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Imagining SurveillanceEutopian and Dystopian Literature and Film$
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Peter Marks

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781474400190

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474400190.001.0001

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Things to Come

Things to Come

(p.155) 8 Things to Come
Imagining Surveillance

Peter Marks

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter deals with of recent novels and films that project forward into the near future, suggesting where surveillance might be heading. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, surveillance is figured into a future world of interplanetary environmentalism, in protecting planets and helping to monitor the ‘rewilding’ of an environmentally devastated Earth. Neill Blomkamp’s film Elysium fashions another Earth under environmental stress, patrolled by stringent surveillance operatives and systems that also screen the put-upon inhabitants from the eponymous eutopian space station literally and metaphorically above them. The film concentrates on the utopian urges of that population in their endeavour to overcome oppressive monitoring and receive medical treatment reserved for those on Elysium. Dave Eggers conjures up an apparently eutopian hi-tech company, The Circle, in his novel of the same name, representing how new technologies manipulate data and images for economic, social and political control. Spike Jonze’s film Her explores the relationship between surveillance and intimacy through the interaction between a human and an operating system. As with Eggers’ The Circle, Her investigates how data confuses definitions of identities as it allows for the fusion of surveillance and intimacy. These novels and films suggest some of the ways in which new forms of surveillance promise or threaten to fashion the worlds of the future. As with all such texts, they suggest options and present narratives and characters that enable readers and viewers to think and act so that the future approximates the eutopian rather than the dystopian.

Keywords:   2312, Elysium, The Circle, Her, environment, intimacy

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