Welcome to the ‘Being’ QR code portal! You might have arrived through the QR code on a poster situated on South Castle Street, Dundee. Or, you may have stumbled across the portal on the Twitter hashtag page #TheParadoxAndTheCreep. If you are not currently standing on the street in Dundee, you can find out more about this project on my website home page.
If you want to view, or contribute to, the expanded thoughts and discussion on Twitter, go to #TheParadoxAndTheCreep and click ‘latest’ in the menu to see the full tweet thread. All interactions on this hashtag will become part of the artwork. You do not need a Twitter account to view the hashtag page.
Surveillance: The Paradox And The Creep is a process-led artwork. The content will be released into the QR Code portals in stages.
This is partly to show the work in progress, but also to give viewers an opportunity to absorb the material and comment in #TheParadoxAndTheCreep Twitter hashtag.
This exhibition has ended in Dundee, but it will remain online.
Being the watcher
It is possible that the majority of people who regularly use Google Street View might not even consider the mapping platform to be a form of surveillance technology. Personally, when I started using Street View, I was really uncomfortable about using Google’s surveillance tool, but at the same time I was fascinated. I had a feeling that I was doing something taboo, and then I became rather addicted. I take Street View vistas so much for granted now, that I am shocked and perplexed when I find a location that has not been photo documented. I am however acutely aware that I have become a watcher of archived landscapes, and the people and objects within those landscapes. When traveling along the Google Street View version of South Castle Street in Dundee (where you might be standing right now), one currently finds a mangled time warp that is a ghostly remnant of Earl Grey PL. E. I have heard that this is very irritating to some of the local Dundonians who want to show off their fancy new waterfront, and not the nightmare forest of traffic cones from 2014. But, I am overjoyed to find the glitches in Street View, the cracks to jump through into another time zone in history with different weather conditions and drastically shifting terrain!
Street View in Germany
Earlier this year, I tried to search on Google Street View for some locations that I had visited in rural Germany, near the Polish border. I was frustrated to find out that Google Street View does not exist across the vast majority of Germany. Some urban streets in large cities do have coverage, but the images are mostly from ten or twelve years ago. When you look at the Google Street View map of Europe, a tight knitted blue web blankets the surrounding countries up to the external land boarders of Germany. Inside the green boundary line, only a few patches of blue threads mark the larger urban centres. When I dropped in for a street tour in Bonn and Berlin, I found the most fabulous sculptural obfuscations that looked like floating modernist curved frosted glass panels.
Listen to the interview with David Gutnick and Aurelian Tarcatu below
It turned out that people were right to be worried about Google
Aurelian Tarcatu was right to be worried, but it was not only the state secret police who were spying on private citizens, Google was spying too. In 2012, a report by the U.S Federal Communications Commission revealed that between 2008 and 2010 “the software in Google’s Street View mapping cars was “intended” to collect Wi-Fi payload data, and that engineers had even transferred the data to an Oregon Storage facility. Google tried to keep that and other damning aspects of the Street View debacle from public review.” For more details, see the WIRED article “An Intentional Mistake: The Anatomy of Google’s Wi-Fi Sniffing Debacle”.
Watching for amusement
When one considers the activity of ‘watching’, the sinister surveillance apparatus of the Soviet bloc, or the U.S in the J. Edgar Hoover era, often comes to mind. However, Human Beings also watch each other for curiosity or fun. There are certain strata of society who have been historically more inclined to be open about watching others for amusement, such as the flâneurs, fiction writers, method actors and those who cruise. But with the popularity of reality TV and publicly accessible webcams in cities, towns and villages, everyone in the 21st Century gained ‘permission’ to watch.
Watching people on publicly accessible webcam streams
These are some public webcam streams that I have been checking in on. Some of them are a bit too intimate and a little creepy. In recent weeks, a few webcams have been been closed down (in East London, Victoria B.C. and San Francisco), possibly because of privacy complaints.
The Time Square webcam in NYC also picks up sound, so one can even eavesdrop on loud tourists.
This webcam in rural Vermont is possibly a security measure to prevent robberies at the village store, but it also is useful for locals to see if the store is open on snow days.
This webcam in Calgary Alberta is possibly one of the more creepy publicly accessible webcams, because it is pointed really close to people on the street.
The Shetland webcams are kind of intense, but they are apparently accepted by the locals.