So What Do You Think You’re Doing, Sonny?

A tweet from @benjamindyer alerted me to a trial being run in Portsmouth where “behavioural analytics” are being deployed on the city’s CCTV footage in order to “alert a CCTV operator to a potential crime in the making” (Portsmouth gets crime-predicting CCTV).

I have to say this reminded me a little, in equal measures, of Phillip Kerr’s A Philosophical Investigation, and the film Minority Report, both of which explore, in different ways, the idea of “precrime”, or at least, the likelihood of a crime occurring, although I suspect the behavioural video analysis still has some way to go before it is reliable…!

When I chased the “crime predicting CCTV” story a little, it took me to Smart CCTV, the company behind the system being used in Portsmouth.

And seeing those screenshots, I wondered – wouldn’t this make for a brilliant bit of digital storytelling, in which the story is a machine interpretation of life going on, presented via a series of automatically generated, behavioural analysis subtitles, as we follow an unlikely suspect via the CCTV network?

See also: CCTV hacked by video artists, Red Road, Video Number Plate Recognition (VNPR) systems, etc. etc.

PS if you live in Portsmouth, you might as well give up on the idea of privacy. For example, add in a bit of Path Intelligence, “the only automated measurement technology that can continuously monitor the path that your shoppers or passengers take” which is (or at least, was) running in Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays shopping area (Shops track customers via mobile phone), and, err, erm… who knows?!

PPS it’s just so easy to feed paranoia, isn’t it? Gullible Twitter users hand over their usernames and passwords – did you get your Twitterank yet?! ;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

2 thoughts on “So What Do You Think You’re Doing, Sonny?”

  1. I’m sure some smart MA student has already written their thesis on this, but I have noticed over the last 2 years how much CCTV has influenced British cinema in general; certainly there are the films (and novels) you mentioned that are directly about it, like Red Road, but even films that are not explicitly about it are being influenced in fascinating ways. For instance I just watched “Boy A” (very hard movie to watch) and while, now that I think of it, there was one explicit reference to a CCTV camera, the entire film was informed by this consciousness of being watched. And that smart MA student could make their thesis even more interesting by contrasting the modern consciousness of being watched with an earlier generation of British films (I’m thinking “Peeping Tom” here in particular) involved with ‘the Gaze’ but more from a strictly filmic perspective. Sorry, I know this wasn’t exactly a film theory post, but I do find it interesting to look at how UK culture specifically is dealing with the constant surveillance state.

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