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Forced Entertainment? Gamified Surveillance in Theatre Conspiracy’s Foreign Radical

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posted on 2023-01-24, 19:06 authored by Matt JonesMatt Jones

The nature of surveillance is changing. It is becoming gamified. This article charts a shift in thinking about surveillance culture, from the panopticon models advanced by Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault to current analyses of the increasingly participatory and gamified models of surveillance in the age of big data. That shift is played out literally in Theatre Conspiracy’s immersive play Foreign Radical, in which participants are led through a game environment in which they reveal aspects of their online behaviour and judge each other in a way that replicates the kinds of social sorting that take place in both social media and surveillance. The game leads them to deliberate on the case of an Iranian-Canadian man named Hesam, who stands accused of terrorism. As the case against Hesam comes to rest increasingly on his Middle Eastern and Islamic identity, the show reveals the role that racism and Islamophobia come to play in the interpretation of surveillance data. Although surveillance operates on a seemingly empirical basis, the stories it tells about people nevertheless remain fictions, assembled from statistical probability and speculation. In this way, surveillance adds to the sense that we live in a post-truth society. 

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