Detention Watch Network: Project Update #1


The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Our project could potentially focus on the Detention Watch Network’s current campaign to end the bed quota.

The reality that exists is that the immigration detention bed quota requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold a minimum of 34,000 immigrants at any given time. Having a quota on how many people must be locked up every day is an issue that indirectly affects everyone. Chrislene, Sean, and I met last Wednesday 2/19 via a google hangout with Silky and Carly from the Detention Watch Network to brainstorm ideas.

A question that came up during our conversation is what would the world look like without detention centers. During the upcoming Discotech this weekend, we hope to address this question and explore the possibilities. We will be meeting with our project partners on Friday 2/28 to finalize what will be covered during the workshop portion.

So far we’ve been researching relevant projects and other inspiring works and started a list:

Punishment and Profits

Innocence Project

Personal Analytics

Data Visualisations by Jer Thorp

MIT database of interactive documentary projects 

Iced Game

Between the Bars


For more information about the end the bed quota campaign, please visit:

SoMove — Project Update #1

We (Arthi, Richard, and Ricardo) are working with SoMove: Social Movements Oral History Tour. We had our first Google Hangout on Monday, 7pm EST with our contact, Puck Lo.

SoMove is network of independent oral historians, multimedia producers, journalists, storytellers, artists and activists working together to collect digital oral histories, share resources and some content with each other, and tour to present their work.

SoMove works with activists and community groups to document ways people creatively change their lives, neighborhoods and the world. Such stories push back against and reframe conventional ideas and oppressive narratives that derive from colonialism and are used to justify inequality.

Infiltrated, our project, is an ambitious multimedia project and online searchable database that tells the national story of government infiltration and surveillance of activist groups and communities targeted by the state since 2001. To do that we’ll be collecting and compiling government records (using the Freedom of Information Act) as well as first-person accounts.  The challenge is to to build the multimedia platform, a hub/clearing house to share these stories. At launch there will be possibly two accounts of infiltration of activist groups each one with audio and their corresponding FOIA file —this will be the initial cohort to base the platform design around. Another goal is to have the platform be self-sustainable and also scalable as more stories and documentation are added to the website.

We had a preliminary discussion on methodology of design.  Based on the information we have from our conversation with Puck, the team will produce a series of wireframes to iterate and discuss on the next meeting. It is possible that this exercise can be conducted at the Discotech event.



Tor/Transition House – Project Update #1

Tue Feb. 25
Blog Post Draft
Today we discussed what surveillance means in domestic violence and what are the problems we can address on. We found that the subjects of surveillance are not limited to government or big firms: ordinary people – such as one’s close partner or an online stalker – can also be the subject of surveillance and do harm to the victims being surveilled.
Abuse leads to control. Control leads to surveillance. In many cases, people are living with their communication channels (e.g. Facebook accounts, mailbox passwords, cellphones) controlled by their partners or someone else. Victims in these cases are not facing death threats or under direct violence (forcing them seeking help from Transition House), but their abuse condition may last longer and be hard to escape from.
So the group of people we are serving is **the ones who are susceptible to “domestic surveillance”**. It is still hard to determine the size of this group. Some people claim that they are being surveilled and their devices are infected, but it may be a real security threat or just their own illusion.
The potential co-design projects forked from this domain are:
1. Build tools to help people find out whether their devices are infected, and whether their social network activities make them vulnerable of being stalked. The solution may be an extension of fuerza (, a set of security diagnosing questionnaires. The challenge is how to gain trust from clients using these tools, and what’s the next steps after diagnosis (how to detect the source of attacks, how to de-infect the device etc.).
2. Build dataset to understand to what extent our privacy and security are being compromised in terms of infected devices and other types of digital surveillance. Works may include interviewing local police departments or building tools to collect data.
3. Raise awareness among people about security risks within their mobile devices. (Perhaps we can make some educational tools?)
What are we going to do on the Discotech?
– a fast security check of cellphone?
– a mini game or some storytelling forms?
– hacking on codebase or content?


ACLU + Guardian (Project update 1)

This semester we are working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well as the Guardian Project.  The ACLU is an organization whose mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”  Often, because they are more likely to be the targets of government harassment or unequal application of the law, the ACLU works with clients from oppressed groups of people: those who are marginalized because of class, race, religion, gender, disability, immigration status, or sexual identity. The organization also works with activists, who are often also targets of government repression. People within these groups are spied on, arrested, and even deported.  It is the mission of the ACLU to help these people get the rights they deserve, and in so doing to expand civil rights and civil liberties protections for all people. The Guardian Project works to build mobile applications that help people communicate more freely, and protect themselves from intrusion and monitoring.

Projects we have discussed range from crowdsourcing the location information of surveillance devices, to notifying people when their cell-phone signal is being intercepted.  When discussing project ideas, we thought it was important to understand who would use the proposed application, in what ways would they use it, and how would it affect them.  Our initial project ideas and thoughts are shared below.

