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First Person(al) Documentary: Crime Reduction with Personal Imaging and Personal Image

The proposed performance will involve a reflectionist critique of video surveillance, using personal imaging (described in IEEE Computer, Vol 30, No. 2) as a medium with which to hold a mirror up to society.

Personal Imaging will be used to create a personal documentary to record and transmit images of potentially dangerous situations (e.g. fire exits that are illegally chained shut, poorly lit stairways, cluttered corridors and exits, poorly marked exits, and potentially abusive or irresponsible security guards and other representatives).

This will attempt to suggest that rather than having a police state, individual citizens might take on the role of monitoring and reporting crime and dangerous situations, while leaving police with the task of acting on reported crimes without having to place the population under surveillance themselves.

Personal Imaging has created its own metaphors for the aesthetics of self-defense, such as the antenna in its most familiar form which is the automotive cellular antenna. Re-situating this familiar object in a disturbing and dis-orienting manner (as a wearable apparatus), provides an obvious and visible deterrent to the seizing or destroying of image content.

Other highly visible crime deterrents comprise a highly obtrusive (yet still wearable) camera with a red led which people readily understand is symbolic of recording equipment in its recording mode of operation.

Most notably, a flat computer screen, sewn onto a shirt, allows others to see themselves on the WWW in a virtual mirror of sorts, which makes the reflectionist philosophy literal as well as metaphoric. The virtual mirror echoes the television set suspended from the ceilings of many establishments that use video surveillance, and serves the same process of providing a visceral and constant reminder that one should not commit crime.

In the words of Daniel Shurman, personal imaging allows one to project a social identity, to play out on the world in the same way that the Internet itself is a means with which to project a public identity.

"VideoClips" will also be used to confront representatives of the surveillance superhighway with a new genre of personal electronic news gathering.

Furthermore, it is hoped that the new aesthetic will give rise to a proliferation of "maybecams" in the form of a "firing squad" backed by zero-knowledge cryptography.

ShootingBack: An Attempt at Using Personal Imaging to Define a New Genre of Film/Video

With Personal Imaging I have attempted to define a new form of interaction between humans and technology. "Wearable Computing: A First Step Toward Personal Imaging", by Steve Mann, IEEE Computer Volume 30 Number 2, http://computer.org/pubs/computer/1997/0297toc.htm

I have equipped a pair of ordinary sunglasses with miniature spatial light modulators, CCD sensor arrays, and appropriate optics, so that when I put them on, I see a computer screen. On my computer screen I see a video image of what is actually present in the real world. Rather than allow the light to simply pass through, as would be the case with ordinary sunglasses, the apparatus absorbs and quantifies incoming light, processes it computationally, and then sends the processed result on toward my eyes.

After several years of adaptation the apparatus has begun to function as a visual prosthetic of sorts - a true extension of my mind and body that allows me to record exactly what I see.

Clearly I don't need to carry a camera because I am a camera, but in ShootingBack, I do anyway. Thus the act of merely making a documentary with an ordinary camcorder (while wearing my prosthetic camera), allows one camera to see through the other, and thus allows the audience the unique first-person perspective, as though being inside my eye, while I am shooting with a camcorder.

In ShootingBack, I confront representatives of the "Surveillance Superhighway" (establishments such as department stores where video surveillance is used extensively, yet photography by customers is strictly prohibited). I begin with my camcorder held down at my side, pointing away from a representative of the SS. Then, I ask the representative "What are those mysterious ceiling domes - those dark hemispheres..." or "Is that a video camera? Why are you taking pictures of me without my permission?". After the representative tells me that I am paranoid and that only criminals are concerned about cameras, I raise the camcorder up to my eye (the vantage point of the audience, who see the face-to-face conversation followed by the eyecup of a camcorder, eventually revealing the inside of the viewfinder, upon which we now see the representative of the SS displayed).

At this point, the representative of the SS often shows great concern about my camcorder, and thus, in a 180 degree reversal, is self-incriminating.