Sunday, 21 September 2014

Rationally paranoid

According to Harper, certain paranoid behaviours can be rationalised in certain contexts. For example: people who belong to minority groups may express "paranoid" beliefs about society, but given the systematic persecution that minority groups face on a daily basis, these beliefs are perhaps less paranoid and more reasonable conclusions drawn from personal experience. Even websites that use surveillance methods for their users' supposed benefit, such as dating sites, do not necessarily store their users' personal information responsibly, as with this case in Texas.

Modern media such as facebook and instagram ensure that it is not only minorities and disgruntled online dating folk who have reason to believe they are being monitored and watched in ways that make them uncomfortable; Andrejevic's example of "Room Raiders" suggests that anybody could be targeted by surveilling forces at work in society - and that we are the ones targeting ourselves. It seems that we not only enjoy watching other people being exposed (often with humiliating results and an end-goal of public shaming for humorous effect), but we actually enjoy being exposed as well.

It may be tempting to conclude that the modern media-savvy netizen is not so much paranoid as exhibitionist, one who bares their soul openly with no thought to the consequences. But this ignores the fact that our online personas are carefully constructed. This is something that Andrejevic suggests we are very savvy about, the constructedness of virtual self, and that we are constantly aware of this norm of image-control when online. Rather than a case of paranoia or exhibitionism, I would say it is having a sense of control: we enjoy it when we feel able to mediate ourselves online, and feel upset when the information we want control over is in somebody else's hands.

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