Social Media and the Anonymous Society

There is little doubt that social media use has become ubiquitous in modern societies. So much so that it is almost impossible not to have some sort of online presence. With just a persons name you can find out an amazing amount of information, and with face recognition software, we will soon see the disappearance of the anonymous society. But is all this necessarily a bad thing?

Enter the Fixers

Currently there doesn’t seem to be a week that someone isn’t caught out doing something deplorable by social media; such as the Starbucks Arrest or the Racist Lawyer Rant. In the past both of these, and many more incidents, would have gone unnoticed, brushed under the carpet of our anonymous society. But now they are viewed, shared and judged by a social media consortium.

One additional aspect of incidents such as these, is that it helps others share their stories, and we are reminded that sometimes these are more the norm rather than the unusual. It can demonstrate a point of view from the outside of a persons social network.

Crime & Punishment

With social media being the judge and jury to these crimes one question remains, who is the executioner? For this I rely on the adage, live by the sword, die by the sword. Many of the punishments dealt out are self imposed, or reflected back onto the parties by social media. Starbucks held ‘anti-bias training‘ closing stores to do so, and The Lawyer has lost contracts and had his business rating lowered by angry consumers. The outcomes for both of these incidents will be different, one will do something and make changes while the other will most likely try to ride it out in hiding.

What about Freedom?

Some might say that freedom of speech is vital to a society regardless of size. I believe this is true, but not freedom from consequence.

The way that information is being created and shared on a daily basis. It is becoming harder and harder to keep things inside a circle of tolerance. The people in these examples have had their opinions and ideas festered and protected by those they surrounded themselves with. While it may not have been done on purpose, it has been the outcome. But now with social media, it is much easier to show people the effects of what they say and how they act; especially to people and communities of limited voice.

Social Media Gets Results

The fear of being outed on social media can keep people from doing things that they know is wrong. Everyday in the park, across the road from my house people are littering (car batteries was the latest). I wonder how fast it would stop using a camera and social media feed to expose the culprits?

Feature Image: Ryko naktys by Zoi Koraki (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Surveillance at the Royal Melbourne Show

Caitlyn Putt
Ellis Kolias
Robert Dean Williams

When we first began brainstorming ideas for this project, we knew we wanted to create something that had a comic flair, similar to parody newsmedia programs. Our group wanted to focus on both the utopian and dystopian views on surveillance in a real life situation and how individuals views alter between ‘the dream’ and ‘the extreme’ when discussing Big Brother.

The concept that we came to produce was our first and sole idea. Once Rob introduced it to us, we knew we wanted to do it and we were very enthusiastic about it. Our goal was to create a short news documentary on the issues surrounding a new surveillance product that would be released at the 2016 Royal Melbourne Show. The small GPS tracking device would be placed into tickets (pre-purchased and those bought on the day) and would track patrons as they moved about the show. The tracking device would additionally pair up with a fictional purpose built Royal Melbourne Show App. allowing users to track one another throughout the showgrounds and assist in the social experience of the event. We would have a news reporter presenting the bulletin (Rob), both a reporter covering the events at the show who also doubles as a guest (Ellis) and a two person interview between experts who agree and disagree on this new device (Caitlyn). We believed by all being in the video, it created an even workload and made our video more interesting to watch.

Although this video may appear as if we are falling directly into the ‘positive’ basket when it comes to video surveillance; that was not the intent. It demonstrates that while there are extreme views for either side of the argument and it probably comes down to what an individual feels. As comical as ‘Dawn’s’ tin foil hat might be, equally the high-mindedness of the ‘Caitlyn’ character is just as comical but is just more subtle. Does anyone really believe that this character is creating this thing for honest altruistic purposes? Doubtful, but it does demonstrate how specifically invasive surveillance technology is sold to the general population. Like most things, it is who sells it better that usually gets the nod.
The part of the newsreader was to very briefly introduce the topic, and represent a neutral ground for the discussion. There was also elements that showcased how news media is just one more venue for surveillance and shouldn’t really be trusted. This is demonstrated when it cuts back to the studio from the field report; even though this has been done for comedic reasons it poses well to prove a point. The lamenting comments at the end of the video are to resonate how society has come to accept the surveillance we endure daily; put simply we have accepted it.

The live broadcast from the Melbourne show was used to demonstrate (in true A Current Affair re-enactment style) how the technology will work. It presents the tracking feature from a utopian perspective and how it can actually benefit those who go to the show, as depicted in the skit by the mother being able to find her lost son who wandered off. The original idea for this part was that as all three characters were portrayed by one person it would come across as very silly, but humourous. Unfortunately, while experimenting with some new film and editing techniques, the desired effects were not exactly achieved due to issues with lighting but it is evident to see what was intended. Although presented in a very exaggerated and humorous way, it was intended to inform audiences that this new feature can assist them as well as the organisers of the show.

When preparing for this video, we made sure to keep contact with each other on a regular basis. Caitlyn made the first contact by email and we just continued to update each other on every idea we had in between. We organised to create a brainstorming document, which was initiated by Rob on Google Docs, researched for the best communication apps for messaging each other and worked out a time where we could all Skype and elaborate on ideas and delegate tasks. We found that Google Hangouts was the best way to stay in touch with each other and this application has proved beneficial to our overall communication as a group. In addition to Google Hangouts, the direct messages service in Twitter was also used. We utilised a free online project management tool called Freedcamp to make checklists of tasks we wanted to complete; creating deadlines for ourselves and the group as a whole. While it was a new media unfamiliar, it was beneficial by listing the tasks we had to complete and organising them under the level priority eg. low, medium, high. The best feature of Freedcamp is that it allowed us to assign certain tasks to certain people and this allowed for the delegation of tasks to be very precise. One of the problems encountered with Freedcamp was learning its idiosyncrasies in a short amount of time, and some of the email reminders were a tad excessive, but that is all a part of the learning process.

Some problems encountered with the online collaboration include scheduling meeting times. Often, however, there were many impromptu meetings, where a comment or suggestion would be made using Google Hangouts and then a general discussion about the tasks would follow as we happened to all online at the same time. To make the schedule more certain, we could have used something similar to Google Calendar where we could all have put the times we are free into it and then available timeslots would have been more apparent. But as everyone’s availability was quite open a scheduler such as this was not really needed.

For filming, meeting up and completing this together was not an option, due to the location of participants. It was discussed who would do the editing, and which programs we had access to; we operated more on a volunteer basis for editing and that worked well, files were shared using Google Hangout. Filming at different locations and times was reflective in the final piece; with some scenes appearing much lighter or clearer than others. As discussed earlier it was decided that we all include elements of filming, and while having one person in charge of the film may have presented a more polished video, we felt that this went against the aims of the assignment.

Gamify your Health – Running from Surveillance

2013 Mother's Day Run and Walk by Sangudo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
2013 Mother’s Day Run and Walk by Sangudo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/

Fitness trackers are everywhere now; or about ‘1 in 5’ (Werner 2016). The little little blinky light things that have invaded people’s wrists and forced their ways into the lives of many. They have become a mark of the active class; a society of people determined to let others know that – I am healthy!

Like them or not, (and I love mine!) they are here to stay:

Incentive-based apps and websites are a growing segment of the overall health gaming market, estimated at $1.2 billion. (Shah 2013)

All fitness trackers, will count steps as a basic pedometer, but some include GPS and Bluetooth connectivity (compare Fitbit). They can link with your phone and give an unprecedented amount of information about where you have been and what you have been doing. This information can be published on the internet, sometimes without the expressed permission. When Fitbit was first launched users accounts were set to publish by default (this has changed now #lessonlearnt) and many users were not aware that this was happening (Matyszczyk 2011); resulting in some interesting – or appalling – information being made available. Even though the accounts were published without names it may be possible with some savvy searching to match the details with an actual person!

Even with the total ability to keep the information generated by this technology private, just about everyone has a few friends that share everything that it generates, Fusco describes the sharing of these events on social media platforms as:

In these spaces, institutionalized and individual practices work together to fabricate spaces that represent the healthy athletic body and a set of individuals who are deeply invested, for the most part, in reproducing themselves as executors of health. (Fusco 2006, n.p.)

