// I don't typically share unsourced images, but this one happens to be true and deserves some discussion.
These results came from a year long experiment in collaboration with Barak Ariel, an experimental criminologist at Cambridge. Here's an article from April 2013 on the study:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html
> The Rialto study began in February 2012 and will run until this July. The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.
Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. And, lest skeptics think that the officers with cameras are selective about which encounters they record, Mr. Farrar noted that those officers who apply force while wearing a camera have always captured the incident on video.
// One other feature of the devices should be mentioned:
> A convenient feature of the camera is its “pre-event video buffer,” which continuously records and holds the most recent 30 seconds of video when the camera is off. In this way, the initial activity that prompts the officer to turn on the camera is more likely to be captured automatically, too.
// This is only a single study, and surely more experiments are necessary before drawing any definite conclusions. However, the results fit in nicely with extensive psychological literature on the impact that "being watched" has on human cooperation. See, for instance:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-the-illusion-of-being-observed-can-make-you-better-person/
> In technical terms, we often speak of a “social dilemma,” that is, a situation where personal interests are at odds with that of the collective. (For example, it would be easier for me to throw my trash on the ground, but if everyone thought that way, we would all be stuck with a huge pile of waste.) Robyn Dawes and colleagues showed in the 70’s that the presence of other people in the room tends to have a positive effect on people’s decision-making when faced with a social dilemma. Yet, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Terence Burnham and Brian Hare published an article in Human Nature that showed people make more cooperative choices in economic computer games when they are “watched” on the screen by a robot with human-like eyes. Somewhat baffled, a number of researchers subsequently conducted a set of experiments that confirmed these initial findings.
// See also: Panopticismhttp://www.cartome.org/foucault.htm
> Power has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up... Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine...
He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.
// Foucault thinks that this panoptic schema is "destined to spread throughout the social body" and serve as a "generalized social function" that served as a more effective method of social control than any centralized hierarchical regime:
> The Panopticon, on the other hand, has a role of amplification; although it arranges power, although it is intended to make it more economic and more effective, it does so not for power itself, nor for the immediate salvation of a threatened society: its aim is to strengthen the social forces - to increase production, to develop the economy, spread education, raise the level of public morality; to increase and multiply.
// Putting a few cameras on a few cops hasn't brought us entirely into the panopticon, of course, but if the trend is going in that direction then the results from Rialto give us reason to be optimistic about the future. With this optimism in mind, the next few steps are obvious:
- put cameras on all cops, any time they are on duty, without the ability to turn it on or off.
- do the same with all other public officials, elected or otherwise.
- provide universal access to live streams from these cameras
And that's when things get interesting. Live streaming opens the possibility of live feedback from a receptive public, and it turns the job of managing our public resources into a genuine collective action problem, instead of reducing it to a problem to be solved by some subset of political elites.
It opens the possibility of operating our public institutions on something like the model demonstrated in TwitchPlaysPokemon (http://goo.gl/v8AfUl
), where collective action is a primary influence on the end user behavior.
If Twitch can beat the elite four in a situation of almost complete anarchy, I'm fairly confident that a subreddit dedicated to the directly democratic management of our public officials would be a wild success. Imagine a cop not only being monitored by the hive mind, but also able to engage it for real-time strategic thinking. Imagine congresspersons casting votes while informed by real-time feedback directly from their constituency.
This is the late game in democratic revolution, the final steps by which we turn our public officials from rules into servants. It cannot happen soon enough.
image from several sources, most recently via +Gopindra Hannigan #attentioneconomy #digitalpolitics #panopticism