The Four Points...

Brett Robertson

The Four Points

            I observed the intersection of Main St. and Hampton St. in Columbia, SC on June 15th and 16th, 2011. Beyond the obvious traffic-pedestrian-& vehicular movement-I noticed four different sites of circulation. 

Sites of circulation:

            1. Sylvan Bros. Jewelers (merchandise/commerce): circulation of goods

            2. Wachovia Bank (business/finance): circulation of currency ($)

            3. Art Museum (art/culture): circulation of knowledge/ideas 

            4. Marriott Hotel (tourism/travel): circulation of bodies/people (movement)

These four sites of circulation become more interesting in light of Michel Foucault. He talks about security management and regulation. Through his insights I am able to draw the conclusion that all four areas of the intersection are all working as a network of sorts.

Surveilling circulation: "the cameras"

1. Sylvan Bros. – Two cameras. One at door, and one above facing the counter.

2. Wachovia – Three cameras visible to everyday individual. One at the ATM outside the bank. Two inside the bank; one facing the door the other facing the line/teller area.

3. Art Museum – One security guard (who confronted me).

4. Marriott Hotel – Two cameras. Facing the drop off area, and the parking lot.

- Observations:

            - Dog walkers: 8

            - Business walkers: 39

            - General walkers: 68

            - Police: 5

            - Security guards: 3

            - Cell phone users: 34           


(This picture is of the Sylvan Bros. Jewelers on the corner of Main and Hampton. I studied the area for two hours surveying the area and overlooking the people as they interacted with the forms of cameras used to capture them).

     There were nine cameras that I counted in the one block intersection, on the corners of the street. I feel that the amount of cameras in used to increase the opportunity of catching someone in the act of doing something wrong.  This amount of camera surveillance serves to expand the panopticon theory from a small area of focus, to a much larger, more elaborate layout. Whoever is monitoring the area is in full control, with the individuals on the street completely unaware of their surveillance.                  -the above site is a great example of an instance that a Wavhovia ATM camera caught a suspect

PIC #1

(This is a photo of the ATM located at the Wachovia bank that is caddy-cornered to the Sylvan Bros. Jewelers).

“The antithesis of public anonymity is the Panopticon, a model prison first imagined by Jeremy Bentham. The panopticon is a circular, with the prison cells and walkways placed around the perimeter and the guard station placed on the top of a tower in the middle, an arrangement enabling a large number of prisoners to be watched by just a few guards. In theory, every movement of every person could be monitored as such.”

(Public Privacy, pg. 92)

- Connections:

            In the movie Minority Report, we see the circulation all of the above mentioned aspects of culture. We see the circulation of knowledge, goods, currency, and people all take place in the scene in which Tom Cruises’ character is walking through the mall. There is apparent cultural value shown in this scene. Just like the museum that I watched, there was a circulation of knowledge and ideas shown through the art that is displayed, in the movie, there are images all over the mall hallway. There is also a visible connection between the mall and the jewelry store that I watched. There is a circulation of goods and products in both instances. The Marriott Hotel that I surveilled is an example of a circulation of people/bodies. In Minority Report the movement of the people in the mall hallway qualify as a circ. of people as well. Lastly, the bank that I stationed myself at, and the use of money in the movie, connect to the circulation of currency.

            On the corner of Main and Hampton, I recognize that all of the different forms of surveillance seem to always be in conversation. They are all part of a network that complements one another. The cameras near the jewelers cover a little bit of the street near the hotel. The hotel has cameras facing the bank and the street. The bank’s cameras catch not only the hotel, but the museum as well. The museum has a security guard who can see all four corners with no problem. We see in this context of intersection the ways that surveillance at each site is working together. This makes it quite manageable for the owners to help one another regulate their businesses efficiently.     


     Lastly, I want to raise a final question for my report: Why, once we see and recognize a camera as surveillance, do we keep looking back at it as if it has a soul? Why are we not satisfied with one initial look at the camera? Well, humans are naturally paranoid, anxious, etc. We get nervous thinking that we aren’t the only ones that are aware of our actions, before and, or, during the actual instance of occurrence. That’s the only answer I can think of... I for one can say that I always look at cameras over and over again as if they were a human figure. It’s a weird condition that we are used to and accept at this point in society. Obviously the main point of any form of surveillance is safety and protection. However we pay the price of having our individual lives being invaded quite a bit in order for this to occur. The movie Minority Report, blows this idea out of proportion, but nails it right on the head. “Pre-crime” mirrors directly a very advanced, yet parallel form of surveillance to our culture today. The idea that we can stop/maintain a level of crime, if, and only if, we can somewhat “invade” the lives around us.


Slobogin, Christopher. Privacy at Risk: The New Gov. Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.


Rule, James B. Privacy in Peril: How we are sacrificing a fundamental right in exchange for security and convenience. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.


It is interesting how you describe all four locations as networks. I do find it odd that there was only one security guard monitoring the art museum. If there was a camera monitoring as well, this would indeed help further secure the area. The statistics you provide show how you put each individual into a group, which gives a sense of how you observed each individual.

I believe the way in which you relate each surveillance point is quite effecient. Each of the cameras captured different areas of the four locations you observed and could quite possibly collaborate with eachother for better surveillance.  The areas may have been quiet at times, but the work of all four locations could provide a sufficient amount of surveillance in the time of need.

You mentioned in class that the cameras on the four corners work together to give the panoptic view of the intersection.  I wonder if all of the cameras are operated and owned by the same company, or if they are controlled separately.  In the event of a theft or misdemeanor, four sets of eyes could capture evidence,but would they agree on the events that happened if they are controlled separately?  Being that the eyes behind the camera have the real control over what the camera  sees, surveillance is still subjective in its application.

I think it's interesting that you talk about the camera as if it is a living thing. I tend not to consider the eye behind the camera, because frankly I don't think anyone is watching me the majority of the time. However, I understand your point about paranoia and continually double-checking over your shoulder to make sure you aren’t being watched. Also, you make a good point about Minority Report and it’s direct correlation with modern surveillance. Preventative invasion brings up the question of “When does surveillance go too far,” which is a complicated problem we ponder today.




That’s a great conclusion on humans being naturally paranoid. That is the main reason we look back at cameras to see if it has directed its attention on someone else rather than us because some of us may not necessarily like our behaviors recorded. With the results being recorded into a safe place you’ll most likely never see, it makes you wonder what they do with the tapes whether for personal or research purposes. In our case it would be for research purposes to categorize each behavior at different places throughout Columbia.

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