Tag Archives: panopticon

Vancouver Canucks Riots:: Critical Mass & Social Contagion in “No-Fun City”

Vidcap of Saltspring Island teacher Kristi Kallip attempting to keep the crowds at bay,
sitting atop a police car being smashed while holding out peace signs.

Originally posted on r h i z o m i c o n

I’m not sure why, but I just had a feeling the Canucks were going to lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. It may well be from my experience in the 2002 World Series when San Francisco went up 3-2, only to lose two straight and series. So, when I was flipping around in the wee hours of EDT to catch the score, the Canucks loss was overshadowed by the riots following the loss. The Province has an interesting article on how Vancouver hasn’t progressed since 1994 [see 1994 footage of 40-50,000 rioters taking to the streets], when the Canucks experienced a heartbreaking game 7 Stanley Cup loss. A Vancouver constable summed things up::

“People complain that this is a ‘No Fun City,’” said Const. Colin Naismith, lifting up his riot-protection mask. “Well, they had their chance. This is what happens when you let the floodgates open.”

Rioter wielding a hockey stick takes out some frustrations on a Bank of Montréal branch.
I think the Vancouver Police made the right call in how they handled things, given that there were estimates of 100,000 people watching the game on Georgia St. on bigscreens in downtown. The scale of people out on the streets was immense and giving the crowd a reason to escalate the violence would have been a bad move. Imagine the use of coralling with 100,000 people on the streets. In contrast, during last year’s G20 protests in Toronto, there were only 10,000 protestors and allegedly a splinter group of 2,000 black bloc was responsible for damage caused through vandalism. While it may be disturbing to see vandalism and property damage, it’s a delicate balance between ensuring public safety and not pouring gasoline on the fire, given the huge crowd, and ensuring civil liberties. Moreover, a heavy-handed approach, a characterization levied at the Toronto Police for their handling of G20, can result in a PR fail and a sense that free speech rights within the Canadian Charter of Freedoms are being undermined, in the name of public safety. The Vancouver riot had nothing to do with public safety, but with a brutish Hobbesean state fueled by social contagion—as rioters sense a lack of consequences for acting out given the sheer scale of the mob, it gave more people the courage to act out. The best thing for law enforcement to do would be to focus on stopping any assaults and getting out videocameras to add to the panopticon of visual surveillance in the city consisting of about 1,000 cameras. Let the rioting crowd simmer down and document the vandalism and sort it all out later—criminally and civilly. Imperfect? Sure. Some scofflaws might get away with their vandalism or worse, but as evident in this case of a Toronto officer accused of assaulting a bystander during G20, the panopticon can catch up with you long after the emotion of the moment and the criminal deeds were done.

Here’s some video footage from The Province, showing vandals, along with some concerned citizens trying to stop the violence::
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Well, it makes one wonder what would have happened if Canada lost the hockey gold last February in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver {although the crowds on the street were in the tens of thousands, not 100,000} and also what would happen if election results were big screen televised public spectacles with large gatherings.

Finally, all of this reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson’s video for Fiona Apple’s cover of “Across the Universe”, on the soundtrack for Pleasantville {1998}::

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Twitterversion:: [blog] #Vancouver Riots-Critical Mass & Contagion:powder keg w/ safety, property, civ liberties, & exacerbation at stake @Prof_K

Crowdsourcing the Jerk Store

George Castanza (Jason Alexander) from Seinfeld. Reference is to "The Comeback" episode (1997).

George Castanza (Jason Alexander) from Seinfeld. Reference is to "The Comeback" episode (1997).

On my other blog, I did a post about driving pet peeves and a close call I had on the mean streets of Toronto.  I made a passing reference to the idea of “crowdsourcing” a database on boorish road behaviours.  Well, it turns out there’s a website that does just that, Zapatag.com {blog, Twitter}.  What is Zapatag?  According to their “about us” page::

“Report bad drivers, track license plates, zap a tag and upgrade your commute. Compliment a carpooler. Lash a litterer. Tattle on a tailgater. Snap at a speeder. Bring accountability back to our streets the Web 2.0 way. Don’t get mad on the road. Get even online.”

Technologically, it was inspired by Twitter, but the more interesting implication on this blog is how such sites might affect us in the future.  What about issues of::

  • Privacy.  Is it a breach of privacy to link licence plate numbers to alleged incidents?
  • Defamation.  Is it defamation to link a vehicle to alleged bad/illegal behaviour?
  • Antisocial behaviours.  Will this lead to harassment, in terms of posting or retaliation for posting?

One of our fellow bloggers had a disturbing incident on a Thousand Oaks, CA thoroughfare.  I thought a site like this might be useful in cataloguing habitual offenders, but the technology does enable issues like those three listed above and probably more.  Privacy has been declared dead thanks to the Internet for over a decade.  What about defending one’s “reputation” online?  Where are the lines drawn between transparency and defamatory statements?  With the Internet and the decline of privacy, will the definition of defamation change?  A whole post could be on the antisocial behaviours angle.  What springs to mind is the cyberbullying mom case.

Invoking Bentham’s panopticon and doling out Foucauldian logics to each and every one of us {we all have the power of surveillance and voice with Web 2.0+}, will this lead to übertransparency and more mindful actions -or- will it create a anarchic free-for-all of accusations and defamation?

Song:: I Think Im Paranoid – Garbage

Twitterversion:: @Zapatag allows crowdsourcing of bad driving behaviours. It’s an interesting intersection of technology & society.  @Prof_K

Life’s Everyday Resistances -or- Hey Slacker, Get Back to Work!

basics.L

The New York Times has an article on doing something about the Internet as the scourge of the workplace, being a timesuck of epic proportions.

“During the last few weeks, I’ve been using a slate of programs to tame these digital distractions. The apps break down into three broad categories. The most innocuous simply try to monitor my online habits in an effort to shame me into working more productively. Others reduce visual bells and whistles on my desktop as a way to keep me focused.

And then there are the apps that really mean business — they let me actively block various parts of the Internet so that when my mind strays, I’m prohibited from giving in to my shiftless ways. It’s the digital equivalent of dieting by locking up the refrigerator and throwing away the key.”

The author goes on to talk about the various software solutions, but at the end he surmises that it’s human nature to goof off and waste time.

Why?

Michel deCerteau in The Practice of Everyday Life offers up the term, “la perruque,” where workers steal time for their own purposes as a form of resistance to the surveillance of control::

“It differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job.  La perruque may be as simple a matter as a secretary’s writing a love letter on ‘company time’ or as complex as a cabinetmaker’s ‘borrowing’ a lathe to make a piece of furniture for his living room.”

This probably rings true for many::

In my opinion, people engage in la perruque in resisting the logics of surveillance, but I feel this could be thwarted by developing organizational cultures where people feel motivated to do the work, rather than slack.  In this day and age, employees are often made to feel they are lucky to even have a job and this was before the recession.  Outsourcing and cost-cutting are terms used to “manage” the workforce through fear.  The problem with fear…is that it breeds more resistance.  A vicious cycle.

This is why I always allow students to use laptops in my classes and I don’t even care if they’re updating their Facebook or playing poker.  Why?  Because if I’m doing my job and engaging the students, they wind up using the Internet to complement class discussions, not as a distraction.

Now that I’m a consultant doing my own thing, I find that I still waste time on the Internet.  If it increases, I suppose it’s because I have a jerk for a boss.

Twitterversion:: NewSftware prevnts timesink w/Internet,but is wastng time just”la perruque”by deCerteau. Contrlvs.Motivate?#ThickCulture http://url.ie/2gx8 @Prof_K

Song:: Temptation – Heaven 17