Big Brother reframed surveillance as entertainment, and we were too busy being amused to notice reality TV was a Trojan horse for a new kind of deal between us and the screen.
Whatever happened to the empowering promise of digital media in the late 90s, the one where everybody was going to be a creator?
The market got hold of it. That’s what happened.
Digital media was meant to be democratizing. We were expressing ourselves freely, and we were too busy being amused to notice reality TV was a Trojan horse for a new kind of deal between us and the screen. Surveillance was being reframed as entertainment.
As the cable channels were cranking out more and more cheap content they enlisted us, the viewers, to be part of the show. Our willing submission to being watched all the time was a form of participation that was then harnessed, commodified and sold to viewers as reality.
We chose our celebrities, we voted for them, we consumed them. And then we judged them.
Presenter: Jamie Bartlett
Producer: Gemma Newby