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Response: Blurred Boundaries: Public/Private? Self-Representation/Objectification?

In “Digital Photography and Picture Sharing: Redefining the Public/Private Divide” Lasén and Gómez-Cruz state that the representation of private lives on the Internet is not simply the ” translation of behaviours and codes from the private to the public sphere, but rather, as stated by McQuire, a reconceptualization of contemporary society and “agency in a context in which the … boundaries of… territory and media are in a flux” (212).  The ubiquity of portable easy to use digital cameras and smartphones, which give users ownership of photographic practices at little expense, and the proliferation of web technology, which facilitates the sharing of produced images with strangers, has played a key role in the blurring and shifting of people’s perception of what is public and private.  What is most interesting in Lasén and Gómez-Cruz discussion are the inconsistencies inherent in on-line representation. 

The advent of CCTV cameras and the increasing use of smart phones in public have redefined notions of public space. By virtue of being in a public space, the subject becomes fair game for exposure, especially if their individuality, as demonstrated by the woman in Madrid with pink hair, is so publicly apparent.  Smart phones have shifted agency and control from institutions to citizens, so surveillance is no longer one-way but consensual, the authors state (209).  However, in the example provided, smart phones are used to unobtrusively take pictures of an unaware subject (maintaining the illusion of privacy) and these photos are then shared publicly to engage in private discussions about that subject.  Another contradiction is that through the posting and subsequent discussions, which is an act of agency, the person who is being represented is rendered powerless.

As well the perception that privacy is maintained when displaying intimate photos in public spheres by limiting access to certain content or users and by expectations that visitors will respect the privacy of intimate postings is paradoxical, as is the idea of empowerment through exhibitionism.  Camgirls state that taking and posting their own picture allows them to create their own subjectivity rather than have their identity created through objectification by others, yet the fact that many subscribe to sites where visitors can rate photos and that these photos are then used by web owners to advertise their spaces hardly frees young women from commodification. Does “cyber- exhibitionism” then offer a site “where subjectivity is performed,” as Russo posits, or is it, as Virilio and Frohne believe, “ the last stage of capitalist control” (211).

Lasén, Amparo, and Edgar Gómez-Cruz. “Digital Photography and Picture Sharing: Redefining the Public/Private Divide.” Knowledge, Technology and Policy. 22.3. 2009. Canadian Research Knowledge Network. Web 08 March 2013.


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