Expanding on Governmentality, Surveillance and the Regulation of (cyber)Space:

A few weeks ago I saw this video circulating on various self-proclaimed liberal micro-blogs and Facebook groups, where it was touted as the long-awaited, incontrovertible proof we needed to finally be able to challenge New York’s “stop and frisk” policy. A young man had recorded his experienced being interpellated and violently harassed by a group of police officers

.Picture 17Snapshot from Youtube, "The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk Policy"

Snapshot from Youtube, “The Hunted and the Hated: An Inside Look at the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy”

Initially, this story struck me as a surprising reversal in the order of surveillance and behavior monitoring in that the institutionalized force of surveillance (the police) were in fact being surveilled without their knowledge. Of course, this thought was quickly displaced by a greater discomfort. The use of technology to “expose” injustice here is  only highlights the degree to which governmentality shapes compliant and ineffective subjects in the age of digital technologies, where the only avenue imaginable for grand-scale mobilization (the Internet) in fact emerges as a highly depoliticize space in which individuals relinquish their rights to be “searched” all the time. This video becomes a drop in the bucket in a public cyberspace full of other videos that (are allowed to) expose injustice.

If we are powerless to combat the concretely undeniable violations of human bodies in public space, how are we to combat the invisible violations of our disembodied identities in cyberspace?

To understand why and how we freely relinquish our privacy online, it is important to situate it in a broader social context of being trained subjects of governmentality. Even in its most visible and flagrant forms, the exposure of such processes in action can only have limited effects. The aggressive “stop and frisk” policy is an example of the RSA (repressive state apparatus) in action, however, we are constantly being regulated by the ISA (ideological state apparatus) according to Althusser. We find the intersection of online privacy and privacy in public space in the idea that,

no privacy is the default and that those who wish to control and protect their personal information must fight for protection from an individual level.” (Russett 39)

Under the guise of social protection, legal sanction, or even moral obligation, we allow governmentality and its logics to seep into all aspects of our lives, and they only threaten to do so in more profound and uncontested ways.

Russett, Preston. ” A Contemporary Portrait of Information Privacy: Collective Consequences of Being Digital.” Review of Communication 11.1 (2011): 39-50. Web. 13 November 2013.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s