Eyes of Glass: Watching the Watchers in the Monitoring of Public Places in Curitiba, Brazil

Rodrigo Jose Firmino, Elisa Trevisan

Abstract


Surveillance cameras have become an integral part of the architecture of public and private spaces in large cities, like the eyes of the augmented city (Firmino and Duarte 2008). From the perspective of public security and with the supposed premise of reducing violence, the implementation of security systems and the installation of these “eyes” in critical places have emerged as options available to town planners. However, there are no reliable data confirming a direct relationship between video surveillance and increased security, only the discussion and debate that has been started in an attempt to justify the use of such surveillance. Furthermore, little is known, particularly in Brazil, about the monitoring strategies and procedures used by the professionals who operate a city’s eyes. As cameras are electronic devices whose purpose is merely to record images, the people who control them play a fundamental role in determining how this recording of images influences the day-to-day existence of those being watched and the very way the public space that is ‘under surveillance’ is perceived. To understand monitoring from the perspective of those who carry it out (Kemple and Huey 2005), we propose to show analytically, based on the study of a unit for monitoring public spaces in the center of Curitiba, what the watcher’s procedures and routines are. It is the analysis of the images and of how best to proceed as a result of these that serves as the basis for all the actions involved in the operation of the system. Our aim was to gain first-hand experience of the monitoring unit with the aid of techniques such as participant observation in order to better understand what happens behind the glass eyes of the contemporary city.

Keywords


surveillance; video surveillance; control centers; monitoring; public spaces

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