Undressing with the Lights On: Surveillance and The Naked Society in a Digital Era

Specht, D. 2017. Undressing with the Lights On: Surveillance and The Naked Society in a Digital Era. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 12 (3), pp. 78-90.

TitleUndressing with the Lights On: Surveillance and The Naked Society in a Digital Era
AuthorsSpecht, D.
Abstract

In a year when the United States, under Trump, has scrapped their Internet Privacy Law (Lee, 2017), all the while decrying, in an ill-informed manor, wiretapping (MacAskill, 2017); the UK’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has called for an equally ill-informed backdoor to WhatApp (Haynes, 2017); and German parents are told to destroy their children’s dolls amid spying fears (Oltermann, 2017), it perhaps seems strange to turn to a book published in 1964 to help understand the world around us. While it is important to recognize that the world is somewhat different to the 1960’s, and that Snowden, in particular, shed a new light on the way in which the war on terror has driven securitization (Lyon, 2015). To really to fully understand the modern surveillance state, it is imperative to examine the ongoing conditions of its birth (Jorden, 2015). Huxley, Orwell, and Foucault classically provide the foundation for much of the historical narratives in surveillance studies (Marx, 2016), but the 1960s provided a political climate that would ensure surveillance and privacy would become deeply embedded in our capitalist society and commercial social media platforms (Dwyer, 2016). Eisenhower had solidified the notion of the military-industrial complex in the minds of a nation through his farewell address in 1961; George Axelrod’s neo-noir Cold War thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, with its brainwashing, false memories and stark politics, hit cinemas a year later, bringing McCarthyism to the silver screen. Then, within a matter of months, the breaking of the Cambridge Five spy ring, and Kim Philby’s defection to the USSR provided a real life Cold War thriller the likes of which Hollywood could only dream. It was against this backdrop, and the extreme right wing politics of Barry Goldwater, which dominated the 1964 Presidential race, that Packard published The Naked Society. So, while the internet and concerns about Google and Facebook’s privacy agreements were a long way from Packard’s reality, the past was not an innocent place, and it is perhaps because of this that Packard’s 1964 book, The Naked Society, reads with more than an air of day-to-day familiarity.

KeywordsSurveillance, Privacy, Packard, Digital
JournalWestminster Papers in Communication and Culture
Journal citation12 (3), pp. 78-90
ISSN1744-6716
Year2017
PublisherUniversity of Westminster Press
Accepted author manuscriptWPCC_Naked Society.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.16997/wpcc.268
Publication dates
Published31 Oct 2017
LicenseCC BY 4.0

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