A couple of recent incidents have me thinking about the surveillance society again. The incidents:
- November 14th a University of California Police Department officer tasered a student in UCLA’s Powell library.
- November 19th (I think – the news was racing around the web on the 20th) Michael Richards – Kramer of Seinfeld – melted down while doing a standup routine at a club in Hollywood.
The key factor that unites these disparate messes? They were caught on video by bystanders (a quick YouTube search should turn both up – I’ll leave that as an excercise for the student). Though it’s often useful to concentrate on one aspect of technological change – in this case the panopticon (and in his defense Charlie Stross’ Great Britain is leading the way in ubiquitous surveillance) there are almost always countervailing forces and unintended consequences that get in the way. Opportunistic sousveillance may be be one of those forces. As video recording hardware gets smaller and more ubiquitous – cell phones, lipstick cams, etc. – and video distribution gets easier no one will have a monopoly on showing the world images of folks behaving badly. Not only will Cletus show up on ‘Cops’ when his meth lab gets raided, but additionally YouTube will have footage of Officer Friendly overreacting during a traffic stop.
I’ll continue to mull – sousveillance is no panacea. The state still has access to databases, facial recognition software (which – as far as I can tell – still sucks), etc. I continue to think transparency will keep free societies free, but part of me wants to prep an escape route – be ready go nomad and drop into a mobile cash/barter society that I think is already out there…