“The Personal Experience of Surveillance” at NEW INC

Liz Pelly

The state of surveillance culture is one of those massive, overwhelming realities that can be hard to process in our everyday lives, despite how vastly it oppresses people on a daily basis. “Pervasive surveillance is oddly paralyzing,” wrote Peter Maass earlier this week on The Intercept, in a comprehensive piece on surveillance art, “Art in a Time of Surveillance.” “It is the digital equivalent of the aphorism about genocide, ‘The death of one man is a tragedy and the death of a million is a statistic.’ The more we learn of its vast scope, the more we seem dulled to it. We need to see it anew.”

The Personal Experience of Surveillance” is an ongoing storytelling series that aims to make the ripple effects of surveillance more palpable and more human; at each installment of the series, a small panel of speakers share their personal stories related to being spied on. As the website for the series explains: “For those of us who have been ensnared in moments of powerful, unlawful, and mistaken surveillance in the past 15 years and forced to be quiet about the experience (whether under legal obligation or through confusion and shame), these discussions create an opportunity to re-examine those moments and tell our stories together alongside other people who have experienced the same.”

In September, the second installment of the series took place at Silent Barn, featuring panelists Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept, Adam Harvey of Privacy Gift Shop, Adama Bah of ADAMA, Julia Lipscomb of ABC No Rio and Silent Barn, and Sonya Belakhlef and Adam Harvey of Piñata. A video from that event is below.

The third installment takes place Wednesday, November 19 at NEW INC in Manhattan. It features writer Melody Nixon of  Apogee Journal; interdisciplinary Leo Selvaggio or Urme SurveillanceGwen Snorteland, a freelance translator, recovering investment banker and PTSD patient; independent documentary filmmakers David Felix Sutcliffe and Lyric R. Cabal, who are both currently at work on (T)ERROR, an intimate look at the domestic War on Terror that includes “unprecedented real-time access to central players entangled in an active FBI counter-terrorism investigation.” Tomorrow’s event will also feature a screening of a short trailer of this film. Miracle Jones of OR Books will moderate the discussion. The event is free and starts at 6pm; for more information head over to thepersonalexperienceofsurveillance.net.

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