the Disillusioned kid: Eyes on the prize
| Email | Home | Linkage | Profile |

Monday, July 03, 2006

Eyes on the prize

In modern Britian we are, on average - as an advert for some flashy automobile, currently doing the rounds, casually reminds us - caught on CCTV 300 times. If we don't yet live in a full-blown Big Brother state, we certainly live in a society replete with "little brothers". Strangely, this proliferation of surveillance doesn't seem to have led to a proportional reduction in crime (quite the contrary if the ongoing media brouhaha about violent crime and anti-social behaviour is anything to go by), but this doesn't seem to deter its proponents and we can no doubt expect the growth in this area to continue.

Concern about surveillance is hardly anything new. George Orwell's Ninteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 1949, describes a society ruled over by an all-powerful party who monitor the populace constantly via ubiquitous telescreens. It is an issue which has been of particular concern to political radicals. The dominant paradigm for analysing the role of surveillance remains the analogy of the Panopticon developed by Michael Foucault.

The Panopticon was a new kind of prison conceived by Liberal Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. He envisaged an annular building with cells arranged around a central tower. Each cell was to extend "the entire thickness of the building to allow inner and outer windows. The occupants of the cells [...] are thus backlit, isolated from one another by walls, and subject to scrutiny both collectively and individually by an observer in the tower who remains unseen." As the prison guard could not be seen, inmates could never know if they were being observed and thus would act - at least according to the theory - on the basis that they were under constant surveillance.

Which rather long-winded introduction, brings me onto this item (via), which Auntie inexplicably feels merits inclusion in their Health section:
A Newcastle University team monitored how much money people put in a canteen "honesty box" when buying a drink.

They found people put nearly three times as much in when a poster of a pair of eyes was put above the box than when the poster showed flowers.
Dr Melissa Bateson, one of the team involved in the research, "said CCTV or speed cameras might be a possible application":
Professor George Fieldman, an evolutionary psychologist from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, said: "This paper beautifully demonstrates that people behave better when being watched.

"It would be interesting to know how one can apply these sorts of findings more generally in organisational structures and in society in general to maximise upon honourable and altruistic behaviour."
Which all sounds harmless enough until you ask a few difficult questions: How do we define honesty? Who gets to decide on that definition? The reality, of course, is that in modern British society the final arbiter will inevitably be the state and its a fairly safe bet that attempts to undermine the status quo won't exactly be looked on kindly.

Anybody who has been on a major protest or action in recent years can hardly have missed the prevalence of police photographers snapping away. During the protests around the G8 and the ministerials which proceeded it we also began seeing camcorders and even in one case what appeared to be a full-blown TV camera. I've always wondered what they do with the huge amount of imagery and footage they must have accumulated, much of it even less exciting than Saturday night ITV. Perhaps they don't do anything with it. That's hardly the point. The mere presence of recording equipment is quite sufficient and if they manage to secure a conviction subsequently based on evidence collected in this manner all the better.

Side Projects

Carnival of Anarchy
The Peace Pipe
UK Watch Blog


Against the Current
Culture hits and gendered bits
Daniel Randall
In The Water
Mike Wood
On The Barricades
Pizarro's Sword
Space Cat Rocket Ship
Surveillant Assemblage
TashCamUK FotoPage
The Naked Lunch
The Peace Pipe
The World of the Dynamite Lady


Anarchoblogs Blog
Arte & Lingua
Barker in Valencia
Blood & Treasure
Bombs and Shields
Born at the Crest of the Empire
Chase me ladies...
Chicken Yoghurt
Craig Murray
Dead Men Left
Disreputable Lazy Aliens
Empire Notes
Friends of Al Jazeera
Global Guerillas
Guerillas in the Midst
I Blame the Patriachy
Informed Comment
Janine Booth
Lenin's Tomb
Life of Riley Blog
Media Watch Watch
Neil Shakespeare
NO2ID NewsBlog
One Hump or Two?
Otto's Random Thoughts
Pitch In For Uzbekistan
Run over by the truth
Solidarity With Iraqi Workers
Shut Up You Fat Whiner!
Sudan: Passion of the Present
Talk Politics
The Anthropik Network
The Daily (Maybe)
The Devil's Kitchen
The Disillusioned
The f-word
The Head Heeb
The Killing Train
The Revenge of Winston Smith
The Socialist Unity Blog
The Wicked Truth
Theory of Power
Things I Don't Have Time For
This (Fresh) Gringo
This Is My Truth
Thumping the Tub
Time The Dreaded Enemy
UK Watch Blog
UK Poli Blogs
Under The Same Sun
What Fresh Hell Is This?
Where is Raed? (RIP)
Who Are You to Accuse Me?
Words and Rocks
Z-Net Blog


Asbo Community Space
Eastside Climate Action
Faslane 365
No Borders
Nottingham Student Peace Movement
Refugee Forum
Stop the War
Sumac Centre
The Demo Project

Ivory Towers

Anarchist Studies Network
Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice
Postanarchism Clearinghouse


Anarchist FAQ
Chagos Discussion List
Chagos Support Forums
Electronic Intifada
Future of Iraq Portal
Index of Political Blogs
Indymedia UK
Iraq Occupation Focus
Refuser Solidarity Network
Socialist Unity Network
The New Standard
UK Chagos Support Association
UK Watch
Weekly Worker

The Progressive Blog Alliance

Register here to join the PBA.