Wednesday, 12 May 2010

User Testing Repsonses: Dr. Kenneth Scott-Brown

This one's a bit different as his response is also the foreword to my book.

Dr. Kenneth Scott-Brown:

Observer: Magnifying the issues in surveillance.
The initial impression is reminiscent of Wallace and Gromit’s Lunar Robot from a Grand Day Out, albeit perfectly engineered and pristine. The coin operation delivers a simple digital read out showing the viewing target and then the user is faced with a visualisation task that is a quirky mix of reverse ‘etch‑a‑sketch’ and good old fashioned radio tuning. Each twist of the large dial flips the scene, the two hand turned knurled knobs change the ‘X and Y’ position of the image under the ‘scope. The average user has to stoop to get to the right height, and then twist their head to see through the spy hole. Then a close up of the pixel matrix reveals time lapse video of urban rural, indoor scenes. Some local, some national and some international.
The experience changes over the viewing period, initially the browser finds them self debating whether to figure out what is going on in the current scene or change the channel to find out what’s in the next one. This picks up two empirical questions.
Firstly, how much of a scene do you need to see to recognise it? A few flicks and twists help figure this out, one prediction is that on average a diagonal flick across the scene gives the best chance of recognition. The second one is how long do you need to fixate a scene to detect a change? How long in this case does it take to establish that these are live feeds from real CCTV cameras presented in time‑lapse format. It could easily be the case that some users browse so quickly that they don’t ever twig that the scenes change at all.
As a piece of visual art, paradoxically this limited view serves to illustrate the way that the installation is not constrained by the normal conventional boundaries of picture frames (the user gets to move the frame), or the linear limits of video‑based art where the artist has chosen the video frames to transmit their message. The point about Observer is that the interaction risks becoming addictive, there is no limit on the temporal constraint of the visual experience because it permanently and uniquely updates for each viewer.
A powerful underlying thread of themes is conveyed by the installation: there is a pain associated with extended surveillance voyeurism, there is a limit to how much of a scene that can actually be seen, the amount revealed by the ‘peep‑hole’ is much more like the amount of scene revealed by an individual glance of the human eye. This exhibit demonstrates magnifying glass problem or framing effect is a version of the same problem that surveillance operators face. On the one hand they can pan or zoom to find out what just outside the frame, they can multiplex the number of cameras, but there will still be items out of frame; and at the end of the day they can only really monitor one screen at a time.
With the scope of the cameras set to the local and the national level, the piece illustrates the extent and pervasiveness of modern surveillance, what if you recognise someone you know in the footage? What if they are in danger? This is the attraction of the piece, can you detect the unexpected?

User testing Responses: Charles Farrier

Charles Farrier (

Your prototype looks very interesting - and the application of cctv that it explores is timely.

You may be aware of the Internet Eyes Ltd cctv game about to launch in the uk - a private company asking private individuals to spy on each other using private cameras connected to the internet, with a cash prize each month for the person who reports the most infringements. There is also the texas virtual border patrol in the US whereby people can log on to the net and watch a live feed of the texas border and report suspicious activity (mostly just suspicious birds or deer). These projects seek to outsource cctv monitoring to members of the public.

A BBC television programme called 'Inside Out' described Internet Eyes as a "revolution" in CCTV despite the fact that it has not yet launched and that the texas virtual border patrol that they compared it to was an enormously expensive failure. Study after study has shown that CCTV does not have a significant effect on crime, so such "revolutions" are ways of ensuring that the public do not focus on the lie that they have been sold. Creating systems that encourage people to watch the world through a monitor and report people they see on the screen actually discourages people from interacting with real people and becoming part of the community they live in.

There have been other citizen spy pilots such as the cable TV channel in East London that showed live feeds of CCTV cameras in the area. All of these seek to make members of the public become the watchers and to become part of the surveillance state. In doing so they hope to normalise people to surveillance and aim to make people ignore the uses that constant monitoring can be put to by the state or corporations.

Perhaps your prototype could be modified to add a jackpot payout tray so that it could be used to play Internet Eyes and collect your prize for dobbing someone in.

User testing Responses: Olga


I found the viewer to be an interesting idea. I am fairly sure people would be interested in seeing pictures from around the world. I would suspect they would love seeing places that friends and loved ones may live, or of places they were about to go on holiday or had just been to. In general, though, these pictures would be from static cameras.

