The combination of state surveillance and its capitalist counterpart means that digital technology is separating the citizens in all societies into two groups: the watchers (invisible, unknown and unaccountable) and the watched. This has profound consequences for democracy because asymmetry of knowledge translates into asymmetries of power. But whereas most democratic societies have at least some degree of oversight of state surveillance, we currently have almost no regulatory oversight of its privatised counterpart.
It seems like this year is starting off with a slew of articles about how bad everything has become online. Usually I’d try to strategically stick my head in the sand, but it feels like a sea change is coming in the collective importance society places on privacy.
We want to live in public but also control what happens to the slices of life we publicize. Or we recoil at the thought of our foibles being turned into one day’s entertainment on Twitter but we nonchalantly consume such entertainment when someone else is the victim.
It may seem like an absurd question, but let us at least consider it for a moment: how different is a Twitter mob from the ancient audiences of the gladiatorial spectacle? Do we believe that such mobs can’t issue forth in “real world” violence or that they cannot otherwise destroy a life? One difference of consequence, I suppose, is that at least the ancient audience did not bathe itself in self-righteousness.
The challenge is to cherish our possessions enough to care about where they came from, who made them, and what will happen to them in the future.
Ah the good old days, when he still made good music.
🎵 Today’s work music is the mesmerizing Bay of Rainbows by Jakob Bro. Beautiful stuff.
This article about the viral clash of students and American Indians brings up some very good points about video and “truth”:
Despite the widespread creation and dissemination of video online, people still seem to believe that cameras depict the world as it really is; the truth comes from finding the right material from the right camera. That idea is mistaken, and it’s bringing forth just as much animosity as the polarization that is thought to produce the conflicts cameras record.
If you’ve watched the Fyre Festival documentaries — and even if you haven’t — this article about it is so good. Favorite part, among many:
McFarland sought to move quickly and break things—the festival economy, influencer harnessed marketing—and figure it out later. He never got to figure it out later, because he so thoroughly broke things.