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City Number Two

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Answer 1.  In the “City Number Two” of ‘the Transparent Society’; knowledge and power of surveillance is predominantly in public domain. Anyone, anywhere can access the visual feed of any place at any time. This absolute freedom to information that the citizens cherish in city no. 2, affords them a right to hold their authorities accountable. The police is not ‘efficient, respectful and accountable’ due to some inherent love for the citizens; but due to an apparent visibility which they are subjected to, given the information sharing system of the city. Transparency of operation becomes a fundamental condition in a scenario where every social situation can be viewed by one and all. This demands public servants, such as police officers, to be efficient by convention; for any breach in conduct can be seen and criticized by the general public. This added transparency also holds public servants entirely accountable for their behavior towards general public at all times. They can no longer hope to behave unprofessionally and expect that nobody will ever find out.

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  1. According to Brin, has increased surveillance in the real world made society safer, in those places where it has been implemented? We're not asking about his hypothetical two cities here.

Answer 2. In the real world, surveillance as dramatically decreased the crime rate and made neighborhoods safer than ever. The foremost example mentioned in the text is that of the pioneering British town, King’s Lynn, where 60 remote controlled video cameras were installed in crime hotspots; providing live feed directly to police headquarters. Resultantly, crime dropped to 1/70th of the former statistic and resulted in huge savings for the police department in terms of patrol cost as well. Glasgow, Scotland and Newcastle followed the example of King’s Lynn, experiencing a drop in citywide crime by 68%, along with visual recognition of over 1500 perpetrators in Newcastle. In addition, real time surveillance has been adopted by countries like Japan, Thailand, Singapore and even North America; showing dramatic short term effect on crime. Therefore, while a drop in crime rate due to implementation of surveillance has surely made society safer; its long term effects are still ambiguous with a lot of security and privacy related questions attached.


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  1. Why does Brin consider criticism valuable? How does this relate to transparency? We're not asking about surveillance or two cities here.

Answer 3. Criticism is considered as a highly valuable tool, assisting mankind to learn from past mistakes and effectively avoid them in future. The importance of criticism is further proven in the context of science and open markets by pointing out its necessity in establishing the true value of a theory or even organization. In case of science, every theory has to undergo major criticism at the hands of the scientific community at large, before it gets accepted as a fully functioning model. Similarly, in case of free markets, organizations taking the right steps are rewarded with higher stock values and better market position whereas those making rash mistakes are criticized openly and awarded poorer stock values. However, the paradox is that criticism is never appreciated by human beings, and specifically leaders. This makes it all the more important for masses to question authority and demand transparency in state affairs. Transparency in sharing of information and right to such freely available information increases the chances of criticism being directed at society leaders and their ways. Ultimately it leads to holding the power-holders accountable for their actions, in other words criticize the action of leaders in public domain, forcing them to behave in public interest and not use their power erratically.

  1. What is the effective difference between Brin's "City Number One" and "City Number Two"? Think in terms of civil liberties.

Answer 4. "City Number One" and "City Number Two" are utterly distinctive in terms of civil liberties. While in city no. 1, citizens are under constant surveillance with the visual feed being directed to authorities and select powerful individuals or organizations; in city no. 2, citizens are under constant surveillance with the visual feed being accessible by one and all. All citizens of city no. 1 are subjected to a widespread illusion that surveillance has been discontinued, giving them a false sense of privacy. The citizens of city no. 2 are, however, well aware of their situation and actively access the information in public domain. This absolute lack of barriers in information sharing and no biased access to information for rich or poor in city no. 2, makes the citizens of city no. 2 much more liberated than those in city no. 1. This most fundamental freedom to information makes citizens of city no. 2 active participants in the social hierarchy of power and facilitates them to watch their watchers as well. The resultant surge in accountability on part of public servants renders better protection of civil liberties of citizens of city no. 2. They face a list of questions together that have huge implications on their personal freedom and privacy, along with the future of such large scale surveillance. On the contrary, in city no. 1, citizens are unaware of the constant breach of privacy and pleasantly ignorant of any side effects of real time surveillance. This limits their civil liberties drastically and makes city no. 1 an example of evident tyranny.

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  1. Read Participatory Panopticon. JamaisCascio claims that the camera phone is a "harbinger of a massive social transformation." How does his account of the events of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City support (or contradict) this view?

Answer 5. As per Jamais Cascio, camera phones are in the league of television and computers while bringing about a social revolution. The transformation expected to be brought about by camera phones is not a passive movement, but an active one which is already taking shape. By recounting the events of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the author brings to notice the power of camera phones in the hand of a social aware and active public; striving to bring about justice in the face of apparent tyranny. As per the events narrated, New York City Police made nearly 2000 arrests during the convention, charging the protestors with rioting or resisting arrest. The police also provided the authorities with visual evidence (evidently doctored) which showed the protestors breaking law and thereby subjecting them to litigation. However, of the 1700 cases processed by early April 2004, 91% were ended with dropped charges or ‘not guilty’ verdict based on the additional visual proof provided by citizen videos that showed that the prosecution presented tailored evidence and the defendants were in-fact innocent. This was made possible by the presence of numerous camera phones which were accessible to the general public and which also facilitated documentation of the truth. This account totally supports Cascio’s statement that camera phones are a harbinger of a massive social transformation because they are playing a vital role in empowering the masses against those with power. While the technology is facilitating falsification of facts by some, it is also giving the right and power to uncover the truth to many. The whole social outlook towards any event is transforming as there are multiple viewpoints now available due to a camera-phone being present in the hand of almost every spectator. Camera phones are turning the usual spectators into participants and making things transparent where social events are concerned.

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