Considering the UK Context

Recently, I’ve had a steady stream of people visiting me in London. Aside from the obvious benefit of reuniting with friends, there are a couple of other personal advantages to their visits: first, they bring me products that I can’t easily get in London (Lucky Charms from the States, stroopwafels from the Netherlands, and the list goes on). Secondly—and likely more importantly—I get the chance to see London from a refreshingly different perspective. Spending time with people who haven’t yet been normalized to the city alerts me to things that I’ve ignored, forgotten, or come to regard as banal.

Friends in town means an excuse to see the more touristy side of London, like Westminster Abbey. Photo courtesy of Schuyler Softy.

Last week, as I was walking in the city with a couple of visiting friends, one of them lightheartedly pointed out a CCTV camera and jokingly asked it if was a part of the tracking that’s taking place in my project. As a reminder, my project involves gathering the geolocation and browser history data of Londoners in order to create visual maps of relationships. It has absolutely nothing to do with surveillance cameras, but his comment stuck with me nonetheless. Though he was only kidding, he still was drawing a clear parallel between the methodology of my work and the infrastructure of the city in which my work is situated.

To explain a bit better: Britain has a bit of a history when it comes to tracking, surveillance, and data. In 2013, a CCTV survey concluded that there was one camera for every eleven people in the state, and I’d wager that number is only rising. London in particular has one of the highest number of surveillance cameras of any city in the world. There are approximately —> Read More