Shenzhen is a high-tech dystopia

The public space is being monitored better and better. According to market researchers (IHS Markit), more than 600 million surveillance cameras will be installed in China by 2020. Beijing is in fact totally monitored. In cities such as Shenzhen, Chongqing and Fuzhou, facial recognition systems have been installed that identify traffic offenders who cross the street when it is red or drive too fast and publicly pillory them on a giant screen. In student dormitories, students have to use their faces to identify themselves. And "face readers" are tested in classrooms, which analyze the emotions and determine whether the schoolboys are bored.

The interesting thing about the phenomenon is that Big Brother does not monitor every front door, but rather a decentralized network of Little Brothers controls every street. Because we too carry monitoring technology with us with smartphones and fitness trackers that register every step and heartbeat. In this respect, we are diligently weaving the monitoring network. But why is it that we voluntarily carry devices that were once considered a threat to our privacy on our arms and in our pockets?

Surveillance no longer feels like oppression. It's like fun

The US cultural scientist Randolph Lewis has developed an interesting theory in his new book "Under Surveillance: Being Watched in Modern America". Based on Bentham's surveillance "Panopticon", he speaks of a "Funopticon", surveillance that is fun. Lewis introduces the Funopticon as a concept for the increasingly "playful surveillance culture" of the 21st century: "Even when surveillance sneaks into our bodies in a way that many people find humiliating and exploitative, it does something else: you operates in ways that don't always feel oppressive and heavy, but like joy, ease, freedom of choice, and fellowship.

In other words, personal degradation increasingly exists in a dialectic with new modes of enchantment, networking, and entertainment that challenge the sinister logic of the Panopticon that Bentham proposed for penal reform more than two centuries ago semantic puzzle to market a functional electronic ankle cuff as a smart fitness armband. The British geographer Nigel Thrift coined the term "safety entertainment complex" for this purpose. What Orwell still describes as a gloomy dystopia - a monitor-flooded place where it "There is no darkness" - becomes a space for self-realization in the smart new world.

We have fun sharing our kilometers, including the GPS-tracked jogging route, on social networks - the quantified self movement has even made this a lifestyle - and creating profiles about us, which is actually a criminalistic device. On Facebook's "Live Map" you can switch on every live stream on a world map like in a kaleidoscope and see the world in real time as if surveillance were television: a samba dance in Rio or a football game in Thailand. "By softening and normalizing surveillance, turning a source of anxiety and fear into a source of joy, it could add to the noisy carnival of surveillance for the sake of hope and worry," writes Lewis.

The Hamburg sociologist Nils Zurawski takes the same line. The reason why people buy such gadgets is to set distinctive features. It is "chic and trendy", you can use it to express that you belong to a certain group. The car loses its function as a status symbol for certain milieus, so electronic toys are a substitute. "To be able to be monitored, so to be able to have electronic servants and domestics, is also an expression of distinction, definitely a statement, maybe also the statement, I am not afraid of the brave new world, I belong to it, shape it, I am not deviant, I allow myself the luxury, "says Zurawski. "Monitoring is so imperceptibly embedded in our digital everyday life that we perceive the means as consumer goods and they only appear to us there that the process of monitoring, standardization, control is either not noticeable or the underlying relationships are irrelevant."

With omnipresent video cameras, our life becomes a stream

In 2012, Coca-Cola tried to aestheticize surveillance in a commercial and to show the supposedly beautiful sides of surveillance in a casual tone: a couple kissing on a park bench, people dancing in front of subway entrances, people who Get out of an elevator with a diving suit and fishing net, brave customers who overpower a shoplifter. The world is good, let's all be happy - this is the message the commercial wants to convey. With the omnipresent video surveillance, our life becomes a permanent stream. TV broadcasters feed images from surveillance cameras into their programs as "low-cost infotainment" that does not have to be edited further. You just look at it. There are now a whole range of monitoring apps that allow you to log into the stream of surveillance cameras as cheap entertainment television and simulate the surveillance task of a security service in a parking deck or department store like in a computer game. Some apps even allow the user to zoom in, take snapshots and send the images via MMS.

The evaluation of images from video cameras serves a certain voyeurism. Lewis writes in his book how young men get excited about zooming in on women’s breasts and degrading them to sexual objects. The men feel joy in it; The secret observation in a sealed off room, the feeling of being in control of someone from a distance and being virtually touched by someone, conceals an allure of the forbidden. Surveillance becomes "perveillance", a perverted form of surveillance.

With omnipresent video cameras, our life becomes a stream

But the observation does not always go unobserved. The Atlantic City Hotel Casino was fined $ 80,000 for employees using surveillance cameras to gawk at women in the casino in 2001. A few years later, a surveillance service in Belfast was convicted of using its cameras to spy on a young woman over a period of eight months for the purpose of "driving away". The Finnish gender researcher Hille Koskela wrote in "Peeping Tom Goes High Tech?" In 2002 that video surveillance creates a virtual space in which sexual violence is possible - a kind of hide-and-seek like in the thriller "Augen der Angst" (1960), in which the inconspicuous cameraman Mark Lewis works in a film studio during the day and lures women in front of the camera under an excuse at night - and humiliates them. Cultural scientist Lewis sees a dialectic in it: "Where surveillance becomes pornographic, pornography looks like surveillance."

Geographer David Bell identifies an emerging "surveillance aesthetic" permeating visual media, especially pornographic films, "where surveillance technologies structure the narrative, plot and visuals." The reception of porn films and surveillance images, the fiction of an intimacy between viewer and performer, is similar. The perverse logic of surveillance is that you have to prostitute yourself to a certain extent in order not to be considered suspect. This getting naked is a structural imperative that is inscribed in the surveillance society. The supposed playfulness of the surveillance conceals the actual purpose: the total illumination of people. When freedom is at stake, of course, it is not a game. But it is probably too late to dismantle the military-industrial surveillance complex. Lewis writes: "I fear that we are building a Gaudi Las Vegas of the mind, a smooth zone of mechanized suspicion where we are always under surveillance."