Earlier this year I was sitting with Michael Naimark at Cubus in the new Ars Electronica center. The restaurant, decked out with speedy wi-fi and attractive waiters and waitresses, feels like it is floating over the Danube River and the rest of Linz.
Michael and I took turns pushing around the mouse of his computer. And as we pushed the mouse around two kids in Karlsruhe, Germany chased after a spotlight on the ground. A spotlight that Michael and I were controlling from his computer.
He was showing me an interactive art installation by his wife Marie Sester called Access. (Video here.) The piece is on permanent exhibition at Karlsruhe’s ZKM Center for Art and Media. If you’d like to make people at a museum chase after a spotlight, you can do so here. (Just make sure that the museum is open.)
I was reminded of Sester’s piece when I first heard on The World about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s plan to install dozens of cameras along the Mexican border to allow internet users to monitor portions of the border from their computer. Brandi Grissom of the El Paso Times has been writing about the program on her blog Vaqueros and Wonkeros.
The site run by BlueServo is now up. You can now spend your time watching empty rivers and roads and reporting any suspicious movements. (Joshua Keating was bored after three minutes … it took me about thirty seconds.)
Despite all the ridiculous talk of Mexico becoming a failed state, there has been very little coverage of the border cameras. If the point is to allow internet users to “directly monitor suspicious criminal activity,” as the website claims, then are we also ok with putting internet web cameras everywhere criminal activity takes place? Urban corners where drug dealers hang out? Suspected brothels? The drunk driving highway that leads to Napa? The offices of Madoff? If we are going to empower internet users as citizen detectives, then why limit it just to the border?
This isn’t just about immigration … it’s about being consistent in how we value privacy.