N.C.S.I., OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT…

ALC205: Digital Media and the Surveillance Society

Group 14 consisted of Lucinda Blake, Darcy McLoughlin, Dylan Hornsby, and Christina Stenseth. All group members contributed productively and in a timely manner to create our surveillance story.

Alternative Logistics Cases, S02E05, The Fox and the Hound: When a social media celebrity’s corpse is live-streamed to the entire nation, the case needs to be solved quickly. Shields has solved crimes using his wit, his intuition, and now… digital media surveillance?  He’ll need to adapt to the new age of technology, and who better to teach him than someone who really understands digital media? Enter Fox, the new detective on the force, with a knack for technology and a mysterious secret…

The idea generation stage of our project was something that actually went quicker than expected. As it was a crucial part of the assignment to be centered on the idea of digital media and surveillance, this was the starting point for thinking about what our collaborative project could be about. From there we tried to think of digital media formats that we would be able to explore via surveillance topics.

Using the collaboration tool, Twiddla (an online collaborative whiteboard) we were able to work together in real time and shape our ideas around the ideas and feedback of each other. Some ideas that we thought of through this process included:

  • News story
  • mockumentary
  • CSI spoof
  • 60 minutes
  • Drama
  • Comedy

The fact that we were all able to meet up in the filming process was a factor that meant we were less limited in just what manner we could create our project in. This meant at any time we could have a number of people on hand to act, film, and record audio that were all motivated. In the end we decided to choose the CSI spoof for our film with two group members as the lead characters (Dylan Hornsby as Shields, the old-school detective, and Darcy McLoughlin as the tech-savvy intern). We felt that we could use this format to adequately address some digital media surveillance ideas in an entertaining and engaging manner.

Though digital media resources such as Google Hangouts and Periscope were found ineffective for communication, we chose to feature them in the video itself. Specifically, we were intrigued by the concept of live-streaming, and the consequences its immediacy and permanency may have. We also wanted to explore the concept of body cameras on police officers, as after a recent experiment in Orlando placed body-cameras on 46 officers, and compared the results of their incident reports to those of 43 officers without body-cameras, the results claimed that use-of-force incidents dropped 53% among officers with the cameras. Civilian complaints against those officers also saw a 65% decline (Jennings, 2015). Through using a CSI spoof we could explore concepts like this and articulate how they work in a crime fighting situation as well as the everyday.

To prepare for filming our video, our group utilized many digital resources in order to collaborate. At the very start, after our initial greeting chat on Facebook, we used Twiddla to set up a mind map of our ideas. In planning the script and scheduling physical meetings for the filming, we communicated mostly via Facebook chat and Skype calls. We didn’t find Twitter to be effective for communication, however Twiddla was incredibly convenient as it did not require a sign up and allowed us all to collaboratively and simultaneously brainstorm ideas in the beginning stages of the process. For convenience and speed of communication we often defaulted to Facebook Messenger, however for more complicated discussions we found programs such as Skype and Google Hangouts more effective due to the ability to be face-to-face and speak as quickly as we could come up with ideas.

In a sharing capacity, we used several more resources. Dropbox was used to share screenshots taken during brainstorming and conversations. The group worked together using Google Drive where we set up a Google Doc to record all our ideas and eventually, to write the script and fill out the group writing tasks. As a group we completed the script, with Dylan taking the lead due to his experience with the process. Despite the fact that we didn’t utilise all the collaborative online media resources on the list, we communicated and collaborated very well throughout the whole time, and stayed in contact on a practically daily basis.

Ultimately, the purpose of the video was to illustrate the way digital media surveillance has altered law enforcement and the world in general. Digital surveillance is often demonised in the media and presented as a controversial and dystopian idea. As a result, we attempted to present it as an all-knowing and god-like concept, as well as a beneficial aspect of society that can do a lot to protect people, in order to present the truth of digital media surveillance; it is inherently ambivalent, and its nature is decided by those who use it.

We tried to demonstrate this through the old-school detective learning to adapt to new media in order to solve the crime, using resources such as CCTV, monitoring social media, etc. While the killer had a practical understanding of the technology, it still lead to his downfall, as he was not careful about the ways he used his digital media. The final scene proves the immediacy and permanency associated with digital media and live-streaming particularly, as the killer knew he was doomed as soon as he saw his monologue had been seen by countless anonymous and random individuals in the public.

The video was intended to act as both an explanation that digital media can be a benefit, and a warning to be careful about what you post. Once something has been put online, it can’t be taken back, it can be seen by anyone, and it can be traced back to you.

WATCH OUR VIDEO:

  • Jennings, W.G., Lynch, M.D. and Fridell, L.A., 2015. Evaluating the impact of police officer body-worn cameras (BWCs) on response-to-resistance and serious external complaints: Evidence from the Orlando police department (OPD) experience utilizing a randomized controlled experiment.Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(6), pp.480-486.

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