As I’m writing this, I can feel my hands reaching beside me, just to merely tap my phone’s screen even when I know that I’ve refreshed and re-refreshed my Twitter and Instagram timeliness and replied to all of my iMessages. Just knowing that this black box is beside me — the magic portal to unimaginable inter-dimensional worlds — and caressing it from time to time is comforting.
What’s wrong with me?
Our fall semester began with racial injustice being thrust into the national dialogue, news of worsening climate catastrophe, an election that carries the weight of our collective futures and an economy in shambles — all in the middle of a global pandemic with no end in sight.
As these important issues are on the forefront of our minds, there’s one creeping component missing from our conversations: the rise of surveillance that's increasingly infringing on our collective rights.
Factors like the abrupt shift to virtual learning and digital spaces being more safe than in-person meet ups for activism have made our ever-reliance on technology steadily increase — making our dependence on the privatized digital public sphere paramount to almost every relationship in our lives.
While social media is a useful tool, especially to share information, it’s important to constantly be aware of the ways that social media and other forms of technology are actively being used against us in all ways that are truly undemocratic and downright scary.
Think about it. Like, really, really think about it. The technology we use daily is absolutely not what many of us may think it is. Sure, Instagram is a great way to post my cute selfies and Facebook is fun to catch up with family members, but at what cost?
The Intercept, in partnership with Rutgers—New Brunswick, is holding the free, virtual event “Surveillance in an Era of Pandemic and Protest” on Sept. 21. Rutgers’ own Naomi Klein will host a conversation between Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” and Simone Browne, author of “Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness.”
As someone who is deeply interested and concerned about what Big Tech’s role in our future looks like, this event is giving me goosebumps. The ultimate trifecta of legendary women who have theorized and studied surveillance from multiple different lenses, in conversation with one another — can we agree that’s baddie energy?
If you haven’t taken Klein’s class or haven’t had the chance to read her work on the intersection between Big Tech and surveillance, I’ll quickly describe it to you: It’s like taking everything you thought you ever knew about those supposed Silicon Valley sweethearts and innocent social media applications, and then setting it on fire, over and over again.
Browne's book, "Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness," links modern policing to slavery, explaining how policing of Black lives has led to the ways of surveilling people in the present-day.
Zuboff is the academic who coined the term, "surveillance capitalism," which describes how our data is being used as a commodity bought and sold in Silicon Valley and other corporations.
I remember hearing about figures like Mark Zuckerberg throughout middle school and high school as revered gods in gray hoodies and jeans that harnessed the limitless potentials of the American Dream. Now I see Big Tech gatekeepers like Zuckerberg as nothing short of monsters.
A common theme that many activists have been saying is to do the work outside of sharing resources and information. For any movement, it’s important to read and learn more, especially from those who have spent their lives dedicated to the subject. Here is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the best about what surveillance will look like for our futures, and how will it affect the activism we do in the future.
As one of Klein’s devoted students and an increasingly wary social media user, I for one will take notes and listen to the important conversation these thinkers will share with us this Monday.