A suspicious radio/printer for Mike Corley

A day of conspiracy theories…

DSC0uu4768.jpgMi-5 Persecution is the subject line of a series of Usenet posts, originated by Mike Corley, an IT specialist living in London.

His messages usually detail how British intelligence has bugged his home and is sending people to follow him around and harass him. He has also claimed in his posts and on the pages of his own website that television personalities are mocking him or talking about him in code and are part of the MI5 conspiracy. According to him, MI5 with the assistance of the US has started in August 2005 to use a mindcontrol technology which not only reads his mind but can also send voices and thoughts on his mind. This has led to claims that he has mental health issues. Corley has been banned from posting through Google for his abuse of Usenet bulletin boards and has been similarly bounced from most ISPs in England. His story has even been turned into an opera last year.

In the past, his posts were relatively easy to filter out, due to his similar subject lines and email address. However, at the start of 2008, he began a series of posts that avoided filters through sporgery and slightly varying his subject line of “MI-5 Persecution”. The regular expression Subject: {M[‘,-`. ]I[‘,-`. ]5[‘,-`. ]P} will filter this.

Corley Radio, by Design Interactions students Tommaso Lanza and Ross Cairns, is a combination of printer and a radio. It prints out specific words picked up while continuously scanning public and commercial radio stations. Any keywords can be programmed, but in this case they relate to the ongoing Mike Corley story about the MI5 (the UK’s counter-intelligence and security agency) trying to ridicule him through radio and television broadcasts.

The designers imagined that Mike Corley would use the radio to keep track of who is talking to or about him, to help him find all possible conspiracies against him, that he by himself could never possibly detect.


3 questions to Ross & Tommaso:

Is it a working prototype or a concept?

Mechanically it works, however we couldn’t get access to suitable voice recognition software, so for the purpose of the exhibition we faked the print outs based on details from the MI5 Persecution Reports. These are written reports from Mike which he spams to the internet daily at a truly astonishing rate (we’ve set up a crude tracking system recording the number of his posts found on the internet – we know many companies who would love to have this sort of ranking on Google).

0nasksohuc8.jpgWhy choose Mike Corley?

Sometime ago we stumbled across these reports from Mike on Usenet and we started to get obsessively curious as to what they were about. The radio concept alone could be used by anyone. Here in London we could imagine Amy Winehouse or her family using it. A day never seems to go by without some form of unintended tabloid focus on them. However, during this project the story around Mike Corley became increasingly interesting.

I had never heard of that man before so i looked for information about him online and felt very sad for him. Have you tried to get in touch with him?

We know what you mean, it is a strange space we are operating in. This is about a person who is very real and an active part of the ‘uk.misc’ Usenet community. Many of the active community’s members have met him. We have not contacted him (yet). He is constantly receiving nasty replies to his posting from webmasters or forums users. Should we be part of this or passive? Mike is manipulating technology to make his message public and we are feeding off this, highlighting it and using it; but as designers we are very clear about our role. We are not passing judgment on Mike but leaving the project open for interpretation.

Thanks Ross & Tommaso!


Images 1, 2 and 4 courtesy of the designers.