I don't know how I came across a document called: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections - Jail Design Guide - A Resource for Small and Medium-Sized Jails.pdf. I think it might have been when looking for something on libgen which is sort of ironic. Anyway, the images are sort of super interesting in a really bleak way.


I love this image from the first few pages of the document which comes after the header: 'IMAGE/APPEARANCE' and the following text:


The jail will project an "image" and give a message to the people who pass by, visit, work, or are confined there – although the way each person responds to it will depend on why they are there. The building's image helps people recognize the type of place it is and establishes their expectations for what will happen there, how they will be treated, and how they should behave.


The typical jail of the past is easily recognizable – hard and impenetrable, with steel bars and barbed wire. Many people now think that this traditional jail image is inappropriate given new attitudes about the role and purpose of the jail; that is, the desire to elicit normal behavior and to create a positive and accessible addition to the local community. Older jails tend to convey a message only of punishment and inaccessibility.


It's a lovely description which highlights some of the intersections of design and the way that criminal justice is administered. Something, which of course, has been noted elsewhere too, for example Foucault's description of the Panopticon The Panopticon Writings by Jeremy Bentham. Enough about Foucault though, what's interesting about the document and the images is the way in which the functionality and performativity of space is encoded in its design. The sequencing of offices and the heights of windows is considered in relation to the effects it has on visibility, or safety and even quality of light.


The following image (of which there are many) presents how a specifics pace will be used; how functions are scheduled within time and space and the subsequent layout in architectural plan form.


And this image which super simply shows how natural light can be provided to cells whilst maintaining security.

I'll try find more...


T












It makes sense for the first proper post on this site to be about this photo. It's one I have used, and returned to a lot over the past few years as a tool for explaining my research, and as a reminder about what it is I am doing. In a way it sparked the initial idea to do a PhD.


It’s a photo of an arrest, and it was taken from the window of a studio I had at the time in Brixton. The studio building was/is directly adjacent from Brixton police station so it wasn't unusual to see police officers or hear sirens. To be honest, I don’t really know what made me stop what I was doing at the time and climb up to the window ledge to see what was going on. Must have been more interesting than what I was doing... then again we spent a lot of time watching life happen beneath us out of that window. Anyway, this particular scene was interesting enough for me to take some photos and to spark a conversation.


What interested me at the time about the scene (and still does) is the number of people recording what's going on. The police, and the majority of the people on the pavement are all recording what's going on. (I'm also recording them recording, and for all I know someone was recoding me recording them...) Why? For those on the pavement: perhaps they were protecting the suspect from the potential of heavy-handed policing, or saving an image for posterity, maybe recording it just because they can... They're probably uploading it to social media – I did with the caption 'lens as witness'. For the the police: the body-worn cameras (BWCs) they're wearing have a range of suggested functions. From collecting evidence and speeding up early guilty pleas, to protecting against false claims of abuse, even preventing abuse in the first place. Whatever any of the reasons (and I'm sure they are multiple) the nature of the police-public encounter has shifted in recent years: it has become a media event.


The incident (and looking at the photo afterwards) inspired me to return to the topic of police BWCs, something I had researched at in my masters and had always felt I had only scratched the surface of. I was interested to know more about the cameras, how they had seemingly been assimilated so quickly into policing and what the potential implications of them were. To be honest, I felt slightly uncomfortable about them, despite reminders that they were not a silver bullet for the issues facing policing I couldn't help but feel like both the police and the public were placing a lot of hope in them.


Over the next few years, my opinions about BWCs have changed as my knowledge about policing has grown. I'm still slightly uneasy bout the technology (though perhaps for different reasons). I certainly think the cameras are important and provide real benefits. At the end of the day, just look at the picture, it would be pretty strange if the police didn't have cameras, especially considering how central image making is to they way we live our lives. Instead, I feel like implications of the cameras should be the focus of discussion. How they are used, or might be used in the future. Moreover, the technology we perhaps should be talking about is probably not the cameras themselves but instead things like facial-recognition, live streaming or the infrastructures the cameras are embedded in.


I've come to think about this investigation into the BWC as a kind of undesign. The book Undesign: Critical Practices at the Intersection of Art and Design helped form some of my thinking about this, but I initially used the word in a conversation on the phone with a police officer when trying trying to explain what my project was about. Undesign, in this research has been the process untangling and disassembling the BWC – both in a metaphorical and a literal sense – and examining its relationship with a range of different infrastructures, actors or 'influences' (for want of a better word). Simply, thinking about the relationship between BWCs and police culture; BWCS and police fiction; BWCs and other technologies (Taser for example) etcetera etcetera.


Over the next few posts I'm going to dump a range of different images, things I've made and ideas in relation to this idea of undesign, I'll preface these posts with 'UNDESIGN' in the title.


T







Making some sort of ‘public facing’ space/site for some of the stuff (image, thoughts, references, links etc.) related to my PhD research has been on my to-do list for a while and have finally pulled my finger out...

To give a little bit of background: I’m a designer researching police use of body-worn video cameras (BWCs). Simply, I’m interested in how design (methods/processes/practices) can be used to understand and shed light on the technology. More broadly, I’m also interested in the relationship between design, crime and crime control– hence the name [1] – so you can expect a range of things to be posted on here but generally related to policing, crime, surveillance, technology and design.

I intend this site to function a bit like a journal and will try to update regularly (perhaps weekly). If you're interested in anything on here feel free to drop me an email or get me on Twitter


I'm going to make the bulk if this post a separate about page but I thought it best to start with an explanation.


I've got a bunch of stuff that I aim to 'dump' here before moving on to some more polished posts...

[1] – I will do a post on Hal Fosters ‘Design and Crime: And Other Diatribes’ at some point.



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