The origin story is an important element for any superhero/villain, as it provides context for a character’s seemingly out-of-this-world abilities. A radioactive spider bit Spiderman, and the Penguin was bullied in his youth. It can also be beneficial for surveillance scholars, inasmuch as it provides context for a once invisible but superhuman body of digital information that circulates as a proxy for us in digital milieus. This body is best understood through contemporary surveillance practices, yet metaphors of the panopticon and George Orwell’s 1984 proliferate in the surveillant imagination. I argue here that mapping an origin story onto a view of our data as a superhuman body not only creates a tangible representation of surveillance, but it also emphasizes and animates alternative surveillance theories useful for circulation in the surveillant imagination.

digital bodies, Foucault, origin story, Orwell, panopticon, surveillance, surveillant imagination,
Screen Bodies
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Young, S.M. (2019). Origin Stories, Surveillance, and Digital Alter Egos. Screen Bodies, 4(2), 93–110. doi:10.3167/screen.2019.040207