made completely covert in this past decade.)

The early cumbersome versions of the apparatus were far from covert (in fact they looked somewhat hideous by today's standards of miniaturization). They certainly attracted far more attention than even a large hand held camera. Yet the facilitated something I came to call incidentalist image capture.

Incidentalist image capture is image capture that appears to be occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation. My camera apparatus was wearoperable (e.g. worn in a manner that it could operate at any time), so that a person such as a department store security guard, could not readily discren whether the apparatus was actually taking a picture.

To ask such a question, the security guards at times seemed paranoid, and in fact posing such a question began to scratch the soft underbelly of something very interesting indeed.

Recently, in 1995, I built a version of the apparatus having the appearance of normal sunglasses. In 1996 I built a full color version of the appratus having appearance of normal eyewear, and finally in 1998 made a version that was reproducible by students in my Pesonal Cybernetics class.

What next

So the apparatus is totally covert, and I had great fun shooting my documentary video in gambling casinos, department stores, and other places where video surveillance is used by the regime, yet photography and video are prohibited by individuals. (Such establishments amount to what Simon Davies refers to as totalitarian regimes.)

So what next?

I've been recently experimenting with deliberately making the cameras more visible, so that they are very obvious, while at the same time fashioning cameras that echo the decor of the establishments and organizations that become my experimental subjects.

What I found most remarkable and interesting about these experiments, is that if I further incorporated the apparatus into a company uniform, or externalized the locus of control, was that I could be empowered even more by this form of self-demotion. Thus, in addition to an incidentalist nature of the apparatus, if it were seen as a corporate uniform (e.g. so that I was just a clerk running errands and stopping off at a department store), I could, in plain obvious sight, capture images, and even have a wearable flash lamp to make it very obvious I was doing so.

The result of this research has been to produce a set of forms that can be used by others to reproduce some of these results.

These forms represent a kind of reflectionist philosophy in which the individual mirrors the establishment (e.g. holding up a mirror to society), while at the same time creating a kind of symmetrical structure in reverse.

Thus employees of EXISTech Corporation are required to photograph everyone they have business relationships with, and at the same time, ironically, require persmission from Head Office prior to allowing themselves to be photographed by others (e.g. for ID cards or the like).


Here are three forms (forms A, B, and C) pertaining to being searched: All three forms are available here.

aaaa: add subjectrights medical (EXISTech employees undergoing medical exam)