EQUIVEILLANCE A SHARED OBSERVATION CAMERA NETWORK

1st Supervisor: Prof.Dr.-ing.Andreas Schrader

2nd Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Joachim P. Hasebrook

In the current times, where the convergence between ubiquitous computing systems and the surveillance society is becoming more and more visible and strong, it is very difficult to imagine physical and virtual spaces which can still be considered not controlled, or somehow not engaged in any relationship with the political institutions or the established economical power of private corporations. What we are facing now is the growing monopoly on any type of data gathering method aimed to watch for many different purposes private citizens. On the other hand there are almost no meaningful effective initiatives against this, most of the times people are powerless in front of the shameless surveillance policies adopted more and more often (especially after 9/11 attack) by governments and companies. Within this inescapable landscape it is important to create some paths which allow common people to take back a small percentage of their own private life, or at least to act in a way to balance out the disparity of surveillance pressure. Different scholars went into this direction in different ways. For instance the french philosopher Michel de Certeau in his 'Practices of everyday life' tried to theoretically analyse the seemingly normal, boring practices of everyday life of western people in order to reveal encrypted behaviours leading to unaware subversive interaction with the surrounding reality. The American researcher Steve Mann, in his nearly lifelong research on wearable computing has been experimenting a lot with wearable web cams and analysing the effects produced on himself and people he interacts with, finding out how this ever recording device is capable of altering the normal course of events in the daily life of himself and the people he comes across. Thanks to this research he could understand how it works very often when people, in their capacities of public or private authority, are the targets of those wearcams, perceived as a sort of surveillance threat. The outcome of this experimentation is his concept of sousveillance, a french idiom created by Mann that sounds like 'watching from underneath', which in a figurative sense should be meaning grass-roots surveillance. Within this theoretical framework my idea is to design an open system using an ubiquitous computing approach with technologies that can be easily accessed by private citizens and that are not controlled by institutions or companies, but by an open dedicated community. My choice goes into the direction of video technologies, in particular those old panoramic coin-operated telescopes/binoculars placed on the highest spots of the towns for touristic purposes, allowing people to peep around the landscape. The main features of this system comprises a set of technologies aimed to enhance the use (and misuse) of those telescopes turning them into a sort of networked system of video cams, distributed on the territory, and freely accessible. Every user should be able then to record and store the watched landscapes on an online personal account, part of this online dedicated community. In this way multiple and new possibilities are open, any user could publish, share, watch, search, comment video material, memories of the last holidays, easily send video to other platforms, map them and get other mapped videos, augmented with any other widget and add-on explicitly designed to spread and share the data in the most open and uncontrollable ways. What could be a possible outcome of this system is an inconstantly periodical collaborative equiveillance on the territory, with cameras controlled randomly by random common people, shooting and then documenting pieces of life of some places in the world, with material shared and handled by a free open community of users. The purpose of my work is to further investigate the theoretical premises introduced above and then make a detailed design of such system, including the possibilities offered by an ad hoc online community, depicting the collaborative interaction among its users and drawing hypothetical scenarios