Friday, May 02, 2008

What's in a name? CCTV

Scribe has just sent me a link to a story from The Register called School crossing guards join CCTV panlollycon [30 April 2008].

I share Scribe's unease at the proliferation of cameras for various often ill-considered purposes. But a few weeks ago, I was with my son, using the zebra crossing outside his primary school with the aid of a lollipop lady. A driver ignored all of us and drove past, in clear breach of safety and the Highway Code. If I had been quick enough to get out my mobile phone and snap his number plate, I probably would have done. What me, inconsistent?

Meanwhile I wonder about the increasing use of the term CCTV to refer to systems that are not closed-circuit, but feed into an open-ended ecosystem of discipline-and-punish. The purpose of CCTV has extended from monitoring to include deterrence and penalty, and in the process it has ceased to be "closed circuit".

What I find particularly interesting here is that it illustrates the way technologies can so easily (and almost invisibly) start to be used "off-label" - in other words, breaking out of their initial context and purpose, without people even noticing that this has occurred. This isn't just semantics; if we pay attention to language, we can sometimes spot real shifts in the way certain effects are produced.

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