Witnessential Networks, not cameras!
There have been numerous attempts to equip Human Rights workers with
hand-held cameras so that they can document violence, and many of these
attempts have even been backed with massive corporate funding:
We began when Amnesty International
invited us to be the sole sponsor of Human
Rights Now!, a 1988 world concert tour
which reached millions of young people on
In partnership with musician Peter Gabriel and the
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights we founded
Witness, a program that equips frontline
activists with hand-held video cameras to
document human rights abuses.
(local backup =
Tickling a tiger's whiskers
In many situations, the mere presence of a video camera results in
immediate violence directed to a person with a camera.
Thus hand-held cameras often serve to provoke rather than deter violence.
This violence directed at camera operators is almost globally universal,
and can be observed in nearly any country.
I have myself noticed that when trying to use a camera to collect
evidence of wrongdoing, that even otherwise mild mannered clerks will
sometimes jump over a counter and punch me in the face, knocking my camera
to the ground. Even in countries like Canada and the United States,
which are said to have very good Human Rights records, I have been
physically assaulted and unlawfully detained for merely using a hand-held
camera to collect evidence of wrongdoing.
Incidentalist image capture
The very same officials who reacted violenty to a hand held camera,
did not seem to mind at all when I captured memories of them using
device transmitting realtime video to the Internet.
Others have tried to explain this phenomenon by merely stating that the
perpetrators did not know what the EyeTap device was, so I also conducted
a series of experiments in which I made it very obvious that the EyeTap
device was transmitting live video.
For example, I attached a very large flat screen television to my body,
and had it running a web browser mirroring images from the website
receiving the signals from the EyeTap device.
To make it even more obvious it was transmitting, I included a flashing
red light, and flashing indicia bearing terms such as "REC." (the common
abbreviation for "record"), and I experimented with making the
transmitting antenna more obvious, and having words like
"LIVE BROADCAST" flash across the screen in large letters.
I also experimented with a freeze frame effect, so that the official
could see his face on the television screen in larger-than-life size.
This situation seldom resulted in violence.
I started approximately thirty years ago (in my early childhood days)
experimenting with a wearable personal technologies, creating
WearComp0 (a not so successful effort) followed by WearComp1,
and finally in 1981, WearComp2, a fully functional wearable photographic
appratus (what would now be, using today's language, be referred to as
a "multimedia" wearable computer).
Through a series of experiments I conducted over a twenty year period
from 1981 to 2001, building more than a hundred different kinds of wearable
photographic apparatus, and wearing them in many different countries
around the world, I determined that there are some fundamental issues that
can be addressed in order to assist Human Rights movements, culminating in
the concept of the Witnessential Network:
- The Witnessential Cyborg must be Incidentalist in the sense of
being an embodiment of Incidentalist Video Capture
(see http://wearcam.org/itti/index.htm for explanation of
"Incidentalist Video Capture");
- The Witnessential Cyborg must at least appear to be nonselective in
what subject matter is captured, and for this reason, the
Witnessential apparatus should be within the Corporeal Envelope
(e.g. wearable or implantable), so that perpetrators of violence do not
feel singled-out by the reportage;
- The Witnessential Cyborg must be "always ready" to remember incidents,
e.g. the Witnessential apparatus must run all the time, even when it
is not being "used" (e.g. it must be a successful embodiment of
as described in http://hi.eecg.toronto.edu/hi.htm), the Retroactive
Record feature being essential to document surprise abductions
or violence by middle-of-the-night "no knock entry" thugs;
- The apparatus of the invention must be difficult to remove,
a typical embodiment being attached securely on or inside the body,
setting forth an equivalence class between torture and removal of
the means for documenting torture, even within a holding compound
or torture facility at a police station or obscure hideout;
- The Witnessential Cyborg should have the capability for self-demotion
in order to have an articulable basis upon which to discount his or her
own freewill or personal interest
in Human Rights (see http://wearcam.org/itti/index.htm for explanation
of self-demotion), a corporate hierarchy being a preferred method of
attaining self-demotion, the preferred Witnessential element being
duty (e.g. "leave me alone, I'm just doing my job as a reporter")
to conceal or negate any perceived passion or dedication to Human Rights;
- The Witnessential Cyborg must have the possibility to transmit live
video, not just video that is recorded locally;
- The Witnessential Network must be robust, and must not depend on any
covernment (government+corporate) infrastructure (infrastructure that
can be shut down by a government or corporation), although certainly
some of the equipment can be donated by governments and corporations
to the extent that we can verify it does not contain any hidden
trojan horse-like "features";
- The Witnessential Cyborg must implement the Fear of Functionality (FoF)
model as described in the C.R.C. Handbook of image compression,
and the uncertainty embodied therein, a notable example being the
concept of the "MaybeCam".
Verification of witnessential integrity
Videscrow: cryptographic signatures in camera, but may require a
tamper-resistant device in the camera to sign, authenticate, time-stamp,
(and append heart rate, GPS, electronic compass info, etc., to the image
header), which would compromise the existentiality of the device.
Alternatively, a remote authentication committee could certify at least the
time beyond which the images were produced (for example, it could be
certified that an image was sent within a sixtieth of a second after
an event, and perhaps thus assumed that it would have been very difficult
to falsify an image within a sixtieth of a second.
--S. Mann, Assistant Mailroom Clerk, EXISTech Corporation