Undressing with the Lights On: Surveillance and The Naked Society in a Digital Era

An Opinion Piece by Doug Specht, published by Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture

Abstract

After an accidental discovery of Vance Packard’s 1965s book, The Naked Society, at Abbey Saint-Benoît-du-Lac in Canada, this article reflects on the history of surveillance and privacy and questions what we might learn by examining past commentaries on the subject. It concludes that there is a danger of repetition and co-option in the academy, and calls for an increasingly reflexive approach to surveillance.

.

How to Cite: Specht, D., (2017). Undressing with the Lights On: Surveillance and The Naked Society in a Digital Era. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 12(3), pp.78–90. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16997/wpcc.268
.

.

Extract
Surveillance, wrote Lyon (2015), will not be read the same way after Snowden, but really what Snowden revealed was that the War on Terror just drove the surveillance state faster and harder, the path had been travelled for some time (Jordan, 2015). Books such as Packard’s help us to see this longer trajectory, they help us to make sense of a world that has become increasingly complex, one in which affected entrapment (Gibson-Graham, 2006) can diminish our work. Instead Packard brings a new, albeit a historical, angle that lets us see things afresh. This paper has taken a complex trajectory, but there is one common theme that holds this together, the argument of light verses darkness, a duality of the human condition laid down in the bible and embodied by stories and novels through the ages. The surveillance apparatus tells us all must be illuminated, that all data must be collected, everything must be cast into the light for our safety, protection and liberty (Franklin, 2015). The counter argument says that democracy dies in the darkness, that everything must too be cast into the light for our safety, protection and liberty, hardly a counter argument at all. ‘Let there be light, and there was light’ were the actualising words of God (Genesis 1:3). So, what for a world abandoned by God, a world in which God is Dead? (Heidegger, cited inWiercinski, 2005; Nietzsche, 1978). ‘Only a [new] God can save us now’ (Heidegger cited inSchendler, trans, 1977). We have developed a new God, a new omniscient being. Google is God. Everything must be illuminated to these new digital Gods, who will urge the citizen to share ever more of themselves and their being, and to denounce themselves and each other like Adam to Eve. To convince them their sharing will protect them on one hand, and giving them their 15 minutes of fame on the other; applying the fig leaf and calling it liberty. Packard reminds us, through the words of Goethe, Es bildet ein talen sich in der stille; that talent develops in unseen solitude.

.

Doug Specht

About

Doug Specht is a Lecturer at the Communication and Media Research Institute, within the University of Westminster. His research examines how knowledge is constructed and codified through digital and cartographic artifacts, centering on development issues. He sits on BSi committee IST/36 Geographic Information, where he focuses on geographic data in the SDGs and on web ontologies. He also holds positions at Media Culture and Society and Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. He is additionally the director of the human rights mapping platform Voz; a trustee of the Santa Rosa Fund; and a core member of the Environmental Network for Central America.

Details

Author
Date
9th November 2017
Published By
Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture
Share this article
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Leave a Comment

CAMRI | Undressing with the Lights On: Surveillance and The Naked Society in a Digital Era - CAMRI
class="pirenko_portfolios-template-default single single-pirenko_portfolios postid-1813 samba_theme samba_left_nav samba_left_align samba_responsive wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0 vc_responsive"