Friday, November 14, 2008

The Participatory Panopticon

This is really an extension of yesterday's post, and also an experiment in post options. According to Kiriska, if I specify a date in the future, the post won't appear until then, so if all goes well this post will appear at noon.

So: Given a gargoyle rig, a head-mounted display, and ubiquitous internet connectivity, what could we do with it?

(Naturally, sci-fi has beaten me to it, and the article for augmented reality is interesting reading. It covers a lot of the stuff I mentioned in yesterday's post, and then some. The current cutting-edge stuff is happening on cell phones right now, though, so I'll be diverging a bit.)

The possibility of seeing from another person's point of view, not merely figuratively but literally, is certainly an attractive one. Imagine having virtual front-row seats at every concert or game. Or, one step further, imagine experiencing major historical events in first-person, as they happen. Imagine, when you're bored, being able to peoplewatch on any street in any city in the world.

In a world with Internet- and GPS-connected cameras everywhere, it would be possible to see anything, from any point in time. This has some really interesting social consequences. Decentralized surveillance by random people is a pretty compelling alternative to central surveillance by governments, and has all the same benefits, such as a reduction in crime. There are privacy issues involved, obviously, but in the end they're no worse than those that would exist with central surveillance.

Actually, no, I take that back. So far I've taken the techno-utopian viewpoint, but there will definitely be some negatives. To take one example, imagine a stalker in this digital panopticon I've been describing; your entire life could be observed quietly by anyone in the world, and you'd be powerless to stop it, assuming you ever found out it was happening in the first place.

There was a reason I preceded this post with the one on gargoyles, though. The technology already exists, in some form, and within five or ten years some of what I've described here will come to exist; we'll have to take the good with the bad. The question isn't whether or not we want it to happen - the question is how we'll handle it when it does.

1 comment:

Kiriska said...

I love purusing sci-fi topics on Wiki. There are so many interesting concepts that have been explored for years that we're on the verge of making reality. It's creepy and fascinating at the same time.

A lot of this discussion is reminding me of Ghost in the Shell, lol, especially Stand Alone Complex. I should watch it again. :3