Geared-Up for Activism

Gearbox is a cross between a hacker's toolbox and a DIY cookbook. Created by Graham Harwood, artistic director of the UK artist group Mongrel, and developed at Eyebeam with fellows Jeff Crouse, Evan Harper, Geraldine Juarez, and Chris Sugrue, the project is one of several 'free media' works by Harwood that 're-purpose publicly accessible materials and equipment for creative expression.' In this case, Gearbox encourages consumers to find and use 'free' materials in activist contexts. To this end, the project's website posts free step-by-step instructions and photos detailing tools that individuals might build, such as the '$29.95 Starbucks Coffee Cup Spycam' in which the one-time CVS video camera is cracked and embedded in a Starbucks coffee cup, for 'covert video acquisition.' Also popular among users of this new service is 'Video Sniffin' a set of instructions for sniffing out CCTV networks and capturing the signals form their wireless networks directly to one's own camera. Many of these projects implicitly challenges the claims to empowerment made by the manufacturers or marketers of these technologies, while putting the real power in the hands of the web-surfing gearhead. - Angela Moreno