e-scrache

e-scrache is a digital port of the form of protest known as the "escrache" in various Spanish-speaking countries. An e-scrache replicates the key characteristics of its physical counterpart. Much like the original escrache where protesters occupy a physical space in close proximity to their target to stage a protest, in an e-scrache the user/protester occupies the space of Wi-Fi signals near the target by setting up special Wi-Fi hotspots with the help of e-scrache Wi-Fi emitters. Using a technique commonly employed by commercial Wi-Fi hotspots to push advertisements and verify user credentials known as “captive portals”, an e-scrache Wi-Fi hotspot automatically pushes adversarial information against the target to all devices connected to the hotspot. By imagining a digital form of an established practise of protest, this project takes inspiration from existing digital media activism practises to explore the conceptual boundaries of protests, as well as the possibilities of a mixed mode of digital/virtual and analog/physical political expression using a locative digital medium such as Wi-Fi.

The prototype e-scrache Wi-Fi hotspot emitter is built on a repurposed Android smartphone with certain software modifications. The cost for such a phone can be as low as $20 in most markets around the world, which significantly lowers the financial barriers for any potential protesters to adopt the e-scrache as a method of protest.

Tutorial: How to convert an Android smartphone into an e-scrache Wi-Fi hotspot

The e-scrache Wi-Fi emitter generates an e-scrache hotspot that is visible to every Wi-Fi enabled device situated within its coverage.

(the fake wi-fi hotspot)

In order to attract attention from unwitting participants, the name of the e-scrache hotspot can be set either very provocatively (e.g. "your neighbor is a criminal") or deceptively (e.g. simulating a Wi-Fi hotspot people would usually connect to, like "Starbucks-Google" or "nyu-guest" ).

(the phone prompting the user unknowingly connected to the hotspot to log in)

Once a device is connected to an e-scrache hotspot, the hotspot is configured to display a "captive portal". Captive portal is a technology usually deployed by some commercial Wi-Fi hotspot providers to display advertisements or ask for login information when the user connects to the Wi-Fi hotspot. In an e-scrache, the captive portal is used to display adversarial information against the target.

(the captive portal)

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