The advent of next generation military/police
technologies for urban use has made engaging in active social insurgency
an increasingly risky venture. Real-time video surveillance systems
(1), networked databases, urban infiltration robots (2), and a flurry
of "nonviolent" restraint and subjugation technologies threaten
to have a chilling effect on traditional methods of cultural resistance,
particularly the creation and dissemination of subversive texts.
The Robotic GraffitiWriter (GW) was developed in response to the
need for a high speed, teleoperated, portable platform that operates
beyond the line of sight (BLOS) to disseminate unsanctioned content
in the dynamic adversarial urban environment. In repeated testing,
this system has proven its effectiveness on such high risk/high
profile targets as the U.S. Capital Building as well as numerous
urban commercial and municipal spaces in the US and abroad.
Following its first full year of active service,
an in-depth technological assessment was performed on GraffitiWriter.
During this time several significant upgrades were made to GraffitiWriter
including a full mechanical and electronic sub-system overhaul.
With these improvements, GW now meets the requirements of strategic
transportability, operating with extreme confidence in standard
threat scenarios including public parks, federal buildings, and
1) Kanade, Collins and Lipton. "Advances
in Cooperative Multi-Sensor Video Surveillance". Robotics Institute,
Carnegie Mellon University, 1998.
2) US Army Research Laboratories, "Pandora: A Robotic System for
Operations in Urban Environments - Final Design Document", official
contract report submission, March 1998.
"Studies have shown that in nearly 100%
of the cases, a given agent of the public will willing participate
in high profile acts of vandalism, given the opportunity to do so
via mediated tele-robotic technology."
- IAA research division
Robotics (IAA and Critical Art Ensemble)
This paper sets out the context in which the notion of Contestational
Robotics has come to be a viable option for resistant activity.
It offers an investigation into the recent history of ineffective
modes of resistance and outlines several of the first Contestational
Robots to be constructed. Part II of this essay contains early plans
for the construction of a graffiti writing robot.