Who’s Watching Whom?: Surveillance Practices, Processes, and Problems

A major factor that contributes to the all-pervasive culture of surveillance – this surveillance society – in which we live is a climate of fear. Indeed, we might almost call this a self-perpetuating climate of fear. Reflecting on 9/11, I asked a group of students this week whether they thought that, even though they had been born before 2001, they considered themselves to have experienced a ‘pre-9/11′ world. I was in first year university at the time of the September 11 attack and it was clear then that we were witnessing a groundbreaking moment after which nothing would be the same. There are other events also, like the Colombine High School massacre in April 1999, as well as similar tragedies in the United States and elsewhere in the world, which invariably see issues of surveillance being raised and (re)negotiated in the media. Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002) contains some fascinating sequences of bizarre news reports that exemplify the construction of a climate of fear – or even better, panic. Can you draw any parallels to Australia in this regard?

Many acts of surveillance have unquestionable value and cannot be simply shoved into a mono-dimensional vision of a dystopian world. Likewise, fear and concern can turn into polemical paranoia, and that just trivialises the issue as well. If you find examples surveillance like the RFID chip or RATs somewhat ‘freaky and creepy’ – if not downright disturbing – try to take a step back and examine what it means about digital media culture today…

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be scared, as there are arguably good reasons to be. But being analytical is important as well. And in the end, the scariest thing about all of this may just well be that we are not scared enough…

Enjoy the meLecture 🙂

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