Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis intends to explore the impact of new media upon people’s daily lives, particularly focusing on how new media change people’s conception of privacy and surveillance, as well as how the emerging technologies reformulate the user’s subjectivity within the digital realm. As for the methodology of the thesis, discourse analysis is employed to analyze the social milieu and change within it. The thesis firstly investigates the issue of privacy and surveillance, and then turns to explore new media user’s subjectivity.
In Chapter One, following Michel Foucault’s notion of “biopolitics,” I attempt to investigate how the changes in contemporary surveillance – where the body of the human species, or life manifesting itself in all its diversity (such as its biometric features, its mechanisms, including daily activity, movement, communicating, Web surfing, etc.) has become the target of political intervention – are naturalized in people’s daily engagement with new media. To unpack the problem, in the first section of this chapter, I would first define what new media signify, and then relate the implications to the changes of contemporary surveillance, contributed by new media, particularly situated within the context of Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the National Security Agency (NSA)’s mass surveillance practice. In the second section of this chapter, regarding Google Glass as a kind of new media, I would conduct a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of consumers’ responses to two Google Glass commercials on YouTube, in order to show how, through what kind of discursive practice, Google Glass is constructed as a cutting-edge wearable technology, in such a way as to conceal the issues of privacy and surveillance that underlie the product.
In Chapter Two, I explore how new media reformulate the user’s subjectivity. Based upon Slavoj Žižek’s notion of “interpassivity,” this chapter would venture to add that what follows from Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s new media theory of remediation, constituted by the double logic of “immediacy” and “hypermediacy,” is a twofold aspect of the new media user’s subjectivity, that is, interactivity and interpassivity. To associate Bolter and Grusin’s theory with the new media user’s subjectivity is to try to understand how new media as the apparatuses of communicative capitalism interpellate the user as the interactive/interpassive subject. In the first section of this chapter, in order to evince that the two pairs of categories (i.e. “immediacy vs. hypermediacy” and “interactivity vs. interpassivity”) are pertinent to each other, I draw on contemporary examples, ranging from the prevalence of players’ cheating through bot abuses in MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) to the phenomenon of selfie tourism. In the second section of this chapter, in terms of the two pairs of categories, evinced above, I examine the player’s subject position in The Stanley Parable, a first-person, narrative-driven video game, which offers not so much an interactive scenario as an interpassive experience, in the sense that the game itself promises to imbue the player with empowerment and freedom, associated with interactivity, but, in its very attempt to offer such prospect, the game takes it away from the player and mocks their inability to do anything.
To sum up, although it may appear that the thesis shows a pessimistic view about new media usage, for new media are prone to be used as means of regulating and controlling the population, or as products that obscure the works of surveillance involved in everyday participation in the digital realm, still resistance is viable through new media. Just like how Foucault remarks on the inseparable relationship between power and resistance, as he goes, “Where there is power, there is resistance,” so too do new media happen to be venues for resistance. In view of Foucault’s insight, resistance can be regarded as the underlying logic that weaves Chapter One and Two together. This can be demonstrated by consumers’ comments that attempt to deconstruct Google Glass’s glossy advertisement so as to reveal the issues of privacy and surveillance involved in the product. Furthermore, by engaging in The Stanley Parable, the player is enlightened to question and resist gaming practices that were once taken for granted.