Thursday, November 29, 2007


LOOK, an intriguing indie written and directed by Adam Rifkin, offers these sobering statistics at the beginning of the film:

"There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States generating more than 4 billion hours of video every week...on any given day the average American is captured approximately 200 times."
Weaving multiple plots and shot from the point of view of surveillance cameras, LOOK gives its audience a voyeuristic tour of the not-so-private lives of a variety of characters. Part Crash, part Clerks, part Office Space and part Todd Solondz's Happiness, LOOK lives the motto "The medium is the message." For it's not so much about each or any of the characters in the story as much as it is about the overarching issue of privacy and the lack thereof in our security conscious and technologically enabled society.

In a Newsweek article by Jessica Bennett, the issue of where private space ends and public surveillance begins is explored:
"...the notion that we're being watched—at all times—has yet to resonate in the public perception. Most people don't know that hidden cameras are legal in dressing rooms and bathrooms in most states, nor that workplaces can get special permission to install them without ever having to reveal their whereabouts. In some places store employees can even make reels from security cameras and post them on YouTube."
The issue of privacy rights has never been more pressing. In addition to surveillance cameras, we are being "watched" by internet spyware, "cookies" trace our web-surfing habits, our credit card transactions are tracked to target us for advertising, caller ID, Google using keywords in our e-mails and web searches to push matching ads at us. And now even social networking site Facebook has gotten into the act with Facebook Beacon which will not only track our online purchases, but "share" them with our Facebook "friends," prompting some users to establish an Online Petition to get Facebook to change the application from "opt-out" to "opt-in"--which apparently they have done.

Somewhat startled by the invasion of privacy illuminated by LOOK, I plan to be more aware of my surroundings and the possibility that what seems like a private place may in fact have cameras watching my every move. I also intend to continue my practice of rarely using store dressing rooms to try on clothes--instead buying them, taking them home and bringing them back to the store if they don't fit. From red light cameras to monitors at ATM machines, America is fast becoming "Land of the feed and the home of the taped." Rifkin's LOOK poses the pivotal question: Are we always alone when we think we are?

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