The Sousveillance Scenarios

Steve Mann, 2012 October 22

Presented to at:
"Identity, Privacy & Security by ReDesign",
Monday 2012 October 22nd, 4pm to 5:30pm,
Room 728, Bissell building, 140 St. George Street

The class was given this file as "sousnario.txt" (plain text)

Introduction to concept of DASTEM (Design+Art + Science+Technology+Engineering+Mathematics as a unified "discipline"; discipline versus passion, etc.), general discussion...

One can be in favour of more surveillance (safety) or less surveillance (privacy), or one can be merely conducting studies, in an allegedly objective manner as "surveillance studies". But in all 3 cases, one would be against sousveillance. All three approaches are part of the problem: considering only one side of the argument (one side of the square box below). Those who only consider the surveillance side of the space are inherently biased, i.e. looking at the world from a one-sided point-of-view. We must consider all the veillances, i.e. various combinations of surveillance and sousveillance:
. .

The topic of discussion for today's presentation is sousveillance by way of four scenarios which we will discuss and build upon:

Sousveillance Scenario A

Allan, a blind man, has an EyeBorg Implantable Camera System (Canadian Patent 2313693). It transmits live video to the "Seeing-Eye People" collective comprised of friends, relatives, and volunteers who take turns to help him see by remotely viewing his video and talking in his telephone earpiece to describe what's in his environment. His wife is confined to a hospital bed and unable to walk, but enjoys "walking" by seeing through his eyes as he walks around the neighbourhood.

Suppose as in the last sentence above, that Al's body is male, but his vision and seeing is female (his wife). Suppose Al is walking through the park one day, and needs to use the toilet.

Sousveillance Scenario B:

Bo wears "Glass", otherwise known as "Digital Eye Glass" (EyeTap) to help her see better. The Glass does not record. It simply captures video at different exposures (dark, medium, light) in rapid succession and CEMENTs them together for dynamic range management. Originally Bo only wore the Glass while doing high dynamic range activities like welding, but discovered Glass helped her see in many other situations.

Bo was physically assaulted on various occasions for wearing Glass.

Bo was physically assaulted by a security guard at a local art gallery because he was afraid she was violating copyright. The guard pushed her down the stairs and told her she was not welcome in the gallery.

When she spoke to the gallery director, he said that she was welcome in the gallery as long as the Glass did not record anything.

Bo's lawyer advised her to record all encounters if possible, to use as evidence in court against people who broke the law (either assault laws or human rights laws broken by those treating her differently than others).

Sousveillance Scenario C

Cy noticed her company often used video-oral contracts rather than written contracts. Normally both parties get a copy of a written contract or it is not enforcable. But her company had a rule forbidding cameras, while they used surveillance cameras themselves. They refused to give her a copy of the video in which she appeared, but they regularly made verbal contracts with her, while recording their copy of the conversation for possible use in court.

Sousveillance Scenario D

Di is involed in a car accident in a McDonalds parking lot. She was not at fault. The Manager of the McDonalds was driving a car that struck her car. When she stepped out to photograph the accident scene, the McDonalds manager told her that photography is prohibited on McDonalds property. He physically assaulted her when she tried to photograph the accident scene, claiming that McDonalds is private property and she was bound by the rules while on private property.


Swollag is that which gives sousveillance efficacy. Surveillance, by its very nature, is associated with the efficacy of the usually large organizations that bring it on. For example, surveillance benefits from the "guns, gaols, and gallows" of the state. But sousveillance, being typically "crowdsourced" requires a similar mechanism. Sometimes, for example, the swollag comes from social networking and the "court of public opinion". Each sousveillance scenario should be discussed in terms of swollag.