DAT 401 – Assignment – Week 3 – Disinformation

Brief: Working in a small group (3-4 students) produce a project that:
a) Subverts an existing information medium, data set, or mode of surveillance (spreading false information – disinformation) or
b) Offers an alternative method of communication or avoidance

Nazca Lines: Giant ancient line art drawn in the Peruvian desert so large that it can only be fully seen from the sky

Working in a group of three, we discussed two ideas to meet the second option of this assignment brief. The first was to display a message or performance visible only to satellite photography by creating structures or heat signatures on the ground that would be photographed by surveillance satellites. This had a precedent in the Nazca lines of Peru.

The second idea, and the one that the group decided to pursue was, again, to use an unusual alternative method of communication to send a message or make a statement, this time using a method much closer to home.

Message in a Body

The group thought that it would be novel, challenging and unusual to present a performance or send a message/make a statement through the medium of medical X-rays. This method of communication might also raise a number of discussion points around privacy, ethics and morality.

“Privacy is the interest that individuals have in sustaining a ‘personal space’, free from interference by other people and organisations … privacy has multiple dimensions, including privacy of the physical person”


In his article, Clarke states that privacy includes “privacy of the physical person”. Individuals choosing this method of communication maintain their physical privacy, but only up until the point that their message is revealed by the medium of x-ray. Individuals are, however, willingly abdicating their privacy at a time, to a large extent, of their choosing.

Why the human body?

  • Data/message remains inviolate
  • A unique biological fingerprint/genome authentication might be employed to restrict access to information
  • Data is NOT being shared with corporate agencies, and therefore
  • Data is less susceptible to hacking/theft/abuse

This brings us on to the audience for such statements. Bound as they are by doctor-patient confidentiality, medical professionals may face a dilemma when exposed to the messages contained within their patients and I have purposefully used potentially provacative examples to illustrate this conflict.

“Personal medical records, including X-rays, in respect of patients treated under the NHS are held to be the property of the Secretary of State. NHS hospital medical records are stored in premises designated by the appropriate health authority. Access to a patient’s medical records is governed in the patient’s interest by the ethics of the medical and allied professions.”


I thought it was interesting to speculate on the nature of messages that an individual might display in this manner.

We thought that individuals may want to communicate information after (or close to) death, or when they no longer have the capability to communicate verbally or in writing. The advantage with storing your dying wishes inside yourself means that your intent cannot be misinterpreted or misconstrued, even when you are no longer around to argue!

In a previous lecture, we examined the contributions made to the PostSecret website (http://www.postsecret.com). These were anonymous messages in the form of postcards and many messages were deeply personal and revealing – confessions of a sort. With this in mind, I thought that the method of the transmission of messages and the audience might influence the nature of the messages themselves. To that end, I have created a number of fictional X-ray images to illustrate this point:

  • “Dignitas”
  • “Do Not Resuscitate”
  • “HIV+”



How else might messages be communicated?

  • Tatoos
  • QR codes
  • Bar codes
  • Serial numbers
  • URLs

Alternative methods of communication

As we started looking into communication via X-ray, we inevitably stumbled upon other bodily methods of storing and transmitting information. Here a just a couple of ideas that we may see in the not too distant future:

Up until this point we have looked at the communication of information that the individual has either willingly provided or is for their benefit. How would we feel if we were required to carry with us government-mandated information?

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