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The sensation of being spied on

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All men know—in imagination or in experience—the sensation of being spied on. The nerves tingle, the skin grows hot and prickly, and there is a queer sinking of the heart.

John Buchan – No-Man’s-Land (1899)

It’s coming, but of course we adapt to it, that sensation of being spied on, but it isn’t as Buchan described it. Towns, cities, main roads, shops, supermarkets, car parks, public buildings, public transport – we are spied on all the time.

There is probably no queer sinking of the heart because we’ve adapted to it. We see the cameras, not all of them, but we know they are there unless we are away from it all in the countryside, the hills or remote places where cameras have yet to invade. Even then – well there may be a drone around taking videos of the landscape, and people in the landscape.

It isn’t like that sensation where you are sitting in a café and someone looks at you, so you turn your heard because somehow you know someone is looking at you. Ubiquitous cameras don’t create this sensation, the sensation Buchan wrote about over a century ago. Now we are spied on in ways which are much more effective than he could ever have envisaged.


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