“The Right To The City”

Lusty_Lady_camera2-350 Hey man, don’t you even try to sneak a quick, furtive glance into the entrance of the Lusty Lady.  Cause in case you didn’t notice, that black and white orb hanging beneath the canopy on the Four Seasons building is a surveillance camera.  Is the camera pointed your way?  Is it recording 24×7?   Who knows, but it could be, so you best not exhibit any untoward behavior.

I work next door to the Lusty Lady and walk past it several times a week.  And whenever I happen to see someone on the way out I can’t help wondering how strongly these customers may or may not be feeling the stigma, with the public eye upon them as they engage in this socially unacceptable form of commerce.  And now the eye of a camera is also a potential witness, with the bonus of indefinite storage and easy retrieval of the evidence.

Seattle is not as infested with surveillance cameras as many other cities in the world—London being the most notable example, literally with a camera on every street corner.  But sadly, Seattle also appears to be trending in that direction, though that would make it no different from pretty much every place on the planet where there are people.  New York City.  And now even Paris, the City of Love.  This is not a sign of healthy societies.

Last year the City of Seattle snuck “security” cameras into Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.  When the news got there was some short-lived public outcry and the ACLU objected, but the cameras are still there.  This summer, the Parks Department installed three surveillance cameras around the Garfield Community Center in the Central District, and few seemed to mind.

23rd_and_Cherry_camera-350 Though the circumstances justifying surveillance may vary, in the end what it comes down to is that these cameras are band aid solutions that ask us to give up freedom in exchange for security.  And in this case it wouldn’t be all that smug to add that we “deserve neither,” given the limited impact the cameras appear to have on crime.

The more we regulate public spaces, the more we give up the “right to the city,” defined by Lefebvre as the right to “urban life, to renewed centrality, to places of encounter and exchange, to life rhythms and time uses, enabling the full and complete usage of… moments and places.”  Like say, when you’re walking home with your sweetie through your neighborhood park on a beautiful summer night, no one else around and a perfect moment for a passionate kiss, do you want to be wondering in the back of your mind if you might be on candid camera?

10 Responses to ““The Right To The City””

  1. Brian K

    I’ll just ‘fess up now: Sometimes I sneak out of Whole Foods having used some of their grocery bags instead of bringing my own. Hopefully I won’t be caught on those (solar-powered) cameras that the OSU is going to install in 2011.

  2. slag

    Nothing to say here, but: right on.

  3. Joe G

    Yeah, I was wondering if those were more of the city cameras of if they were just for the building itself. Not that it matters.

    Have you noticed that they have the green building and the century square building surrounded as well. Maybe one day google will be able to strap into these feeds and bring us live video feed or ever street in Seattle. Wouldn’t that just be grand!

  4. MikeP


  5. Bill B


  6. Matt the Engineer

    While we’re on the topic of others watching what we’re doing, check this out. Any website (including HAC!?) can tell what other websites you’ve visited.

  7. freddyj

    Hey!!!! that dude is me! WTF. You caught me. I’m a pervert. I’m a pervert!

    Oh wait, I’d never wear beige. It’s not me…dang.

    What’s the point of all this? We are being watched? so what? Is it any different than beat cops or security guards? would you, as a big business rather pay a $50,000 salary per year or a one time $10,000 camera install? Pretty simple to me. How about you?

    It’s just the new urban way. Get used to it.

  8. Kathryn

    Right to the City in the Socio-Political Realm




  9. marc

    As someone who was assaulted last week at the dogpark at Third and Bell, I say bring on the cameras! Once you are a victim of crime too, you’ll change your tune Dan.

  10. Nanci Seller

    i dont know how i discovered your blog because i was looking out information about politics, but anyway, i had a pleasant time studying it, hold write it

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