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"If I Could See What You See" is a project to create an open-source surveillance photography workshop. It employs two of the common uses of the term "open-source": first, the project uses open-source information—as opposed to information that has restricted access, such as classified information—as research material; second, the project uses the infrastructure and methods of open-source software development projects—such as this GitHub repository—as a structure to organize the work of the project and to organize its products.
"If I Could See What You See" is inherently a demystification project: it aims to take a practice—surveillance, and specifically surveillance photography—that many find obscure, or even secret, and to break this practice down into understandable pieces.
"If I Could See What You See" also aims to develop tools for participants to acquire tacit knowledge of surveillance photography. Tacit knowledge is frequently defined as "knowing how" as opposed to "knowing of" or "knowing about." Surveillance and surveillance photography are embodied practices: they take place in physical space and are about understanding space and the relationships between people and activities and tools in space.
Project assumptions and point-of-view
Surveillance is a practice performed by people who are looking and seeing; looking and seeing are learned skills
Looking at surveillance as a practice performed by people roots this project in human experience. Although surveillance uses tools, these tools only augment, and do not replace, the human capacity to sense and to make sense.
As a part of this rooting in human experience, sensing and making sense—in the case of surveillance photography specifically we might say looking and seeing—are learned skills. No one comes into the world as a surveillance operator—surveillance operators are trained, as are humans in any other job (see "Surveillance is a job," below).
Surveillance is a job
Looking at surveillance as a job—like any other job—enables us to understand it through analogy to other jobs with which we may be more familiar.
Surveillance is conducted by bureaucracies
Similarly to looking at surveillance as a job, looking at surveillance as a function of bureaucracies enables us to understand its operations in the context of what bureaucracies do in general.
Surveillance is a job within a bureaucracy
These insights can enable us to structurally understand what a day of surveillance training might look like, what a week of surveillance training might look like, and so on.
This is particularly true with regards to understanding training for surveillance. The way that a bureaucracy trains its members to do one task is often if not mostly the way that that bureaucracy trains its members to do other tasks. A slightly weaker but still strong statement is that there will often be similarities between how two separate bureaucracies of similar size or similar function train their members for the same tasks.
Surveillance training is vocational training
While surveillance can and does use vast and complex technologies, it is mostly conducted by operators who are trained at a vocational level.