Professor Stephen Groening • Padelford B 515 • Office Hours TTh 11am - noon
This course focuses on cultural depictions of surveillance beginning with so-called ‘cinema of paranoia’ in the 1970s and on to the Reality TV genre of the past twenty years. It seeks to interrogate the categories of privacy and publicity as well as theoretical questions pertinent to the fields of cinema and media studies. One of the course’s animating questions is how, in contemporary American culture, being watched by strangers has transformed from threatening and dangerous to something welcomed as a form of celebrity and fame.
The introduction of visual technologies that record and reproduce two-dimensional moving images is key to a new form of disciplinary power. Through the use of these recording technologies, the practice of surveillance has aided the state in its quest to control its subjects and prevent criminal behavior. Surveillance depends on an indexical relationship between image and reality. Because of this quality, surveillance illuminates and illustrates many theoretical concerns in film, media and television studies. Alongside the widespread use of these technologies, a series of films that represent conspiratorial fantasies of government surveillance emerged in 1970s America. These films depict surveillance and often rely on those very same devices that enable surveillance. As the recent genre of reality television has reanimated questions of privacy and publicity in the popular consciousness, what were once thought of as pertinent only to government secrets and espionage have become vital social issues which shape the way will we think about the relationship between the individual and society.