Mason School of Art | Faculty Michael Mcdermott featured in Tracked and Traced
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Faculty Michael Mcdermott featured in Tracked and Traced

Faculty Michael Mcdermott featured in Tracked and Traced

Tracked and Traced, an exhibition created by the Science Gallery Detroit for the MSU Museum on Michigan State’s campus.

With the advent of the 21st century, new technologies expedited the ways in which governments, corporations, and individuals surveilled people, places, and things throughout the world and beyond. In fact, many now claim that we live within a surveillance society. Data is collected, stored, analyzed, and applied in ways both known and unknown. The devices and tools we use—search engines, social media, smartphone apps, fitness trackers, retail loyalty programs, to name a few—enable these forms of opaque surveillance.

What does it mean to live in a world where privacy is merely an illusion? How does surveillance benefit us as individuals and as a society? Alternatively, what are the inherent harms inflicted upon those being tracked & monitored?

In this exhibition, we invite you to explore the myriad ways surveillance impacts our society. Further, we encourage you to explore how we can work to enable more ethical and equitable practices of seeing and being seen.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU).

Mason School of Art Faculty. Michael McDermott, an assistant professor in graphic design program is featured in Tracked and Traced. In his project funded by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), McDermott created 80 unique videos from 14 different cell phones showing easily recovered or simply never deleted images, texts, web histories, location data, and videos.

In an article by CCI, it goes on to say,

“The goal of the project is for people to see themselves in the information presented from the phones,” McDermott explained. “I want to get people to consider their own information and what they can do to protect that information when getting rid of a device. I think a lot of people don’t consider the volume of data on their phones and that there are tools available for someone to extract that data if it is there. I hope people walk away thinking that they need to be more careful about their digital-selves.”

Some phone owners did a good job of making sure their phones were reset and their data wasn’t available to anyone else, McDermott said. Others weren’t so careful––they left behind lots of personal information without as much as a PIN to protect the data.

He purchased 89 phones from Ebay and first checked if they charged and turned on. If they worked, McDermott plugged the phones into a program called XRY, which can extract information if it exists. He’d then sort through the extracted files for items from the phone’s former owner to create the videos.

McDermott said he made sure people or their info can’t be identified in the exhibit. “The information that I edited out was photographs of faces and images of personal information like checks, drivers’ licenses, passports, tax forms, and other things like that,” he said.

CCI Executive Director Luiz DaSilva said he hopes the Undeleted exhibit helps people look at cybersecurity from a new perspective. “The CCI Building Bridges Arts and Design Collaboration Program is intended to spark a fresh understanding of cybersecurity and show how cybersecurity is woven into our daily lives. Michael’s project shines a light on basic and very important data protection steps that we often forget to take. I can’t wait to also see the results of the other funded projects.”

Plan Your Visit

LOCATION: MSU Museum (409 W Circle Dr, East Lansing, MI 48823)

DATES: September 10, 2021 – December 11, 2021


Tuesdays – Saturdays: 10 AM – 5 PM

Closed on Sundays and Mondays

Guests are required to reserve a free ticket for entry to the MSU Museum.


If you want to see more of the exhibition you can check it out on our Instagram!

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