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.

http://www.nyclu.org/pdfs/surveillance_cams_report_121306.pdf

http://www.appliedautonomy.com/isee/centerfoldmap02.pdf

http://www.smartmobs.com/2006/12/19/video-surveillance-map-mashup-in-philly/

 

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?

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4 responses to “Forum E

  1. The arguement that I see is that we don’t have any privacy anymore. When you and your family go to a community event there are so many cameras everywhere. There are cameras in the stop lights, on majority of the buildings. Mr. Flusty is correct about how things have changed in only twenty years. Everywhere you go someone’s watching you. There is one concern that I do have and it is that everyone has become paranoid. At one time we had that feeling of being free. You felt good walking around your neighborhood alone just to clear your head or to get some fresh air. Now you can’t enjoy yourself outside sometimes. There is so much crime nowadays that your sense of freedom is somewhat gone. At first thepolice or government wanted the cameras for surveillance on the community because of crime but when it is turned on them and their bad habits come to the surface they don’t feel that they should be watched. With so much surveillance and the crime around the world you feel like your in prison.

  2. In the first link, the article argues that the increased government surveillance threatens individual privacy. They also state that police officers engage in unwarranted videotaping of persons in the city’s black and Latino communities (Lieberman, 10). She argues extensively about the harm of public spaces under scrutiny by our government and public officials. Flusty also comments that monitoring sites in which daily life and face to face interactions threatens the free exchange of ideas engendering a progressive society (Flusty, 58). Throughout the reading Flusty raises certain concerns about how high-end neighborhoods are marketing exclusion as a selling point. There are illustrations showing physical barriers of iron bars and gated roadways. This definitely plays on human psychology, not only dividing space but types of people and social class.

    While reading Flusty’s article, I sympathize with the story concerning Brazil. I know there are place that creates “prickly or slippery” space. But in one section of the article he talks about how surveillance can have a positive effect. For instance, he states, “In all likelihood, we have not been run over or mugged. We have not been verbally abused by beggars, shot by gang members, or had our throats slit in our own driveways by some disgruntled ex-athlete” (Flusty, 55). Thus, when people feel safe, population grows. But in many big cities, it has caused overpopulation, which is not very desirable. In my experience, I feel that public surveillance is a good thing. If used appropriately, it is for public safety and documents important events that can have one individual harm another, otherwise no one would know. It is wrong however, when those behind the camera abuse the power. Seeing what people don’t usually see is very powerful tool indeed.

    For a research project, we can perhaps feel what it is like behind the lens. We can put a video camera near a vending machine to see how people act when no one is around. Or we can work with the Public Safety Department and gather statistics for places that people feel the least safe on campus and why. There are endless possibilities since we are all occupants of space.

  3. Feb.18, 2010

    Once you walk outside whether it is sunny or cloudy, you use your visual senses to look and see who and what is going on outside. You look up and down the streets to admire the snowfall blanketing the streets. cars, and homes. Then you listen or use your auditory senses for cars, ambulances, and or kids playing in the area. If you’re scared of dogs you would look and listen to see and hear what direction he is in. I like to smell or use my olfactory senses to smell the fresh air or smell burgers cooking or getting burnt at the nearby Burger King restaurant. I also can smell the garbage on Wednesday morning that lines the streets in front of the area homes. When it is cold outside or hot we use the air temperature or thermal air to let us know how to dress for the day. When it is really cold outside youdress in hats, scarves, gloves, or mittens, and boots. Most of the time you try not to talk to anyone because it is too cold out. But when it is warm or humid out , you don’l mind standing and talking to the people that you meet as your walkjng down the street.

