It is few times I have been surprised by how fast technology moves... one of these surprises has come in the early childhood sector...
When I wrote the Muffin Man post reflecting back to a time in 2005 for the Veillance.Me conference I program chaired at the University of Toronto (2013), little did I know that a few years on, one of the superloopers I personally met at my first child care exposure as a parent, would be talking about kinderloop... interesting name, I must say... I wonder what the 'loop' bit means... maybe something akin to 'replay'... or how the world goes round and round...
We've all become accustomed to hearing about NannyCams and even crib webcams in hospitals. A great way for family to share in the experience, especially if extended families can't be there to share in the moment... I imagine a joyous experience esp for grandparents who are immobile or live overseas.
If you study the image above, you will see the camera less than a metre directly over the baby's head.
Each unto their own... but when I had my kids, one of the things I enjoyed most was not having technology invade my space. I did use my mobile phone but that too sparingly. I tried to appreciate the feeling and smell of a new baby.
The above image brings a new meaning to cradle-to-grave surveillance. Mind you I can also see the benefits. One couple I know had to use Skype to film the baby's birth given the husband and wife had been separated by none other than a VISA issue!
And now we are even proposing secure video streaming for peace of mind? Why? Because it is easier than just photographing the good bits and make journaling about the child easier?
Here's what I've started to ponder of late...
- Do parents leave their kids at a child care centre only to look up what their kid is doing many times a day?
- What happens to the moments where the kid is caught doing something either embarrassing, compromising (because kids should be allowed to be carefree) or just plain wrong?
- Deletion is always more difficult than recording. Carers might always find it more convenient for recording to be continuous because it saves time in compilation but the reality is having a child care worker vet 10 hours of footage a day is not cost-effective.
- Compliance handling and accreditation processes are demanding proof of policies put into practice- might they be demanding realtime childcare footage in the not too distant future?
- What about when gathered evidence is requested and parents decide to subpoena the child care for "recordings" taken to replay the playground incident where little Jack or Jill broke their arm or leg or were bitten by another child? Might this cause controversy or animosity between children or parents?
- Might parents feel pressured to consent on behalf of their child to filming? How does the Centre delete another child from the "scene"?
Just a few days ago, an academic I know even shared with me the possibility of remotely supervising an examination using a web cam. Each unto their own I guess... but who is really thinking all this through? No one seems to be asking permission for these practices? Most people claim it is now a part of everyday life? Well, is it?
Are we playing into the hands of the Googles of this world when we start to strap recording devices ONTO people! Next the baby will be wearing the camera, and it won't be long before the camera will sit in the translucent layer of the skin, inside all of us. That's right, the future might well be a PersonView on Google Earth, and that person might happen to be your baby! Why pay for the security when everyone is touting the benefits of transparency?
If we cannot see this "transformation" or better still "metamorphosis" occurring in our world, then we are probably being blinded by the tech hype.
I am not advocating for zero tolerance of images or video or audio in child care centres, but we need to deeply deeply consider the implications of doing so. What is our intent? To inform parents? To help the child develop? To track milestones? Does video really do that? Perhaps very short clips achieve this aim but I'd be wary of any system that wants to setup a sophisticated local area network of CCTVs, just to offer a parent transparency.
In 1997, a colleague of mine at Nortel had begun her daughter's web site 6 months BEFORE her birth into the world. Beyond the fact that we were both Star Trek fans, I wondered how a child who had her life documented online even before her entry into the world might feel some 15 years down the track. Likely "very" normal if social media and electronic exhibitionism is anything to go by these days!
But what are the tradeoffs?
We can argue sousveillance vs surveillance BUT how long will it take to become uberveillance?
Has anyone bothered to read the Surveillance Devices Act of Australia? Or are those principles and laws to be abandoned?