Saturday, 2 January 2010

My Naked Avatar.

Reading Fred Ritchin's After Photography blog I'm always caught drifting into a space where I think I'm listening to a Sci-Fi author predicting the future, rather than someone picking apart a here and now that I'm largely blind to. Here's what I mean, this is Cory Doctorow on the role of the sci-fi author (the rest of which is here), Fred follows on down the page:


"There's this old aphorism that the job of the science-fiction writer is to look at the movie theater and the automobile and predict the drive-in ... but I think if you want to be a great predictive science-fiction writer, you should look at the automobile and look at the movie theater and say, 'We will have drive-ins, which will incentivize children to get driving licenses, which will mean that for the first time, citizens of Western democracies will routinely carry photo ID, and in 25 years, we'll have a surveillance state.' "

I just got back from a Photo job in Sweden for Popular Science magazine, the complicated nature of the subject meant that I could use no electrical equipment so I revisited the joys of international travel with x-ray sensitive film. Suffice it to say that sick of arguing with security personnel for hand checks and knowing that I would have to negotiate a minimum of six machines, I developed an alternative strategy.


A week later someone with a markedly more malign intent, developed the 'Hot-pant' technique to smuggle explosives aboard a plane bound for the US. Sweden then promptly announced that it would introduce routine scanning of individuals thereby capturing an image of the person without clothes. This in itself was pertinent to the story that I'd gone to shoot in the first place, as the microwave energy used would have been enough to kill the man that I'd gone to photograph (the reason for the story).

With this new x-ray image banked, it occurred to me that along with the rest of data stored about me, from my fingerprints taken at US entry points, to the information that I share voluntarily via social media sites, my Augmented Reality self (my real world avatar) is utterly exposed, it's more of me than I even know! or am capable of knowing ... as Fred says in his post:


"..once Google decides to raid Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and all the rest (let’s not even talk about databases of college students, drivers, criminals, soldiers, etc.), then our cute little cellphones will also be able to identify many of our fellow humans. How many unpaid parking tickets? How much alimony owed? Inner circle of friends? Favorite ice cream? Arrest warrants? Favorite fetish? Walking in the street without scarves, sunglasses and hats would constitute a baring of the individual way beyond what occurs in any nudist colony."

And Google just scratches the surface - literally - there's the deeper web yet to be stirred up, no one even knows what lives down there.

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