Secrecy and privacy are import parts of our lives but are often taken for granted which is why I wanted to make a piece about that subject. It turned into a social experiment where I looked at surveillance, how the idea of a panopticon changes my behavior as well as show how the society reacts to the possibility of anonymously and remotely spying on someone.
I thought of the idea after watching the documentary by Peter Vlemmix titled “Panopticon” which talks about security, surveillance and privacy. Since I’m interested in those ideas I knew many of the points that he made already however what struck my attention was an interview he conducted with the public. He asked their thoughts about the government being able to check what the public is doing at any moment through cctv, phone tapping and locating and all other types of data collection. Most of the people asked said that if you had nothing to hide and if you are a “good citizen” then there is no reason not to approve that idea. I found that problematic but the part that intrigued me the most was when Vlemmix asked two women whether they have blinds in their windows and why. They instantly changed their attitude and said how they value their privacy and don’t want just anyone looking in to see what they are doing.
I found that fascinating as the people didn’t realize they were contradicting each other so quickly and in such an obvious way, of course those two situations aren’t necessarily the same but I still wanted to go with that idea.
My initial idea was to hack my own webcam and allow people to remotely control it however that has proved difficult to accomplish in such short time since there was no way to control the software via a blog. Next I though of using the basic computers such as Raspberry Pi which I could program to be used as “CCTV” and accused remotely by anyone with a link. This was more promising however I didn’t have the time or budget for this so I went with a simple yet effective live stream.
In that way I turned my life into a very obvious case of a “spectacle” where the viewer was in control. I had no idea whether I was watched and by whom. This made me self aware of what I was doing at all times. I was thinking and getting anxious about even the smallest and most ridiculous things such as sitting the right way or eating properly. This weird anxiety I had was confirmed with some research I have done asking people about the subject and whether they would attempt it. Majority said that they wouldn’t because they value their privacy, some said that it would change their behaviour in a way that stops them being themselves and only a handful said yes but only under some circumstances.
One respondent said that she would like to have surveillance (cctv) at her place of work because that way both the worker self monitors and makes sure that they are productive as well as it can potentially allow for monitoring of the workplace to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for the employees. If used correctly this could shift the power from the people higher in the hierarchy to the workers lower down.
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence.”
– The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
I have lost almost all of my privacy, as I was undertaking the experiment. There were only a few places in my house that I could go without being watched. This made me really nervous and at times I even censored what the viewers can see on my devices by facing them away from the camera. I was considering streaming what is on my laptop as well however I felt I would have been far too exposed and I’m not psychologically ready for that. At some points I just had to go out of the room or hide in the blind spots of the camera to avoid its evil glare. To continue some of my work I moved to the library where in theory I also had more privacy than at home however after encountering cameras on the way there and people looking at me, checking what I was doing, where I was going I realised that I didn’t have much privacy at all.
Students easily self regulate because of the norms and social conventions. We are here to learn, to be the good students and to compete and be better than others. We put the lecturer as the dominant person because they are the givers of the education even thought we; the students are their employers. This shows how the discourse of education is twisted and puts the students as the subjects, the ones to be controlled through social conventions.
I decided to do an interactive, social experiment/video because I believe that the idea of secrecy and privacy is difficult to explain to the public through other means. I also believe that this can give the viewer a better idea of how this affects us on both sides, as the subject and the spectator. It opens up a discussion on the subject of privacy and with that, security of our personal data. I even managed to encourage others to try something similar themselves to see how their behaviour might change once they open up to the faceless and anonymous public.
I always enjoyed making experimental pieces, which might not necessarily fit in with the norm. This way I managed to spark up interest and with that, a discussion about all kinds of subjects.
Unfortunately that means that I don’t have a definite piece to show except the timelapse from parts of the stream however in the future I’d like to repeat the experiment at a bigger scale with more discussion about it and more responses from the “audience”.