Ben Bartosik

January 18, 2024

Something I've been thinking about a lot over the last year is the way our societal obsession with protecting private interests is spilling out into our public spaces and fundamentally damaging them.

A good example of this is the increased use of surveillance tech. As more and more people leverage it to protect their private assets, it has a negative ripple effect of eroding the public trust and hospitality of our neighbourhoods. I was confronted with this the other day as I walked past a house the other day and heard a loud, recorded voice call out, "smile, you are being recorded!" What stands out to me here is that I was on public property, the sidewalk, where I had every right to be. Yet, this individual's need to protect their private interests made that public space less hospitable. The private space spilling into the public and ultimately trying to claim it as its own. Heaven forbid I had decided to stand there for a while; a picture of me might have ended up on facebook labelled as a "suspicious individual."

It's sad to think of sidewalks going the way of streets before them, hijacked by private freedoms and interests to the point of no longer being truly inclusive spaces for everyone. But it is something I am reminded of whenever I see them covered in snow while the streets are cleanly plowed, or cars parked halfway across them to fit more vehicles in a driveway, or whenever I warn my kids to interrupt their play in order to make it their responsibility to pay attention to the massive SUVs and trucks that are backing out of their driveways across the sidewalks.

More on this to come I'm sure.