Every move you make

25 05 2013

I know I don’t speak for everyone, but for me, the freedoms enjoyed by artists and journalists are worth possible breaches of privacy.
Kathy Ryan

So said the journalist (or artist), not the person whose privacy is breached.

Given my rants against Google Glass and Facebook and the general hoovering-up of every last bit of ourselves in the name of Big Data, it is no surprise that I consider someone taking a photograph of me in my home an offense against all that is Good and Holy.

I draw lines between private and public, lines which, in practice, can be difficult to maintain. I want to reveal what I want to reveal and nothing more, but, of course, in the writing of this (now-less-than-) pseudonymous blog I say things about myself of which I am completely unaware.

I know that, but I choose—I choose—to do it anyway.

But sitting in my apartment on a cool spring day, drinking coffee and doing crosswords, no, I do not choose to have you record me, take something from me.

When I enter a public space I am aware of myself as being “in public”. I’m not much concerned I’ll be recorded—I am unremarkable in appearance—but I recognize, however gruffly, that if someone snaps a pic of me there’s little I can do about it. And even if you do grab me with your camera, I’ll almost certainly remain anonymous, in the background or a (drab) bit of the local scenery.

And, in any case, if I am in public so too are you: there is a symmetry of risk in our interactions.

(This is among the reasons I am leery of CCTV and apparatuses like Google Glass: the asymmetry of risk, which makes the person watched vulnerable to the person watching. And no, telling me I can even the score by recording back is not a sufficient answer, not least because such a response would force me deeper into a regime to which existence I object.)

In my apartment, however, I am not “in public”, windows be damned. That you can see me and I can see you is, of course, where the blur comes in, but part of living in a city means you maintain a set of manners in which the blur serves to protect privacy. I might see you playing your guitar and you might see me dancing, but we each let it go, unmentioned.

That we leave our curtains open as we strum or dance or eat or play with the dog or tickle the baby doesn’t mean we’re putting ourselves on display; it just means we want some light.

Yes, some people do put themselves on display, and within (generous) limits, that’s fine; that one person is an exhibitionist, however, does not mean the person next to her is.

This is, for me, theoretical. I live in an un-hip section of Brooklyn where few people would be so foolish as to think they could point a camera in someone’s window without consequence. I certainly wouldn’t advocate violence against that fool, but if the camera were, ah, rendered inoperable, well, them’s the risks you take.




7 responses

26 05 2013
26 05 2013
Black Swan

I personally don’t understand what the smudge on the Google glass window is all about. For decades we have had the telescope, the binoculars, the binoculars with cameras and software, mobile/smart phones with cameras and video, video recorders and players; the endless retail shops nation/world wide that sell surveillance items.

A person that is a voyeur will be a voyeur even if methods need be the old drill a hole through the concrete wall. A person that is an exhibitionist will display self wherever and whenever they chose to do so. It is about the character of the person not the technology available for purchase. And in cases of voyeurism I believe the enticing aspect is really being secretive, clandestine in viewing.

I don’t think people will suddenly become voyeurs because they can walk around in broad daylight and take photos hands free when they can already do this with hands at no consequence when within their rights and if not violating the rights of someone else.

In fact it may be that those who oppose the Google glass do so because they don’t want many people looking through the glass that could possibly open the drapes on illicit activity that gets swept under the rug, case in point, 8-9 police of LAPD beating a man kicking him to death in Bakerfield, CA.

Thanks for your post!

26 05 2013

I understand that surveillance techs have been around for awhile, and as regards police activity, I think cameras and videos are a good thing, not least because they even up the playing field with regard to authority (i.e., a cop’s word always mattered more than a civilians, now a vid may—may—trump a cop’s word). But you aiming your telescope at my window or sticking a camera through my curtains? Na-uh. And saying that the voyeur will view, regardless,doesn’t mean he’s not still a creep.

As for Google Glass, a tech which would allow you to pull up all kinds of information on me just because you passed me in the street? Why should your desire for something on me trump my desire for discretion and privacy? I don’t exist for you, and that something (or someone) is visible to you doesn’t mean it (or she) was meant for you. If you want to display yourself, go for it, but you don’t get to display me.

Finally, that surveillance techs have become more mainstream in the guise of, say, cell phones, doesn’t mean that everything is now in the open. You have the ability to expose me and I have the ability to expose you: that’s less an open society than one of mutual threat, one in which the person who chooses to opt out of the exposure matrix is, well, unable truly to do so. This is, unfortunately, a rather old-fashioned sentiment, but I don’t care to live in the Panopticon, and I don’t feel freer for living in a society in which everything is visible, everything recorded, and the unwillingness to make oneself visible (on Facebook or Instagram or wherever) marks one as prima facie unreliable.

I said in an earlier post that I want to be a free person in society, and I meant it. I don’t want to live in a cave somewhere, nor do I want to live on stage; I want other ways to live.

27 05 2013

ooh a cave sounds good, my wife doesn’t want to hear anymore “compound” talk from me anymore so you didn’t hear that..

27 05 2013

Hey, I’ve already made clear my antipathy to caves. . . .

28 05 2013

Somehow I suspect Google’s “solution” to the problem would be simply for everyone to have Google Glass… which is probably their ultimate goal, anyway…

6 06 2013
Whisper to a scream | AbsurdBeats

[…] all, one guy points his camera at the windows of a nearby building and I rant about privacy and presumption; Google wants to equip people with awkward glass and I grouch about […]

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