Surveillance theory and ‘that video’

On: January 3, 2007
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About Michael Stevenson
I am a lecturer and PhD candidate in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. I've been a contributor to Masters of Media since 2006, though I now only post occasionally. A short list of papers and projects can be found here


In Consumer Technology after Surveillance Theory, Richard Rogers and Sabine Niederer talk about how consumer technology unsettles old institutional power, possibly bringing a whole new set of problems along. There was the consumer-soldier, for example, who produced the Abu Ghraib photos. Today the Iraqi government is talking to the consumer-prison guard who may have filmed Saddam Hussein’s execution, having “pledged to track down whoever is responsible for (the video).” Like with the Abu Ghraib photos, the content of the scandal wavers between what happened and the fact that someone caught it on camera, depending on who you listen to.

The obvious question here: “If you were an institution being unsettled thusly, how would you feel?”
And seeing as its about time for another dystopian view of the future, what about a world where everything we produce with our video cameras, phones, mic’s, etc., can be traced back to us? Watermarks for everything, not just Academy Award screeners and printers.

If we can’t have privacy, some surveillance theorists argue, we must have accountability, meaning openness on the part of states and corporations. I think I agree, but what happens when that same argument is used against, say, the consumer-activist?
A second bbc article, worth reading, goes into more detail and explains how this kind of horrific reality-TV-for-the-mobile is not new in Iraq (and we knew it wasn’t a novelty here).

Oh and something extra from the first bbc article: “The U.S. military has said it would have handled the execution differently.”

5 Responses to “Surveillance theory and ‘that video’”
  • January 6, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    awww mike, the link to your whatever button paper on roger’s page is dead :(

    by the way, once i finish my paper on RFID shit ill post it here, it should have some interesting bits on surveillance etc.

  • January 7, 2007 at 10:26 am

    The link is working fine on Firefox though…

  • January 7, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I think fixing the good old twiki has been put on the backburner, but I can’t complain (that was the first essay i wrote on new media, if it shows up again I’ll ‘correct’ it – after all it’s on a wiki)

  • January 16, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Hallo Michael, ik ben freelance journalist voor de Amsterdam Weekly ( en maak een artikel over de betekenis van de beelden van Saddams executie. Wat betekent deze consumer-journalistenactie voor de journalistiek? En voor privacy? Ook wil ik een link leggen met you-tube als nieuwsbron. Helaas kon ik je wiki-artikel niet lezen, zoals je weet. Zou je mij z.s.m. kunnen mailen? Mijn deadline is a.s. vrijdag, 16 januari. Dank alvast!

  • January 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm

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