From the Electronic Eye to Live Streaming Surveillance: Two Decades of the Optical Metaphor

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Lucas MELGACO, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
Almost 25 years ago David Lyon published The Electronic Eye: The Rise of the Surveillance Society, one of the milestones in the history of surveillance studies. Already on the cover of the book the visual, or more precisely the optical, metaphor was paramount, as it pictured a Magritte style surrealistic eye filled with clouds. The reference to the eye, to vision, has accompanied developments in surveillance studies and can be found in Foucauldian references to the panopticon as well as in more recent works like Gilliom and Monahan’s SuperVision or Marx’s Windows into the Soul (whose cover is incidentally also illustrated by colorful eyes). Surveillance studies authors have, however, argued that in the latest years not only images but other forms of non-imagery data have become equally important. Among the latter there are data from passenger name records (PNR), credit card information (already mentioned by Lyon himself in the Electronic Eye), and all sorts of metadata. However, in this presentation I will argue the still central importance of the image for surveillance studies today by discussing its importance, among others, for social media and most recently live streaming activities.