Surveillance and the Power of the Digital Image


The readings and multimedia materials this week were EXCELLENT.  I especially enjoyed The Nine Eyes of Google Street View and the careful observations and philosophies of its author, Jon Rafman.  I was very touched by his desire to give significance to people and places who may feel insignificant, and using Google Street View recreates the feel that raw documentary photography once excited.  In a powerful summary of his process and this collection of images, the artist/author makes his intentions clear:

“The collections of Street Views both celebrate and critique the current world. To deny Google’s power over framing our perceptions would be delusional, but the curator, in seeking out frames within these frames, reminds us of our humanity. The artist/curator, in reasserting the significance of the human gaze within Street View, recognizes the pain and disempowerment in being declared insignificant.”

In an atmosphere flooded with artwork that insights only panic and distress in reaction to our surveillance, it is refreshing to see work that harnesses this surveillance (however frightening it may be) to validate and consider our humanity.

The article “Negative Dialectics in the Google Era: A Conversation with Trevor Paglen” by Jullian Stallabrass also addresses issues of surveillance in photography, but from a different point of view.  Instead of raising questions about the public under observance, Paglen’s work plays with what the public may not observe: CIA “black sites”, secret military operations, and classified spacecraft.  I’m now quite worried for Trevor’s safety. o.O

The Yes Men hijinks beautifully illustrate the power of the digital image.  My favorites used the Chevron campaign and the New York Post to communicate strong messages to the public.



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