Posts tagged ‘surveillance’
“At such times the person’s face clearly is something that is not lodged in or on his body, but rather something that is diffusely located in the flow of events in the encounter ….” Erving Goffman, “On Face-Work,” Interaction Ritual, p. 7.
I am in a phone meeting with a Hollywood producer. He’s just completed an animation sequence with one of the world’s famous actors. Although the finished work was superb, we’re worried the actor’s animated face isn’t looking real.
“That means that in the next few years (maybe much sooner), any camera that sees you will know who you are. You are your face, and your face is public. If not today, then very, very soon.” — Aaron Saenz
Your face is currently under renovation. You won’t see the change in a mirror, but looking around closely you may catch a glimpse of what’s happening. No longer merely the canvas where you express who you are, your face is now what semiotics terms a sign. What once was ‘yours’ exclusively today is “something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity.” This sign, your face, now functions as an interface—“a point of interaction between components … [in] both hardware and software.”
Few people have as fully realized a Metalife as Hasan Elahi. Its necessity, a case of mistaken identity, was the mother of considerable invention. In 2002, when he stepped off a flight from the Netherlands, he was detained at the Detroit airport. FBI agents later told him they had been tipped off that he was hoarding explosives in a Florida storage unit. While subsequent lie detector tests convinced them he wasn’t their man, Elahi knew after this detention he would be carefully watched.
Most of us give little consideration to the further life of our digital explorations—the messages we text, the files we send, the photos we store. That is, until something that we thought was ‘ours’ becomes evidence of something else.
Douglas Brush is Founder and Chief Forensic Examiner of The Digital Forensic Group in New York City. The company’s mission is to use specialized computer forensic methodologies and tools for the identification, extraction, preservation, analysis and documentation of electronic evidence as it is used in civil and criminal matters. The Digital Forensic Group provides its services to law firms, corporations, government agencies, and individuals. In essence they devise a framework for investigating moments captured on digital devices in order to provide clarity and ultimately a report of what happened.
As we will see, Brush’s work is fundamentally about the unearthing and documenting of a Metalife. This life is a shadow digital existence with our name and footprints all over it.
“Would you have a drink with you?” the Stoli Vodka ad taunts us. “Create your alter-ego at Facebook.com/Stoli.” Alter-egos are all the rage now that 12 million people play World of Warcraft, and 500 million more have a second life on Facebook. Or perhaps, given the mounting evidence of how we are changing our lives, there’s more going on with this alter-egoing than meets the eye, or the I. We are all engaged in massively multiplayer online and offline role-playing. Is it a game, or a ruse resembling a game resembling a life? Whatever is happening as we evolve our identity, our tools and technologies, this is as good a time as any to ask a few questions. The following is an interview of the interviewer. The subject is Metalife. The Stoli’s on us. Both of us.
A recent burglary at the home of Washington Post writer and editor Marc Fisher was documented by a Facebook boast. The burglar took Fisher’s new coat, his son’s iPod, savings bonds, cash and a laptop. Then the burglar opened his son’s laptop computer and posted a photo of himself to the boy’s Facebook page. In the photo, the burglar flashes the stolen cash and is wearing Fisher’s winter coat.
“I like to watch,” says Chance the Gardener in Jerzy Kosiński’s biting 1971 media fable, Being There. Chance cannot read or write (satirically presaging the stereotype of today’s digital natives) but he knows what he likes. When he first rides in a car he observes, “This is just like television, only you can see much further.” We now have many more tools just like TV: our phones, gadgets and apps enable us to see further (and know more about) what anyone else is doing.
We are all becoming Chance the gardener. We all like to watch—and we are watching each other.
A failed car bombing took place in the heart of Manhattan late Saturday evening May 1st. This is more than the story of a terrorist whose efforts were thwarted due to superior police work; it is also a case history of the rapid building, deployment, and capture of a Metalife.
Face perception is so hardwired into our brains, it comes as no surprise that we describe social status in terms of face: saving face, losing face, face-off. Showing your face and owning it—owning the right to present it on your own terms, even to sell it if you’re blessed with beauty—is the height of personal empowerment. But our features are also the focus of emerging facial recognition systems that will significantly alter how we think of owning and presenting our faces.