Murmur

We are moving towards a future in which every action is recorded, and yet we remain largely unaware. It is possible, by becoming more informed of our surroundings, to take back and maintain some sort of control. Murmur provides a means to this control, helping you to know your environment; what is recording, when it is recording, and who that information is shared with.

The collection of digital information is currently based on one off consent.  This shouldn't be the case, there needs to be a system which allows an ongoing conversation of consent, where a person can decide at the point of recording whether they want to share their data.

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This is accomplished by the monitoring of Wi-Fi data packages. Patterns and information contained in these packages are analysed to determine the type of data recorded and where it's being sent.

The locations of these recording devices and the nature of data they transmit are combined and visualised on a handheld device, an instrument which a user can refer to in order to asses their surroundings as they move through an ever-changing digital landscape.

Testing

I used members of the public to test my assumptions during the project. My final experiment allowed participants to walk between the Royal Albert Hall and South Kensington Station and experience how it would feel to know when they were being recorded. Participants were able to walk independently between the two, along any route, deciding for themselves when they would be recorded and when they wouldn't.

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Form and materials

Testing and experimentation showed that Murmur needed to show accurately what was watching and recording a users actions. To make it feel and appear like a scientific instrument it is heavy, made from aluminium, feels cold and has an angular shape which doesn’t fit to the hand but shows the information in the clearest possible way.

To encourage engagement with the device and foster a sense of control for the user:  There are knurled aluminium knobs which allow a person to select what information is displayed and to give a reassuring physicality and precision to the adjustment.

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Digital language

For the working prototype there is just a low resolution LED display, but if this were to go into production I would chose to use an LCD screen. The visuals are designed to foster a sense of trust in the instrument. Inspiration was taken from analogue instruments in aeroplanes and radar. The font Gill Sans is used because it has a very high comprehension at a glance, the same reasons it's used by NASA in the space station.

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Possible usage scenarios

There are reasons why you would and wouldn't want to be recorded. Some of these possible scenarios are highlighted in these short videos.

Knowing you are being recorded can help you to feel safer. Late at night you could decide to walk home on a more recorded route.

Knowing who you are sharing your information with can help you maintain some sort of control over your information.

Smart home devices can transmit recordings and data when you least expect it. Murmur can alert you to when a device is transmitting recorded data.