World Sousveillance Day
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World Sousveillance Day (WSD) occurs on the busiest shopping day of the year, December 24. In part, it aims to raise awareness of the imbalance between surveillance and sousveillance as particularly exemplified in shopping malls where surveillance is ubiquitous whereas sousveillance is prohibited.
WSD began in Toronto, Canada in 1998, but has spread to the rest of Canada, as well as other countries, with large groups in Vancouver, New York, Boston, and throughout California, as well as Florida. Additionally there are WSD groups in Scotland, as well as throughout Japan.
Part of WSD's mission takes the form of action research, a form of ethnomethodological inquiry. Some WSD groups, especially the New York group, in which Dr. Stefanos Pantagis, a New York physician and geriatrician was an early leader, raise awareness of the use of sousveillance as a form of memory aid.
Past WSD activities have included:
- WebRamps, a research project to assist wheelchair users and people confined to hospital beds in shopping through remote able-boded surrogates.
- Operation Python, an effort to eliminate or deter credit card skimming and similar fraud, by encouraging customers to document all credit card purchases.
December 24 has been designated as World Sousveillance Day. The choice for this day stems from the historical meaning of the celebration of Jesus Christ's birthday, and the reality of the census order by Herod. The idea of a census touches upon the idea of each citizen accounted for and taxed. In contemporary society the idea of census is converging with the idea of surveillance of consumer behavior. In fact, a one year economic cycle revolves around the gift buying and present giving for Christmas that has become part of the Western culture. Increasingly the way we purchase things involves credit cards, which in turn form a system of merchant monitoring in marketing to consumers. Unfortunately, privacy has eroded as marketing and advertising has created a form of continuous subconscious messages targeted at buyers via data from surveillance systems.
Inverse surveillance interpretation
A key aspect of World Sousveillance Day is the act of "Shooting Back" against those who are surveiling unknowing consumers. For example, by photographing everyone who handles our credit cards, we're collecting potential evidence that might be of later use to law enforcement and credit card manufacturers in the event of credit card abuse. This is just one of the reasons for promoting 2-way surveillance and keeping the surveillance / sousveillance balance in check.
WSD groups and participants
There are various WSD participant groups around the world. The main groups are located in Boston, California, Florida, Japan, Toronto, UK, Vancouver, Scotland, and New York.
The New York WSD team also runs the sousveillance.org website.