Homeland Security Advisory System and media art

The Homeland Security Advisory System is a color-coded terrorism threat advisory scale. The different levels trigger specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments, and they affect the level of security at some airports and other public facilities (wikipedia.)

The sytem has inspired several art projects.

12himki.jpgPaul DaviesDepartment of Homeland Security Safety Vest will keep you warm in case of a terrorist attack but it also features a lighted Threat Level indicator so you can always be alert to any terrorist threat. The DHS Vest works by connecting over 802.11 wireless networks and downloads the current national threat level XML file from the DHS website, downloads it to the vest, and displays the current color.



The Homeland Security Blanket, created by FutureFarmers in 2002, is a networked blanket wirelessly networked to the internet. The prototype responds to the Homeland Security color coded “Threat Levels” by a temperature change and an indicating light which alerts the user of current threat and comforts them accordingly.

At the MOMA‘s show Safe: Design Takes On Risk, through January 2, 2006.

Previously blogged:

Ryan Schoelerman
and Sky Frostenson‘s Blowhard game: two players compete by breathing into a CPR mask, where a breath sensor translates cumulative respiration into the player’s current level of anxiety, shown on a screen in the same color-coded system used by the Department of Homeland Security’s Threat Advisory System.

Players must increase their anxiety gradually, moving up one stage at a time. Upon completion of a level the display provides feedback via audio-video USA fear culture propaganda from the 1950s to the present. The first player to reach the top, wins.

The Homeland Insecurity Advisory System project, by Jonah Brucker-Cohen, allows people to determine the US Government’s Threat Level by collectively rating RSS feeds from major US news sources. The system lets people collaboratively challenge the internally determined (and seemingly arbitrary) threat condition by rating each major US news source according to its support level for or against the US Government’s actions.

UPDATE: David Karave asked me to mention an animatronic work that engages with and parodies the color code alerts, he has been worked on it over the course of 4 years together with more than 30 artists in the US and Canada.