Spycam Chic

The Surveillance Society: Part Two

What was once considered pathological is common behavior in the age of SPY-TV. "It is neither a question of secrecy nor of perversion," the French critic Jean Baudrillard writes in Simulations, "but a kind of thrill of the real, or one of an aesthetics of the hyperreal, a thrill of alienation and of magnification, of distortion in scale, of excessive transparency, all at the same time." In other words, the omnivideo environment is producing a radical cultural response.

Spycam chic allows us to revel in the invasion of cameras— not to mention the deployment of thermal sensors, parabolic mics, Internet "cookies," laser probes: all the dark technics of the information age. Stylization dispels the anxiety that mass monitoring arouses; it provides an aura of power and mastery in an uncontrollable world. But this feeling is a fleeting high. When the show ends, the gaze remains— and the surveillance society is humanized.

Next Week: Madison Avenue Is Watching You

This is the second of a three-part series.

Read part one: Spycam City.
Read part two: Spycam Chic.
Read part three: Spy Commerce.

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