Watching Ourselves Watch Ourselves

Posted in Uncategorized by Vikram on July 5, 2010

Examining the footage of protests at the G20 conference in Toronto, it is both unnerving and heartening to see how many people have their cell phones and cameras brandished in front of them, recording all the action.  Cell phones, video cameras, and regular cameras snap and record, ensuring that all the carnage and animosity is recorded from all angles and perspectives.  Even the police had multiple officers recording the action.  Tens of thousands or even millions of pictures and videos recorded this event.

It seems that we’ve reached a point from which there will be no return; all noteworthy events can and will be recorded by anyone with a small, cheap piece of technology.  Our smart phones – and whatever personal electronic device we may have in the future – won’t diverge from utilizing video and image recording capabilities, if anything, recording technology will become more integrated and more powerful.

If this course holds true, events of continually lesser importance will be recorded, until databases replete with geographically or chronologically assigned video will be available for perusal (the newest iPhone update already allows automatic tagging of videos by geographic location).  Want to see what rock shows you missed at a nearby venue? Instantly, you’ll be able to search all the shows at that venue and discover hundreds of recordings of each one.

The act of recording an event will become less and less deliberate, and more a normal course of action.  If the possibility existed (it does) for a small device on your ear or brow to record everything in front of you, would you do it? Maybe not, but if it were to become a normal course of action, it would begin to abnormal not to do it.  We’ve all had that one friend who held out and refused to get a cell phone, but under pressure from friends and societal norms, this hold-out almost inexorably caved and picked up a dirt-cheap cell phone.

Indeed, people are already recording everything they see – Justin Kan broadcasted every moment of his life for months in 2007 on  Since then, several other people have followed suit.

Of course, this omnipresent video transcription of society conjures up big-brother-esque dystopias, with behaviour monitoring connotations.  This, however, is a fairly extreme view of our future, and other futures are far more likely to occur. What’s often forgotten is that technology is malleable, changing and twisting with shifts in society and culture.  We aren’t at technology’s whim; this is an oft-repeated tenant of communications theory, despite society’s predilection to believe otherwise.

There are positive consequences of ubiquitous surveillance, too; unruly or totalitarian acts by people or governments cannot be defended with denial — the G20 riots are a testament to that.  Even celebrities, such as Michael Richards, cannot hide their bigotry behind closed doors – if you are famous or otherwise important and you conduct yourself in an “unsavoury” manner, you’d better believe you’ll be all over Youtube within a few hours.

Whatever your perspectives on a filmed society are, it’s important that we move forward eyes open, knowing we are all little videographers, iPhone’s at the ready, Blackberry’s in hand, waiting for something interesting, or not so interesting, to happen.  Disquieting as it may be, we are in control, and if we’re in control, we had better be prepared to face the consequences of watching ourselves watch ourselves.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: