First-Year Tutorial

Spectacle and Surveillance: Cracking the Black Mirror

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Students presenting their research at the end of the semester.

In the fall of 2019, Sharon taught a first-year tutorial at Grinnell College that explores how technology has influenced how we consume ideas and information and understand how our consumption allows the state and corporations to observe and govern us. Students learned that the more societies depend on digital, data-driven information infrastructures, the more everyday spectacle and surveillance occur. They read academic books, journal articles, and popular essays and watched Black Mirror, a British television anthology that explores the complexities of social life in the context of technological advancement. The course was an opportunity for students to analyze and reflect on their own technological practices. As they examined the processes and consequences of posts, likes, and shares, they grappled with questions of power and inequality in society. Spectacle and Surveillance also introduced first-year students to the rigors of empirical research, as they conducted a mini study on a topic of interest.