What if I told you someone was watching you? At this very moment…

Mattel's Video Girl Barbie

It takes a lot to make me uneasy. A couple months ago, I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) and heard a story about Mattel’s Video Girl Barbie, which piqued my interest considering the doll prompted an FBI warning. You can listen to the Morning Edition story here. It made me incredibly uneasy because innocent play seems strange all of sudden.

Technology not only moves us faster into a higher and more sophisticated level of surveillance, it almost dictates our behaviors and actions (on a daily basis). The Video Girl Barbie is just one aspect of how technology permeates through the ages. To play Devil’s Advocate though before angry mothers start bashing on the creator of the Video Barbie, many phones can capture video and some have HD capabilities. Almost anyone can produce some record and/or documentation of anyone. Considering that my 4 year old cousin knows how to navigate around an iPhone (i.e., the iTot Generation), well, a doll isn’t going to stop anyone from voyeuristic tendencies but it, certainly, has you thinking, doesn’t it? Growing up, my mother limited my phone usage and television viewing. These days, I’ll go out with my niece or goddaughter and I’m convinced they would be able to identify all the dents on their phones before they notice my new haircut. Being in my early 30s (I still consider myself very young), we fall on the cusp of appreciating chain letters, pager code language, and passing notes (not texts messages). As ubiquitous as phones have become, the mobile phone consumer now has the power of surveillance in their own hands. Vigilante surveillance? Goodness, now we have a taxonomy of surveillance! Insane, I tell ya!

There’s a lot of ground to cover here so I’ll just say that all this is prompted by Bay Area Curator and Writer, Hanna Regev‘s, upcoming work on Surveillance. I’ll post more but here’s a little poll based on Ms. Ragev’s questions regarding the topic at hand.

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

4 thoughts on “What if I told you someone was watching you? At this very moment…”

  1. I didn’t realize how conflicted I was on this issue until I toggled back and forth between Intrude on our privacy and Provide a benefit to citizens. I can understand why artists would use surveillance as a jumping off point for art: I do much the same when writing fiction. But those of us who engage in this kind of analytical observation easily miss out on real interaction.

    1. Great point about missing out on the real interaction. I think surveillance is a complicated issue because in this day and age, it almost seems necessary. So much of our lives is monitored as it is (i.e., internet usage, consumption habits, etc.). Everything is scrutinized but art as a starting point offers that differing perspective that forces people to think about how they exist within a community. Thanks again for always being so engaged and engaging. 🙂

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