Essential Mix: Privacy and Fame

Fame and Privacy
After a week of turning my reading focus to the phenomena of celebrity culture, fame and the right to privacy, I was faced with the faintly surreal spectacle of the tabloid media storm triggered by Justin Bieber’s arrest for drunken driving. Regardless of what you think about the guy, one can’t help but feel sorry for someone so absolutely hounded and exposed in the prison cell of the public’s gaze and scrutiny. In a recent photo he uploaded to instagram of paparazzi swarming him on a remote beach, the message was clear: I cannot escape You. And sure, while on an artistic level its a little first year art school (“The Viewer becomes the Viewee, a horror house of infinite refraction and mirrors”- thanks Art History), it’s an image which also is incredibly effective at demonstrating the extent of his lack of privacy.

Privacy, fame and freedom of information are nebulous and abstract concepts. They manifest themselves daily in a variety of ways and as we increasingly live and share our lives online through social media and are monitored by governments and corporations alike (side-eye at you NSA), is it possible that Justin Bieber’s glass cage is really a difference in degree rather than a difference in kind to the world we are walking into?

It’s a scary and interesting idea, so to give your thoughts about this some juice I’ve put together a short list of videos and articles I’ve recently come across that deal with these issues in an accessible and interesting way. Just click the blue hyperlink to go through to the sites.

First up is a TED talk by Jack Gleeson, an actor from Game of Thrones, who talks about the strange nature of celebrity culture. Although the guy is just two years older than the Biebs, he is fantastically well read in the area, made all the more gripping by the fact that he actually is famous. His thoughts and experience on having his public image ‘democratized’ is fascinating.

Secondly, a fantastic episode from the people over at the PBS Ideas Channel about whether or not Reality TV is affecting our own ideas about surveillance and privacy. In their usual style, the video is as entertaining as it is thought provoking. This channel is in general might I add highly worth following, the writing is great and the production style is sharp.

Thirdly, an article from The Atlantic on the seminal writings of Privacy Philosopher Helen Nissenbaum. The article breaks down her new approach to conceptualizing privacy which many have described as a paradigm shift. Personally, her ideas have that amazing quality of articulating exactly how I feel on an intuitive level about how privacy works and this is well worth reading.

Fourthly, I recommend a long form piece by Hilary Mantel called “Royal Bodies”, an incredible article discussing the public’s obsession with the sex lives and physical bodies of the Royal family. Although it’s a longer read, you know it’s worth it when the Prime Minister releases a public statement condemning.

Finally, no list would be complete without the incredible documentary “We Live in Public”. This is the film which made me interested in privacy and online media.The film follows the fascinating story of internet pioneer Josh Harris who experimented with online surveillance and the loss of privacy on internet media YEARS before the phenomena of myspace or facebook even entered the scene. Also a great look at New York in the dying days of the 90’s before the tech bubble burst. Here’s a trailer:





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