Beyond Contexts of Surveillance: Surveillance in the Everyday

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:45
Oral Presentation
Rachel DUBROFSKY, University of South Florida, USA
Beyond contexts of Surveillance: Surveillance in the Everyday

This presentation, based on a book project, moves the frame within surveillance studies: rather than seeing surveillance as technology, apparatus, object or procedure, or as a unique practice, or thing, I look at what occurs in a surveillance society, particularly, at aspects of our lives not directly under surveillance. Partial to Foucault’s (1995) thinking about how discourses and ideas about surveillance have impacted us in mundane, everyday ways, I shift the perspective within surveillance studies to attend to meaning-making in contexts where surveillance is not the most obvious mediating technology, highlighting how surveillance is seamlessly embedded into our culture. The project asks: What are the implications when ways of being under surveillance infuse our lives in contexts where surveillance may not be explicit?

With a focus on authenticity, Building on Banet-Weiser’s (2012) work on authenticity and branding, and Gunn Enli’s (2015) examination of mediated authenticity, the project insists on the significance of surveillance in understanding contemporary notions of authenticity. I look at popular culture—scripted television, social media, selfies, the popular press, and music videos—to explore how ideas about authenticity in contexts of surveillance have salience in contexts not under surveillance, pushing the discussion of surveillance beyond technologies and mechanisms of surveillance, to a focus on the cultural implications of surveillance. For instance, I examine how breaking expectations, central to affirming authenticity in the reality TV genre (a context of surveillance), is also how President Trump is framed as breaking conventions for the presidency in the news. Arguing that Trump’s appearance of breaking convention for presidential behavior, and norms for middle-class whiteness, affirm his authenticity, I posit this as marker of white privilege (accessed only by a body appearing white), making whiteness visible at a moment of intense white fragility.