One of the issues I've been exploring over the last 22 months at WorldChanging is the question of what happens when large numbers of people have in their hands devices that can capture the sounds and images of the world and send them effortlessly (and wirelessly) across the Internet. Early versions of such tools are already here -- we call them cameraphones. But as these technologies get more sophisticated, the implications of the technology grow more dramatic. The Rise of the Participatory Panopticon is the edited transcript of a talk I gave at the MeshForum 2005 conference in early May; I knew the talk was successful when a listener came up to me later and told me that the world I had described was both attractive and very, very disturbing.
...the world of the participatory panopticon is not as interested in privacy, or even secrecy, as it is in lies. A police officer lying about hitting a protestor, a politician lying about human rights abuses, a potential new partner lying about past indiscretions -- all of these are harder in a world where everything might be on the record. The participatory panopticon is a world where accusations can easily be documented, where corporations will become more transparent to stakeholders as a matter of course, where officials may even be required to wear a recorder while on duty, simply to avoid situations where they are discovered to have been lying. It's a world where we can all be witnesses with perfect recall. Ironically, its a world where trust is easy, because lying is hard.