It is obvious to say that the advancement of media technologies, notably social media and computers, have forever altered the ways in which society operates and privacy is managed. Privacy issues that have worked their way into mainstream media such as Wikileaks and the NSA have truly brought the issue to it’s head. This changes of cultural media practices has had other consequences, such as a shift in our cultural democratic nature. The question is – If computers enable surveillance for such important and high risk information, what does that mean for us regular people? This begs the question; is it important for government bodies to regulate and analyse media and technological behavioural patterns or is this a burden on the process of democracy in Western nations? (Morozov 2013)
The case of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks revealing classified government information to the public displays a difficult dilemma. It raises the issue of, should governments be able to keep secrets from the public if they determine it is for the ‘greater good’. Of course there are instances that warrant the government from withholding such information for the sake of national security, but to what extent?
Sousveillance is key to this democratic change. Sousveillance is “the many watching the few” (Mann in Bollier, 2013), for example society watching institutional bodies/the government, as opposed to the traditional surveillance of society by institutional bodies. Fundamentally, sousveillance is only possible because of the technological changes that have impacted the media. Without user-generated content and the Web 2.0, sousveillance couldn’t be possible. These advancements have enhanced the capabilities of users to recognize the issues of their governing bodies. “Mann argues that sousveillance is an inevitable trend in technological societies and that, on balance, it ‘has positive survival characteristics,’” (Bollier, 2013). The balance that is referred to, meanings that this has created a more democratic nature where the governing bodies are more participatory, engaging and accountable for their actions.
Bollier, David (2013) ‘Sousveillance as a Responce to Surveillance’, David Bollier: news and perspectives on the commons, November 24, <http://bollier.org/blog/sousveillance-response-surveillance>
Morozov, Evgeny (2013) ‘The Real Privacy Problem’, MIT Technology Review, October 22, <http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/520426/the-real-privacy-problem/>
Styles, Catherine (2009) “A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’, <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>