James Bridle / booktwo.org
Created for Wearable Futures / wearablefutures.co/
[Created for an exhibition context, this film has no audio]
The spaulder is a traditional component of medieval plate armour, designed to protect the wearer from unexpected and unseen blows from above. The Surveillance Spaulder continues this tradition into the present day - and the electromagnetic spectrum - alerting the wearer to the violence of ubiquitous surveillance.
The spaulder contains a CCTV detector, based on a design by anonymous security researcher Puking Monkey. The detector filters the light it collects through a 730nm bandpass filter to isolate the infrared lighting used in most commonly-deployed CCTV cameras. When it receives a signal, it pulses electric current through a pair of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) pads attached to the wearer's shoulder, causing them to twitch sharply.
The spaulder is an inversion of the more common operation of wearable technology, wherein information is gathered and emitted to the environment and the network, quantifying and identifying the user. Instead, it focuses information on the body and draws the wearer's attention to the external systems trained upon them.
More critically, the spaulder physicalises the policeman in the mind, providing tactile feedback, akin to a tap on the shoulder, every time one comes under the gaze of power, and turning the gentle caress of the surveillance state into a sharp reminder that we inhabit a world of overlapping, unequal and often conflicting information flows.