The Suspect Backpack, Terrartism and Interplay: Recontextualising the Outsider in Post-9/11 Society


Session Title:

  • Wearable Media

Presentation Title:

  • The Suspect Backpack, Terrartism and Interplay: Recontextualising the Outsider in Post-9/11 Society




  • Navigating through the packed metropolis, a solitary figure wearing a backpack weaves through the crowd. Out the corners of eyes they watch; I retreat from their gaze.

    In the context of global terrorism, mainstream media conveys notions of the individual as a threatening outsider. Meanwhile, the proliferation of portable technologies supports an ideal of the modern mobile citizen. Mobility, in our global village/mass metropolis, gestures towards the core values of freedom but only manages to reinforce our Orwellian visions/realities. New worlds full of borderless possibilities are offered with one hand, while individual rights for exploration of these offerings and subsequent discovery of fresh potentialities are clamped down upon with the other. This contradiction becomes increasingly prevalent in our post-9/11 society and, as a means of regulation, requires recontexualisation, by society, of the individual into the absolute outsider or other.

    The Suspect Backpack, a wearable mobile sonic media art experience provides the individual user with the opportunity for first-person interaction and engagement. Intended for use in public space, members of the public become an unwitting audience, meanwhile creating a personalised and intimate environment for the individual. Immersive in its very nature, sound is employed to convey feelings of anxiety spoken by an ‘inner voice’, while using news report announcements to inform the public of suspicious individuals. Inevitable and intentional shifts in proximity between audience and individual, and readjustments in location to retain personal and invisible boundaries produce changes in sound content.

    Using artworks such as the Suspect Backpack, an attempt is made at commencing comprehension of the other’s reality. Media artworks, from the fields of wearables and interactive installations, provide suitable immersive environments for intimate first-person experiences. How do media-embodiments and enhanced spaces alter perception? Can they aid in developing a personalised awareness of the outsider’s position in the current socio-political climate?