Big Brother TV Or Distributed Citizen Action?

The governor of Texas has announced plans to stream the video feed from hundreds of border surveillance cameras over the Internet. "A stronger border is what Americans want and it's what our security demands and that is what Texas is going to deliver," Governor Rick Perry said.

The intent is to provide an 800 number to viewers. If you happen to spot anyone crossing the border, call the number and let the border patrol handle it.

The cameras will cost $5m (2.7m) to install and will be trained on sections of the 1,000-mile (1,600km) border known to be favored by illegal immigrants.

This is an issue that cuts across several different areas of concern for American citizens. On the one hand, police and citizens have always worked together in neighborhood watch programs; extra eyes make it easier for overburdened police officers. On the other hand, there is something a bit creepy about a program that is based on the idea that strangers all over the globe will be recruited to perform surveillance duties.

There are several interesting correlations between this program and science fiction. In his 1999 novel All Tomorrow's Parties, writer William Gibson writes about the "Lucky Dragon Global Interactive Video Column" outside an international chain of convenience stores. It would show you randomly selected live feeds from the video surveillance cameras in other stores all over the world.

You had to pass it entering and leaving the store, so you'd see whichever dozen Lucky Dragons franchise [it] happened to be linked with at that particular moment: Paris or Houston or Brazzaville, wherever.
(Read more about Interactive Video Column)

This is presented more in the context of cheap entertainment than Big Brother. On the other hand, consider the following scene from Ray Bradbury's 1954 novel Fahrenheit 451, in which the totalitarian, book-burning government is looking for the novel's hero, who is on the run for reading books:

"Police suggest entire population in the Elm Terrace area do as follows: Everyone in every house in every street open a front or rear door or look from the windows. The fugitive cannot escape if everyone in the next minute looks from his house. Ready!"

Of course! Why hadn't they done it before! Why, in all the years, hadn't this game been tried! Everyone up, everyone out...

He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys, and into the sky, faces hid by curtains, pale, night-frightened faces, like gray animals peering from electronic caves, faces with gray colorless eyes, gray tongues, and gray thoughts looking out through the numb flesh of the face...
(Read more about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451)

Interestingly, this has also been tried in a slightly different way in London. Shoreditch TV is an experiment in beaming live closed-circuit video signals from street surveillance cameras into people's homes. Viewers can watch the dog walkers, would-be graffiti artists and keep an eye on the local pub. This summer 22,000 Londoners will be tuning in. The channel is described as "fighting crime from the sofa."

The British are pretty much into surveillance cameras - read Spy Cameras Watch Spy Cameras In UK. Read more about Shoreditch TV and Texas Border Patrol.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/2/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Surveillance ")

Drones Used To Smuggle Contraband Into Prison
'And some mega chip inside so it never runs into anything and no cop ever sees it.' - Bruce Sterling, 1994.

DARPA's Subterranean Challenge
Let the machines explore the underground city!

Airbnb Has Surveillance Device Suggestions
'Ma'am, this is Central Security... I think you'd better have a look.' - Pournelle and Niven, 1981.

Students Surveilled By School Phone Apps
Cheer up, students. '...cracking my SchoolBook had been easy.' - Cory Doctorow, 2008.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Prototype Robotic Masseur Has The Touch
'The automatic massager began to fumble gently...'

Trash Sorting AI Robot Presages Skynet, Thanks A Lot
Keep your head down, Kyle Reese.

Electric Unicycle Is A Tumblebug
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity, since it is about the size and shape of a kitchen stool, gyro-stabilized on a single wheel.'

Another Soil Bacterium Eats Plastic
'...the plastic was dissolved before his eyes.'

reLive Memorial Come Back As A Tree
'It was time - time to go again. She touched the leaf. She was wanted.'

Engineered Living Building Materials
'... it was the cheapest building material known.'

Draw Circuits With Conductive Ink
'It's rewiring things... squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon along the printed circuitry.'

Arkangel: Automatic Visual Censoring
It's whatever the Party says it is, Winston.

NASA Competition To Design A Bucket Drum For Moon Mining
'There was a heap of discarded ore where Grantline had carted and dumped it...'

Medical Assistant Robot May Roam The Halls Of Hospitals
'Take care, sir.'

No Autonomous Trucks? Wait, What?
'...it resembled conventional human-operated transportation vehicles, but with one exception -- there was no driver's cabin.'

As Big As A Biltong - World's Largest 3D Printer
'Huge and old, it squatted in the center of the settlement park... On the concrete platform... lay a heap of originals to be duplicated.'

Drones Used To Smuggle Contraband Into Prison
'And some mega chip inside so it never runs into anything and no cop ever sees it.'

Are You Ready For Commercial Space Travel?
'It wasn't a pleasant trip; it was a miserable trip on a miserable, undersized tourist rocket...'

Amplified Nerves Lead To Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Hands
'The electrical impulses generated by your brain command everything...'

FlyCroTug Micro Drones Do Heavy Lifting
'It extended three of its tiny arms sideways to lock on...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.