Brief: Design a way to track and trace human contact that builds trust
Members: Amber Lau, Tanvi Kulkarni, Felix Kirk, Nancy Obeid
Collaborative Partner: Tactical Technology Collective
Due to the COVID-19 situation, classes for the third term was conducted online. For this unit, I was in a team of four with Tanvi, Felix and Nancy, working with Tactical Technology Collective (TTC). TTC is an international nongovernmental organisation that was established since 2003. Its main focus is to explore and mitigate the impacts of technology on society.
We first had a Zoom call with the collaborators to know more about their background as well as the brief. Our brief this term was related to the Coronavirus epidemic where we have to design a way to track and trace human contact that builds trust.
Research — Literature Review & Practice Review Analysis
To get started, we first explored about the topic in a very board way to see what information it can give us, we then later gathered and combined our findings into Miro so everyone can access and modify it.
Our research can be divided into eight areas, including:
- Surveillance as cultural practice
- Tracking through DNA
- Tracking through the scent
- Technology available for tracking
- Tracking without technology
- Trust and decay
- Existing design
My part of the research is mainly focus on the technology available for tracking, how tracking can be done without any technology, how human scent can be a source for tracking, as well as some existing and proposing examples for track and tracing human contact.
When we first talked about tracking and tracing, we immediately thought of “surveillance society”. The impact of surveillance enables social control and reduces the potential for corruption and discrimination, however it also constrains liberty and privacy. In current society, AI is adopted to use for surveillance to eliminate human error. According to several research paper, AI surveillance techniques such as smart cities, facial recognition system, and smart policing is applying for more than 50 countries (out of 75 countries). In terms of the business side, Huawei from China is also the leading company contributing to AI surveillance, covering 50 countries worldwide. The statistics might sound surprising on how much surveillance is being applied nowadays, yet people have different attitudes towards it. While the acceptors think there is nothing to hide, and believe the transparency and accuracy of the surveillance system, objectors resist through public protests, non-compliance, and boycott.
There are more details findings shown on the image, what I typed here is just some of the key points. But from here, it clearly shows the challenge of creating trust under surveillance. Tracking and tracing human contact can easily link with this subject, we need to find a way that can achieve the project purposes as well as making sure it is accepted by the public.
Tracking with technology
In fact, contact tracing can implement with different technologies. The most common one that we often use is GPS technology in location apps. Making use of data from social networks is also another approach to trace who that person got contact with in specific events and locations. There is also Beacon- Geographical tracking as well as short-rage wireless technology such as wifi and bluetooth that can help with tracing, this technology is often being used for most tracing applications nowadays. However, each of them still contains limitation regarding to accuracy, privacy and energy consumption efficiency.
Another example that uses technology to perform contact racing is the Wireless Body Area Networks (WBANs), yet I don’t find this design user friendly and convenient as it requires users to mount the sensors on their bodies and bring with their phones for social interaction sensing.
Tracking through human scent
Through the course, I have understood UX is more than just implementing through the digital aspect. So from here, I dug into a bit deeper on tracking through the senses, especially human scent. I was curious to know how dogs or police can find particular person at accident and crime scene, and was wondering can it be part of the source for this situation.
Unfortunately, this type of tracing requires immediate collection of the scent, otherwise it would get weaker and weaker. For coronavirus, the incubation period is around 0–24 days, so in this case, tracing with human scent would not be useful and accurate. Although this research turns out not as ideal as I thought, but I do learn something new related to this aspect, such as dogs can correctly identify fraternal twins, but not identical twins who have the same diet and live together. This is an interesting finding to me.
Existing Design Research
With all the tracking and tracing ability, some people do create products to reclaim privacy and avoid being monitor. Ewa Nowak, a polish designer, designed an anti-ai mask for preventing identify leak under surveillance camera. There is also another wearable design named the Unidentified Halo to protect wearer’s privacy in public. Stealth wear is also another examples to reduce the chance of being observed by a long wave infrared camera. Whether or not these designs are being commonly used by people, it shows how designers are trying to addresses the rise of surveillance and protect one’s privacy.
At the very beginning, I wasn’t totally ready for the third term, because a lot things happened during the break which led me lacking of rest (physically and mentally). But I’m glad we do have a choice to choose our group mates for this term, so at least I could join a group that I feel comfortable with. The teaming this time is very special, because everyone is from a different country and we are all living with different timezone now. Time differences perhaps might affect part of discussion process, we did manage a time where everyone’s available. In terms of the positive side, we have opportunity to involve different cultural aspects when designing, hopefully this will become one of the strength on our design. Another thing that I like about being in a group is that we can get to know a lot more information where research can be done as a team. We were able to explore the topic with a wider sense and educate each other.
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