Surveillance and the Creative Mind
In a world where many aspects of our daily lives are written or recorded and transmitted digitally, our raw thoughts and casual observations are increasingly open to scrutiny and vulnerable to interception. Our behavior is frequently documented, whether it is by government agencies, corporate entities, news organizations, or fellow citizens. This means that every iteration of an evolving idea, off-hand comment, and emotional outburst could be recorded. Given how often we all misinterpret each other, especially in writing, the exponential increase in documented human behavior is cause for concern.
It is as if we have two selves, one virtual and one real. In many ways, the virtual mirrors the real, but our virtual selves are more likely to be distorted versions that are easily misunderstood and open to manipulation. Life on the record is affecting all of us in ways we don't fully understand yet. It is challenging our social norms and legal structures, in addition to undermining the processes that engender creative thought. The American climate of fear about terrorism has combined with this technological shift into a potent mix that stifles debate and free expression.
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Tim Ridout, a wider atlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund for the United States, focuses on political and economic issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly Brazil. Follow him on Twitter at @taridout