For the Networked Streets Walking assignment, I decided to walk a block close to where I work in Midtown. I knew that midtown Manhattan would offer a fertile selection of networked objects, especially surveillance cameras. This was certainly the case. It got to the point where I found myself snapping pictures of things almost every step I took. I started walking at the southeast corner of 54th Street, where it meets 6th Avenue. There is a large Hilton Hotel on the corner that takes up a large part of the block. I continued walking west on 54th St toward 7th Ave. Then I crossed north to the other side, and started walking back down 54th St heading east until I reached 6th Avenue again.
There were a few objects that I had no idea how to identify, but they seemed to have some sort of networked quality to them. Meaning they had conduit coming out of them, or were mounted to the side of a building for no other discernible reason. Here are a few that puzzled me:
I saw many many surveillance cameras along my way. Most of them adhered to the standard boxy long rectangular form factor, while others definitely went for the globe enclosure, which might protect them better if they do swivel. My favorite cameras by far were ones mounted not too far above eye level inside a public lobby area on the south side of 54th St. They looked like little camera robot people, and it seems they’re designed more to influence people’s behavior by knowing they’re being watched, because they’re really hard to ignore.
The other interesting quality about walking this street on this particular day, is the heightened security in place to prepare for the Clinton Foundation’s inaugural kickoff at MoMA the next day. There were many secret service men (and even dogs). There was also a news crew there to report on the heightened security, or possibly something else related to the Clinton Foundation.
The Secret Service are an interesting take on networked people, since they are stereotypically so networked to one another, with an ear piece constantly in their ear giving directives or what not. Yet I think they also operate completely separately from the network that most of the rest of the people and objects do. I know a museum curator who had organized an exhibition opening that former president George HW Bush attended, and he told me that the Secret Service actually put up their own networks for all communications wherever they go. At this museum they had tech experts come in to lay their own cable for servers and telecommunications. He said they were highly efficient and it seemed like they did it routinely.
In general, I enjoyed this experience. I realized that there are an incredible amount of networked objects, cameras especially, that we encounter every day. At times I also felt watched, since I was doing something a little odd by taking pictures of so many things on one street for a very long time. This was especially heightened as I got closer to the Secret Service men, since I was sure they’d at least ask me why I needed to take so many pictures of buildings. But in the end they didn’t care. It’s New York and I’m sure they’ve seen weirder.
In order to spatially locate the numerous pictures I took during my time walking each side of this street, I put my images into a Google Map, which can be accessed here.
View Networked Street in a larger map