Times Square

At 7 pm (Eastern Standard Time) on Wednesday 24 May 2000, the Surveillance Camera Players performed for the second time in front of one of the six "webcams" operated in Times Square, Manhattan, by a company called EarthCam. Like its predecessor, this performance took place in front of Camera 3 and was intended to demonstrate that webcams, in the words of View Systems, Inc., "make remote internet video surveillance possible from anywhere in the world."

Located inside of Lindy's Restaurant at 45th Street and Broadway, and attached to a window at around seven feet off the ground, Camera 3 consistently produces the "best" (most invasive) pictures of EarthCam's six cameras. Note well the test we conducted of its technical capabilities. The SCP is concerned that these capabilities will eventually be "enhanced" by the addition of face recognition software. In particular, the SCP is concerned that EarthCam and, say, APB News -- which already buys ad space on the EarthCam website -- will enter into a partnership in which the former provides the "enhanced" webcams and the later provides the databases. When someone either famous or infamous walks in front of one of the partnership's cameras, a pop-up window will announce the person's identity and what they are notable for doing. Most of the later will no doubt consist of the person's criminal records or other "newsworthy" items.

The SCP aren't the only ones who realize the usefulness of Camera 3, even without "enhancements." On Saturday 19 May 2000, while showing the webcam to a member of the Praxis Group, the SCP's Art Toad encountered a Russian couple who had made all the arrangements necessary -- and they are far from simple -- to use Camera 3 to say "hello" to their relatives back in Russia at a pre-arranged time. Though their "hello" did not include any props, such as a board with the word "hello" printed on it in large letters, the Russian couple were "acting" in fashion strikingly similar to that of the Surveillance Camera Players. They, too, were using a camera installed in a public place for a private purpose. The circumstances of this encounter between the Russian couple and Monsieur le Toad were just as strange as the similarity between their respective relationships to Camera 3. M. le Toad noticed and approached the couple in the first place because, just moments after he had affixed it to the window behind which the camera is installed, they had taken down the small piece of paper that bore the following statement:

This is an emergency announcement. The Mayor of New York has declared marshal law. All constitutional rights are suspended. The people of the city have been ordered to stay in their homes. As a result, there is nothing to see on this camera.

Standing in the exact spot the SCP uses when it performs in front of Camera 3, the Russians were reading this statement when they were approached by M. Le Toad. Their attitude towards the SCPer was hostile: he had no right to interfere with people's use of Camera 3; if he were right about the unconstitutionality of the use of webcams in public places, then the cameras wouldn't be there; since the cameras were in fact there, they must be constitutionally sound and he must be wrong about them.

(To briefly pursue the idea of the partnership advanced above: in exchange for allowing their retinal patterns and personal information to be scanned and loaded into the database, people such as the Russian couple could use the "enhanced" cameras to send "secure" personalized messages, as well as their video images, to the person(s) watching, who of course could be certain that the person(s) sending the message were indeed who he/she/they claimed to be.)

On 24 May, the SCP performed the same plays it performed on May Day: and a combination of parts of You are being watched for your own safety and We know you are watching: Mind your own business. About 100 copies of the SCP's map of surveillance cameras in Times Square were also handed out. The group consisted of Lisa, Miranda, Kate, Bill and Susan. In attendance was a crew from Media TV, which is based in Toronto, Canada. Using a computer, Bulot watched from afar and downloaded a great still of the Local News segment of Headline News. Carolyn also used a computer to watch from afar and made the following very helpful comments:

In the "We know you are watching" series, all of the boards are wonderfully clear and readable (I like that presentation the best so far, BTW). Very effective! In the "Capitalism," "Local News," etc. series [of Headline News,] "Capitalism" and "National News" are REALLY hard to read, and I think I could only decipher them because I already know what they are. The others were, as always, clear and readable, though, and Mr. Mayor stood out in all his hilarity as gloriously as the morning star! Also, I couldn't read the SCP title board at all, so maybe re-doing it in plain bold black lettering would be more clear (or I'm thinking maybe a little after-hours HP printing might help your cause)? Others here at work saw it, too, and other than the above-mentioned everything was clear and funny! Good timing on the boards, too, but don't go any slower. During one sequence Bill timed it perfectly so every time the camera updated he was holding a different sign. Oh, and as an added bonus, as Bill and some guy were talking, Bill made some gesture which the camera caught just right so that it looks as though Bill's "sig-heil"-ing the world of surveillance! I tried to catch the image, but alas, I dallied too long and failed to do so.

There were no problems whatsoever with security guards or police officers.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail e-mail:notbored@NOSPAMoptonline.net

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

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