People Watching People Watchers: 'The Law Enforcement Company' for watching over those who come to see and be seen on the 'Urban Beach'

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Steve Mann


This article presents my own personal narrative, in the existemology of a new but mostly deserted 'urban beach' right at downtown Toronto's epicenter. The new public space called 'Dundas Square', designed as 'Times Square North', forms Toronto's new civic center, around an urban beach theme with waterplay fountains, that rise and fall continuously, to create a beautiful and restful atmosphere of pounding surf. The space is policed by Intelligarde-International, which describes itself as 'The Law Enforcement Company'. The use of private security guards in an allegedly public space creates some unique problems in accountability and reciprocity in visibility. Unlike the lifeguards of a traditional beach, who are themselves young, playful, and part of the swimming community, Intelligarde alienates itself from the community through an authoritarian desire to be free of accountability. Citizens who go to the urbeach to see and be seen, can be thought of as 'people watching people'. But unlike lifeguards at a traditional beach, who often help novice swimmers be comfortable in the water, Intelligardes are 'people watching people watchers' from a distance. The problem of private security in public space is twofold: (1) a private 'law enforcement company' is not subject to the same checks and balances as public lifeguards; (2) the double entendre of the words 'private security' is fulfilled. Not only is law enforcement of life in the public square privatized, but also the security guards enjoy a privacy (i.e. lack of accountability) that their 'citizens' (the surveilled) do not. This article describes my attempts at using "Times Square North" for its intended purpose, and the resulting problems that point to a need for participatory equiveillance.

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