Smile, you’re on camera

On the walk between my house and the supermarket there is a house with five “Smile, you’re on camera” signs. Five!

These signs are very familiar and I usually dismiss the odd one as trivial but five signs got me thinking about the communication going on.

Communication is a complex thing. What message is the sender (the home owner) trying to get out? What message is the receiver (me) receiving?

Perhaps as a pedestrian passing by, I am not the intended target of these signs, but pedestrians would be a common receiver, as would be postal and delivery workers and visitors. The signs are indiscrimate – they communicate something to us all.

Someone intent on “getting up to no good” is presumably the main target. What ┬ámessage would they receive? There are security cameras here so don’t bother? There is something worth protecting here so do bother? This is all mine and don’t you dare try to take it from me? I don’t know but I would be very interested in any statistics on the effect these signs have on crime.

But to me, casually passing by on a sunny day, the number of signs felt like I was being shouted at. “You keep going, don’t you get any ideas.”

Perhaps they were very pleasant and kind people living in that house, but the impression I was getting was the opposite – insular, nasty, bossy, overbearing, selfish but also defensive and afraid of those who might take something away from them.

The garden was neat and well-maintained. It amplified the message from the signs. There was none of the generosity or serendipity that my favourite gardens suggest.

Whoever these people were, I had taken an intense dislike to them. Not because of their house or their garden but because of the message their multi-signed street frontage emitted.

Looking around, the houses nearby weren’t a lot friendlier. They had no signs but there was little welcoming about them. Large front gardens but no sign of life – not people, not birds, or butterflies. If I needed help, I’d be hardpressed to choose which to approach.

What messages do you get from house facades on your walks?