Welcome to the ‘Our’ QR code portal! You might have arrived through the QR code on a poster situated on South Castle Street, Dundee. Or, you may have stumbled across the portal on the Twitter hashtag page #TheParadoxAndTheCreep. If you are not currently standing on the street in Dundee, you can find out more about this project on my website home page.
If you want to view, or contribute to, the expanded thoughts and discussion on Twitter, go to #TheParadoxAndTheCreep and click ‘latest’ in the menu to see the full tweet thread. All interactions on this hashtag will become part of the artwork. You do not need a Twitter account to view the hashtag page.
Surveillance: The Paradox And The Creep is a process-led artwork. The content will be released into the QR Code portals in stages.
This is partly to show the work in progress, but also to give viewers an opportunity to absorb the material and comment in #TheParadoxAndTheCreep Twitter hashtag.
This exhibition has ended in Dundee, but it will remain online.
Is surveillance a device that manufactures paranoia?
Six years ago, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a paper by Dr. Laura Elizabeth Pinto & Dr. Selena Nemorin which was inspired by Pinto’s short “Elf et Michelf’. See “Who’s the Boss? “The Elf on the Shelf” and the normalization of surveillance”. Pinot and Nemorin’s paper reveals another slant of the ‘surveillance paradox’ and ‘surveillance creep’; the psychological conditioning and social engineering of children.
In festive Foucauldian frankness, Dr. Laura Elizabeth Pinto’s short video ‘Elf et Michelf’ presents an imagined dialogue with Michelf himself and the ‘Elf on the Shelf’.
Elf et Michelf
Fast forward to the first week of December 2020, Dr. Corinne Gressang tweeted an excerpt from a conversation that she had with her sister about the controversial “Elf on the Shelf” doll & story book (it went unexpectedly viral).
Dr. Corinne Gressang’s tweet on Dec 4th 2020 read:
“Trying to convince my sister the the elf on the shelf is bad. Am I the only person who is totally against making children feel like the are constantly being watched???”
Dr. Corinne Gressang – “Elf on the shelf is foucauldian surveillance state. And please tell me your household won’t do that.”
Gressang ’s Sister – “It’s not that easy. How do you tell your kid the elf doesn’t exist when all of their friends in school have them”
Dr. Corinne Gressang – “Sure it is. Just don’t do the elf on the shelf. Say that you don’t have an elf assigned to your house because it’s not Bentham’s panopticon and Santa, much like Jesus is omniscient, and doesn’t need a little snitch sneaking around #SnitchesGetStiches […] This is a lesson about 1) Jesus 2) Snitches 3) and the growing surveillance /police state we willingly indoctrinate children to accept.”
One’s state of mind can be influenced, and shaped by, both the existence of surveillance and by the dominant societal attitudes towards those individuals who notice and think about surveillance. Often, people who pay attention to the surveillance infrastructure in their surroundings are branded as “just paranoid”. In his essay “The Politics of Paranoia: Paranoid Positioning and Conspiratorial Narratives in the Surveillance Society”, Professor David Harper provides a “nuanced” perspective on the subject of paranoia. He challenges the tired “dualistic” tropes that are often “reproduced in the work of surveillance researchers.”
In her article “What Constant Surveillance Does to Your Brain,” Kaleigh Rogers presents examples of how different kinds of surveillance techniques, used in various locations in the world, affect people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully protest and the right raise dissenting view points are all vital to enable democracy to function. In countries with despotic regimes, journalists, writers, academics and artists are often the targets of surveillance operations by the authorities. These situations sometimes lead to harassment, threats or violent bulling, and even assassinations. Joshua Franco (a senior research advisor and deputy director of Amnesty Tech at Amnesty International) raises concerns about the ways in which surveillance can cause self-censorship. He asserts that “[i]f you feel you’re being watched, you self-police, and this pushes people out of the public space.” See article Kaleigh Rogers “What Constant Surveillance Does to Your Brain,” Vice, Motherboard,November 14, 2018.
Freedom of Information requests surveilled and denied to UK journalists
“Between February 1971 and July 1973, President Richard Nixon secretly recorded 3,700 hours of his phone calls and meetings across the executive offices. Currently, approximately 3,000 hours of these tapes have been declassified, released, and made available to the public.”
But, the paranoia that drove Nixon to make audio recordings of all of the conversations that took place in the executive offices actually played a part in his downfall. See link to the Nixon Tapes archive.