Media as a Surveillance Practices

Throughout this blog, I will explain and analyze the surveillance practices in a changing media base by comparing two types of media dynamics.

When we think of media as surveillance practices, an initial observation is that broadcast media connect equally well to democratic and totalitarian societies (Hartley, Burgess and Bruns, 2013). The media at that time was largely controlled by the government and powerful company as a very limited number of people can appear on the screen or the radio to present opinions, beliefs, and perspective on different issues. The government control what to show to the mass audience by selecting certain types of content, using particular ways of portraying lifestyles, and including or excluding opinions and beliefs. Thus, the many were watching the few, and the latte were in control of the media and the power of broadcasting is a one-sided propaganda tool for the totalitarian regime.

An example mentioned in the book to illustrate this latter understanding of broadcast media as a surveillance practice is the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. This public-service organization was founded in 1925 and is the largest media enterprise and the only national broadcaster at that time. The monopoly last for 50 years till the introduction of Danish TV2 in 1988.

There is a properly metaphor that if broadcast media can be described as ‘ the many watching the few’ then the social media might be described as ‘the many performing for the few’ in the sense that social media is characterized by mass participation and communication in egocentric networks(boys and Ellison, 2007).

People’s media usage have been largely changed with the introduction of the internet, as a range of new platforms for communication have appeared. Many of these new media platforms offer the possibility to customize or personalize the media experience, and they allow for new ways of engagement as well as extended social interactions. From a surveillance perspective, social media has brought about changes that call for a post-Orwellian understanding of practices.

Danah talked about the issue that teens living with surveillance under their parents in his book: The social lives of networked teens, illustrating with this fellow anecdote(boyd, d. 2014). A father shuttling around his daughter and her friend. They are talking, and Dad interrupts to give his opinion; the girls roll their eyes and start texting. When Dad comments to his daughter that she’s being rude for texting on her phone rather than talking to her friend, the daughter replies:’But, Dad, we’re texting each other. I don’t want you to hear what I’m saying.’

To conclude, these egocentric networks offer the users the possibility to share a wide variety of types of informations about anything and everything. Considering that online social networking practices involve sharing of personal information as a central activity, it becomes pertinent to think about surveillance in new ways.


Albrechtslund, A. (2013). ‘New Media and Changing Perceptions of Surveillance’ in J. Hartley, J. Burgess and A. Bruns (eds) A Companion to New Media Dynamics. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 311–21.

boyd, d. and Ellison, N. (2007) ‘‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.’’ Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1). http://jcmc.indiana .edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html.

boyd, d. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 54–76.

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