«Technology helps set the parameters of possibility. It frames our range of potential futures, but it doesn’t select one for us.»

Important words by The Guardian columnist Ben Tarnoff, as our everyday lives have indeed changed drastically over the last decades. Especially when it comes to how we interact with each other through technology, such as social media.

The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” was clearly not coined on todays use of pictures and video. Now, a single swipe on Instagram is worth a thousand pictures.

Boundaries are pushed every day, and we find that principles of privacy that previously were held in high esteem are challenged. This in turn effect journalistic work and the media.

Where journalists used to be characterized as a bit invasive, the tables may now have turned. It is our closest family or friends who share pictures and moments from our life in the public space of social media. Never has “private” information been this accessible.

Today it is not unusual to see private drones with cameras patrol the sky. We can be snapped, instagrammed or shared almost at any given moment. And the public now has instant access to news and live feed wherever they are.

Our own phones are no longer just for calling, but have become tracking devices like those we used to see in old James Bond movies. Except our phones are a lot more accurate at tracking our every move, because we allow them too.

I think we should be very aware of the technological advancements when it comes to who is being watched, and who is watching who.  But how does this affect us, is it a negative development or are there positive effects that outweigh it?

What does it all entail?

Perhaps we can find some wisdom in George Orwell’s novel “1984”. The novel describes the fictional and dystopic future of Great Britain, where the country is ruled by a totalitarian regime. And here is how Orwell imagined being a citizen in such a future:

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.”

… Considering the influence of Facebook, I think Orwell was on to something with his facecrime, even if his dystopic description may be a lot darker than reality.

But all things considered, quoting Orwell is not an answer, and I certainly cannot tell you whether todays technology may have a positive or negative impact on us. Luckily for me, being rector of a university, I know where to find those who can.

And the future is looking bright!

Because I am of course talking about our students. It is they who will both live in and shape the future. The knowledge and methods students acquire through their education will be of enormous importance for coming development. On topics like these critical thinkers and sharp minds will be a deciding factor.

Therefore, it also makes me both proud and happy to see that there are students on the program here today.

I am convinced that students have a whole different understanding of all this surveillance advancement than we “elders” ever can achieve.

You see, I have witnessed this myself as some students at Media City Bergen were trying to show me how AR-googles worked, and how the program they had designed can be an important video editing tool. However, it really became clear who was the future, and who was the elderly.

 

Besides our students, excellent researchers like the ones from ViSmedia, are of great importance.

Through projects like ViSmedia who perform responsible research and innovation according to an international framework we may understand the development and adoption of visual surveillance technologies.

After all, academic knowledge is the key to understanding many societal challenges, and this one is no different.

And with that I welcome you all to the University Aula, and I hope you will have an enlightening and thought-provoking conference here today!

Thank you!