Introduction: Displaycer

Do you want to gain greater insights into your own sense of privacy? Do you want to reflect on what being in a public space means to yourself? Displaycer can help you! Just put it on and then let it take the pictures and run itself! It will display your multiple identities on a screen you are wearing on your chest for all to see! Imagine going to work and having those cool party photos on your person.

And it can do many more other things by simple modifications.

Displayser is a wearable robot photographer that serves as a dispositioned, delayed and wired extension to human eyes. Not only can it catches images of an individual as a selfie, but more importantly it can reconstruct individual’s selfhood by documenting and reconstructing the motional space around him or her in continuity or discontinuity – and in turn constructing a spatialized autobiography and history.

Displaycer will change the way individuals look and re-look their environment and themselves. It also gives individuals more freedom as well as control over how others look at themselves. The numerous ways this device can be modified and extended on multiple levels – such as bodily positioning, image-catching, processing and display – could lead to important and interesting functional and critical developments with meaningful social implications.

The name “displaycer” comes from the common word “display” which reflects the fact that image-viewing experience has always been related to image-manipulation – or “play” – with different degrees of intentionalities. Display is first off a spatial event when the images are played in different places. It is also an intrinsically a temporal event when any display will inevitably be a replay, even in the occasion of real-time broadcasting.

Like the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who in his practice theory proposed a science of reflexivity that incorporates both spatial “position” and bodily “disposition”. Our displayser is a practical technology that combines visual experiences’ twofold double characters: they are at the same time bodily and spatial, visual and reflective. It speaks to the consistency between what is being looked at, from what angel one is looking at, and who is looking.

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: Materials and Tools


Arduino Uno - INF 2241 build
Readings and research
Android Mobile Device (pictured; cat not needed)



Step 2: Think About What It Means to Display Private Information

Using the prompt "build a device that displays private information in a public space"

You may want to consider what 'private' and 'public' means, to yourself and to the people around you. Discuss with your teammates. Talk about what each of you think about at what point things are 'private'. Consider spaces and activities where things are expected to be private.

You may come up with things like:
Intimate or sexual moments with a partner
bathroom activities
embarassing habits
unusual hobbies
'awkward' places (such as sex shops, bathhouses, dungeons)
Creepy situations like photos of you sleeping

An interesting reading to consider these concepts is:

Berlant, Lauren and Michael Warner. 1998. Sex in Public. Critical Inquiry 24 (Winter): 547–566.

Step 3: Do a 10x10 Design Plan

Come up with 10 designs to explore your idea.

Don't worry too much about whether you can build your idea- that's a problem for future-you.

If there's idea you feel attracted to, come up with 10 variations or iterations on that idea.

This way you know what you're getting into and can ensure that you have picked an idea worth executing.

Step 4: Solidify Your Idea

One of your ideas was a device that displays time-shifted information in real-space.

Solidify your idea by discussing the actually, physical realities of this device.

NOTE: You don't actually have to come to a consensus on all these ideas. Diversity of opinion yields rich discussion and deeper understanding of the concepts.

We had to consider:

What does it show:
Video? Images? Audio? Location?

Audio is too annoying. Location presents unavoidable safety risks.
Video is tempting but images are conceptually attractive - representations of spaces that require interpretation. The viewer has to use some imagination to glean meaning from the image. This requires the viewer to make decisions about what ze's (gender neutral pronoun) seeing.

Do the users get to choose what information is shown?

No. The conscious decision to make something visible to everyone is making it public. Creating a device that automatically takes pictures and automatically displays them takes control from the user in determining what is private and public. In this device we determined that some loss of agency is required in order to explore what is private and public.

What kind of time-shift are we talking about?

This question forces us to think about how privacy can be time-based, what our lives look like at different times of the day and how we may not want that information to cross the time differential. Times were discussed from 4 - 24 hours. 12 hours provided interesting contrast: How does your life look different at 10am and 10pm?

How is this device implemented on the body?

The placement of the device provides different information. Placing it on the front shows viewers what the wearer was looking at. Placing it on the back gives information about how people were looking at and reacting to the wearer (potentially showing some of their privateness as well, in terms of how they acted when the wearer wasn't watching). Flexibility in how this is worn would be an interesting feature.

Step 5: Consider the Readings and How It May Apply to Your Device

These readings will inform how you may think about you device. While this is a single step, it will take place throughout your conceptual and building process.

Bell, Genevieve & Paul Dourish (2005), Yesterday's Tomorrows: Notes on Ubiquitous Computer's Dominant Vision
Weiser, Mark (1991), The Computer for the 21st century

Oulasvirta, Antti & Esko Kurvinen, Tomi Kankainen (2003), Understanding contexts by being there: Case studies in Bodystorming
Philips, David (No Date), Ubiquitous Computing, Spatiality, and the Construction of Identity: Directions for Policy Response

In considering the readings make evaluations about your technology:

For example, here are our thoughts:

Bell & Dourish talk about messy infrastructures for ubicomp - this messes up your personal infrastructure of identities → pg. 8
Weiser discusses “embodied virtuality” bringing the virtual to the real -- we eliminate the virtual altogether by placing the technology on the body→ pg. 3

There is no need for ubiquitous internet with our device because it is on display all the time, and does not connect with a server or web to store or retrieve its information, it is a local, personal technology.

Possibility for revealing the various masks you put on in different locations when you display yourself. Your work identity becomes conflated with your weekend identity. This has consequences around eligibility decisions, making information known to your employer that you previously would not have revealed.

You are always on display with our Displayser!

