In this post I plan to discuss the roles that mediated communication, interpersonal communication, and visual rhetoric play a large role in surveillance and control every day in society. There are all kinds of ways in which social media plays a part in how people control and watch those around them. It also speaks for how people interact with one another and how pieces of visual rhetoric play a part in controlling life in public. Throughout this post I will discuss ways in which these pieces of communication are successful at control and surveillance and ways that they are lacking. Although for the most part I feel that these ways are more successful than they are unsuccessful.
Social media has become a huge part of our society’s lives every single day. Most people wake up every morning and go straight for their phone to check their news-feed from the night before. Checking Facebook is an easy way to keep an eye on friends and family members to keep an eye on what they’re up to. We can go to YouTube and find just about any music video or videos on just about any topic you’d like, at which point you can share it to other social media sites so others know what you’re doing with your time. We’ve all heard of government agencies using social media to track our activity and make sure the public is all on the straight and narrow. However now we are seeing local law enforcement using programs to monitor social media looking at text, photos, and videos for surveillance in assistance to the company called Geofeedia. This company uses data from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as nine other minor social media sites to monitor specific areas (Bromwich, 2016). With their help officials were able to more efficiently able to stop violent protests in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died. Not only was this company marketing their program to law enforcement, but also to journalists to help find people at breaking news events (Bromwich, 2016). This was a very successful way for agencies to monitor the public. Another thing that helps with surveillance and social media are the other people on social media who share posts like the one below.
Social media tends to control society in certain aspects as well as provide surveillance. We are controlled by information distributors that show up on our social media feeds whether intentionally or unintentionally. Posts show up based on our activity online so depending on what we spend our time looking at and interacting with, you may see products that you would be more likely to buy displayed or topics of conversation come up that you’re more likely to engage in (Dobson, 2015).
Interpersonal surveillance kind of goes hand in hand with mediated communication. Since social media networks have become such an essential part of society’s life, it has also become a main way that people communicate with one another. Individuals open up to their peers making their lives visible which makes it easy for others to survey their activity (Trottier, 2012). Through the use of messaging and posting to one’s peers sites, individuals are able to interact with one another in forms of communication, gossip, and other methods of interpersonal communication.
We see examples of control in interpersonal communication in all kinds of situations. Teachers control students by offering them rewards like extra credit or bringing in food. They can also maintain control with threats of discipline in many different ways. Law enforcement maintains control mostly through the public’s fear of being arrested but also because of the respect their title deserves. We also see interpersonal control in families, between parents and children and in extreme cases, husbands and wives/boyfriends and girlfriends. Putting a child in time out when they’ve done something wrong as punishment, isolating them from what they want to be doing or from their parents is a non-verbal way of controlling their behavior so they don’t do it again. Another non-verbal way of controlling children is through positive reinforcement. If a child acts properly or does what they are told parents will often take them to get a new toy or out for a special dinner to help them continue acting properly. Unfortunately in relationships we can sometimes see one partner trying to control the other through non-verbal acts. These are usually negative methods such as threatening them or even beating them. While you don’t see this often, domestic violence does fall under this category (Signs and Symptoms, 2013).
The most often seen form of visual rhetoric used for surveillance are the signs pictured below. These signs are posted in areas that are monitored by security cameras in order to make sure patrons of these areas know that they are being watched. Although these signs are posted they still don’t always deter people from committing crimes in these areas. However studies have shown that surveillance cameras generally move crime to different areas rather than stopping them from happening (Mitchell).
While the surveillance portion of visual rhetoric kind of speaks for control as well, there are many other examples that express control. We see control in no smoking signs, no weapon signs, and trespassing signs. Other pieces of visual rhetoric that help control patrons in certain areas are danger/caution signs, as well as fire hazards, electrical hazards, etc. All of these help to keep control to maintain safety in certain situations as well as keeping a comfortable environment for other patrons.