Surveillance

The image used for this lecture was from Rear Window, one of my favourite movies. So you can imagine my disappointment it was not discussed further with in the lecture. However, the lecture presented by Adriana and Paul was extremely interesting and one of my favourite lectures so far.

Though technology has not always been around, surveillance has been present since the beginning, through religion.

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The Seven Deadly Sins painted by Hieronymus Bosch c. 1480-1500, explores the concept of God (whom is placed at the centre of the circle). His representation suggests that God is always watching, God is surveillance. The text at centre of ‘eye’reads, Caue caue d[omin]us videt: Take care, take care, God sees you. It is also very similar to The Eye of ProvidenceDaniel Chodowiecki 1787.

Today there are less believers of faith and religion, and more of a feared watcher, the government. With access to our camera footage and personal details the government has become a very real form of surveillance. Of course it is all acceptable in the name of the nations safety (please do note my sarcasm).

Napoleon III instructed Haussmann to recreate Paris to prevent another rebellion, it was an architectural form of control, surveillance and power over its inhabitants. With very strict restrictions on behaviour and public space allowing them to change and manipulate the civilians way of living. Night time surveillance was enhanced through the increased number of gas lamps, which also provided nightlife safety.

Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison was published in 1975. It documents the evolution of the Western system of prisons, legal organisations and hierarchies for social control.

The Panopticon prison is a prime example of surveillance. It is a circular prison, in the centre is a tower made of reflective glass, making the tower impossible to look into. The circular structure of the prisons cells, allow the guards to watch all of the prisoners from just the tower with out being observed themselves. So the inmates, who don’t know when they are being watched, are constantly vulnerable and have no power.

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Ultimate effect of panoptic power: ‘To induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power… the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary.. In short, the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they themselves are the bearers’ (210).

 

My favourite book of all time (so far) is 1984, written by George Orwell published in 1948, and so I was thrilled when it was mentioned in the lecture. Of course it had to be, this dystopian novel remains to be one of the most powerful warnings ever issued against the dangers of a totalitarian society (inspired by Stalin and Nazi rule). Though less people know that it was also inspired by the first CCTV cameras being placed in Germany in 1940. The novel presents a (Stalin looking) dictator called Big Brother, an ever present force of control and the life of Winston the protagonist. With the use of cameras, television screens and microphones found in every single room Winston (and all the other inhabitants) are under surveillance 24/7. These also allows Big Brother to manipulate them by feeding them information in Newspeak. They all live in fear of the thought police, who watch the inhabitants every move and are aware of everything.

“These boys and girls enter our organizations [at] ten years of age, and often for the first time get a little fresh air; after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht [German armed forces] will take care of that.” 
—     Adolf Hitler (1938)

Under the Nazi regime, children were targeted as a special audience for propaganda messages, as they were the easiest to manipulate – a blank slate. In January 1933, the Hitler Youth had only 50,000 members, but by the end of the year this figure had increased to more than 2 million. By 1936 membership in the Hitler Youth increased to 5.4 million before it became mandatory in 1939. The German authorities then prohibited or dissolved competing youth organizations. They were encouraged to take part in the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls for group sports and to train the boys ready to enter the SA (Storm Troopers). Theses children were manipulated completely and encouraged to spy on their parents and neighbours for any ‘suspicious’ behaviour.

 

You might be thinking this is a little off topic, however, a scene that stands out to me a great deal and is important to this topic with in 1984 was the scene in which Winston depicts his neighbour (Mrs. Parsons) and her children. The mother of two, appears terrified of her toddler son who accuses Winston of being a traitor to Big Brother and accuse him of thought crime. As Junior Spies, part of an organisation of children who monitor adults for disloyalty to the party, and frequently succeed in catching them, this was a serious accusation even with out evidence. The mother is terrified of her zealous children, who are agitated for not being able to go a public hanging of some of the Party’s political enemies in the park that evening. This scene is even more terrifying with the knowledge that it was clearly inspired by the Nazi’s regime and their power over the young generation.

My dad graduated in 1984, he told me about how exciting it was and scary to have the ideals of the setting of this book in the year he had to become much more independent. When I studied this book for english, he gave me his copy which he had when he was young. I remember thinking how terrifying and sad the book was, it effected me a great deal, which made me aware of how incredible it was.

 

 

 

 

 

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