04th Oct2012

Object(ivity) and participatory surveillance

by felixburgos

1. With the introduction (and the development) of instruments to capture reality in action (photography, video, sound recording), the way we ‘observe’ or ‘perceive’ our practices in the world seem to constantly change. Butler (1993) reflects upon the acts of ‘seeing’, which are mainly based on the schematization of different fields (racism in Rodney King’s case). Something important in Butler’s analysis is that those devices that (supposedly) capture reality do not really serve such purpose when being the evidence of violent transgressions. Now that we have tools to modify video and photography, it is difficult to think that it is possible to capture reality in its basic form using such devices. Does this mean that until there is a modification in the ‘schematization of fields’ we cannot trust in the ‘objectivity’ of such devices?

2. Albrechtslund (2008) makes an important analysis of surveillance in our society. The concept “participatory surveillance” is something that makes a lot of sense in the context of social networking. While reading the article, I was thinking about not only social networking but also the way we generally interact in the context of telecommunications. Nowadays most of our ‘professional’ lives function around the Internet or communication. Think for example that our professors, bosses, supervisors, etc., are able to exercise certain type of power due to the notion of availability. In other words, we cannot escape the space of work because we must be always ready to perform work related activities in our “private” life. Foucault (1995) mentions that “the Panopticon […] must be understood as a generalizable model of functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men” (p. 205). Could be availability part of those functioning structures where power is exert power? How is such notion of availability different or similar to that of [participatory] surveillance?

3. Small silly question… What happens if you are not ‘wired’? Could you just consider that you are not being surveilled?

Spatial discourses (Space and power?): We could consider those types of discourse in which space is idealized, analyzed, and explained. Albrechtslund (2008) mentions that the spatial discourse of cyberspace is conceived due to the “desire to organize and classify” (p. 2). It is also possible that such discourses intend to trouble the understanding of space at its most basic meaning. For example, Foucault (1995) explains that space is organized through power since “(power) has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up” (p. 202). I think that although Lefebvre might agree with Foucault that power is an essential part of space, he would consider that spaces are constructed through agency, social relationships, and the presence of the body.

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