Monday, March 29, 2004

I'm watching a documentary about a workplace. The real pity about these shows is that the cameras alter the way people behave. Documentary film crew goes to management of ACME. Asks, "can we film your employees doing what they do?" Management thinks, "hmmm, who works for us that isn't a goof-off, won't embarrass us, has some personality to make us look good?" So inevitably, the boss's favourite, the neatly groomed, upbeat family man who turns up early wearing a looney tunes tie gets chosen. OK, no problem.

Ever heard of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle? It states that you cannot simultaneously measure the position AND momentum of a particle. Schrodinger went further and pointed out that it means the act of observing an action influences the action itself. Workplace documentaries are just like that. Knowing that a camera is observing your every action alters the way you act. So it stops being a true record and becomes an advertisement for how you'd like to be seen. Like Chris Rock said, we're not meeting you, we're meeting your representative.

If you ever seen one of these shows, try counting how many times people in the background look at the camera or look at the person being filmed.


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