This week’s readings included several articles dealing with different issues within the topic of “New Frontiers and Solutions.” The first article by Norval and Prasopoulou explores the diffusion of facial recognition technology in society, and argues that Facebook’s opt-out facial recognition technology made users more aware of the “diffusion of biometrics.” The second article by Parisi and Archer discusses the need for more inclusion of haptic media in media studies; this was basically a completely new concept to me, so at times it was hard for me to follow along with some of the examples and terminology in the article.
In discussing panopticism and the tracking of individuals, I was reminded of China’s “social credit system,” which I recently learned about. The system, which was first unveiled in 2014 and is still in development, tracks citizens behaviors (particularly their online behaviors) and enacts punishments for “bad” behaviors, such as posting negative news stories about the government, or playing too many video games. Punishments include getting banned from certain modes of travel, getting banned from top-tier schools, getting blacklisted from certain careers, and users getting their internet throttled. Norval and Prasopoulou assert that Facebook’s facial recognition technology makes it so that everybody is a “public face” and that “everybody can see everybody;” this Chinese social credit takes that to an extreme.
I also found the article on the Apple Watch interesting, particularly the idea of how the device “hybridizes” work and play. I find that, for better or worse, smartphones already do this. People use smartphones for a variety of purposes; I think its rare that someone would use their smartphone purely for either work or play. In a typical day, I might use my smartphone to make work and school emails, chat with friends on Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, search for information on school-related topics, play games, and order groceries on Walmart’s app or a meal through Waitr. I think smartphones have already perfected the art of hybridizing work and play, and trying to cram the same model into a watch could not be as successful. Although, I do find it interesting how the article highlights that the device is inherently more “personal” because it relies on haptics and the physical monitoring of the user’s body. I wonder if, in the future, there will be a device that combines the personal, physical monitoring and tracking of a user’s body of a smartwatch with the ubiquitousness of a smartphone—such a device makes me think of the “Coach” from the Black Mirror episode “Hang the DJ,” a device like a mix of dating apps, Siri, and a smartwatch that constantly collects data to be as in-tune with the user as possible to act as a perfectly personalized assistant or life coach.