Monday, August 13, 2007

Day One: Birmingham

Direct (public education) Action

Aim: To challenge the public’s spatial awareness of “hidden” geographies.
Objective: For the public(s) to see the world differently.
Method: Invading (personal, social, commercial, security etc.) space dressed as on-foot ‘CCTV’. The cameras will be fitted to the guerrilla geographers who will be wearing boiler suits with the words ‘GGTV Geographer’ on them.

a) the landscape

“Emotional landscapes, They puzzle me, Then the riddle gets solved, And you push me up to this.. State of emergency, How beautiful to be, State of emergency, Is where I want to be...” Joga, Bjork

We all have a different view of the world. Each of us have our own and diverse ways of using our unique senses to interpret the risks, emotions, possibilities, futures and experiences that places have to offer. How we see where we are is dependent on the experiences that we have had, how we have experimented and explored our environment - and so if the guerilla geographer (psycho-geographer) shapes an experience for a person, that person might forever change their view of themselves, their influences and their world.

“Place is security, space is freedom: we are attached to one and long for the other.” Yi-Fu Tuan, Geographer

The geographer Doreen Massey says that if time is the dimension of change, then space is the dimension of interconnection – of things happening all at once. It is the dimension that presents us with the existence of others – and poses the question of how we are to live together. CCTV is an interconnected network that collects ‘present’ spatial data in order to control how we live. As with a feature of any landscape, all people have different experiences of
CCTV. Like the hidden geology of the Earth, some people do not see it and even more do not think about the individuals, organisations and processes that work behind it. Others want CCTV, believing that it will make them safer, despite the patchy research on its effectiveness.

“Despite uncertainty about the true value of CCTV, the working group is convinced it is here to stay not least because of the virtually universal perception that it makes places safer.” Review of CCTV in Birmingham for the Birmingham City Council 2005

Skeptics fear Big Brother control of the streets.

“... evidence is building up that, through CCTV, people and behaviours seen not to ‘belong’ in the increasingly commercialised and privately managed consumption spaces of British cities tend to experience especially close scrutiny.” Steve Graham, Durham University

“Location is a powerful key for relating disparate databanks and unearthing information about possession, spending habits, and an assortment of behaviors and preferences, real or imagined.” Mark Monmonier, Spying with Maps

“Our physical bodies are being shadowed by an increasingly comprehensive ‘data body’. However, this shadow body does more than follow us. It also precedes us. Before we arrive somewhere, we have already been measured and classified. Thus, upon arrival, we're treated according to whatever criteria has been connected to the profile that represents us.” Felix Stalder, Privacy is not the antidote to surveillance, 2002

So CCTV and the institutions behind it have the power to change how we behave on our own and with each other. It interacts with government control, commercial power, crime, house prices, migration, insurance, poverty, terror, racism, litter, transport and ultimately the geography of our lives... where will I live? how should I get there? As guerrilla geographers we will be using the controversy and personal relationships that people have with these issues and the landscape to question of this technology.

b) the individual
As geographers we love scale. We love zooming in and out (Google Earth porn), just like CCTV does. We are visual people and looking at things turns us on, as it does many people. The thing is, there is cultural etiquette that is followed to make sure that we do not ‘take up’, ‘infiltrate’, ‘invade’, ‘push’ or ‘encroach’ on ‘personal’ or ‘private’ space. Most people would especially not do this to important or official people, people having an argument or kissing passionately... and certainly not in large numbers?

Well... this is what CCTV can and does do. Mass arrays of zooming CCTV remotely invade
our personal space...

c) And so....
What better way to stimulate discussions about hidden geographies (even if people do not call them ‘geography’), space, place, control, power, proximity... then to dress as walking CCTV cameras and invade some space(s)?

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