Nokia Lumia 920 - Caledos Runner by N i c o l a (CC BY 2.0)
Nokia Lumia 920 – Caledos Runner by N i c o l a (CC BY 2.0)

So we can see that, through that act of sharing a person can be seen in the light that they wish to be known; this is the general basis for the self-moderated social media platform; we share the best bits and dump the junk. This is where social media can be a powerful tool, it has the capacity to incite behaviors from others, some times good and sometimes bad. Arroyo and Brunner examined the effects of seeing fitness tracker activity posts in social media and their findings were that:

…individuals who reported seeing more of their friends’ fitness posts on [Social Network Services] reported engaging in higher levels of healthy behaviors, however they also reported making higher levels of self-disparaging comments and being highly dissatisfied with their bodies as well. (Arroyo and Brunner 2016, p.244)

From this we can note that the sharing of information creates a certain image of that person, although it does create negative thoughts in the mind of the viewer. But how does all of this relate in real life? We see trackers on people wrists daily, and even if they are not actually doing anything is the fact that we have seen the posts of others and the fact that we know what they do enough to make us think better of that person? Is it just another piece of the active wear puzzle?

Ha. No, it is time for bed not time for a walk, Fitbit. by RK Bentley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Ha. No, it is time for bed not time for a walk, Fitbit. by RK Bentley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Another way to look at the act of sharing fitness tracking data, is gamification. The ability to share and compare creates competition. The sharing of data (scores) and the winning of workout goals is just about the most motivation people need to use the technology – after all what is stopping a person for just going for a walk; the fitness tracker adds the elements of a game and as such the desire to compete with others.

Is it possible that instead of just being influenced and feeling like a lesser person for not working out, that we just feel left out of the competition? Could the fitness tracker and all of its associated web sites just have become the virtual locker room?

The locker room is, spatially and discursively, a modern and disciplined space, which is imbued with discourses of power. (Fusco 2006 n.p.)

Like most things it is all in the interpretation. When looking at the fitness data generated by another, we can feel guilt, jealousy, admiration and envy. But that is the bane of the social environment – and in reality it is not something that has been created by social media; it just enhanced it.

Beyond everything the point to any fit tracker is industry and we are driven to strive for what may be considered the social normality. These companies collect data, perform analysis and possibly sell the information to others so personalised marketing can happen. Recently I purchased (was gifted) a Samsung fitness tracker, and twice in the sign up section I had to avoid ticking the receive marketing check boxes. So is it really about getting fit, or just another way to track and catalog us into marketable beings?


Arroyo, A, & Brunner, S R 2016, ‘Negative body talk as an outcome of friends’ fitness posts on social networking sites: body surveillance and social comparison as potential moderators’, Journal of Applied Communication Research, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 216-235.

Fusco, C 2006, ‘Inscribing healthification: governance, risk, surveillance and the subjects and spaces of fitness and health’, Health and Place, vol. 12, pp. 65-78.

Matyszczyk, C 2011, ‘TMI? Some Fitbit users’ sex stats on Google search’, CBS Interactive, retrieved 8/Sept/2016, <>.

Shah, A 2013, ‘For better health, try turning fitness into a game’, Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Nov 25. <>.

Werner, J 2016, ‘Do fitness trackers really work?’, ABC, retrieved 14/Sept/2016, <>.


Data Filled Cookies – Online Digital Marketing

fortune cookie (365-262) by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)
fortune cookie (365-262) by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

The minute you go to a website, depending if the website uses them, and look at content a cookie is saved on your computer. Generally, they do nothing – maybe hold a small amount of data that is used to remember who you are. But sometimes they can be used to construct an online image of who you are and what you like to do, and in this case they stop being harmless – depending on your point of view.

In discussing the potential of digital marketing Damien Ryan says that there is:

…an evolution in the way people are using technology. It’s about harnessing the distributed collaborative potential of the internet to connect and communicate with other like-minded people wherever they are: creating communities and sharing knowledge, thoughts, ideas and dreams. (Ryan 2014, p.14)

Sentiment Analysis for C-of-the-ACM by Charis Tsevis (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sentiment Analysis for C-of-the-ACM by Charis Tsevis (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By this he means people are sorting themselves. They are choosing what they like and selecting things that they like to do. We are putting ourselves into the box, making it easier to sell us items. Online marketing experts do this with the collection of cookies, known as third-party cookies.

In theory, these cookies could be used to track visitor behaviour across multiple websites, building up a picture of user browsing behaviour as they surf the web. (Ryan 2014, p.74)

Searls elaborates by stating that:

Advertisers don’t have to build this capability for themselves: they rely on ad delivery networks that claim they can show relevant ads to people no matter which website they’re visiting. (2016, p.77)

Is this bad though? Is there really an impact besides what advertising we are seeing? Ramlakhan explains:

Third-party cookies are unethical and a breach of privacy because they invade one’s privacy by tracking an individual’s movement on the web, they are not consented for by the computer user nor is the user aware that their every movement on the web is being tracked, and they allow personal and private information to be used for marketing needs and possibly sold to businesses, thus treating an individual as a commodity and exploiting an individual’s personal information. (Ramlakhan 2011, p.60)

Do I feel like my privacy has been invaded when I see a targeted add pop up on Facebook? Not really, it’s more of a joke, that some company is going to pay Facebook money to advertise something to me that I have already found.

I still see ads for this, and I feel bad. I mean I like the ABC shop and perhaps constantly seeing the ads will keep it fresh in my mind. Perhaps it will eventually entice me back to the website and I will inadvertently spend my money where as otherwise it would have been forgotten.

Hang on a minute… Curse you online marketing!! #deletecookies

i like my sister. by Miriam Pittioni (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
i like my sister. by Miriam Pittioni (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tene makes a really interesting comment in that:

Every day, millions of users provide Google with unfettered access to their interests, needs, desires, fears, pleasures, and intentions. Many users do not realize that this information is logged and maintained in a form which can facilitate their identification. (Tene 2008, p.1435)

Does this mean that Google should be paying us? Are we not doing market research and not being compensated? If people were to be paid for just doing what they normally do, perhaps the data will be skewed and flawed and then not as valuable as it had once been. If we don’t want to be tracked, Google suggests using the incognito mode.

Is it all in our heads? Are the marketing guides so sophisticated that we believe we are being watched? I’m going out on a limb here and, well no. We are being tracked. Companies are sorting us based on not what we like but rather what we are viewing, even if it only for a second or two. Are we really box people instead of a mass amount of individuals? Does anyone like being placed in the marketeers box? Do we care?

I think that for most people advertising has become, the white noise of the internet – it just goes on without being noticed, occasionally something may grasp our interest and we click on it and Facebook gets paid. But then this is how services like Facebook and YouTube are free. Would you pay a monthly subscription to avoid advertising? If the demand out strips the revenue gained from advertising, I’m positive it will happen and then maybe we can browse without being constantly surveilled.

Then again there are other ways of profiling users without checking for cookies – enter the dawn of the geo-location marketing.

Perhaps there is only one way out…


Ryan, D 2014, Understanding digital marketing. [electronic resource]: marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation, London ; Philadelphia : Kogan Page, 2014.

Tene, O 2008, ‘What Google Knows: Privacy and Internet Search Engines’, Utah Law Review, vol. 2008, no. 4, pp. 1433-1492.

Searls, D 2016, ‘The End of Internet Advertising as We’ve Known It’, MIT Technology Review, vol. 119, no. 1, p. 76.

Ramlakhan, NE 2011, ‘Ethical Implications of Third-party Cookies’, International Journal of the Humanities, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 59-68.

Shiver Me Timbers – Surveilling the Pirates


Tink : Buccaneer by (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Tink : Buccaneer by (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Online Piracy is an interesting topic, and there are many sides to the proverbial coin; equal arguments for and against, some of my favorites are:

  • People who download, wouldn’t pay to see it anyway; so there is no loss of income.
  • People who download are destroying a fragile industry.
  • I feel cheated and want to ‘preview’ the movie before paying to go see it.
  • By downloading you are hurting the workers (i.e. people like yourself) and not the corporation that you despise.

Seeing them written down they all seem a bit pathetic; in reality most people that download just want stuff for free.

A big part of the picture is that anytime something is shared between users via the internet, it is possible to be traced and tracked. Which was the case with the recent Australian court battle between the creators of the Dallas Buyers Club movie and iiNet (an internet service provider or ISP).

Piracy! by Brandon (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Piracy! by Brandon (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Internet pirates can be tracked in many ways:

  • As detailed at is to coordinate up-loaders ‘handle’ or user name with other accounts, such as Facebook, and correlate known data to provide an online image of that handle and once enough data has been collected they can obtain contact details and then inform authorities. One way to bunk this is to have separate aliases for any site you are using.
  • An anti-piracy firm will follow a torrent ‘swarm’ and note down IP addresses, then it will try to obtain addresses from the ISP’s; the ISP may or may not pass on the users details and then you can be located and charged or threatened with action (Karlsson 2015).

For the most part the mass up loaders are being targeted, in recent news the suspected creator of Kickass Torrents has been arrested, and the websites associated with it seized.

When individuals are targeted, it can be with tracked files and information provided by an ISP. However, many ISP’s are interested in protecting the privacy of their employers and refuse to pass on the information. If a person is doing something illegal – despite what anyone may think downloading copyrighted information is against the law – should they be held accountable, or should they have the right to have their identity protected? Like most things it is a case of once the door is opened…

The Internet and Privacy by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY-2.0)
The Internet and Privacy by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY-2.0)

But then should the line be drawn somewhere? Do we really need to be anonymous on the internet? How many times is there a story over some troll slinging horrific comments about some recent tragedy. Surely if these people can be found and held accountable that is a good thing.

My personal thoughts on downloading are, when a studio has intrinsically used bullshit promotional tactics to trick people into seeing a film that they fully know is well below par, then they have lost the faith of the community and deserve for further projects to be pirated. When a company has a high value commodity but chooses to release it in a manner that forces consumers to purchase other unwanted items, then they deserve to be pirated.

How can companies combat the hydra that is online piracy? Stop trying to remove its head and give people what they want – easy access at a reasonable price.


Karlsson, A 2015, ‘How likely is it you will get in trouble for downloading movies via torrent sites in the USA in 2016?’,, retrieved 30/08/2016, <>.

Dead or Alive; Drones and Surveillance

robocop by Roland Molnár (CC BY-SA 2.0)
robocop by Roland Molnár
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Do we fear for the police state, that may come with overuse of drones? After all, ‘…we are rapidly moving toward a future in which a majority of aircraft will be unmanned.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.235).

Drones… they are possibly without doubt the big bad scary of the surveillance landscape in modern times. Although drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been in development since the 17th century (Villasenor 2014, p.235). Why is it though that they have become this feared icon of surveillance? Perhaps it is because they can literally be anywhere. From high in the sky armed military drones, to the miniscule.

Not only that, but the user can be anywhere – certainly true for the larger military drones, and quite possibly – with the current price tags, controlled by anyone. Which in essence is the problem, at least with a fixed camera there is a possibility of knowing where to access the footage if required, but a UAV? Without seeing the user, it is practically impossible.

Sweeping the negatives under the proverbial carpet, UAV’s do have many real world applications:

‘…search and rescue, news reporting, crop spraying, air quality monitoring, after-the-fact crime scene investigation, surveying, disaster response, wildlife tracking, research into the dynamics of violent storms, spotting wildfires, filmmaking, and traffic monitoring.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.236)

Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)
Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)

Even these as listed by Villasenor are not absolutes and it is worth mentioning that drones can and do go anywhere that a visual inspection is needed and which may be inaccessible by people. In fact, most articles posted about drones will list several pro-uses for drones, which demonstrates that there needs to be an understanding of how this technology can be beneficial. On the ethics of drone uses West and Bowman state:

‘Citizens doubt that the benefits of drones outweigh the risks to privacy; the deterrent effect on illegal behavior claimed by advocates may be less likely than the chilling effect on lawful activity.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.653-4)

It seems to be a ‘not in my backyard’ scenario. However, in Australia drones are being used and trailed by the police.

Perhaps it is their use in the military that has people afraid of what may happen as they, ‘…are the signature weapon of modern warfare, as more than 90 nations use them for reconnaissance, intelligence collection, and targeting.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.650). The key word there is ‘targeting’; if I see a drone and feel that it is too close, would I feel targeted?

NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)
NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)

(CLICK – for more on this protest campaign)

As drones are a relatively, in public accessibility, new technology the law has taken time to catch up, and for the most part responsibility of use relies solely on the sensibility of users.

For example, if a drone flew into your backyard, do I have the right to destroy it? If I did what would the consequences be? Should I have the relative right to privacy in my own backyard?

In a slightly different example, a family is in the park with a drone – I can see the user and I can see the drone, most likely it is recording. Do I care? Not really it is public space, I generally don’t feel the right to privacy.

In both of these scenarios privacy was the key word, a person should have the general right to some privacy and the home is usually paramount. Personally, I think it comes down to just one saying, ‘don’t be a dickhead’; and use UAV’s wisely before the government sweeps in and does it for you. Pocket Bikes anyone?


Villasenor, J 2014, ‘“Drones” and the Future of Domestic Aviation’, Proceedings Of The IEEE, 102, 3, pp. 235-238, Applied Science & Technology Source.

West, J, & Bowman, J 2016, ‘The Domestic Use of Drones: An Ethical Analysis of Surveillance Issues’, Public Administration Review, 76, 4, pp. 649-659, Health Business Elite.


Freddy’s coming for you… CCTV Surveillance in Schools

The main justification for installing CCTVs is to protect children… (Perry-Hazan and Birnhack 2016, p.423)

Currently in Australia, cameras are not allowed inside the class room. However, they are used in the school grounds and surrounding areas. Having the cameras outside a person may note that it is more for security of the buildings and to potentially scare off those whom wish to harm the students; but a camera in the classroom? Surely the sole purpose of that is to watch the children and that’s abhorrent and a breach of civil rights!

During actual teaching hours, a teacher is largely unmonitored and it can be difficult to get feedback on how to improve and become better teachers. It might be hard to believe but teachers want to teach, and they want to teach well. After three – four years of study it might be a little daunting to be thrown into a ravenous pit of eleven year olds with nothing more that a few weeks of practice. Any way that a teacher can review their own work is surely for the good of the school body.


In this video teachers discuss ways in which the surveillance of the classroom has helped in their ability to teach, ranging from self-assessment, picking up when students are not engaging with the teaching; all this with the added bonus that if a teacher so wishes they can review the footage together, and nut out problems as a team. It’s just one way to take a bit of the pressure off from the teaching staff.


Other benefits from the use of CCTV surveillance technologies include:


CCTV in Schools 2016 - R. Williams
CCTV in Schools 2016 – R. Williams

Like any new technology it is marked with skepticism and fear. Some preschools and childcare centres are already using surveillance in the classroom. Every day I receive an update of what my child is doing in class. It’s always something simple; a few photos and a cheesy blurb.

It also comes with an app. that I can use to login and view all the photos.

Screen Shot Kindyhub App - R. Williams
Screen Shot Kindyhub App – R. Williams


Besides surveillance in school isn’t anything new, take the School of the Air for example:

The Alice Springs School of the Air has been completely reliant on using satellite technology to conduct classes since 2006. REACT (Remote Education and Conferencing Tool) is the most powerful learning platform and provides the video-conferencing interface for all students. Email is also a significant tool for distributing and receiving course work and the use of web tools such as Google Sites, Edmodo and Dropbox is also allowing innovation in teaching and learning to take place. (Alice Springs School of the Air n.d.)