My concerns were more from a licencing/permissions point of view. I can see that fixed CCTV cameras outside municipal buildings may be an easier option, but local authority and Police cameras would be more difficult to tap into given that CCTV operators have a long list of rules to abide by. Local authority cameras are generally staffed by Police staff who have already gone through a large amount of checks in order to become employed by Police. It is then not just a question of pointing a camera at whatever you like.

CCTV operators are not allowed to follow someone on camera unless they have a good reason for doing so. They cannot watch specific properties unless they have surveillance permissions. They may be directed by officers to watch certain things that may not necessarily be for public viewing.

For instance, if cameras were following perpetrators of crime, public access would not be possible due to data protection issues, not to mention possible vigilante activilty.

Sadly, although Big Brother may constantly be watching, he is bound up in so much red tape that it would be very difficult to gain permission to view the same images.

There is also the very real moral dilema of whether we already have too much surveillance in this country given that other countries would not allow our level of CCTV (Canada - intrusion into civil liberties, etc). However, that is another issue!

The Final Video

Here is the finished video in all its glory - I've decided to use Youtube instead of Vimeo as the quality of the video seems to be greater.

Monday, 10 May 2010


So far I've got over 1100 hits on my site from the past week alone!

Video Style

After speaking with my lecturer about the test film, he said I should make it more obvious that lots of people would be using it & orthographic views would work best to make it look more scientific.

I rounded up a few people from the class & within 20mins I had all of my footage. The only bits I had to change are the status screen, because you can see people walking around in the reflection!

So here is the result:

Untitled from Lee Murray on Vimeo.

In The Paper

One of the places I sent my email to was Press & Journal - a local newspaper for the north of Scotland. I managed to get an article in it with quite a big picture - very chuffed!

Test Video

A preliminary video exploring different angles & distances.

Test Film 1 from Lee Murray on Vimeo.


After sending my press release to numerous people, I managed to get my work on various websites - mainly NOTCOT. However, this ended in something that I never expected - my site scrashing! Too many people went onto my site & the server couldn't handle it. Luckily, the server reset at the start of the next month, so there was only one day of downtime.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Some more pics

After speaking with my lecturer last week, I have decided to take some more unusual pics. I hung the object on a wire mesh fence & sat it on some pallets to give it an industrial look. Check them out on my Flickr site here. I think they are much better!

The Book

Almost finished! Just got a couple of pages to go, pretty much waiting for the Press & Journal article cutting about my project & scanning it in. The online article can be found here.

User Testing...

A couple of pics of people using & evaluating the object: Police Officer Olga, who specialises in the CCTV control rooms & Dr. Kenneth Scott-Brown, who is a Psychology lecturer at Abertay University along with his PhD student Matt Stainer.

Press Release


For immediate release



Product Designer Lee Murray has created a new application for CCTV surveillance with his object, The Observer; a public access viewing station allowing any member of the public to watch others through CCTV cameras. The object explores the potential social effects that could arise if all CCTV cameras were monitored by the public. Would people become vigilantes if they saw a crime being committed, would they watch it just for fun, or would they alert the police if there was a cash prize?

Taking inspiration from door peepholes, an everyday spying tool, & amplifying the idea to be used for a nationwide system of surveillance, The Observer creates a unique insight into the act of watching others.

Lee (21) says “At the beginning of the project I became fascinated by mystery, especially in the field of surveillance & spying. I am also very interested in exploring the edge of design & society, so The Observer grew naturally out of this desire to challenge these boundaries & create unique interactions with existing technologies”.

Using web camera & internet technology to bring the concept to life, Lee hopes that ultimately the entire system would be connected to the nations extensive network of CCTV cameras. Constructed from sheet steel & aluminium, The Observer's design has been inspired from classic science-fiction books & films such as Brave New World, 1984 & Brazil.



Lee Murray (21) is a digital product designer who is passionate about bringing original & humorous ideas to life through experimenting with aesthetics, electronics & software. His philosophy is to make exciting digital objects that create new cultural & social interactions. To see some of his other work, visit

Product Design Bsc. (Hons). University of Dundee

The Product Design course teaches its students to create fully functioning products, that work both inside & out. Through the core structure of FIND, PLAY, MAKE, TALK, students learn that making products around people is the key to a well rounded & meaningful project.


Lee Murray

tel: +44 (0) 7909334601


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Press Photos

If you want to see some of my press photos, visit my website:

Monday, 19 April 2010

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Pop Riveting!

