The Body-Worn Camera As a Transitional Technology
Timan, Tjerk. 2016. The Body-worn Camera as a Transitional Technology. Surveillance & Society 14(1): 145-149.
6 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2017 Last revised: 30 Mar 2017
Date Written: September 1, 2016
In 2009, body-worn cameras were introduced in the Netherlands as an experiment to reduce violence against public servants, including police officers. Following the allegedly positive results of body-worn cameras in reducing violence in the United Kingdom, these technologies were introduced with high expectations by several Dutch police forces. However, questions remain about the goals and purposes of body-worn camera adoption. Can a camera prevent or reduce violence against its carrier/wearer? Is it yet another tool to surveil citizens, packaged in a discourse of worker safety? Do the cameras alter police practices and, if so, how? Based on fieldwork conducted in 2010 and 2011 in the Netherlands, this contribution to the debate explores the goals and necessity of this equipment. Questioning the police body camera in this way touches upon a larger question within Surveillance Studies, which is how to look at new tools of surveillance and to what extent they alter surveillance theories, concepts, and practices. Focusing on the new and visible risks over-analyzing and over-emphasizing the tool-in-itself, thereby possibly missing the organizational structure in which the new tool will operate (see Bowker and Starr 1999). Moreover, the body-worn camera in current form is a transitional technology; it will probably be phased out and mutate into another wearable camera technology.
Keywords: body-worn cameras, surveillance, policing
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