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6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

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15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

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13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

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10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

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9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

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8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

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7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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Electronics in your clothes as means of expression

21 March 2008 - At a Mediamatic master class, artists are going to explore how communication technology integrated in clothes and accessories can be used as a means of expression. The technology can be used for Big Brother purposes as well, but here users will be in control.

At the master class, electronics specifically designed for use in textiles will be used. The material is small and it looks good. It can even be hand-washed, provided the batteries are removed, explains Deborah Meibergen of Mediamatic.

Participants in a previous workshop on the topic made a cat bag that will purr when stroked, with LEDs lighting up as mock eyes. They also made a shirt that determines the mood of the wearer. Subsequently, the shirt lights up the pressure points which - according to Chinese ideas on acupuncture - need to be pressed to sooth the wearer.

“Clothes are not just a protection against the cold, they are also a means to express ourselves”, says Klaas Kuitenbrouwer of Mediamatic. “Therefore, they provide a natural home for means of communication”.

Among the tools available to participants in the master class will be RFID chips, from which data can be read from a distance. Such chips are used by companies such as retail giant Wal-Mart to track products for distribution and marketing purposes.

At the Legoland amusement park in Denmark, small children get to wear a bracelet containing an RFID chip. Parents who want to locate lost children can have a text message with their children’s location sent to their cell phone.

Critics warn that RFID chips may be used for ‘Big Brother’ purposes. For example, the organisation operating the new Dutch public transport chip cards will have access to detailed personal travel information.

This is child’s play compared to the ID cards introduced in the Chinese city of Shenzen. These cards contain a chip with the bearer’s name and address, but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and - intriguingly - the landlord’s phone number. In view of China’s ‘one child policy’, ‘personal reproductive history’ is also included.

Kuitenbrouwer acknowledges that RFID chips can be used for dubious purposes, but says the technology in itself is not the problem. What matters is how it is used: who gets ‘tagged’, what information will be linked to the tag and who gets access to that information. The chips used by Mediamatic can only be read from a short distance and the bearer is in control of the information the chip will be linked to.

If one so wishes, RFID technology can also be used for rebellious means. In an article, Kuitenbrouwer describes how activists released cockroaches equipped with RFID chips in Wal-Mart stores in order to create chaos in the company’s databases.

Image: cat bag (photo Mediamatic). Mediamatic master class, Kuitenbrouwer article (pdf; in Dutch), Shenzen


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