Privacy and security is a topic that DoUC is continually drawn to. Technology has changed daily life to a point where we often interact with it unknowingly and without much thought as to how it works or how our actions linger in the digital world. Surrounding the revelations of the Edward Snowden story breaking and the Canadian government pushing security laws in controversial new directions, we posed the question, what would happen if every person had the power and access to information that the NSA has?
Canadians have come to expect, consciously or otherwise, that at some level they are being surveilled. The City of Total Awareness took this idea to the extreme, imagining how behaviours would change if there was no longer any expectation of privacy in our lives—if you were fully aware that anyone could access all of your information.
The concept of “the cloud” is huge, complex and often an abstract proposition, sold to the public as intangible and without a physical footprint. Screens have become interaction points to these networks, yielding an illusion of access and control over digital information. In order to consider how future and imagined behaviours might change, we first wanted to expose the extensive physical infrastructure that already exists to illustrate how the digital world manifests itself in a physical way. We also considered how that infrastructure exists in different contexts—suburban towers disguised as trees versus obvious metal structures in the downtown core, data centres, etc.
Extensive research was done to compile a complete picture of the digital infrastructure, resulting in a map showing how the physical footprint is distributed across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This visualization was consciously divided into two pieces, one isolating the downtown core of Toronto and one displaying the inverse with only the suburbs detailed, for independent exhibitions at the Textile Museum (Urban Fabric) and Harbourfront Centre (Suburbed). The installations combined the exposure of this hidden infrastructure through the map with video clips and images, prompting questions and dialogue around the changes technology and access to information have had on our lives.
DoUC plans to continue this exploration of digital infrastructure, digging deeper into how current and future infrastructure will affect our behaviour and actions. Specifically, we’d like to understand and propose new ideas around how to better distribute these resources across the population as well as provide more equal, responsible and useful access to gathered information.