What is Headspace?

Headspace is Amber Marks's satirical account of her research into the policing of smell - she uses developments in smell research as an allegory for the surveillance society. Amber was working as a barrister when she started spotting sniffer dogs on her travels to courts in different parts of the country. Disturbed by the implications for civil liberties (who needs a warrant when you've got a dog) and cynical about the supposed infallibility of canine intelligence (barking up the wrong knee), Amber started researching the phenomenon. To her amazement she discovered that across the world, people are being convicted on the word of a dog alone - despite the science of smell (the fascinating history and advances of which are all included in this book) being very poorly understood. As a legal expert on canine evidence, Amber is invited to a Ministry of Defence conference where the security applications of mice, moths, salmon and plants are discussed. That's when Amber's research journey really begins.

Q & A with Amber:

Why did you call the book "Headspace"?

Quite a lot in the book is about the importance of pscyhological privacy to human liberty and autonomy. Headspace - in 1960s jargon- means psychological privacy, the cognitive shed required for the development of an individual personality. When an entomologist told me that 'headspace' is also the technical term for the area surrounding a subject in which their smell can be detected and analysed - I knew it had to be the title of my book.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoyed everything about it. I enjoyed befriending security agents, police officers and scientists (they have all taken the fun I poke at their research in good humour). I enjoyed researching all the novels relating to the sense of smell (Perfume, Jitterbug Perfume, Brave New World, Oryx And Crake and millions of others) and learning about the science of smell. It was a great excuse to read Arthur Koestler's Ghost in the Machine and learn about bee brains and the manipulation of instinctive behaviour.

What is Dogwatch?

Dogwatch is the name of a secret organisation in Amber's book. It monitors potential threats to Headspace and seeks to inform people of their rights in these confusing times. It is presently focused on developments in surveillance, forensic science, less than lethal weapons, the militarisation of biology and the science of smell. Membership is easy- just send your findings to Amber and automatically become a member!

Beware of Robots- They could be amongst us

Published on Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters (http://www.adbusters.org)
Cockroach Herding
Created 03/25/2008 - 16:04
The Reconquest of Cool [1]
Douglas Haddow [2]


A group of researchers at the Free University of Brussels have recently figured out how to influence the behavior of one of the world’s most resilient creatures: the cockroach. Combining elements of entomology and robotics, the group created an experiment that involved mingling light sensitive, cockroach-scented robots with the real deal.

Within a constructed social arena, the researchers set up two separate shaded areas, one area being darker than the other. Upon being released into the arena, the 16 organic roaches, which have a natural distaste for light, chose to socialize in the darker of the two spaces. The researchers then placed four of the robot roaches into the arena and allowed the two groups to mingle and become acquainted.

After the living roaches warmed up and befriended their artificial counterparts, the group then programmed the robots to graze in the area with more light. Although cockroaches are instinctively drawn to the darker of the two areas, they were unable to resist the impulse to imitate, and ultimately follow their cockroach-smelling robotic friends into the light.


A team of marketing specialists have recently figured out how to effectively influence the social patterns of Manhattan’s most trend-savvy demographic: the hipster. Utilizing elements of guerilla methodology in conjunction with a strong understanding of cultural capital, the team successfully interloped the Lower East Side’s vibrant nightlife and established an intimate venue where they could easily manipulate young consumers.

The team engineered a recurring, premeditated “non-event” in which they would hang out on a street bench located in front of New York’s most prominent American Apparel branch. Initially, they were able to attract the interest of passing youths because of their status as minor celebrities within the city’s taste-making elite, but over time “The Bench” (also known as the “anti-scene”) grew to become a hyper-local social phenomenon and quickly developed a reputation as a cool alternative to neighborhood bars and clubs.

Positive media publicity further popularized “The Bench” and soon enough the surrounding sidewalk was packed with thronging youths eager to hang out at New York’s newest and freshest night spot. Although youth are supposed to be resistant to social control, they were unable to resist the impulse to imitate, and ultimately follow their marketing-savvy friends into the light of American Apparel.

Source URL: http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/76/cockroach_herding.html
[1] http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/76
[2] http://www.adbusters.org/authors/douglas_haddow