Thursday, June 17, 2010

Linguistic Grey Areas

Two interesting pieces on definitions of law-breaking -

1. The "evidence" against Pentagon "hacker" Gary McKinnon exists in a grey area which means he can be extradited to the US, but not tried in a UK court. Or something. It's fairly fuzzy - caused by it being a cross-border case, and that there's an interest in "bigging up" the evidence but not making it particularly substantial. (via Janis Sharp, Gary's mother)

2. Replace people with data, and the UK with the EU, and you get the similar problems caused by trying to define what a "terrorist" is. Never mind the distinction between a terorist and a "freedom-fighter" (whatever that is) - should we consider a striking firefighter a terrorist? (via Glyn Moody)

As definitions get more important, the spaces between them start looking like battlegrounds.

Anti-"Terrorist" Cameras Bagged

This is a bizarre set of stories. 218 cameras have been installed in Birmingham without consultation with local people, mainly in areas with high crime rates but also large Muslim populations. Financed by the ACPO's "Terrorism and Allied Matters" (TAM), these are apparently intended to catch everything from petty crime up to terrorists in action (but not anything that causes real crisis).

The funding and positioning for the cameras seems to have been handed down from somewhere in the great surveillance sky though. A right to "public privacy" seems to extend to being told where the cameras are.

However, pending further consultation and, one suspects, a fair amount of installation roadworks and council meetings, the roll-out will be covered up by plastic bags.

At least for now. As the last article in the chain notes, the "cameras will not be used until consultation has been carried out." Whether the results of the consultation make any difference is left as an exercise to the reader.

All this begs the question - which supermarket will be sponsoring the bags?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Virtual furniture, real value?

More blurriness between the real and the virtual. The BBC reports that "Finnish police are investigating up to 400 cases of theft, with some members reporting the loss of up to €1000 (£840) worth of virtual furniture and other items".

A new insight though: Perhaps the blurriness is not a result of the "real" between mixed up with something pretending to be real. Instead, perhaps, it is value itself which is inherently virtual, subjective, and hyperconfigurable. If you want something to be valuable, then it has value. Things and experiences are intertwined when it comes to value.

If we move towards valuing "real" goods less, do these things become less "real"?