Public Photography Petition

There are a number of moves promoting the requirement of ‘ID’ cards to allow photographers to operate in a public place. It is a fundamental right of a UK citizen to use a camera in a public place, indeed there is no right to privacy when in a public place. These moves have developed from paranoia and only promote suspicion towards genuine people following their hobby or profession.

A petition against these moves has been raised on the new 10 Downing Street petition website. Click here to sign.

I’ve been looking at the other petitions on the site. They’re all raised by members of the public, and I’m pretty horrified by the poor grammar and spelling in many of them – it doesn’t inspire confidence. Also, the big flaw with these simplified petitions and voting mechanisms is the lack of flexibility. I agree with the above petition, therefore I can sign it without compunction. But another petition makes me rather cross, and makes me wish I could respond to the petitioner in the negative.

The petitioner makes the case (rather petulantly, if you ask me) that only chartered engineers should be able to use the job title ‘engineer’. He says this is because of the dilution of the word by common usage to mean anything from a car mechanic to a photocopier repair technician. He also says that he is going to take his ball home because he doesn’t get respect from the media. I agree to a certain extent that many occupations incorrectly get called engineering. These jobs are skilled, valuable, well paid for the most part, but not engineering. I heard of once case where a photocopier broke down. An ‘Engineer’ arrived to fix it, realized he couldn’t, and announced that he would, “have to call the Technician.”

I am an engineer. I have a degree in Computer Engineering, I work for an international engineering firm, my job title and my current project position has the word ‘engineer’ in it, I write and review engineering specification documents, I attend engineering fora. I have not, as yet, made any moves towards getting further qualifications. This is due to many things, including indolence, life distractions and lack of confidence. I respect those people who do, or at least, I respect the hard work that they have done.

But if only people who have done all the work to get to be called a Chartered Engineer can call themselves an Engineer, what do I call myself? A Chartered-Engineer-In-Waiting? What if I have no intention of gaining further qualifications? It wouldn’t stop me doing my job, or moving up the career ladder, although I would quickly reach a ceiling, and fair enough.

Chartered Engineers get to be called Chartered Engineers. They also earn more, and have gained the respect of their peers and of the industry as a whole. Isn’t that enough?

And here we have the problem with a simple petition like this. There is no mechanism to allow me to respond to the petition. All I can do is watch the signatures add up (>3000 at the time of writing [and 35,349 at the close of the petition]) and get a nasty feeling that I am unwanted and unvalued in my industry. This is clearly not the case (I hope), but I would like to put it to the petitioner and the signatories, and ask what they think.

Voting systems like this are dependent on the questions asked being well written and thoughtul of shades of response. Multiple choice votes break everything down to rigid answers. Yes/No votes make it even more black and white, even if the real answer is grey. Petitions remove the No vote completely. They have their uses, but when you feel strongly against the motion, you feel powerless.

Anyway. Happy 2nd Birthday Shuggie!