Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Surveillance of trust

CCTV surveillance is entirely a trust issue. In fact it is an absence of trust issue.

Despite being publicness made manifest, it is presented to us as being of unarguable benefit. The message is that it is something with which we not only have a citizen’s duty to cooperate, but with which we should cooperate willingly and submissively, even enthusiastically if we have any sense at all of where our own best interests lie. Non-cooperation carries sanctions. In other words, suveillance constrains choice, it minimizes options and it imposes a frightening need for security. In which respect it closely resembles a religion or current US foreign policy.

Inauthentic, imposing high commodity trust, high network trust and high power trust, surveillance leaves us in a bleak corner of the trust space in which similar absurdities begin to look reasonable. It’s a dystopian place, where ASBOs live, where borders must be closed and communities gated against outsiders, a place where dog eats dog, a place of curfews and vigilante patrols. It’s a Final Solution place where undesirables must wear their IBM number tattoos. Where everyone must be made to carry a lifeful of show-on-demand biometrics wherever they go. And be barred from wearing hoods. Sadder yet, it’s a place where solutions mostly don’t work. In which respect too it closely resembles a religion or current US foreign policy.

Saddest of all, it seems to me, the ethos of surveillance is driving us back to the dark ages. Back to when a superstitious fear of an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful deity was the preferred method of social control. Quite comforting it could be too for the line-toeing bourgeoisie. And surveillance promises that it could be that again. And, as with Rupert Brooke’s Fish, ‘dateless and deathless, blind and still, the intricate impulse works its will’ so with us and back we go.

Nowadays we generally don’t have to worry about an all-seeing almighty watching our every move. Reality TV lets us know how it must have been though.




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