Blog post 4: ‘Techno-détournement’: Appropriating existing infrastructure to communicate anonymously

“Heavy data collection, surveillance and control have become normal in today’s various online environments, and perhaps more importantly, increasingly legal. What if we used social networks but hid our actual information? What if we could use their infrastructure without divulging privacy?”
— Jochen Maria Weber, 2015 

Cuckoo is a message encryption device developed by Berlin based designer Jochen Maria Weber in 2015. Cuckoo encrypts messages typed by users into randomly generated words, meanings and noise, scattering them over multiple communication networks such as Twitter and Skype for example, simultaneously. Each letter of an original message gets translated into complex forms of certain lengths, forming new sentences. These sentences get posted to aforementioned social networks, next to randomly generated noise sentences for distraction. These messages are then received and translated by the device on the other end, which reveals the original message (Visnjic 2015).

CockooOne
The Cuckoo device In situ (Mickiewicz 2015)
systeme
Cuckoo system visualisation (Weber 2015)

In my attempts to understand such a method of message encryption, this scene from Mel Stuart’s 1971 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came to mind; the idea of scattering messages in transit — and then bringing them together once more:

Rather than passing chocolate through these social networks, however, Weber has essentially built an anonymous platform for passing messages through existing social media infrastructure. There is an interesting irony here; where the solution to privacy issues surrounding a technology comes from the technology itself, in a kind of ‘techno-détournement’ (if you are a Debord fan).

What I also find interesting about this project in particular, is that the project is perhaps the result of a departure from attempting to reshape an existing problem space, or landscape of online data — the project rather accepts this existing landscape, with its existing variable architectures, and looks to design within it. Instead of fashioning an alternative infrastructure for anonymous communication, we see the design instead using existing infrastructure to create a platform for anonymous communication. The approach is integrated, which perhaps proves most useful for meeting such socially situated issues.

Such an integrated approach for meeting this problem space could perhaps also be carried across to a legal discourse; where by approaching this existing landscape of online data and its variable architectures — as it exists — In situ — we are better able to establish laws that foster practices within it.   

References: 

Mickiewicz, M. F. 2015, Cuckoo, weblog, Protein, viewed 20 September 2016,
<https://www.prote.in/feed/cuckoo>.

Visnjic, F. 2015, Cuckoo – Encryted communication using public social networks, weblog, Creative applications network, viewed 21 September 2016,
<http://www.creativeapplications.net/arduino-2/cuckoo-encrypted-communication-using-public-social-networks/>.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment 2011, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory 40th Anniversary — Wonka Vision, video recording, YouTube, viewed 21 August 2016,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPi71LSZxT0>.

Weber, J. M. 2015, Cuckoo, weblog, jochenmariaweber, viewed 20 September 2016,
<http://jochenmariaweber.de/cuckoo/cuckoo.html>.

Advertisement
%d bloggers like this: