The Web as we know it has not always been as it is today, obviously… but how has this affected Surveillance, or Veillance in general, and how have many of these institutional shifts affected democracy within our society.
Obviously we have seen the media grow from community mediation, to traditional media such as print, to the web, and now what we would call Web 2.0; which is user-generated web content, and social media. This shift of cultural media practices has obviously had other cultural consequences, such as a shift in our cultural democratic nature.
Sousveillance is key to this democratic change; Sousveillance is ‘monitoring from below’ or as Mann, the inventor of the term would say, “the many watching the few” (Mann in Bollier, 2013) /society watching institutional bodies, the government and more. Fundamental to Sousveillance is the fact that it ‘can be’ because of such technological and media changes; without Web 2.0 and the capabilities of user-generated content such sousveillance of institutions and government bodies would not be possible. “Mann argues that sousveillance is an inevitable trend in technological societies and that, on balance, it ‘has positive survival characteristics,’” (Bollier, 2013). This ‘Balance’ that Bollier cites Mann as referring to, is what has created a more democratic nature; the government has become more accountable, more participatory, there is greater accountability and transparency (Styles, 2009). A notable social change here is the shift that the government as a whole has undertaken; it has gone from a governing body which holds significant power, to now a singular participant of our society, with less ability to dictate, due to sousveillance of them.
I believe that sousveillance is a rather productive and efficient way in which our society can ‘monitor’ our government and larger institutional bodies. My worry though is un researched, biased opinions gaining leverage over the government if they gather ‘heat’ because of the nature of Web 2.0, not because they are ‘valid opinions’. This may be a down side to Sousveillance because if less knowledgeable people take up an opinion because it had media and Web 2.0 coverage, ‘it’s an issue even if it isn’t an issue’; as they say in PR.
Bollier, David (2013) ‘Sousveillance as a Responce to Surveillance’, David Bollier: news and perspectives on the commons, November 24, <http://bollier.org/blog/sousveillance-response-surveillance>
Styles, Catherine (2009) “A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’, <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>