Surveillance art

There’s a persistent rumour that some people in the UK have been creating amateur films by performing in front of security cameras, then requesting the footage under the Data Protection Act.

Despite hearing this many times, I’ve never seen any footage. Does this stuff really exist?

[related: Michelle Teran, who leads people round cities picking up unsecured surveillance broadcasts]

legal metaphors

Does anybody else feel that some dubious legal/political metaphors get taken far too seriously? I’m thinking particularly of the social contract and corporate personhood. I mean, a society is a


like a contract, and a corporation is a


like a person – but only if you squint at them sideways and ignore the really fundamental ways that they aren’t. So why bother with the metaphors?

[no, this isn’t apropos of anything in particular. And yes, I realise I’m flinging ignorant accusations at Very Serious Thinkers – but it’s my LJ and I’ll snark if I want to]

Also, the LJ orgy has come round again. Entirely un-worksafe, obviously.

And, after several days of fretting, I’m coming to think that I’ll probably stay in Berlin. There are too many interesting people and places here, most of which I’ve barely got to know. Plus, it’s cheap.


Tonight, this art gallery is opening at the bottom of my apartment building. That follows the “art pharmacy” (wtf?) four doors down which opened in April, the new coffee-shop on the corner, and God knows how many other places opening in the area since I moved here.

I’ve never before lived in a quarter that’s being gentrified under my feet – does it always happen this quickly?

Also, the sheer quantity is terrifying. Here’s the programme for the art festival going on here this weekend, almost all within 10 minutes’ walk of me. I can barely read through it all, let alone turn up.

And yet – in some ways, this is still the ‘problem district’ the media insists on calling it (a moniker predictably adopted by some residents; I’ve even seen a ‘Problemkiez’ magazine floating round). Unemployment is still massive. The educational situation is also pretty rough, although the famously rough school behind my apartment has been somewhat knocked into shape by means of becoming a political football. The three big communities – the old ‘Germans’, the Turks, and the trendhopping newcomers – barely talk to each other. All this gets blamed, somewhat unfairly, on Turkish ‘failure to integrate’ – but if anything the footloose creative types are the ones who most rigorously stick to their demographic.

If Turkey win the football tonight, I’ll be nervously interested to see how a Germany-Turkey semi-final plays out around here. During their matches so far, it’s been possible to keep score just by listening to the fireworks – not to mention the televisions on every bar and all along the streets. And it’s only going to become more intense…

Runaway world

Films have been getting shorter, on average, in recent decades (*); people sometimes say this shows what a hurry we’re in nowadays.

Novels have been getting longer over the same period (*); I’ve never seen anybody claim this shows we are becoming more patient.

(*) These facts not guaranteed true


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Beer Marxism

From a (generally pretty good) history of Europe:

Britain’s remarkably successful Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)….rested its case upon a neo-Marxist account of the take-over of artisanal beer manufacture by mass-producing monopolists who manipulated beer-drinkers for corporate profit [p.486]

Huh? Granted, I’m fairly clueless about both Marxist economics and CAMRA’s history – but I’m baffled. Aren’t CAMRA a fairly standard consumer pressure group – drink more interesting beer from small producers, and you’ll keep them in business and churning out decent real ale? Is that all it takes to be ‘neo-Marxist’?

Gated Communities

Bangalore’s government has an excellent solution to the social problem of gated communities: simply abolish them by fiat.

It is noticed that several layouts within the old BMP area and the erstwhile

CMC area have established barricade preventing entry of vehicles and

pedestrians and have also put up boards mentioning that entry is

restricted.. They have even posted guards to prevent people from using the

road. Such layouts generally call themselves as “Gated community”. It is

hereby brought to the public notice that under the Town and Country Planning

Act, there is no such concept of a “Gated Community”. Once when any layout

is formed, the roads in the said layout automatically come under the

jurisdiction of the respective municipal corporation the general public has

free access to use the roads within the layout. Hence, establishing

barricades and preventing general public from using the internal road of a

layout is against the law.

It makes me sad that this kind of thing is unimaginable in Europe or the US.

[via the [sarai urban-study list](]