Sunday, January 30, 2011


Ispy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era

Chapter 2: Three Dimensions of iCulture

So, this is an interesting chapter on the different aspects of surveillance and technology. His writing is entertaining, but most of what he says seems to be pretty common knowledge by now. Perhaps I am just more in tune with the technology community, but I wasn't really surprised by what he was talking about. The most important part of this discussion, I think, is his bit about the optimism of technology. In my own experience in Popular Culture, there tends to be a resistance against critical readings of technology. I wonder why this is? In political science, we were taught to be critical of everything...why is it that American Cultural Studies is more celebratory?

· iCommerce-

o He starts off with a story of Nike using an electric billboard in times square that allowed user to change an athletic shoe at will. You could text the sign with your design choices and the colors would change. Interestingly, this wasn’t complete freedom, you could only pick from a designated set of options.

o Also, on their website you are allowed to ‘create’ your own individual shoe – although if you try and put something like “Made in a sweatshop” on the side of your shoe, they will not allow you to do that.

§ Promise of individualization- being able to “make” your own goods

§ Promise of democratization- everyone has equal access to the brand with the ability to change things

§ Promise of interactivity – overcoming differentiation and abstraction associated with mass society

· iCulture

o Mass culture is changing – now it is no longer top down and nonparticipatory (kind of)

§ Interactivity promises that users can be creative

§ Postsecrets as an example (although the owner keeps all the rights to all the creative works that are sent in)

§ Interestingly – he points to a communication scholar (James Beniger) who explains that the original meaning of revolution meant to restore a previous form of government – so perhaps this revolution is simply one that will restore corporate powers.

§ Interactivity doesn’t always mean empowering.

· iMonitoring

o Forget-me-not panties – track your significant others and daughters with GPS panties that will tell you if they are involved in sexual activities.

§ This is a joke e-mail – but shows how monitoring is becoming more and more acceptable.

o We Google people to find out their secrets.

o Mutual monitoring – being aware that you are being monitored or actually wanting to be monitored (where is my significant other in a mall – use my cell phone GPS!)

o Biometrical monitoring becoming more prevalent – lie detectors on TV.

o Personal information is now going to always be online.

o Asymmetrical monitoring is dangerous because we are not aware of it happening.

· iPolitics – The politics of monitoring

o Software like having individuals monitor border cameras from their homes.

o Taking pictures of illicit people with your cell phones.

o Politicians catering their policy to specific demographics (this is not democracy)

o The politics of shopping is determined by where one spends their money. If people are broken down into niche markets, they have less power.

o He talks about how he is perceived as being too negative. He argues that “ contention is that they [technological optimism]can be realized only when we no longer depend on technology to sidestep political conflicts, educate the masses, and deliver on the democratic promise” (49).

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