Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Surveillance society or how wrong you were Mr. Orwell

By Max Calloway

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MCT

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Why are you sitting reading this? Print is dead. Haven’t you heard?

Everything that I will tell you in the next 783 words can be tracked down and sourced on the Internet. Every statistic I’ll reference has entire articles dedicated to their break down. Some of these ideas have even been discussed to death in full-length books.

But, if you’ve made it this far, then you’re resigned to whatever it is that I’m about to say. Maybe you’ve read one of my previous articles before and so, today, now, when you see my name you think, “Hey, Max Calloway. I like what this man has to say.” And you decide to read it.

This is also why you may or may not depend on commentary from, say, CNN, the Huffington Post or – depending on your commitment to accuracy – Fox News.

You’ve grown up with Wolf Blitzer or Sean Hannity on that little TV your mom kept in the corner of the kitchen. These are the grizzled journalists, embodiments of factual integrity. They are backed by teams of dedicated and underpaid reporters out in the field. They can be trusted.

Or at least that was the idea, our parents’ notion.

Ours is a new generation though. We are next in line, the Y to the suburbinated X. We grew up connected and learned to produce our own content. We are suspicious of top down media because we haven’t ever seen the top. We’ve been below it, creating our own content through the widespread dispersal of cheap, digital recording equipment. We don’t even rely on tradition to create anymore. Gone are the trade-skills of documentary photographers or publishers.

The 99 percent are their own media conglomerate. Any lingering doubts were laid to rest by the eyewitness videos that flooded the Internet after the police attack at the University of California, Davis. But, what was so surprising about the video wasn’t the disregard for human decency illustrated so well by John Pike’s now iconic photographs, but the sheer number of tablets and camera phones hovering above the crowd – an Orwellian inversion.

According to a 2011 Pew Internet & American Life project study, 35 percent (nearly one third) of all Americans own a smartphone.  Thanks to the law of Accelerating Returns we’re now more connected than we’ve ever been in history. Yet we’re in a panic.

We’re on a backwards slide when it comes to human-to-human interaction. The deluge of information available at the click of a button is making us, as some critics maintain, dumber. I don’t buy it.

Every new leap forward requires an adjustment period and we’ve been taking exponential bounds. Before I could figure out how to personalize my MySpace with HTML I signed up for Facebook, learned about CSS. Blogs are too cumbersome, solution: micro-blogging. The iPhone doesn’t support Flash! Well, Flash is dead, hello jquery.

This is how we grew up – every couple of years adjusting to some new, quicker way to communicate, no end in sight. But it was a lie. Now, on a color-coded map of global income equality, we are as red as China, those Communists.

We know the ins and outs of every new piece of social media to pop up on the market. We are no longer bound to outdated, hierarchical modes information. We know how to watch government and business leaders try to subvert the frontier we continue to develop every day. It isn’t a perfect system. There are huge lakes of red herrings and caches of snake oil, but it’s a matter of scale really – think of the full scope of the Internet.

But with cases like UC Davis, we have the opportunity to view an event as if we were there. Of course there’s the chance the footage could be doctored or edited. But with the amount of documentary redundancy available thanks to our smartphones, we can now watch an event as it happened – we can form our own opinions of the actors involved, of the ethical questions raised.

Lament the death of art if you need to grieve. Please worry about the future when access to cheap fuel renders our contemporary luxuries crippled prosthetics for appendages that have forgotten how to craft and build. But don’t worry about Generation Y and its communicative abilities. Occupy Wall Street is showing just how much communicating we can do when we get out from behind our profiles and playlists and start reporting.

Max Calloway is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Surveillance society or how wrong you were Mr. Orwell”

  1. Hank on November 23rd, 2011 7:52 pm

    Excellent.

    [Reply]

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