I've been writing about sousveillance since 2002, and now that it's been anointed as one of the New York Times' Ideas of the Year, I think we're going to see the news media â€śsuddenlyâ€? start to see it everywhere.
Sousveillance (from the French, meaning â€śto observe from belowâ€?, the antonym of surveillance) was coined by Ronald Deibert, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, specializing in media, technology, and world politics. In his World Sousveillance Day project of that year, Deibert asked participants to spend December 24, the busiest shopping day of the holiday season, photographing all the surveillance cameras in their local mall as a way to draw attention to the all-seeing Eye of Providence we all are increasingly living under. (Note: While the exercise is fun, photographing security cameras will quickly cause large men sporting navy blue blazers and two-way radios to place their hands over your camera lens and accuse you of supporting terrorism.)
Enabled by inexpensive and omnipresent cameras connected to the internet, citizen souveillance has in the years since been directed at the police, at politicians, and at underground weenie waggers. Though the boilerplate media have reported many of these incidents in the past, I think in 2007, as fears of terrorism fade and mistrust of the government increases, we're going to see coverage of similar incidents presented not as discrete phenomena, but as part of a growing movement of citizen empowerment.
The public isn't yet ready for citizen video to replace traditional news, but they don't seem to have a problem with it as an adjunct. The old maxim used to be â€śnothing scares a government like a million people in the streetâ€?. The new rule might have to add â€świth cameraphonesâ€?.
Patrick Di Justo is a contributing editor at WIRED Magazine, a contributing blogger at Worldchanging New York, and a contributing author to the Worldchanging book.