Recipes for participation in WSD:
Sousveillance can be understood by the following simple experiment:
Bring additional persons to observe and document your observations as this
may help prevent the eruption of violence.
- start carrying a camera wherever you go;
- when you encounter a surveillance camera
ask why they have surveillance cameras pointed at you;
- accept a typical response such as
``Why are you so paranoid?
Only criminals and terrorists are afraid of cameras!'';
- photograph the respondent;
- observe reaction.
Here are some simple recipes that anyone can easily do:
The standard simple two-team recipe (requires one camera that works):
Good documentation of sousveillance activities can be achieved with two
teams. Each team can consist of one or more persons. Each team should
have at least one camera, but only one of the teams needs to have a
camera that actually works.
The first team enters a commercial establishment, and gets ready to
document the activities of the second team. The first team must have
at least one working camera, which they keep hidden until the second
The second team then enters the establishment, and begins visibly
taking pictures of the surveillance cameras,
(or perhaps just appears to take pictures, using a
fake or dummy camera). This will attract the attention of the
authorities, who will converge on the second team. Meanwhile, the
first team can begin documenting the interaction between the second
team and the authorities.
Often the authorities are so busy dealing with the second team that
they do not even notice the presence of the first team.
The cost-saving recipe (doesn't require a working camera):
If no working cameras are available, it is still possible to
participate. All that is necessary is some recording media
(such as a blank tape), and one fake dummy camera. The fake
dummy camera can be something as simple as a cardboard box,
painted black, with a dummy glass on the front for a "lens".
Or sometimes an old camera, such as a Brownie Hawkeye, can
be obtained from Amity Goodwill, or Salvation Army, for 25 cents.
Goodwill and Salvation typically have large bins of old cameras
for 25 cents each. Many of the cameras still work, but they often
use obsolete film formats like type 620 or 120 roll film (like
the film still used by Hasselblad medium format cameras, so the
film is too expensive to make use of such a camera practical). But
since it's just a dummy camera, it doesn't need to have any film
Then the first team brings a blank tape to a large department
store that sells video cameras. Many such stores have video
cameras on display, so that patrons can try them out. So the
first team pretends to be shopping for a video camera, and slips
their blank cassette into one of the cameras they want to "try
out", while the second team comes in and uses the dummy camera
to "photograph" the store's security cameras (or to appear to
do so). The authorities descend upon the second team, and the
first team can then document the activities of the second team,
using one of the store's video camera demo models, while
pretending to simply be testing the demo model. The first team
then takes their cassette out of the camera and leaves with a
record of the performance.
The stupidity recipe (requires a working camera that has a remote):
If you deliberately take pictures of the authorities, or of their cameras,
they tend to get very angry. But if you merely accidentally take pictures
(or appear to accidentally take pictures) they get less angry, or sometimes
are not angry at all. Especially if you can be, or pretend to be, really
stupid when it comes to understanding technology.
So if you have a small camera, such as a Canon G1,
that has a remote control, then all you need to do is hang the camera around
your neck, and activate it remotely (or have someone else covertly activate
it remotely. Then you pretend you're too stupid to figure out how to turn it
off. Appear surprised each time the camera is triggered. Fumble with it,
and then put it back down, so it hangs around your neck, haphazardly
shooting at random. If you have a cellular phone, pretend to call tech
support, and say into the phone: "My camera seems to be malfunctioning ---
it takes random pictures even when I have it turned to the 'off' position.".
The advanced recipe (requires a working covert camera):
Although the novice will be happy with The Standard or Cost Saving
recipe, the advanced sousveiller will quickly grow tired of these
simple approaches, and will want to try something a little more fun
or stealthy. This involves using a hidden camera, just like the
hidden cameras that are used in many department stores. The first
team outfits at least one of its members with a hidden camera.
This can be a 35mm film camera hidden on the body, or it can be
a cheap pinhole video camera, hidden in a shirt button. The first
team usually uses a small camcorder that has external video input
(such as RCA jacks for recording from an external TV signal).
Then the second team comes in with a fake or dummy camera and aims
it at the store's surveillance cameras. The first team then
covertly documents the entire event.
The highly advanced recipe (requires two working covert cameras):
Any of the above recipes can be improved greatly by having both
cameras working, so that pictures are available from both perspectives:
the Leackock perspective ("fly on the wall") of team one, and the
Brechtian perspective ("fly in the eye") of team two. But truly
the best results are obtained when a team two member is wearing a
hidden camera as well, so that the aftermath (and beforemath) of
the dummy camera is captured from team two's perspective. This
makes for some great editing afterwards (don't forget to clap
your hands while being in view of both cameras, so that you can
synchronize them later --- we spent a whole hour in Casino Niagara
doing a lot of clapping --- gamblers must have thought we were
giving them applause). The best place to hide team two's camera
is inside eyeglasses, because this gives a true "fly in the eye"
Brechtian perspective that will later remind the viewer that
"this is not reality, it's just a movie". That way team two's
perspective is seen through the viewfinder of the dummy camera.
The audience will literally be inside the head of the team two
dummy camera operator. You then have a documentary about making
a documentary about video surveillance.
The Shchrodinger recipe
(requires building a conspicuously concealed camera):
You can have a lot of fun with two totally covert cameras and one great
big dummy camera with a huge flashgun on it. But this only serves to
show two extremes. What's most intesting is what happens in the middle.
Like the department store's ceiling domes --- their hemispheres of
wine-dark opacity. That wonderful uncertainty enshrined in conspicuous
concealment. So if you can find some dark smoked acrylic, or dark
smoked plexiglass (like maybe the smoked acrylic cover for your old
record player), you can make a "maybe camera". This is the
Shchrodinger's cat of camera philosophy. Maybe there's a camera
inside. But then again, maybe not! A maybe camera can be built
into just about any garment, backpack, purse, or other accessory.
And you can make a variety of "maybe cameras" that will show you
just how truly paranoid the authorities are about you catching them
doing something illegal.
The Sousveillance Theatre recipe: Surveillance as Saviour/Slaviour
Completely apart from the famous cartoon in which Jesus and Santa
Claus argue about who's more important (i.e. the Spirituality versus
Commerce argument), there is another dimension: surveillance as our
Saviour or our Slaviour? Two groups enter an establishment where
surveillance is used. One group worships the cameras, and of course
wants to photograph the cameras, just like they would photograph an
important dignitary, or teen idol. The other group despises the cameras,
and regards the cameras, and those who operate the cameras, as stealing
their private life. This group documents the theft of their privacy,
by photographing the crime scene, as evidence. Foucault described
images or photography as defining both positive and negative role models:
the face on the dollar bill as an example of good, versus the face on the
police mug shot as an example of bad. But both the good and the bad manifest
themselves in photography. Likewise, through personification of the
surveillance camera, both of the two competing camps arrive at the same
conclusion: photograph the surveillance camera.
Technology to Stop Terrorism (TM), sponsored by