Currently reading : Ocular Justice

Ocular Justice

11 November 2014

Author : simone-c-niquille

For Simone’s latest article for Sang Bleu she has explored our new expanding relationship with our eyesight and how technology is manipulating its possibilities.




He carefully leans forward, eyes wide open. A comforting UX sound signals the begin, a beam of blue light carefully strokes his retina top to bottom. Another sound follows, this time much perkier. On the display appears a successful verification, access granted. It unlocks.

We use our eyes to access devices, open doors, enter countries and fall in love. Eyes don’t age. We have two and we will never get to see the back of our own heads with them. We call media attention ‘all eyes’ and use them as metaphor for cameras and optics. Eyewitnesses are replaced with smartphones and body cameras worn by law enforcement. We call a surveillance state the all seeing eye. They collect our faces under a program named ‘Optic Nerve’. We say eyes never lie.

The retina and iris are both used for identification as well as security. Retinal scanning is one of the most reliable and precise biometric identifiers, it’s blood vessel pattern remains virtually unchanged from birth until death and is unique even between identical twins. Biometric passports hold our digitised body for smart immigration. Passing by the tall towers at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports self serve immigration, they scan the iris within 20 seconds and compare it to your passport data. Will this combination of identification and security require an encrypted gaze? Samsung and Apple have been rumoured to introduce eye scanning technology for device unlocking for the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone6. There is something enchanting behind the fantasy of merely resting ones gaze long enough to get what we want. A flirtatious gaze across the room at the bar, a stare at your cell phone to unlock, at the EyePay machine for transaction. The GUI functionality added to the gaze will feel at first feel very natural, until staring into nothing is not an option anymore. We scroll down the street. The field of vision activated, interfaced, responsive.

Longing for biometric intimacy, we share #retinalscan’s on Instagram as #extremeselfie’s. Can these potentially be downloaded, scaled to size and used to mislead the machine?

As devices are beginning to allow us sending iris scans as love letters and blood vessel patterns as miss you’s, digital sincerity becomes equal to biometric verification. Data and imagery from underneath the skin is understood as pure, natural, true. Twitter’s blue verify icon based on the iSight’s built in retinal checker continually looking back at you.

Corneal tattoos and eye jewellery might lend ocular proxy options to disrupt and mislead the technology. Shekhar Eye1 research lab offers custom made gilded contact lenses, the Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery2 in the Netherlands has developed the JewelEye procedure to insert a thin piece of platinum jewellery into the eye and body mod artists are perfecting the craft of eye tattoos3. Temporary or permanent modification of the eye as expression and protection of self. Will a retina scanner work on an eye with a blacked out cornea tattoo? How will the airports smart immigration gate cope? In the state of Illinois, USA the JewelEye and cornea tattooing4 procedures have been banned in 2005 and 2010 respectively. Would a bedazzled iris deceive obligatory retinal scans and iris photographs, like it was enforced during the arrests at 2011’s Occupy Wall Street? As bodies are becoming digitised, they live on beside us in a seemingly binary universe built on uniqueness. Ready to assist whenever we need to access and verify in the real world. The stored biometric data is regarded as the unique key to our identity and cannot be wrong. What it does not understand is that we might feel like getting a JewelEye one day and upset that data.

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