For It's One, Two, Three Strikes You're Out...

This is America...Keep it Free!, Dorothea Lange, 1942, National Museum of American History, Kenneth More cameras in more places. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the installation of red light cameras and the controversy surrounding their use that’s continuing to spread across the country. More recently, I came across an article by Alan Schwarz in the New York Times that describes yet another kind of camera and software system; this one’s currently being tested at San Francisco’s Giants’ stadium and records not only the speed and location of baseballs in motion, but every move of every player on the field. Four high-resolution digital cameras mounted atop light towers capture what’s happening at two million distinct locations on the playing field below. The data streams into a control room where it’s collected and analyzed. Baseball is a sport that’s defined by and enamored with statistics, and this new technology is going to give fans torrents of new facts and figures to obsess over and argue about. It’s also likely that data extracted from this system, which will cost about $5 million per stadium to install, will be used by major league teams to determine players’ compensation packages, too. While Big Brother showing up at a ball field near you may indeed be news, it’s hardly the first time photography’s been used to monitor on-the-job performance. Early in the 20th century, Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian used time-lapse photography to make images, like the one below from around 1914, to analyze workers’ activities and measure their efficiency in the workplace. Motion Efficiency Study, by Frank Gilbreth, c. 1914, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Which makes me wonder—while we’re on the subject and if you’re reading this at work—where are the closest cameras looking at to you? In fact, what cameras do you know or suspect are photographing you during the course of your day. Please comment to let us know.

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