Attaching the shiney privacy cover to the main body.

The Book

I'm also creating a book recording my work from start to finish - here are some sample pics of the contents...

Bits & Bobs

I've been a bit busy to blog with tidying up some of the messy bits - new x & y knobs are being made with knurling & no line on top (it doesn't need it), fixing & attaching the coin slot door, polishing up the privacy cover, & making the coin slot a bit neater. Pics will be up soon to show the improvements!

Monday, 5 April 2010

The (Almost) Finished Model!

Looking good! I just got some feedback from my lecturers & there are some little things I need to change, but I'm happy with it.

Installing The Screen


Here is the circuit board & the Arduino mounted together on one board & wired up.

The Body

Here is the process of spraying the Observer body. The top right pic is the untouched, sandblasted body to the last pic of the finished article.


I haven't posted for a while, but here are the small parts (coin box door & platform) sprayed up with the primer & graphite grey spray paint. With the help of Gus, we applied 4 coats of primer with around 4 coats of paint. Looks very nice!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Polishing The Metal

To make the privacy cover match the other features on the body, I am polishing up the metal to a nice shiney finish. To do this, I need the following:

Emery cloth - coarse, medium & fine grit
Sanding sponges - medium, fine & very fine
Cellulose based thinnersFor some weird reason, the metal arrived with a dark surface coating, which is very tough to remove, so the first step is to use the coarsest emery cloth - 50 grit. I had to sand the whole thing by hand, which I haven't finished (so far it has taken two & a half hours, I'm going to have guns in the morning!).

Warning! You get incredibly dirty - as you can see I am covered in metal particles (which I am still trying to get rid of!).

After the surface coat has been removed, smoothing down the metal will be easier. After sanding the cover each time - gradually using a finer grain of sandpaper after each pass - it should end up lovely! & then I will remove any grease with the thinner.

The Hinges

I've got the hinges ready to be welded on by engineering. They are SOLID!

Sunday, 28 March 2010


I've handed in the body back into engineering because I accidentally missed out the hole for the front dial. I have also bought some load bearing steel hinges to be welded on. Hopefully it will be ready for spraying on Tuesday.

It's just the small things that need to be sorted now!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

User Manual

I am also trying to create a user manual to go along side the Observer, currently all I've got are the front cover & a diagram.

The Little Things

Today, I've been focusing on the smaller parts of the project - fixing some holes that are slightly too small for the components, filling in any welding marks, etc. & it's slowly coming together! The next step is focusing on the bigger issues - spraying up the body (which will get done on Tuesday), attaching hinges to both the main body & cash box door, & the internal structure...

The Results

Looks pretty sweet!

The Plates

To put the details on to the dial, name plate & coin slot, I have done the following:

Polished the metal, using a fibre mop & bench motor.

Got rid of all grease on the surfaces by using thinners.

Sprayed two coats of primer.

Sprayed four coats of black spray paint.

Leave over night to dry properly.

Etch the information into the plates using a lasercutter - speed 35, power 100.

Rub off any remaining primer using steel wool.

Polish the metal using silver polish.


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Info

After speaking to printmaking about acid etching details into some parts, I have decided to take the route of laser etching spray paint on to the surface of the metal. Currently I am applying primer to allow the paint to adhere to the surface better.


After talking to some guests on Monday, including Stefano Mirti, I have decided to focus the project on to using CCTV as public entertainment. This works much better with the style of the feeds (jumpy & grainy, like CCTV). I have been too busy trying to fit the rationale around the technology, rather than the content! Duh! So... The Observer is a product that critiques the invasive nature of CCTV, which tries to alter the use of it from function to entertainment. It takes advantage to the fact that CCTV is every aspect of our lives & it captures everybody's lives on a daily basis. It acts as a type of Big Brother, but for the public & the content, instead of being staged is real life.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

More Parts

Here's some pics of my big dial & some plates - I've been experimenting with surface finishes on the plates, using the sandblaster (top pic) & air sanders. I personally like the polished look!

Friday, 19 March 2010

So Close!

Engineering have almost finished my product! They just need to fix a couple of bits on the main body, but apart from that it's perfect! They have given me most of the parts so I can start finishing them - I have began polishing the pieces of sheet metal so I can acid etch it with details. The one piece that is completely finished is the eyepiece. The lens & support fits perfectly!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Circuit Box (Part III)

Done! I lasercut the plastic & glued it together. Works a treat!