The first project we discussed was building a comprehensive dataset of information regarding surveillance devices.  This would involve building smartphone applications that enables crowdsourcing the collection of surveillance information.  For example, someone could take a phone of a video camera or other surveillance technology and then upload the data anonymously.  Building a complete data set relies heavily on user participation and other attempts have shown that it is infact a lot harder than it seems.  Moreover, the value-add is limited in that having the complete data does not do much to prevent surveillance.

Another idea we had was to begin to suggest a way in which we can diminish the 1% surveyor vs. the 99% participant of surveillance, through interactive systems. In a way that lets the public interact with video surveillance. As the simplest example, Walgreens stores have TVs that let us see ourselves being recorded, “Smile, you’re on Camera,” which acts as the first step in allowing the public to interact with surveillance.

The final project we talked about building is an application that alerts users when their cell phone signal may be compromised.  This could happen when a cell phone, unknown to the user, connects to an IMSI-catcher (  A simple implementation of this project might alert a user when he or she connects to a tower the device has never seen before.  A more robust version might aggregate the data about cell phone tower locations to inform a user when he or she is connecting to a false or unknown mobile tower (IMSI-catcher).  The audience for this application would range from technologists to activists, and extend to anyone that’s concerned about their communication being monitored by a 3rd party.  The cost of a device that can intercept cell phones signals to monitor SMS messages and calls has dropped dramatically, and so the threat of any number of 3rd party bad actors is something to be concerned about.

We have decided to initially pursue the last project listed above (IMSI-catcher detection) after considering pros and cons of each project.  This project seems to have the largest audience, and does the most to help people combat surveillance while also revealing to them the vast telecommunications network we are all invisible tethered to.


Team CURE: Project Update #1

Susanna and I (Miho) are in Team CURE, and we had our first Google hangout meeting today with Josh, Galen and Andrew – it was great to finally talk with them after a bunch of email exchange!


CURE works on criminal justice system from the perspective of human rights – and for this CoDesign class, they would like to work on the issue around sexual offenders who are highly marginalized community.

Josh, Galen and Andrew have been very helpful providing Susanna and me a lot of article and other medias – because it is such a new topic for both of us – and we began to have some ideas of projects. All of the ideas cover either/both of two main things.

1. Legal definitions of sexual offenders include a very large spectrum of people – from those who did public urination to those who committed serious rapes – and they will be all put in Registry and usually cannot get out of it.

2. How the Registry affects very  the sexual offenders’s lives after they are released from the prison (restriction on where to live, where to be, activities, etc.) which is very different from any kinds of restrictions on other serious criminals


We are gearing towards creating an interactive multimedia that increase the general awareness of people on these two points above. The keywords for us are map, personal stories and statistics. More detailed information would come later. 🙂


We’ve had a very dense (and very fun) talk today, and Susanna and I are now digesting the contents while brainstorming some ideas for DiscoTech workshop. Some ideas we have are

1. Mapping where sexual offenders can’t live/have other restrictions in Boston (with colored pencils etc.)

2. Asking people what alternative laws to be made, and compare the results to the currents ones

3. Illustraton Charrete of laws

4. Question generations for storytelling

5. Roleplay (testify as a sexual offender) and compare with the actual testimonies

6. Reaction recording while people watch videos related

7. Some sort of discussion generating workshop: “can you list what offences will land you on the registry?” “what do you think the restrictions are on offenders?” “what do you think the consequences are of being on the registry?”

and more! These ideas above are mostly what we brainstormed before having the hangout meeting, so later this week, we will have a more detailed/polished workshop idea for DiscoTech.

Urban Youth Collaborative

We (Elizabeth, Dan, and Nushelle) are working with Urban Youth Collaborative, a coalition made up of four youth organizations based out of Brooklyn and the Bronx.

  • Make the RoadNew York
  • Sistas and Brothas United
  • Future of Tomorrow
  • Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

UYC runs a number of campaigns including supporting struggling schools and assisting high-school students with college prep.

We will be working with UYC on their campaign, “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline”.

At present, the NYPD controls safety in the schools (in Brooklyn and the Bronx) despite being untrained to work with young people. During the partner presentation, Yorman Nunez and Maria Fernandez related examples of the harsh nature of the disciplinary actions taken, explaining that there is clear evidence of racial profiling and that there is a correlation between suspensions and dropping out of school.

Currently, Yorman and Maria are seeking a means to tell the stories of these students to a larger audience as a means for change. However, documenting these stories is a difficult process.

We are thinking about creating a workshop aimed towards young people in a high school that Maria could run to gather ideas in her community about how to get feedback. In order to come up with a preliminary model that caters to students, we are contacting The Urbano Project, Medicine Wheel Productions, Raw Art Works, and Zumix to invite local high school students to the DiscoTech.

