Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture
Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel
Negotiating (In)Visibilities in Contemporary Culture: A Short Introduction
The highly debated yet oft-repeated dictum ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ is usually used as an argument for accepting increased surveillance. But it raises fundamental questions about what privacy actually entails in a society that, with the proliferation of ubiquitous computing seeping into every corner of our everyday lives, challenges existing perceptions of human subjectivity and the place of the individual in the world. Occasionally, new revelations – such as the exposure of global surveillance programs by former NSA employee Edward Snowden and, before that, the persistent rumours about the existence of a signals intelligence collection and analysis network by the name of Echelon – reveal snippets of the technological capacities available for those who want to find out about the lives of others through state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. However, the response to such revelations seems divided. While some people react strongly and demand political intervention, the reaction of many citizens rather seems to be a shrug, implying that ‘when the technology exists, this is to be expected’.1 In this book, we propose that the widespread, existence and acceptance of the increasingly ubiquitous, and often unnoticed, surveillance technologies in our daily lives is one example of processes of negotiation that take place in contemporary culture on a wider scale: processes that are indicative of changes taking place in the relationship between what is considered visible and what is invisible – between what remains hidden and what comes to the surface – in contemporary culture. The existence of...
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