Last week I was in attendance at the launch of the Digital Health Service, an initiative of Gavin O’Carroll, who was keen to set up a business consulting with major firms on the rather topical issue of how to maintain wellbeing in an environment where we are surrounded by technology. I livestreamed the event for Demos at my own behest; I was not requested to do so either by Gavin at Digital Health, or by Demos. But as I’d been asked to speak on behalf of the social media sector, it seemed appropriate for me to not merely represent the community of social media advocates and innovators, but to serve their needs in broadcasting the event online, whilst also challenging the expectations of those present at the launch by demonstrating how ubiquitous the technology had become.
I was more than successful and happily so: one member of the audience expressed deep offence at being filmed without his permission, without even a request or notice of my intention to film. Another audience member noted that he would restrict what he was saying at the event because he was being livestreamed. Yet another noted that there were possible security implications of livestreaming an event and allowing a webcam to pass over the crowd where domestic disputes, restraining orders or other protection processes apply.
It all augured very well for a new business designed to negotiate processes for integrating these technologies in to business practice. I’m impressed with what Gavin has achieved in setting up this business and it is certainly clear there is a need for the services his company is going to provide. But I think many critics of the technologies I used and advocate in social media may be naive in thinking the way that these new media put power of video and immediacy into the hands of the citizenry is more intrusive than the closed circuit television services that line our streets and public spaces, and even the security television services and desktop PCs that fill our offices and homes. Of course I support the development of a set of voluntary codes of practice for the use of these technologies at public events or where citizens may have objections to their image being appropriated. But the notion of being able to control the spread and ubiquity of livestreaming devices and services is a luxury that is frankly, long gone. I’m not suggesting this is a good thing; I just wonder what there is left for us to do to control it. It’s not as if these technologies are going to go away. What we need now is frameworks for use, not head-in-sand objections to adoption.