So far we have not yet heard back from our partners, so we will keep trying to contact them to better plan our DiscoTech events.

-Elizabeth, Dan, and Nushelle

Posted in UYC

EFF: Project Update

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 10.20.04 AM

On Thursday, we had our first Skype meeting with Jillian from the EFF (Eva and Jillian are both going to be our point people). We thought it went really well – we’re excited for the semester!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an organization devoted to fighting for our (by which we mean internet users’) rights online, which can include, among other things, free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. Founded in 1990, the EFF is made up of a mix of lawyers, activists, and technologists, who work together to defend the general public’s digital rights.

The project we’re working on is an update and extension to their Surveillance Self Defense project, which aims to educate users about electronic government surveillance and how to properly defend themselves against possible threats. Although the project was initially addressed at an American audience, they’re hoping to make it more international, with the work translated into several different languages. Additionally, the hope is, in conjunction with various partners, to create content “playlists” for specific audiences. A college student in California, for example, might not want/need the same level of surveillance self-defense as a journalist working in Syria.

Our goal, therefore, is to work with them to create this online resource. One of the challenges for us is that the website needs to be easily accessible/modifiable, and since the EFF is already using Drupal, it makes sense for us to build on that. Although we’re feeling pretty good about our website design skills, neither of us have worked with Drupal before, so we’ll see what we can do.

For the Discotech this coming weekend, we’ll be running a Threat Model workshop, working on building visual representations of threat models. Stay tuned for details!

– Paulina and Wei-Wei

Posted in EFF

Hello World, I’m Ricardo

a map of surveillance in Williamsburg via the NOT BORED! journal.

a map of surveillance in Williamsburg via the NOT BORED! journal.

This year I’m also involved in the Design Studio for Social Intervention Department of Public Imagination residency working with Chelsea Collaborative in Chelsea, Massachusetts as resident artist. I’m working on the creation of a multi-sensory dictionary / encyclopedia of Chelsea —a DIY ethnography facilitated by youth groups involved with the Collaborative.

As a trained photographer and computer scientist, I also have a parallel interest in the photographic apparatus and its legacies of surveillance.  I explore the connections between video, film, photography and other camera/sensor-based art. My interventions into public and gallery space highlight camera and sensory apparatus as a foundation for the exploration of sociocultural and conceptual ends. The focus of this codesign class fits into these kinds of interdisciplinary explorations.

I followed The Day We Fight Back in Reddit and Hackernews.  I also browsed through the Twitter #DayWeFightBack stream.  The Reddit AMA with the organizes was interesting as was the feedback from the community regarding issues regarding improving the workflow of the website, mostly regarding the clever call-your-representative feature. There was traction on this protest but not the kind of net-wide awareness that last year’s SOPA blackout protests created. We have work to do.


What’s up? I’m Arthi

Hellooo!  I am a current computer science major at MIT, and I still have no clue with what I want to do with my life – which I’ve been told was normal…  Music keeps me sane here.  I’m no star with any instruments, but I really enjoy singing and am a part of an a capella group that does mashups of music from India and American pop.  Other main things to know about me:  I’m a TV addict and an internet junkie.  I’ll fall in love with anything that makes me laugh, but also anything that makes me think really hard about life – and if it does both, I might just explode.

I’m excited to start work in this codesign course – I learn the most when I work on projects that have a real life application, and even better when I get to work with those who will be directly affected by the project.  This term’s topic is surveilliance, and I’m quite interested to see the different ideas we can work with and how we will tackle these issues.

Thoughts on The Day We Fight Back:

I checked out a few events on Feb 11th that took place for Today We Fight Back, and overall it was very quiet and peaceful – maybe even too quiet and peaceful.  If the goal was the create awareness about the issue of unwarranted surveillance, then it was basically accomplished.  The main action from the day was that people emailed their senators about their disapproval and spread the word online and through other forms of media.  Personally, I thought the interwebs were pretty quiet about the whole deal.  I asked people at MIT what they thought about it, and they said they barely heard anything for it.  As of now, I’m not too sure if any critical action came from the day – but it all depends on what follows.  We will have to wait and see if all this helped reduce or even stop the surveillance.

What surprised me was that this was a global event – there were gatherings in Germany, India, South Africa, and all over.  The Internet is not just an American commodity – it is global, and so is the issue of tapping into the data that can be collected through the Internet.  Specifically for India, the Digital Brand Group held an event to raise awareness about mass surveillance and privacy concerns.  Currently, I don’t know how successful the event was yet, but according to Facebook comments, people started realizing that there needs to be more organized voices on this issue.  In this respect, the global Day We Fight Back event was successful – in creating awareness.


“We believe that the erosion of trust caused by unchecked surveillance jeopardises the freedom and prosperity which is the promise of technology.” –