Surveillance Anxiety at Festivals as a Predictor for Smart Cities

Authors: Jeremy W. Crampton*, Newcastle University, Harrison Smith, Newcastle University, Colette Berbesque, Roehampton University, Steve Graham, Newcastle University, Kara Hoover, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Surveillance, biometrics, smart city, festivals
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper we report on a preliminary study of festivals as sites of geolocational surveillance anxiety that prefigure attitudes and affective relationships to the smart city. Until recently music festivals have been liminal spaces; sites for free expression, consumption of illegal substances, and sexual liaisons. Recently however, a number of widely reported assaults on women, knife attacks, thefts, and the 2017 mass shooting at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest festival (in which 58 people died and 851 people were injured) has led to a significant and rapid increase in festival surveillance. This includes CCTV coverage and drones and police equipped with facial recognition technologies (FRT), and stricter entry requirements. Relatedly, geolocational tracking devices marketed toward finding people in large crowds or where cellphone services may be absent are being developed, such as “LynQ,” a device that can find friends up to a distance of three miles using radio waves, which raised $1.6m on IndieGoGo.
We argue that these abrupt changes in surveillance at festivals are an opportunity to study festivals as sites of surveillance that prefigure developments being introduced more slowly (and therefore less noticeably) in smart cities. We present the results of an online survey conducted in the fall of 2018 on attitudes and experiences at festivals. The survey documents how people’s attitudes toward these spaces are changing, and how it may be affecting anxiety and stress about geolocational surveillance. These findings surface surveillance tensions about the smart city that have not previously been foregrounded.

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