Thursday, March 11, 2010

S03 - Surveillance and Social Media

Yesterday Thomas Levin, professor of German and a media and cultural theory at Princeton University, gave a lecture about surveillance to my Global Media class. One of the things he was very insistent about was the need for each person to take responsibility for his or her data, that is, all the information about ourselves that we disseminate are that is captured through the Internet or other technologies. Although I believe that he was only trying to awaken us to the same danger that Professor Chun often brings up in lecture, I felt that Levin's lecture definitely had more of a sense of urgency verging on paranoia. According to Levin, most of us are going through our lives unaware of how much information (about the foods or clothes we like and buy, the music we like, etc.) we are giving to those who sell our data and/or use it to market towards us, or simply to keep tabs on us. But even more insidous, perhaps, are those requests for a number when buying a battery at Radio Shack, or being asked to sign on an electronic pad that records the image of your signature when purchasing with a credit card. Levin also asked for us not to be surprised by the fact that the information that we enter into our Facebook profiles does not belong purely to us alone: our data is recorded and often used for commercial purposes. danah boyd touches briefly on the connections between MySpace and the Murdoch News Corporation, but only so far as to state that "not much is known about the long-term effects of corporate participation in social network sites."
In response to those attempts to glean data in physical spaces (as in the Radio Shack example), Levin would have us stage "pedagogical spectacles," protesting loudly that "No, I will not give you my phone number," encouraging others to take responsibility of their information and not give it away thoughtlessly or recklessly. My question is, are we also expected to stage pedagocial spectacles online? Facebook, according to Levin, is essentially a call to "surveill me please!" When danah boyd writes about privacy in the public of MySpace, she focuses mainly on the agony of teens whose parents try to monitor their profiles, or the possibility of college admissions officers having misgivings about content on prospective students' pages. If Levin implies that the government or corporations are surveilling us through Facebook, and if this is a negative thing (which I'm unclear if he feels that it is), then what about the fact that social network sites are becoming important arenas for the negotiation and enactment of social identities, for learning how to engage in public? What about the increasing need to "give oneself over," to immerse into a community, to become real within it?

No comments: