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PR With the advent of vision machines, which can see off-the-wall and through-the-wall, the space, scale and time of privacy have turned into a fusion/confusion of the factual and the virtual. Vision machines raise paradoxical ethical questions about privacy and confound the meaning and purpose of architectural enclosure. In 2001 the use of vision machines was brought to public attention when the United States Supreme Court heard the case Kyllo v. United States. The Court considered the legality of using a thermal image camera to obtain evidence that Danny Lee Kyllo might be growing marijuana in his garage.[1] They determined that agents had violated Kyllo’s the Fourth Amendment right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court’s opinion turned on whether the distinction between off-the-wall and through-the-wall imaging was legally significant. The Court decided that both were violations of one’s reasonable expectation of privacy because information on the exterior of the wall gives intimate details of interior activities. Beyond the legal issues, Kyllo v. United States takes a radical architectural position on the expected but no longer dependable function of walls to separate interior from exterior, private from public. The justices unknowingly affirmed the theories of sightless vision and the automation of perception that Paul Virilio explores in The Vision Machine (1988).[2] The Justices recognized that new technologies have given walls a new attribute: the capacity to perceive private life behind them. They understood that we are entering an era in which a solid wall can become a picture window. Will our legal system or the architectural discipline be able to keep up with new technologies and their challenges to privacy rights? Or will architect simply design countermeasures?  Will building codes in the future need to rate capacity for privacy, or conversely, their capacity to broadcast your life? Is it time to give up on any desire for private life?  Will we need to accept and design buildings as vision machines of constant exposure.

AA Our project draws from surveillance image theory and imaging practices

to develop a film that explores the paradoxical relationships between privacy issues and architecture that that are raised by the Supreme Court case Kyllo v. United States. The Court’s decision holds that without a warrant it is illegal to use technologies such as thermal image scanners to gather “information regarding the home’s interior that could not otherwise have been obtained without physical ‘intrusion into a constitutionally protected area’.” Our project shows how technoimaging beyond human perception redefines boundaries in physical applications, both legally and architecturally. Surveillance cameras realistically document space, they are a representation of reality which is inherently architectural. Our argument and approach draws on the theories of Vilem Flusser and Paul Virilio. Flusser defines the “technoimage” as a transcoding of text into image, while Virilio argues that machinic images present information in relation to time and memory rather than space.[3] For Virilio, pervasive automatic surveillance constitutes a vision machine that radically transforms reality and the ways people perform in it. The result is what he calls “the paradoxical real nature of virtual imagery.” This opens an alternative reality: supposedly factual technoimages become muddled by the human attempt to interpret them. As Flusser argues, “one must learn how to decipher those images, one must learn the conventions that give them their meaning, and one may commit mistakes.” Thus one can assign alternative or false reality to these images, even in a utopian future when technoimages become subservient to reason.

[1] Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001).   [2] Paul Virilio, The Vision Machine, Indiana University Press, 1988.   [3] Vilem Flusser, “The Future of Writing,” [1983-4], in Writings, 63-69, ed. A Strohl, tr. E Eisel, University of Minnesota, 2002.

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