From CCTV to GPS: How Media Art Reflects Development of Surveillance Society


Session Title:

  • Technology, Public and Spaces in the City

Presentation Title:

  • From CCTV to GPS: How Media Art Reflects Development of Surveillance Society




  • Surveillance is seen as one of the most important features of postmodern society. Many authors (Foucault, Deleuze, Virilio, Lyon to name a few) has analyzed influence of surveillance technology on development of media society showing how changes in technology result in new perception and understanding of the role surveillance plays in culture of late XX and XXI century. As new forms of technology appeared shifts in the paradigm of surveillance society could be observed. Oppressive society of control and punishment has turned into society, in which we face “democratization of exhibitionism” (Virilio) what leads to notion of surveillance as “spectacle of entertainment” (Weibel). No wonder that the issue of observation, control, tracking, detecting, measuring, gathering, storing and processing information has been undertaken by many contemporary artists. However, complex relationship between changes of social order and development of new technologies is reflected especially in technology-based art.

    Since the beginning of video art the issue of surveillance has been an important theme but at the same time surveillance technology has formed a material background of media art. As David Rokeby observes, surveillance could be seen as the foundation of any art, which involves the observer into an active participation. Hence, surveillance is both theme and method of media art with video installations, interactive installations, and net art as the most significant examples. The focus of the paper is on analyzing various ways of using surveillance technology in media art. I will try to show how choice of certain technology influence artistic discourse in terms of form and content. But, at the same time, I will analyze subversive strategies by which artists deconstruct dominant mode of thinking about surveillance. By doing so art practice will be shown as critical voice in debate concerning cultural effects of expansion of surveillance technologies.