The veillance compass

Professor Steve Mann coined the expression McVeillance after he was manhandled out of a McDonalds in Paris where he was eating with his family in 2012 for no other reason than for wearing a computer vision system. McDonalds was watching him. He was watching McDonalds. And ‘they’ didn’t like it.

The word surveillance originates from French, from sur- ‘over’ + veiller ‘watch’ (from Latin vigilare ‘keep watch’). It invokes an authoritative orientation where one in authority, metaphorically if not physically above, watches those below.

Mann had previously coined the word sousveillance. The French for ‘below’ is sous, hence the neologism for watching the watchers.

It’s with this authority oriented perspective in mind that Mann then developed the eight veillances of the veillance compass:

The veillance compass

Coveillance and Socioveillance

Mann et al (PDF) define coveillance:

This condition, where peers can see both the recording and the presentation of the images, is neither “surveillance” nor “sousveillance.” We term such observation that is side-to-side “coveillance,” an example of which could include one citizen watching another.

In 2014, we defined socioveillance as a component of Organized Self. It’s a personal and private service monitoring our interactions with our socios – friends and colleagues with whom we seek to create mutual value. And perhaps those one or two steps removed.

As the veillance compass has one axis for surveillance and the other for sousveillance, coveillance doesn’t feature, and nor would socioveillance.

The table below portrays some of the differences we see between coveillance and socioveillance, clearing identifying the potential future application of the socioveillance concept in the development of software for Social Business and Quantified Organization.

Comparing and contrasting coveillance and socioveillance

Coveillance Socioveillance
Domain Society at large – citizen to citizen, organization to organization One’s socios – friends and colleagues, and perhaps those one or two steps removed, with whom one might create mutual value
Equivalence Veillance equivalence – finding “common ground” with equivalent veillance powers Value equivalence – in pursuit of mutual understanding, mutual influence and mutual value, irrespective of veillance equivalence
Openness Open; seeking to ‘cancel out’ privacy concerns Negotiating data exchange with others’ socioveillance capabilities according to our respective privacy policies to enrich our mutual understanding within comfortable boundaries (ie, the individual has sole domain over these settings)
Object The “disempowering nature of surveillance” Self-organization and the effectiveness / usefulness of heterarchical (or non-hierarchical in the command-and-control sense) organization
Senses Audio and visual Any source of data and information