Heidegger and the CCTV Revolution

In chapter 8 of Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, we find a kidnapping in progress where Miranda Zero must be quickly rescued from her captor. The members of the global frequency jump into action and are using the available technology to track down where Ms. Zero was taken to. The members seem to run into trouble, however when they are tracking the getaway vehicle. Viewing the security footage, Alice April says to Aleph “There. It turned left. But I don’t see what good that does you”, speaking of the captor’s vehicle. Aleph goes on to explain that “There are CCTVs everywhere. There are webcams everywhere. This isn’t a private world anymore.” This scene is followed by a collection of frequency members finding and utilizing these CCTVs (Closed Circuit Television) and webcams to follow the vehicle.

The observed scene displays one of Martin Heidegger’s main topics when discussing technology in his essay The Question Concerning Technology, enframing. The concept of enframing is seen through these cameras. The cameras act as a technological lens that allows the user to view and “be” almost anywhere in the world at any time. This is far removed from the singular personal realities of the past. The reader can also be intimidated by these cameras as they are not a fictional concept, but a reality of today’s world. As the characters in these few scenes make light of the monitoring devices, I find them to be quite disturbing. While global frequency is using the cameras for a good cause, I have some concerns about how these seemingly easily accessible cameras are used by others, such as criminals and even our government. This possibility delves into Heidegger other main topic in his essay, standing reserve. The standing reserve is Heidegger’s term for describing the abnormal control of something for means of using it for an unnatural purpose. I see the CCTVs and webcams as a means by which a government could monitor its citizens and begin to understand patterns of activity. This comic reveals the scary nature of the twenty-first century that we are never truly alone. This is one of the messages I believe Ellis is trying to deliver to his readers. I, personally, see this in my everyday life. I have noticed that there is seldom a day that I find myself not browsing the internet or using my cell phone to explore social media.

The comic book is a clever way with which to portray these messages. Ellis’ mention of CCTVs and webcams ends almost as quickly as it begins and if the reader does not take pay close attention then they might not even notice the message. The use of images to convey major ideas of a story allows for small comments such as this to be less poignant, whereas in a traditional narrative this message would be conveyed and explained through several more pointed sentences. Ellis uses an episodic, comic structure throughout Global Frequency in order to convey his feelings about technology. This allows him to repeat his messages against the overuse of technology in many diverse ways.

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5 Responses to Heidegger and the CCTV Revolution

  1. spelunkingseahorse says:

    This chapter was eye-opening for myself. It reminded me of the idea of Big Brother where we are always being watched and nothing is private anymore. Technology is such a giant part of the daily lives of everyone in the 21st century. It is sometimes frightening to see and imagine what is possible with the use of technology in this day and age. We have to hope that it is continually used for good causes. I personally use the internet and my smartphone far too often but it is a relief when I can escape to the secluded mountains and get away from technology for a bit.

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    • hamiltonjonesii says:

      Much like yourself I use technology way to much on a daily basis. I certainly agree that it is hopeful that technology will continue to be used for good causes, but I fear that as Ellis mentioned at the end of the final chapter, the terrible uses of technology in the past may be a great feat to overcome.

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  2. rivaiheichou says:

    This chapter was not necessarily eye-opening for myself, I had been aware of the “spooky” side to the Internet’s possible uses. One professor I had says that he puts a piece of duct tape over his webcam on any laptop he purchases, just to make sure no one can see him. This may be extreme, but from examples given by Snowden, his fears are rightly justified.

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  3. burgleyourturts says:

    It is interesting even to think about the differences between the time Ellis wrote this and today. In 2002 most people had basic/flip cell phones, if they even had cell phones at all. Now, especially among our generation, it is almost strange to come across someone who does not have a smart phone. It is standard now to have webcams built into our computers and our phones which are usually always connected to the network. It is a little scary to think that at any moment these cameras could be used by the government to received video or sound feed without our knowledge. I’m sure that certain government agencies have this power, since national defense depends strongly on surveillance. In a way it would be almost unwise for national defense to not take advantage of the global network that has been created with the dawn of the age of smartphones and webcams. It makes me wonder how different this volume of Global Frequency would be had Ellis written it 10 years later.

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  4. danwillisdan says:

    I’m surprised that more people didn’t write about this moment, or its apparent sense of utopia. But it seems to me that Ellis isn’t warning his audience about the trade-off between privacy and security that surveillance confronts us with. His idea of a surveillance network is democratic, optimistic, equal-opportunity and with a personal touch (as long as it’s in the right hands).

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