Iron Shackle, Found in The River Thames. 17th century AD
An object of enforced compliance
This iron shackle, found by mudlarks on the banks of the River Thames, would have been likely to be once associated with a prisoner inhabiting one of the fleet of prison ships that once occupied the Thames. Floating incarceration institutions were housed in the salvaged hulks of unseaworthy vessels in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Conditions on the ships were poor and mortality rates high but the ships' nature provided easy means to transfer and transport prisoners to the Americas where they would then serve their sentences. These prison ships became known as The Thames Prison Fleet and held around 500 convicts at any given time. The transfer of prisoners from river bank to boat left numerous artefacts of cultural residue on the mud banks of the Thames, this shackle now represents part of that reminisce.

The modern equivalent to an iron shackle could be seen to be voluntarily worn by its owner today. As mobile and wearable technologies accelerate into common ownership, our compliance with enforced control states becomes habitualised, we no longer notice what tracks us continually. Aside from the constant governmental monitoring of connected citizens, we are beginning to see the commercial conditioning of our lives and lifestyles through such modern shackles. Rewards-related incentives encouraging us to maintain regular exercise by the health insurance industry are now only a small step towards a society governed by a universally monitored compliance state. For those prepared to accept their shackles and maintain their goals, the rewards will be sufficient; for those that aren't, the reprimands may leave them paying a premium for the simple luxury of non-compliance.