Monday, 5 June 2017

The Secret Dramaturgy of Your Mobile Phone: Glenn Wilkinson and Geoff White @ Edfringe 2017

What does your phone get up to behind your back?
Why does the battery go flat even when you’re not using it?
What’s it telling spies, governments & shadowy corporations?
The Secret Life of Your Mobile Phone is a unique stage show: a real-time, interactive journey into the hidden world of a gadget you probably thought was on your side….
It is the brainchild of ethical hacker Glenn Wilkinson (companies pay him to break into their computer systems - he’s very good at it) and tech security journalist Geoff White (his exclusives have covered everything from Russian hacker gangs to internet dating fraud).

The Secret Life of Your Mobile Phone will be performed daily at theSpace on the Mile Space One at 3.50pm from Monday 21st to Saturday 26th August 2017.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

The show’s creators, Glenn Wilkinson (ethical hacker) and Geoff White (technology journalist) have been deeply interested in privacy and tech for years.

Our concern is that the public are kept wilfully ignorant by the tech industry as to how the devices and the data actually works.

Glenn & Geoff realised the best way to get people to take personal data seriously was to make it truly personal: using the audience members’ own phones and information to explore and explain the tech they use every day.

You can watch a programme or go to a theatre performance, and then walk away and think “well that doesn’t affect me”. But when it’s your own data, your own phone that’s been used, you can’t ignore it.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes – we’ve had some of our most insightful discussions about data security with audiences after the show: you just don’t get that with TV news or the kind of conference talks we usually do

How did you become interested in making performance?

We helped do consultancy work for the Donmar Warehouse on their play Privacy. While I loved the show, I felt there was a space for something less narrative and more interactive, more of a tech demo/explainer than a play.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

We don’t hide anything.

What we really did not want to do was a show where we “magically” bring up personal data, photos, etc on screen.

That doesn’t help anyone understand tech, and it certainly doesn’t help them protect their privacy and their data.

So we deliberately set out to show our “working out” as we go along: we don’t sugar-coat the software we use, we show it and explain it.
There’s deliberately no stagecraft to the show: we don’t hide the cables, and when the audience comes in, Glenn and I are already on stage working, so there’s no “dramatic entrance”.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

N/A – we’re not theatre people so we don’t have usual productions!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope they’ll gain a better understanding of the working of phones, personal data and indeed the entire internet.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

We wanted to get the audience involved, but initially we wanted to do something “passive”, eg. Something where the audience doesn’t have to take any action.

I’ve seen a lot of ideas which start with “just connect to our network/login to our service/give us your password and we’ll show you how creepy we can be”.

We deliberately wanted to start by showing the audience what we can gather from them without them lifting a finger.

From a logistical point of view, in order to carry out the hacks, Glenn needs time to run the software, so we had to structure the performance so as to give him time to do that.

In under an hour Geoff and Glenn demonstrate, live and in real-time, the data constantly leaking from your phone. Using cutting-edge technology they show where the information goes, who gets it, and how it can be used to track and target your every movement.

The show is a mad mix of tech demo, ethical enquiry and stand-up comedy. 

Geoff and Glenn are fascinated by the world of information security and privacy, and have discovered that the best way to get people interested in personal data is to make it…. really personal. All data used in the show comes from the audience members themselves.
The Secret Life of Your Mobile Phone has been performed for a wide mix of audiences, from Latitude Music Festival to the Conservative Party Conference.
Along the way Geoff and Glenn have given thousands of people the inside track on how this ubiquitous piece of technology works. After this, you’ll never look at your phone in the same way again…

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