On Camera Again

Recently I was listening to fairly new podcast from National Public Radio, Invisibilia, which I highly recommend if you like good storytelling and thinking of things in new ways. The episode, Our Computers, Ourselves, examined how computers affect human behavior, for good or bad. One of the themes was the ubiquity of computers in our lives. They did not dwell on this as part of the show, but as I drove through the snow on my way to work, my own thoughts kept curling around the idea. I looked up and saw a video camera on a light pole, and I wondered, how many times does a camera take an image of me each day? I don’t live in a city but I also don’t live in the most rural part of Vermont. So, in the largest city in Vermont, a very small city by the standards of most other states, how ubiquitous are cameras?

Since then I have been thinking I should count them. Could I be aware enough to see the cameras that watch us but that we have forgotten are there? I knew that I would have to pay attention, that I would have to start noticing things I no longer see. I figured I would try it out today, knowing that it would be an imperfect experiment to start.

On the way to my destination for the day I passed at least two traffic camera intersections where I assume my image crossed a screen. I tried to pay attention but got lost in whatever I was listening to and didn’t look for cameras once I exited the interstate. I did go to a school this morning, which meant a camera aimed itself at me as I buzzed the front desk. I am guessing I missed some cameras but that is at least three, all of which carried my image twice. So at least six times today I was filmed (I’ll have to work on being careful with that word as there was no actual film involved) and none of those instances were of my own choosing.

I plan to try to keep an eye out for cameras around here as I drive and work and shop and play. I am guessing I will find some in unusual places. At some point I will try to count them all in a period of time (one day? one week?). If nothing else it will be good practice noticing, paying attention, being aware. I may find that there are fewer cameras than I imagine; I may find there are more. Either way, the question–how often am I camera?–is worth asking.

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