Design For Protest: BlackBox, by Charlotta Hellichius and Matthew Barber


Designed by Charlotta Hellichius and Matthew Barber, BlackBox is a product and platform that scrapes, records and saves information sent and received from your smartphone in situations where you may either be at risk of losing your device or having it taken away. It system has two components: the “black” box and its companion, the “white” box. The black box is a portable digital storage unit worn as inconspicuous jewelry on your body. It collects all digital data transmission from your device and transmits it to the white box for storage when they’re reunited. The black box is reset after this interaction and is ready to record the details of your next outing. BlackBox is managed by an app that allows you to customize exactly what information is stored—from geo-location to photographs, from tweets to Facebook updates.

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Through research,Hellichius and Barber uncovered a need to create a safe repository of “evidence” of a protest, and began their quest to create a product-service pairing that would empower citizens to participate in, and contribute to, a cause by providing protesters with a tool to “ensure emotional and technological invulnerability.” And like its namesake used in airplane flight crash analysis, BlackBox is used in event recovery.

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Protesting is increasingly becoming a social exhibit of deep personal and collective belief. The rise and wide adoption of social media provides a powerful catalyst for change, and creates new opportunities for technology and design to take positive roles. When governments, police, and military groups censor their communities, protesters’ stories may become the only authentic record of what transpired. BlackBox ensures their preservation.

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Designed to fit inconspicuously into one’s wardrobe, BlackBox functions as a wearable, digital capture and storage device. It has a WhiteBox counterpart stationed at home or work where it functions as a receptor of all digital information and as a permanent storage device.

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Inspired by IFTTT (If This Then That), future embodiments of the project involve creating a platform that broadcasts out in real time discreet elements of captured behavior, such that any photograph snapped during a protest would immediately be posted to Facebook, for example, saved to DropBox, geo-located on Google Maps and pinned, and emailed to the local news bureau.

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