Digital Panicoutside the circle

The Interfaced Border

2016 By Joana Moll
A black and white image which is very blurry, but shows trees in the
background, as well as human figures embarking on an inflatable boat in a
body of water. The image was taken at night.
Joana Moll, "The Interfaced Border", 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

The proliferation of digital devices and social media has created a wealth of open-source intelligence that can be freely gathered and interpreted by anyone with access to the Internet. But what are the ethical guidelines when individuals can monitor and police each other online?

Texas Virtual BorderWatch was a public-private partnership to crowdsource surveillance of the US/Mexico border. The initiative operated between 2008 and 2012 as a collaboration between the start-up BlueServo and the state of Texas. Through an online platform called BlueServo, users were given free access to live feeds for ‘virtual stakeouts’ of over 200 cameras and sensors monitoring the border. More than 200,000 volunteer users logged in remotely and were encouraged to report any suspicious activity they noticed by clicking a red button, thereby notifying the authorities.

Artist Joana Moll’s The Interfaced Border recreates some of the elements found on BlueServo’s online surveillance interface. Fusing surveillance and social media, The Interfaced Border portrays how civilians created their own information sphere – with real-world consequences – based on what they saw online.

Joana Moll, The Interfaced Border, 2016. Courtesy of the artist.