Scenario-Based Design In The Context of Street Movement

2016 | Thesis presentation | Situated technologies research group | school of architecture and planning, state university of New York at Buffalo


Proposing tools/strategies for protesters is in response to all tools/technologies that are available for authorities requires a deep understanding of the current restrictions and shortcomings. On top of all types of resources that are available for authorities but not protesters, it is also notable that the amount of design in the protester sides also requires an increase. Benefiting from a huge amount of resources, soon or late authorities will be able to develop new tools that protesters have no idea how to deal with. Moreover, the invention of various cutting edge technological riot control tools which are already developed and tested by military researchers, emphasizes the emergent need for in advance design and planning for protesters.
Based on several riot control manuals, the authorities use several tactics to control the street movements. There are a number of riot-control scenarios in which the riot-control agents use tools to terminate the street protests. For example, one of the riot-control scenarios is “chopping”. In this scenario, the riot-control agents attack the protesters from several points in order to chop their mass into segments and afterwards arrest protesters. One of the tools that the riot-control police use within this scenario is tear gas.
The common practice by street protesters is to develop ad hoc or DIY tools for resistance to confront the tools of control. For example, if we think of tear gas as an example of a control tool, protesters wear masks or burn papers, recycle bins, or bushes to minimize the effect of tear gas.

An Alternative Perspective

The attempts to develop and design tools for protesters and provide them access to resources thus far have come from a rational school of thought and often each project/case relates to a single control scenario. This Projects proposes an alternative way of looking at the issue of protestors’ inaccessibility to resources and tools.

Method of Inquiry

The confluence of mixed reality, as an environment in which real world and virtual world are presented together within a single medium, in the context of street protests, can produce a number of scenarios for resistance in which protesters try to continue their collective actions with the same level of effectiveness but using different strategies and tools. The method of inquiry is to first develop resistance scenarios in response to riot control scenarios. Each resistance scenario will address services, technological tools, objects, or platforms. The goal is to explore the application of new technologies, such as new media, pervasive computing, and the internet of things, within those resistance scenarios. Although the outcome may be very similar to a toolkit, these tools operate at a strategic level rather than an instrumental level.
This is a design-based research approach that follows approaches from critical theory and deconstruction perspectives toward creating resistance scenarios for protesters.

Chopping [into segments]
Containment (Kettling)
Snatch Squad

One: Internet “in” Things

Internet in Things proposes a network of humans, objects, and computer nodes, constructed of relational connections. This network is reliant on all of its heterogeneous components. Although Internet in Things is an approach to circumvent Internet censorship based on its technological properties, it also relies on previously established human social connections and develops a mixed system combining various components.
It uses an alternative infrastructural system to overcome the barriers of Internet censorship. It attempts to skip the old cat-and-mouse game of circumvention tools or at least start a new game.

Two: Packer

Packer is a mobile app designed to sustain mass demonstrations. It comes into the play when a mass demonstration goes through the process of dispersal.
Every mass demonstration, when being dispersed by authorities, changes into a number of small groups of people and then finally into separated individuals. Authorities, via different tactics and strategies, chops the mass demonstration into small groups. Then the small groups subsequently end up with many separated individuals.

Three: Pigeon

During a civil war in general, there have always been a number of journalists with diverse nationalities who are killed unjustifiably. Nowadays following the emerging access to mobile and pervasive technologies within urban space, in many cases, the lack of video footages capturing an event (or a specific person during an event such as a demonstration) alleges the idea that the aforementioned person has never been there and the story of his/her death is a rumor. And this is mainly because several cameras or video footage from those present during the event did not capture that person in the environment (based on an interview with Michael Sfard; an international human right specialized lawyer). From this point of view, the existence of video footage as proof or evidence seems really crucial.
Pigeon is a fictional scenario about the collectively executed evolution of a toy drone toward a very important tool for journalists who have to work in unstable and dangerous sites.


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Mahan Mehrvarz

Mahan Mehrvarz


Product Designer & Strategist | MArch in Situated Technologies