Kamakshi Luthra/Tuba Ahmed
Quite an acclaimed academic especially for the research on digital technologies and their impact on everyday life practice, Dr. Anand Mitra in his lecture at the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance focused on how individuals are captured in the crucible of surveillance in the digital interface. To be exact, the focus was on the dual existence of human as an analog flesh-and-blood being and as a data point in the digital sphere. These flesh and blood beings, argues Mitra, are being commodified as multiple sets of saleable data and subjected to surveillance ad infinitum to retain the market value attached to them.
The surveillance unleashed by the monstrous coupling of the human and technology is argued to be more intricate in its interstice with the tentacles of advanced capitalism. Object- agent relationship is drawn by the speaker to explain the process of commodification of humans especially in the context of contemporary capitalism. The data-based surveillance is interpreted as the relationship between an agent and a subject, in which the individuals attain the subject position and technology serves as an agent for surveillance. Thus while redefining the idea of surveillance in the era of technology, Dr. Mitra referred to cellphones as data collection tools (agents) keeping a track of our doings (subjects) and storing this information in a cloud.
Looking into the key factors of surveillance, the lecture evinced the ways in which the forms, intensities and technologies of digital apparatus of capture sync with the data based surveillance culture embedded in a subject-agent relationship. This is not free of the power relations, rather the power leads to the control, in terms of the why, who, what and when aspects of the context and methods of surveillance.
Reminiscent of the flat ontology contra the hierarchical cosmological order, the lecture asserted that every object including the humans is commodified in the age of digital capitalism. In the same way, how objects of value christened as commodities are kept under observation, the possible aim of surveillance is to preserve the value of the commodity and eventually categorising these commodities by value.
(Dr. Anand Mitra is currently professor of Communications at Wake Forest University, USA)