Build. Hack. Play. It's just what we do.

We are being monitored. Every day, all day long. This is often justified by the notion that being monitored makes us feel safer. After all, if Big Brother watches you, you are less likely to show undesirable behavior. But does it really work that way?

(This is a translation and adaptation of something I posted on my private blog more than a year ago. Those of you who are interested and understand Dutch can find a link to the original post at the end of this one.)


My motor runs on moments of fun. Like that time I played a mad king on a stage. Or that time when we went to the zoo and the llamas looked remarkably like one of my friends. Or that one surprise birthday party where the surprise failed in a hilarious way. Those kinds of moments are what keeps me running and gets me through the day.

But sometimes those fun moments turn into less fun moments. Like that time when I knew that it would be the last time that I got to play that mad king, ever. Or when the children at the zoo started bullying each other and we had to take care of them for four more hours. Or when we wanted to continue the birthday party in a pub, and that pub had sixteen surveillance cameras.

It may sound silly, but when I notice something like that, fun's over for me. It may not have been the most select of places, but I was enjoying myself just fine (actually more than just fine) until I spotted the cameras. Sixteen. I wondered: was this really necessary? What kind of pub owner thinks that his pub will profit if he can see each corner, and therefore each customer, at any time?

There seem to be two causes to me. On the one hand we live in a society where being monitored is rapidly becoming the standard (if it isn't already). And where People Who Know tell us that the world is not, in fact, a safe place, and that man is inherently evil. That camera surveillance is necessary, because without it we bring doom upon ourselves and each other. On the other hand there's a fool of a pub owner who doesn't know his customers. I admit: I had only been there for an hour or so, but everyone seemed rather mellow to me. The only thing someone could be accused of was hitting on a girl who clearly wasn't interested. (It wasn't me! Besides, she started talking to me, not the other way around.) I understand that not every night is as calm as that night. I know that there might be a fight now and then, but... Sixteen cameras? I can just about see the need for one, for example because the pub had two rooms and nobody can look around a corner. But sixteen? I've checked: at any given moment there were at least four cameras aimed at me.


I have heard the argument that surveillance cameras make us feel safer. "The camera sees me. If something happens to me, help will be on its way quickly, or at least the attacker can be identified." This is nonsense. (On a sidenote: in the original post, instead of the word nonsense I used an expression which roughly translates as 'saliva in packets'. Why doesn't this exist in English?) Above all, that camera sends out the signal that 'Camera Surveillance is Needed Here.' In other words: it is not safe here. If you want to stay out of trouble, stay out. Then what am I to think of a pub where every customer is constantly being watched by four cameras? Even the entrance to the Foreign Affairs Office in Brussels only has two. Talk about putting things into perspective!

So tell me. How do you feel about camera surveillance? Is it as omnipresent where you live as it seems to be over here in (parts of) Belgium? Do you feel threatened or do you feel safe?


Original post on De Nieuwe Piepers (Dutch)

Image courtesy of The RU Observer.

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