Tuesday, June 1, 2021

sousveillance: sousveillance (vigilancia inversa)

I was reminded of this term by the anti-racism daily, an email I appreciate receiving and recommend. In it they describe sousveillance as "people capturing stories with their own devices (usually smartphones) that will likely counter or disprove the facts presented by those with more power and privilege (Nieman Lab)." The article they link to there has another great description: "Surveillance is looking from on high. It’s what security cameras and dash cams and body cams do, it’s what dash cams and body cams do, and blue light security cameras. It’s what the “authoritative gaze” is, but sousveillance is quite different. It’s looking from below, and it’s attempting to counter an official report that may have been lies." 

I thought at first that the translation might be contravigilancia - but I think that's actually counter-surveillance, which is to say efforts to prevent surveillance from above, rather than doing your own surveillance from below. So I did one of my favorite tricks, I went to the wikipedia entry in English and then followed the link on the left to the Spanish entry and, what do you know, the French word is also imported into Spanish. But for those who don't know it (most of us probably) you could first render it as vigilancia inversa.

Protester's videos of police terror in Colombia have been so important in the last few weeks, and offered powerful sousveillance - yet I find myself less and less able to watch the videos of police terror and torture, and find them more and more traumatizing, so not including one here. Still, grateful for the citizen journalists doing this important sousveillance. If you are on twitter please follow me @spaceforpeace where I'm tweeting regularly about the protests (mostly without the difficult videos).