In the aftermath of the riots that broke out Thursday after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins in an amazing 7-game series, several Facebook pages have been set up to capture photos of people at the scene. The pages attempt to use the wisdom of the crowd, so to speak, to identify those appearing to light cars on fire, break store windows, throw punches, or loot London Drugs lipstick.
A tumblr, Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List, is consolidating video and images of these acts with a similar goal – to identify people and to then report them to the police. The blog’s subtitle, “Anonymous Crime in a Web 2.0 World? I don’t think so!”, hints at what makes this riot different from a similar Vancouver, post-Stanley Cup binge of destruction 15 years earlier – namely, the presence of an Internet and with it, a simultaneous online reality characterized by information that is infinitely replicable, findable, and visible to a vast audience.
Wendy Stueck has an interesting column in the Globe and Mail that covers the roles social media played during and after the riots – as fuel, as a way to fight back, and as a tool for police.
Alexandra Samuel, a blogger and media professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, offers some interesting questions about the use of online crowdsourcing as a means of citizen surveillance.
What social media is for — or what it can be for, if we use it to its fullest potential — is to create community. And there is nothing that will erode community faster, both online and off, than creating a society of mutual surveillance.
Along similar lines, does the occurrence of the Stanley Cup riots change any of the political dynamics surrounding Lawful Access, a proposed Canadian law that would allow law enforcement to get more data about individuals from Internet Service Providors without obtaining a warrant?
Scrolling through images of the riots, one is left in awe and disbelief. That people can be so, well, stupid to engage in senseless destruction and violence is a shame. That some could also boast about it in status updates online belies an ignorance of a replicable, visible, findable online reality that’s also a bit uncomfortable to consider. At least that’s my take. What’s yours?