Sousveillance, facebook and the age of involuntary transparency

Every day or so someone hits the news somewhere for mis-tweeting or, over-sharing their sexual habits or racial (I.e. racist) opinions on facebook. (Or their microphones are still on.) Then there’s the bubbling-under story of wikileaks and just how damn “ungovernable” everything is becoming. We need at least a new word and a catchy phrase. By the power of the Internet and plagiarism, Dwight Towers provides…

The word is … sousveillance. “Sur”veillance is viewing on (from above). Sous is French for “under”, as in, surveillance from below. But it’s not just the ‘opposite’ of surveillance, with people watching the watchers, taking photos of police photographers taking photos of them. It’s also everyone keeping tabs (blogs, photos etc) on everyone else.

AJ Jacobs, a New York-based writers was writing about the “radical honesty” movement by living the dogma, and wrote:

“Later, a friend of a friend wants to meet for a meal. I tell him I don’t like leaving my house. “I agree to meet some people for lunch because I fear hurting their feelings if I don’t. And in this terrifying age where everyone has a blog, I don’t want to offend people, because then they’d write on their blogs what an asshole I am, and it would turn up in every Google search for the rest of my life.”

The phrase – equally easy. We are moving into “an age of involuntary transparency,” according to Andy Greenberg of Forbes in an article with the subtle title Julian Assange wants to spill your corporate secrets.”

So, whether personal peccadillos or geopolitical gaffes, secrets are becoming much much harder to keep. But then, the ‘secrets’ of the West, have – bar some of the more incriminating and gory details – been hidden in plain view, like the purloined letter, for decades now… It’s not that people haven’t been able to find them, it’s that they haven’t wanted to see them…

See also -
We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin. A book Orwell was aware of (I think), when writing 1984. Everyone has to live in glass houses to make sure the Revolutionary Police can keep tabs…
“Catfish” the 2011 movie that you should know as little about as possible before you see it.

Reading for me to do -
Stanley Cohen States of Denial

About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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2 Responses to Sousveillance, facebook and the age of involuntary transparency

  1. mike k says:

    How about we shift to autoveillance. Keeping an eye on oneself. Self observation. Witnessing. Some part of oneself that is awake and therefore can watch the other parts do their conditioned, unconscious zombie dance. Watch that Dude! You’re busted! (Or other gentler versions — that one sounded like a top dog super ego bit.)

    • dwighttowers says:

      This self-observation thing is crucial, as is avoiding the dangers in it (or neuroticism, solipsism, magical thinking etc). There’s the crucial distinction between intelligence and rationality too. Intelligent people are very good at constructing narratives that support their view of themselves as special, or better, and very good at justifying (to themselves and others) whatever it is that they want to do, WITH the accoutrements of self-observation. What a species!!

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