Locative Lab

researching locative media

Mobile Messaging 2.0: Crowd Control revisited

Back in January 2008, I commented on the assasination of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto and how the government’s attempt to gloss over the incident was rapidly undone by SMS, mobile video, voice calls and photomessaging – collectively, Pakistanis had unwittingly crowdsourced enough evidence to overturn the government’s position. (read the full story here)

In recent weeks, and on a smaller scale, at London’s G20 summit, the death of Ian Tomlinson, an innocent bystander simply making his way home through the protest area became another infamous example of the state’s official line becoming undone by citizen media.

During the conference, the government chose to close down CCTV coverage in one of the most surveillance-dense cities in the world, paradoxically for security reasons. What civic leaders didn’t anticipate was the extent to which a massively distributed, and democratised citizen-owned surveillance system had taken its place. Tens of thousands of G20 protestors equipped with cellphones and digital cameras were able to document what CCTV was blind to….what Wired called Little Brother.

Tomlinson’s death was initially pinned on a massive heart attack and ‘natural causes’ – when the video footage came to light, it was shown that the unprovoked Tomlinson was beaten by a police officer.

The published by the Guardian newspaper and propogated through sites such as YouTube, led to the arrest of a police officer, later charged with manslaughter – Tomlinson’s postmortem indicated that an abdominal haemorrhage was the cause of death.

Like the story of Pakistan’s government  and Bhutto’s assassination, the British authorities have had sunlight thrown on them by the distributed surveillance capabilities of their subjects. Britain is one of the most surveilled countries in the world – one of the consequences is that people are using consumer technologies, services and tools to scrutinise their rulers.

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Cityscape LocativeLab.org is Ronald Lenz's research website on locative & mobile media. This is mostly an archive of blogposts I find inspiring and interesting and an overview of my work. I'm a strategist, technologist and researcher in the field of Location-Based Mobile Services and work at Waag Society, a medialab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where I head the Locative Media research program and at 7scenes, a platform for GPS games and tours as creative director. Picture 4 Find me at Twitter, LinkedIn or via ronald [at] waag [dot] org.

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