As time has progressed, new technologies have become more and more sophisticated. The convergence of different technologies has allowed for a more superior, refined digital world to be created. This being said, humans now have the ability to both view and capture the world in ways that might have never seemed possible. This fact can be both underappreciated and taken for granted. How amazing is it that a protestors in, let’s say Syria, can stream live information that anchors in the United States can use to create a news broadcast? Situations like this prove just how much technology has changed the way we view the world, and the ways that we can access different parts of it. But just how beneficial is this act of witnessing to the world? How has it changed our relationship with our environment? It seems that, through both surveillance and witnessing, we have created both a negative and positive atmosphere in the digital world. Although it can at times be beneficial, it could also have some grave consequences for those who misuse it. New technologies, for example the iPhone, have allowed us to watch and to witness different parts of our world.
A Digital Witness
Being a witness has a whole new meaning with the technologies that we now have at our reach. We have the ability to create, alter, and share events in a way that was never possible. But what does this mean for our real world experience? It seems that we are now so caught up in capturing the moment, that we never really stop and enjoy what we have in front of us, and we can often find ourselves remembering things as they were behind the lens of a camera. Lets take, for example, concerts. Thousands of videos about concerts exist online. Recording a concert seems to be something that is to the benefit of the online audience and to the debit of the person who is actually recording it. The person who is recording the concert can oftentimes find themselves so wrapped up in making sure the camera is focused correctly, and that everything is running smoothly that they forget there is an entire concert going on around them. Lets take for example, this surprise concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Venice beach. The person who was recording this video was more concerned with recording what was going on (most likely in order to prove that this event actually happened) than they were with enjoying this surprise, impromptu performance. The video serves as a great form of documentation, but recording it likely diminished the excitement of the entire concert experience. Being a witness is not necessarily a negative thing. A great example of this is the footage that exists of natural disasters. Footage like this is important because it serves as a sort of documentation of what has happened. It also gives the world a view that is different from the one that is presented in the news. Take this home video of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina and this news broadcast that presents the aftermath of the hurricane. While the home video focuses more the damage that the hurricane caused in different areas, the news broadcast focuses on the events that took place in the Superdome, a place that housed the majority of those affected by the hurricane. By witnessing this event through the lens of their own cameras, people in New Orleans provided the world with an alternate view of what happened, and probably reached places of the city the news would never have gotten too. This ability to record and document different events through different perspectives is something that is unique to our digital age. Had this happened about 40 years prior, it is possible that the only footage of this that would exist is that of the news broadcasts.
Surveillance: From the Outside, Looking in
Surveillance, on the other hand, is something that is a tad different from witnessing. As a witness, we are documenting the way we experience the world around us. Surveillance means to watch something closely, usually with the hopes of finding something. The best example of this is Russian dash cams and Nanny cams. Russian dash cams are something used by a vast majority of Russian drivers as a means of security. It is used in order to protect their rights as drivers, and to help guard against corrupt officials or those hoping to make a quick buck off of the insurance company. These cameras have, not surprisingly, captured everything from accidents to random acts of kindness. Though they were created for drivers to help protect themselves against those who seem to hurt them, they have likely helped those who use them, and even those who watch the videos that are captured, become more aware of there surroundings. Another important part of surveillance that has come along in recent years is the Nanny cam. The Nanny cam is meant to observe caretakers and guard children against malicious and hurtful acts. It seems that, through the use of the more sophisticated technologies now available, parents have been able to do just that. This kind of surveillance has, for many, become a crucial part of the childcare process. It has helped create a sense of security for parents. What about the caretakers? Considering that we are part of such a resourceful digital age, I assume that being watched is always a possibility that lingers at the back of each caretakers mind. The use of cameras as part of the caretaking processes proves just how far we have come. Instead of leaving their child’s care up to chance, parents can now watch what a caretaker is doing live, from the comfort of their own office.
As you can see, new technologies have created a unique atmosphere that was not possible through the technology of past eras. Not only does it help us become more in tune with the world around us, but it helps document and preserve events that have a particular importance to us. This does, however, raise a few questions. Just how much are we losing touch with our surrounding environment? How long until our entire lives are controlled by the technology around us? It seems to be that this matter that can be remedied through simple awareness. As individuals, we are responsible for knowing our limits and having the ability to know when it is appropriate to implement the use of media and when it is not. It would do us well to put our phones away at our favorite concerts, but it could we could seriously miss out on something important if we were to hide away our nanny cams. Creating a society that is aware of the power of technology and the ability it has to shape the world around us can help create a world that is less focused on recording every second, of everyday. Still, it is equally as important to realize the important role technology plays in our lives and to know that it has the ability to improve that others. It seems as though we are moving in the right direction but there is, of course, lots of work to be done.