Monday, May 08, 2006


No, No, This Time I Actually Want You To Stop Proving Me Right

In a tiny item on Five Live's midday news today, we learnt that the residents of Shoreditch in London will soon have the option to watch, from their living rooms, the content of CCTV cameras set up in the nieghbourhood.

I'm not sure why we were being told about this today, since the BBC News website filed the story on Jan 10th, but there you go:

BBC News: 'Rights Group Criticises 'ASBO TV''

'Civil rights campaigners have voiced concern about a new channel allowing households in east London to monitor local CCTV cameras, dubbed "Asbo TV".'

'The project will enable Shoreditch residents to compare suspicious characters with an on-screen "rogue's gallery" from their living-room.'

'Viewers can then alert police to anyone in breach of an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) or committing a crime.'

Wow. Just wow. You think you've seen it all, but then it turns out that you haven't seen anything. It's as if people today have mistaken 'Nineteen Eighty-four' as a how-to handbook on crime control. The idea that it might be just a wee bit creepy having citizens spy on each other, and the fact that this has been one of the most notable facets of most totalitarian governments, appears not to have occured to anyone behind the project.

'Is this a nosy neighbour's charter?' asked the interviewer.

'No, I don't think so' replied one of the people behind the project.

I have to question, then, exactly what a nosy neighbour's charter might involve, if the possibility of being able to spy on your entire neighbourhood in a distinctly paranoid manner without even having the inconvenience of twitching your net curtains doesn't count.

What sort of people, I wonder, are actually going to watch this channel? Do you think, maybe, just possibly, it might be nosy neighbours, and, say, nobody else? I'm just conjecturing, but it seems to me a possibility that most normal people are going to carry on watching normal television, and that the only people who will make use of this sort of technology are the curtain-twitching vigilantes who, frankly, should think deeply about just why they so enjoy prying into other peoples lives.

In this post, I linked to a page containing the 'panopticism' section of Foucault's 'Discipline and Punish', a book that seems with every passing day to have more and more relevance to how crime and criminals are referred to in this country. One of the features of the Panopticon that made it such a useful model for the structure of societal institutions, up to and including society itself, is its inevitable result of converting the 'watched' into 'watchers'. It goes without saying that law enforcement authorities will love the idea of people sat at home doing their work for them, and those who watch ASBO TV will be doing precisely that.

People always laugh if you say you're worried about the direction dialogue about crime is being taken today, but go ahead, laugh at me, because I am. The distrurbingly illiberal attempts of today's politicians, particularly at the Home Office, to turn people into suspects before they have done anything wrong is reprehensible, and in a second twist, they are now giving vigilantes the technology to spy on their neighbours. I'm really sorry, and call me a civil liberties wacko if you want, but I am disturbed.

We're watching you, and so is Rosie at number 74.

"I have to question, then, exactly what a nosy neighbour's charter might involve, if the possibility of being able to spy on your entire neighbourhood...doesn't count."

lol! quite.
and surely the police have got better things to do than, say, their job? like fining motorists for example.
The reason this might be better than 1984 or Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany is that the power is completely decentralized. Everyone knows that everyone is being watched and everyone is allowed to partake of the watching.

This still makes a mockery of privacy, but activitied undergone in public are traditionally exempt from privacy rights.

Here's a thing:Take this one step further. What if everyone had wrist-size monitors which can tune in to whatever of these cameras you want at any time? You could see what is around the corner before your rounded the corner.

Still, devils advocacy aside, I find this a bit on the bad side of the fence, due to its susceptibility to be abused.
Gawd, you'd never be able to re-arrange your knickers in public or innocently pick your nose again

-Such are the concerns of some anonymous people.
As an unabashed underthings-adjuster, I'm shameless in any case.
SafeT - another step further... not just personal viewing screens but personal cameras! Lets train one camera constantly on each individual and then no-one has the bother of searching through all the camera angles to see what one person is up to! We could all have our own persoanl TV channels!

Actually, I think this would work in response to Doc F's Big Brother post a couple down as well...

My word verification code is 'TVDILF'... is that one of those monitors zoomed in on a "Dad I'd Like To Fuck"
I just wrote a really long reply to all these and then Blogger deleted it, and I can't be arsed to re-write it all, so I'll just say thank you.

You never know, it might re-appear.
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