Holborn Station and Sousveillance

by @edent | , | 12 comments | Read ~187 times.

Sousveillance (pronounced /suːˈveɪləns/, French pronunciation: [suvɛjɑ̃s]) as well as inverse surveillance are terms coined by Steve Mann to describe the recording of an activity from the perspective of a participant in the activity,[1] typically by way of small portable or wearable recording devices that often stream continuous live video to the Internet.

When this London Underground employee (now thought to be Ian Morbin) had a bad day at work, he thought, like the rest of us, that it would be forgotten by morning.  Many of us take our stresses out inappropriately - whether it's on the call centre worker or a traffic warden - occasionally on a customer.  What he hadn't counted on was Jonathan Macdonald whipping out his camera and recording the event.  We're wearily resigned to CCTV monitoring our every move - but handheld cameras present a more intimate and dispassionate view of events.

Expanding on my comments in the original post -

The pro-gun lobby often says "A well armed society is a polite society." The implication being that you don't go around being aggressive when anyone could pull a gun on you.

With the rise of sousveillance -  I wonder if we'll see a rise in professionalism and politeness. Because, you never know who is recording for posterity.

There are two problems I have with this:

  1. It relies on those higher up to do something. If this Ian chap doesn't get disciplined - what has been achieved? Nothing. Similarly, if after all the videos of police abuses of power (G20, climate camp etc.) no officer gets punished / the rule aren't changed - it's all been for naught.
  2. I think people should be polite and professional because IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Not because they're afraid of being punished. Call me old fashioned, but I want to live in a world where people are respectful to one and other - not merely afraid of being caught out.

I hope that "Ian" doesn't lose his job - I hope that he realises what an arse he has been and learns to treat customers with a bit more respect.

This video is presented out of context and - although I trust Jonathan's reporting of events - we do only have his word for it.  He may very well have chopped off the footage which completely exonerates Ian.  Although I can't quite conceive what that would be.


It's interesting to notice how the blogosphere reacts to these events.  Multiple repostings often fail to mention the originating site.  The conversation is split between YouTube, Jonathan's blog and those who have reposted it.

Is it better to keep conversations separate in this way? Leave the drooling YouTube commentators  away from the TFL blogs - or should diverse communities try to interact to keep a canonical view of what is being said about this incident?

12 thoughts on “Holborn Station and Sousveillance

  1. Mark Pack says:

    Although I agree there should be follow up to Ian Tomlinson's death, I think you over-egg the point when you say, "no officer gets punished / the rule aren’t changed – it’s all been for naught.". Even if no-one does get punished, in practice I think the police's attitude towards how to police demonstrations has been thrown up in the air and is likely to be different in future.

  2. Ciarán says:

    I can understand your misgivings about a virtual witch-hunt, and also think that people should be polite because that's the best way to treat people. But let's just turn this on its head:

    20-something man with long hair, wearing leather gloves, starts screaming abuse at middle-aged TFL member of staff, who remains calm. Long-haired man eventually threatens to chuck gent under a train. TFL's response? He'd be arrested & preosecuted in an instant (there are posters all over the tube highlighting this fact).

    If TFL wish to protect their staff from abusive/agressive customers they have to do the same to protect customers from out-of-line members of staff.

  3. Denny says:

    Much as Ciaran, I think that although you're right that witch-hunts are a bit uncool, this TfL employee wasn't just a little bit out of line - a customer behaving in the same way _would_ have been cause for the BTP to be called.

    I honestly think 'gross misconduct' would be a fair description of the recorded behaviour from anyone whose job description includes 'customer-facing' or 'dealing with the public' - which platform staff do, every day.

  4. Simon says:

    He doesn't threaten to chuck him under a train. It is a comment he makes after the train pulls out. Get it right.
    And from the look of it he was just observing until he started telling the customer to keave the station. Maybe the customer insulted the woman.

    1. Denny says:

      You appear to be watching a different video clip to the one I'm watching - where the 'under a train' remark clearly comes before the doors close, let alone before the train leaves the station. In fact, in the video I'm watching, we don't even see the doors close or the train leave - but we do hear that remark.

      1. Neil Hastings says:

        The elderly gentleman is well inside the train and Ian Morbin is physically separated from him and is walking away when he makes his '...under the train' comment. So I don't believe Mr Morbin actually intended to throw anyone under a train. More important than the verbal insults and threats issuing from Mr. Morbin's foul mouth are his physical actions. Mr. Morbin got in front of the TfL victim and almost tried to physically block his way. This is only a short step from resorting to physical violence and that, I believe is why Mr. Morbin should be sacked. Perhaps with a sincere public apology and some basic training in manners he could be re-integrated into the TfL as part of their public relations department.

  5. Neil Hastings says:

    The education lobby often says “A well educated society is a polite society.” The implication being that you don’t go around being aggressive when you're not a dolt.

    This is a classic example of an individual experiencing high stress caused by low intelligence. It's obvious that the guard is not suitable for work in the public arena.

    The guard should consider himself lucky that he didn't threaten and insult a similarly intellectually endowed dolt, especially a gun-toting one. However, the guard's basic instincts would likely have intervened, thus prevented him from hurling abuse and threats through fear of retribution from a person of like aggressiveness.

  6. Steve says:

    As someone who witnessed the build up to this event, I can say that the tube worked was simply being a bully and that the passenger did nothing to deserve such a verbal beating.

    As future Olympic hosts one can only wonder what this has done to the UK's reputation for fairness and tolerance, as copies of this video are shown on news channels around the world.

    IMHO, as a customer facing organisation the Tube worker should be sacked with immediate effect.

  7. Cotossul says:

    The worker had no right to say the things he said, but anyone knows why the elder man was asked to go upstairs and talk to the police?
    I thing that MAYBE we would be in a position to judge IF we heard the argument from the beginning.

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