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Surveillance & Society
7 October 2013
Current Event Analysis
Traditional surveillance and social surveillance but both produce a manner where censorship is being revoked. Traditional surveillance operates vertically with an institution systematically and discretely collects information on a population leading them to censor their thoughts. The power of social surveillance is spread horizontally; meaning that the censorship is a result of “the many watch the many” (Marwick 382).
Further explaining social surveillance Foucault proposed a micro-level model of power that is present in all human relationship (Marwick 383). Unlike traditional surveillance where only the surveyors have access to the tools to monitor the population; in social surveillance everyone has the tools to mutually watch each other. Gender norms and individual relationships are defined by this model of power with fluid “capillaries of power” that work in everyday tasks by individuals. Thus social media sites like Twitter and Facebook create an “omnioptocon” medium that facilitate social surveillance (Marwick 383).
Primarily social media sites are used to reinforce pre-existing relationships (Marwick 384). Everyone involved in social media sites, distributes and receives information from other users. The information, messages, and thoughts expressed through users can display a type of “digital intimacy” that reinforces peer groups. All the user-generated content produced by social media sites allows us to monitor and contextualize what is appropriate behavior (Marwick, 384). Actions that are not appropriate are display for a much larger audience than expected, which can cause serious repercussions.
For example in Hamburg, New York an assistant manager was fired for a derogatory Facebook post. The assistant manager posted a photo of two Muslim women in religious attire and wrote as the caption, “Halloween came early this year” (Zahriyeh). Such language is offensive and promotes the idea that Muslims are different and dangerous. The fluid and constant information sharing in this model means such examples are noticed quickly. Walmart discovered their associate’s Facebook post the same day it was posted. The assistant manager was immediately terminated and a spokesperson said “We have high expectations for our associates, and he failed to meet these expectations” (Zahriyeh).
While it is unclear how Walmart discovered the derogatory post this it is just one of the many repercussions of power in social surveillance. Other times people are fired from a job because of a thought they shared on Twitter or Facebook can be seen by another “friend” in his network. The problem lies that the term “friend” because of social media encompasses a whole range of real life relationships, like boss/employee. A large network by a person increases the chances of a stranger viewing their content. This could also lead to a positive outcome like the one with this Walmart manager who was fired for his offensive language.
The former employee did eventually apologize to the public. When speaking to The Buffalo News he said, “I’m truly, honestly sorry about the whole thing” (Zahriyeh). This former Walmart employee might have certainly made a mistake without thinking of its repercussions. Still like it was with the Stasi government sometimes innocent people suffered because of their mistakes.
Marwick, Alice. “The Public Domain: Social Surveillance in Everyday Life”. Surveillance and Society. Web. 2013.
Zahriyeh, Ehab. “Walmart fires assistant manager for anti-Muslim Facebook post”. Aljazeera America. Web. 2013.
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