Sousveillance Good or Bad?
CBC Newswriter Stephen Strauss thinks that sousveillane may not be as wonderfully democratic as some might think. Sure sousveillance may eat away at public police brutality, and has even brought to light situations like the Abu Grabi, but if the society and regime around you is oppressive, maybe it will only lead to more oppression.
I am not sure at all that citizens armed with cameras must make the world a more democratic place. There are lots of undemocratic societies wherein masses of people have embraced narrow, mean, spiteful and never-endingly illiberal civic behavior. Think “no dating” in Iran. Think “destroy Buddhist sculptures” in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Think apartheid in South Africa.
You don’t necessarily have to have a dictatorial state, or paranoid businesses spying on defenceless citizens. You can have common zealots righteously sending to the authorities pictures of Mina and Yusef holding hands, or of a soft-hearted soldier ordering a couple of Buddha’s statues to be left standing.
If everyone is taking pictures of everything that everyone else is doing you can easily create the evil backside of small towns. That isn’t innocent gossip but relentless active efforts to drive out deviants, what author David Brin, who has written extensively on sousveillance, has labelled “the bad posse … old time vigilantes and the more recent psycho-racist-self-righteous militias.”