On the day of the G20 protests, I was in two places at once. At home working and listening to Radio 5’s somewhat hysterical coverage, and also watching the Twitter #g20 hashtag and following the tweets of people I know and others from the protests.
Covering live events with Social Media
The ‘coverage’ aggregation I was able to do was amazing. In particular (until his battery ran out!) Steve Lawson (@solobasssteve) was using Qik to report in near realtime from outside the Bank of England where the Police were involved in the bizarre and, I consider, unlawful tactic of ‘kettling’; constraining peaceful protestors and not allowing them free passage through the streets of the City of London.
Watch Steve Lawson’s footage and you will see what I mean – you can hear the stress in his voice and others’ around him as they realise they are hemmed in by Police.
The footage which everyone knows about is of the sad death of Ian Tomlinson. Brought back to mind yesterday again by the failure of the Police to obtain an injunction against Channel 4 News. But the thing I keep remembering is the statement made by the IPCC and immediately carried without any question by conventional media – that “there were no cameras in the locations he was assualted”. I felt cold when I heard that. Close to the Bank of England, in the heart of the City in a country where there is a CCTV camera for every 14 people? Not credible. And the IPCC subsequently admitted they’d ‘mis-spoken’.
CCTV good – StreetView bad?
Most people must think CCTV cameras in all our towns, cities and villages is a ‘good thing’. Few seem to object and, for example, the residents of a village near ours actually petitioned to have one installed. And then we see the objections to Google Streetview – while I think it sensible for faces to be obscured in Streetview; I don’t know of any reason why the faces of people in a public street taken incidentally to a more general view should not be shown? Should we be bothered that out-of-date images of the street we live in should be available globally to all but happy that live video of us is being monitored locally by people we don’t know – but it’s ok because they’re the Police?
The watched are becoming the watchers
We’re seeing the unintended consequences of pervasive social and new media. We all have cameras, all the time and many of us can upload ‘feed’ from live events immediately. So now the watched become the watchers; we all have our own ‘CCTV’ and we have a new set of tools which could, I hope, be used for positive change and digital engagement but are, if needed, available to watch our own backs.