IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Summer 2014 - 26

VIEWPOINT

Authenticity and Deception
in an Age of Visual Wearables

ROLAND BLEIKER

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2014.2319895
Date of publication: 4 June 2014

26

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WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/PublIC DOMAIN.

S

ince prehistoric times, art and images have
been created by humans and used not only to
capture key aspects of our existence, but also
to communicate those conditions and experiences to others. Examples range from documenting
hunting methods in ancient cave paintings, to capturing the essence of God in sublime renaissance works
of art. Even today when we take in these images they
shape our perception and understanding of the world.
But the visual world is rapidly changing, or at least
the human's ability to produce images and the range and
speed in which they circulate. World-wide media networks
can now make a local event almost instantaneously global.
Moreover, producing still and moving images is now no
longer the domain of professionals or of amateur photographers and filmmakers. Everyone with a smartphone can
take an image and circulate it through numerous social
networks. By 2017 there will be an estimated 5.2 million
mobile users interacting in a world that offers ever more
ways to receive and share information [1].
New technologies, including the Internet, have
democratized the production and circulation of images.
The new visual world offers an abundance of opportunities for sharing and learning across political and
cultural boundaries. But these advances in technology
have also come at a certain cost.
Anxieties abound. CCTV cameras now capture
our every move around the clock. In the united Kingdom conservative estimates put the number of CCTV
cameras at almost 1.9 million, or one for every 32 citizens, resulting in major protests against the resulting
infringement of privacy [2]. Drones circulate above us
and numerous new mobile visual devices multiply the
extent to which our lives are recorded: there are not
only cameras in houses and cars, but also increasingly
numerous wearable visual devices, from armbands and

Fig. 1. Croatian Parliament president Marko DoŇ°en,
in 1994, giving Nazi salute (far left), accompanied by
Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac (far right) and other
Catholic Church leaders.

watches to glasses, all potentially recording everything,
24 hours a day. These recording devices are even more
intrusive than CCTV cameras, for they are mobile and
can record anything, anywhere, anytime, thus capturing people in potentially very compromising situations
[3]. Some commentators speak of √úberveillance, of
a world in which omnipresent recording, sharing and
data-gathering devices leave very little room for privacy [4]. Consider how a woman wearing a new prototype version of Google Glass - a so-called optical
head-mounted display (OHMD) - was attacked in San
Francisco by a man who ripped off her glasses [5].
There are good reasons to worry about the spread
of a surveillance society and what this does to both
our individual freedom and our societal interactions.
But some of these worries are founded on a misplaced
notion that images somehow produce evidence that
is authentic, or at least more authentic than words.
Why, for instance, was there no comparable outcry
at the emergence of mobile tape-recorders? They
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