“Seizing Control?: The Experience Capture Experiments of Ringley & Mann” (2007) 9:2 Ethics and Information Technology 129-139.
Will the proliferation of devices that provide the continuous archival and retrieval of personal experiences (CARPE) improve control over, access to and the record of collective knowledge as Vannevar Bush once predicted with his futuristic memex? Or is it possible that their increasing ubiquity might pose fundamental risks to humanity, as Donald Norman contemplated in his investigation of an imaginary CARPE device he called the ‘‘Teddy’’?
Through an examination of the webcam experiment of Jenni Ringley and the EyeTap experiments of Steve Mann, this article, co-authored with my friend and colleague, Jane Bailey, explores some of the social implications of CARPE. Our central claim is that focusing on notions of individual consent and control in assessing the privacy implications of CARPE, while reflective of the individualistic conception of privacy that predominates western thinking, is nevertheless inadequate in terms of recognizing the effect of individual uptake of these kinds of technologies on the level of privacy we are all collectively entitled to expect. Jane and I urge that future analysis ought to take a broader approach that considers contextual factors affecting user groups and the possible limitations on our collective ability to control the social meanings associated with the subsequent distribution and use of personal images and experiences after they are captured and archived. We ultimately recommend an approach that takes into account the collective impact that CARPE technologies will have on privacy and identity formation and highlight aspects of that approach.