Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Most interesting article in months

Yesterday I tweeted about this article from the WSJ.

It describes a web site with an immense community of people--all of them watching a web cam looking out over a kid's front lawn. Purpose of web cam: surveillance--catch thieves of Obama signs.

Under such circumstances, with "squirrels moving about" being the one of two exciting events to happen thus far, statements such as "people with too much time on their hands" come to mind, and yet, is it the case?

The web site serves as a community, formed ad-hoc and yet not at all ridiculous. While the members obviously care for the reason they are there, namely, the Obama sign, and they would do quite a bit to make that point clear, they are followers and leaders in an online community with its own internal memes and pressures.

I can't predict if this community will last at the current interest levels over-time, but it is an extremely interesting occurrence.

The stated fact sign stealing in indeed a problem in several states, combined with direct communication between Obama supporters in different geographical locations outside of their own social circles would be strong enough, but add to that:

1. A feeling of fulfillment with a purpose -- watching the sign.
2. The home feeling of belonging to this formerly anonymous family.
3. Low-key moderation, but with clear leadership and stated occasional reminders of boundaries of discussion.

And you have an intriguing group dynamic.

The Obama sign, while important, is in my unverified opinion more of a badge which ideologically everyone there respects and needs in their "back yard" (pun intended) for political muscle in the group.

I'd be following this in the news, if follow-up stories are written (they often aren't). This also shows people can find alternative ways of discussing what they care about with the continued degradation of what I'd consider news and discussion forums, with clear agendas and untrustworthy reporting, on both sides.

This is indeed the most interesting story I read in months. And as a secondary point, I know two other folks who dealt with local security problems such as theft and bad players in their neighborhoods by installing such cameras.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/gadievron

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope you are seeing the tip of an emerging iceberg; citizens surveilling not only perps, but law enforcement as well. We are steaming hell-bent for a full-scale surveillance society. One way to maintain citizen rights is for citizens to watch authority (law enforcement, politicians, etc.) as carefully as authority watches the citizens...

Much more (delightful) detail is given in "The Transparent Society", a non-fiction book by the famous Sci-Fi author David Brin. Read it and ponder...

posted by Brian Snow

gimley said...

Brian,

It's my take that in today's world, and the diversity of society, anything that can happen, will.

Oversight of governments is a good thing, but I doubt we can control who has the power of oversight in today's world.

My problem with citizen based government oversight is that to be capable, it needs to be just as big. In fact, it stands the risk of introducing an element much more risky, which won't be just citizens anymore.

A secondary consideration is that with any intelligence and information, the more you have, the less you get. Getting less, but of what one actually wants is far more useful than mountains of useless data.
However much I'm a hoarder and would like to store the world if I could for future reference.. oh, I guess that's Google.

David Brin said...

The term that Steve Mann coined for looking BACK at surveilling authorities is "sousveillance." It is portrayed vividly in Vernor Vinge's great novel RAINBOW'S END, as well as my own EARTH and The Transparent Society.

Strangely, it is hated, passionately, by the ACLU types who ought to realize that expanded citizen power will not only protect freedom, but probably be the only thing that preserves (a little) privacy, in days to come.

In any event, we'll see what the people have to say about this, soon.

David Brin
www.davidbrin.com