surveillance : surface

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google street view car on franklin at page, 05.13.2011
i was driving to the dentist yesterday morning when i spied the google street view car equipped with a large camera mounted to the roof of the car.

it was the first time i’d ever seen one of the cars and was pretty jazzed, especially when i was able to grab a pic of the car driving past the apartment building i lived in for seven years (where i was living when street view was launched in 2007).

the experience turned my thoughts to surveillance cameras and how (somewhere in my archives) i have video i took of myself using a surveillance video camera that my co-worker loaned me for a project i was working on. i never completed the video project, but think i’ll go find the video and post it for kicks. if i remember, it was super grainy, black and white and ethereal.

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airport security cameras can see through clothes
i also started thinking about how cameras (surveillance and otherwise) used to only be able to capture the surface of whatever they were trained on, but how that’s all changed, as we’ve seen recently with the introduction of the new security cameras at airports that can image through clothes.

if you’re like me, you probably think that the use of surveillance cameras in this way is kind of creepy, but that the technology itself – stripped of the context of how it’s being applied and what that says about our culture – is pretty cool. likewise, if you’re like me, you know it’s pretty tough to strip technology of context and to consider it only as a pure abstraction somehow separate and distinct from the power structure it’s developed for, within and about.

another thought that crossed my mind was that old saying that certain groups of people (usually indigenous) thought that the camera always could see beyond the surface and, in fact, could steal a person’s soul. i wondered whether or not that old saying was true and what groups of people actually thought that and said to myself “i’ll have to google that,” which i just did.

i was driving as i was thinking about all this stuff. two words, surveillance and surface kept recurring so i grabbed the pencil in my coffee cup holder and quickly jotted them down on the back of my garage parking ticket. here are a few photos i grabbed with the note throughout the day. more to come on this topic…

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