Jamileh Kadivar is a student in the Social Media MA at the University of Westminster.
As a person who has studied Political science before and is familiar with some terms and aspects of politics, finding a way to make a connection between my previous knowledge and experience with new studies of social media seemed difficult at the beginning.
At first, I thought that I had started in a completely new era with new terms which are completely different from what I knew. In some aspects this view was correct and I felt like Alice in Wonderland, but I found the missing linkage between these two different eras in “power”. I learnt about surveillance, especially government surveillance, internet surveillance and counter-surveillance in social media, and I understood that social media can be useful for political analysis too.
“Power” plays a key role in politics and many scholars believe politics is a science of power; power to control others. In social media, and the internet and web 2.0 also, power is an important factor. Boersma has stressed many writers and scholars believe that it is important to go beyond dystopian and utopian approaches and see the internet as a field that is shaped by power and conflicting interest. (2012, 300) New media restructured the way panoptic power works and is executed. Castells believes internet surveillance is a technology of control (Castells 2001, 171).
As Fuchs et al. have stressed "the working of web 2.0" is based on the collection, storage, usage, and analysis of a huge amount of personal data. Therefore discussing privacy, - and surveillance- implications of web 2.0 and political, economic, and the cultural dimensions of privacy and surveillance on web 2.0 becomes an important task (2012, 5). Many people may think that only citizens in authoritarian regimes are living under surveillance and all aspects of their lives are under the gaze and control of the police and security forces. But, nowadays it is obvious that surveillance without informed contest is pervasive and universal in the real and virtual world. Mathiesen has mentioned what is new now is surveillance that is hidden, unseen, and impossible to trace. (2012, xix) The internet leads to more surveillance of various forms. (Boersma 2012, 305)
The more we know about surveillance, the more we fear and worry about our privacy and also our security. I was triggered many times by these questions: who has access to my information and the contents of my platforms? How is this information collected, classified and sorted? What aspects of this information are used by them? Why do they use my private information? Who has access to my information in different platforms? And for whom is this information being collected?
And finally, my questions are being led back to the key term that I mentioned in the beginning; “power” which is hidden in the hands of the governments or big companies. We prepare contents free for them and are happy that they have created these platforms freely for us!
Fuchs, Christian et al. (2012) Internet and Surveillance, London: Routledge.
Castells, Manuel. (2001) The Internet Galaxy. Oxford: Oxford university press.