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Narrative (Pre)Occupations: Self-Surveillance, Participation, and Public Space

Abstract (in English): 

Under consumer culture, self-surveillance—the act of submitting your own data to corporate interests like Amazon, TiVo or Facebook—becomes a revolutionary gesture of participation (Andrejevic 15)…or so corporate interests would have us believe. With the advent of social media, we now log our own data in the service of multinationals as we
seemingly embrace the arrival of a technological Big Brother. Several digital media artists, however, have turned the tables or, more exactly, the camera on themselves by using digital media and self-surveillance as a means of creating new digital narratives.

Exploring the ubiquitous potential of surveillance technologies as a medium of self-expression, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Surveillance Camera Players, Manu Luksch, Jill Magid, Jordan Crandall, Elahi Hasan, and Paula Roush have all produced site-specific works that use guerrilla tactics to repossess all-seeing cameras for aesthetic ends. In addition, lifestreamers, webcammers and social activists use the potentialities of self-surveillance to reveal and to disguise, to network and to disconnect as a way of both communicating and avoiding detection. Tele_Trust by Karen Mancel and Hermen Maat, for example, is a veil-like object that receives and transmits messages about trust, connectivity and the dichotomy of private/public space from interactors who touch the wearer.

The OCCUPY Movement uses a blend of social media, self-surveillance and official+unofficial media footage to keep their politics in the public consciousness, but to keep themselves out of the public eye. To succeed, the OCCUPY Movement must
be present and situated, but anonymous and dynamic. Embracing the philosophy that the revolution will not be televised (because once it is it is subsumed within what Guy Debord called the Society of the Spectacle), #OCCUPY offers new strategies for networked organizing, collaborative creation and collective aesthetic acts.

This paper will explore how participation in public space challenges the installed public cameras and formal systems of control precisely by using the politics of location to speak against official discourses. Returning collective action and public narrative to town squares, these groups and artists are reinventing narrative for a digital culture generation. The spontaneous uprising of collective, multilinear narratives in global public space has rendered the Square the new center of participatory art and this action a roadmap to where future storytellers and technologies might take us.

(Source: Author's abstract, 2012 ELO Conference site)

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Record posted by: 
Eric Dean Rasmussen