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Surveillance Cinema$
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Catherine Zimmer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479864379

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479864379.001.0001

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Commodified Surveillance

Commodified Surveillance

First-Person Cameras, the Internet, and Compulsive Documentation

(p.73) 2 Commodified Surveillance
Surveillance Cinema

Catherine Zimmer

NYU Press

This chapter focuses on how surveillance cinema incorporates the consumer-subject in the era of home video, online networking, and “dataveillance.” By positing Debord’s account of the “spectacle” as a necessary element of surveillance in a consumer economy, the chapter argues that consumer-level surveillance in cinema is best approached through “compulsive documentation” films—films shot entirely in first-person-camera style and based on the premise that the entire narrative is directly presented through “real” footage shot on consumer video equipment, such as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Even as first-person and found-footage conceits seek to present a direct, individualized perspective, they are best understood as a phenomenon through their tremendously successful interactive online marketing campaigns and their diffusion of the cinematic experience into the “virtual” space of internet communities and digital economies. By showing the formal and structural contiguities between the narrative and technical elements of these films, their marketing campaigns, social media, and internet consumption, this chapter shows how co-defining subjective experience and surveillance have become in a digital economy, and the part that video mediation plays in establishing that relation.

Keywords:   compulsive documentation, consumer-level surveillance, digital economy, first-person camera, found footage, Debord, interactive, internet communities, marketing, social media

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