Self-tracking Technologies and the Tourists: Embodiment and Engagement with Surveillance in the City
Welcome to the City of York, where the Council will gather anonymised data from anyone visiting the city centre. surveillance tracking will be used to find out about visitors - where they come from, how much money they spend, where they go and what they think about York.
Self-tracking technologies are very popular. Consumer culture indicates these enable transformation of consumer behaviour and their expectations about knowledge concerning their identity. Consumers have, for some time, adorned their bodies with wearable tech and moulded their identities in various ways to have appeal on social media. Yet, the growth and variety of data points designed to exploit the malleability of identity metrics have turned social sharing into a hugely profitable commercial industry.
The commonality and popularity of surveillance technologies raise many questions about the impact that personal trackable data has on people's identities, rights, and capacities for action. I imagine this like fishing into a free sea of people who are so hooked on their tech and data they fail to realise the sharks near. Personal data is important, but it would, I think, be erroneous to restrict our observations of them to the most obvious or innovative ways in which interactions occur. Our data changes develop and replicate from one platform through to new devices while still remaining on old/forgotten technologies. The very places that surround us, the institutions we establish relationships with, and habits we develop, all impact upon the appearances, capacities and meanings of our data.
Data change sometimes occurs as a result of consciously formulated actions. These are undertaken in situations where we think we have considerable autonomy - such as privacy settings on a social media account. Yet, data change also happens frequently in circumstances within which the individual finds themself, and they have no control. In these and other situations, how data change occurs are directly related to people's cultural knowledge and dependence and relationships to the broader social structures in which we live, visit and move around in.
In York, the broad and general relationship between data change and social action feel almost predatory. Being a resident of York feels as though living in an open pandora box. In coming to terms with data dimensions, it feels as though we are being pulled beyond where personal boundaries were once firmly closed. We are being jolted towards new actions that require us to overlook the considerable intrusion into our privacy. Rather than completely condemning surveillance developments, we might see them instead as the creative potential of how we might live in the future - within a broadly defined flexible technology framework that facilitates data into the repositories of personal use and external environments.
The range and severity of personal data intrusion could indicate a new-new-age of technological culture, which seek to benefit individuals, different peoples and contribute meaningfully to the planet. In this context, what data surveillance means to different peoples, underscores contemporary attempts to utilise many belief-systems as a means of explaining technologies place in society.