A hood to blind surveillance cameras, a public bench transformed into a shelter… “Hacker Citizen” is a book of recipes to reappropriate urban space. For Makery, its author, designer Geoffrey Dorne, reveals three of them.
A manual? A guide? A compilation? Hacker Citizen is more of a soft vade mecum of urban hacktivism. In his book, which reads like a graphic-novel, designer Geoffrey Dorne inventories 50 micro-subversive good ideas to hack the city, reappropriate urban space and “re-enchant everyday life”.
In the line of sight of this Arts Déco’ graduate: general surveillance, facial recognition devices, urban segregation and standardized cities. “I started researching these topics in 2009 during the protests against the Hadopi law,” he says. “I made citizen hacking my graduate thesis.” He then began developing anti-surveillance design prototypes to generate random digital identities, map out surveillance cameras, protect yourself from online tracking.
The idea followed him, from the Mozilla foundation where he worked with Tristan Nitot, founder Mozilla Europe, to the Commission for atomic energy, La Quadrature du Net and Ensadlab. His photo series turned into an editorial project that compiles his creations and other ideas picked up on the Internet. “In the course of my research, I found hundreds of projects by artists, hackers, hacktivists, and everyone I contacted agreed to be included in the book,” Dorne recalls with a smile.
In May 2016, he and his publisher launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that raised 35,957€ (for a target of 9,000€) from more than 1,000 backers. Just good timing? The campaign was launched at the height of the Nuit Debout movement. Dorne, who denies any opportunism, attributes its success to a convergence of citizen concerns: “Our primary readers are designers, tinkerers and makers, hackers and activists such as the Pirate Party, but also people who bought the book for their children. Designing means doing things for others. Design is already a political stand.”
Organized into broad themes (surveillance, sharing, city, culture, nature), Dorne’s hacks require little material or electronics. For Makery, he reveals three recipes from Hacker Citizen: a hood to blind surveillance cameras, a public bench transformed into a shelter, and a way to identify free access points to electricity in the city.
Anti-surveillance infrared hood
The infrared hood is part of Dorne’s graduate project: “An invasive, oppressive pollution is imposed on us every day—surveillance cameras that film us wherever we are in urban space. The least they could have done is ask our opinion, offer us the illusion of choice. Let’s win back our right to choose with this infrared hood, which is worn over the face, eyes or head, and which protects us against these cameras. Capped with LEDs that emit an infrared light, invisible to the human eye, this hood can blind surveillance cameras and restore our anonymity.”
– Hood on which to attach LEDs;
– Two infrared projectors for surveillance cameras;
– External battery to power it all.
– Take apart the projectors and keep all the infrared LEDs;
– Plug them into the external battery and slip it in your pocket;
– Sew the LEDs onto your hood.
“What if we redesigned Paris benches? This was the question posed by Florian Rivière [hacktivist artist from Strasbourg whose favorite playing field is public space] with the aim of reinventing the singular function of these ubiquitous benches. With a simple screwdriver and a bit of nerve, you can transform a bench into a shelter, directly on the street.”
– Screwdriver and cord;
– Tarp, emergency blankets;
– Unscrew the four planks that make up the seat of the bench;
– Reposition them in a cross on either side of the backrest;
– Cover this improvised shed with the tarp.
“There are still many people in our society who lack basic access to electricty: refugees, homeless, and to a lesser degree, digital nomads. Electrical outlet access points exist, but how to point out their presence and their free access in the city? Create your most compelling icon based on an arrow and an outlet, take a stencil and roam the streets to make this invisible resource visible.”
– Red paint (in a spraycan, for example);
– Pencil, cutter;
– Phone charger that plugs into an outlet.
– Draw your icon that points to the presence of an outlet accessible to all;
– Cut out this icon to make a stencil;
– Seek out these street outlets and check with your charger that they are functional;
– Paint your stencil brightly to signify the location of this outlet.