Forum E

Hi all.

Please visit the following links to various websites of organizations and projects, which are creating public maps of surveillance cameras erected in their local communities.


What arguments are these organizations and maps making?  How would you put Flusty into conversation with these maps?  In other words, how do these maps extend, complicate, affirm, negate, concede, etc. with the arguments Flusty is making?  What concerns does the surveillance of public space raise for you or not raise for you?  What is really at stake here in the proliferation of camera surveillance in public space that these arguments are shedding?  How would you respond to Flusty? How would you weigh in here? 

Importantly, what research projects might you see emerging related to security and public space?  What kinds of research do you think were performed to create these maps?  How does the research we have been doing with geosemiotics relate?

4 responses to “Forum E

  1. The companies/ agencies planting the surveillance cameras claim that crime has decreased over time because of the appearance of the cameras. The issue is that people with opposing viewpoints argue that the decrease in crime is not due to security cameras. Flusty believes there is a “security obsession now pervading our cities […] fueled in large part by fears of complex social change and inequitable resource distribution. […] [This] ‘war on crime’ may be interpreted as a means of forcibly maintaining, reconstructing, or at least salvaging a challenged and possible collapsing social consensus while simultaneously protecting the perquisites of that consensus’s established beneficiaries” (57). In short, he believes cities are afraid of social change and wish to keep cities as intact as possible.

    At my high school, there was an uproar when the administration decided to plant a security camera in the sports wing hallway. We had an honor code that is strictly maintained, and students felt the administration did not trust us. At my school, students could leave backpacks, coats, sports equipment, etc. in this hallway without worrying about another student stealing their items. The camera was placed in that spot because there had been thefts, presumably by visiting sports teams. Personally, I didn’t mind having the camera there. It didn’t affect my behavior; I forgot it was there most of the time. The same applies for public space. Most of the time I don’t even know that I’m being watched, but why would someone need to watch me? I rest on the belief that although the camera controller has the opportunity to stalk my every move, they would have no reason to do so. That is my personal belief, however Flusty believes the growing amount of cameras have created “jittery space,” or space that cannot be used because of an abundance of security measures.

    My response can only come from my experience, and in my experience I have never had an issue involving security cameras. I’ve only really seen security tapes on the news, TV shows, etc. so I’ve seen them used to solve crimes, to help society flow.

    Interesting projects could be setting up a security camera somewhere on campus, one time making it very conspicuous and setting it up again hidden where it cannot be seen. Some buildings have signs that tell the reader that there are security cameras present in a building. It would be interesting to see people’s reactions to such a sign being present vs. not being there. A security camera could serve as a sign of “you’re being watched.” Therefore, the placement of a camera could affect social behavior in public space.

  2. The maps posted above of surveillance cameras put in by the government around central areas of New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Specifically, these cameras are placed in areas where there has been issues with “disturbance of privacy”; the citizens feel as though their privacy is being violated by the government and surveillance teams that could possibly be distributing these tapes to anyone. So much for a sense of privacy, right?
    One main point within Flusty’s article that I think connects well the idea given from the links above is the pondering question of “does public space still really exist, even with the growing sense of paranoia of the ‘those’ and ‘them’s’? Can public space exist in our territorial society these days? Cameras and gated areas and dividing lines have crumbled the idea of public space as the increase of obsession and mistrust gives the government their own sense of ownership by laying the role of “Big Brother” making sure that we are doing the right thing and complying to what they want us to do. Thus, these maps definitely extends Flusty’s arugument.

    Since we’ve been to war in Iraq on top of the terrorist acts happening on a global spectrum, the government has been hammering down security which in some ways is a good thing because it is protecting us from danger, but by overprotecting and domineering us, I feel as though our rights as humans are visibly being violated.
    A research project related to this topic could be to have someone handing out flyers saying something like “Do you know that your being watched right now?” or “Did you know that with very step you take, there are 100 cameras watching you?” while having a camera hidden somewhere to document the reactions of the people who take the flyers. You could even just ask people how they would feel if they were constantly being watched all the time by surveillance cameras on campus? and if they would do anything about it? while secretly taping their response and then letting them know that they were just being taped and how they feel now, now knowing that what they had just said had been documented.

  3. The arguments these organizations are making are that surveillance in public space across the country is undermining our fundamental rights as citizens to freedom of speech, privacy, and confidentiality. Even though the cameras are looking out for our safety and security, the New York Civil Liberties Union argues about what kinds of constraints we should place on the access to these videos and how certain exposure could be considered violation of privacy. Camera placement in New York City alone has almost tripled since 1998. However, crime rates in the big apple have drastically gone down due to these surveillance cameras and safety has increased immensely. After the first major installations of cameras in 1997, crime rate went down 36%. The NYCLU debates however that no researcher has produced conclusive evidence that cameras deter crime. Surveillance in public space personally makes me feel more comfortable and safe as a woman. Women are predisposition to be physically weaker than men, making them easy targets for mugging, rape, assault, and murder. Surveillance cameras help protect women and children from these terrible crimes. A watchful eye is better than no eye at all. These cameras also protect retailers from losing profit because they catch thieves in the act. Working in retail for most of my high school and college life, it is nice to have a set of eyes watching out for you in places where you might not be able to see. Cameras in my experience have helped stop many thieves in the store that I work at. In these kinds of situations, I feel it is extremely necessary to have cameras watching over us. By taking them away because of “privacy violations” were putting our families, our peers, and ourselves in danger. A research topic that I draw from these controversies is “Where do we draw the line between safety and privacy with surveillance cameras in our society?” This poses many questions for me as to what is considered violation and what is considered precautionary.

  4. These organizations are trying to prove that because they have cameras present crime has decreased. Flusty argues that our cultures security obsession is fueled largely by complex social change. My main concern is where does it stop. Having surveillance of public space allows for zero privacy outside of your own home. This leads back to the idea that you have to buy your own public space because there really isn’t any and now after looking at these links I feel that even if there is public space its never at all private anymore. I think if we continue to have constant surveillance were loosing our rights as citizens. I do agree with Flusty however I feel that we have resorted to take these measures because we our scared of change and how it will evolve over time. However this is extreme because where do the cameras turn off. I personally would feel violated if people had cameras in gyms or locker rooms. I am sure in many instances this wouldn’t happen however I know in my high school I know the administrators put a band on cell phone use anywhere inside the locker rooms or bathrooms for privacy issues. There are many things Americans do that they don’t want other people knowing about. I feel it’s cheating by the police officials to use cameras as a tool to catch speeders or jaywalkers. In some instances such as store cameras I believe this is beneficial however I’m not sure where the line is drawn.

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