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Heather Snyder Quinn at ATypI 2020

October 30, 2020

VCFA alumnx Heather Snyder Quinn presents Typographic Obfuscation: Communication for Privacy and Protest at ATypI’s annual conference.

ATYPI 2020 All Over

Typographic Obfuscation: Communication for Privacy and Protest
Friday October 30th, 7 pm central time, Broadcast and then QA

This talk presents stories of creative obfuscation for communication from the past, present, and future. Examples include speculative typography that utilizes augmented reality, biotechnology, machine learning, and techniques created by non-experts—many that engage multiple senses, including voice and gesture. The non-expert demonstrates the breadth of human ingenuity for primal need and desire, often against much larger powers, and shows how subversive design and unsettling systems can be done by anyone. Throughout history, humans have always necessitated methods for hiding their secrets and maintaining their privacy. Their methods of concealment, however, have evolved with time. Despite more advanced technologies and even the utmost diligence, no secret is ever totally safe—unless kept in the depths of one’s mind. However, a speculated future indicates that not even our thoughts are secure: technology, via surveillance capitalism, is regularly predicting our futures (and reading our minds). In the past, we obfuscated physically with materials—primarily using cryptography and steganography—through redaction, the wearing of masks, and the hiding of physical objects. In the present, we obfuscate digitally with false personas, filters, altered data, and encrypted messaging. In the future, the author uses design fiction to speculate that we will be internally surveilled to the very root of our DNA. As a result, we will obfuscate our bodies—our physical and emotional states. Analysis of our methods of secrecy within the silos of past, present, and future, allows for a deeper understanding of our evolving human boundaries. In the present day, we struggle to understand technologies power on the fabric of our lives. If we look ahead 100 years, what are the ethical considerations of emerging technologies? If we imagine the collapse of democracy and a future society lived in a panoptic spectacle, how would we communicate privately and freely?

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