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Surveillance | Society | Culture

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Edited By Florian Zappe and Andrew S. Gross

What only a few decades ago would have been considered a totalitarian nightmare seems to have become reality: Surveillance practices and technologies have infiltrated all aspects of our lives, forcing us to reconsider established notions of privacy, subjectivity, and the status of the individual in society. The United States is central to contemporary concerns about surveillance. American companies are at the forefront of developing surveillance technologies; and government agencies, in the name of security and law and order, are monitoring our words and actions more than ever before. This book brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the implications of what many consider to be a far-reaching social, political, and cultural transformation.

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Flickers of Vision: Surveillance and the Uncertainty Paradigm in Dave Eggers’s The Circle

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Abstract: In modern industrial societies, uncertainty and insecurity have emerged as favored metaphorical antagonists to wealth, order, stability, and meaning. Over the second half of the 20th century, and especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks between 2001 in the United States and 2015 in France, they have also become the major discourses in legitimizing systematic surveillance: the promise of public safety has sustainably overshadowed, if not substituted, concerns of privacy in a larger semantic shift of risk and security. Dave Eggers’s novel The Circle (2013) addresses this shift through the lens of contemporary Internet technology. In his dystopian roman-à-clef, the protagonist Mae is transformed from the new, insecure employee of the world’s leading social media corporation into one of its most fervent agents in the battle for a gaplessly transparent society. This chapter investigates the interfaces between uncertainty and control around which the novel revolves as well as its specific representations of what William Staples has termed the “security-industrial complex.” In a reading based on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, by which the process of observing particular systems inevitably impacts those systems and distorts the observation’s results, I am interested in the ways in which Eggers’s text engages with (and falls victim to) the traditional alliance between seeing and power. Ultimately, the aesthetics of the novel reproduce rather than undermine the nexus of “surveillansecurity,” as I term it with a nod to Garrett Stewart’s influential work.

Keywords: Surveillance, uncertainty, security, Dave Eggers, The Circle, Werner...

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