Always on our smartphones and other digital devices, we live in an expository society, says Prof Bernard Harcourt. The landscape described in his new book is a dystopia saturated by pleasure. We do not live in a drab Orwellian world, he writes. We live in a beautiful, colourful, stimulating, digital world a rich, bright world full of passion and jouissance–and by means of which we reveal ourselves and make ourselves virtually transparent to surveillance. This is digital exposure, exposing a great deal about our lives.
This podcast is an edited version of a longer interview which first aired on the New Books Network.
Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age (Harvard University Press, 2015) guides us through our new digital age, one that makes it so easy for others to monitor, profile, and shape our every desire. We are building what he calls the expository society a platform for unprecedented levels of exhibition, watching, and influence that is reconfiguring our political relations and reshaping our notions of what it means to be an individual.
Other actors from advertisers to government agencies can compile huge amounts of information about who we are and what we do. Whether they use it to recommend other products to buy or track our movements, Harcourt argues that the influence and interests of other actors is often hidden from us. Despite leaks of classified materials about the extent of this surveillance, public outrage is limited and mild. The scale of data collection and tracking is not a national let alone a global scandal.
According to Exposed, our appetites are too well satisfied and our attentions too distracted. Harcourt prods us to practice digital disobedience, to tackle this digital exposure, lest we will remain in a digital mesh that will only continue to restrict our privacy and anonymity underneath its beautiful, shiny suit.
Watch ‘Damn, Daniel’ here.
Photo: Smartphones by Esther Vargas
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