This technology allows teachers and students to record sessions and reflect back on them later. Wilson from Katherine School of the Air states that the footage can be recorded and is used for, ‘…teachers to review the effectiveness of their lesson (self reflection and feedback) and for hard to teach concepts for students to refer back to.’ (2016), students also had this option available to them, but it is not something that is expected, as they use the same software.

The use of CCTV in schools is just one form of surveillance, but many others have been used through time, such as the roll call and general reporting. CCTV and other digital means are just the new thing, is it really something we should be afraid of? Realistically it’s just a tool, and like anything its effectiveness relies in the hands of the user.



Alice Springs School of the Air n.d. ‘FAQs’ retreived 17/8/16, <>.

Perry-Hazan, L, & Birnhack, M 2016, ‘Privacy, CCTV, and School Surveillance in the Shadow of Imagined Law’, Law & Society Review, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 415-449.

Wilson, S 2016, personal correspondence.

The Freedom to Play

doodle jump(Doodle Jump by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0))

Mobile gaming applications (MGA’s) have no purpose other than to be mindless time fillers; existing in a world where time is multitudinous. Maybe not time itself, it has no tangibility, how about ‘time-packets’? Little portions of time that slip by during the day wasted. Yep, that sums it up perfectly. MGA’s fill in these time-packets with their unobtrusive and mindless ways. Next time you’re stuck at the doctor for the bus, look at the people in the waiting room; that guy’s shedding some Angry Birds; that woman has dropped a slice of Zombie Highway; that kid… OMG he’s got a book!! Look away! Look away!!!


MGA’s don’t seem to offer anything or take anything, they just exist. But do they? Realistically they are money making machines, aimed to target us when we are at our most vulnerable; like punching a guy while he’s squatting behind the bushes. When boredom takes over, the eyes roll back and maybe we’ll by some ‘Gems’ just to skip this annoying level. Ninety-nine cents a ‘Gem’ isn’t all that much; this is how they generate revenue.

Aha, but I’m too smart for all that jazz! Oh really… well there are other ways, more nefarious ways, that MGA’s make you pay for their brightly colored delights. After all it didn’t get to be ‘a ten-billion-dollar industry’ just by selling fictional trinkets (Biscotti et. al. cited in Zhang et. al. 2013, p.1487).

Some games have the ability to read data from your phone while you play it, and in turn be able to translate this data into a sellable commodity. One perfect example of this is Ingress.


(Screenshot by R. Williams 2016 –

Ingress is explicitly geared towards solving complex computational issues while also bolstering marketing apparatuses through the collection and processing of players’ behavioral data. Because surveillance is embedded into its game mechanics, Ingress produces a community where everyday surveillant labor is normalized as a valid system of exchange. It is, in fact, the gift that players continuously give in return for the privilege of play. (Hulsay and Reeves 2014, p.392)

Just like that, you’re turned into a mindless slave working for the numbers crunching machine. Although isn’t it better to have targeted advertising?

Not only that but you got to have fun doing it? So much better than having your Saturday morning ruined with some guy and a clipboard.

‘Just a quick survey sir?’

‘No dammit, I have dragons to slay!!’


Most people are probably intrinsically aware that games are doing something. We all get to see what the game wants access to and usually have ticked yes or accepted the fact that our data will be looked at. There have been reports of MGA’s doing things like this for years, but we still keep playing them.

Is it possible that we actually do need MGA’s for what they provide? A slight distraction from the monotony of a life pause? Sure there are other ways of entertaining those minute packets of time, but what else fits into such a small space and is so endearingly convenient?

being watched

(Playing games by Nellies (CC BY-NC 2.0))

It’s all a part of living in the consumer society. We ourselves drive the advertising and if deep down we didn’t want it we would just stop. Back to work everyone, lunchtimes over.


Zhang, Z, Chu, D, Chen, X, & Moscibroda, T 2013, ‘Mobile Motion Gaming: Enabling a New Class of Phone-to-Phone Action Games on Commodity Phones’, IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, vol. 12, no. 8, pp. 1487-1501.

Hulsey, N, & Reeves, J 2014, ‘The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Google, Ingress, and the Gift of Surveillance’, Surveillance & Society, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 389-400.