Online social networking as participatory surveillance

In this theoretically grounded paper, which draws on surveillance studies and computer ethics (specifically Andrejevic’s (2005) notion of lateral surveillance, see above), Albrechtslund argues that given their characteristics (sharing of activities, preferences and beliefs to socialize) SNS are anchored in surveillance practices and as such, the activities on SNS can be seen as participatory surveillance. Participatory surveillance, he argues, comprises mutual horizontal practices made up of “the personal information people share—profiles, activities, beliefs, whereabouts, status, preferences, etc. [It represents] a level of communication that neither has to be told, nor has to be asked for. It is just ‘out there’…” Participatory surveillance is sharing, rather than a trade. Counter to the common framing of conventional and lateral surveillance as disempowering, disciplinary and controlling, Albrechtslund argues that participatory surveillance can be potentially empowering, subjectivity building and playful. Overall, Albrechtslund shows a different aspect of of surveillance (the social side), thereby providing insight into what motivates SNS use, despite privacy concerns. He argues that applying only the common panopticon-based framework to SNS use yields moral panics or anger at youth for “oversharing,” which get in the way of actually understanding what people are doing on SNS and why. In so doing, Albrechtslund provides insight into the shortcomings of assumptions embedded in the privacy paradox.

Bibliographic information:

Albrechtslund, A. (2008). Online social networking as participatory surveillance. First       Monday, 13(3). Retrieved from http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/ article/view/2142/1949

If you’re interested in downloading Kate Raynes-Goldie’s full annotated bibliography about Digitally mediated surveillance, privacy and social network sites, click here.

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  1. Pingback: Die Lust an der Selbst-Überwachung | Surveillance Studies.org

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