  4. The maps and surveys presented by these organizations show that there has been a significant increase in the number of surveillance cameras throughout major cities of the United States, especially New York City. They argue that despite the fact that this increase is paralleled by a decrease in crime generally, there is no evidence that conclusively suggests they go hand in hand, that is, we cannot conclude from the evidence available that it is because of the increase in surveillance that there has been a decrease in crime. Additionally, they argue that there is reason for concern regarding issues of rights of privacy, speech, expression and association since there is little to no regulation, or even discussion, surrounding what guidelines govern over the use of the recorded material. As part of a separate investigation, Steven Flusty reiterates this point in his essay Building Paranoia: “Police spokespersons and the mayor’s office…have been careful not to deny an interest in using the cameras to keep watch over the streets, sidewalks, and adjacent properties,” as “video cameras have become standard equipment at the major intersections across the city [of Los Angeles].” (Flusty, 54) Although Flusty, in his essay, makes an overall different point regarding the societal impacts of increased security measures in large cities, he recognizes along with these organizations that “spaces of control…[threaten] the free exchange of ideas engendering a progressive society…[and are] a rejection of the individual’s right to space in which to be.” (Flusty, 58)
    What concerns me about the surveillance of public space is the consequent use that will be made of the recorded material; hence, I am concerned with the legal restrictions placed on the usage of the recorded material together with the measures of oversight that ensures that legality is being enforced. This general concern, however, rapidly becomes complex and detail sensitive at the moment we ask who is installing the surveillance systems. Surely legal restrictions will apply differently to private surveillance systems and public (tax funded) ones. On the one hand, there is the question of how much public space can a private system surveil and what counts as legitimate justification for suveilling that space. These questions apply the same for public surveillance systems; but, on the other hand, if a private enterprise is contracted by government (local, state or national) to install a public surveillance system, there is the question to what extent does the private enterprise have access to the recorded material, and whether the system itself will be monitored by the enterprise’s employees or by government employees. All these questions, inter alia, must be answered before any legislation is passed regarding the legality of surveillance systems and their usage.
    So, there is the concern about what we mean by usage. We can immediately differentiate two senses in which usage can be understood: (1) the usage in terms of what space can and/or cannot be surveilled, and (2) the usage in terms of what can and/or cannot be done with the recorded material. (1) and (2), however, are both involved in the concern manifested by these organizations and Mr. Flusty, namely, the degree to which the surveillance systems transgress rights of privacy, speech, expression and association. The question is, then, to what extent are we willing to sacrifice these rights for the sack of safety, and whether it is truly for the sack of safety that we are sacrificing them? In what follows I will briefly discuss and give opinion regarding the issues that arise from these questions.
    What expectancy, if any, can we have of privacy in public space? I can understand that an individual not want to be followed, harassed, in general, spied upon while in public, and there are laws to the effect of reflecting such expectancies. However, it is legal to hire a private eye to, say, follow your lover around, or to observe what you employees do while you are absent. Additionally, whatever is done or said in public space is open to any who want to observe, weigh in or ignore at their fancy, within, obviously, the legal limits. In short, so long as there is no harassing, assaulting, or any other illegal interaction, there is really no legitimate argument for an expectancy of privacy in public spaces except, maybe, in public restrooms, or any interaction that attempts on one’s physical person, which brings me to the notion of personal space while in public. This notion is a purely ideal and fabricated one (that is, a social construct based the subjective impression of individuals regarding the space that surrounds them) belonging only to certain cultures and societies where, by means of consensus and overall agreement among socialites, it has become accepted and legitimized. Truth is, there is no legitimate argument on the basis of which one can defend such a notion, especially in the context of public space. Whether you are standing in a line at the market, in a crowded metro or bus, sitting in a shared booth, bench or the like, walking down crowded streets, along crowded park paths, crowded commercial areas or the like, etc. personal space is only constituted by the physical embodiment in the fabric of space-time of the object that is your body, that is, not a single point of space-time that is not occupied by your own body can or does constitute your personal space. The space/s immediately surrounding your body is only respected as a matter of courtesy and not as a matter of right, and, again, are only due to cultural/societal conventions. So, in situations like those mentioned above, where it is quite difficult to extend such courtesies, this faulty notion, as a matter of course, disappears, and any legitimate expectancy of personal space immediately becomes that defined by the physical embodiment in the fabric of space-time of the object that is the human body. Therefore, in such social situations, legitimate claims of violation of personal space can only be based on a physical intrusion of that embodiment, that is, on an unwanted (nonconsensual) physical interaction such as touching, caressing, rubbing, hitting of any kind, pushing, etc. and based on the fact that they were intentional and not unintentional.
    I would therefore respond to these organizations and to Mr. Flusty that there may be an inherent contradiction in their claims regarding the rights that they maintain are at stake here, that the rights of privacy, speech, expression and association may be undermined by the increase in surveillance systems which are subject to little or no legal regulation and enforcement, a concern I share with them, albeit not entirely. Let us take on each right one by one, combining speech and expression into simply expression. If a group of citizens choose to associate or assemble, they have the choice (freedom) to do so either publically or privately, but they cannot have it both ways. If they do so privately, then they have the right to privacy; but, if they do so publically, then they do not have this right. If, however, due to some extraordinary circumstances, the group lacks a private space in which they can assemble, then they have the option (freedom) to demand of the government (local, state or national) to accommodate them in a public space but with a pre-established expectancy of privacy. This right to assemble is directly linked to the right of expression, that is, if the right to expression is meaningful at all there must be a time and space in which the right can be exercised. As I have mentioned, there exists the choice (freedom) to either exercise these rights in private or in public. Presumably, if the right is exercised in public, that choice reflects a desire to be heard, or, at least, those in public have the right to hear it. We would be entering very troublesome grounds if we were to allow equal claims among citizens as to what can be heard and by whom in public. Simply put, that will not do, and there is a reason beyond the fact that it would be troublesome. The reason is that the claims would be contradictory in nature. When performed in public, the right of expression ensures that any party has the freedom not only to opine but also to be heard, whether those who hear consider what is opined or not is entirely irrelevant. Yet, to contend one has the right to expression in public at the same time as one has the right to privacy is an oxymoron.
    Despite this subtle detail, I tend to agree that the lack of legislation clearly stating the laws that will govern the installation and usage of surveillance systems, as applied accordingly to both private and public systems, is a grave problem that may indeed undermine these rights, the main rhetoric behind which is one involving government intervention as a means of social control, which, it is sustained, is an attempt against the freedom of the polity. It is rhetoric against governmental despotism, and rightly so I may add. As we may all be aware of, this right has been significantly undermined with the Patriot Act, not to mention the present issue of surveillance. This, therefore, is the main reason for worry. Once it has been clearly established what right to privacy, if any, do citizens enjoy when they are in public, then we can set limits to surveillance accordingly. In the end, the question appears to boil down to the following, to what extent does the necessity for ensuring safety in society transgress over basic civil rights, and are we willing to allow it? It is then a question of tradeoff: we may accept a lesser degree of security in favor of a high degree of civil rights, or vice versa. It is up to the polity to make its opinion heard, and up to the legislators to weigh those opinions into the discussion, so that eventually, we may un-blur the fussy edges surrounding this issue.

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