Digital -> Physical Arts
Log Jammer, 2014
Eagle CAD, GSM1900 frequency
You can run, but you can’t hide. Undoubtedly the biggest concern of the digital age is internet security and privacy. Voluntary connectivity has turned into constant accessibility. The majority of those who were once focused on ensuring all-inclusive access and maintaining interconnectivity, are now exploring how we as users can truly disconnect. Soon our underground subways will have cellular service, our national parks WiFi. And in response to the increasingly overwhelming need for humans to disengage from technology, artist Allison Burtch has developed the Log Jammer.
This camouflaged, 10-inch birch log doubles as a cell phone jammer designed to interrupt receiving signals from base stations and block cellular voice data. The Log Jammer offers a natural retreat; a means to escape ubiquitous connectivity. An ideal accessory for those of us inundated by our technology.
Inside the hollowed birch log are various bits of hardware including: an amplifier, antenna, handmade circuit board, remote power source and assorted other voltage control components. The only indication this may not be your average wood log is the exterior antenna; but even that could be mistaken as a small branch. The Log Jammer provides the cell user with a brief respite from technology, all the while blending seamlessly into the rugged terrain of any wooded environment.
In America, cell phones operate on two different spectrums – GSM-850 and GSM-1900. This Log Jammer creates noise at a specific wavelength so the cell transmissions cannot connect. It produces enough power to block all voice communications within a 20-foot space. But because of the limited frequency range, the Log Jammer is more of an artistic statement that all-inclusive stealth nature device. It’s designed to inspire in-person communication and encourage discovery within ourselves and our natural physical surroundings. Burtch is asking us to examine the world and how we’re interacting with life and each other, focusing on the here-and-now, engaging in the present. Burtch is interested in liberation technologies; developing work that allows us to regain control of our right to privacy and respect our choice of anonymity within the digital space.
“If completely opting out of society isn’t a viable option to give people, then I want to create technology that protects people from exploitative technology, …There’s this aspect of us needing a safe space from that constant need to express, to share, to tweet.” – Allison Burtch Greenberg, Andy (2014, October 22) WIRED - This Fake Log Jams Your Phone So You’ll Shut Up and Enjoy Nature
Limor Fried at Adafruit Industries has created a jammer that can block GPS, Bluetooth or WiFi signals. The Wave Bubble is completely utilitarian; lightweight and compact, perfect for portable RF jamming. The overall intention of both the Log Jammer and the Wave Bubble appears to be the same; camouflaged, easily concealable technology. However, Burtch’s decision to encase the jammer inside a birch log and place it in nature, calls attention to the ubiquitous nature of computing and how it has invaded all areas of our lives. The Log Jammer provides a sacred space in nature, facilitating meaningful experiences uninterrupted by unwanted technology; visibly concealed so you remain ‘in the moment’ whilst enjoying the beauty of nature.
The design of Burtch’s Log Jammer was inspired by a cell phone tower; infrastructure cleverly disguised to disappear into the natural environment. It seamlessly blends into the rugged landscape, just as the cell phone tower does in this urban environment. The Log Jammer was created inside of a real log to be used in the outdoors. Instead of camouflaging the technology in nature to enable human connectivity, the Log Jammer blends into the natural setting to interrupt the constant communication; forcing us to experience the surrounding natural environment.
Burtch has also developed the Microphone (Mic) Jammer. It’s similar in concept to applying tape over the computer webcam to block video recording; but the Microphone (Mic) Jammer assists with blocking cell phone audio recording instead. This small, polished wood box provides an additional layer of security by guaranteeing your hardware will remain secure.
Not unlike the Log Jammer, Microphone (Mic) Jammer produces ultrasonic noise at 24KHz. This overloads a microphone by creating noise that is actually above the range of human hearing, but enough noise to effect the capabilities of the smart phone MEMs microphones and in turn, mute sound. This privacy/anti-surveillance technology must be used within a couple of inches of the device microphone. It blocks external software from recording your audio, enabling you to ‘turn off’ or mute your microphone but still access your device all the same. The Microphone (Mic) Jammer doubles as an ultrasonic security system, providing ‘silence’ and increased privacy in a world of constant communication.
“I look at privacy issues as the gentrification of our souls…. Every part of us is now data, and it’s being extracted for profit.” – Allison Burtch Messinger, Kate (2015, January 30) The Creators Project – Provoking Participation Through Art at Eyebeam’s 2015 Annual Showcase.
Burtch tackles the increasingly concerning challenge of maintaining privacy and personal information ownership in a world immersed in technology. So much so that both Microphone (Mic) Jammer and Log Jammer become necessary devices in the attempt to offer a means of autonomy; regaining control of and managing our interconnectedness. Log Jammer provides users with the opportunity to ‘unplug’ without unplugging. Burtch has published the schematics for the Log Jammer on Github. It is an illegal, homemade device that has only been tested under laboratory conditions and therefore unavailable for direct consumer use. The Federal Communications Commission prohibits the use of cell phone jamming devices.
Log Jammer has been featured in WIRED magazine and was included as part of the following presentation:
Open Source Hardware Conference.
“Liberation Technology in a Gleaner’s Economy”
October, 2014. Rome, Italy.
· Digital Ethnics Symposium “Data, Democracy and the Human Story: A Conversation with Members of Deep Lab”. Loyola University. Chicago, IL.
· “Snowed-In: Art in the Age of Surveillance” Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Manhattan, NY
· Deep Lab. Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, IL.
· Surveillance Lecture. Simone Browne. University of Texas. Austin, TX.
· Pioneer Works. “Art, Design and the Future of Privacy” DIS Magazine & Simply Secure.
· Residency. Parc Rousseau. Ermenonville, France.
· Lecture for Listening Machines Conference. Microsoft Research and the New York Times R&D Lab.
· Microphone Jammer. Fat Gold. Grey Area Theatre. San Francisco, CA.
· Residency. Deep Lab at NEW INC.
· Panel Moderator, Deep Lab. “Anti-Utopias: What is to be done when everything is impossible.”
· Microphone Jammer. Eyebeam Gala.
· Microphone Jammer. New Aesthetic? Queensland University of Technology. Brisbane, Australia.
· Lecture. Biocode. Philadelphia, PA.
· Lecture. University of Colorado. Denver, CO.
· Residency. Spruceton Inn. Catskills, PA.
· School for Poetic Computation (Spring Session - teaching and operations)
· Social Media Week Lecture
· Eyebeam end-of-year show debuting microphone jammer
· Member of Deep Lab.
· STUDIO for New Inquiry. Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA. (speaking, researching and writing)
· Shuttleworth Foundation flash grant
· School for Poetic Computation. Critical Theory of Technology. Manhattan, NY.
· Open Source Hardware Conference. “Liberation Technology in a Gleaner’s Economy” Rome, Italy.
· Residency. Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. Brooklyn, NY.
· Fellow. Institute of Technology and Society. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.