Surveillance at the Royal Melbourne Show

Caitlyn Putt
Ellis Kolias
Robert Dean Williams

When we first began brainstorming ideas for this project, we knew we wanted to create something that had a comic flair, similar to parody newsmedia programs. Our group wanted to focus on both the utopian and dystopian views on surveillance in a real life situation and how individuals views alter between ‘the dream’ and ‘the extreme’ when discussing Big Brother.

The concept that we came to produce was our first and sole idea. Once Rob introduced it to us, we knew we wanted to do it and we were very enthusiastic about it. Our goal was to create a short news documentary on the issues surrounding a new surveillance product that would be released at the 2016 Royal Melbourne Show. The small GPS tracking device would be placed into tickets (pre-purchased and those bought on the day) and would track patrons as they moved about the show. The tracking device would additionally pair up with a fictional purpose built Royal Melbourne Show App. allowing users to track one another throughout the showgrounds and assist in the social experience of the event. We would have a news reporter presenting the bulletin (Rob), both a reporter covering the events at the show who also doubles as a guest (Ellis) and a two person interview between experts who agree and disagree on this new device (Caitlyn). We believed by all being in the video, it created an even workload and made our video more interesting to watch.

Although this video may appear as if we are falling directly into the ‘positive’ basket when it comes to video surveillance; that was not the intent. It demonstrates that while there are extreme views for either side of the argument and it probably comes down to what an individual feels. As comical as ‘Dawn’s’ tin foil hat might be, equally the high-mindedness of the ‘Caitlyn’ character is just as comical but is just more subtle. Does anyone really believe that this character is creating this thing for honest altruistic purposes? Doubtful, but it does demonstrate how specifically invasive surveillance technology is sold to the general population. Like most things, it is who sells it better that usually gets the nod.
The part of the newsreader was to very briefly introduce the topic, and represent a neutral ground for the discussion. There was also elements that showcased how news media is just one more venue for surveillance and shouldn’t really be trusted. This is demonstrated when it cuts back to the studio from the field report; even though this has been done for comedic reasons it poses well to prove a point. The lamenting comments at the end of the video are to resonate how society has come to accept the surveillance we endure daily; put simply we have accepted it.

The live broadcast from the Melbourne show was used to demonstrate (in true A Current Affair re-enactment style) how the technology will work. It presents the tracking feature from a utopian perspective and how it can actually benefit those who go to the show, as depicted in the skit by the mother being able to find her lost son who wandered off. The original idea for this part was that as all three characters were portrayed by one person it would come across as very silly, but humourous. Unfortunately, while experimenting with some new film and editing techniques, the desired effects were not exactly achieved due to issues with lighting but it is evident to see what was intended. Although presented in a very exaggerated and humorous way, it was intended to inform audiences that this new feature can assist them as well as the organisers of the show.

When preparing for this video, we made sure to keep contact with each other on a regular basis. Caitlyn made the first contact by email and we just continued to update each other on every idea we had in between. We organised to create a brainstorming document, which was initiated by Rob on Google Docs, researched for the best communication apps for messaging each other and worked out a time where we could all Skype and elaborate on ideas and delegate tasks. We found that Google Hangouts was the best way to stay in touch with each other and this application has proved beneficial to our overall communication as a group. In addition to Google Hangouts, the direct messages service in Twitter was also used. We utilised a free online project management tool called Freedcamp to make checklists of tasks we wanted to complete; creating deadlines for ourselves and the group as a whole. While it was a new media unfamiliar, it was beneficial by listing the tasks we had to complete and organising them under the level priority eg. low, medium, high. The best feature of Freedcamp is that it allowed us to assign certain tasks to certain people and this allowed for the delegation of tasks to be very precise. One of the problems encountered with Freedcamp was learning its idiosyncrasies in a short amount of time, and some of the email reminders were a tad excessive, but that is all a part of the learning process.

Some problems encountered with the online collaboration include scheduling meeting times. Often, however, there were many impromptu meetings, where a comment or suggestion would be made using Google Hangouts and then a general discussion about the tasks would follow as we happened to all online at the same time. To make the schedule more certain, we could have used something similar to Google Calendar where we could all have put the times we are free into it and then available timeslots would have been more apparent. But as everyone’s availability was quite open a scheduler such as this was not really needed.

For filming, meeting up and completing this together was not an option, due to the location of participants. It was discussed who would do the editing, and which programs we had access to; we operated more on a volunteer basis for editing and that worked well, files were shared using Google Hangout. Filming at different locations and times was reflective in the final piece; with some scenes appearing much lighter or clearer than others. As discussed earlier it was decided that we all include elements of filming, and while having one person in charge of the film may have presented a more polished video, we felt that this went against the aims of the assignment.