Thursday, May 8, 2008
(very) Late Post on Surveillance (Week of 3/17-3/21)
I recently came across this video surveillance game called Vigilance 1.0. The player is tasked with maintaining morality and order by monitoring surveillance cameras and denouncing any digressions. They player is rewarded for punishing anyone caught in the act of "robberies, pocket-pickings, burglaries, shop-lifts, breaches of the highway code, trash-abandoning, drug dealing, solicitation on a public place, procuring, drunkenness, sexual harassment, adultery, incest, pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia, etc."
The art-game's description and game play are intentionally tongue and cheek. There is no winning as the game continues indefinitely and the system arbitrarily assigns point values to crimes (+2 points for prostitution, +10 for bagsnatching, -1 for false allegations). The game's developer makes the claim that for the player, the game is "At the end, the denunciation of a controlled society, the total visibility and spying, putting him in a position of self-denunciation." Ostensibly the game aims to question the role of people in controlling and capturing in society. The player is cast not as a criminal avoiding constant surveillance but as a security guard faces with the responsibility of upholding justice.
Through Agre, Foucault, Deleuze and Virilio, our discussions of surveillance have focus on the structures and networks of "control society" and the "REALTIME" of the contemporary world. Examining this game also makes me wonder about the possibility for individuals to decide whether or not they want to enforce the networked mediated systems of control, or whether as this game seems to hopefully suggest, it is as much the system (the structures, networks and media) of control as the the agency of the people enacting that system.