Ubicomp requires low cost parts, convenient displays, and software which ties all of that together -- our device accomplishes all three. There's no need to bring the computer out of the electronic shell when the computer system is a wearable

Step 6: Consider the Quanitifed Self

Decide whether you want your device to be part of a tracking, recording, or self-quantification process. Discuss what the implications for this are.

Our device will not be part of the quantified self. It is an exploration of public and private only - once images are displayed they will be deleted. Our device is not connected to the internet and there will be no server that keeps images for future reference.

This eliminates some of our concerns about privacy from oppressive authority systems.

Step 7: Attempt to Build Device With Arduino USB Host

Attempt to build the Displayser using the Arduino Uno Immediately run into problems around how the images will be stored and how to use the camera.

Spend a few days exploring this possibility leveraging your own knowledge and the knowledge of the online community. Agree that while it is certainly possible to build this with the Arduino, skill and time limits would result in a highly representative prototype. Agree that it is more useful to make a better realized prototype using another platform than to persist with the Arduino.

Feel kind of bad about this, but move on with your life.

Step 8: Use the MIT App Inventor 2 to Build Device

Use the MIT App Inventor 2 to build the device to be prototyped on mobile Android devices.

Immediately run into problems with hardware permissions and automatically taking pictures.

Discover a java workaround and install it on your devices.


Modify code to fit the parameters of the Displayser and install it on devices, including storage of pictures and creating different time delays. 

Step 9: Put on Devices and Take Pictures

Use the devices in whatever way feels interesting to you and collect pictures for your time-displaced privacy exploration.

Oulasvirta, Kurvinen, Kankainen: Bodystorming -- what is it like to use this device is x space?

Use of this device in actual space results in consideration  about what it would be like to use device in a space where it would not be welcome -- Subaltern and safe space communities and what they consider as spaces/identities. Considerations about what consitute private spaces - why is our home a private space? When we're just home, alone, what does privacy mean?

Explore these concepts by actually using the device and examining the complications and feelings it elicits, notice environments that make use easy or hard, become aware of complications. Notice when you start modifying your actions of environments because you're wearing it.

Keep in mind that use of this device may result in:

  • Modified social relations -- Philips (ND) pg. 303
  • Altered identities because outside forces may have more impact upon your identity -- Philips (ND) pg. 304
  • Confused sense of place because your multiple selves may conflate with one another due to the use of the device Philips (ND) pg. 313
    • Be aware that your selves may bridge together
    • Consider: people who your device may capture. Do not forget their feelings.

Step 10: Evaluate Device Based on Use

Consider some concepts discussed in class and with your group, and how your device explores those ideas. 

Consider how your identity may be 'augmented' through the use of this device. 

Viseu - Simulation and Augmentation: Issues of Wearable

Consider how this device requires sharing different aspects of yourself than you normally would in a given space E.g. being at work and having images displayed of you at a previous locale which is not work appropriate, and the consequences of this. Examine changes in behaviour. 

What are the implications for closeted/oppressed individuals and communities- how does this effect GSM/alt lifestyles? What happens when you experience difference of treatment because of what is displayed? 

Note that this device isn't simulating an experience, but is changing your current, lived experience. Nothing artificial is being created, but a different 'real' is being displayed. 

Question whether this technology end up ‘flattening’ our identities - does it eliminate the possibility of multiple identity performances? Does it create possibilities for visibility or representation? What does this mean for identity performance (Butler, Goffman) - one identity is always ‘on’ (Butler, Goffman)?

Consider the implications not only for yourself but for people around you - how is their privacy maintained? What about the choice of the people around you to not be exposed to your privacy?

Feel very complicated about it all. Consider that complicated feeling success. 

If you feel like you have gained a better understanding of what private and public mean through this process, you have participated in design oriented research as described by Fallman. Through doing the conceptual work and designing your your device specifically to explore a concept, you have gained knowledge and insight around that concept. 

Step 11: References

Bell, Genevieve & Paul Dourish (2005), Yesterday's Tomorrows: Notes on Ubiquitous Computer's Dominant Vision
Weiser, Mark (1991), The Computer for the 21st century

Butler, J. 1993. Imitation and gender insubordination. Pp 307-320 in H. Abelove, M. A. Barale, D. M. Helperin (Eds.) The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.

DiSalvo, C. (2008) paper on canary system from PDC 2008 proceedings. The Neighborhood Networks Project: A Case Study of Critical Engagement and Creative Expression Through Participatory Design.

Fallman, Daniel. 2007. Why Research-Oriented Design Isn't Design-Oriented Research: On the Tensions Between Design and Research in an Implicit. Design Discipline. Knowledge, Technology & Policy 20, no. 3 (October 1): 193-200. (alternate journal title: Knowledge in Society)

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Oulasvirta, Antti & Esko Kurvinen, Tomi Kankainen (2003), Understanding contexts by being there: Case studies in Bodystorming
Philips, David (No Date), Ubiquitous Computing, Spatiality, and the Construction of Identity: Directions for Policy Response

Phillips, David (in press) “Ubiquitous Computing, Spatiality, and the Construction of Identity: Directions for Policy Response,” in Ian Kerr, Valerie Steeves and Carole Lucock (eds.), Privacy, Identity and Anonymity in a Network World: Lessons from the ID Trail. New York: Oxford University Press.

Viseu, A. (2003). Simulation and Augmentation: Issues of Wearable Computers. Ethics and Information Technology, 5 (1), 17-26

Weiser, M. 1991. The Computer for the 21st Century. Scientific American, 265(3), 94-104.

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    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The device can be used to test the personal boundary between the public and the private, so the answer is: you can wear it in public if you choose to.