Foucault, Staples, Ai Wei Wei (pt2)

Class Observation – Surveillance Activity

As part of a group activity following a presentation on our readings, a few of my fellow classmates had us walk around the Student Union Building (SUB) looking for different methods of data collection and surveillance. Naturally, when entering the SUB many of my peers immediately turned their attention to the different cameras stationed in and around the entrance. I too took notice of the small black spheres clinging to the ceiling, watching my every move as I raised my photo and took a photo of it. The cameras seemed normal, though, and so seemingly normal that it seemed pointless to even and it to my list. Instead I walked up the second floor, trying to find some sort of method of surveillance that I hadn’t yet considered.

It was then, while I stood beside the large windows that allowed me to see down to the floors below, that I noticed my professor standing with a group of my classmates, probably discussing something they found or seeking advice on where to look. Whether they could see me or not, they didn’t realize I was up there watching them, and when I snapped a picture of them talking, they never noticed.

It was the ease of taking that picture that made me wonder about the idea of constant surveillance. Earlier last week, my boyfriend was recounting having found a lost iPod in the campus building he works in. He said that while searching for the owner’s contact information so he might return the iPod to them, the found instead inappropriate pictures (up-skirt photos, zoomed in shots of cleaveage, etc.)  that had been taken unknowingly of girls around campus.

I thought about that iPod and those photos as I stood by the window, with the picture of my professor and my classmates still present on my phone screen. It was so incredibly easy to take that photo of them without their knowledge, and if I hadn’t reported my observation in the class discussion that followed, they might have never known.

When I was younger, I was immensely paranoid of hidden cameras. I always imagined them hiding in the corners of my room, on the ceiling, or behind the glass eyes of teddy bears. I never imagined cameras would be everywhere, constantly surrounding me, in the hands of friends and strangers alike.

 

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