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The Unknown Citizen by W H Auden - Essay Example

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Famous 20th century English poet, considered to be one of the masters of the Modernist Movement in literature. This poem bases itself on the theme of anonymity that is imposed on the ordinary citizen due to the increase in urbanization and its attendant evils. …
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The Unknown Citizen by W H Auden
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Download file to see previous pages It could even be the mobile phone which you thought was your most private means of communication. The techniques of surveillance (Surveillance literally means ‘to watch from above’), or the subtle art/science of prying into our private lives, have become so pervasive that today it has become a major topic of study under Culture Studies, the discipline that deals with popular culture and its related aspects including mass media and music.
In a surveillance society, gathering of personal data is made out to be vital for governance or even providing a fillip to the economy. The macabre nature of this development would be clear only when this is perceived as an evolution of ‘unsullied information’ that one gathered from one’s friend or neighbour for mutual care or out of concern. Of course, the official version is always that the collection of information is necessary for the protection of the rights of citizens including peaceful co-existence. Today, surveillance is an integral part of modern day living.
Interestingly, surveillance is not a monopoly weapon of the people in power. Now counter surveillance, or the practice of avoiding surveillance is also being increasingly practiced. It is only natural if one wishes to shy away from the secret gaze of his prurient household appliances. Inverse surveillance or sousveillance (a term coined by Steve Mann, Professor, University of Toronto) is about how the citizen ‘captures’ the government. Thus, when a man on the street records a cop bashing up a passer by without reason, it as an act of sousveillance and not insouciance. Two more types of surveillance that are becoming significant are clinical surveillance (the constant monitoring of the outbreak of a disease, esp. that of an infectious one) and equiveillance, or a proper blending of surveillance and sousveillance (Terms related to surveillance were taken from
Surveillance Society
David Lyon, surveillance theorist and Professor, Queens University, asserts that the problem of surveillance is not merely the matter of differentiation of space between the 'private' and the 'public' of a citizen or an individual. It is, more significantly, connected with human rights and social justice. In an interview conducted by Alessandro Ludovico (, Lyon says that "Today's surveillance involves 'social sorting' and calls for practices that are sensitive to who is being sorted for what purposes and with what consequences." In the name of surveillance for social security, groups which are not politically correct could also be brought under gaze, he says in his book Surveillance Society : Monitoring Everyday Life (Open University press, 2001). In the same book he refers to the concept of the panopticon, originally introduced by Bentham and later popularised by Foucault, has now become part of our lives but nonethless is something to be gotten over. The uniqueness of the book is that it does not tend to distract the reader through put-on gravity. The author's comprehensive knowledge of the subtle and yet complex systems of surveillance is often overlaid with a sense of humour: Are there really godlike operators who can control the city using a mouse and a keyboard Such absolute power is scarcely visible in practice. The sheer mass of data would be impossible to handle . Perhaps, it is this approach that makes Lyon's work gel with the 'murderous innocence' of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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