UK government is seeking to ban individual from photographing and filming various security-related matters, as Minister for security and counter-terrorism, Vernon Kay, stated that the police may stop photographers taking pictures or videos when
“the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation or raise security considerations.” link1 - link2
This is a clear (and clearly dangerous) double standard, as on the one hand we assist to the rise of probably the most organised surveillance society on earth, that is, UK; on the other hand, similar practices stemming from below - sousveillance, as visual artist and activist Steve Mann puts it - are increasingly repressed so that to create an asymmetry at odds with any conception of democratic state and rule of law.
Democracy is based on the control performed by citizens on authorities. Since the advent of the first means of mass-communication, that is, the press, authorities, from Luois XIV onwards, sought to control information or, in other terms, to limit its proliferation from below. If this practice turned out to be pretty hard in authoritarian regimes, so-called democratic state are supposed to actively stimulate a bidirectional flux of information, as the watchdog role of both professional journalists and citizen is a necessary guarantee of transparency.
New media created infinite possibility for the production from below, destabilising the synoptical regime of television into a myriad of visual spaces, perspectives from which to assess the reality and 'know', if not the truth, the fact that 'truth' does not exist and that many perspectives of an event are accessible.
Synopticon refers to the many-watch-the-few situation - reverse of Panopticon - typical of unidirectional communication. Wiki-Synopticon is how I termed the new configuration put in place by the advent of YouTube and new media in general, together with the widespread availability of cheap video-devices, which potentially allow any individual to perform a sequence of seeing-filming-uploading-broadcasting.
This crucial historical turning point, so evident for instance in the event of Saddam's execution, - with the youtube video leaked out showing a completely different version of the event - I referred to the convergence between a 'voyeur society' born out of the image-led culture of 20th century, and a "network society", stemming from the rising of the internet and characterised by a specific 'sharing culture'. We're no longer satisfied with seeing, as a voyeur would be, we need to record what we see and, most importantly, we want to share it with others. This is the foundation of Facebook, after all.
Now, the attempt of UK gov. to repress filming is a deliberate attempt to hinder the wiki-synopticon, to limit the power given to individual by such new technologies, whilst at the same time the same government is exploiting the power of new technologies to subject individuals to unprecedented control and surveillance.
A state indiscriminately performing surveillance and social control to an extent well beyond human rights and rule of law is already an extremely threatening state. A state which, contemporaneously, is seeking to block what would be the necessary counterbalance, the flow of information from below witnessing eventual abuses from the very forces of the state, well, it is a state which attacks directly principles of fairness and transparency. Thus is more than threatening, is scaring.
Just imagine if the shooter of Rodney King video would have been arrested and his video confiscated, not because of corrupted policeman aiming at erasing evidences, but because of the law itself.
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