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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What do we think about Earthcam?



If you haven’t heard of Earthcam, it’s like a live version of Google maps i.e. a place where you can endlessly drown in the experience of other lives in other places (which mostly involves watching the snail-like speed of New York taxis trapped in their Times Square nightmare).

Personally, I’ve dedicated a good deal of (un)valuable time to watching the tourists in London as they try to dodge the traffic at Abbey Road long enough to take a picture. I’m not watching it in the hope that one of them will eventually provide me with some real Eastenders-stylee drama by snuffing it under a passing ice cream van, it’s merely addictive to see real life, y’know, live.


It’s probably the same appeal that makes us sit glued to the TV for reality shows like Big Brother, or play games like The Sims. There’s something undeniably appealing about watching people get on with their lives, just normally, as if we weren't staring at them through a teeny glass screen and scrutinizing their every action and statement.  

Anyway, without getting too psychoanalytically-heavy, it’s probably a phenomenon that’s difficult to scrutinize. I just wanted to point out one thing:

Why is it people have few objections to Earthcam but go bat shit crazy about the idea of CCTV?
Surely they’re effectively one and the same? Albeit, Earthcam is supposed to be restricted to specific places – but new ones are getting uploaded all the time. You can watch perfectly average streets with their occasional litter-scatterers, litter pickers, cars, wobbly old women on bicycles and mass of pigeons at leisure. But if it was for surveillance’s (i.e. security’s) sake, rather than entertainment, the many-voiced monster that is the media would go wild.

Earthcam seems like a mild, people-elected form of surveillance. We want to watch the goings-on of a place, so we put a webcam there. If the government did that, we’d run at their offices with pitchforks and clubs topped with roaring flames. 

Mostly due to ignorance on the topic, I’m not sure why people get so angered by the idea of surveillance (although Luke has just informed me it’s because you get treated like a prisoner – guilty until proven innocent). Personally, I’d vote for safety over privacy any day, mostly because I am not a convict with bodies to hide. But it’s also because I’m weak and have the punching ability of a deformed rat. I like knowing there is CCTV around when I’m walking down a dark alley at night, as I desperately try to scramble together a schedule of self-defense in my head that involves shouting FIRE, fleeing from the attacker and trying to keep hold of my possessions simultaneously.  


Anyway, there are probably a zillion and one reasons why it’s important to be angered by the idea of CCTV surveillance. Although I will note that when asked about Earthcam Luke said ‘yeah it’s OK”. So –we’ll open our arms to surveillance for fun, but spit in the face of those who suggest that it should be used for public security. Odd one.