Somebody's Watching You (and Me)

Thursday, April 05, 2007



Two brief ideas.

Firstly, the conference I attended in London on Monday concerned copyright in the digital age. One tangential presentation detailed online identity authentication, specifically for students to access online journals and the like remotely. My overriding deduction from the information we were given on this topic is that ID cards are going to be effectively introduced via the back-door of higher-education digital identity management, which will, within the next few years, result in students (customers) being given online IDs at primary school which they carry through their entire academic career and which seamlessly integrate with their email, online social networks, and also banking. This is an inevitable truth in the digital copyright age. There may not be a literal, physical card to start off with, but there will be soon enough (student ID / library cards already existing, obviously), and it will doubtless have biometric metadata embedded in it. If you have to have one in order to be a student and use online and library resources, and 50% of people go through university, that's half the population of 20-30 year olds within the next decade. For the first time EVERYTHING rather than just financial transactions will be being monitored – who you’re friends with on Facebook, what books you read for study, what doors your card-swipe accesses – and all this information will be compiled together in one easy-to-browse system.

Secondly; in reference to the “talking CCTV” cameras that are making the news lately, I can only feel sad that Baudrillard died before this made the news; he would have adored it. He wrote extensively about the transformation of “man” into “the screen” (the idea that all our work time in the computer age is mediated via a screen, and that all our leisure time is too [be it TV or PC] and that soon enough almost all our communications would be too - video messaging, cameras in mobiles, etcetera). Psychologically people can't deal with their still image (i.e. photographs), let alone their moving image. Put a camera in front of anyone and they act weird, either going irrationally shy or irrationally extrovert or a combination thereof. CCTV has so far been a passive and largely ignorable part of life; making it interactive by having it talk, chastise, reprimand, etcetera the people it is watching, makes it a conscious and present part. People will go batshit because we can't deal with our own image. It is the same as when you show a cat a mirror; it does not understand what it sees. While we may do as a species on an intellectual level, I’m not sure we do on an emotional level. One only needs to consider the phenomenon of reality television (or just celebrity culture in general) to understand this.

Through a combination of technological development, environmental and natural resource concerns, happenstance, international relations and eye-on-history politics, the era of New Labour has shown Blair’s government to be the most heavy-handed of all time. And we have gone willingly into this age with seemingly no concern for freedom beyond the freedom to spend. Orwell was two decades out.

NJS

Thursday, April 05, 2007

1 Comments:

Blogger Glen - 11:43 pm

As you will gather I read a shortened version of this earlier and i keep thinking about it. The psychology behind it. On a practical level I had a chat with my 10yr old who can't understand why it might be an issue to have your biometrics taken if you are not a criminal.

They're getting them young and they will make it difficult for older people to avoid it all.

Psychologically there is a LOT of room for interest in this and you make some very pertinent points.

On a very local level you've only got to watch Big Brother to see how people go mental when faced with cameras......going Uk wide/global the prospect is fucking terrifying!

When I am back in work next week I want to be reminded to look for research in this area.

 

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Nick Southall was born in southwest England at the tail end of the 70s, and is the youngest of three brothers. He has a degree in popular culture and philosophy and has written about music for Stylus Magazine, The Guardian and Drowned In Sound, amongst others. He likes red wine, expensive headphones, spicy food, and the Hungarian national football team of the 1950s. His favourite record is the last one he listened to. You can contact him by email via sickmouthy @ gmail dot com should you so wish.

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