From offline mediums to web art, “I Spy with my Little Eye” is an interdisciplinary project that creates a web based utopian anonymous cityscape with full of manipulated/distorted imagery and sound in order to spark a deeper approach on the counter perspective of being monitored in the public sphere as an individual. Please feel free to check the project "I Spy with my Little Eye".

Published at:
isthisit? issue 5    
I Spy with my Little Eye :  The Notions of Alternative Voyeurism and Sousveillance [1]

Everyday life is, in our contemporary world, subjected to constant surveillance of its participants. Modern state, unlike its predecessors, holds great amount of information about its subjects, its citizens. According to the text “Legibility, Privacy and Creativity: Linked Data in a Surveillance Society” by Christopher Brewster and Doughald Hine, it is said that;

“Privacy and anonymity, while distinct, have historically been an anomaly, the result of the coincidence of the creation of large cities and the lack of appropriate technological means for the state to track all people and activities in its area of concern. In the village there is no privacy. In McLuhan’s “Global Village” yet again there will be none. Privacy is merely a specific type of freedom, the freedom to act or think in a manner that may or may not be approved of in wider society without its knowledge.” (Brewster and Hine)

Privacy and personal security are basics rights in order to feel secure in a society. However, it seems like both public and cyber spaces give humanity a panoptic atmosphere. According to Spinello, “Personal data are being made available in these online databases, which are accessible to search engines without our knowledge and consent. Further, there is more going on here than a mere conversation of data from hardcopy to digital format. The internet makes this data globally and instantaneously accessible” (Spinello, 2006).

Marketing of every single new improvement -especially in communication- is based on the illusion or advertisement of the human freedom yet the outcome is excessive amount of surveillance and voyeurism of private life. Privacy is as a concept, heading in a pathway for its own disappearance.

Cyberethics and Misconception of Independency

State authorities aim to control over the society by urbanization with a panopticon model (Bentham) and desire to rule by creating particular features in order to suppress possible the rebellions and resistances in modern societies. It is inevitably observed that society is imposed to certain systematics and “the state insists on treating people according to its schemata” (Scott, 1999). People are monitored and recorded by the modern state either digitally or manually which creates closures in a society.

For instance, almost every new technology advertised on behalf of human emancipation, beneficiaries of the age of information and technology are inevitable. Yet, many technologies which are introduced are mostly serving as the means of control and surveillance.

Butchering the cyberethics through escalating a neo-panopticon model, the state have more power on people by creating a monotype to handle the society easier. Individuals in a society might have an understanding that they are more freed compared to pre-modern state model. However, they, in reality, happen to have less private sphere and more closures. What is one of the most striking aspects of our contemporary society is, in this sense, the illusion of freedom.

Reversing and Deterritorializing

As we are all surrounded by face recognition technology, our private sphere is severely limited within the control society (Deleuze). 'Sousveillance' allows the audience to explore a counter understanding of a surveilled society from an individualistic point of view, and discover how the control society is naturalized by being monitored in a daily life circle. Pursuing the notion of private sphere and sense of privacy in an individual’s daily life circle, sousveillance proposes a deeper understanding of individual's will power to be unidentified in the public sphere.

In order to make people have self empowerment in both in public and private sphere digital technologies can help people to invert their situation from being gazed into “watch the watchers” as an act of resistance to surveillance. It is indicated that, “the act of holding a mirror up to society or the social environment, allows for a transformation of surveillance techniques into sousveillance techniques in order to watch the watchers.” (Mann, Nolan and Wellman, 2003)

“I Spy with My Little Eye” [2]: Offline-Online Reversal Gaze Project

From offline mediums to web art, “I Spy with my Little Eye” is an interdisciplinary project that creates a web based utopian anonymous cityscape with full of manipulated/distorted imagery and sound in order to spark a deeper approach on the counter perspective of being monitored in the public sphere as an individual.

Sousveillance is the recording of an activity by a participant in the activity, typically a way of small wearable or portable personal technologies. Based on this idea, investigating through a camera and choosing photography as a medium builds the base of the project in order to draw much emphasis on the subject by snapping shots in public places as 'reflectionism' -mostly art galleries, tubes and random streets in the heart of London. 

“Sousveillance has the virtue of empowering ordinary people to protect themselves and to hold power accountable” (Boiller, 2013).

Since facial recognition system is based on algorithms to define identity and facial features, creating color patches, mosaic shapes and distorted images with different layers in a non-symmetrical way of bold tonal contours is essentially prioritised to be able to create a particular exposure for getting anonymous & protecting the identity.

 "If surveillance is watching from a higher place of authority, then sousveillance is the act of watching back, or even watching from below" (Mann).

Anti-tagging and blocking the faces of people who are casually roaming in public sphere, has been applied as a camouflage from face detection technologies in order to embark on opposing the dominance of surveillance systems and the 'naturalization of the camera' (Merritt) in everyday life.

Additionally to the ever-glitching, distorted moving image series, a bold sonic piece with electro magnetic high-pitched sounds with non-rhythmic beats of public phone calls and human voices, which reflects a looping everyday life in the public sphere of an individual, accompanies to support the imagery.

Incorporating with the intertwined notions of surveillance-sousveillance, the project allows the audience to understand how an individual has the will power to be unidentified by focusing on the notion of ‘anti-tagging’ and inverting the face detection algorithms.
[1] The term "sousveillance", coined by Steve Mann, stems from the contrasting French word “sur”, meaning "above", and “sous”, meaning "below", i.e. "surveillance" denotes the "eye-in-the-sky" watching from above, whereas "sousveillance" denotes bringing the camera or other means of observation down to human level, either physically (mounting cameras on people rather than on buildings), or hierarchically (like ordinary people doing the watching, rather than higher authorities or architectures doing the watching).
[2] The project and the details can be found on the link.​​​​​​​
Back to Top