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Dispatches from the Sousveillance Zoo
Geiger Monkeys

As reported by CNN and other venues, Japanese scientists apparently want to recruit wild monkeys to measure radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture, specifically in a mountainous area of the city of Minamisoma. Each animal will be outfitted with a collar containing a small radiation meter and a GPS transmitter. While aircrafts and satellites survey the terrain from above, these living geiger counters will be reading the landscape from the ground.

I'm immediately reminded here of a couple of things. First, the “video naturalist, landscape architect, museumologist” Sam Easterson has been strapping video cameras on to animals, enabling them “to guide us around their world; what they look at, what catches their attention, how they move through space, and how they relate to one another.”

Sam Easterson

When I posted about these four-legged cineastes some years ago—speculating, among other things, about techno-lupine vigilantes being released into national parks, where they'll sniff and snuff out invasive species mercilessly to preserve ecological purity—in the comments, Bryan Finoki went awesomely unhinged, writing:

These could be the new surveillance weapons of the future refugee, the Dr. Dolittle border-crosser, Africa's desperate asylum seekers, whom all need extra eyes in the field to watch out for those pesky minutemen and other not-so-nice clansmen and militias out hunting migrants for the sport of it. Cattle ranchers along the border could rig their roaming bulls with little cams to keep vigil and let border-crossers know when it is safe. Armadillo watch dogs.

Then again, this Sousveillance Zoo might not be deployed as countermeasures but rather used to augment weaponized geotextiles carpeting border hinterlands, demilitarized zones, involuntary parks and the perimeter parklands of gated communities. Whenever an aberrant activity is detected, butterflies will flutter forth aeolian alarms while wolves upload images to central command.

Perhaps a less malign critter from this cyborg bestiary is Liam Young's Electric Aurora.

Liam Young

This “flickering swarm of cybernetic fireflies play above the rooftops. As a mobile network infrastructure, the flock broadcasts its signal in a luminescent cloud, fading in and out over the city. Following the intensity of the electromagnetic spectrum, they map network strength across the sky.”

So at night, when you're out trawling for free wifi to check your Twitter timeline, or maybe to upload sensational videos of your protest camp being violently decamped by security forces, who are now trying to track you down on the burning streets, you simply look up and follow an iridescent trail to the nearest and most secure shimmering aurora.

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