Public Intimacy and the New Face (Book) of Surveillance: The Role of Social Media in Shaping Contemporary Dataveillance

Public Intimacy and the New Face (Book) of Surveillance: The Role of Social Media in Shaping Contemporary Dataveillance

Lemi Baruh, Levent Soysal
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch035
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In recent years, social media have become an important avenue for self-expression. At the same time, the ease with which individuals disclose their private information has added to an already heated debate about the privacy implications of interactive media. This chapter investigates the relationship between disclosure of personal information in social media and two related trends; the increasing value of subjective or private experience as a social currency and the evolving nature of automated dataveillance. The author argues that the results of the extended ability of individuals to negotiate their identity through social media are contradictory. The information revealed to communicate the complexity of one’s identity becomes an extensive source of data about individuals, thereby contributing to the functioning of a new regime of surveillance.
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According to Barnes (2006), social media is an all-encompassing term that describes loosely organized online applications through which individuals can create personas and communicate with each other. Especially since 2003, social network sites (such as MySpace, Orkut, Facebook, and LinkedIn) have become extremely popular. For example, in 2007, Facebook had close to 100 million and MySpace had more than 100 million unique visitors (, 2007). Weblogs or blogs are another form of widely used social media. By the end of 2007, there were an estimated 67 million blogs worldwide (Rappaport, 2007).

This rising popularity of social media, within which individuals reveal minute details of their lives, is closely related to the transformation of society’s expectations about what constitutes an acceptable form of information. Noting this transformation in individuals’ expectations about the type of truth that the media should make available, several commentators suggest that an important characteristic of current culture is the elevation of individualism around mid-1960s and the subsequent rise of the subjective and intimate experience of individuals as the guarantor of truth (Cavender, 2004; Corner, 2002). Commenting on this transformation, social theorist Beck (1994) points out that there has been a shift in individuals’ relationship with institutions. Accordingly, whereas in early modernity, meaning and identity were grounded on somewhat loyal reliance on institutions and structures, starting with late 20th century, the locus of meaning shifted to the individual. The self became the primary agent of meaning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social media: The concept of social media refers to online applications and platforms through which individuals can create and distribute content and communicate with each other.

Dataveillance: The concept of dataveillance refers to the application of information technologies to monitor individuals’ activities by investigating the data trail they leave through their activities.

Public Intimacy: Public intimacy suggests an outward move to locate personal matters in the public domain. The emphasis is on the shared discursive spaces of public engagement, rather than inviting spaces of the cultural or personal kind. In other words, public discourses and expressions, even in their most formalized discursive modes, constitute and conjure intimate connections.

Contextual Integrity: Nissenbaum (1998) developed the concept of privacy as contextual integrity to propose a normative framework that evaluates the flow of information about individuals. Accordingly, given the multifaceted nature of individuals’ identities, contextual integrity is violated when the informational norms associated with a specific social relationship are breached.

Social Network Sites: Social network sites are web-based systems that enable end-users to create online profiles, form virtual networks or associations with other users, and view other individuals’ profiles.

Interactive Media: Interactive media is an umbrella term describing communication media that allow the two-way flow of information between content users and producers.

Data Mining: Data mining refers to a technologically driven process of using algorithms to analyze data from multiple perspectives and extract meaningful patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

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